Why you shouldn’t be a junk food vegan.

I get it.  Even a junk food vegan saves animals and the planet and is probably still healthier than they were if they used to consume the SAD (standard american diet).  While that is all great, there’s a whole host of reasons why, if you are a junk food vegan, you should be transitioning to a healthy vegan diet of whole, unprocessed plants.

A junk food vegan is someone who consumes heavily processed foods, i.e. Tofurkey, Oreos, Ben and Jerry’s dairy-free ice cream and eats very little fresh fruits and vegetables, grains or legumes.  While these types of foods can be good for those new to a vegan diet and for the occasional treat, they aren’t healthy and won’t benefit you in the long term.

Here are my top reasons why you shouldn’t be a junk food vegan:

You won’t realize the health benefits of a vegan diet…of course, even if you went vegan for the animals or the environment, you probably still anticipate a higher level of health from leaving animal products off your plate.  Unfortunately, if you’re a junk food vegan, you might not experience the myriad of health benefits going vegan entails. You might not have increased energy, sleep better, lose weight, and lead a life of complete bliss (okay, I made that one up).  To realize the full health benefits of going vegan, you need to fill up your grocery cart with fruit, make giant salads and generally eschew highly processed foods.

Your palate won’t adjust to healthy foods…it’s a little known benefit, but completely true that as you begin eating healthier foods, your body begins craving those foods.  If you’re  stuck in faux meat land and wolfing down foods with copious amounts of added sugar, oil and salt, your palate will never adjust to just how good healthy food tastes.  Yes, that’s right.  At some point you may prefer a giant salad to a greasy vegan pizza or veggie burger and fries.  I know it sounds ridiculous, but you might be surprised that given enough time, you will start to prefer simple, whole, unprocessed foods.

You won’t be setting a good example…non-vegans (or soon-to-be-vegans, as I like to refer to them) won’t be impressed by your veganism if all you eat is heavily processed food-like substances.  Like it or not, if you tell people you’re vegan, they expect that you eat healthy…and look healthy.  In other words, if you’re significantly overweight they aren’t going to be super excited about adopting a vegan diet.  On the other hand, if you look trim, your skin glows and you exude good health, they’re going to be all that much more willing to jump on the vegan train.  Like it or not, our society places a premium on aesthetics, and as a vegan there is an expectation that you walk the talk, so to speak.

You won’t feel regret after every meal…sure, junk food tastes good, but regret not so much.  You might not regret your poor food choices right away, but eventually all the added salt, sugar and oil will take it’s toll on your health and regret will be a constant companion.  Realize that cravings can and do subside, and that sticking to an unprocessed, whole food vegan diet might be hard in the moment but will pay off in the long term.

EatPlantsLiveWell!

 

 

Self discipline is hard. Regret is harder.

We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. The difference is discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons. – Jim Rohn

It’s true.  No one escapes having one pain or the other.  Which are you choosing? Discipline, or,  by default, regret?

Discipline is hard.  Self discipline is really hard.  It takes fortitude.  It takes  patience and dedication.  It’s also lonely.  Not a lot of people out there choose discipline.  Most choose regret.

Some people consider a vegan diet to require a lot of discipline.  I think a raw vegan diet requires a lot of discipline. But I would much rather suffer the pain of discipline than regret when it comes to both.  What about you?

The importance of that quote really lies in the last sentence, that the pain of regret weighs exponentially more than the pain of discipline.  I’ve found this to be true in nearly everything I’ve felt was important enough to change about myself.

When I first went vegan, I worried about giving up some of my favorite foods.  I worried (a lot) about what people would think.  I worried that making different choices than nearly every person on the planet would ostracize me.  I worried that vegan food wouldn’t taste good.

But I went vegan anyway.  I chose discipline over regret.  It’s the best decision I’ve ever made.

Going raw vegan hasn’t been nearly as easy.  I’ve been on and off raw vegan for the last 6 years.  Yet I always seem to return to eating raw because I feel my best when eating primarily fruit and raw salads.

