Why going to extremes might just work.

All things in moderation.  Balance. Small changes over time add up to big improvements.  These are all commonly accepted bits wisdom. But do incremental changes really work?

I recently read Penn Jillette’s book Presto! How I Made Over 100 Pounds Disappear.  He’s the Vegas magician that is half the duo known as Penn and Teller.  Well he was really more than half the duo…more like three quarters.

Penn was packing around some spare lbs in 2014. He estimated his weight at 330 at his highest, which was when he found himself in the hospital while his doctor told him one of the arteries surrounding his heart was 80% blocked.

He needed to lose weight yesterday.  Not a cosmetic amount, more like 50lbs.  100 would be better. Heck, if you can lose 100 you won’t even need any of the medication you’re currently taking, he was shocked to hear his doctor say.

That was when Penn realized he wasn’t taking 5 different medications, as he thought, because he was a big loser in the genetic lottery, but because he was a self-described “fat fuck.” The realization that he was where he was because he ate whatever the hell he wanted didn’t sit well with him.  He was disgusted with himself.

It wasn’t as if he hadn’t tried to lose weight in the past.  Just as many of  us do, he tried limiting portions, cutting back on carbs, fats and sugar.  He tried exercising.  But any weight lost always came back, and brought friends that led to his continued and consistent weight gain throughout the years.

So Penn tried something different.  He tried something drastic that most people would never even entertain.  He consciously chose to lose weight not as an adult would, as he put it, but as someone who is willing to do whatever it takes to be successful.  More like as a crazy person would.

So he ate only potatoes for 2 entire weeks.

“It’s much easier for me to make a major change than a minor change.” he hypothesized at a recent Google Talks.

What makes a major change easier?  Progress.  It is often immediate when you make a major change.  For example, in Penn’s situation, eating only potatoes for 2 weeks made him lose weight like a crack addict.  Going from eating a standard American diet of cheeseburgers and chocolate cake to plain potatoes tends to do that.

Stepping on the scale to a new lower number every day certainly makes whatever method you choose easier to stick to.  Positive reinforcement is a lot more encouraging on a daily basis with extreme change than it would be on a weekly or monthly basis with moderation.

While we don’t know if Penn’s weight loss is a permanent one at this point, we do know extreme measures worked much better for him than all his previous attempts at moderation.

Should you go cold turkey?  Extreme or gradual change, which is for you?  While I don’t exactly endorse eating potatoes for 2 weeks, I do understand and have experienced the benefits of extreme changes.  I became vegetarian overnight and then vegan, and also gave up coffee cold.  I had been drinking coffee for 30 years every single day, multiple cups.  I decided back in 2013 that I wanted to part ways with coffee, an amicable divorce if you will.  So I left coffee, walked right out on it.

Sure, I could have weaned myself off, slowly decreasing the amount I drank and then switching to decaf.  My thought at the time was this – I knew leaving coffee was going to be a horrible, terrible, no-good experience.  I might as well just walk out and be done with it.

So I did.  I won’t lie.  Giving up coffee (and caffeine) meant that I suffered tremendously for 3 weeks straight. Head-splitting migraines were my constant companion and sloth like energy levels plagued my every day.

As soon as I began to think it would never get better, everything changed. Headaches vanished, energy level came roaring back, and my life returned as if nothing had ever happened.  It’s been over 3 years now and I have never once wanted for a cup of coffee or a jolt of caffeine.  I wouldn’t change anything about what I did, though it remains one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do.

The point is…and there is a point.  Extreme measures can work.  They’re not popular because, well,  they’re pretty damn hard.  Moderation is a much easier sell.  Most people simply cannot get their heads around the idea that they suddenly can’t have something.

The upside though, is that if you can handle extreme measures, you’re that much more likely to succeed.  Giving up caffeine completely or eating only potatoes for two weeks means most of the hard work is over and done quickly.

Change happens quickly with extreme measures. You body is forced to adapt because it doesn’t really have a choice.

Whatever it is you’re looking to do, whether its becoming vegan, raw vegan, or losing weight, consider making an extreme change rather than moderation.  It will be hard, you will suffer, but you’ll also see some immediate progress that might make the changes that much easier to stick to.

EatPlantsLiveWell!

 

Why you should never count calories, carbs, protein or anything else for that matter.

You should never count calories. Yes, this statement runs counter to every single shred of weight loss advice ever given or received.

Of course we must count calories.   Right? Plus, we should make sure we get at least 30% protein.  But not more than 30% carbs. Not even 31%.  Then keep that fat content below 40% or we’ll balloon up like an Orca.

But what if all of this focus on macronutrients (fat, protein and carbs), counting calories and this ridiculous fear of not getting enough protein is just distracting us from something really important?

Truthfully, what’s really important, even if most people and every single diet program out there fail to realize it, is this:  If you eat whole, fresh, unprocessed foods, you don’t need to break food down into calories or nutrients.  It’s just not necessary.

