The Lemon Plum

 

Lemon plum

Lemon plum

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Just look at this beauty, caught in the prime moment of being juicy and ready to eat.

This is a “lemon plum.”

Yet another fruit I’d never eaten before, but found in one of my local green markets. I loved the shape and color of the fruit, and was told these plums have a lemony flavor. And so they do!

It seems hard for me to claim that I’m finding all this produce just because I’m (mostly) vegan, but it’s true. I like eating fruit, especially berries. Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries all find their way into my grocery basket. I don’t go out of my way to find new fruits to eat, but when I saw these beautiful plums I couldn’t resist.

Of course I’ve eaten plums before, but the plums I normally eat are a deep wine color, and their flesh is dark, dense and very sweet. The lemon plums have a lighter color flesh, and while they are sweet, the lemony flavor makes them taste more refreshing.

I suppose I’ve just written an ode to a plum, but why not?

Yes, I celebrate “one ingredient” foods, including this gorgeous, delicious lemon plum. It may have one ingredient, but the flavor is more complex than anything a processing food plant’s chemistry lab can compete with any day of the week.

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Vegan Massage, or Taming Your Kale

If you are vegan, or in my case “mostly vegan,” at some point you will venture into the world of greens. There are many kinds of greens, from low calorie iceberg lettuce to the more flavorful, but delicate spring mix until we get to robust and substantial leafy kale.

 

I’ll admit I had never tried kale until I became vegan. Then again, there are many foods that my vegan journey has introduced into my kitchen, like chia seeds, quinoa, nutritional yeast and many other interesting ingredients that I have come to enjoy and which are nutritionally dense.

Kale is also nutritionally dense. One cup has 2 grams of protein (yes, greens have protein!) and kale is also a blockbuster delivery system for Vitamin A and C.

Raw kale nutrition panel

Raw kale nutrition panel

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And as great as kale is, if you want to eat it raw in a salad, you’ll find that you must do something to prepare the leaves because they are very firm and overly crunchy.

But, there’s a great way to tame your kale and make it softer and more “lettuce like” in your salad.

First, if you have whole kale leaves, go ahead and wash and dry. Then, remove the center stem portion which is rather woody. Chop the leaves into bite sized pieces.

Put the bite sized pieces into an over-sized bowl. Take some olive oil, you don’t need much! and drizzle it over the kale. For 2 cups of chopped kale, you probably need 1-2 teaspoons. Experiment with the amount of oil, trying to use the least amount possible. After you’ve drizzled the olive oil, sprinkle some salt on too. Use an amount of salt that you’d normally use for flavoring, but in this case the salt will also help break down the leaves.

Now… get your (washed and clean) hands into the bowl and massage the kale with your hands. I gently squeeze the leaves in my fingers, breaking them down with the moistening from the oil and salt, and circulate the leaves from top to bottom to rotate each leaf and make sure I’m compressing all of the salad.

You’ll be able to tell when you are finished when every single kale leaf is moistened with the olive oil, and the leaves feel soft to the touch.

At this point, add the remainder of your salad ingredients and mix with the kale.

Although olive oil and salt is it’s own kind of dressing, I usually add a very light drizzle (again, no more than another teaspoon) of a flavored dressing of my choice. I’m also a big fan of freshly ground black pepper for flavor.

You don’t need any additional dressing, and you could use other types of flavoring like a flavored vinegar or fresh lemon / lime juice if you feel like it.

Hopefully, this kale massage technique will help you enjoy this dark leafy green more often as a part of a high nutrition salad.

I like to add carrots, tomatoes, avocado, slivered almonds, olives and chia seeds to round out the meal!

Unusual ingredients – Homemade Vegan Chinese Dinner

As a resident of Jersey City, New Jersey I am so lucky to be living amidst immigrant populations from a variety of countries. In particular because the raw – VEGAN – ingredients available to me in the local stores are amazing.

There’s a special Asian grocery (for locals, it’s called 555 Asian Supermarket on Tonnele Avenue) where I can get unusual and delicious supplies for home made Chinese food.