Making wholesale shifts in how you eat isn’t something most people will find easy.  This is why over 90% of people that lose weight dieting will inevitably gain it back. Less than 5% of people who lose a substantial amount of weight will succeed in keeping it off over 2 years.

Yet, it’s interesting that while weight loss and becoming vegan is hard, is it really that much harder than not making those changes?  This is where regret comes in and the notion that it weighs so heavily on us that it can feel that much heavier than discipline.

We’re all familiar with regret.  Most of the time, I’m super successful and consistent with my workouts. But I’m also human and I occasionally turn off my alarm and fall back to sleep, missing whatever workout was on my schedule, from CrossFit to trail running to mountain biking.

Whatever pain I avoided in not silencing that alarm and getting up, getting dressed and completing that workout is way less than the pain I’ll feel all day long when I remember that I failed.

If you’re living a life full of regrets, sit down and think about whether it wouldn’t be better to choose discipline instead. Make the changes that are important to you, the ones causing you the most pain.

Good luck!

EatPlantsLiveWell!

 

 

 

 

How to Eat More Fruit

So many people ask me about my diet. Most have a hard time believing that I just eat mostly fresh fruit.  Aside from wondering where I get my protein (which I get plenty of, thank you) they wonder how in the heck I can eat so much more fruit?

This question boggles my mind because I find after eating mostly fruit for the last few months that all I want to do is…eat more fruit. I don’t get bored eating the same fruit day after day for weeks on end.

For example, it’s the end of June now and it’s right in the middle of the season for melons like cantaloupe, honey dew and watermelon. I absolutely love, love, love melons…so this time of year is my fave.  Until they go out of season, I’ll enjoy eating these fruits every single day.

But wait, back to the questions…how can you eat that much fruit?  How can you eat just fruit as a meal? Most people like fruit all right, so they might eat a cup of blueberries, a banana or an apple a day.  If that’s all you’re currently eating, let’s up your game.

It’s easy to eat that much fruit or to eat a fruit-only meal if you know enough about fruit to avoid some common mistakes that can lead to less than optimal experiences:

Eat only ripe fruit – if you’ve ever eaten a banana that tastes more like bamboo than banana, then you’ve eaten fruit that isn’t ripe. If you’ve ever been disappointed by a tasteless cantaloupe or a firm avocado (which is a fruit), you’re probably eating unripe fruit.

Determining the ripeness of fruit depends on the fruit, of course. Bananas should have some brown spots. Avocados and papayas should have a fair amount of give when you press on them.  Cantaloupes that are ready to eat will have a strong sweet smell at the stem. Mangoes will have a strong smell and also feel soft to the touch.

You’ll use many of your senses, including sight, smell and feel to properly determine if your fruit is ready to eat.

Strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries should have a nice smell but you’ll mostly use color to determine ripeness.  Oranges should smell sweet and have a tender texture with wrinkles on the skin.  It will also feel heavy for it’s size.

If  you’re unsure about whether a fruit is ripe, just experiment.  Buy one or two and do a taste test.  You can also check out  Your Produce Guy for great videos on when to tell if fruit is ripe.

Learning to identify when fruit is ripe is part science and part art.  Getting good at it will greatly increase your enjoyment of fruit.  I highly recommend it.  The time and effort you invest will pay off handsomely.

Eat fruit in season – duh, you might be thinking. But too many people make the mistake that if it’s at their local grocery store it must be in season. Not necessarily true. If consumer demand is there, supermarket chains will do what they can to provide it. Blueberries in February? Watermelon in December? How cool is that?

Actually, it’s not really cool at all.  To get your blueberries in February, they have to be shipped from far away, they will cost a fortune, and they’ll likely taste terrible.

Eating fruit far removed from it’s natural growing season doesn’t make sense economically, globally or from a taste perspective. It’s 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, and that it had to be shipped from Mexico.

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 my favorite (and my dogs) cantaloupe on display as soon as you walk into the store. This is a good sign that these fruits are in season, relatively inexpensive and sometimes even local.

