Tag Archives: Veganism

Couscous Decisions

I’m proud of myself today. I went to lunch with my coworkers and we went to a restaurant to eat some amazing couscous, and I kept it as healthy as possible by ordering the vegetarian couscous. It was actually quite a display of my indecisiveness and internal torment, because I ordered vegetarian, then I heard everyone’s order and I decided I wanted chicken, so I changed my order. The waiter left and a few minutes later, I got up from the table (after sitting there, feeling guilty with my decision for quite some time) and asked if he could change my order back to vegetarian. I was mildly embarrassed to be so indecisive in front of colleagues  but at the end of the day, my health was more important and I’m happy I went with the veggie meal.

Somehow, I think I’ve developed a bit of a distaste for meat now… Or, perhaps not a distaste but a slight disgust. Don’t get me wrong, I still love eating it (this past weekend I ate 2 burgers… oops), but I think when it looks like flesh, it creeps me out, whereas in the past I never would have thought about it. Seeing the waiter bring out a tray full of meat, a lot of it on the bone, and seeing people at the table pick at it and cut it with difficulty with their sharp knives made me so happy to be eating just vegetables, chick peas, and couscous. I felt light after eating rather than bogged down as I normally feel after eating meat, and I know I didn’t consume any cholesterol or saturated fat in my meal while the others surely did, and best of all, no one had to die a miserable factory life so that I could eat lunch! So really, whats not to love about being vegan? I get all the right nutrients, I eat cleaner, no one dies, the planet doesn’t suffer as much, and my body thanks me and rewards me for my healthy choices every day.

Now to be clear, I’m not 100% vegan. But I’m okay with that still. Perhaps I may never be fully vegan, but if 80% of what I consume comes entirely from the earth, then I think I’m in a better place than I was before. I want to stay flexible and I don’t want to feel deprived, so I will allow myself a relatively guilt-free non-vegan indulgence when the situation calls for it, and I know it won’t cause that much damage at the end of the day. My family is from Colombia where I’m fairly certain the concept of vegan or even vegetarian just simply do not exist. I know with my family and family friends, living a vegan life would be nearly impossible, so I’m open to eating meat and dairy in social occasions when other options are not available, and sometimes when going out with friends, I’m okay with eating a burger or ice cream. Not the end of the world. But while I have the power to control what I eat, I want to try to stay as vegan and clean as possible, and that is a solution for my daily diet that I can be very comfortable with. Fortunately today my meal allowed for that flexibility. It won’t always be like that, and I’m learning to be okay with that.

I’m trying to be gentle with myself. If I label myself as “vegan”, I’m bound to feel guilt when I break the rules. But if I can make my own rules that suit me, I’m more likely to feel satisfied and happy with the choices I make.

So today, I’m proud of my choice. I’m proud of all of my choices today, actually. They weren’t all perfect, but they were as good as they could have been and I managed to eat clean, vegan, and light all day long and I went for a 4-mile run in the evening. I’m feeling pretty good about how today has gone and I hope to have more days like today in the future.

Go me!

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All Talk

All Talk

A conversation last night with a friend led me to think about something that has been vaguely on my mind the past several weeks, which led her to send me an article which helped me understand what I have been feeling.

The article from Nerd Fitness is about taking action on your goals, not just talking about them and expecting results. Read it!

I am so much like the underpants gnomes he references from South Park. I collect underpants (knowledge) and I even make underpants (I write this blog), but I so often forget about Phase 2 and I eagerly jump to expect Phase 3, “profit” to happen automatically. Confused about what I’m talking about? I told you to read the article!!

I have spent years reading health blogs, books, watching documentaries and TED talks, and in every other way absolutely inundating my brain with knowledge about health and fitness. I should get an honorary fitness and nutritionist certification with all the research I’ve done. So you’d think, you know… I would have reached my goals by now. But the reality is, I’ve looked and felt mostly the same pretty much my entire life. I’ve had little moments of brilliance, where I really stepped it up and lost weight and felt amazing, but I quickly fall back into my old habits and my changes fail to stick.

