How do you eat all that fruit?

So many people ask me about my diet. Most have a hard time believing that I eat exclusively fresh fruit and some raw vegetables and greens.

Aside from wondering where I get my protein (which I get plenty of, thank you) or calcium (ditto) they wonder how in the heck I can eat so much fruit.

This question boggles my mind the most, because I find after eating mostly fruit for the last 5 months that all I want to do is keep eating, well, more fruit. I don’t even get bored eating the same fruits day after day.

But wait, really, how can you eat that much fruit? It’s a common question. Most people like fruit all right, so they might eat one apple or a single banana in a day. But eating fruit as a meal is hard for most people to get their minds around.

It truly is easy and pleasurable to eat that much fruit…but the kicker is you have to avoid some common mistakes.  The produce section of your local store can be like walking into an Apple store, never having owned a Mac. It’s confusing and intimidating at the same time.  So here are some (hopefully) helpful tips for how to eat more fruit:

Eat only ripe fruit – if you’ve ever eaten a banana and struggled to get the peel off, then you’ve eaten fruit that isn’t ripe. If you’ve ever been disappointed by a tasteless dry cantaloupe or a pink instead of red watermelon, you’re probably eating unripe fruit.

Determining the ripeness of fruit depends on the fruit, or course. You’ll need to use all of your senses by smelling, touching, examining and even listening to the fruit.  Picking ripe fruit is part art form and part luck.

A ripe avocado will have some give when pressed and the Hass variety will be a darker green or black.  Cantaloupes and honeydews should have a strong smell and feel heavy for their size.  Berries should look and smell good.  Watermelon should be free of cuts or abrasions and have a nice solid sound when tapped with your thumb.

Fruit selection prowess will take time and patience. You’ll get to know which stores carry the best fruit, which brands are consistently good, and which fruits you prefer over others, regardless of ripeness.

There is nothing quite like eating fruit that is fresh, in season and fully ripe.

Eat fruit in season – duh, you might be thinking. Of course you only eat fruit that’s in season. But too many people make the mistake that if it’s at their local grocery store it must be in season. Not so true.

Supermarket chains try and appease their customers by making blueberries available in February. The problem with that is more than twofold, but we’ll talk about two. One, the fruit generally is generally transported from a distant location ( i.e. Chile, Mexico) when it’s not in season. You’re not exactly eating local.

Two, if you’re eating fruit that isn’t in season, it’s likely not going to taste great and it will usually cost you dearly. Which makes sense, really. You’re paying for it to be brought from a long way away and for growing a crop that isn’t in season.

However, eating fruit out of it’s natural growing season will generally result in fruit that doesn’t taste good. It’s double disappointing to open up a watermelon in December that you paid a lot of money for and discover it tastes more like water than melon.

You can research which fruits are in season and when, but a good way to tell is just to buy the fruit that your local grocery store or farmer’s market has on sale or on display. Right now my local Trader Joe’s has organic mini watermelon and the sweet smelling cantaloupe on display as soon as you walk in the store. This is a good sign that these fruits are in season.

Properly store your fruit – not keeping your fruit and even vegetables at proper temperatures will not only affect the taste, but often the ripening process. Nothing drives me more crazy than seeing people store their tomatoes and avocados in the refrigerator. Argggghh! Tomatoes that are too cold taste terrible! Ditto for avocado.

A good way to remember is to take note of your local Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods. Where are they storing their produce? You hopefully never see refrigerated avocados and tomatoes.

Same goes for bananas, apples and oranges. Room temperature is the perfect way to consume these foods. Though you can sometimes slow the ripening process, there are no benefits to making your fruit colder than it needs to be.

I don’t even like my lettuce super cold so I’ll often take it out of the fridge an hour or so before I plan to make a giant salad.

Don’t give up on fruit – I’ve never been a fan of honeydew. What a tasteless waste of time!  Cantaloupe and watermelon are far superior in taste and texture than that pathetic, boring excuse for a melon called honeydew.  Or so I thought.

