For me the plant-based diet has been a journey- a never-ending one to be sure. The way I eat now is invariably different from how I ate in the beginning. Giving up animal protein left me with incredible energy; I was lighter on my toes and in my spirit. However, I stopped losing weight within a few months after eliminating dairy, the main reason I started this diet in the first place. I was met with an incredible amount of frustration at one point a couple years ago, thinking I had already given up so much and I still was not where I wanted to be.
Was it my age? Was it my genes? Was it just my body type? Was it fate???
I knew there was more work to be done before I'd give in to believing I was just getting older and getting heavier is just what happens as a result. I took a good look at the amount of oils/overt fats I was still consuming and cut them out. I began releasing unwanted body fat again (and still am, albeit slowly but surely) and my cholesterol numbers came down significantly.
Much of my resistance during that time I attribute to my mindset and perspective of "giving up" so many foods already and not seeing all that I'd be gaining by taking my diet to the next level. I know this much:
In order to have a different outcome, we need to do things differently.
It's uncomfortable. Change. Especially when we see it as deprivation. The uncomfortable-ness is how we know we are growing and changing. As Lindsay Nixon has recently said in her Shortcut to Slim podcast, Seek discomfort. Then you know you're changing; if you're feeling comfortable, then you're probably not.
Here's an updated blog post from the archive on why I gave up oils and how I make it work. There's also a little caveat on being vegan vs. plant-based. It's cathartic for me to go back to where I once was, remembering that what I have done to release unwanted body fat is what I will have to continue to do to keep it off. I hope you'll find some inspiration here, too.
Why No Oil?
I get this question A LOT. It comes right after my refusal of the French fries or the dismissal of the house salad dressing when eating out and often after I’ve been outed as eating a plant-centered or "vegan" diet: no meat, no eggs, no dairy, no oil. The confusion comes primarily because many of the more trendy oils out there are typically not derived from animals.
So what’s the problem?
Let me back up a sec. 7 years ago I began my plant-based journey first giving up meat, then eggs, then dairy. I had read about the elimination of oils in many plant-based books, scientific studies and resources. That is to say, the plant-based “diet” is stipulated by medical researchers and leading experts in the field to not include oils due to, largely, their direct correlation to heart disease and obesity epidemics.
Vegan vs. Plant-Based
By and large, this is what separates the plant-based movement from the vegan community. By definition, being vegan is to not eat or use animal products. Period. It states nothing about health. Veganism is a philosophy deeply rooted in animal rights and activism.
A plant-based diet is, by definition, a diet based on fruits, vegetables, tubers, whole grains and legumes; and it excludes or minimizes meat (including chicken and fish), dairy products and eggs, as well as highly refined or processed foods like bleach, flour, refined sugar and oil.
So it can be said that someone who is following a plant-based diet is a vegan, but it doesn’t go the other way around. Surprisingly, there is an endless list of "accidental" vegan foods, meaning foods that are not created to be or marketed as such: Oreos, Ritz Crackers, Pillsbury Crescent Rolls, Duncan Hines Creamy Homestyle Frosting, Duncan Hines cake mixes, Jello Instant Pudding Mix, Betty Crocker’s Baco’s Bacon Flavor Bits and McCormick's Bacon Bits.
(Yeah, you read that right bacon bits are vegan).
Wow. I totally got distracted by that. It seems like such good news, doesn’t it? We know this list of familiar foods is vegan, but we also know they are NOT plant-based...or healthy.
Ok. I think I beat that drum long enough.
The Problem With Oil
Here's the problem I, personally, have with oil. Oil is 100% fat, has very few nutrients and contains NO FIBER. Oil is also a huge calorie bomb. In 1 Tablespoon of olive oil, or any other vegetable oil there is roughly 120 calories and 14g fat. And we haven't really had any food yet!
Pushing Through Weight Loss Plateau
It took me 2 years to get my head around giving up the oils. The fact is that oil is in just about every item that lives on the shelves of the grocery store. Giving up oil meant I would have to eliminate even store-bought condiments like barbecue and teriyaki sauces, salad dressings, chips and crackers.
But, as far as my weight loss and cholesterol levels were going, my progress had really slowed and even stopped a short time after giving up meat and dairy. Even then my cholesterol was still over 200, just being vegan. I had lost weight early on because plant foods naturally have fewer calories and fat than the animal-derived foods of the Standard American Diet (SAD).
I had made obvious changes, but the hidden oils/fats prohibited me from continuing to create that caloric deficit needed to lose more body fat. (The only simple thing about weight loss: If there is no caloric deficit, there is no weight loss.) This is the reason that it's harder to lose those last few pounds; the closer we get to our goal weight, the harder it is to create the deficit, leaving very little room for error.
Progress Over Perfection
Full disclosure here: it’s hard to eliminate oil completely. In fact, I have found it nearly impossible to 100% eliminate 100% of the time. It's a mindset thing. Those little allowances (lies) or rewards (justifications) I give myself when I'm unprepared at a restaurant or those times when "life happens".
I fall down. I get back up.
Making it Work
The truth of the matter is that it gets tricky when you haven’t made the food yourself. You can sauté vegetables beautifully with water or vegetable broth. And applesauce, pureed pumpkin or mashed bananas make excellent substitutes for oil when baking. I have DIY recipes for the barbeque and teriyaki sauces, but, more recently I've have found oil-free brands pretty easily in our local grocery stores.