I talk a lot and think a lot about health, but I’ve been feeling lately like I don’t actually DO anything about it. I mean, I’ve made changes that I shouldn’t ignore, like my slow progression to a mostly vegan diet which has been a great accomplishment for me so far, but if I’ve lost weight, it has been maybe a pound or two. Nothing noticeable. And while I do feel a lot better eating a clean, plant-based diet, I’m feeling impatient and I’m feeling disappointed that my progress has been so slow and mostly invisible. I don’t want to just talk about making changes… I want to actually make them!

My question is, how do I make these changes really stick this time? I’ve done this before. I’ve been right here many times, and I’ve temporarily succeeded. I’ve lost 10-15 pounds several times (gained them back, of course) and I’ve felt accomplished and proud, but why do I struggle with sticking to my lifestyle changes? I’m determined to get to the root of the problem, in one way or another.

Perhaps the key for me (and anyone else struggling with this feeling) is to make a list of tangible, quantifiable, achievable, realistic goals (or assignments/homework), write them down, and stick them on your wall so you remember them every day. Maybe if I try to think of this as a game, or as an assignment for work, maybe I’ll feel the same sense of urgency or desire to accomplish them. I don’t know. Just a thought. I’m a lists-person. I feel great when I can check things off of my list, and often I can’t accomplish much without one because I’ll just simply forget, so maybe I can work with my goals and see them as “errands” that I can check off today, and perhaps that will help me just get it done, and thus slowly start building patterns and habits, maybe without all the emotional baggage that I tend to tie into “changing my life.” That feels too heavy. Do I have to think so hard about it? Can’t I just… do it?

Anyway, my point is… I feel like I talk too much and don’t take enough action. I still give in to my snacking cravings every time they come and I still eat the same sized portions as I normally do and I still stay up late and miss my morning workouts and I still eat crap if its in front of me and I still overdose on my addictive favorites like granola and almond butter. I suppose, as I mentioned, my biggest accomplishment is sticking to a mostly vegan diet, with exceptions whenever I don’t have a choice (like occasional dinners with my host family or social gatherings, etc).

I can’t tackle all of these at the same time, but I can start by what I can control today.

– I will try really hard to eat at the designated eating times, the way French people do. In following the Tone It Up  lifestyle suggestions (as well as the suggestions by most other nutrition experts out there), I will eat 5 small meals today, and if I get hungry in between, I will drink water or green tea and remind myself that my next meal is not too far off. I need to learn patience and I need to learn not to be afraid of hunger. Now DO NOT misinterpret that, please. All I mean is… I live in this perpetual fear of hunger and at the slightest grumble in my stomach, I immediately feel the need to binge on something to avoid starvation. It’s irrational, and I end up not even being that hungry when I actually do eat a meal. I just want to not feel so controlled by the hungry animal impulse, and usually drinking a glass of water does the trick for a while. So without further ado, here is my plan for the day:

Meal 1: 8am, breakfast quinoa – DONE

Meal 2: 11am, soy yogurt with banana – DONE

Meal 3: 1pm, lentils + sautéed veggies + apple – planned

Meal 4:  5pm, half sweet potato + spinach + almonds – planned 

Meal 5: 9pm, something healthy-ish at the restaurant + red wine – planned

– Even though its Wednesday (long day as an au pair), I will try to find time to squeeze in 50 squats and 20 pushups. Like, maybe right after posting this.

– I will take a moment to reflect on my accomplishments thus far, and I will try to be proud of myself for them.

Those are my small goals for today. I will let you know how it goes. I have plans to meet a friend for dinner and drinks tonight, but I will try to order something healthy and I will stick to a glass or two of red wine. No day is perfect, but I can still be strong.

Enough with collecting underpants. I want to be ready for Phase 2.

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All Or Nothing

I realized as I was leaving the second grocery store this afternoon that I’m starting to fall into my typical all-or-nothing ways. I tend to get really excited about something, then I start researching the shit out of it, and within a few short days, I find myself entirely changing my lifestyle to something new. I may have talked about this before, and how this is likely the reason for my constant up and down success and failure. I never seem to be able to just stick to something because I think I take on too many things all at once, and ultimately, its not sustainable. But honestly, I just get impatient and bored easily, and when I get an idea in my head, I want to run with it and never look back.