I was forced to reluctantly try a honeydew recently when my local Trader Joe’s ran out of organic mini watermelons.  In their place were these unassuming white melons. I grudgingly placed a few in my cart.

I was shocked to discover it was really, really good! The same consistency and flavor as a cantaloupe, but with much lighter notes. All these years I missed out on eating such a satisfying fruit because I most likely hadn’t eaten one ripe, or had a few bad ones, or eaten ones that weren’t in season.

Don’t shy away from fruit or vegetables you haven’t liked in the past.  Your taste buds may have changed, or you may have just had an unripe one.

Just eat it! – now that you’ve selected some ripe fruit and stored it properly, it’s all ready to eat.  Wait, why are you slinking off to your neighborhood restaurant?  You have fruit to eat!  Get to it!

Some 40% of food produced in this country is thrown away.  Food waste is a tremendous drain on our resources and silly, if you think about it, as John Oliver did recently on his not-to-be-missed show.

Food in general, and fruit specifically, is too precious to waste.  Eat your fruit and save the restaurants for special occasions.

Good Luck!

EatPlantsLiveWell!

Going Raw Until the 2017 Boston Marathon

In December of 2016 I decided to go raw vegan until the Boston Marathon on April 17th. I completed my goal last week and crossed the finish line at Boston having eaten only raw food (and vegan, or course) for the last 109 or so days.

Going raw for me isn’t a huge adjustment from my regular vegan diet.  I typically always eat my first meal of the day as just fruit, and then dinner is a big salad. Mostly it means eliminating rice, potatoes, bread and other cooked items I may have on a somewhat regular basis.

At the same time, even though I don’t eat cooked foods very often, I do enjoy them and of course, you know how what happens when you tell yourself you can’t have a certain food…suddenly that’s all you can think about.  There is no doubt that cooked foods release more dopamine than raw foods and often cause me to overeat.  Thus the battle I fight to continue eating the food that I feel best eating (raw) and eliminating the food that doesn’t feel as good (cooked).

Why exactly do I want to eat raw? What were the benefits I experienced from eating only raw vegetables and fruit in preparation for the marathon? I get these questions a lot, and I love answering them.

However, since I don’t weigh myself and I didn’t test my body fat levels pre and post, so much of what I describe here will be subjective. Nonetheless, the benefits of eating raw are pretty substantial and I hope you’ll find some value in my experience, whether or not it’s easily quantifiable.

More Energy – it’s listed first because it’s the most significant change in switching to raw. My energy level was already pretty amazing since going vegan all those years ago, but the switch to raw exponentially increased it. Perhaps it’s all that energy that went into digesting cooked foods, and is now available, but whatever it is, I’m a big fan. This spike in energy is part of the reason I gave up drinking coffee over 3 years ago. Don’t need it. Don’t need the caffeine.

When I’m getting all my energy from the raw food I eat, it would seem strange to even need caffeine, right? I wake up in the morning feeling great, and at the end of the day I never feel as tired as I used to. Sure, I still feel tired, especially during a 20 week training build up to Boston, but it’s not an overwhelming exhaustion as it had been previously.

More Chill – eating raw food relaxes me. I’m not sure of any other way to describe it, but events that would’ve normally bothered me or caused a negative reaction simply don’t anymore. It’s as if I’ve already counted to ten and any annoyance has dissipated.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like eating raw magically erases anger and frustration from your life (wouldn’t that be great?), but I certainly deal with challenges in a much more relaxed and confident manner.

Part of being more chill comes from feeling so great eating raw that much less bothers me than normally would. When you don’t have to worry about your health, when your default setting is that you generally feel pretty damn good, it certainly overflows into all the other aspects of your life. Everything becomes that much easier when you live in a strong, healthy body.

Weight Loss – this is one I can’t quantify with a measurement of pounds simply because I don’t weigh myself. But I can tell my clothes fit looser and that I’m lighter. Eating raw food naturally results in less calories consumed, simply because the calories per pound of raw vegetables and fruit is much lower than cooked foods.

The interesting part is that even though I’m consuming less calories I feel like I’m eating plenty and that I’m never having to restrict calories or control my portions. I simply eat until I’m satisfied, and even occasionally past that point (oops), but I still don’t gain weight.