So no, you don’t need that giant tub of protein powder from Costco, nor that box of Cheerios pronouncing Protein!, or those tortillas with Low Carb all over the package.  Indeed, you need food that isn’t packaged at all.  No nutritional information.  No percent of calories from fat, no serving size calculations.  Just eat an apple.  Mother nature has conveniently packaged fruit and vegetables into perfect serving sizes with just the right amount of calories, protein, fat and carbs.

A friend once called me from the grocery store.  Wanting to eat healthier, she was lamenting the fact that she “needed to get better at reading labels.”  Actually, I told her, you’re better off buying food that doesn’t have a label.

What???

Wait, so I’m just supposed to eat food as it grows in nature?  That sounds too difficult.  What about eating out? What about pizza?

The secret is, eating fresh, whole, unprocessed food is incredibly easy.  Sure, it’s not drive-thru easy.  It’s not order a pizza to be delivered easy.  But it is easy.  As in, if you’re hungry, eat some fruit.  Make a giant salad with fresh, organic vegetables and tender lettuce.  Make you own dressing with tahini and lemon.

Plan on eating a lot, probably more than you’re used to.  You’ll need to in order to get in enough calories.  Processed foods pack a ton of calories in a small package, while fresh produce is mostly water and a much smaller amount of calories.

Also plan on more trips to the grocery store. You won’t make it on a once a week trip to the store, in all likelihood.  You’ll need to go every few days if you’re buying perishable items.

But how does this work?

It has to do with caloric density.

It’s a hugely important concept and one central to a great book on the subject, The Pleasure Trap.  The idea is that food in it’s natural, unadulterated state is low in caloric density.  Therefore, you’re able to eat a volume of food that is probably much higher then you’re used to.  No calorie restriction or small portions.  You can eat until you feel satisfied.

Compare that to food that is high in caloric density, which doesn’t make you feel full and is super high in calories.  Like an orange versus a bagel.  The orange is clearly unprocessed and natural, with a large amount of it’s contents comprised of water. The bagel (and all bread) is a highly processed food where the wheat has been ground into flour and the dough is cooked.  At 1600 calories per pound, it’s easy to overeat bread and still not feel full.

Despite being roughly the same size, an orange is 60 calories and a bagel is at least 250. You could eat 4 oranges to roughly equal the calories of one bagel.  The bagel will not fill your stomach, where 4 oranges will come much closer.

Replacing bread with oranges not only gets you lower and better quality calories, but of course there are all the nutrients in 4 oranges vs the very few nutrients that comprise one bagel.

Eat more, weigh less.

Trying to lose weight by counting calories and macronutrients doesn’t work in the long term.  It simply requires too much discipline and no one likes to feel hungry all the time.

The good news is you don’t have to eat less to lose weight.  It’s not the quantity of food that you’re eating that results in weight gain, but the quality of the food.

So stop reading labels and breaking food down in to it’s nutrient parts.  Start eating lots of unprocessed, whole foods.  You might just be surprised at how easy it is to choose natural foods over heavily processed “food-like” substances with copious amounts of added salt, sugar and fat.

Good luck!

EatPlantsLiveWell!

 

 

Make it easy to go vegan by getting your environment right.

Going vegan just got a heck of a lot easier.  Experts agree that getting your environment right, meaning free of animal products and any other unhealthy foods, is the biggest key to succeeding at making a dietary change.

Take a look around your environment.  Evaluate your pantry.  Open your refrigerator and take stock.  Peruse your freezer.  Those cupboards.  Open them and look at your dried and canned goods.

If you’re like most people, you might not want to disclose what’s really in your kitchen.  Are there Costco-sized potato chip bags in the pantry?  Tubs of Ben & Jerry’s in the freezer?  Cold pizza in the refrigerator?

Having non vegan foods or even unhealthy vegan foods in the house might seem harmless.  You’ll just not eat them, right?  Well, perhaps if you’ve more willpower than most, but more than likely, if it’s in your house it’s going in your mouth.

Get rid of all the non vegan food and foods that don’t promote your health.  That’s right.  Donate them to a food bank.  Give them to your neighbor (preferably one you don’t like).   Take a stand against animal products or unhealthy food in your house.

Make a decision that any unhealthy eating goes on outside of your home.  If you must give in to cravings make sure that they are one time situations at a restaurant or somewhere besides your home.  This way, it’s (hopefully) an infrequent departure and not a full on giving up of your plan to go vegan.

Your home environment should be a sanctuary and only contain the healthiest food choices.  It’s a rare individual indeed that can continually reach past last night’s pizza leftovers and grab the lettuce instead.  Don’t rely on willpower to see you through those times.  Nobody has willpower that strong.  Make going vegan easy by removing those temptations entirely.

What about my not on board with the whole vegan/health thing family members? Of course, this means you’ll need the cooperation of those your live with.  Spouses and kids need to eat too.  Apparently.  Give them the same guidelines.  Outside the house is the only place unhealthy eating can occur, in the house is for healthy vegan eating.  If you’re doing the grocery shopping, even better!  You get to decide what’s brought into the house. Use your power wisely!

Your environment determines your success in a number of different ways.  Why not create the one that makes going vegan easy?