Here’s a sample of what I bought recently:

Some Chinese vegetables, prior to being prepared

Some Chinese vegetables, prior to being prepared

In the photo above, we have beginning from the top left…

Bag of bean sprouts, rice wine vinegar, Chinese greens

Pea pods, bamboo tip, onions, zucchini

Lotus root, ginger root, garlic, single Chinese green, shitake mushrooms

And upon preparation for cooking, here’s how the veggies look:

The insides of the bamboo tip, lotus root, and ginger root

The insides of the bamboo tip, lotus root, and ginger root

As you can see in the center of the second photo, when I slice the bamboo open (far right) it has these cool looking spaces where the bamboo plant stores water. In the very center of this photo, you see the peeled and sliced lotus root, which also has a distinctive pattern that emerges with each slice.

What’s also wonderful about each of these vegetables is that they have their own texture. Lotus root is firm and crunchy, while the bamboo is soft and tender. Both are relatively flavorless, and take on the spices and flavors of other veggies that cook with them.

Ginger root, on the other hand, is quite spicy and makes a fantastic addition to Chinese veggies. The two chunks of ginger in the photo above are peeled, but not chopped up finely enough yet to add to the dish. I chop ginger much as I would chop garlic, into very fine pieces.

Once all of my veggies are washed and clean, peeled and chopped or sliced as needed … into the pot they go. The most time consuming part of cooking the Chinese veggie dinner is the preparation of the veggies. Lots of chopping.

But in the end…a little garlic flavored rice wine vinegar, some soy sauce, freshly ground black pepper and lots of veggies turns into…

Home made vegan Chinese dinner is served

Home made vegan Chinese dinner is served

Dinner is served!

Bad News for Vegan Aging

DISCLAIMER: I am NOT a doctor or a nutritionist. I am NOT recommending that anyone reading this post take any supplement without first consulting their own health care professional.

In the year plus that I’ve been mostly vegan, I’ve learned some things about nutrients that people who are consuming a vegan diet are missing. I found a new one which I’d like to share.

L-Carnosine

Please READ THIS ARTICLE on Carnosine, which details the many health benefits of this amino acid. (Some may refer to Carnosine as a dipeptide, meaning two amino acids joined together. In the case of Carnosine, it’s the combination of beta-alanine and L-histidine.)

Most notably, in my opinion, Carnosine helps reduce protein glycation – which is a fancy way of saying that as your body takes in sugars like fructose (from eating fruit, for example), those sugars create free radicals and damage your cells. This damage causes, among other things, cells to age.

Carnosine is naturally ingested by people who eat meat. However, Carnosine is available as a supplement too.

It is VERY ironic to me that vegans will “suffer” the ill effects of not ingesting Carnosine to help delay the aging process unless we use supplements. However, even eating a lot of red meat may not be sufficient amount of Carnosine to accumulate the benefits of this amino acid.

 

Previously, I’ve written about the use of Creatine and my personal experiences with that supplement too. If you are a vegetarian or a vegan, you have very low levels of creatine in your body from not eating meat. If you are an athlete, you may want to consider supplementation. Please look for my other posts about this.

In keeping with this form of experimentation, I have ordered some Carnosine and once I get the supplement I will begin taking it.

No one seems to know the “correct dosage” for Carnosine, however the supplement producers are making 500 mg capsules as the daily dose, so my plan is to begin taking the 500 mg daily. I will plan to report back on the effects, so far as I am able to observe them (nothing like being my own lab rat!)

Some final thoughts…

Vegans are probably, by nature, already health conscious since we are careful about what we’re putting into our bodies. However, we still have to be mindful that by deleting entire food groups from our meal plans, we are missing different nutrients (B12, Carnosine and Creatine for example.)

If we choose to, we can take supplements to remain in better overall balance, while still avoiding the foods we don’t want to eat.

In my opinion, a great daily multi-vitamin is a wonderful place to start. If you are a (pre-menopausal) woman, and a vegan, get a multi that has B12, calcium, iron and zinc.

If you want to go beyond that, consider supplements that are right for you.

I’ve chosen to be mostly vegan. I consume eggs, and I also choose to take a fish oil based Omega 3 supplement daily – although I do not eat fish. (Yes, I know flax and chia seeds have Omega 3’s, but not anywhere near supplement levels.)

