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!
Retail therapy. That's what this is.
Trader Joe's IS the total package. A triple threat, you might say. I guess it's the well orchestrated combination of enthusiastic, helpful employees, the Tiki culture theme and Polynesian style of the space, a manageable, intimate atmosphere reminiscent of the neighborhood markets of my youth and the seduction of beautifully packaged, affordable specialty foods (without Whole Foods prices) that lures me. Just thinking about it now makes me go all heart eyes, eager with anticipation for my next trip.
But, can I just tell you something?
Just a little something to think about.
Just because something comes from Trader Joe's, we can't assume it's healthy. We still need to be reading labels and checking ingredients. There is a thrill that can be found when hunting healthy food. Don't be afraid to go in there, like the super sleuth that you are, find your inner Food Babe and hunt that shit down.
Here are my top picks for Trader Joe's grocery items that are healthy AND delicious. (and oil-free!) I would love to know of your TJ's finds as well, so definitely leave them in the comments below. It takes a village, my friend.
Oh! And don't miss the super simple seasonal recipe for Pumpkin Spice Latte Smoothie! (down below)
1. Whole Grain Crispbread: These are more cracker-like than bread-like. And, let's face it. Oil-free plant-based crackers can be hard to come by. These are delicious with any hummus or nut butter. They are very nutty/seedy, but the flavor is neutral so will compliment a variety of dips, tapenade and spreads.
2. Organic Peppermint Cinnamon Herbal Tea: A soothing blend of organic peppermint leaves and cinnamon, this tea goes easy on the tummy when feeling under the weather. Plus with a hint of cinnamon, it feels a little festive this time of year and warms you up from the inside out in a very light and subtle way.
3. Organic Split Pea Soup: Though I like to mostly cook my own food, it's nice to have a few things in the pantry I can have in a pinch when I'm short on time. Like the other day when I got called into work and had nothing prepared. This soup was delicious over brown rice and a drizzle of hot sauce.
4. Sriracha Sauce: Speaking of hot sauce, Trader Joe's has their own brand of Sriracha sauce. I use Sriracha more than any other condiment, to be sure, except it might be a close second to Frank's Red Hot. Pizza, pastas, Asian dishes and noodle bowls, sushi, anything with avocado....pretty much anytime a dish needs a little somethin' somethin', Sriracha is the answer.
5. Organic Spaghetti Sauce with Mushrooms: Unless you make your own, it's challenging to find a spaghetti sauce that is oil-free. So when I find one (and this one is organic!) I buy as much as I can. It's a nice sauce that can be doctored up if you're feeling frisky. And for all of you who are turned off by mushrooms, there aren't any mushrooms to be found! This is a smooth sauce...no chunks.
6. Savory Thin Mini Rice Crackers Multi Seed with Tamari Soy Sauce: Phew. That was a mouthful. This was the first time I tried these crackers and I have to say they were pretty good with hummus. My husband wasn't a big fan and if you're allergic to soy than these would be out. They have a nice crunch and would lend themselves to more savory dips and spreads.
7. Nutritional Yeast: Admittedly, when I first started my plant-based journey, I wasn't so sure about "nooch". But I kept using it and now, looking back, I can't imagine ever letting myself run out of the stuff. Buyer beware, not all nutritional yeast is the same! But, TJ's has a tasty one, and finding this new addition in their product line is a sign of the times. Plus the bag is so cute, isn't it?
8. Apocryphal Pita 100% Whole Wheat: I have been buying these for years. It's so difficult, like so many pre-packaged foods, to find oil-free whole grain pita bread. I don't indulge in bread items on a regular basis, but these large pitas make for super quick pizzas of any kind. You can also slice them into triangles and toast them up in the oven to serve with dips, hummus, guac, etc. I stock up on these and keep them in the freezer and fridge as they are not shelf stable.
9. Black Bean Rotini: Ok, I love this pasta for two reasons. First of all, it has 1 ingredient: organic black bean flour. And second, it's got the body of regular pasta, kind of. Some of the gluten-free and rice pastas out there just can't hang for a second round, tending to fall apart when reheated. Like it's cousin, red lentil pasta, the black bean rotini is delicious and works well with a variety of sauces. Though, my favorite way of preparing it is to simply mix it in with a can of seasoned diced tomatoes and a sprinkle of crushed red pepper. Oh and some "nooch". Always.
10. California Style Sprouted Wheat Bread: In my opinion this would be TJ's answer to Food For Life's Ezekiel Bread. It can be difficult to not only find oil-free pre-packaged bread, but it's equally hard to find one that doesn't have a zillion ingredients. TJ's has a good handful of oil-free breads with clean ingredients to choose from and I mix them up from time to time. I love this bread toasted for paninis or grilled sandwiches.