As a runner I’ve always been conscious of my weight, since it directly affects my running performance. Before I tried raw foods I would gain and lose depending on how strict I was with portion sizes and limiting the amount I ate, but it was always a battle to stay in my desired weight range. With eating raw, I find it liberating not to have to limit portion sizes or worry about how much I’m eating.

Fat Loss – there’s no doubt that eating cooked foods always means eating a higher percentage of fat than eating raw does. Even if you actively avoid fats like nuts, seeds avocados and oil, it’s nearly impossible to avoid oil if you’re eating out or eating any sort of processed cooked foods.

Foods like hummus, bread and most processed vegan “faux” meats have olive, corn or safflower oil. Any stir fry or cooked foods like veggie burritos or even pasta you order at a restaurant are liberally coated with oil during the cooking process. Reading ingredient labels on your favorite foods can be quite an eye opener as to how much fat you might be consuming without knowing.

At 4000 calories per pound and no nutritional value whatsoever, all oils are unhealthy. With a raw diet, it’s much less likely that you’re taking in oils, though you do have to be careful with the amount of raw nuts, nut butter and seeds you consume.

I tend towards a whole, unprocessed type of raw diet, so I can easily avoid these high fat foods. Other than half an avocado in my epic salads, I hardly ever take in high fat foods.

I try and keep my fat percentage to about 10-15%, of my calories, because I agree with Dr John McDougall (disclaimer: he is not a fan of eating all raw) that the “fat you eat is the fat you wear.”  However, I don’t actively count calories, fat grams or other macronutrients.  I just eat whole, unprocessed fruits and vegetables.

Food Preparation is a Breeze – people often ask me if it’s hard to be raw. From a food preparation standpoint, eating raw is the opposite of hard. I spend very little time in food preparation. I may cut up some oranges, a cantaloupe or watermelon, which usually takes at most 5 minutes of my time. I have no pots and pans to clean, because I don’t cook anything. A snack is as easy as opening a banana or biting into an apple. What could be easier than that? I dirty one plate per meal, that generally involves only a quick rinse.

At night I eat a giant salad, which involves cutting up some lettuce, half an avocado and chopping some mushrooms and peppers. It takes about 10 minutes at the most, and my clean up is rinsing my salad bowl and washing my knife and fork.

Simplicity – eating raw can be as simple or as complicated as you like, just as with anything. I know raw foodist that spend hours and hours preparing complicated meals that involve dehydrating things for 12 hours and sprouting beans and legumes for 10.

I have no interest in such endeavors, since one of the biggest advantages to eating raw is that it’s so simple. A meal can be five or six bananas and a couple of apples. It can be a medium size watermelon or a couple of small cantaloupes.

We’ve been taught that a variety of food is preferable to one food at a meal. But is eating so many different food items at one meal necessary, or even good for you? I would argue it is neither. When you combine so many different flavors and foods into one dish, it begins to taste like none of those flavors.

In going raw, I appreciate the flavor of foods so much more now. I don’t wish to combine things because I love the flavor of the food I’m eating.  When you limit ingredients to 5 or 6 at most you’ll actually taste the flavor in each individual food.

One of my favorite meals is watermelon, or ten or so organic navel oranges cut up and arranged beautifully on a plate. I don’t need to blend the oranges, or juice them and combine them with other things to make a smoothie. They are so good on their own, in their natural state. Of course that’s not to say I don’t combine items when I eat out, or occasionally when I’m entertaining. But for the most part, I enjoy simply eating fresh, ripe, in season, organic fruit.

Resist the temptation to complicate eating raw. Sure, you can go buy a book or find some great websites with raw food recipes when you’re first starting out if you feel compelled to do so. But find a handful of fruits that you love and that are in season and make that your first meal of the day. I think you might be surprised how deeply fulfilling it is to simplify your diet and how much you really don’t need variety.