Now I will add a Carnosine supplement too.

Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to get straight answers about health and nutrition in this country, especially as it pertains to supplements. It’s always a good idea to do as much research as possible, or talking to your personal health care provider, until you feel comfortable with what you decide to take.

I’m wishing everyone great health!

 

Additional Reading on Carnosine

Wiki page for Carnosine

Life Extension Magazine on Carnosine

BodyBuilding.com (older article) on Carnosine

A Year of Being Mostly Vegan

I’ve been keeping a personal journal for many decades, and periodically I re-read entries. Today I re-read an entry from November 16th, 2013 which noted that I’d moved from eating vegetarian to eating vegan.

It’s hard to believe I’ve been doing this (crazy) eating regimen for over a year now! BUT, right now I’m in the best shape I’ve been in, probably in my life.

In June this year I began going to the gym regularly. I started out going every day, now I have two rest days within the week, but I’m still lifting and doing cardio 5 days a week.

And while I haven’t lost much weight (today I am 7 pounds lighter than I was this time last year) I have lost inches and dress sizes. I’m down to about a size 6 – I’m really proud of that!

On the eating front, I am mostly vegan. I’ve continued allowing egg whites into my diet so I can ensure I’m getting enough protein, which is a constant battle. I use my brown rice protein shake to supplement, but I must be mindful of the foods I choose to get the daily requirement of protein.

This year has been a great learning experience. I’ve experimented more with my diet and now find myself in a place where I eat lots of veggies and fruits, along with legumes, nuts and seeds.

Have I been a perfect vegan? Heck no. I estimate I ate chicken about a half a dozen times this year (no, I won’t be eating turkey on Thanksgiving!) and I do allow myself some buttered toast or buttered bagel every now and again as a treat.

These changes ARE CHALLENGING, but I still believe they are worth it.

As the holidays approach, I already know my eating habits are not fun at parties. Many times there is absolutely nothing I can eat when I’m at a party, or I wind up defaulting into eating junky processed food like potato chips. I think I’m going to start bringing food to parties… maybe a bag of carrots and a container of hummus dip, so that I’ll be sure to at least have one thing I can eat that is healthy. But when it comes to sour cream and onion dip, cheese and cracker plates, pigs in a blanket, cream filled whatever, and meat, meat and more meat… I’ll be skipping all that, thanks. (Hmm, maybe I need more vegan friends, ha!)

So here I am, beginning year two of being vegan. No one is more amazed than me, I’m sure.

My immediate goals are to continue eating healthy, continue going to the gym, and yes, I’d still like to lose 10 pounds. Who knows, maybe I’ll wind up being a Size 4 someday. I’ve never been a size 4 in my life, but as I achieve new health milestones it’s possible my body will continue to be transformed.

The biggest obstacle to becoming vegan in the first place was psychological. Most people believe they cannot give up X, Y or Z foods. Or perhaps even when they try to eat healthier, they still are in a deprivation mindset, instead of embracing the opportunity for better health.

So, let me warn you now, if you eat healthier and do it consistently, the foods you love now will taste BAD to you in the future. Do you know why? Because the foods that are not healthy for you are usually fake, processed foods. Ersatz food. And once you give that up, if you go back and taste processed foods, you’ll know they’re disgusting.

I have my own example of this. I used to like banana chips. I eat fresh bananas regularly, but I also used to enjoy banana chips as a snack. But after a while, I noticed that when I ate the banana chips, I could taste the oil the chip was fried in rather than the chip itself, and it tasted gross to me. Eventually, I could taste that the chip was very slightly rancid from the oil.

If my palette wasn’t as finely tuned, I doubt my sense of smell and taste would have registered this a year ago. I would have eaten the food then and enjoyed it. But when you convert your body and taste buds into eating fresh food 99% of the time, these things become obvious.

Good luck to everyone out there working on changing your diet and improving your health. I’ve achieved some decent milestones in the past year, and I’m looking forward to another year of improved health.