Salad dressings have been the hardest to transition from. I was once married to bleu cheese dressing. But, it’s not impossible and I’ve come to love new favorites using dates, tahini, lemon and lime juices, miso, Dijon mustard, vinegars, salsa, hummus, nut butters, avocado, Sriracha, vegan mayos and spices.
As you evolve, so will your food choices.
I know what you’re thinking. First, I made you get rid of all your stuff, then had you cancel the cable, quit your job, revoked your Sam’s Club membership and now I’m asking you to ditch the oil: the olive oil, coconut oil, sunflower oil, avocado oil, truffle oil, walnut oil...
Maybe this will help! Here’s a recipe that’s adapted from the Whole Foods No-Oil Balsamic Dressing and happens to be my husband’s favorite. I start small with the Dijon mustard, working my way up because it’s strong for me. The dates give the dressing a nice and familiar body and the quantity can be adjusted for a sweeter variation. This makes about 1 3/4 cups of salad dressing. Click the picture below for the recipe!
Our thyroid is part of our endocrine system. The endocrine system is responsible for producing the hormones in the body that carry out important bodily functions. The thyroid regulates everything from our mood, our weight, our body temperature, metabolism, and even digestion. It is essential to health in the human body and constantly changing and adapting to the environment we impose upon it. “It acts as a modulator but is also very susceptible to our actions and as a result, it can become out of balance quickly.”*
It’s estimated the 30 million people suffer from thyroid issues like hypothyroidism, an underactive thyroid, and hyperthyroidism, an overactive thyroid. Hypothyroidism is most common, usually occurring in women causing weight gain, depression, anxiety, slow metabolism, digestive disorders, joint pain, headaches and more. “It often leads to autoimmune disease disorders known as Hashimoto’s and Graves disease due to the way the thyroid affects all major parts of the body.”*
The reasons for these thyroid problems can be hard to pinpoint as the thyroid is very sensitive to changes in the body and these changes can quickly cause an imbalance. We do know that these things have a direct impact on thyroid imbalance: a poor diet, too much or too little exercise, consistent stress, trauma, a food allergy, lack of rest, metabolic disorders, other hormone disorders, medication and birth control pills, and so many other things.
One of the main nutrient needed by thyroid is iodine; although, too much iodine will cause hypothyroidism. Assuming taking a supplement will supply you with necessary iodine, is not a good solution. Fish contain iodine; however, they are not a healthy source. Fish have high amounts of mercury and other pollutants making them an unsafe food. We can go directly to the source where fish get there iodine: blue green algae. Blue green algae are excellent sources of iodine and omega’s. In conjunction with a well-balanced diet a person would be able to get proper amounts of iodine. Another good source of iodine is unrefined pink sea salt “from the earth and also contains other alkaline minerals such as magnesium, potassium, and sodium your metabolism needs to function at its best. Too little quality sodium and too much refined sodium can lead to blood pressure problems, metabolic disorders, and also thyroid disorders. Skip iodized (highly refined) processed salts and use real salt from the earth instead.”*
B vitamins are essential to optimal health assisting in metabolism, energy, digestion, mood health and thyroid health. B vitamins are found abundantly in plant foods, with one exception. Vitamin B12 is produced by bacteria found in dirt and soil. In our germ-obsessed society we are not exposed those bacteria and the vitamin B12; therefore, we need to supplement. Find a quality B12 supplement, preferably a liquid form that can be absorbed quickly and efficiently. You can find some here.
The essential vitamin is produced by our bodies when exposed to sunlight on bare skin. The problem is that most people don’t spend enough time outdoors or live in a part of the world where the sun does not offer enough exposure to allow for proper Vitamin D production. Supplementation is important for most people and especially those suffering from a thyroid condition. “Vitamin D acts as a hormone in the body; it plays a part in your mood, digestive, bone, blood, heart, and thyroid health. A shortage of vitamin D can lead to bone loss, digestion problems, depression or just general sadness, and fatigue.”* Fortified foods do not offer the best source of Vitamin D as most are fortified with D2 and the best source is Vitamin D3. Be sure to choose a D3 supplement that is plant-based (some are made with sheep lanolin). Here is a quality Vitamin D3 supplement.
This nutrient is great for skin and hair, but also boosts health promoting benefits like boosts the immune system, promotes prostate health, increases fertility, boosts metabolism and protects the thyroid. “It’s primarily found and stored in the thyroid gland where it’s used to assist with the enzymatic breakdown of the thyroid hormones so they can be used by their body.”* This nutrient is super easy to obtain with just one brazil nut a day, which contains 100% of your daily needs! The great part about these nuts is that they not only give you tons of selenium, but they have been shown to lower cholesterol better than the leading prescription drug AND they contain lots of fiber and healthy fats to protect the thyroid.
A well-balanced diet filled with good nutrition is essential to thyroid health. Greens offer an excellent source of protein protecting thyroid health. Adding more greens to your diet is one of the most important things you can do to promote overall health.
FOODS TO AVOID
“Excess caffeine, processed food, added and refined sugar, alcohol, and unhealthy fats can all cause problems with the thyroid and prevent optimal absorption of thyroid hormones in the body.” There is a lot of controversy surrounding soy and thyroid health. Dr Greger explains it best here, but soy is a health food. Soy and cruciferous vegetables contain goitrogens. Goitrogens have been shown to prevent the use of thyroid hormones in the body; however, studies have shown that these foods do not seem to have these effects on the thyroid in moderate amounts and those who obtain enough iodine in their diets.