EatPlantsLiveWell!

 

 

 

 

What eating mindfully means and why you should.

When we can slow down and really enjoy our food, our life takes on a much deeper quality. -Thich Nhat Hanh in How To Eat

Eating mindfully.  What, is that some kind of weird meditation thing that those crazy Buddhists do up in the Himalayas?  Well, no.  Wait, maybe.

Eating mindfully does have some similarities to meditation.

Okay, let’s start again.  Here’s what you need to know about eating mindfully – it’s an extremely beneficial practice and has virtually no downside.

Eating mindfully, for those adventurous enough to try it, will do everything from improve your digestion to help you shed some pounds faster than a high school wrestler in a sweat suit.

Eating mindfully is simple but not necessarily easy.  Depending on how you eat now, it could be incredibly difficult to make that transition. However, if you’re willing to devote some time and energy to it, you will reap surprisingly significant changes. Not unlike meditation.

Eating mindfully means you give some time and energy to eating.  Time, for sure.  You cannot inhale a smoothie while parallel parking, applying black eyeliner and listening to the Beastie Boys and call it good.  That is the opposite of eating mindfully.

Eating mindfully is sitting in a comfortable position, with no television, radio or even reading material.  Complete silence is ideal, though of course light conversation with friends and family that you’re sharing food with is good too.

Once comfortably seated and all media is silent, you can begin to eat.  Take the time to chew your food and savor the flavors.  If you’re eating watermelon, enjoy the crunch and sweetness.  Eat as slow as you need to in order to fully chew and appreciate your food.

Think about the origin of your food and what it took to get that food to your store and then to you.  Appreciate the labor inherent in all foods.  Be grateful that you have the means to purchase and enjoy an amazing abundance of different types of food.  In a nutshell, you’re meditating on your food.

This is impossible! Now, if you’re like me, this will be slow torture at first.  I am used to watching videos, typing emails, listening to podcasts, scrolling through Twitter and/or reading while eating.  Basically, I do the exact opposite of eating mindfully.  I eat mindlessly.

Several times during my meal I would go to grab my phone, my laptop or some other electronics in order to quell that voice in my head that became so annoyed with the fact that I WAS JUST SITTING THERE. DOING NOTHING.  LIKE A PSYCHOPATH.  As meditators know, it’s extremely challenging, but also hugely beneficial, to just do nothing.

Okay, technically I wasn’t doing nothing.  I was eating.  But for me, eating most meals is a simple task that invites all manner of other things I can do or think about besides what I’m actually doing.

As it turns out, that’s not how eating is supposed to work.  According to Thich Nhat Hanh, author of  How To Eat (yes, I bought a book called How To Eat – don’t judge.):

 Sometimes we eat and we’re not aware that we’re eating. Our mind isn’t there.  When our mind isn’t present we look but we don’t see, we listen but we don’t hear, we eat but we don’t know the flavor of the food. This is a state of forgetfulness, the lack of mindfulness.  To be truly present we have to stop our thinking. This is the secret of success.

For me, the “sometimes” part of the above quote could really be changed to most of the time. I tend to eat the same way I do practically everything. Fast.  Distracted.  Preferably while doing and thinking about a million tiny little things.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy eating, because in fact I do, and very much.  Unfortunately, I’m clearly guilty of not being present when eating, and missing the flavor of my food.  My mind is always busy elsewhere, even if I’m not reading or listening to something.  Removing distractions is one thing, but actually making my mind present is a huge struggle so far.

Eating mindfully is a work in progress.  In truth, I’ve only been doing it for a few days.  Some days and meals have been easier than others and I’m still battling that tendency to have something going on in the background, even if it’s just the voice in my head.

Sitting and looking at your food the entire time is an exercise in patience.  Taking the time to enjoy the taste, smell and texture is something I’ll have to continually remind myself to do.

So far though, I’ve notice some significant changes in how I eat:

Satiety kicks in…it goes without saying that eating quickly and mindlessly doesn’t allow your natural stomach receptors to alert you that you’ve eaten enough.  For vegans, this is likely because vegan food tastes so good.  Dang you vegan food, for being so tasty that I’m constantly eating like I’m in a vegan hot dog eating contest with Paula Deen.

I have a lot of company, though.  Most people eat too quickly.   Judging from how long it takes me to eat now, that I’m eating mindfully, I would say everyone eats too quickly.

Letting your natural satiety signals kick in rather than eating so quickly that you’re uncomfortably full before finally realizing it has a number of benefits, including better digestion and weight loss.

Imagine how appreciative your body will be if you’re not taxing your poor, overworked digestive system by dumping tons of food down the pipe at once?

Then imagine you eat slow enough to avoid that bloated-whale-washed-up-on-the-beach feeling that we all get after overdoing it.

My experiment with eating mindfully is intriguing.  So far, I’ve really enjoyed learning How To Eat  after 46 years of getting it wrong.

Consider the practice of eating mindfully.  You might be surprised at how your body and mind respond to focusing on this important and pleasurable task.

Thanks for reading!

EatPlantsLiveWell!

