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!
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,
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.
On average, Americans eat just ONE serving of fruits and vegetables per DAY. “If Americans ate just one more serving of fruits or vegetables per day, this would save more than 30,000 lives and $5 billion in medical costs each year.” What? Crazy! Just think how amazing it could be if Americans added two more servings?!?! *Mind Blown* All kidding aside, it really is important to add more fruits and vegetables in your diet. EVERYONE needs more and you can not eat too many fruits and vegetables. They are called superfoods for a reason! Did you know all fruits and vegetables contain cancer-fighting compounds?!?! People who eat just five servings of fruits and vegetables a day lower their risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and other conditions!
I know what you are going to ask me: “what's an easy way to add in more fruits and veggies?” That is what you were going to ask me, right? I am always looking for easy ways myself! The best way to make a change is to Set Goals! Don't just say “eat more fruits and vegetables”; make it actionable! Set tangible, specific goals! So, let's make this a list, I LOVE lists!!
I use it for fruit, too! I always hesitate buying berries because I feel like they go bad
by the next day. With these nifty contraptions I can store berries in the fridge for at least 10 days!! I know, so exciting, right?! So, the tip is to make a big salad that you can grab at anytime!! How easy is that?! The secret to keeping the salad fresh though is not adding the vegetables that get too wet...I save the tomatoes and cucumbers until I'm ready to serve. I also top with some seeds like sunflower or pumpkin.
Here's what I throw into those awesome containers:
Are those doable? Can you find some time to fit more fruits and vegetables into your life? Your life depends on it;)
Do you have any tips that can make my life easier?!?! I'd love to hear them; post in the comments, facebook, instagram, or throw an email my way!
Peace, Love, Plants,
*I may earn a small commission for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial, and/or link to any products or services from this website. Your purchase helps support my work in bringing you real information about health and holistic wellness.
I have always loved food. I’m what you might consider a “foodie”, which by Merriam-Webster's definition is a person who has an avid interest in the latest food fads. I actually had to look that up. Wikipedia defines a foodie as a person who has an ardent or refined interest in food and alcoholic beverages. A foodie seeks new food experiences as a hobby rather than simply eating out of convenience or hunger. The terms "gastronome" and "epicure" define the same thing, i.e. a person who enjoys food for pleasure. That’s me.
I enjoy layers of texture and complementary flavors on the front and back end of the bite. I love the break of the bite itself. I love the colors in a dish and unique pairings that surprise and awe when they come together in the mouth.
And when I take inventory of the people in my life, I find many of them to be foodies, as well. Not all. But most. My parents are not big eaters. They fall under the “Eat to Live” category. But my husband, though not a foodie by birth, has grown into being somewhat of a food connoisseur as his tastes have changed over time, presumably, due to living with me all these years.
Two of my closest friends enjoy food in the way that I do. When making plans together, the first question is always, “Where are we going to eat?!” One of my girlfriends can be heard making unusual noises when she’s taken that first bite of something that’s met or exceeded her expectations; there is audible moaning and her eyes sort of roll back in her head. And people start to stare. It’s sort of like the restaurant scene, you know which one, from Harry Met Sally. I enjoy sharing a dining experience with people that have a similar (or heightened!) appreciation for food. It’s a little like church.
Trying new foods and restaurants has always been priority when making our travel plans and visiting new places. Eating my way through a city is one of my favorite pastimes. Take New York City, for example. You could pick a theme, “NYC’s Best Pizza and Beer”, start in the Upper East Side, work your way through Manhattan’s most notable pizza places and pubs only to end up having dessert in Brooklyn. Then you could write a blog post about it.
So. As I’ve been catching up with all my foodie friends and relatives this week after having been in New Orleans, they’ve all asked, “How was the food?”
My reply, “Eh.”
Now let me be clear that New Orleans has the most incredible restaurants and food, famous to be sure. Words that come to mind: seafood, spicy, sausage. So, if you’re not into that sort of thing, than New Orleans cuisine may not be for you. As I was telling you last week, they are known for their rich signature dishes of Gumbo, Jambalaya, Andouille, Crawfish Étoufféé, Shrimp Creole, Muffuletta, Oysters Rockefeller and their famous Beignets. When I first visited five years ago, still eating seafood and hadn’t yet cut out the oils, the food was phenomenal! I remember being so excited to seek out the places that served the best of the best and took it on as my personal mission to do just that.