 

Vegan Tip – Avocado boosts Beta Carotene absorption

Beta carotene rich salad ingredients and a roll with mashed avocado

Beta carotene rich salad ingredients and a roll with mashed avocado

Welcome to lunch at my house today. What’s on the menu? Blockbuster nutrients, and the means to absorb them. It’s 100% vegan.

First, we have a beta carotene rich salad. I start with a cucumber base, and on top are heirloom baby tomatoes in orange, red and yellow from the local farmer’s market. You’ll also find slices of purple carrot (also scored at the farmer’s market), along with a sprinkling of dried wild blueberries and almond slivers.

If the foods you are eating are natural, and colorful … reds, yellows, oranges… they are high in beta carotene. But guess what? Avocado is also high in beta carotene.

Along with my salad is an artisanal bread roll dressed with mashed avocado (although I could have just put diced avocado directly onto the salad.)

According to the World’s Healthiest Foods website:

Recent research has shown that absorption of two key carotenoid antioxidants—lycopene and beta-carotene—increases significantly when fresh avocado (or avocado oil) is added to an otherwise avocado-free salad. One cup of fresh avocado (150 grams) added to a salad of romaine lettuce, spinach, and carrots increased absorption of carotenoids from this salad between 200-400%.

 

So eat up! Not only does it taste good, it’s really good for you!

Vegan Weight Lifting – Creatine Update

At the end of August I began experimenting with taking Creatine to enhance my weight lifting regimen at the gym. I decided not to follow the “typical” recommendations which suggest that a person do “loading” where you take larger doses of creatine to jack up the blood levels of this naturally occurring substance. Instead I opted for a slow daily half dose of the recommended 5 mg a day… which meant I took 2.5 mg a day for a few weeks.

Within 3 days of taking this level dosage, I felt a huge improvement in my weight lifting at the gym. Suddenly, I was able to increase the amount of weight I was lifting at all of my machines, and overall I felt more energized during my workouts. Everything seemed to be working as expected.

Unfortunately, one known side effect of taking creatine is water retention. As I monitored myself on the scale, I did notice a 1-2 pound increase and I figured it was water retention, but I was okay with that because of the tremendous improvement to the work out.

And then, I began retaining water in my ankles. It wasn’t anything severe, but I realized it was clearly a side effect from the creatine, so as a way of testing if my hypothesis was right, I stopped taking it.

Sure enough, my ankles returned to normal size and the water gains I saw on the scale disappeared.

But… I also saw the negative effect on my workout too. Where I’d previously felt stronger and more able to take on higher amounts of weight, I now felt weaker and had to take a step back on the amount of weight I was lifting.

What’s incredible to me, is that it really was that direct an effect AND that dramatic in terms of the increase and decrease to performance. It was quite surprising.

Because I do have some aspect of the scientist in me, I decided to do another “experiment” on myself. This time, I would take creatine again, but in an even smaller dosage. I figured I would try a 1/4 dose, instead of a half dose. That meant taking 1.25 mg / day, instead of the previous 2.5 mg dose I’d been using.

After maybe 4 days I did not see a dramatic improvement at the gym, but I did begin slight retaining of water and slight swelling of the ankles returned too.

So, these two tests lead me to stop taking creatine, because of the side effects I experienced.

However, it does work. Creatine does greatly enhance weight lifting, especially when – as a vegan or vegetarian – your body is not getting the natural source of creatine that meat eaters get.

Each athlete has to make their own decisions about what’s best for them. For me, I’d like to be able to use creatine, but my body does not react well to the water retention … even at lower doses.

As a vegan athlete (who does eat eggs), I have to work harder than my meat-eating, weight lifting counterparts to achieve results. My power gains at the gym will likely be slower as a result.

Also as a vegan athlete, I have to be mindful of getting enough protein too. I continue to use brown rice powder protein shakes (I use the Growing Naturals brand, which provides 24 g of protein per scoop.) The shakes are part of my recovery process, which has been beneficial.

In the more than 3 months I have gone to the gym and I’ve continued to see progress. I’ve dropped two clothing sizes (inches) and I can see much better muscle definition than I had before I started. The progress seems frustratingly slow sometimes, especially because it takes so much effort to achieve results. Also, this routine requires a freakishly zealous adherence to eating about 1400 calories a day so that I don’t back-slide.