OTHER PROBLEM SOURCES
Have you heard of endocrine disruptors? These are chemical compounds found it products in your environment that are causing insane amounts of damage to our bodies. ”The disruptions occur because such chemicals mimic hormones in your body, including the female sex hormone estrogen, the male sex hormone androgen, and thyroid hormones. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals may block hormonal signals in your body or interfere with the way the hormones or receptors are made or controlled.”** Endocrine disruptors have been linked to ADHD, Hormone issues, Cancer and more. This is not a comprehensive list and I encourage you to do more research on this subject. Personal care products contain large amounts of chemicals and some of those potentially problematic are phthalates, parabens, triclosan (found in toothpaste) and more. Tap water contains large amounts of arsenic, atrazine, and perchlorate which are known endocrine disruptors. Most canned foods are lined with the chemical BPA along with many plastic and paper products. BPA is an endocrine disruptor and carcinogen. Non-stick cookware can also contain BPA and other known endocrine disruptors PFOA and PFAS; look for non-stick cookware free of these toxins. Please investigate this topic further as it is not a commonly known hazard, but avoiding these chemicals is essential to optimal health.
Our thyroid is a very finicky little bugger and needs our help to maintain optimal health. When we strive to eat well, exercise regularly, and avoid unnecessary exposure to toxins we can maintain a body full of health and not have to worry about any one organ, system, or body part in particular. Instead, we can focus on living a happy, healthy life.
Peace, Love, Plants
Initially, we often lose weight easily after switching to a plant-based diet. This is typically due to the natural caloric deficit that is created by eating plant foods in lieu of calorically dense foods such as meat, eggs, dairy and oil. But after a while we might find ourselves leaning too heavily on simple carbs and vegan junk food in an effort to feel normal again.
Or maybe that’s just me.
I’ve been at this weight loss thing for nearly 30 years so believe me when I say, I know what foods I need to eat to be slim. It’s one thing to know what to do….we all know what to do! But if you’re susceptible to overeating and emotional eating, as I am, we often need to look to our behaviors around food and our environment to support the overall efforts of a lifestyle change. To wave that final goodbye- or middle finger- to those last 10 lbs.
I recently participated in Lindsay Nixon’s Slim Team through her Meal Mentor program and while I lost a few more pounds, I also learned a few tips, or heard them in a different way, that helped me turn another corner. I’ve also been fan-girling out on Chef AJ recently after my friend turned me onto her Weight Loss Wednesdays she hosts on Facebook. I’ve been following Chef AJ for years and have enjoyed using many of her recipes overtime, but unbeknownst to me, she has maintained a 50 pound weight loss for 5 years! So, I stand on the shoulders of these two women as I pass on what might be new ways to think about how we eat.
Brian Wansink, PH.D, author of the book Mindless Eating and Director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, says his research shows we make well over 200 food decisions a day! In this country, we seem to have constant and unending food messages in every direction cueing us to eat. Billboards, television commercials, social media, well meaning relatives and social gatherings, advertisements pasted to the backs of trucks passing us on the interstate and even our very own kitchens are beckoning us to soothe our downtime with food. We are up against many persuaders each and every day, often without knowing it , and making a few modifications and rules for ourselves can help tighten the screws and put us back in the driver's seat on our journey to a healthier weight. Here are a few ideas we can consider:
Bonus Tip: If we are feeling bored with our "healthy" food- if we are eating to be entertained by food- we are probably eating outside the parameters of our true hunger. It can be helpful to consider that when hunger is the problem, then any food will satisfy and taste good. And we can also turn this around when we contemplate eating mindlessly!
In October of 2016, Cristy, our friend Lindsey and I sought out a group of people with a common curiosity and interest in the plant-based diet through workshops we created in our local community. As you'll read below, it was an incredibly rich experience for me, personally, and what surprised me most was that while the food seemingly took center stage, what made the whole thing work were the connections we were building within the group.
It's not always an easy transition, giving up foods we grew up on and not quite being able to see just how we'll live without them. It takes a healthy dose of commitment and determination to navigate the world around us. And often, after we've mastered the switch, after riding the plant-based 'high' of feeling so damn good, boredom can set in and we get tired of figuring out... what's for dinner? Or you need to show up at a friend's pig roast, which is the first clue there likely won't be any compliant food to eat. Or you're going on a cruise or taking a road trip with fast food as the only answer to your hunger. Maybe your family is picketing at the dining table, mercilessly refusing whatever plant-perfect concoction you've turned yourself inside out making to ensure their approval. They're hangry. And mean. And they are NOT on board.
I've never not needed a tribe when it comes to staying plant-based. I think I belong to 4 or 5 plant-based Facebook groups. We lean on each other for support, troubleshooting, new ideas, recipes and inspiration to reignite that daily spark around why we made the change. That dynamic brings you back 'round to getting all jacked up over Japanese sweet potatoes or beer can cabbage or those soy curls everyone's making such a fuss about.
This is one of those early mornings that I’ve been called to the computer at 4am. Usually my brain starts lighting up with ideas or things I want to write about during the quiet hours. But this morning it wasn’t my mind that woke me. It was a full heart.