So there you have it. Six benefits to eating raw that I’ve experienced over the last 100+ days. Though I didn’t nail a PR in Boston, I had a great race and an even better experience. After a couple of days eating cooked foods, I’m back to eating raw again for the remainder of 2017. I’m excited to see what I can elevate my fitness levels to with an even longer period of time eating only raw vegetables and fruit.

If you’re considering trying out a raw diet, don’t become overwhelmed by recipes, exotic ingredients and food preparation.

Go simple to start, with meals of fresh, ripe fruit or a giant salad with just a few ingredients.

Good Luck!

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!

 

 

How to order nothing and be okay.

Recently, I went out to dinner and did something I pretty much never, ever do.

I ordered nothing.

That’s right. Nothing. I drank water.

No, it wasn’t because there were no vegan options. There were plenty. It wasn’t that that food didn’t look or smell good. Indeed, the smell of sautéed onions and Thai curry could be enjoyed a full block before arriving. I ordered nothing because, well, actually for a couple of reasons.

The night before we had come to the same restaurant and I had ordered some vegan Thai fried rice and another yellow curry rice dish. Both were amazing. Delicious. Vegan.

Both were also not healthy by any stretch of my hungry imagination. No matter how bad I wanted to believe they weren’t, both dishes were full of sodium, oil and perhaps even MSG. All of which combined to make me feel pretty crappy when I woke up the next morning.

While I love supporting restaurants that offer vegan fare, I very seldom eat out. It’s just too difficult to make good choices. Assuming you even have good choices to make.

But sometimes real life gets in the way of even the best laid plans. In this instance, we were on vacation in Bend, OR. We were meeting friends for dinner. We had my in-laws staying with us. We all jumped on our bikes and rode down to check out the local food trucks and enjoy a cold beer.

So there I was, pedaling to the restaurant on a warm summer night, enjoying the company of friends and family. Though I would have preferred to prepare food at home, because, you know, I hate eating out,  I also understand the allure of dining out in some instances.

Then I had a decision to make.

The thing about restaurant food…

Spoiler alert: restaurant food isn’t healthy. I know, right? I bet you had no idea. It’s true though. You would never cook the way a restaurant does at home. You would never use that much salt or oil. Restaurants prepare food in such a way that it appeals to everyone (makes sense, right?). So additional sodium and fat are added to every dish in the form of oil, butter and/or salt to make a highly, even hyper palatable food.

Oh, and also…

There was also another issue with going out to dinner on this night that I forgot to mention…I wasn’t hungry. I ate a late lunch only a few hours before. It was a big lunch following a big ride. I was still very full.

Typically, I would eat anyway. I wouldn’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable. Because they do. When the server turns to you for your order and you say you don’t want anything, it makes people uncomfortable. I’m not sure exactly why this is, but it happens.

I don’t like to make people uncomfortable. I want everyone to have a good time. I’m a people-pleaser and also outstanding at avoiding conflict. So I would have typically ordered something rather than order nothing. Then I would have eaten it, simply because it’s in front of me, and I would have regretted it afterward. But this time I didn’t.

I declined to order and told everyone that asked the truth. At least the partial truth. I wasn’t hungry. Simple as that.

It wasn’t a big deal. Truthfully, no one really cared that much. Sure, there were questions. But then everyone kind of forgot about it. Then we talked and laughed as the sun set in Bend on another blissful day of riding bikes and hanging out with friends and family.

The lesson is this.

I learned something from this experience that I wanted to share. If you’re not hungry, order nothing. If you’re at a restaurant that doesn’t offer the food you want, don’t order anything. Going without for exactly one meal isn’t the end of the world. Believe me, we could all stand to skip a meal now and then. Truthfully, it felt kind of good to go without.

Of course, since we were there for a couple of hours, I did eventually end up with an appetite. I whipped up a quick but decadent meal at our rental house when we returned, complete with everything I wanted and nothing I didn’t. No added fat or salt. The next day I woke up feeling great, rather than puffy and bloated from overeating copious amounts of added oil, salt and who knows what else.