But, I feel the results have been worth it.

Me 10-3-14 LBD cropped

Vegetarian and Vegan Weight Lifting – Consider Creatine

While perusing a bookstore recently, I found Vegan For Her, by Virginia Messina. It’s a very good reference book for women who are interested in a vegan lifestyle.

I was especially impressed with Chapter 8, which has 7 pages dedicated to “Powered by Plants: The Female Vegan Athlete”.

In particular, I learned something important I didn’t know. Vegetarians and Vegans are low in Creatine, and should consider supplementation, particularly for athletes who are weight lifting, like me.

Creatine is a substance that naturally occurs in the body, and supports the body’s ability to build muscle. For women who are afraid of “getting big” that is NOT what happens when a woman does weight lifting. Instead, a woman builds bone density, and builds a lean, muscular form and as a result your resting metabolic rate rises, and voila… you burn more calories even when at rest. That also means it will be more likely that you’d be able to reduce overall levels of body fat.

Needless to say, weight lifting means doing the work and I’m not talking about lifting a 5 pound dumb bell once a week! My routine is a minimum of 4 weight lifting days per week, with 2 dedicated to upper body and 2 dedicated to lower body. I’m working on 5-7 weight lifting machines per workout, and continuing to increase the amount of weight resistance I use over time.

Back to Creatine.

Here’s what VeganHealth.Org says about it (http://www.veganhealth.org/articles/weightlifting):

 

Creatine (also known as creatine monohydrate) is the only nutritional supplement that has been consistently shown to improve strength and muscle mass. The main benefit of creatine is thought to be due to its effect on reducing fatigue during repeated, short bursts of intense exercise (such as weightlifting, sprinting, soccer, rugby, and hockey . Lower fatigue during sprinting and weightlifting means increased training and greater results.

 

Creatine is a component of phosphocreatine (PCr). PCr provides energy during short bursts of powerful exercise, by providing a phosphate for the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is the quickest source of energy in skeletal muscle. Depletion of PCr in muscle is associated with fatigue during such exercise.

 

Creatine can be synthesized in the body. It is also supplied in the diet by meat and fish. Supplementing with creatine has been shown to increase performance especially in people whose creatine levels in muscle were initially on the lower side of normal.

Guess whose creatine levels are typically on the lower side of normal because we don’t eat meat or fish? Yeah, you guessed it: Vegans and Vegetarians.

There are vegetarian/vegan sources of Creatine, and a company called Now Sports makes one variety of Creatine Monohydrate that I’m using right now which is vegan, based on the label. There may be others, but my local health food store stocks this one – so it’s the one I got.

If you are interested in creatine, and read about it, you’ll read about “Creatine Loading.” For athletes looking to rapidly increase the amount of creatine in their bodies, there is a process whereby you take higher doses of the supplement during the “loading phase” which usually lasts 5-6 days. After that, you would return to the normal daily dose.

Since I have never taken creatine before, I decided to play it much more conservatively. There are potential side effects to taking creatine, including retaining water, and before you decide to take ANY supplement, you should do the research to determine whether or not it’s right for you.

So, I began taking only 2.5 milligrams (mg) of creatine per day, mixed with fruit juice since creatine is more readily absorbed in the body when coupled with carbohydrates. In most reading I’ve done, 5mg per day is the recommended daily dose, with perhaps a 10mg (min) per day during a loading phase. You can see, I’m below even the daily recommended dose because I wanted to try it without overloading my system right away. I am fine taking a more gradual approach.

After only 4 days of supplementation, I can already see the difference in my weight lifting routines. I have more power and explosive energy when I begin doing my repetitions, and I do not feel as tired at the end of my four sets as I had previously.

Of course, creatine is part of a larger picture equation.

I have purposefully increased the amount of protein I eat every day, while still keeping an eye on my calories. An adult woman needs 46 grams of protein a day, but a vegan weight lifter needs more than that, and the amount of protein you eat should be calculated based on your body weight. And of course you still need carbohydrates to fuel your workout, while your protein intake (especially immediately after your lifts) will help with recovery.