Adjust your fruit consumption to the season and you’ll be eating the most ripe as well as the most nutrient dense fruit.

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! Cold tomatoes go mushy quickly and 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 really are no benefits to making your fruit colder than it needs to be.

I don’t even like my lettuce cold so I’ll often take it out of the fridge an hour or so before I plan to make a giant salad.  Weird, yes, but there is a taste difference.

Don’t give up on fruit – I’ve never been a fan of honeydew. What a tasteless waste of time. Next to it’s awesome melon cousins of watermelon and cantaloupe, honeydew felt like an uninvited guest showing up at the party.

A few weeks ago my local Trader Joe’s ran out of organic mini watermelons and instead stocked organic honeydew melons. What?? After much internal debate, I reluctantly placed a few in my cart, reasoning that I should probably act like an adult and give it another try.

Guess what?  I loved it! 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 be afraid to try fruits you haven’t had, or try those again you thought you didn’t like.  I didn’t really eat papaya until a few years ago.  Now it’s one of my favorite fruits.  Drizzled with a little lime juice, it has a unique flavor that I crave.

All these tips will assist with how to eat more fruit.  You might move up to eating fruit as a meal or maybe easily double what you already eat on a daily basis.  Either way, just start eating more fruit.

EatPlantsLiveWell!

 

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!

10 things that are totally worth the money – even for a vegan minimalist.

10 things that are worth itMost of the time I’m thrifty, and in some ways I aspire to be a vegan minimalist.  I bought my Prius used on Craigslist a few years back and I gave up coffee in part, because of the expense.  I also hate eating out and would always rather prepare my own meals at home.

Despite my aspiration to consume less and live way below my means, there are a number of items I highly recommend:

  1. Vitamix Blender  I was in sticker shock the first time I considered buying one of these blenders too.  But after spending what seemed like twice as much as I would consider reasonable, the Vitamix has delivered on it’s promise of being the best. Blender. Ever.  It makes short work of frozen bananas for banana ice cream, and can even blend and slightly heat ingredients for amazing vegan soups.  It pulverizes almonds that you can turn into almond milk, and will make short work of any nut you want to turn into a nut butter. You can buy this blender and have it forever, or you can buy cheaper ones and buy a new one every few years.  It comes with a 7 year warranty.   It’s essential in any kitchen, but definitely in someone aspiring to eat healthy.
  2. Amazon Prime. 2 day shipping is the bomb. Being able to order trash bags, cat litter and the like instead of traipsing out to my local Target is priceless.  I have just started using Amazon Music as well, which is free for Prime members and has a gazillion songs to choose from.  I know there are other advantages of Prime I haven’t checked out as well, like Prime Video service and Prime Pantry.  This service will save you time and money, not to mention a trip to the store.
  3. Books  I buy a lot of books.  I also download ebooks from my local library when they’re available, but there’s something about buying a book that excites me.  I use an iPad to read my selections, and many times I re-read past purchases, which can’t be done with a library ebook that I’ve returned.  Don’t skimp on books. Buy them.  Read them.  Like Dr Neal Barnard’s new book, The Cheese Trap:  How Breaking a Surprising Addiction Will Help you Lose Weight, Gain Energy and Get Healthy.  Audio books are another great option from your library (for free) or with a membership to Audible (not free).  There is a free trial offer, which you should take advantage of to try it out.  Read (or listen) to some classics while you workout or in the middle of the day.  I listened to all 17 hrs and 36 mins of Autobiography of a Yogi  one winter while riding my road bike on a trainer.  Okay, no, I wasn’t on my bike for 17 hrs at once, but over a couple of weeks I completed the book.  Books will always, always be worth buying for your own enrichment but also to support the many authors out there that put their heart and soul into creating what is really a piece of art.
  4. Gym membership  I belong to a great Crossfit gym (don’t judge)
    and I pay a premium to belong there.  vegan minimalistEvery morning when I wake up and don’t feel like going I remember how much I’m paying.  I also remember that I have friends that go, and it pains me to think they’re there, getting stronger and fitter and I’m still in bed.  So I willingly get up a little after 4am to get ready for the 5am class.  I have yet to finish a workout and regret having gone.  If you don’t need a gym membership to motivate you, more power to you.  Most often though, the people I meet that are successful with regular physical exercise have a gym they love to go to or at the very least a group of friends they exercise with regularly.  Being part of a community that inspires you is worth paying up for.
  5. Organic produce  there’s a secret to eating organic – it’s easier if you buy in season.  For example, it’s citrus season right now.  Organic mandarins and navel oranges are available and inexpensive.  If I wanted organic blueberries right now, they would cost a fortune.  They’re not in season and may not even be available.  So I adjust what I’m eating to the seasons.  In July, I can buy organic blueberries for a reasonable price, while in March, I cannot.  So adjust what you’re eating and preparing to what’s available and on sale.  Eat simply, with fewer ingredients at a higher quality and you’ll find it much easier to afford organic produce.  Certainly, it’s not always possible to find organic, but at the very least make sure you’re buying the dirty dozen organic, and for some inspiration on why organic is worth it, watch this.  I also highly recommend buying organic coffee beans as well as rice, pasta and beans.  Okay, pretty much whatever you buy that you can buy organic should be.  Organic means your food will not contain genetically modified organisms (GMO’s).
  6. A bike  not just any bike, but a good quality bike that is fitted for you and that you maintain regularly.  Regular tune ups are expensive but essential, as you want your bike functioning properly so that you actually enjoy riding it.  Don’t be “that” person with a dirty, greasy chain, under inflated tires and a seat positioned too low. Use your bike for errands, commuting to work as well as getting in a great workout.  Replace as much of your car habit as you can by jumping on your bike instead of in your car.  Not only are you saving money and benefitting the environment, but you’re also working your muscles and cardiovascular system.
  7. A dog  Yes, they’re expensive.  Between vet bills, food, medication and boarding when you leave town, no fiscally responsible person would ever actually get a dog if they crunched the numbers.  But of course, that’s leaving out the benefits of dog ownership.  I have two labrador retrievers, and I take them for a hike pretty much every morning at 8am.  If I don’t take them for a walk, I feel guilty and I suffer their wrath.  They give me the sad dog eyes and stare at their red leashes until I finally give in and take them.  Watching them scamper down the trails, chasing a tennis ball with their ears flapping and tails wagging makes me nearly as happy as it makes them.  You can’t help but get outside when you have a dog.  It’s practically required.  It’s like a built in alarm clock that tells you not to get up but to get out.  Ignore at your own risk.  Of course, don’t get a dog if you don’t have the time or desire to raise one properly.  But if you’re looking for some motivation to stay active and you have the time and desire, adopt a shelter dog.
  8. Regular charity donations I support several groups working for animal rights.  Instead of large yearly donations, I give on a monthly basis, automatically charged to my credit card.  It means I don’t forget to donate, and every month I get a thank you email that makes me feel good about supporting these worthwhile causes.  Donations to charity, whether it’s your time or cash, should be viewed as a regular expenditure and not something you do once in awhile.  Make some room in your budget and give generously and regularly.  Need some ideas?  I suggest PETA , Mercy for Animals and Farm Sanctuary, of course, where you can not only donate, but adopt a farm animal!
  9. Groceries – there is no better advice I can offer people who want to go vegan or raw vegan or just eat healthier than to prepare your own meals at home.  This way, you have control over how your food is prepared and the quality of the ingredients.  Give up the restaurant habit.  If you don’t know how to cook or what to cook, take classes, solicit help from friends or family that cook or buy a few good quality cookbooks and work your way through them.  Having the skill set to prepare some basic healthy meals is invaluable.  Not only will you be saving money, but cooking for yourself and others can be a very satisfying endeavor.  Shop at the highest quality grocery store you can afford, like Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s.  Buy produce in season and limit the amount of packaged or processed products in your cart.  You’ll be amazed at how inexpensive quality food can be, such as a giant bag of organic basmati rice, an organic avocado and beans.  These items are easy to cook and provide a great base for other items to be added to, such as grilled asparagus, roasted potatoes or coconut milk and curry.  After buying your own groceries and preparing meals at home, you’ll become so good that restaurant fare will pale in comparison to your culinary creations.  Did I mention I hate eating at restaurants?
  10. Hot yoga  classes usually range anywhere from $10 – $20 for hot yoga.  If you’ve never tried yoga, or specifically, hot yoga, you can usually find a Groupon or most places run specials for your first month at a discounted rate.  Find a local place and try out some classes.  I’ve been doing hot yoga for 6 years or so and it has really improved not only my flexibility but also my strength.  A word of warning though –  hot yoga is freaking hard! I remember the first few times I took a 90 minute class and thought I might actually die in that heated room.  Which is really odd considering I don’t mind the heat and it doesn’t get to me like it does most people. Places vary, but the heat is typically in the range of 105 degrees and you’re doing movements that get your heart rate up near where it would be if you were running sprints or riding your bike up a good incline.  Don’t be discouraged though…even though it’s hot and you’re extremely sweaty, the benefits of hot yoga far outweigh the suffering you’ll experience.  It’s extremely relaxing and rejuvenating to sweat a great deal and stretch your body into positions you normally wouldn’t get into.  So try it out and see if you like it.  As a runner and cyclist, I think hot yoga is the best investment I’ve ever made in my physical health, not to mention the additional benefits to my mental health.  It’s amazing how relaxed one can be following a good hot yoga session.

