These last couple days (it’s Tuesday) haven’t been great. I made brownies, have been eating them. I bought processed vegan food, have been eating it. I haven’t been planning my meals, not really. So these are not the actions of someone who is trying to change her life/body. I am sitting here, making plans that will help my goal: no processed foods, cutting out added sugar and I am not typing them because as I think about typing it, I’m already planning on how I’m going to break that commitment. So fucked up! I have serious issues around food, which I knew but it’s really disturbing how deep they go. Okay, that’s it. Starting tomorrow, I’m cutting out added sugar. I’m going to do it for the rest of the week and I’m going to do it to prove to myself that I can do it. I’m not going to include what I put in my coffee but everything else is verboten. 4 days, Wednesday through Saturday, this should be easy. I am stronger than this. I am better than this. I’m not some silly teenager who is a slave to her taste buds, I’m a strong woman who wants to be a role model to her children and others.
Midway through week one of being committed to this goal. Things are…decent, I’d say. I weighed in at 130.6 on Sunday and I’m reasonably okay with that since my exercise since breaking my ankle has been next to nil. My previous post I talked about going balls to the wall and I don’t think I’ve done that. What I have done is become way more aware about what I’m putting in my mouth and I’ve started really focusing on it in a way I haven’t done before. My snacking is down, and I’ve been planning my meals more. I talked about not bringing junk home but sure enough, a couple nights ago I bought cookies “for the girls”. They do end up eating them but if I’m being completely honest, they were for me. I was able to refrain though, which I was happy about. I have had a couple (3 ) small tastes but no full cookie. What I’m planning on is seeing if this hyper awareness translates to a loss on the scale. If it doesn’t, then I’ll know I need to get even more focused. What will be something to look at is: why did I need to buy the junk in the first place? Am I that much a slave to my taste buds? Is it a sense of missing out?
I’ve started an “Intention Wheel which I bought here and I’ve been using it to do things that are good for my health and weight loss. I have things like drinking water (48 oz which isn’t a ton but it’s a big step up for me), pushups, planks and no added sugar. I’m trying to create habits that will translate to improved health. The exercise bits are laughable but I’ve gotten out of the habit so badly, I need to start somewhere. My broken ankle is a deterrent but I know many people who would still be in the gym doing upper body weights. That’s going to be me but I need to make room for it in my life.
So, I promised pictures last time, didn’t I? This was the picture that kind of did it for me.
We went up to a friend’s house at Sandpoint and we swam and SUP’d and kayaked. I had a great time but I wasn’t thrilled about being in a swimsuit. I wasn’t about to let my discomfort ruin the time with my girls but once I saw this picture I knew things needed to change. Despite fitting into my clothes, albeit not in the way I’d like, I’d gotten….heavy. Not compared to some but that had been my out, that no matter how I looked, there were others who looked
worse heavier than I did and so I made excuses.
As a comparison, here’s a few from when we got married:
I definitely felt more comfortable in my skin in those and that’s what I’m trying to get back to. Hasta la vista for now!
I’m anticipating that there are going to be a lot of blog posts for awhile. I’m going to be doing a lot of stream of consciousness, trying to figure out my “damage”. It might get tedious but I’m hoping the introspection will yield results. Hope you stick with me. Hope it’s helpful reading and that some of it resonates with you.
Gotta keep it out of the house, that’s the conclusion I’m coming to. And it’s a common one and it’s one I’ve offered as a solution to those looking for advice before. If the junk isn’t in the house, you can’t eat it. It’s not even a temptation. So I need to stop bringing it in. Period.
At some point, I stopped believing in myself and my ability to bring about change. I don’t know when and I don’t know why. I’ve dipped a toe into trying to figure out what it is about reaching my goals that trips me up but I haven’t ever really DELVED. What I do know is this: setting goals doesn’t do much for me. At least internal goals. Goals that I share with the world, I seem to do better with. I moved to North Carolina partly because I’d told everyone I was going to. I managed to complete a marathon because I told people I was running it. But for some reason, when it comes to achieving my physical fitness, it hasn’t run the same course. I think part of it could be that I’m embarrassed to announce it as a goal. I know there’s a component of, even though I’m not where I want to be, it’s still way better than when I weighed 174 so I’m fine, I look pretty good, right? But it also doesn’t fit with how I see myself. I like it when I am more fit, more slim, when I actually weigh less so why haven’t I translated that into action?