 

 

 

Why vegans shouldn’t care about protein, fat or carbs.

Nearly every bit of health advice out there has to do with focusing on the macronutrients known as protein, fat and carbs.  Avoid carbs!  No fat!  More protein!  Some go so far as to give you ratios…40/30/30 and even 80/10/10.  But here’s why vegans shouldn’t care about protein, fat or carbs.

Eating real food is the most important thing you can do if you’re concerned about your health.

In general, any nutrient-based advice becomes another distraction from the really really important project of focusing on food.

-Michael Pollan

Though he’s not a vegan, Michael Pollan does offer up some sage advice for anyone concerned about their health.  How refreshing it would be to drop the focus on nutrients or even calories and just focus on eating real food?  Could it be that simple?

The fact is,eating fresh, whole, unprocessed fruits and vegetables means you don’t have to focus on any nutrient-based advice.  No need to measure macros, calorie count, supplement with protein or live in abject fear of taking in too many carbs.  As long as you’re taking in an adequate amount of calories, you’re taking in enough nutrients.  Mother nature has a wonderful way of making sure of it.

But what about protein?  Of course, always the protein question.  Our obsession with protein is the result of relentless marketing on the part of the meat and dairy industries, not a nutrient that you will ever have a hard time getting.  Fruits and vegetables have protein, in numbers that guarantee you’ll get enough without even thinking about it or measuring it.  Supplements?  Nope, you don’t need them either on a whole foods, unprocessed diet.  Superfoods? Good news! You don’t need overpriced, overhyped and sometimes obscure foods to get all the nutrients you need.  In fact, you need remarkably little variety in your diet to still end up with all you need at the end of the day.

Isn’t that too much carbs? Nope and no.  Don’t fear the carbs!  You need carbohydrates for energy.  You should be eating mostly carbs, and you will when you eat fruit and vegetables.  Can you get too many carbs?  Yes, you can.  If you’re eating too much and taking in excess calories, then you’re taking in too many carbs.  Good luck though, as overeating on fruits and vegetables isn’t exactly easy.  You’re taking in less calorically-dense food, so you’ll have to eat a much larger quantity.  In order to consume excess calories of fruits and vegetables you’ll need to eat A LOT of lettuce and apples.  Like you may have to quit your job just so you can eat full time.

Should I watch my fat percentage? You won’t need to.  Fat in fruits and vegetables is present, but only in small amounts.  Sure, you may not want to eat 4 avocados in one day, but few would be able to do that anyway.  Some fruit has more fat than others (i.e. Durian, coconut and avocado), but most fruit has a small percentage of fat relative to the calories.  Also, high fat fruits tend to naturally satiate you quicker than low fat fruits, so if you take your time eating or limit yourself to reasonable quantities (i.e. 1/2 an avocado per day), you won’t need to think about fats as something to avoid at all. Unlike highly processed foods like french fries and donuts, unprocessed foods will trigger your natural satiety signals.  All you need to do is listen to your body.

But wait, can it really be that simple?  I know what you’re thinking…if you’re used to tracking calories, nutrients, percentages of macronutrients, etc., then it will seem really strange to suddenly not need to.  Whatever will you talk about?  Keep in mind though, that eating and food isn’t supposed to be complicated.  We’ve created the complications around foods and nutrients and what and how much of everything we need to eat.  We’ve done this for different reasons but the bottom line is this – simple is best.  Focusing on eating whole, unprocessed fruits and vegetables is really quite simple, normal and natural.  The constant preoccupation with the nutrients in food and getting “enough” of everything comes from a food culture that sees the trees and misses the forest entirely.

We know intuitively what food is best for our body and we also know how much to eat. Do you really think your body needs a Chipotle burrito the size of your arm? Or an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s?  If you don’t know prior to eating it you’ll certainly know almost immediately afterwards.  Your body, when it’s in a clean and efficient state from getting the right foods, will tell you everything you need to know as far as what and how much to eat.

So forget about protein, carbohydrates or fat.  Forget about calories too, while you’re at it.

Instead, work on eating the least processed, natural foods in their natural state.  Don’t drink apple juice, eat an apple.  Choose a banana instead of a banana-flavored PowerBar. Don’t supplement with protein powder, eat natural plant protein like spinach.  Enjoy an avocado on salad rather than high fat and highly processed dressings.

Transitioning to eating unprocessed food takes time and, deepening on your current diet, will certainly not be easy.  You have some habits that will make change seem difficult or even impossible at times.  You’ll need to just continue substituting more and more natural foods for packaged or processed items and you’ll eventually change those tastebuds of yours.

Good Luck!

EatPlantsLiveWell!

Here’s how processed food is sabotaging your weight loss.

Let’s first define processed food.  Processed food is anything that is changed from it’s original state.  Technically, if you take a banana and strawberries and blend them to smithereens with your VitaMix, that is now a processed food.

But wait, you say, isn’t that a little extreme?  Well, yes, but for our purposes here, and for yours going forward, let’s just think of processed food that way…as anything that’s been changed from it’s original state.  An apple…not a processed food, while apple juice is a processed food.  Cooking a potato is processing a food.  Steaming broccoli is processing food.