Truth be told, there are a gazillion roadblocks out there on the road to eating a healthy vegan diet. Our society isn’t exactly set up to cater to those that choose to eat as optimally as possible. Of course it’s the opposite. Companies want to sell the food they make the most amount of money on…and that, for the most part, is not whole, fresh, organic fruits and vegetables.

It likely won’t become easier any time soon. There will be no multi-million dollar marketing budgets for bananas or red leaf lettuce. There will be more, not less, restaurants opening with nothing but highly processed and unhealthy entrees on their menu.

The lesson here is this: listen to your body. Don’t eat when you’re not hungry. Don’t eat food that makes you feel bad that you don’t want. If it comes down to skipping an occasional meal, your world will not end.

Heck, it might even feel good.

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!

Going all raw vegan for 2016: Day 11 update

all raw vegan 2016

I’m through day 11 of going all raw vegan for 2016.  Though my minimum time period for eating all raw is the 2016 calendar year, my ultimate hope is that after 365 days of eating this way I will continue to eat all raw.  Assuming, of course, that I still feel best eating this way.

The first 11 days have been super easy.  Right now I’m eating mostly bananas, mandarins, apples during the day and then eating a simple salad at night of romaine or butter lettuce with avocado, tomatoes, dates and lime.  I then also usually have a snack of mandarins in the evening.

Food combining and mono meals

Clearly, I’m not following the rules of food combining and I’m also not having as many mono meals as I’d like.  I’ll continue to work on that, probably by making my salad even simpler and maybe just eating mandarins for my breakfast/lunch.

For now, I don’t feel bad combining these foods so I don’t have a lot of incentive to stop eating this way.  This may change, of course, but I’ll continue to look for ways to improve on both of these in the future.

Calories

I haven’t been using Cronometer to log my calories lately but my guess would be I’m in the range of 2500 calories or so per day.  While I have a high level of activity, this is probably still too high.  I am working on eating a bit less.  I tend to eat more than I should, sometimes past the point where I feel full.  This is a work in progress and I’ll continue to work on being aware of my natural satiety signals.

I also tend to eat too fast.  This happens mostly because I love, love, love eating this way.  When I eat I look like the Tasmanian Devil, annihilating everything edible (and raw) in my path.  I’m working on eating slower.  Making baby steps.

Intermittent fasting

Though I have made some videos on this subject I don’t even really like to call what I do intermittent fasting.  What I do is try and follow a pretty simple idea for when I eat.  It’s pretty crazy, so get ready.  Here goes:  I eat when I’m hungry.  Crazy, right?

This means that I typically don’t eat until 11 am or even later.  Today I ate around noon. Yesterday I ate around 10:30 am.  I don’t want food early in the morning.  I work out in a fasted state, and I don’t feel the need to eat until at least late morning.

I know, I know.  Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, right?  Perhaps it is, or perhaps not.  Depends on if you’re hungry when you get up in the morning.  If you are, eat.  But one thing I will never recommend is eating when you’re not hungry.  Doesn’t the idea of eating when you’re simply not hungry seem kind of crazy?

I hear people say “you’ve got to eat,” or “aren’t you going to eat?”  As if going for a few hours without eating is going to kill me.  Well, it’s not.

What might kill people, though, is a habit of eating when not hungry. It’s silly and a dangerous and extremely unhealthy rabbit hole to fall down.  Make a point of listening to your body.  If it wants to eat, you’ll get the signals loud and clear.

Dr Joel Fuhrman labels those false hunger signals as Toxic Hunger.  This hunger is the only type many people feel, and is triggered by many situations, including food availability, unhealthy foods and even boredom.  Let’s face it – we’ve all fallen victim to eating when we’re not truly hungry. The key is recognizing it and training yourself to only eat when you’re body signals you that it needs food.

Summary

Overall, I feel great so far going all raw vegan for 2016.  I’m experiencing more energy, better and more consistent digestion and just an overall good feeling.  I’ve even had a few social situations and meals at restaurants where I’ve managed to find awesome raw options.

So far so good!

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!

 

 

How to be a confident vegan

confident cat

It’s not easy being a confident vegan.  Often, you’re a wolf pack of one.  At parties and family gatherings you’re often singled out as “the vegan” and forced to sit in the corner staring at the wall.