Examples… When I became obsessed with locally-grown, organic, seasonal produce (after watching Food Inc). I nearly tossed out everything in my house that didn’t fit this standard, got my mom to sign up for a CSA program (community-supported agriculture, where local farms sell you their produce in a box, etc), refused to shop at a grocery store and only at farmers markets, started planting my own vegetables, etc etc etc. This lasted for a good few weeks, until in one way or another, it was just too much to change all at once, and we slowly slipped back into our old routine. My mom couldn’t keep up with all the produce we were getting and a lot of it would go bad, and we got into a big fight one time when I (being a brat) gave her shit for wanting to eat a banana, from Chile. Needless to say, it ended right where it began. At least I gained lots of knowledge  and I still try to use this information whenever I shop, but not to the same extreme as before.

Or maybe, for example, that time in my life when I determined that I would be the next Jimi Hendrix AND Deadmau5 and convinced my parents to buy me a guitar and turn tables and mixers for Christmas, so that I could finally achieve my musical potential. Note: I HAVE NEVER BEEN MUSICALLY GIFTED EVER. I tried piano and clarinet for years as a kid and failed miserably. So why, then, the sudden obsession with music again? I don’t know. I got it into my head, and couldn’t get it out. Sadly, this equipment is gathering dust in my parents garage.

This same thing happens to me any time I’ve tried to lose weight. Exactly 1 year ago (for my friends wedding, this very weekend last year), I weighed 118 pounds, and I’m 5’4. I had lost probably 10+ pounds in 2 months. I don’t know how I did it, honestly, because I’ve never been that skinny, but just a few weeks later, I gained 5 pounds back, then I had gained 5 more by the end of summer… and now, well I haven’t weighed myself in months, but I know I’ve gained more. I hate admitting it. Getting obsessed with an idea, like losing weight, works temporarily, but in the long term, it might actually be doing me more damage than good. Its a battle with constant success followed by supreme disappointment by what feels like enormous failure. I lose confidence in my ability to truly succeed because up until now, I really haven’t. Not long-term.

How do I deal with my attention-deficit, my impatience, and my constant need for new stimulation, without losing myself along the way? How do I make healthy, long-lasting changes… how do I get them to stick, and stick for good?

I don’t want this new-found veganism to become just another one of my ridiculous failed phases. I honestly think this could work for me, but I’m afraid I might not be going about it in the best way. Today I spent 40 of my measly 80 euros a week on groceries (that I’m not even supposed to buy, since technically my host family should provide for my food. Except I refuse to eat bacon and cheese every day, so I end up having to buy my own food and keep it in my room) at two grocery stores. I stocked up on a few of my usual staples, but I bought a few new “experimental” items, or guilty pleasures, because I was just so overcome with excitement about starting a vegan lifestyle. I don’t want to see this food, or my efforts, go to waste after a while. So how do I make this become a slow and steady life change and NOT just another one of my phases? Tips? Suggestions? I’m all ears. Lord knows I could use a real change.

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Vegan day 2… and Oops, I got Instagram

Another accidental vegan day, and it feels oh so good. I know I had a shitty day yesterday, but I refused to let it haunt me today, so this morning I reminded myself of how crappy it felt to lose myself, and I set my intentions for the day: stronger than yesterday.

I didn’t do much in the way of exercise (I rationalized it as being my rest day before my race tomorrow), but I did stay on track of my food, and it wasn’t even hard and didn’t require too much thought or effort at all! Its amazing how being vegan for a day feels so effortless, and the days when I do consume animal products, at least in this past week, have been the days when I’ve felt most out of control. Not eating animals or animal products and thus having a whole foods, plant-based diet is amazingly liberating. It fits in with this post about being “free” from certain foods/behaviors, or saying “I don’t” instead of “I cant”. Once I tell myself “I’m free from consuming animals” or “I don’t eat dairy”, I don’t feel the same urge to cave in, give up, and eat a piece of ham or a yogurt. Instead I just use what I have and get a little creative, and it ends up tasting SO much more gourmet than a nasty ham sandwich or plain yogurt with sugar.