Okay, now we’re straight on that, let’s examine why consuming processed food is likely sabotaging any plans you may have to lose weight:

  1. Processed food is full of sodium -unless you’re the Sherlock Holmes of label reading, standing in the canned food aisle with a magnifying glass and a silly hat, you likely have no idea how much added sodium is in processed food.  Take canned black beans, as an example.  I dare you to find one that doesn’t have at least 500 mg of sodium per serving. It’s tough to do.  How about bread?  Good luck finding one with no added salt. Most pasta is also full of salt. Why?  Because adding salt provides two very distinct benefits for food companies that want to sell more food – it is a preservative and it makes food taste good (which makes people buy more of said food). You can easily verify this by taste testing a reduced salt vegetable soup.  I can guarantee it won’t taste very good.

Sodium, while a big benefit to food companies and their bottom line, is not quite as kind to your body.  Excess sodium results in inflammation, water retention and can even be an appetite stimulant. What? Oh great, so in addition to making me feel bloated and puffy, it can also make me want to eat more?  Wait, won’t that make it REALLY DIFFICULT TO LOSE WEIGHT?

Your body does need sodium, which it can get easily from unprocessed foods. Unfortunately, the average person takes in north of 3400 mg of sodium per day, while the recommended amount is 1500 mg or less.  So where are those nearly 2000 additional milligrams coming from?  Since nearly everyone I know claims they don’t salt their food, then it must be coming from, you guessed it, highly processed foods.

If you think you’re safe because you eat no processed foods but you eat out all the time, think again.  Restaurants are notorious for cooking with salt, both to enhance flavor but also to keep up with the “average” consumer, who is taking in 3400 mg of sodium a day. Restaurant fare is designed to appeal to the masses, so salt, sugar and fat are used seemingly without restriction.  For this reason and a million others, I hate eating out.

Guess what doesn’t have added sodium?  Well, not much, but you’re pretty safe with raw, fresh fruit and vegetables.  You know, the unprocessed stuff.  They also don’t have a label, so you can get rid of that silly hat and magnifying glass.  Oh, and even better, eating fruits and vegetables is not an appetite stimulant.  Actually, because they’re so high in fiber and water, they actually suppress your appetite. As any real food should, right?

2. Processed food is calorically dense – processing food, by changing its form, either by cooking or blending or juicing, will make it more calorically dense.  When trying to lose weight, calorically dense food is not your friend.  Unless you enjoy feeling like you’re starving.  Highly processed foods like olive oil are super calorically dense.  It takes up very little room in your stomach.  It doesn’t make you feel full, despite being very high in both fat and calories.  Eating rich foods that aren’t satiating is not the recipe for success you need if you’re looking to lose weight.

Blending and juicing foods is a form of processing.  It also makes it super easy to overindulge.  Imagine sitting down to eat 8 bananas.  It sounds nearly impossible.  But if you blend those 8 bananas with water, you can easily drink down that smoothie quicker and easier than you can possibly eat all those bananas.  So leave smoothies and juices for once-in-a-while situations and just eat the fruit or veggies you planned on blending instead. It’s just too easy to ignore your natural satiation signals when you blend and juice food.  For more on satiation signals and how highly processed foods completely bypass those, read the awesome book The Pleasure Trap.

Cooking food is also a form of processing.  Cooking, whether baking, steaming or frying (please no), removes water from the food and changes it’s structure and resulting nutrient content.  It also makes it more calorically dense and thus harder for your body to signal satiation.

3. Processed food dehydrates you – the more processed a food is, the lower the water content.  Think of high water content, unprocessed foods –  like watermelon, oranges and lettuce.  They all have north of 90% water content.  Now think of highly processed foods like crackers, bread and those ridiculously good Girl Scout Cookies.  All have very low water content.  When you eat these highly processed foods, your body has to pull water from somewhere in order to digest them, resulting in dehydration.

Dehydration is often mistaken for hunger pangs, which can lead to eating when you’re really not hungry…which by the way, CAN MAKE IT REALLY HARD TO LOSE WEIGHT.  So the solution isn’t to eat those processed foods and drink more water.  The solution is to not eat those foods, drink water when you’re thirsty, and eat high water content fresh fruits and vegetables.  You might actually find, as I did, that you don’t need to drink nearly as much water if you’re avoiding processed foods and eating fresh, whole, ripe produce.  Always try and get your water from your food first, then from drinking fresh, filtered water (from your own reusable container, of course).

If weight loss is your goal, or even if you just wish to make the healthiest choices possible, eliminating processed foods from your diet will turbo charge your progress.  At the very least, choose the least processed option with the least amount of ingredients.

You’ll know you’ve made progress when you reach the point where the majority of the food you eat doesn’t even have a label.

Good Luck!

EatPlantsLiveWell!

 

 

 

Here’s why convincing people to go vegan is so hard.

convince people to go vegan

Trying to convince people to go vegan is a bit like convincing someone who has never been in a car accident to buy car insurance.  It seems unnecessary and wasteful, given an accident-free person’s situation.  Why buy insurance when nothing has happened that seems to require it?