But something has changed for me over the past couple of years. And it’s not just the fact that I no longer eat seafood. New Orleans, and many places where I enjoy spending time, offers plenty of vegan or vegetarian versions of their famous food. I think that since I’ve cut out oils from my diet (and I’ve admitted I’m not perfect at this), my taste buds have changed...healed, really. The food is just too rich for me. I’m now preferring simpler meals. The real shocker is that I don’t really enjoy eating out as much as I used to. Of course, I do every now and again, but I prefer my own cooking as eating out is losing it’s appeal.
Admittedly, I’ve always wanted to be more of an “Eat to Live” person, like my parents, or to at least know what that was like. To stop halfway through a meal because I’m satisfied and simply can’t bother with finishing the rest...sort of bored with the food after it’s done its job. Or to pack PB & J sandwiches and a few apples for the road rather than to scope out and plan a day trip around stopping at a certain restaurant that’s known for their signature sandwiches piled high with coleslaw and French fries or even the tofu poboy that all the vegan foodies are raving about on PETA's website.
The thing is, I’m making the shift. I think my favorite restaurant fare in New Orleans was the clapped together dinner I ordered from the sides menu at the restaurant with no vegetarian offerings: plain baked potato, side salad, grilled asparagus and balsamic vinegar. It was delicious, simple, satiating and it was a fraction of the price of what my family was ordering, to boot.
Bottom Line: Once I became informed and stopped eating all the extra fat, sugar and salt many restaurants and food companies add to their foods to keep us coming back for more, I began to taste the food for what it really is. I had the most delicious orange yesterday. And, because I think I’ve broken my food addictions, I didn’t need to turn it into a fruit parfait to enjoy.
So why am I telling you all of this? Well, I guess to share with all my fellow foodies out there who think it might be a lost cause to lose that strong hold food has over us, who believe we are hard-wired to plan our whole day around what we are eating and where we are eating it, and for those of us who can't manage to spend time with others without having the meal taking center stage...I’m here to tell you things can and do change.
Are you an Eat to Live or Live to Eat kind of person? In the spirit of transparency, I'll admit I am straddling both sides of the fence here. I LOVE food. I love to eat. But my focus has shifted from the food to the person I’m spending precious time with, to the sights and sounds of what's going on around me and to enjoy food in a nutritious and healthy way. And breaking some of my food addictions has enabled me to at least climb that proverbial fence to enjoy life... with or without the food.
If you’re interested in learning more about why it's so difficult for us to make the right choices when it comes to our food, and if you want to find out EXACTLY what you can do to make this shift yourself, check out this brilliant 17 minute Ted talk from Douglas Lisle, Director of Research for True North Health Center and co-author of the thought provoking book, The Pleasure Trap.
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,
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 for humans and it is 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.
I hate to sound so cliché in saying I feel better than ever, but I mean that quite literally. I feel better than I ever have in my life. And I just want to point out that I’m turning 45 next month. And let this be good news for all you thirty-somethings out there. The 40’s have been the best years of my life. And, by my estimation, when you eat plant-based you can subtract 10 years. So there’s that.
I’ve gotten off track.
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. Especially when you’re a live-to-eat kind of person.
During our early planning meetings, hours would slip by, the three of us talking off-subject about 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 healthier eating, 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. One idea led to the next and before we knew it Living Simply Nourished was born.
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.
Ps. On the very afternoon of writing the first draft of this blog post, I came down with what felt like the flu. That afternoon, my mother came by to fix me some tea and rub my feet, Cristy dropped off a care package of herbal remedies and teas and my neighbor kindly sent me over some delicious seitan sausage he's been experimenting with. See what I mean about this place? I'm going to miss it here.
It's easy to get lost in the maze. There is so much information out there...eat this, no this, don't eat that! Who do you believe? Where do you start? And, then, you feel so overwhelmed you just give up and say SCREW IT! I was there for a long time. I ate whatever I wanted. I was very active and I didn't put much stock in worrying about what I was eating. Side note: I just read an article about Bob Harper, you know that super fit guy from the show “Biggest Loser”?! He had a HEART ATTACK...not just any heart attack, but what they call a “widow maker”, only 6 percent of people survive!! Sooooo...Super fit, had a heart attack, what?!?! Exercise is important, but food is the MOST IMPORTANT!! It wasn't until after I had my son that I started to take notice of what we were putting into our bodies. Then, the hurricane of information swirled around me for years.