I remember a girl I knew who gotten a little heavy, was definitely softer than she’d been before and I saw her in the vegan bodybuilding and fitness Facebook page and I totally scoffed. But two years later, she is strong and she is fit and she is slim and she’s achieved her goals. I’d ascribed my own inability to set a goal and work for it to someone else and assumed they wouldn’t be able to do it. And I think that’s a key part of it: the “and working for it ” part. I’ve always been more of a immediate gratification kind of person and when you’re almost 50 and trying to lose fat/weight, you actually have to do stuff to get that gratification; I haven’t done that yet. I make little changes and when I don’t see great results right away I give up. That’s something I need to work on. I need to have the mindset that I am in weight-loss mode and everything I do is for that. It may be single-minded. It may not look good to the outside world. But as long as I’m healthy, I need to block out all the other noise and stick to doing what I know is right for me. Because I haven’t ever really tried. I’ve made little tweaks here and there and gotten those kind of (crappy) results. I need to go balls to the wall, see what that gets me, see what that looks like and experience a little bit of success because that will perpetuate itself.
That being said, today was not a great day. Had coffee and a Kids Clif Bar for breakfast, an Amy’s enchilada with barley for lunch and then an OK dinner with cauliflower rice and refried beans but then I had junky stuff afterwords and then I grabbed a cookie because I’d picked it up and brought it home.
You read all the weight lifting blogs and they all say, don’t focus on weight. Fine, I get it, it doesn’t reflect all the things you need to be looking at and it’s just a number, yada yada. HOWEVER. My sense is, that I need to work on losing weight first and then I can focus on muscle. I know that weight lifting is going to be key for me to actually lose the fat but my initial focus is going to be that pesky number. I am going to back off on the daily weigh-ins though. It’s too easy to get caught up in the day to day ups and downs AND it’s too easy to rationalize a bad day. Once a week, Sunday, that’s my day. I’m starting this Sunday and I’m in it. No junk in the house, no tastes of the girls bars, planning my food, making it ahead so I’m not grabbing
candy Clif bars because I’m hungry. These are steps I’m going to take. I’m excited!
Okay, that’s enough for now. I’ll do pictures next time. The good, the bad and the ugly, all of it.
So I’ve been thinking about changing how I’ve been doing things around here. I am still really wanting to help people find their way to a whole foods plant based diet but I’m thinking that I need to help bring people to it by working on myself as well.
I was going to do background but if I do that, I’ll never get this thing posted so I’m just going to jump in. Background can come later. My issue is that I want to lose weight. I’m about 15-20 pounds away from where I want to be. I’m not overweight per se but I’m definitely squishy. Here’s the thing though: I’ve had this goal for basically 10 years. I’ve been as low as 116 after a nasty stomach bug but tended to hang out around 122-124 for a long time. Now I’ve crept up to 130 and it’s sticking around. I’ve modified what I eat…kind of. I eat a WFPB diet, that’s not the issue. I do like sweets and I do like sauces so I think I’ve been indulging in them too much. Annnnnnd I think I have issues around food. Like a lot of people. But I’ve been guilty of thinking that I don’t have to make measurable changes to make measurable change. And I think I have other issues with goal setting that I’m going to explore. I’ve decided to make this blog my accountability. I want to see change in my body and for now that’s going to be a number. I know that what we weigh isn’t the be all end all of health. But I eat really healthy, just probably too much of it, KWIM? I’m going to be exploring my relationship with food, my struggles, my successes and I’m going to be really honest, in a way I haven’t been before.
Plant powered RN is still going to be a thing but I’m going to direct this power internally for a bit. I’ll post about what I’m eating, what I’m thinking about, really good food I’m eating, exercise I am doing (once my ankle heals), all that fun stuff. I hope it’ll inspire and motivate anyone who happens to find their way here.
This post may be a bit on the dense side but it’s about a real killer in our country and deserves a mention. I’m talking about diabetes. It’s a disease that causes a ghastly number of conditions from blindness, kidney disease and lower limb amputations. It’s also implicated in heart attacks and strokes and can cause debilitating nerve pain. A staggering 20% of health care dollars are spent on people who have diabetes (one in five). One in THREE Medicare dollars are spent on it. According to the CDC, over 29 million adults have diabetes (6 million of them don’t know it) and of that 29 million? Over 27 million of them have type 2 which is a completely preventable and reversible illness.