When people spend their entire lives eating unhealthy animal derived-foods like meat, milk and eggs, without any serious health consequences, why would they care about eating healthy or going vegan?  After all, if you don’t actually drop dead on the spot from eating a BigMac and large fries, then it must be okay, right?

But it’s not okay.  Heart disease, cancer and obesity can and do take years to manifest themselves.  Arteries don’t get clogged overnight.  Weight gain, though it might feel like it, doesn’t happen quickly.  But stack days and weeks and months of eating unhealthy on top of each other and you are plotting a course directly to disease and assorted other dire health consequences.

Therein lies the conundrum:  How does one get people to care about their health and change their eating habits (go vegan) when the consequences of not doing so are so far down the road?

My solution is to lead by example…if there is a shining example of what veganism can do, I’m it. I eat a healthy diet.  I went vegan over 12 years ago and now follow a fruit-based raw diet.  I don’t drink coffee.  I don’t drink alcohol.  I buy and eat organic, fresh, whole fruit and drink filtered water.  I love the way I eat and cannot imagine it any other way.  I have no health issues and I look forward to a life free of heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer and obesity.

I’m vegan for a number of reason, but prime amongst them, and the reason for my initial foray into shedding animal products, was health.  I watched a number of family members and friends struggle with their weight and their health.  My dad struggled with being overweight most of his life and ended up passing away as a result of complications from bypass surgery.

I certainly didn’t want any part of that experience for myself, or for my friends and family.  So I did the research.  I read a lot of books.  I realized I’d been compromising my health with a crappy diet and heading straight towards the same heart surgery that claimed by dad.

It’s been said that the hardest part about being vegan is watching your friends and family become sick and unhealthy by eating animal-derived foods.  This couldn’t be more true.

I recently spent the weekend with my in-laws, whom I adore.  Unfortunately, they are about as far from being vegan as the Atkins diet is from being healthy.  Every meal contains some form of meat, eggs or dairy.  Chicken is considered a health food.  Since I’ve known them, I’ve been spectacularly unsuccessful at getting them to reduce the amount of meat and dairy they consume.

In fairness, I haven’t exactly launched a campaign to get them to eat vegan.  I understand that food is a very emotional subject for all of us, particularly for them,  as they are going on 65+ years of eating what they’ve always eaten.  Animal products, and lots of them.

So I’ve never pressed.  Or ridiculed.  Or even really brought it up directly.  I’ve only tried to be a patient vegan (not easy), and served as an example of someone that thrives eating fruits and vegetables.  Also, someone that doesn’t drop dead from a lack of protein.

I occasionally send amazing videos and suggest some documentaries that are compelling and entertaining but also get the point across.

But so far, nothing seems to work.

The hard part is that these are people I care deeply about.  I’m interested in their well-being.  I don’t want to see them suffer in their later years with disease and obesity.  My desire to change their eating habits comes from a good place.

But all of that doesn’t matter.  Changing eating habits isn’t easy.  Etiquette says not to discuss politics or religion, but people are just as attached to their food choices and certainly as sensitive about it.

I guess when it comes right down to it, who am I to tell people how to eat?  Should people be able to eat what they want?  Is it like telling people what religion they can be, or how many children they can have?

But wait.  Food is different, right?  I mean, what if their choices harm themselves, result in defenseless animals forced to live and die in horrific conditions, and contribute to an impending environmental disaster?

For now, I don’t have the answers to these questions.  I struggle daily to come up with them, especially every time I’m with non-vegans and it’s time to eat.  I can’t exactly go live in a hole in the ground, or create my own vegan utopia where everyone eats plants, just plants, and animals are free to live their lives without becoming a steak, a sandwich or a kabob.

I’ll continue to be a good example, and answer questions and give advice when asked.  Truthfully, I don’t know any other way to be, and making people feel bad, about anything, even their choice to eat animals, doesn’t sit well with me.

In the meantime, I will also hold out hope that people can change.  That eventually, the enormous implications of every single thing you eat will become evident, just as it did for me.

EatPlantsLiveWell!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is a fruitarian diet safe?

is a fruitarian diet safe

In 2016 I’m going an entire year eating nothing cooked.  I will eat mostly fresh, whole fruit and some raw veggies, in the form of tender leafy greens as part of my favorite giant salad.  But is a fruitarian diet safe? Will eating just fruit and greens provide all the nutrients I need?

Truthfully, I have no idea.  Nor, it seems, does anyone else.  There just aren’t any long term studies completed with people that only eat fruit.  Even the amazing Dr Michael Greger at nutritionfacts.org hasn’t yet documented a study involving only fruit consumption.  Though he does have a video showing the benefits of eating up to 20 servings of fruit a day and 44 servings of vegetable.  Most notable? A 38 point drop in LDL cholesterol.  How’s that for results?

I’m guessing the reason for a lack of long term studies is that not many subjects could stick to a diet of only fruit and leafy greens for an extended period of time.  This isn’t a lifestyle for the faint of heart, and certainly study subjects would not only be hard to find but nearly impossible to keep.