As we gain more knowledge, we become more empowered in our decision making and feel a lot less anxiety about the choices we are making. That is what I encourage you to do...do not listen to one piece of advice or methodology. Do your research...this is one of the most important things you will do in your life: the investment in your health, which takes time and money. Yes, we could get hit by a bus tomorrow, but when you are crossing in front of that bus, do you want to be vibrant and full of life or sick, stressed, and worried about your next doctor's appointment? Ok, that was a little dark and dramatic, but you get the point, right? What we should be shooting for is quality of life not quantity. Hell yeah, I want to live to be 100, but not if I'm surviving through a mountain of pills and doctor's appointments! I want to run, jump, and ride into my grave!
Where do I start?
I have lots of great resources where you can find a ton of valuable information. First, let me give you this tip...Trust in information that has been SCIENTIFICALLY PROVEN. The resources that I have get their information from tons of scientifically proven studies to back up their claims. So, when you are looking at those fad diets, look for the science behind them. Maybe they have shown that those who are on those diets will lose weight, but what are the consequences of that weight loss? For example, a lot of people have had successful weight loss on the low-carb diet, but what are the side-effects of that...Heart Disease. An example of the science can be found here and here.
My favorite and most entertaining resource is Dr. Michael Greger (#drcrush-can I hashtag in a blog post!). He reports his findings on information that can be shown through scientific studies. His website www.nutritionfacts.org is jammed packed full of videos (most are under 5 minutes!) on almost every topic you can imagine and even ones you can't! For example: “PaleoPoo: What we can Learn from Fossilized Feces” What?!
Here are some really great videos:
Animal Protein Compared to Cigarette Smoking
Eating More to Weigh Less
How Not to Die from Cancer
Is Fish Oil Just Snake Oil?
Paleo Diets May Negate the Benefits of Exercise
Who says Eggs Aren't Healthy or Safe
How Not To Die (this one is long, but so worth it!)
...and so many more!! Please check them out!
Dr. Greger also has a fantastic book, if that's your thing, called “How Not to Die”. It's broken down into sections based on the most common diseases. These sections explain how these diseases can form and then, the second part of the book explains how to eat to manage and possibly reverse these diseases. It is a must read! You can order it here!
More websites that I love:
Life Changing Documentaries:
Forks Over Knives
Hungry for Change
Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead
and many more!
One more tip on where to start: ADD TO SUBTRACT! This is the number one thing I tell everyone! I don't think there is one person who will argue with the fact that we all need to eat more fruits and vegetables. So, start there! Fill your fridge and countertops with fresh fruits and vegetables. Make them front and center so that is the first thing you see and what you reach for! Fill your plate with vegetables and crowd out the other stuff. Eventually you are going to find yourself wanting more and more fruits and vegetables. Even craving them, GASP! If there are other things you want to eliminate...STOP BUYING THEM! And then, whatever is left in your house will eventually get eaten and now you are forced to eat the healthy stuff, which by then you will be loving and want more. The brain really is an amazing thing...it will tell you to eat the healthy stuff if you listen...you have to create pathways of good decisions so that your brain will stay on those tracks and keep them running smoothly. The more you ride the tracks of healthy eating the easier it gets. Easier said than done, right?! If you don't believe me check out the testimonials of some of our workshop participants here. I'm not telling you that you have to 100% perfect, but the closer you get the healthier you will be!! And a little shameless plug for my business: if you are looking for someone to guide you in your journey to better health check out my website; I am more than happy to help you. I LOVE sharing my passion!
Peace, Love, Plants,
Anxiety disorders and depression are reaching epidemic proportions. Surpassing depression, 40% of adults and 12% of adolescents and teens have diagnosed anxiety disorders! To those who are not suffering, it is very hard to comprehend the illogical fears of those with these anxiety disorders. Some try to rationalize the fears of others and sometimes add, “just stop thinking that way”. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way for those who are suffering.