I’d love to hear from other vegan athletes, especially weight lifters, to see if creatine has been helpful to you too?

 

 

The Tyranny of Protein – or – Vegan No More

This decision has been weighing on my mind for months.

I’ve struggled with my vegan dietary habits mightily, and after about 8+ months of eating mostly vegan, I have decided that I can no longer sustain this level of dietary restriction.

However, I have particular reasons and I have a set of ideas about what I will do next, moving forward.

For those of you that have been following along with me on this journey, please keep reading.

1) I originally thought going vegan was going to help me lower my cholesterol to the point where I could get off my cholesterol medications. This was a patently false assumption on my part, and was unfortunately validated through blood tests with my doctor. After eating vegan with a rare exceptional egg in the diet, my bad cholesterol and triglycerides were higher than my previous readings … because I’d slacked off on my cholesterol medication. According to my doctor my form of cholesterol is (probably) genetic. There will be no miracle dietary intake to get me off my meds.

2) Now that I am entering week five of my daily gym routine, and I am one week into eating eggs again, and because I have not successfully kicked my daily hopping on the scale habit, I have noticed something radical.

I AM LOSING WEIGHT.

And I’m losing weight now at a more steady pace, since I have re-introduced animal protein into my diet.

Other than the dietary change, I am not exercising more, so I ascribe the weight loss to the dietary change.

I have to say, this is not a shock to me. As someone who has been eating vegan for 8+ months, I know that in order to consume my vegan protein it comes with a LOT of carbs. Black beans, lentils, and quinoa are all terrific sources of vegetable protein.

However, please consider:

  • 15 oz can of black beans = 315 calories / 24.5 grams protein / 66.5 grams carbs
  • 1 cup of lentils, cooked = 622 calories / 48.4 grams protein / 108 grams carbs
  • I cup quinoa, cooked =    635 calories / 22.3 grams protein / 117 grams carbs

VERSUS

  • 3 fried eggs                   = 260 calories / 18.6 grams protein / ZERO CARBS

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I’m not making complex carbohydrates my enemy, however in my struggles to lose weight at a steady pace, the levels of carbohydrate intake in a vegan diet are not working with me, they’re working against me. I have to work much harder to lose weight with the levels of carbs I’m taking in.

In the subject line of this post, I’ve put it out there – I am vegan no more because I am eating eggs again.

Theoretically, I’m now a vegetarian… except, I’m still not eating dairy. I see no need to reintroduce dairy into my diet at this time and I’m comfortable sticking to that.

But given where I am in my journey, I am going to reconsider the possibility of consuming two other foods, in addition to eggs, that are animal based: chicken and tuna fish.

Both chicken and tuna fish are lean sources of protein, and are generally healthier than most other forms of animal protein (like red meat, pork, bacon, etc.)

Also, like eggs, they are extremely high in protein, relatively low in calories and cholesterol and have zero carbs. These factors make these particular food sources attractive options if I decide I’m okay to go back to eating animal protein again.

Since I have proven to myself that I can live with many different kinds of dietary restrictions and stick with them, I’m comfortable with the idea of eating chicken or tuna every once in a while. I suspect my body will “tell me” if it wants animal protein.

In fact, higher levels of protein … between my brown rice protein shakes, which I still use daily for a decent boost of 24 grams of protein, along with other sources, has made my workout recoveries more bearable. I can tell I need higher levels of protein than the “normal” 46 grams of daily protein recommended for an adult woman to see the results I want.

And speaking of results, it’s been a while since I posted a progress photo of how I am doing.

Here’s how I look now… and the journey continues………

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Progress photo - 7-25-14

Progress photo – 7-25-14

The Wellness Dilemma

I’m frustrated to date by my level of progress in my wellness routine.

I’ve been on my new weight lifting routine at the gym for three and a half weeks now, and I continue to watch what I eat and to maintain my vegan regime. However, the scale has been persistently stubborn. I have barely lost two pounds.

Most everyone I’ve spoken to about this: the trainers at the gym, and others, have said don’t look at the scale because you will likely lose inches with a weight lifting program, rather than pounds.