EatPlantsLiveWell!

Why isn’t everyone vegan yet?

I admit, I’m not the most patient person in the world.  I went vegan over 12 years ago.  So what’s the hold up with all of you others out there that still eat animals?  Why the heck isn’t everyone vegan?

I mean, really.  I thought I was late to the party.  I know a number of people who’ve been vegan a whole lot longer than I have.  So here I am waiting for this giant tsunami of new vegans.  And waiting.  And waiting.

It seems like it’s taking forever.  Last Sunday I went to an afternoon wine event.  I watched people stand in line to eat pulled pork tacos.  They balanced chunks of Kobe beef on tiny white paper plates.  Crab stuffed mushrooms were pierced with sharp toothpicks and eaten with the fervor of a death row inmate’s last meal.

Picking my way though this minefield of unhealthy, unsustainable and cruel choices, I felt a bit like I was playing Scrabble with no vowels.  I found not one single option for vegans at the entire event.  Not one hummus dip with pita bread triangles in sight.  No obligatory fruit tray.  No neglected baby carrot, celery and tomato pairings.

Though I’m sure with the five hundred or so odd people that were there, chances are slim I wasn’t the only vegan, but it sure as heck felt like I was. I found myself getting really annoyed with the number of people holding tiny plates of pig carcass and waiting in line for Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream full of cruel dairy products. What the heck, people?

Why is this still happening? I didn’t really care so much about that fact that the organizers failed to offer vegan options.  That’s not really the point.  The point is how can so many people still be eating in a way that causes such harm to their health, animals and the environment?

Statistics show that vegans make up only 2-4% of the population.  So I guess only 2-4% of the population can read?  It’s the same feeling I get when I see anyone smoking a cigarette.  This isn’t the 1950’s. We know how harmful cigarettes are to your health and anyone unfortunate enough to be taking in your second hand smoke.

Just like cigarettes, we also know the dangers of eating animal products.  We’ve had studies published for decades now showing vegans have less heart disease, cancer and lower rates of body fat than their meat-eating counterparts.  This includes the most comprehensive nutrition study ever conducted for long term health, the China Study. Not to mention several award-winning documentaries like Cowspiracy, Forks Over Knives and Earthlings that provide clear and sometimes painful details about the negative consequences of eating meat.

So are these people living in a hole in the ground? How can people still eat the Standard American Diet?  The information is out there.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation  out there as well.  Every month it seems, a new article or “study” comes along and tells us saturated fat is ok!  Eat more, not less animal protein!  We were wrong, butter is sooooo good for you!