I didn’t plan on being vegan today. I haven’t really been trying to be vegan at all over the past few days/weeks. But it just ends up happening rather accidentally, because I don’t eat red meat (unless my host mom makes it) and I don’t drink milk (gives me a stomach ache) and rarely eat cheese (amazingly, I’ve never really liked it), and my host family never seems to have chicken or fish stocked up and ready to cook (only pork products, like lardons or ham), so I almost have no choice but to be vegan, or mostly vegan plus the occasional yogurt (which I still love). So really, it hasn’t been all that hard to have entirely vegan days – if I happen to make my own dinner that night, its really quite easy!

And like I said on Wednesday, I feel absolutely liberated by my food. I don’t feel out of control, I feel happy, I feel clean and healthy and light, I have energy, and I feel well fed. I’ve gotten all my nutrients, all of my protein, all of my vitamins and minerals… and no cholesterol, no saturated fat, and no guilt (of any kind). Its kind of amazing. I’m all about this!

Also… Um, yeah, I got Instagram. For this blog. I don’t have a personal one yet and I’ve been resisting for ages (this is a matter of pride, as a photographer)… but I did it. I caved. So, follow me on Instagram… “strongfitswell“. Duh. Also I have no idea how to use it so give me some time before I figure out how to follow you back.

So without further ado…my Instagrammed meals:

photo 2A surprise treat – passion fruit!

photo 1

Lunch was chickpeas, white beans, avocado, tomatoes, pine nuts, sesame seeds, olive oil. So good!

photo 4

Dinner consisted of quinoa with sautéed zucchini and onions, along with,

photo 3

… an open-faced “sandwich” – toasted whole wheat bread, spread avocados, tomatoes.

Breakfast was my usual oatmeal with protein powder, and snacks throughout the day were mixed nuts, prunes, and lots of fruit. I drank a TON of water (to be hydrated for my race tomorrow) and I got plenty of rest last night. I hope tonight I can get some good rest too.

I’m feeling so good right now. I hope tomorrow’s race goes well (though its supposed to rain!) and I hope the rest of this weekend can be somewhat as good as today and wednesday. I feel fabulous.

Oh also, I watched this informational video today (its about an hour long) about eating a whole foods, plant-based diet, and though it was a little cheesy at times, I actually really loved it and gained a lot of useful information and tips about developing a cleaner, healthier lifestyle. You should watch this!

I’m posting part 1 here, but there are 9 parts total, all easily available one after the other on YouTube.

 

I hope everyone has had a great day!

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Accidental Vegan For The Day

Without too much effort and almost without meaning to, today was an entirely vegan day. I feel amazing! I feel light, healthy, full of energy, happy, satisfied, and fulfilled. I really feel like today was the first time in a long time where I felt liberated by food – the thought of food didn’t consume me while I wasn’t eating, and while I was eating, I felt no anxiety whatsoever. I found myself eating slower, being more mindful, and really appreciating all the distinct flavors of my meals, instead of mindlessly shoveling things into my mouth, stressing over calories or nutritional value, and feeling anxious about whether or not my food was in some way controlling me. Today, I felt free.

I woke up without an alarm (I had the day off) and eased myself into my workout clothes when I finally felt ready. I went for a 4-mile run and threw in some sprinting intervals as well as some bodyweight exercises, similar to the ones featured in this recent post, and I felt powerful and strong the entire time. Slow, but strong. At one point, I had been looking forward to using the adult play structure to do some pushups and other exercises, but when I jogged up to it, I realized that as per usual, it was full of beefy guys, and no women. In America this would be somewhat intimidating, but in France it is so much worse. There is a distinct divide between men and women in most aspects of the culture, including exercise, so I felt immediately hyper-aware of my womanhood and my instinct told me to run away and work out in the privacy of my own home. But, as if sent by Hera (Greek goddess of women) through my headphones, this song came on and my attitude changed instantly:

I redirected my path and set straight for the bars to do some spiderman pushups and pull-ups and a few other exercises before doing one final, balls-out, full-speed sprint. I guess theres some part of me as a woman that feels the need to compete with the big boys when I’m in workout situations where my gender becomes very salient. I always tend to step up the intensity a bit, perhaps to prove to the beefy men that I’m not just some girl, and that girls can be tough too. I don’t know. I guess that’s how I deal with being the only woman in a group full of men flexing their cock muscles and eye-fucking each others’ biceps.