Lindsey, Cristy and I recently wound up the last of two plant-based workshop series we created. It’s what I’ve been working on during every waking spare second I’ve had the past 6 months. The creation process was a labor of love, I tell you. And the whole experience has left me with the realization that I’ve never done work before that makes me feel so impassioned.
I’ve been wanting to do some sort of work around plant-based nutrition for quite some time. I believe that it is the superior diet and a powerful and scientifically proven approach to preventing and often reversing diseases that simply need not be, such as heart disease, cancer, obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure.
I’ve never been out to convert anyone. I don’t believe in scare tactics or shaming people into making better food choices, (with the exception of my family). In fact, I rarely talk about it unless people ask or if someone’s had a recent diagnosis of some kind and are then ready to try anything to back out of that sitch.
I only know what the plant-based diet has done for me. It’s allowed me to finally reach a weight I haven’t seen in a decade, I’m rarely sick and on the rare occasion I do come down with something, it passes quickly, I have lots of energy and feel empowered with having certain boundaries around what I’m putting in my mouth. Beyond that, there are no monthly subscriptions or prescriptions for eating this way. No one's getting rich from pushing kale, I'm pretty sure. It’s just food. Sounds simple, but it’s difficult for many of us.
So. It seemed Lindsey, Cristy and I were some of the few people around these parts eating a plant-based diet. We live in the beautiful heart of the Pennsylvania Wilds where hunting and fishing are the mainstay for local tourism, activities and for putting food on the table. When you don’t eat the Standard American Diet, life can feel a bit isolating.
During our early planning meetings, hours would slip by, the three of us talking off-subject about our latest finds at the grocery store, how we managed eating this way, we talked about troubleshooting social situations and feeding our families, or how we were using tofu or where we could find miso and nutritional yeast. The support and sharing between us was so comforting and invigorating at the same time.
Could we bring this to our community? We knew there had to be a few people out there wanting to explore a healthier lifestyle, but maybe, like us in the early stages, they were struggling with the how-to of it all. So, without droning on about it, let me just say that the workshops ended up looking nothing like what they did in the beginning.
It reminds me of when novelists say that their book had, sort of, written itself. That they were just the vessel for the story that wanted to be told. At the risk of sounding hokey, the creative process for developing these workshops felt like that to me.
We had a total of 21 people from our small community participate in our programs. The number may sound small, but those 21 people have families. And friends. And co-workers. At our last potluck we had well over 50 people attend, filling up Lindsey’s restaurant with creative, healthy and delicious plant-based food, surprising even the most carnivorous guests. We’ve also established friendships with people from another local plant-based support group from a neighboring community, which led to creating our own local Cameron County Plant-Based Support Group. Now, put all these people together and we have quite the tribe. Everyone needs a tribe.
It feels amazing. And I’m not taking credit for it. It just feels so good to be a part of it. To be a part of the difference in making healthier food choices in our community, with our own friends and neighbors.
Let me tell you something about my hometown. When tragedy strikes, when one of ours is diagnosed with disease; no community comes together and rallies for its people like this one does. It’s a beautiful part of small town living, not to be taken for granted.
I see a similar sense of purpose and momentum with our small plant-based community, within the community. People coming together and rallying in the spirit of disease-free, healthy and optimal living. I see daughters, mothers themselves, making significant changes in the food they prepare for their children; redemption, in a way, for losing their own mothers to cancer, far too young. I witness friends and neighbors doing the same by standing up in the face of a diagnosis, refusing to accept their illness as a jail sentence, becoming empowered to take their health and their future into their own hands.
It’s moving. It’s brave. It’s courageous and contagious. And to be witness to their courage... it has some sort of power over me to do more. What more can any of us do in our own communities in the name of preventative health? Community gardens, food shares, plant-based cooking or herbal remedy classes, good old fashioned trade and barter, community sustained agriculture? Maybe you have an idea...I'd love to hear it.
This is an edited version of a blog post I first published in December, 2016. When making a big lifestyle change, to make change that lasts, it's important to go back and revisit why it is we're doing what it is we're doing. To remember why we've made certain changes in our lives. I was recently reminded that living a healthy lifestyle, maintaining a healthy weight or achieving weight loss is like training for a marathon. Except, there is no finish line.
I very much related to this analogy because a handful of years ago I became an avid runner. Admittedly, I wasn't a "natural"; running was something I had to work at. I would participate in local 5K races fairly regularly and even completed a 16 mile trail run a couple of years ago. Not exactly a marathon, but, still, I had to train and run regularly to increase my time, run more efficiently and prepare to be my best for the big race day .
Unfortunately, I hurt my knee on that last trail race which has inhibited me from running ever since. If I tried to run a race today, I probably wouldn't be able to do it very well or at all because I'm no longer running.
Maintaining weight loss or losing weight and living a healthy lifestyle is quite the same. What it takes to be able to run the marathon or 5K (lose weight or maintain a healthy weight) is what you have to do every day. Even after the race. Even after you get there.
Life has a way of managing the mystery in our lives. Catching us off guard with those life-changing events you couldn't possibly see coming. The one that forces you to take a left when you never considered not going right.
The first of these often happens when we are young. We develop a self soothing/sabotaging behavior to cope and often go through much of our life operating from that wounded place , until we make the conscious decision to choose differently.