But here is where a little common sense comes in handy.  Even when I was eating butter and animal products all those many years ago, I never, not even for a moment, thought those foods were better for me than fruits and vegetables.

Nutrition and health isn’t confusing.  It’s actually painfully simple.

The confusing part is why isn’t everyone vegan?

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!

 

 

 

 

All raw vegan 2016: Fail!

It’s official, I’ve failed in going all Raw Vegan for 2016.  In addition to the handful of times I’ve failed to go all raw in the past, I’ve now been spectacularly unsuccessful in 2016.

It was the blessed baked potato that brought me down.  That and some hummus.

Far from being upset about my failure, I’m looking forward to potentially failing again.  Wait, what?

Okay, maybe looking forward to failing isn’t correct.  But I am back at it again, eating mostly fruit and some leafy greens.  Certainly, the possibility of failing again is there.  After all, only 8% of New Year’s Resolutions are successful, and heck, if it’s a resolution to go all raw vegan than it might even be lower than 8%.

So what’s the difference for me this time?  What makes me think I’ll be successful this time when I haven’t in the past?

I’m getting a coach – that’s right…it’s a bold move for me but one I feel confident about.  I’m hiring a successful fruitarian to guide me through this process.  I’m planning on a once a week meeting for 30 minutes.  This will provide accountability, something I’ve been lacking in every single previous attempt.

The problem with adopting a fruitarian diet is the same problem a lot of people have when they go vegan.  They don’t know any vegans.  They have no support.  If they cave and eat a cheeseburger, there probably isn’t anyone around that can provide a much-needed gut check. Do you really want to do that?  Why don’t you just eat a Garden Burger instead?

This is what I’m looking for.  Support.  Encouragement.  Accountability.  That’s it.  Not much, but it’s something I really don’t have right now.  Though I know of a handful of fruitarians, I have none that I can call on when I need any of those.  Hiring a coach will solve that.

I’m okay with failing, so follow my progress as I begin anew with eating what I believe to be is the healthiest possible diet.  Though I don’t enjoy failing, I do believe that failing at something a few times is no reason to throw in the towel.

I know, it’s a bit of a cliche now to fail more.  Many books and blog posts abound that we need to fail our way to success.  This book  by Dilbert creator Scott Adams is particularly good at demonstrating the writer’s personal connection between success and failing often.

I’m guilty of not failing enough.  I’m impatient.  I want success RIGHT NOW.  When I fail, I tend to question everything.  No matter how solid the plan appears to be, I’ll punch giant holes in it.  Then I’ll quit.

However, this time is different. Giving up on eating all raw vegan for 2016 after a bit of a stumble makes about as much a sense as a Sarah Palin endorsement.

While I can’t report success with my original plan, I can adapt a different goal and continue on with that.

What’s different this time is that I remain steadfast in my conviction that eating this way is optimal.  Though many will disagree, including friends and family, along with respected physicians like Dr. Joel Fuhrman, Dr. Michael Greger and Dr. McDougall, I still feel my absolute best when eating fruit.

Fruitarianism is called impractical, illogical and impossible for people to adhere to on a long-term basis.

I’m willing to find out for myself.

EatPlantsLiveWell!

 

 

4 reasons why smart people drink just water

I’m astounded by the number of beverage options at my local Whole Foods store.   They stock everything from gingerade kombucha to asparagus water to hemp milk.  It’s not just Whole Foods though.  Have you walked into a convenience store lately?  You might have been hit in the forehead with 25 varieties of fountain soda and cups big enough to hold 64 ounces.

Am I the only one that thinks we’ve gone absolutely over the top with endless varieties of beverage options?  When was the last time someone just had a drink of water if they were thirsty?  Oh, not good enough?  You need a beet, carrot and ginger juice?  Or a cold brewed artisan coffee to slake your thirst?  Certainly you can’t be expected to go a day without coconut water.