There are a few people in the raw vegan community that show success eating a fruitarian diet.  The original fruitarian himself, Michael Arnstein, as well as Ted Carr are both successful endurance athletes and aesthetically pleasing.  What I’m saying is they look pretty dang fit and healthy.

But for every successful fruitarian there are famous failures.  Ashton Kutcher reportedly wound up in the hospital after trying a fruitarian diet.  Allegedly, Steve Jobs followed a fruitarian diet preceding and during his pancreatic cancer diagnosis and passed away at age 56.

So which is it?  Will fruitarianism send me straight to the hospital or to the podium?

At this point, I don’t know.  Nor do I really care.  I am following this lifestyle not to lose weight, win races or to cure cancer.  I don’t have high LDL cholesterol, blood pressure or any other health issues. I’m following the lifestyle because it makes me feel my best.

I simply don’t know if it’s the healthiest.  I don’t know if it provides all the nutrients I need.  All I know is that eating fresh, ripe, raw, whole fruit and leafy greens makes me feel really good.  I have more energy, I sleep better, and it just feels right.   Like sliding on a shoe that forms perfectly to your feet or putting in that very last puzzle piece, a lifestyle of mostly fruit just suits me.

Part of what makes eating primarily a fruit diet so appealing is that there is no need to use added salt, sugar or fat in preparation of my food.  I simply eat fruit.  I’m not cooking anything or adding condiments with super high levels of sodium or sugar.  I’m simply eating fruit as it is picked off the tree or the vine.

Also, I really enjoy eating fruit and salads.  Believe me, it will happen to you too if you give this lifestyle a try.  Changing your tastebuds is possible and takes remarkably little time. I look forward to meal times almost more now that I eat super simple meals of oranges and bananas and large but simple salads of romaine, avocado, tomato and lime juice.

Sure, I miss eating cooked foods occasionally.  I miss vegan pizza, rice and potatoes.  But what I don’t miss is how these foods made me feel.  Bloated, full, sluggish and gross is how I used to feel after eating these foods.  After fruit meals I’m energized, satiated and happy.

Isn’t this how food is supposed to make us feel?

EatPlantsLiveWell.

I’m going all raw vegan for 2016

Typically, my diet alternates between eating raw and eating some cooked foods.  Though I’m always (and forever) vegan, I’ve struggled lately with trying to stick to an a completely raw, low fat diet.  So why am I going all raw vegan for 2016?  Have I lost a bet?  Or my mind?

I’m going all raw, low fat vegan for 2016 for one reason and one reason only: eating this way makes me feel better than I’ve ever felt.  It’s not about weight loss, deprivation, or some sort of masochistic desire to torture myself.

When I eat all raw, fresh ripe fruit and vegetables, I feel absolutely amazing.  When I add in cooked foods, as I’ve done in 2015, I don’t feel nearly as good.  Even seemingly benign foods such as boiled potatoes, rice and steamed veggies draw down my energy levels and slow my digestion.  I even had a cold recently.  What?  I haven’t been sick in years.

Perhaps part of the reason for this is that I go back and forth with an all raw diet and cooked foods.  Perhaps this means my body is less able to digest these foods as I don’t eat them very often.  This makes sense to me, though I have nothing besides my personal experience to base it on.

Of course most people think I’m crazy to eat mostly fruit and some vegetables exclusively and no cooked foods like beans, lentils, bread or potatoes.  Where will I get my protein? What about calcium?  Will I grow dangerously thin and float away like a sad birthday ballon?

I’ve gone for 4 months in the past eating only raw, though I did still drink coffee then and I had much more fat in the form of nuts and avocados in my diet than I do now.  I’ve since given up coffee (yay!) and I don’t eat nearly as much fat now.

But worry not, I will not waste away in 2016 eating only high carb low fat raw vegan.  I have plenty of reserves in the form of body fat to draw on.  In fact, the average person has plenty of reserves to fast for weeks.

As far as protein, of course I’ll still be getting plenty with just the fruits and vegetables I eat.  Ditto for calcium.

Though I’m very much looking forward to the challenge, the hard part of going all raw vegan in 2016 will be eating out and maintaining a social life.

Eating out has obvious challenges.  Few restaurants cater to someone who eats a few bananas and 4 lbs of clementines for a meal.  Though I dine out as infrequently as possible because I hate eating out, I still occasionally do.

Eating out means eating lots of salads…and typically very bad salads. Salads aren’t usually the focus of a restaurant.  After all, when is the last time someone said, “hey, let’s go check out that new restaurant! I heard their dinner salads are the bomb!”  I’ll be ordering dry salads with tomatoes that taste like wet cotton balls and lettuce coated in noxious pesticides.  Please bring me another.

Social situations are another issue altogether.  Though my husband is vegan and some friends are vegan, most of the people I hang out with are meat-eaters.   They invite us places.  We go to dinner at their homes.  Eating vegan is one thing, but eating raw vegan will rattle even the hippest host.