My first realization of my toxic relationship with food came during a weekend visit with a relative not long after the death of my 3 yr old brother in 1983. I was 11 years old and had gone to spend time with family... to get away, to play and forget about life for a while. I overheard this relative talking with my mother over the phone sometime after I’d arrived.
“She’s HAD to have put on 20 pounds since the last time I saw her! What have you been feeding this child?!”
It is my very first memory of having felt shame around my body and what I would put in my mouth, in the presence of others or in secret, from that day forward. I tell you this not to place blame on or fault my relative, whom I love dearly, or even the tragic event that brought my family to its knees, but rather, it’s a bookmark in my early life where I can make my first connection to COMFORT = FOOD.
I went on to spend the rest of my life on a diet...any diet. ALL the diets.
Weight Watchers, through all its evolving phases, Atkins, The Cabbage Soup Diet. My roommates and I actually went on a hot dog diet of some kind during my sophomore year in college (strength in numbers). I took diet pills (the over-the-counter and over-the-border kinds), seriously restricting my calories, and once even tried to purge after feeling really bad about what I’d eaten; a scene that just ended in tears, not even being able to get that right. Desperation leads to desperate measures. I was chasing down every "magic pill" out there. I was a runaway train of sorts...and by the time I pulled into the station the only thing I was able to find were a few extra pounds.
In 2007 I began a new focus of healing old wounds and my toxic relationship with food. By this time, I had my share of life changing events; marrying my high school sweetheart, becoming a stay-at-home mom to three growing daughters, relocating multiple times, reuniting with my birth mother and with a promise of a bright future and new business venture, we packed up our family and moved back home to where it all began.
I started looking at my connection to food, not only my emotional connection, but my lack of connection; my unconscious, self-soothing behavior that began when I was a child. I also began to pay more attention to what I was eating and began noticing the food commercials on television in a whole different way; the clever marketing, the way grocery stores will fill their end caps with shitty food, signaling us to get it while it’s hot and feed it to our children. I started reading nutrition labels and scanning the ingredients lists. It took forever to grocery shop and at one point I thought I’d gone blind from reading such small print. I read Kathy Freston’s book, Quantum Wellness which laid out the benefits of following a diet that didn't include animal products, and in the middle of reading the chapter on factory farming decided to close the door on meat forever, to go vegetarian and I have never looked back. (They say if slaughterhouses had glass walls we would all be vegetarian.)
I was always one of those people who said, I could never give up cheese. But, after several failed attempts, in 2012 after watching the documentary, “Forks Over Knives” and with the support of friends in the plant-based community, both real and Facebook, I did. And then real magic started to happen. No more constipation or bloating, which, frankly, I just thought was normal. (People poop every day??? What a wonder!) And 10-15 unwanted pounds sort of fell away (you know, like you hear people talk about, but you just can’t relate?).
At this point, my primary goal had shifted from weight loss to simply eating real food and just plain... feeling good. I began to discover that my behavior and my environment were also critical in reaching my nutritional goals. It wasn’t really enough to have a shelf-load of fabulous recipe books and gorgeous produce in my fridge. I had to actually do the work of prepping meals ahead of time and have them on hand. Healthy food needed to be ready and waiting for that moment when I would come home from my crazy-busy day, emotional baggage in hand, having a could-eat-the-ass-end-out-of-a-rhino moment.
Throughout my trials and many errors, I had made an obvious discovery: I am the gatekeeper of the food that comes into my kitchen, of what’s in the pantry, of what’s in the fridge. I know I have to eat mostly home cooked meals to have that sort of quality control over what I eat and to be successful in managing a healthy weight and prevent disease.
Over the years I have learned a few things...implemented some short-cuts to cooking and preparing food, learned a few "work-arounds" for trigger situations and have found ways to be more satiated eating plant-based. It has been an evolution, really; how I eat today looks very different that it did even just a few years ago.
Full Disclosure here…
I’m not perfect. I fall off the wagon from time to time... and I start again with the next meal..and again if I have to. It’s PROGRESS over PERFECTION for me. It’s how I can stay honest and stay on track. I look back on the past 3 decades of my life, losing and gaining those same 10 pounds. I had just grown so tired of it. Since April 2012, I have had a 23 lb. weight loss, my cholesterol numbers have dropped into the normal range, and having just celebrated my 45th birthday, I have, really, never felt better.
I now practice yoga, meditation, journaling, and spending time in nature as a recipe to live more intentionally and manage my emotional eating. We cannot choose exactly what comes our way, but WE CAN CHOOSE how we show up in the face of change and adversity in a way that allows us to not only survive, my friends, but to THRIVE.
The interest in the plant-based lifestyle is exploding! I love how the growth of options in the supermarket has grown exponentially, just in the past year. It is so exciting! There will be a new generation of healthy people.
I get asked all the time, “What do you eat?” Everyone is so curious and I LOVE it! Their minds are blown at what I actually eat compared to what they think I eat. It can be funny sometimes. “Do you eat a lot of kale?” Haha, not really. (I prefer spinach;) “Wait, you eat hot dogs, burgers, and fries?” Yup, yup, and yup.
I'm here today to answer the top 3 questions that I get asked EVERY time someone wants to talk plant-based.