After having a baby, my hormones were all over the place! I never hated my life or my baby or myself, but I was scared...I was always fearing the worst. My thoughts would spiral out of control until I found a way to distract myself. My fears were mostly hormonal, but a little from experience, too. My father had a baby later in life with his third wife...when I was 16 years old, my half-brother went to sleep at 9 months old and never woke up. It tore at my heart then, but at 16, I couldn't possibly grasp the magnitude of the death of a new life, of what my father and step-mother have to bear. But now, as a mother, it tears at my soul. And it tore at my mind the first year of my baby's life. I feared leaving him alone...checking on him every few minutes. No one could convince me that he was fine or would be fine. Eventually things balanced out for me and I found relief from my spiraling thoughts, but for some it doesn't end so easily. As I see people suffering with these anxiety disorders, it breaks my heart; especially, children. I want to write this post hoping that it will help at least one person take a deeper look at what could be happening with their body.
Anxiety disorders can be linked to many things; hormones, chemical imbalances, past experiences, diseases, and many others. I wanted to give some insight into one significant factor because it is one that can be changed: your gut health. Do you know that you have two brains? Obviously, there is the brain that inside your head, but did you know there is one in your gut, too? It is called the enteric nervous system(ENS). The ENS is two thin layers of more than 100 million nerve cells lining your gastrointestinal tract from esophagus to rectum. “The enteric nervous system doesn’t seem capable of thought as we know it, but it communicates back and forth with our big brain—with profound results,” explains Jay Pasricha, M.D. A new study from John Hopkins Medical Center has reported these “profound results”:
----The ENS may trigger big emotional shifts experienced by people coping with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and functional bowel problems such as constipation, diarrhea, bloating, pain and stomach upset. “For decades, researchers and doctors thought that anxiety and depression contributed to these problems. But our studies and others show that it may also be the other way around,” Pasricha says. Researchers are finding evidence that irritation in the gastrointestinal system may send signals to the central nervous system (CNS) that trigger mood changes.
“These new findings may explain why a higher-than-normal percentage of people with IBS and functional bowel problems develop depression and anxiety,” Pasricha says. “That’s important, because up to 30 to 40 percent of the population has functional bowel problems at some point.”----
Wow! What an amazing discovery that gut problems are CAUSING anxiety and depression!! For each person, the gut is home to about 1,000 trillium bacteria with which we live in harmony. These bacteria perform a number of functions vital to health: They harvest energy from the diet, protect against infections and provide nutrition to cells in the gut. Any disruption can result in life-threatening conditions(McMaster's University). Let's take a look at some of the foods and chemicals that cause disruptions in the gut leading to physical and mental diseases.
The results of this study have prompted the British Food Standards Agency (FSA) to issue an immediate advisory to parents, warning them to limit their children's intake of additives if they notice an effect on behavior. They’re also advising the food industry to voluntarily remove the six food dyes named in the study by the end of 2009, and replace them with natural alternatives if possible.
The U.S., however, has not followed suit in issuing any similar warnings to American parents.”(Mercola)
If the government won't warn you, then, I will. So here is an annoyingly long list of things to avoid. You can scroll down past it, but I highly recommend you print it out and carry it with you when you are shopping to make things a little easier:
Food Additives to Avoid:
Sodium nitrate: Added to processed meats to stop bacterial growth. Linked to cancer in humans. (Worst Offender)
Sulfites: Used to keep prepared foods fresh. Can cause breathing difficulties in those sensitive to the ingredient.
Azodicarbonamide: Used in bagels and buns. Can cause asthma.
Potassium bromate: Added to breads to increase volume. Linked to cancer in humans.
Propyl gallate: Added to fat-containing products. Linked to cancer in humans
BHA/BHT: A fat preservative, used in foods to extend shelf life. Linked to cancerous tumor growth.
Propylene glycol: Better known as antifreeze. Thickens dairy products and salad dressing. Deemed ‘generally’ safe by FDA.
Butane: Put in chicken nuggets to keep them tasting fresh. A known carcinogen.
Monosodium glutamate (MSG): Flavor enhancer that can cause headaches. Linked in animal studies to nerve damage, heart problems and seizures.
Disodium inosinate: In snack foods. Contains MSG.
Disodium guanylate: Also used in snack foods, and contains MSG.
Enriched flour: Used in many snack foods. A refined starch that is made from toxic ingredients.
Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH): Geneticially-engineered version of natural growth hormone in cows. Boosts milk production in cows. Contains high levels of IGF-1, which is thought cause various types of cancer.
Refined vegetable oil: Includes soybean oil, corn oil, safflower oil, canola oil, and peanut oil. High in omega-6 fats, which are thought to cause heart disease and cancer.
Sodium benzoate: Used as a preservative in salad dressing and carbonated beverages. A known carcinogen and may cause damage our DNA.
Brominated vegetable oil: Keeps flavor oils in soft drinks suspended. Bromate is a poison and can cause organ damage and birth defects. Not required to be listed on food labels.
Propyl gallate: Found in meats, popcorn, soup mixes and frozen dinners. Shown to cause cancer in rats. Banned in some countries. Deemed safe by FDA.
Olestra: Fat-like substance that is unabsorbed by the body. Used in place of natural fats in some snack foods. Can cause digestive problems, and also not healthy for the heart.
Carrageenan: Stabilizer and thickening agent used in many prepared foods. Can cause ulcers and cancer.
Polysorbate 60: A thickener that is used in baked goods. Can cause cancer in laboratory animals.
Camauba wax: Used in chewing gums and to glaze certain foods. Can cause cancer and tumors.
Magnesium sulphate: Used in tofu, and can cause cancer in laboratory animals.
Chlorine dioxide: Used in bleaching flour. Can cause tumors and hyperactivity in children.
Paraben: Used to stop mold and yeast forming in foods. Can disrupt hormones in the body, and could be linked to breast cancer.
Sodium carboxymethyl cellulose: Used as a thickener in salad dressings. Could cause cancer in high quantities.
Aluminum: A preservative in some packaged foods that can cause cancer.
Artificial Sweeteners to Avoid:
Saccharin: Carcinogen found to cause bladder cancer in rats. (Worst Offender)
Aspartame: An excitotoxin and thought to be a carcinogen. Can cause dizziness, headaches, blurred vision and stomach problems.
High fructose corn syrup: Sweetener made from corn starch. Made from genetically-modified corn. Causes obesity, diabetes, heart problems, arthritis and insulin resistance.
Acesulfame potassium: Used with other artificial sweeteners in diet sodas and ice cream. Linked to lung and breast tumors in rats.
Sucralose: Splenda. Can cause swelling of liver and kidneys and a shrinkage of the thymus gland.
Agave nectar: Sweetener derived from a cactus. Contains high levels of fructose, which causes insulin resistance, liver disease and inflammation of body tissues.
Bleached starch: Can be used in many dairy products. Thought to be related to asthma and skin irritations.
Tert butylhydroquinone: Used to preserve fish products. Could cause stomach tumors at high doses.
Artificial Food Colorings to Avoid:
Red #40: Found in many foods to alter color. All modern food dyes are derived from petroleum. A carcinogen that is linked to cancer in some studies. Also can cause hyperactivity in children. Banned in some European countries. (Worst Offender)
Blue #1: Used in bakery products, candy and soft drinks. Can damage chromosomes and lead to cancer.
Blue #2: Used in candy and pet food beverages. Can cause brain tumors
Citrus red #1: Sprayed on oranges to make them look ripe. Can damage chromosomes and lead to cancer.
Citrus red #2: Used to color oranges. Can cause cancer if you eat the peel.
Green #3: Used in candy and beverages. May cause bladder tumors.
Yellow #5: Used in desserts, candy and baked goods.Thought to cause kidney tumors, according to some studies.
Yellow #6: A carcinogen used in sausage, beverages and baked goods. Thought to cause kidney tumors, according to some studies.
Red #2: A food coloring that may cause both asthma and cancer.
Red #3: A carcinogen. that is added to cherry pie filling, ice cream and baked goods. May cause nerve damage and thyroid cancer.
Caramel coloring: In soft drinks, sauces, pastries and breads. When made with ammonia, it can cause cancer in mice. Food companies not required to disclose if this ingredient is made with ammonia.
Brown HT: Used in many packaged foods. Can cause hyperactivity in children, asthma and cancer.
Orange B: A food dye that is used in hot dog and sausage casings. High doses are bad for the liver and bile duct.
Bixin: Food coloring that can cause hyperactivity in children and asthma.