Okay, but what if I want to lose inches AND pounds? (Hint: I do want to lose inches and pounds!)

I decided that it might be a good idea to see a nutritionist to assist me with my eating plan. I went online and searched for holistic nutritionists, figuring that a holistic nutritionist would know about supplements, vegan dietary requirements and the like.

Today I had a free consultation with the holistic nutritionist I found online. I was so discouraged when I left the consultation, I am unsure what I’m going to do next.

I filled out an extensive health questionnaire, which asked me about my eating habits, the supplements I was taking, what kind of exercise I do, what my goals were, etc. I filled all that out before the appointment.

In the conversation today, I found out that this person, who bills themselves as a holistic nutritionist, tells me that they do not know about supplements nor do they have any way to comment on supplements as part of my diet. Moreover, this person said, and I quote, “I couldn’t be vegan because I couldn’t eat beans everyday.” I replied, “I don’t eat beans everyday.” Then the person said, “well, there aren’t many sources of protein left…” and then they went on to try and convince me that maybe I should try eating chicken because that’s “more pleasurable”! (Seriously, wtf?)

As if all that wasn’t bad enough, and that’s pretty bad, this person said “I’m not a fitness coach, so I won’t have any suggestions about your exercise routine.” Fair enough, but when I asked about how my exercise routine would factor into my eating plan, I was told that as long as I was doing exercise, that was good enough for them to know.

HUH? How the heck is a nutritionist going to come up with a viable eating plan for me if they don’t know HOW MUCH EXERCISE I AM DOING??

ARGH!

That experience was TOTALLY disheartening. If you have a disease, the doctors know what to do and health insurance covers it. If you have a cavity, the dentist knows what to do and dental insurance covers it. BUT, if you are WELL … if you are healthy, and want to maintain your health, or maybe improve it … then you are completely on your own. Good luck with all of the contradictory information too.

Based on this person’s comments today, I’d need to assemble a health team to deal with my wellness program. I should hire a nutritionist, a supplement expert, a personal trainer, and probably a damn secretary for keeping all these appointments straight.

Yes, I am frustrated; frustrated by my desire to be healthier than I am today, without a clear path on how I can achieve that.

More research will follow, no doubt. There’s still hope I can achieve the goals I’ve set for myself … even if I have to carve my own path through this wellness wilderness.

My Vegan Journey – A Whole New Level

I recently wrote about my bad cholesterol results after the first six months of my (mostly) vegan eating regimen. I vowed in that post to up the ante on myself, and that’s exactly what I am doing.

This is a whole new level of commitment.

To recap, I’m totally off meat, chicken, fish, all dairy, eggs, caffeine, or alcohol. I have eliminated white bread and white pasta from my diet as well. (I’m still struggling to eliminate white potatoes from my plate…)

But that’s just the starting point these days. That’s just the price of entry.

Begin at the beginning - this is how I look today

Begin at the beginning – this is how I look today

I joined a gym near my house and have begun a daily weight lifting regimen. Based on input from the in-house trainers, I do a circuit of six different machines, and do three sets on these machines.

After I’m done lifting, I hit the stair master.

When I’m done with the stair master, I get on the elliptical machine.

Then I walk home, and drink a brown rice protein shake.

And THEN, I go out and do either a 4 or 6 mile walk outside.

I am doing this every day, although after three straight days of doing weight lifting I take one day off from lifting and just do the cardio part of the routine.

This level of commitment is extremely difficult and time consuming. I spend a lot of time preparing my food and exercising. I’m not sure how long I can keep it up, but I’m determined to DO MY BEST.

I’ve really only just begun, so I have not seen anything in the way of results yet. Within the next few weeks, I would expect to see movement on my scale in the downward direction…

More to come on my progress when it’s available………

My (mostly) vegan experiment gone horribly wrong

A little over 6 months ago, I began to transition from my vegetarian eating habits to a new regimen of eating (mostly) vegan.

I was already restricting my diet, but I decided that to further my health goals of lowering my cholesterol, I was going to give up all dairy and egg yolks, but – I decided – that I’d continue to consume egg whites for protein.