11. Organic Refried Pinto Beans Salsa Style: I am super happy to find this little gem! Refried beans without lard...and they're saving me the hassle of adding my own salsa, a tip I learned from my mom in making semi-homemade refried beans. These beans make a great filler for wraps and burritos and also, it makes a great base for my 7 Layer Dip.
12. Sweet Potato Ribbons: Truth? Everyone is always making such a fuss over zucchini pasta or spaghetti squash...and I like them alright, but I love sweet potato pasta best with a good marinara. And I'll take it one step further by adding chopped Kalamata olives, capers and red pepper flakes to the mix. Oh and maybe a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
13. Steamed Lentils: I know I can make my own...I know. But I don't want to. I've burned lentils and turned them to mush too many times because babysitting the stove just isn't my thing. You can find these pre- cooked lentils in the produce section. Who knew!? I take them home, divide them into 1/2 or 1 cup portions and freeze for later use for soups, burgers, wraps, bowls or salads.
14. Organic Cold Brew Coffee: They had me at nitro, tbh. And let me just say, I've been on the hunt for this for MONTHS. So maybe cold coffee isn't sounding so hot now that we are nearing the end of October? Check this out.
Pumpkin Spice Latte Smoothie: 1/2 cup brewed coffee, cooled, 1/2 cup nondairy milk, 1 frozen banana, 1/2 cup pumpkin puree, 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract, 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ginger, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, 1/4 tsp allspice), 2-3 small pitted dates, optional and 1-2 ice cubes or frozen coffee cubes, optional. Whiz in high speed blender until smooth and creamy.
Two weeks ago I began a two-part series on navigating the food table and other situations at social gatherings. I find this to be perfect timing as I'll wrap this up with a few more tips to consider as we march our way straight into the holiday season of Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and celebrating the New Year.
I lOVE the holidays. I really do. The anticipation of the American holiday season has a way of sustaining good spirits, extending our happy moods from summer another 3 months...and it's a good thing because as the last leaf falls, things can get a bit dreary.
I don't think there's another part of the year where you'll see your family, friends and coworkers, socially speaking, more than you will in the coming months. And social gatherings set the perfect stage for diet disaster if you don't have your head in the game and a few tools and tricks up your sleeve.
Failing to plan means planning to fail.
But NO WORRIES! Cristy and I are committed to seeing you through it all. Stick with us and this will be your healthiest holiday season yet!
Tips for Staying the Course at Social Gatherings
5. Don’t Talk About Being Plant-Based Unless You’re Asked:
Often, people tend to feel your healthy food choices automatically make them inferior. They may assume you are judging them and you might be met with a good measure of snarkiness, and even hostility. A good way to get out of the “hot seat” is to say you are experimenting. People generally accept this and you all can move on. Some people may find it very interesting that you’ve made some changes and will be inspired to ask questions. You’ll find sharing your experience with these people easy breezy...be sure to observe them while you're talking and know when to shut’er down when their eyes start to glaze over.
6. Call a Restaurant or Venue Ahead of Time:
When it comes to dining at a catered event or restaurant, you’ll be doing yourself a favor by calling ahead and/or checking the online menu. Explain that you have a limited diet and see what they can do for you. I have never had this conversation and been told…”Sorry, we don’t have anything for you to eat.” Chef’s are usually enthusiastic about offering a vegan dish or creating an entrée to meet your needs. And in a time when there are countless people suffering from food allergies, it’s just not that uncommon.
Bottom line...Ask for what you want ahead of time. It will save you in the long run and leave you to enjoy yourself and not cave into ordering “the usual” in order to avoid feeling like you're being difficult. You can find more tips on dining at restaurants and eating on the road in a blog post from the archive, Traveling Plant-Based.
7. Assess the Situation:
Ok, you’ve got this thing coming up. If all else fails you can always eat beforehand. This will make it less likely to have a slip if you’re not actually starving when you arrive. Alternatively, you could pack food to leave in your car, excusing yourself periodically to chow down your veggie lo mein in the back seat along the floor boards. Look. It’s all doable, you just have to keep your eye on the ball. Revisit your goal and do what’s necessary to stay in alignment with that.
8. Remember Why You’re Going to Whatever it is You’re Going To:
Celebration is usually what our social gatherings boil down to. The coming together to enjoy ourselves alongside others at weddings, birthdays, bowl games, office morale boosters, holidays, friendships, anniversaries, love...even funerals. Remembering this will shift your focus (obsession) away from the food.
There’s no such thing as “Everything in Moderation” or “Cheat Days”:
These are cleverly worded excuses for going off-the-wagon and can easily lead to getting back on the yo-yo diet hamster wheel. Look. We all slip. So if you screw it up, just call it what it is and move on with your life. Or better yet, make the decision that you’re going to eat off-plan and do it consciously, “I know this cheese is bad for me, but I’m going to eat it anyway.” That way, you’ve made a conscious choice that you can live with and not a mindless one that you berate yourself over the next few days. Simply start again with the next meal.