Now that we’ve gotten the statistics out of the way, we’re going to delve into the whys and hows of it. In Type 1 diabetes, the body doesn’t make insulin which is a hormone responsible for getting sugar from the blood, into the cells that need it. Type 2 diabetes (T2D) is a disease in which the cells don’t use that insulin properly. If insulin doesn’t work or isn’t produced, the sugar builds up and over time causes damage to the kidneys, nerves, blood vessels and a host of other body parts.
The general practice of managing T2D has been to limit sugar and give extra insulin for the sugar you do eat. At first glance that makes sense right? If too much sugar is damaging the body, you should limit the intake. It seems to be a complete no brainer. The problem with that approach is that it is a symptomatic treatment which doesn’t address the root cause. This is going to be vastly simplified but hopefully it’ll all be clear at the end. The way the insulin gets that sugar into a cell is by fitting into a receptor, kind of like a lock on the surface of that cell. With Type 2 diabetes, the “lock” has been blocked or ‘gummed up’ and when the lock is inoperable, the insulin “key” can’t open the cell to let the sugar in. What’s it gummed up by? Fat, pure and simple. This isn’t the fat that we carry on our hips or waist (although those can be visual indicators), this fat is deep within the cell and when you adopt a low-fat, plant-based diet, this fat goes away. Once the fat is gone, the insulin resistance is gone (or reduced significantly) and insulin can do it’s job again. Eating a plant based diet helps with this because without animal products, there’s no saturated fat, no cholesterol and for many people, losing weight comes as a nice secondary effect.
There have been studies that compare eating the way the American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends and a low fat, plant based diet (PB). Over 22 weeks, people on the PB diet lowered their Hgb A1C (which is a measure of your sugar levels over the last three months) more than the ADA diet group AND in a 5 year follow up, had less cardiac events (including death) than the ADA group.¹ The other thing that was striking about the differences between the two ways of eating is that they are essentially polar opposites. The ADA models a portion control diet with certain foods restricted or forbidden. The PB diet only eschews oil and limits natural fats like nuts and avocados. The rest of the diet is one of plenty with no measuring, counting or tracking. Which do you think is more sustainable?
Other studies point to the prevalence of eating meat being implicated in increased incidence of diabetes: the higher the meat consumption, the higher the probability of diabetes. Many studies show a PB diet appears protective towards developing diabetes. ²
Finally, we’re on to the good stuff: the food. Potatoes used to be considered definite no-nos on a “diabetic” diet but thinking has changed and they can be allowed. Here’s where that restriction and portion control fits in however. About 45g of carbohydrates are “allowed” per meal and one medium potato can take care of that allotment by itself, never mind any green beans, carrots or other vegetables. This is where a low fat, plant based diet shines. Because potatoes are wonderful. They’re fabulous, filled with antioxidants, electrolytes and fiber. They can keep you regular, they can help lower your cholesterol and blood pressure…there’s a fair amount of nutrition packed in these unassuming tubers. The key to eating these is to not fry them or douse them with the usual suspects: butter, sour cream or cheese . Additionally, choosing potatoes that have a lower glycemic index (which is an expression of how much a food spikes blood sugar) can help. Sweet potatoes have a lower GI but so do white potatoes that have been cooked, stored and then eaten the next day (hello, potato salad!)
Oven fries are nothing new as many people are trying to be healthier. A quick Google search, however, yields recipe after recipe that calls for oil, as much as 1/4 cup. We’ll talk more about oil in another post but suffice it to say that if you are trying to get rid of that intracellular fat, eating fat is not going to help. These oven fries are oil free and so amazingly delicious. I’ve yet to make a batch that isn’t mostly gone before I can even put them on a plate; my girls wander into the kitchen, drawn by the smell and grab them by the handful.
I got my inspiration from Cooking with Plants. Cut your potatoes into a fry shape, trying to keep them mostly the same size.
I’ve done this with russet, Yukon and sweet potatoes and they all turn out delicious. This was a mixture of Yukon and sweet. Put the potatoes in a bowl and toss with:
- 2 tsp dried herbs
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 2 T of coarse corn meal (polenta)
- 2 tsp braggs amino acids
Put on a baking sheet and cook at 400 degrees F .
Flip and test the potatoes about 20 minutes in. Mine took about 30 total and I did pull some of the smaller “fries” out so they wouldn’t burn.