Norbixin: Food coloring that can cause hyperactivity in children and asthma.
Annatto: Food coloring that can cause hyperactivity in children and asthma.
3. ANIMAL PRODUCTS: Animal products contain Omega-6 fatty acids, also called arachidonic acids. Arachidonic acid is a non-essential fatty acid, which means our bodies make it themselves without needing it in our diets. When we eat foods rich in arachidonic acid like poultry, fish, dairy, and eggs our bodies have an excess. An excess of arachidonic acid produces inflammation in the digestive tract and the rest of the body; especially, the brain. “In the Journal of Lipid Research study, Dr. Green in collaboration with Dr Gal Yadid of Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan, used the Flinders Sensitive Line rats to investigate the link between omega-3 fatty acids and depression. They examined the brains of the depressed rats and compared them with brains from normal rats. Surprisingly, they found that the main difference between the two types of rats was in omega-6 fatty acid levels and not omega-3 fatty acid levels. Specifically, they discovered that brains from rats with depression had higher concentrations of arachidonic acid, a long-chain unsaturated metabolite of omega-6 fatty acid. (moodfoods)” Another study was done that removed poultry, fish, dairy, and eggs from the diets of participants and within 2 weeks they eliminated their symptoms of depression and anxiety!!
Medications are only treating the symptoms of disease. We need to be looking at the whole picture to fix the problem and not just mask the symptoms. 80% of our immune system is in our gut; therefore, good health starts in the digestive tract with nourishing foods. We can start by adding in the foods that bring health to our bodies like fruits, and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, and herbs!!! Then, as we add in all the body healing foods we will push out the bad that can lead to disease, depression, and anxiety.
You are probably feeling like I want to blame all of the world's problems on food...you are right, I do! But, I'm not saying these things without a ton of scientific evidence to back it up! When it comes to your health; especially, your child's health, you have to take a look at all of the evidence and information and make informed, intelligent choices. I'm not asking you to take my word for it...do the research yourself.
You have control over your health.
Peace, Love, Plants,
A friend recommended a restaurant to me, “They have vegan options!” We didn't get a chance to check it out for a few months. We don't go out to dinner very often. Mostly, during the hockey season as we travel around for my son's games. I get really tired of black bean burgers and veggie wraps, but my friend promised this place had different options. Do you get a little nervous eating at new restaurants? I do! But isn't it amazing when you find a diamond in the rough?! If you live anywhere near Olean, NY you have to try this place out: Four Mile Brewing!! Not only is their food spectacular, the beer is delicious! I had a mango wheat Belgian white and it was so good. BUT not as good as the vegan philly cheese steak!! Oh my gosh, this wrap was spot on! They make their seitan (re: fake meat) in house and it is the BEST I have ever tasted! It came with a side of broccoli slaw that was equally as delicious! So GO, try this wrap and get a beer while you are there!
Of course, I wanted to try to recreate that amazing sandwich...my version didn't taste the same, but it was just as delicious and I wanted to share the recipe with you! It is a little time consuming; however, it is easy and so worth it! I've made it super easy to follow along with pictures so you can see exactly what each step should look like!
While the veggies are sauteing, work up the "cheese sauce". The Cheese Sauce is super easy and delicious:
1 Medium Sweet Potato (peel, dice-1/2 cubes, and saute in water for 15 minutes until softened)
-when the sweet potatoes are cool add to a blender with:
1/4 cup of non-dairy milk
3 Tablespoons of Nutritional Yeast
1 Tablespoon of Oil
2 Tablespoons of Soy Sauce
2 Tablespoons of Lemon Juice
1/2 Tablespoon of Sriracha
1/2 teaspoon of Garlic Powder
1/4 teaspoon of Sea Salt
-Blend until Smooth
I choose broccoli slaw as my side. This is one of my favorite sides; especially during the summer! Here is the dressing recipe:
You could choose any veggies you like, but I like this one with Broccoli, Cauliflower, and Shredded Carrots. I chopped the broccoli and cauliflower very small.
Stir it up! I served the Philly Cheese Steak on whole wheat tortillas, but you could choose any roll or wrap you like!
Seriously, make this!! It is so freaking delicious!!
Peace, Love, Plants,
Recipe Adapted from The Edgy Veg
Vegan Philly Cheese Steak
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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