Okay, that last part doesn’t really happen.  But sometimes it feels just as bad.  It can feel lonely to be the only one that gives a damn about what they eat.  Sometimes it feels like you’re swimming upstream and everyone else is coasting along on the strength of the current.

But it’s upstream you must swim.  Fight against that current.  Embrace the feeling of being your very own wolf pack.  The best way to do that is to become a confident vegan.

Don’t worry about being different…

You may have noticed a little thing called an obesity epidemic happening lately, with 69% of adult Americans considered overweight.  Apparently, following the standard American diet like everyone else is not such a great idea.

So many other habits and lifestyle choices that are widely practiced are worth avoiding.  Excessive TV watching, lack of daily exercise and eating out for nearly every meal are all examples of what most people choose to do that you would do well to avoid.

Giving proper thought not just to what you eat, but how you spend your time and money will lead to less and less “fitting in” and even more feeling different.  But whoever said being different was a bad thing?

Embrace the feeling of not fitting in.  In fact, fitting in might just be a red flag of sorts.  Oh, I’m doing what everyone else is doing?  Uh oh.  Something needs to change.

Not fitting in and being comfortable with that takes some practice.  Don’t expect to be good with it right away.  Eventually, though, you should start feeling comfortable and confident that the choices you’re making are based on your values, not on the fact that everyone else is doing it.

Don’t be so sensitive…

I realize this is asking a lot from us sensitive vegans.  After all, much of the reason we became or stay vegan is based on our sensitivity to animal suffering and perhaps even environmental destruction.  But I’m amazed how many stories I hear of vegans being upset by random, insensitive comments made by those mean and hateful meat eaters.   Bullies, they are!

Of course, I’m not defending those comments, but as a vegan of a dozen years or so, I’ve realized the last thing I want to do is let any of this nonsense upset me.  I’m not in control of what people think of my lifestyle choices, so I don’t let it bother me.  Ultimately, their issues with veganism are more about them and their experiences than anything to do with me.

So you shouldn’t let it bother you when you’re annoying brother-in-law waves a greasy turkey leg in front of you and asks if it offends you.  Nor should you go ballistic when once again this year you get asked to explain why you’re vegan over the turkey carcass at Thanksgiving dinner.  Also, don’t you dare get all annoyed when you have to explain for the millionth time that you get plenty of protein from eating plants.

I know I’m asking a lot.  Not being sensitive takes a tremendous amount of discipline.  I assure you it took time for me to arrive at my zen-like acceptance of dumb comments.  Like about ten years.  So give it some time.  But then let it go.  It does get easier.

Harden the f*** up…

Yep, I said it.  Related to being too sensitive, you just have to harden the f*** up.  Because I don’t see the insensitive comments going away anytime soon.  So now’s the time for you to learn the subtle art of not giving a fuck.  Learning that will come in handy, not just for becoming a vegan badass, but for life in general.

Stop worrying about being liked and accepted by everyone.  Sometimes, people aren’t going to like you.  They might not even accept you.  But this Tim guy seems to have it all figured out.

tim

Let me give you an example.  I attended the Portland Vegfest this last weekend.  I listened to the always wonderful and often hilarious Colleen Patrick-Goudreau (buy her amazing new book, or any of her books) speak.  She fielded questions like a professional short stop from the audience during the last half of her talk.

The questions were not coming from confident vegans.  Most sounded a bit whiny and were focused on one central theme:  no one appreciates or respects their decision to go vegan.  Questions like this are somewhat typical of vegans, and notably more prevalent around the awkward food-centered holiday season.

Of course we all want people to like and accept us.  It’s a natural human instinct.  However, expecting everyone to like and accept you (and your lifestyle choices) is, well, crazy.

I found myself wondering if these people were a little more confident in their manner that they would then get more support from friends and family.

Regardless, being a confident vegan takes some time and practice.  There are still frustrations, even for long time vegans.

However, being a confident vegan sure beats the alternative.

Good luck!

EatPlantsLiveWell!