The final product, served with a homemade smoky barbecue sauce. I had to snag these before my daughters stuffed all of them in their mouths.
I started teaching Food for Life classes to help people eat better in a fun, delicious way. The Diabetes Initiative is a FFL course from the PCRM that teaches you the basics of how to begin eating this way. You receive recipes and get to taste delicious food. Contact me to find out how to sign up for this life saving class.
Information cited in this post:
1) Barnard ND, Cohen, J, Jenkins DJ, et al. A low-fat, vegan diet improves glycemic control and cardiovascular risk factors in a randomized clinical trial in individuals with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2006;29:1777-1783.
2) http://nutritionfacts.org/video/plant-based-diets-and-diabetes/ (this page contains cites for studies referenced in the video)
Doing Las Vegas when your family eats a WFPB diet, with little to no oil may seem like it’s a contradiction, right? What is Vegas if not gluttony, alcohol and excess? Well at one point I would have agreed with you because Mike and I had a long, glorious Vegas history.
Our Vegas history started back when we were omnivores, living in Flagstaff, AZ. We’d go about 2 times a month during the winter months to get away from the cold and snow. Mike was newly out of his fellowship, we had extra money for the first time and we had a lot of fun. We were newly into wine as well and spent a lot of money on wine pairings and ridiculously expensive dinners. We’d go for 4-5 days and come back 5-6 pounds heavier, lose the weight just in time to go again. It was quite the cycle.
After having children and moving to the inland Northwest, we rediscovered Vegas but as vegans and it was a bit different. Thankfully, Steve Wynn was a new vegan and had directed all the restaurants at his 2 hotels to have several vegan options if not a whole vegan menu. Eating was very easy and we did it a lot, still gaining the vacation weight, having to lose it. It just seemed to be what we did.
Somewhere in the midst of all that, Mike started reading Joel Fuhrman’s book Eat to Live and shared it with me. We had started eating plant-based by mostly replacing favorite foods we’d loved with vegan versions. It was delicious but not necessarily healthy. ETL changed all that. Reading that book was like reading a scientific journal with all the citations and references. Reading him sent us to read more from Neal Barnard from the Physicians Committee, we found Jeff Novick, Dr. Greger and many others that showed us definitively that while being vegan was wonderful and the best decision we’d ever made, it didn’t necessarily mean it was healthy and by doing our yo-yo way of dieting, by eating a high fat, high salt diet, we were stressing our bodies almost as much as if we’d stayed carnivores. It seemed a change was in order.
Change we did! I’ll spare you the various permutations of how often we shifted our eating styles but the basics have shaken out to be this: We keep it simple, we rarely eat out and we stick to whole foods as much as possible. Most of our meals have a starch of some kind, vegetables, beans and some kind of sauce. We don’t do a lot of food porn recipes (and I’ll get into why in a future post; google pleasure trap if you want a sneak peek) and we don’t spend a lot of time making our food. It may sound boring but it’s anything but. With all the varieties of grains, tubers, greens and sauces, I never feel like I have the same meal twice.
You would have thought that once we made that change that Vegas would have been out. After all, Vegas is all about excess: it’s food, drink, shows, more food but somehow we managed to pivot and still enjoy our time immensely. We stay on the strip but we usually stay at Vdara which is a hotel that was originally going to be a condo hotel which means it has kitchens! We arrive, check in and immediately make a run to Whole Foods. We use canned beans instead of dried, maybe do boil in bag brown rice instead of the longer cooking type, hummus, and Whole Foods no oil dressings instead of our own sauces but other than that, we transplant our home routine to Vegas.
Now, you may wonder, “Where’s the fun in that? I don’t go on vacation to just do what I do at home!” and I totally get it. The first time we vacationed this way I felt a little cheated and more than a little resentful. I was used to feeling entitled to eat whatever I wanted, and I didn’t see how we’d been doing it as problematic. It took a frame shift and it didn’t happen overnight but when we decided to make the switch to not having our vacations being about a week long cheat day and more about the experiences we wanted to have, it was so much better. Coming home feeling bloated and fat was never fun and had begun to feel less and less worth it. Coming home feeling as light as when we left and without the drain on our wallet was completely without downsides. We still go out to eat a couple times (we love Panevino and Vegenation!) but since they aren’t fighting for recognition in a week long eating free-for-all, we really enjoy and appreciate those meals.