1. Where do you get your protein?
There are lots of plant-based cheese options. Some are really good and others, not so much. But, the point is you have options. You don't have to give up cheese, just dairy cheese. The nut-based cheeses are the best, in my opinion. They are less processed than the vegetable protein and soy cheeses, which, also, contain a lot of oil, but the nut cheese also taste better. You don't have to give up your pizza or grilled cheese sandwiches! It takes a little trial and error to find the ones that will please your palate.
3. What do you eat?
Tuesday: Tacos/Burritos (rice, beans, lentils/couscous or tofu, salsa, guacamole)
Wednesday: Sushi or Vegetable Lo Mein with Rice Noodles
Thursday: Rice and Beans Dish (usually with tofu...curry, general tso's, sweet and spicy)
Friday: Burgers and Fries (black bean, cashew and rice, seitan...with sweet potato fries)
Saturday and Sunday: Could be leftovers, hot dogs, pasta, rice, or whatever Mama feels like cooking! As you can see, my meals probably look and sound pretty similar to yours. It takes a bit of practice to find the things that work for you and your family.
I love running into people and they start asking me all these questions and more. I know they are excited at the idea of changing their lives...getting healthier, looking better, and feeling better! So, if you see me, don't be afraid to stop me and pick my brain! I'm obsessed and love sharing it with anyone and everyone!
Peace, Love, Plants,
We have a cultural obsession with weight loss, but despite that, right now 1 in 3 Americans is OBESE. And if that isn't cringe-worthy: 18% of our children are MORBIDLY OBESE!! With skyrocketing numbers in increases of diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancers our healthcare costs are rising and 75% of those costs are attributable to the aforementioned diseases. AND ALL of those diseases can be avoided or possibly reversed with some fairly simple diet and lifestyle changes. Being overweight is the number one cause of most diseases...here is how to make some changes:
1. You are Not Getting Enough Water - Studies show drinking more water may help you lose weight and keep it off. Drinking water increases the amount of calories you burn, which is known as resting energy expenditure(REE)-the amount of energy expended by a person at rest- possibly increasing REE by 24–30% within 10 minutes of drinking water. This lasts at least 60 minutes. So, if your day is filled with water you will have a continuous increase in calories burned...YES, PLEASE! I notice that when I don't drink enough water I become very bloated because my body is hanging on to the little water it has...eliminate the bloat by drinking more water. There is no magic number, but most people need between 1 and 2 liters a day. Drink when you're thirsty and stay away from caffeine as it dehydrates. Also, water is calorie-free so you can reduce your calorie consumption by swapping water for soda or other sugary, high-calorie drinks.
2. You are Underestimating Your Calories - Most people underestimate the calories they consume. We forget about the “tastes” we have while cooking or “not wasting” what the kids leave on their plates. Don't shoot the messenger, but those calories count! We also, tend to underestimate serving size. Serving sizes are usually much smaller than we like to admit and if we are counting calories, we need to be honest with ourselves in order to see results. If you are using technology to track your calories burned, you are probably not getting accurate information. A study was done analyzing wearable technology for tracking calories burned and they found that the majority of the trackers were very unreliable; overestimating calories burned by up to 40%!! When you are mislead with the thinking that you have burned more calories, you assume that you can now eat more calories which leads to more calories consumed than burned = weight gain.
3. You are Not Eating Enough Fruits and Vegetables - Eating more vegetables is the single most important thing you can do to achieve weight loss AND better health. Vegetables tend to be lower in calories than most other foods; especially, processed and refined foods. Their caloric density-calorie content relative to weight or volume-is one of the lowest. Which means you can eat MORE food and consume LESS calories. Also, fruits and vegetables contain the most fiber. Fiber leaves us feeling full and satisfied. Fiber also, takes more energy to burn, which means you will burn more calories just by eating these foods. Choosing more fruits and vegetables means you will eat less processed food which is very calorie dense and unhealthy. Aim to add fruits and vegetables to every meal.
4. You are Eating Too Much Fat – Eat fat? Don't eat fat? Which is it? It's been a controversy in the media for decades. Let's look at the facts: NO oil is healthy. None. They are all stripped down and processed, and contain no nutritional value. More importantly, oil has a calorie density of 4,000 calories per pound!! So are there good fats and bad fats? Yes and no. Dietary fat is very easily converted into body fat; whereas, carbohydrates are more easily burned as fuel. So, if you are consuming any kind of fat, it can easily be converted to body fat instead of being used for energy. Choose your fats wisely, choose ones that are nutrient dense from plant sources like avocados, seeds, and nuts. Animal-fat sources are the worst, which contain mostly saturated fats. They also contain cholesterol, hormones, carcinogens, dioxins, antibiotics, and bacteria, while also devoid of fiber and antioxidants.
5. You Are Stressed the F@ Out! - RELAX! Easier said than done, I know! I struggle with this one myself. I like to be in control so the food aspect of this, I got! But, the stress, OH THE STRESS!! The facts: Levels of "the stress hormone," cortisol, rise during tension-filled times. This can turn overeating into a habit. Because increased levels of the hormone cause higher insulin levels, your blood sugar drops and you crave sugary, fatty foods. Exercise can trigger the release of the “feel good” hormones so this is a great stress-reliever. Also, meditation has been scientifically proven to significantly decrease stress levels with just 10 minutes of daily mediation. Love yourself—do the things you enjoy and forget about the rest. It is OK to say no!