No, no, and no.  Let’s talk about why smart people drink just water, and why you need to just walk right by that ostentatious display of liquid refreshment without a single second thought:

  1. No fat, no calories  – the best part about water is…it’s water.  It doesn’t have a list of ingredients and therefore doesn’t have fat, calories, protein, or anything.  It’s just plain old water.  Yet, the beauty is in it’s very plainness.  It has no added ingredients.  You don’t need to even bother reading the label.  And if you’re doing it right and filtering your water at home and using a re-usable container like my Klean Kanteen, there wouldn’t be a label anyway. smart people drink just water You can even decorate your container with stickers like I did.
  2. Less expensive  – you can drink filtered water at home for next to nothing.  Or you can blow anywhere from $1.50 to $15 buying stupid bottled water and outrageously expensive craft brews that taste like pine needles and smell like shoe polish  Most people work hard for their money and must tolerate long commutes, time away from their families and a spot in the herd of the cube farm.  Does it make sense to prolong time spent in the workforce by spending your hard-earned cash on ridiculously expensive drinks? No, it does not. Is that daily Kombucha habit you’ve cultivated going to drown the sadness you should feel knowing you’re not maxing out your 401k contribution?  Doubt it.
  3. Minimalism  – I’m a huge fan of keeping things simple.  You may have heard President Obama only wears gray or blue suits, as he revealed in a Fast Company interview. This isn’t because he prefers only those colors, but because it pares down his decision-making.  He only has 2 choices.  Less decisions.  Less time spent making decisions is the impetus.   Imagine only having one beverage choice.  Water or water.  How easy it would be.  No adding beverages to your grocery list.  No need to decide what to order at dinner or lunch.  No paying for or transporting cases of beverages from the store to home.  Nope, you just fill up your container from your Brita water pitcher purchased for less that $21 on Amazon and you’re done.  Boom.  No decision necessary.  No extra packaging to throw away.  No worry about whether what you’re drinking is pure or filtered.  Of course it is silly, you filtered it yourself.
  4. Hydration – let’s get down to the nitty gritty of beverage consumption.  It’s not for entertainment (hello, beer and wine), it’s not for fun, or because you’re bored or feel compelled to always have a beverage in hand.  Beverage consumption, down to it’s basics, is about hydration.  That’s right.  Your body requires water.  After all, water is our #1 nutrient.  Not only does water lower your risk of heart disease and cancer, but it also plays a key role in your mood.  The best possible way to get hydrated is not by drinking ridiculously over-marketed, sugar-filled and artificially-colored drinks like Gatorade or Powerade, but by drinking water.  Quick question…what’s more hydrating than water?  Nothing.  Water is hydrating.   Water is all your body needs and nothing it doesn’t.  Water is life.

Here comes the vegan agenda…Keep in mind that it’s great to obtain water and thus hydration from drinking water, but that’s not the only, or even the best way.  Water also comes from your diet.  Ha!  Since you’re reading a vegan blog, did you really think I’d go for a single post without recommending you eat more plants?  Of course not.

If you have a crappy diet of high calorie, heavily processed, dense foods you’re probably dehydrated.  If you have a clean diet full of fruits and vegetables and no processed foods, you very likely have better hydration levels.  The more high water content foods like watermelon, oranges and celery that you eat, the more hydrated you’ll be and the less water you’ll need.  The more salty, sugary and fat-laden foods you eat, the more water you’ll need to drink just to help your body digest that which you’ve thrown at it.

Sure, water isn’t glamorous.  It doesn’t come in 27 different flavors and colors.  It doesn’t fizz or have any celebrity or famous athlete endorsements.  Or even an iconic Got Milk? slogan.

But wait.  Isn’t it all the better that water doesn’t have any of that?  Water doesn’t need million dollar advertising slogans.  It doesn’t need variety or fizz.  Water sells itself.  It’s the beverage of choice for everyone, from hardcore endurance athletes to hung over college students.  Water is the bomb.  Water is the new black.

Now go drink some water! Oh, and eat your fruit and veggies!

EatPlantsLiveWell!