We apply this way of living whenever we go outside our homebase. We relocated our household to Seattle for 3 weeks while Diva went to a summer day camp and we used these same tactics to explore our home away from home. We rented a house, did a big grocery shop to get us started and branched out from there. We did eat out at a few restaurants but with our way of doing things, we returned to Spokane feeling the same and weighing the same. And instead of having to go on a diet to lose 5-10 pounds, we were able to pick right up where we left off but with brand new memories to cherish.
Okay, I just looked back and I’ve ended every post title (which makes 4 right?) with an exclamation point. Pretty sure that’s violating some grammar or blogging rule because nothing is always that exciting, so I’m going to watch that from now on. Except for today’s post. Because I figured that if I’m going to show you how we make eating a whole foods, plant based (which I’m going to abbreviate WFPB from now on…my typing is NOT up to snuff and the less I have to type, the faster I can get a blog post out) diet work for our family, littles included, I should show you some of what we eat and today that is pita pizzas! See what I did there? Another exclamation point. Apparently I can’t help myself around this topic.
As an aside, while I don’t envision this becoming a recipe blog, it makes sense that if you want to follow this way of eating, from time to time it might be nice to see how others make it work for them. Recipes were the way I transitioned to being vegan and then again to being more WFPB so I definitely intend to include them. At first, most of these are going to be inspired by (or outright poached from) other bloggers who have serious recipe development talent that I do not but fear not, all credit shall be given. My hope is that as I continue doing this and also continue further in my Rouxbe chef training I’ll become better at coming up with my own recipes. As of now, I don’t tend to follow recipes except as a guide, but coming up with my own from scratch stumps me. One more place for growth, right?
But, pita pizzas! (Doh, there it is again!) These came about because I was needing a meal for the girls and didn’t have anything planned. I’ve made pizza dough before and like doing it; there’s something satisfying about punching the risen dough down, kneading it with all your weight pushing into the dough and stretching it out to fit your stone or pan. However, it’s a long-ish process and it doesn’t work when it’s 5:00 and the yeast is still in the package. So I was hunting for what to make and I saw a package of Ezekial pita bread in our refrigerator. I knew we had sauce and most importantly, we had cashew ricotta from a recent batch of potato and kale enchiladas leftover, so the idea for pita pizzas was born.
These pictures are from my first Rouxbe assignment where we had to show our mise en place, a preparation picture and the finished product. It was a great exercise and really has made me want to take better pictures.
As far as ingredients go, they were pretty basic. I had the pitas, I had sauce already made but could have used any jarred sauce. We tend to make our own or use no added salt sauces, again so we can control what we are eating. It’s so easy to eat way more salt than is healthy so when we can control it, we do. I had the cheese made already and then I just grabbed what we had in the frig. Here you see tempeh, red bell peppers, olives and a greens mix from Costco. I also added some steamed broccoli. Pitas came out of the package, sauce was spread, I put on all the veggies and dotted the top with the cashew cheese:
I’d pre-heated the oven to 450 degrees and popped them in. After about 15 minutes I checked and the cashew cheese was getting a bit browned so I pulled them out. They were piping hot and even better the pitas had crisped up and resembled a delicious thin crust. Score!
My girls devoured them and have done so every time I make them. It’s an easy way to get whole grains and vegetables in them because no matter what I put on them, it gets eaten.
As far as recipes go, there’s not one per se. Ingredients are: pitas (I haven’t done this with any other pitas than Ezekiel so I don’t know if they crisp up as nicely), sauce, either homemade or jarred, vegetables and cashew cheese. Here’s the cashew cheese recipe:
From Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. This is from memory as my book is loaned out at the moment but if it’s not exactly their recipe, it’s what I always make so I know it tastes awesome.
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup cashews
1-2 garlic cloves
1 package firm tofu
1 tsp basil
1 tsp salt
combine lemon juice, garlic and cashews in a food processor until a thick paste forms. Add crumbled tofu and process till smooth. Pulse in basil and salt. This functions like a ricotta cheese and is rich and delicious!
One time, I was without cashew cheese and `made a cheesy drizzle for the pizza out of hummus, milk and nutritional yeast, aka nooch. I mixed them together until it was thickly pourable and drizzled it over the pizza…worked like a charm. Girls still scarfed it up? Down? Anyway, all the pizzas were eaten and they asked for seconds.
Glimpse number one of some of the food we eat, done!