6. You are Not Moving Enough - Nutrition is the most important factor in weight loss. Calories in vs. calories out. You must burn more calories than you consume. Our bodies do a great job at burning energy in the form of calories, but if we want to lose weight we need to eat less than we burn. But we can also burn off some of those calories in the form of exercise and while we are at it, reduce stress, too...WIN! WIN! Exercise isn’t just about that 30 minutes on the treadmill; it’s about creating a lifestyle that isn’t sedentary. But, the great thing about eating healthfully and exercising is that all that good stuff makes you have more energy!! Then, you want to move! Find an activity that you really like/love and that is the one that you can form a habit around. It can be anything that keeps you moving for at least 30-40 minutes; walking, running, hiking, yoga, biking, etc. Consider weight training: more muscle = more calories burned. While a pound of fat burns only two calories per day, a pound of muscle burns six—and takes up a lot less room.
You can find these tips with more details and also more tips in our NEW FREE eBook “9 Steps to Losing Weight and Feeling Great”, but the best part about our book is we not only give you the tips, but a guide to help you along the way which contains a 7 day meal plan with recipes and grocery shopping lists!! Sound great? Sign up here.
Peace, Love, Plants,
Let's talk some sh**! 97% of Americans are deficient in this nutrient. So, that's only 3% that are getting enough! We need approximately 31.5 grams per day and the average American gets just 10-15. Every year, roughly, 63 million Americans suffer constipation and 10 million with hemorrhoids, in part, due to the lack of this nutrient. Its deficiency also contributes to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, hormonal problems, asthma, allergies, acne, and more (yes, there's more!!)
Have you guessed it?
FIBER! Fiber makes life way more enjoyable...or wait, no, that's bathroom visits! Well, actually life, too-- fiber is so important to our health and digestion and 80% of our immune is in our digestive system. Fiber is one of the most important nutrients to maintain balance and health in our bodies.
What does that mean for our health? Most of the illnesses seen by medical professionals today originate from a fiber-deficient diet.
What is fiber you ask? Great question!! Fiber is the indigestible substance which is resistant to digestive enzymes. So what does that mean? Indigestible? That doesn't sound good! Exactly the opposite! It's what our bodies need! As it passes through our digestive tract, being indigestible and all, it does a lot of work picking up all the bad stuff and getting rid of it!
Let's first start with the well-known benefit of fiber...bulking up our poop and making bathroom visits more regular! Bulkier, softer stools are easier to pass than hard or watery ones, which not only makes life more comfortable, but also helps maintain colorectal health. According to the Mayo Clinic, a high-fiber diet may help reduce the risk of hemorrhoids and diverticulitis (small, painful pouches on the colon).
Next, fiber can LOWER CHOLESTEROL. As your digestion improves, the liver pulls cholesterol from the blood to create more bile acid, thereby reducing the amount of LDL (bad) cholesterol.
Fiber lowers blood sugar levels. Increased fiber intake is associated with REDUCED BLOOD GLUCOSE LEVELS.
Your cancer risk may be reduced with increased intake of fiber. A 2011 meta-analysis from the British Journal of Medicine found an association between cereal fiber and whole grain intake and reduced risk of colorectal cancer. This protective effect may be due to fiber's tendency to add bulk to your digestive system, shortening the amount of time that wastes travel through the colon. Fiber, also, naturally reacts with bacteria in the lower colon and can sometimes ferment into a chemical called butyrate, which may cause CANCER CELLS to SELF-DESTRUCT. Fiber may also have a protective effect against mouth, throat, and esophageal cancers.
All those sound great, right?! How about this one: Eating more fiber can ADD YEARS TO YOUR LIFE!! People who eat a high fiber diet are less likely to die of any cause, a new study of nearly one million people has found. According to that same study, Those who ate the greatest amount of fiber daily were 16 percent less likely to die than those who consumed the least amount of fiber.
Still with me? How about food allergies and asthma? Yup, fiber can help with that, too! New research suggests that fiber could play a role in PREVENTING FOOD ALLERGIES, the existence of which has long puzzled scientists. Again, this theory comes down to the interaction between fiber and bacteria in the gut. Scientists theorize that people are not producing the right gut bacteria to tackle foods commonly associated with allergies, like peanuts and shellfish. Without the right bacteria, particles of these foods can enter the bloodstream via the gut. The same goes for asthma, particles enter the bloodstream causing an autoimmune response like asthmatic inflammation.
Ok. maybe you knew about all of those, but have heard that increased fiber intake can help BALANCE HORMONES? I know, crazy, right?! Fiber binds to excessive amounts of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone and helps the body eliminate them. This helps reduce symptoms of PMS, menopause, acne, unwanted facial hair, mood disturbances, endometriosis, fibroids, risk of breast, prostate, and thyroid cancer.
Holy crap!! This fiber business is serious sh**!!!!!!
Now you know and want to change! How do you add in more fiber?
All plant food contains fiber!! Did you know that?! When asked, more than half of Americans thought steak contained fiber! Nope!! But, all those beautiful plants contain lots! Check out these rich sources of fiber:
Tips for adding more fiber to your diet:
Peace, Love, Plants,
It's been almost 4 months since the new year has begun. Resolutions have come and gone or maybe you're still working on yours...maybe you never even started. To each their own!
I love resolutions and goal setting and lists...OH MY!!