Listen. Come closer.
Not next Monday, not next month, or at the New Year. Start again with the next meal...this is one of the secrets. This is, in part, how it becomes a lifestyle and not just another diet.
Today I'm arming you with a delicious, seasonal, homemade favorite Salted Caramel Dip to enjoy at your next gathering or celebration.
New? Begin Your Plant-Based Journey HERE!
Try Vegan Meal Plan FREE!
Whether you are transitioning to a plant-based diet or are simply wanting to make more healthful, mindful food choices, nothing can cause sabotage quite like a social gathering. It can be a toxic combination of food, drink and social pressures that tend to create the perfect storm for derailing our efforts and throwing it all out the window in the heat of the moment. It's helpful to remember why we go to these events. To enjoy the comradery or the coming together in the spirit of a good game, to have meaningful conversation and catch up with friends or colleagues, to witness the love shared at a wedding or celebrate family during the holidays. Wouldn’t it be nice to do all that without being distracted by the food?
Tips for Staying Plant-based at Social Gatherings
1. Make a RULE for Yourself:
Decide ahead of time what you are not going to eat at the event. That way when the tray comes around, your automatic response is “No thank you.” The decision has already been made and you’re not caught off guard, left to wrestle with yourself over whether you should have that one piece of cheese or not. (By the way it will never end up being just one piece. How will you feel on the other side of this slip?) Some examples of a rule might be: I do not eat cheese., I do not eat fried foods., I do not eat dips made with dairy. I do not eat chips…..see what I mean? Just pick one or two rules around a trigger food that you know will save you the most sabotage.
2. Don’t Stand By the Food:
How often are we engaging in conversation with people, yet the nearby food table is seducing us to refill our plates? Fill a small plate and get the hell outta dodge. Standing by the food table is simply putting yourself through some useless resistance training that, if you’re new to these changes, will likely inhibit your success. Find someone to talk with, elsewhere or go outside for some fresh air to take a break until you’re feeling stronger. This last one also applies when you're seated next to that special someone whose political position is wearing out your last nerve. Just sayin'.
3. Bring Your Own Food:
This tip applies to informal parties and gatherings. Check with the host, if it’s appropriate, to give him or her a heads up that you’d like to bring a dish or two to pass. They will most likely be relieved to know they will not need to prepare something special for you. Some good examples of appetizers would be Cowboy Caviar, fresh salsa & chips or guacamole,
7 Layer Dip, vegan artichoke spinach dip, veggie or fruit tray...whatever it is you like to munch on, be sure to bring it! Chances are it will blend in with everything else on the table and everyone can enjoy.
4. Limit the Alcohol:
I know, sometimes we drink just to get through these things. The problem is that the calories add up. Drinking alcohol loosens our inhibitions and impairs our judgement, enabling us to throw all our goals out the window for the time being. Even worse, when we are eating and drinking, our bodies use alcohol for fuel or energy FIRST, storing our food as fat to maybe or maybe not get to later. Try setting a 2 drink limit for yourself or better yet see if you can navigate this thing without a buzz. Chances are your discussions will be more meaningful and you’ll wake up feeling empowered and energized -sans the hangover- the next morning.
BONUS TIP: Phone a friend.
Or text. Or DM or PM, I don't care if you use ESP to reach out to someone who will support and help you stay accountable. It might look something like this..."HELP! I'm funneling the entire cheese tray into my jacket pockets!!" Just typing or saying it out loud should wake you out of your stupor...you'll put the cheese back on the tray and return to business as usual.
You've got this!!
PS. We make great accountability partners in our Vedging Out community! Join our supported plant-based online members-only family where streamline the meal making process for you with seasonal weekly meal plans using everyday ingredients! Try it FREE for a week!
New? Begin Your Plant-Based Journey HERE!
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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
Living among my omnivorous family can get tricky, especially when it comes to dinner time. And truthfully, it can be super frustrating either cooking separate plant-based meals for myself or adding meat and cheese to them for the rest of the fam. Sometimes we are in a good rhythm of getting dinner on the table and other times it can be downright draining. I've never been out to convert anyone. But when it comes to cooking for my family, I feel I'm wrestling this moral dilemma. That despite the personal choices I make for myself, I am still part of that machine.
It's said we vote on our food selection with our dollar and even though I’m not consuming meat, dairy or eggs, personally, I’m still voting in favor of them because occasionally I’m purchasing for my household.
I don't think I've made it a secret that my reasons for going plant-based were rooted in vanity. I wanted to be slim and look my best. But, I think there are countless reasons I have stayed plant-based for a number of years now: disease prevention, faster workout recovery time, water conservation, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, land conservation, the slowing of deforestation and species extinction, reducing marine life destruction and waste pollution, helping to alleviate world hunger, and disengaging in animal cruelty. I recently heard Rich Roll say on a podcast that he just can't think of another diet where you can check all those boxes.