Anyway… I refueled with an enormous banana and some almonds, and later had my real breakfast of oatmeal, protein powder, and walnuts.

For lunch, I ate a quinoa-bulgur wheat mix with sautéed veggies (leftovers from yesterday) and half an avocado. My dessert was a few prunes.

photo (18)

During my Parisian outing, I ate an apple, a banana, and some more almonds. And when it came down to have dinner, instead of going home for dinner with my host family, I bought a book and did a little search online for nearby vegan/vegetarian restaurants, and treated myself to a healthy, cozy dinner-for-one. I went to this restaurant called Le Grenier de Notre-Dame and I ordered the “formule”, mainly because it was the same price as any one dish, and I was hungry. For a starter, I ate a chickpea mush (I’m sure there’s a much prettier name for it) which was delicious and flavorful and was great for spreading on the whole wheat bread they gave me. My main dish was a mixed vegetable-brown rice-black bean dish, served with soy tofu, seaweed, and a salad. YUM. I ate the whole thing but didn’t feel overwhelmed. I still felt light, at least in spirit. For dessert, a warm vegan apple tarte with a few fresh apple slices. As I was reading while at dinner, I felt calm and relaxed around my food and I didn’t feel any urge to rush through my meal, which helped achieve that level of mindfulness that I mentioned earlier. Amazingly, when the dessert came around, I actually waited a minute or two before starting to eat it (because I was entrenched in my book) and then I only ate it in small bites, slowly, over 5 or 10 minutes. I felt so powerful, knowing that food didn’t have to control me! I’m really proud.

Eating vegan is actually way easier than it seems. It feels so good to eat so clean, and I know my body will thank me for days to come, not to mention my soul. This was such a great day and I’m feeling really happy about myself. I hope I can keep this up!

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Question for vegans out there: I am thinking about making dinner for my host family one night, and I’d ideally like to make something vegan, but I have no idea how to create a dinner-party-style vegan meal, and I wouldn’t know what to prepare. I want it to be impressive, so no one can find any reason to discredit vegan food, and I want it to be relatively easy, since I’m lazy and don’t want to spend all day cooking. Suggestions? Thoughts? Email or comment if you have any insight!!

 

 

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Documentaries

A friend of mine has been urging me to watch this documentary, Forks Over Knives, for quite some time now, and I managed to find it online recently and watched it a few nights ago before going to bed. (You can watch it on Hulu). The documentary discusses some of the worlds most common diseases including diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, obesity, cancer, heart attack, stroke, etc and their direct relation to diet. Forks Over Knives shows through a series of scientific and medical studies and first-hand accounts the incredible and undeniably positive effects of a whole foods, plant-based diet on health.

Here’s a trailer:

I strongly urge everyone to watch this documentary. It will absolutely open your eyes and provide strong evidence to support a healthier, longer life through food, and there is no reason why anyone should not watch this and take its message to heart. Even if you are not interested in cutting out meat and dairy from your diet, learning more about the importance of diet on health (instead of medicine) should be reason enough to get informed. I can’t imagine anyone out there who doesn’t (deep down) want to live a long, healthy life, so do yourself a favor and watch this movie!

If you are interested in learning more about public health and the food industry in general, I recommend Food Inc., a fabulous and well-known documentary examining the origins of everything we eat. Watching this documentary 2 years ago absolutely changed my life, and following it with the Food Inc. book and Omnivore’s Dilemma was a critical time in my discovery and awareness of food and consumption. Along with Forks Over Knives, I think Food Inc. is an effective, accurate, and powerfully informative depiction of some of the most important subjects of our lives. Knowing where your food comes from and what effect it has on your body and on the environment at large is a powerful tool leading to greater education and awareness and hopefully improved health and longevity. It behooves all of us to be educated about the very thing that gives us life: food.


Watch, learn, and allow yourself to be changed and inspired!

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