They keep me motivated, challenged... I love a good competition and the best ones are with myself! It's never too late to start a new challenge and what better one than choosing to be healthier!
Imagine yourself leaner, lighter, full of energy, possibly, medication-free...it is POSSIBLE!
It's time to start a competition with yourself... what is the only diet: proven to reverse disease, to have the leanest people, to create energy and vibrance?! Yup, you guess it, the plant-based diet and guess what? This is the time! 2017 has been declared #theyearofvegan!!
So, I'm going to help you start the competition with yourself and give you 10 reasons why this is your year to become a plant-based powerhouse!!
"The Food You Eat Can Either Be
The Most Powerful
Form of Medicine
Form of Poison"
8. Plant-Based Food is Delicious- What kind of foods do you eat regularly? Pasta? Pizza? Burgers? Fries? All of these can be made using whole food plant-based ingredients! All of the flavor comes from the herbs and spices being used which makes it so easy to make savory, delicious plant-based dishes. If you are looking for a resource, a great place to start is by signing up for our email list and we will send you 50 recipes for easy and delicious plant-based snacks!
9. Animals are Amazing- You love your dog and/or cat so much, right? They are so smart and loving, right? Pigs can learn to play video games and have far more emotional intelligence than a dog. A chicken is so smart its intelligence is comparable to a monkey's, according to scientists. There is no difference between your household pet and a farm animal...they all have superior intelligence, emotional capabilities, and the same RIGHT TO LIFE!
10. Save Money- You work hard for your money; why waste it on expensive foods that are poisoning your body! The cheapest cuts of meat are $3+ a pound. Rice, beans, lentils, and pasta are less than $1 a pound...no brainer, right?! Vegans, on average, save over $750 a year compared to meat eaters. What could you do with an additional $750?!
The time is right now! This is your year to become a healthier, happier you! I gave you 10 great reasons so no excuses. Are you ready to be healthier, happier, sexier….are you ready to save the planet, animals, money AND end world hunger?! Basically, you are a superhero in the making...are you ready for the challenge?!
As always, if you need any help in your journey email me or comment with your questions, concerns, and/or criticism...I'm ready for it all!!
Peace, Love, Plants,
As parents, we are constantly feeling the pressure of “Are we doing it right?” and certain we are doing it wrong! It's hard work molding those little life-suckers into functioning, well-adjusted adults! (Obviously, a lot of people have NEVER figured it out.) We continually put onto them: say please and thank you, be kind, be compassionate, be respectful, brush your teeth, go outside, work hard, do the right thing, eat your fruits and vegetables…….and then, we get a wrench thrown into our parenting when we learn about the plant-based lifestyle! GAWD! Like we don't have enough to worry about! But, if we get to the core of it, instilling the values of eating healthy...not just healthy...the optimal diet for human health, is one of the most important things we should be teaching our children! We are giving them the tools they need to lead a healthy life. Not only does it teach them the best way to be eating, but it instills in them the importance of good health, the ability of self control, compassion for our environment, respect for one's self, among other things. Teaching a plant-based diet could be one of the best tools for teaching many of the important values we try to instill in our children.
If you are starting with a toddler, I believe, you may have it a little easier than those starting later. They are getting their needs met, so, they care a little less about what's going in their bellies. As they get older, they have probably become accustomed to sweet treats, the addiction of cheese (which we were all taught was healthy!), the pressure to drink milk (indoctrinated into all of us as children), and the regular routine of meat. It gets harder to make the adjustment.
I have always spoken openly and honestly with my son; rarely giving him the “kid-version” (only when sexually or violently inappropriate). My experience it that this empowers him to make better decisions and understand the full scope of situations. They are much smarter than for which we give them credit. One of our goals, as parents, is to give our children the ability to be good decision makers. In order for them or anyone to make a good decision, we need to be well-educated on the topic. I think it is absolutely crucial to teach our children the details of the how's and why's of a plant-based lifestyle. Empower them with knowledge. Once my son learned the scariness of animal products it was much easier for him to make better choices. Skip ahead if you don't want to hear me brag...my son has amazing willpower when it comes to food! After a few years of constant stomach issues, he has learned what not to eat to make him feel good and he has no problems sticking to them! He rarely has a piece of candy and if he does it's plant-based and organic! Ok, bragging over, you may resume reading. Let's get to the tips:
I hope you can take something away from these tips even if you haven't adopted a plant-based lifestyle...yet;) This is a MOVEMENT; it's shaking up our world...for the better. It is so awesome to see the changes happening in such a short period of time. It is getting so much easier to adopt this lifestyle...grocery stores are conforming to the needs of the plant-based eaters, restaurants are learning of the growing trends, and even doctors are FINALLY succumbing to the evidence of the healing powers of plant foods! You will always have to face the nay-sayers, all around you, but take comfort in knowing you are doing the BEST thing for you and your family AND you have a whole COMMUNITY of supporters!! If you are from our area (or not!) follow “Cameron County Plant Based Support Group” on Facebook where we share tons of information and support. Also, if there's any questions or support I can help you with, please, comment below or send me an email!!
Peace, Love, Plants,
Jeanmare and Cristy are creators and contributors of the Living Simply Nourished Blog. Grab a cup of tea (or coffee!), find a cozy spot, scroll around, read some stories, find some inspiration, and enjoy!
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