That said, I’m really trying to work out a solution here, but I fear I’ll have to just wait until they all move out! When I first began transitioning to a plant-based diet I removed all animal products from our home and declared it “Plant Strong and Cruelty Free”, a home where only healthy food is served and nobody gets hurt. My kids just ended up mad at me...a hangry mob. #firstworldprobs
So I'm leaving this decision up to them. There is something to be said about putting on your own oxygen mask first.
On a positive note, I do have a few tricks up my sleeve...some recipes that work for all of us, and lucky for me this one, especially, is versatile, delicious and leaves me feeling as though I haven’t just poisoned them all. A girl’s gotta sleep at night.
This recipe for Fettuccine Alfredo is adapted from Chloe Coscarelli's first cookbook Chloe’s Kitchen. Not only does it make a rich, delicious Alfredo sauce but also a wonderful white cream sauce to toss with your vegetables or top your baked potato. I’ve tweaked it to be more healthful.. sans the oil and added vegg. I hope it brings your family to the table in a healthful and decadent way, herbies and omnivores alike!
Fettuccine Alfredo, serves 4 to 6
1 pound fettuccine
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup raw cashews or blanched almonds
1 ½ cups water
2 teaspoons white miso paste, optional
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Chopped fresh Italian parsley, for garnish
Red pepper flakes, optional
Bonus points- 12-16 oz frozen broccoli or vegetable medley, optional
Note: If you are not using a high speed blender, such as Vitamix or Blendtec, soak cashews or almonds overnight or boil 10 minutes and drain. This will soften them and ensure a silky smooth cream.
So, a few weeks ago, I was sharing with you a struggle I was having with being in a bad place, for lack of a better word. I put a strategy together in an attempt to feel better (FYI a daily gratitude list is the quickest shortcut). Honestly, writing the blog post was cathartic in and of itself. In many ways, writing weekly articles has become my new journaling practice.
In an effort to kick the whole thing up a notch I read a book I’d heard about on a recent podcast called The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k, by Sarah Knight. Sorry about the F-word. I promise not to say it outloud...mainly because my mother will be reading (something I do give a f**k about).
You might think this title sounds familiar and reminiscent of a book I’d talked about at the beginning of the year called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. This particular book was a key tool I used in my letting-go efforts of half my possessions through the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing my stuff. Yawn. I know, I'm so over it, too.
When I heard Sarah Knight’s interview on the podcast, I was really struck, not by the title of the book, surprisingly, or her brilliant humor, but of Knight’s subsequent decision to give up her New York City career, home and basically life-as-she-knew-it and trade it in for year-round Caribbean living in the Dominican Republic. Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about. Right there.
That. Is. What. I’m. Talking. About.
By looking at the familiar cover and style of the book itself, one can see that this is written as a parody to Kondo’s book (wonder how she got away with that?) of getting rid of not only things that don’t "spark joy", but Knight says it’s written for those of us who want "to stop spending time we don’t have with people we don’t like doing things we don’t want to do". I’m all about getting better at that.
Some of us think we’ve already taken care of that aspect of our lives...but have we really? When was the last time you tidied up your f**k drawer? Have you mastered the art of mental decluttering? Assessed your f**k budget? Knight helps us divide all of our f**ks into 4 categories (things, work, friends/acquaintances/strangers and family) and teaches to masterfully implement the NotSorry Method along with what we can learn from those mythical creatures who quite, naturally, don’t give a f**k:
2. The Enlightened
In her book, Knight shares her personal f**k budget which inspired me to come up with my own. It consumed me for 2 solid days as I filled up pages in a notebook of all those things I may or may not give a f**k about. Just remember...my list may contain things you DO care about and that’s ok! I’m sure there are many weeks (most?) you read my blog posts and think, “Jeanmare, I really don’t give a f**k.”
It’s all good.
Though the items listed in my f**k budget may seem unconcerning and irrelevant in the scheme of things, I can assure you they have been carefully considered and do have a direct correlation to time, money and energy, which are, basically, the only hard limits we face each day. Trimming the fat in those areas can free us to do more than we might imagine.
If there is the slightest possibility you might be a “yes” person or it's been way too long since you've snorted while laughing, definitely go straight to Amazon and order this book immediately. Or you can borrow mine. Not only does it guide you to enlightenment and free you of your f**k-giving, but this book is absolutely hilarious!! Laugh-out-loud, downright funny.
Scratch that. I don’t want to build up your expectations. Oh what do I care?
Barahona, here I come!
Hear the author in her own words- uncensored non-symbol swearing because she really does not give a f**k-
Sara Knight's TEDxCoconut Grove.
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.
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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