And I can tell you that for the past 6 months, I have … for 99% of the time … not consumed any dairy. No cheese, no pizza, no milk, no ice cream, no sour cream… nope. Every once in a while, I would get a craving for toast with a little butter on it, and I’d estimate I ate a slice of buttered toast less than once a month during that time. That would have constituted ALL dairy ingested, which is – to say the least – such a miniscule amount as to be nearly nothing.

As for eggs, the vast majority of the time I was consuming egg whites, although every once in a while … again, very rarely and mostly while on the road, I would eat whole eggs.

While all this was going on, of course I consumed absolutely no meat, chicken, seafood… nada. Zero. Zip.

I ALSO added a daily, high-dose Omega 3 supplement too…which has been shown to help reduce cholesterol. I have been taking Omega 3’s every day, without fail.

I was SO excited about the fact that I’d given up 99% of any and all sources of cholesterol in my diet, that I admit I began slacking off on taking my cholesterol medication. I was fully prepared to go in to see my doctor after 6 months and for her to tell me, wow your cholesterol has dropped tremendously, of course you can go off your meds!

Since I have already written the title of this post, you know this isn’t a good news story.

BAD RESULTS

After 6 months of a lot of sacrifice, my triglycerides are HIGHER than what they were 6 months ago. My LDL (bad cholesterol) is HIGHER than it was 6 months ago. And my HDL, while still in a good range, is still lower overall than it was 6 months ago.

This is TERRIBLE news. It is a horrific result based on the many, many changes I have made.

Moreover, it’s very clear to me that I need to be taking my cholesterol meds religiously, NO exceptions.

Eating (mostly) vegan has literally done nothing at all to lower my cholesterol levels. (And if you’re going to tell me that eating the equivalent of less than a teaspoon of butter in 6 months was the thing preventing me from lowering my cholesterol, I will knock your block off. The changes I made were serious, and difficult.)

Now, some people would take that news and use it as an excuse to fall off the bandwagon and start chowing down on pizza and ice cream and whatever else happens to come across their path.

Not me.

I’m WAY too stubborn for that.

In fact, I’m going to up the ante on myself. Not only am I going to start taking my cholesterol meds every night, I have already started removing white carbs from my diet. That means: no white bread or pasta, no white rice, and sadly … no white potatoes.

Why remove white carbs? Because eating white carbs can drive up the amount of sugar your body produces, and when the body has an excess amount of sugar, it stores it as fat on the body. When the body stores fat, it can elevate your triglyceride levels (particularly fat stored in the abdomen.)

I’ve been clinging to eating eggs for the past 6 months, and maybe it’s time for me to bite the bullet and try to go the next 6 months without eating them, to see if I can do it.

Also, I want to say, for the record, eating like this SUCKS. It’s HIGHLY restrictive, and it makes for some difficult conversations with friends about “where to go for dinner” when I eat out. Yes, I cook for myself a lot at home, but with the new restrictions, it’s going to further limit what I can eat and will require me to change up my habits yet again.

You know, you’d think with all these restrictions, plus the amount of exercise I’m doing every week that I would have been losing weight too, right? But no, I’m not. I have been working on increasing the amount of exercise I’m doing, and I with the additional restrictions I’m imposing on myself, I hope to break through the plateau I’ve been at, weight wise, for many months.

I am not happy to be writing this post, but I AM being honest. The changes I undertook have not really seemed to make a difference in contributing to my health, and that is extraordinarily disappointing.

Once I go back to taking my cholesterol meds every day, religiously, there will be no way for me to tell if any further changes to my diet have helped reduce my cholesterol … and at this point, I no longer have cholesterol reduction through dietary changes as a goal because it seems completely unrealistic.

However, I do want to see my overall health improve. I want to lose weight and achieve a healthier Body Mass Index (BMI).

I’ve been dabbling with the idea of seeing a holistic nutritionist to help craft a strategy with me. I’m very knowledgeable about nutrition, supplements, the glycemic index and eating habits in general, but I’m not a professional … and maybe it’s time to “up my game” and go the extra step.

In the meantime, I’m going to have to figure out how to readjust my eating habits yet again…