So I’ll avoid eating out as much as possible or choose Whole Foods.  I’ll also bring an epic raw salad to gatherings.  Most people love my salads (or at least that’s what they tell me) and they provide some nice color amongst all the gray and brown animal-based foods.

What I’m really getting down to here is if something means enough, there’s always a way.  There is absolutely no excuse for me to not to succeed going all raw for 2016.  Sometimes, things are as difficult as you make them.  If it’s important to me, I’ll make it work.

If I’m committed to feeling my absolute best and creating the most efficient and healthy body possible, I’ll make it through 365 days of eating fresh, ripe, whole, organic raw fruit and vegetables.  If I’m not committed and it’s not important enough to me, I’ll falter at some point.

My hope is that after a full year of eating raw, the cravings for cooked foods go away, just as the cravings for vegan processed junk food went away when I stopped eating them for a long enough period of time.  Or I may just go insane.  But hopefully not.

The truth is, I want this to be a permanent change in my lifestyle.  I want to go high carb, low fat raw vegan forever.  Or at least as long as it makes me feel so good.  Which I’m assuming is forever.

At day 365 of going all raw vegan for 2016, when I see the finish line I’m going to high five everyone and keep on running.  And running.

EatPlantsLiveWell!

What are your excuses for not going vegan?

excuses for not going vegan

As a vegan and a fitness freak, I’ve heard all kinds of excuses as to why people aren’t eating healthy.  So what are your excuses for not going vegan?

In addition to my favorite and most common quote…”well, we don’t eat a lot of meat,” which of course means they do eat a lot of meat, I often hear the craziest rationale as to why people aren’t able to adopt a healthy vegan lifestyle.

By far the most cited reason as to why someone is can’t go vegan, isn’t eating healthy, not exercising or even not taking out the recycling is because of their spouse or significant other.

I hear this excuse all the time and it goes something like this:  “well, I would eat healthy but Tom loves to eat chicken wings and so eating vegan totally wouldn’t work for us.”  Or, “I would go vegan but my husband loves to order pizza.” ” I would eat healthier but my partner just loves his junk food.”  “I would work out but she doesn’t like to run.”

The funny part about all this bizarre excuse-making is that it completely removes the burden of responsibility and places it on someone else.  In other words, it’s not me, it’s them.

They are the ones keeping me from adopting a totally plant-based, kick ass healthy diet or a consistent exercise program.  If it wasn’t for them I would be in the best shape of my life, with the perfect diet and the most disciplined of exercise routines.

Of course, this is total bullshit.  Just because everyone else is doing something or wants things a certain way doesn’t mean that you have to do it or that you have no choice in the matter.  Your lifestyle choices don’t have to be the same as everyone else’s.  In fact, if your lifestyle choices are identical to everyone else, chances are you’re making some pretty poor choices.

Sure, in an ideal world, your whole family would see the errors of their ways and adopt an active, healthy vegan lifestyle at the exact same moment that you do.  But that isn’t likely to happen.  Very few couples, and even fewer entire families, adopt a vegan diet at the same time.  I’m sure it happens, but it’s just not likely.

So what will you do?  Will you shelf your plans to become healthy and happy by adopting a vegan diet and saving the environment and preventing animal suffering because everyone in the world isn’t doing it at the exact time you are?  That seems silly, but judging by the excuses I’ve heard I sometimes wonder if that’s what people are expecting to have happen.

The bad news is you likely won’t have company on your journey to adopt a healthy diet.  If you’re plan is to wait until that happens then you might as well not even do it.

Seriously, stop waiting for that rarest of rare occasions to happen.  Solar eclipses are more frequent than two people deciding to adopt a massive lifestyle change at the same time, not to mention a whole family.

Instead, get committed to your own healthy lifestyle and make it happen.  Set an example for your family or your spouse by doing it regardless of their timeline.  You can’t control their actions and you’ll frustrate the heck out of yourself and everyone else by trying.  Not to mention you’ll fail every time.

Focus on what you can control.  You can control the food that goes into your mouth.  You really can.  You don’t have to ask permission to give up unhealthy food that makes you feel terrible.  You can be a wolf pack of one.

You might feel a little like Will Ferrel in the movie Old School, where he finds himself streaking through the streets.  By himself.   Like streaking, making bold lifestyle changes is tough to make by yourself.  You may feel lonely and naked.

That is, unless you really don’t want to adopt a healthy lifestyle and you’re just using this as an excuse.  That’s undoubtedly the case for many people that shift the responsibility to someone else.  They never intended to do it anyway.  Probably, many other things they’re not doing in their life are also the result of bullshit excuses.  It’s a pattern.

Take some time to think about the things you aren’t happy with in your life and what’s preventing you from making that change.  Are you taking responsibility for why these changes aren’t happening?  Or are you blaming someone or something else for why you’re not doing what you need to do to live the healthiest life you can?

You need to.  No waiting for someone else to approve of what you’re doing or to even be okay with it.  That can come later.  Or never.

Whatever the case, take responsibility for your life and every single choice you make.

EatPlantsLiveWell!