If the Opposite of Shred is Chop, Then I’m chopping

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Good morning, all! I’m on “Spring Break!” WOO HOO! Except my version of partying is writing papers! One and 1/4 down out of three! This morning is the first I’ve been lazy all break. I’ve had a week off at this point and the first chunk was spent at a conference, Sunday was a much needed rest day and the past 3 days have been spent with my nose to the grindstone. Today I’m trying to have some form of a relaxing morning.

During breaks from classes and work (taking this week off, hooray!) I like to try and push myself extra hard with my workout routine–try out some new things or bump things up a notch. A friend mentioned Gillian Michaels’s 30-Day Shred to Me a couple of weeks ago as something she was trying out. She said I’d like it since I’m already a work out fanatic it could just help push me to the next level. Immediately, I was skeptical and a little put off by the idea. Since I was looking to change up my work out routine, I gave it a try earlier this week. Level one, day one. I like the routine. It combined strength, abs, and cardio. High reps kept my heartbeat up and made my arms and legs feel like jelly after. It felt good, honestly. I was sore, and it felt good. I did different moves that I don’t normally add into my workouts.

But I still had mixed feelings about it. I kept wondering if I did all 30 days, what would happen after? Where would my work outs go? Would they turn into something that was somehow less than the shred? Also, the idea of foregoing the somewhat ritual practice of my 45 minutes of my exercise mat 4 days per week made me a little sad.  The next day I turned on the video to do it again and made it through about a minute. I realized, I was already sore and about to work the exact same muscles I worked the day before. I was about to watch a video that was asking me to compare my body to the trainers demonstrating the exercises, that used some language I wasn’t exactly ok with.

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SHRED?! What shred?!

Let me pause to say here that I think Gillian is one kick ass lady. Granted I HATE the concept of The Biggest Loser (Side note: My highschool HEALTH CLASS made us watch this to show the “dangers of obesity.” NOT OK, Y’ALL.) I applaud anyone who is trying to inspire folks to be healthier and make working out accessible for everyone. But this quick-fix-do-this-for-a-month-and-magically-become-hot mentality? Not for me. I shifted my mat to its usual orientation in the middle of my living room, grabbed my weights and had a killer work out that made me feel great. 45 minutes of peace and Criminal Minds. I did incorporate a few of the exercises in the shred into my routine, and I was glad I’d tried it and learned something. I had a great work out and I didn’t feel like I was missing anything.

So what’s my take away from my brief shred? Well the most obvious is that I’m not a shredder. If the opposite of shredding is chopping, then I’m definitely chopping. I work out regularly, using a wide variety of exercises to keep my body and mind healthy and strong. Chopping away at my goals at my own pace rather than shredding through for quick results that leave me wondering what to do at the end. I’ve decided that I’ll occasionally try out a work out video to mix things up a bit and to learn some new moves. (I still have my Jackie Warner DVD from high school. She might just be the first woman I ever loved.) I do like a high-intensity work out from time to time. I agree that consistency is key, but I differ from the shred approach in that I feel the same forms of consistency aren’t for everyone. Doing the shred made me realize that I’m generally happy with my work outs, and while I do like shaking things up, 30 days of it might not be the best way to go for my goals. For the time being, I’ll stick to chopping and leave the shredding for my carrots.

Thoughts or experiences with a similar work out routine? Let me know in the comments section. I’d love to compare notes or hear some new ideas I could occasionally throw into the mix.

Road Trip Eats: Staying Healthy, Staying Strong

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I recently presented in a small conference up in Alabama this past weekend. It was hard for me to figure out where I could purchase or eat healthy vegan food during my stay. PLUS I had a paper to give, so food wasn’t something I needed to worry about. I packed most of my food, and decided to document it to show how I like to stay healthy and on track while away from my happy vegan comfort zone.

Traveling while vegan has always been some what of a challenge for me. While I love to travel, I honestly get stressed about finding healthy, vegan, gluten free eats while I’m away from home. I really don’t think this it at all hard–it just takes a little finesse and planning. I really think that in this day and age veganism is spreading and you can be vegan just about any where. Nearly every town in the U.S., no matter how small, is going to have a Thai/Chinese/Vietnamese restaurant with several delicious tofu and veggie dishes to choose from, and every Wal-mart I’ve ever been to (cringe) has almond/soy/coconut milk and tofu and a bunch of other vegan and organic products (yes, I’ve checked. In every one I’ve ever been to since becoming vegan). But what about when you’re heading into completely unknown territory on business or for academic endeavors and scouting about just isn’t an option?

Pack it up, my friends. Pack it up.

During my trip, I had two meals out. And, well… I’ll get to those in due course. The majority of my eats I packed up in a cooler and canvas tote bag.

I’m excited to share what that looked like for me. Hoping it can help others who also get stressed about staying healthy while traveling, and will maybe give you a few ideas on some products or product types that might work for you too.

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On the nearly 6 hour trek Northwest, I ate this whole bag of Beanitos. Oops. These are AMAZING and protein rich, so it wasn’t all bad. As Brian Patton (aka the Sexy Vegan) said on one of the many podcasts I listened to on this trek: “They’re like Doritos I don’t feel bad about eating.” I listened to the first part of this podcast before my trip, hence the purchase of the amazing beany indulgence.

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Co-op take out amalgam: quinoa salad, dolmas, curry tempeh salad.

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Yup, that’d be a giant nut. Right across the Alabama border at a rest stop. The things you do see while on the road…

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GREENS! I love, love, LOVE Evolution Fresh. Bought 2 today as a matter of fact. I took a couple of these boogers with me so if I couldn’t access greens during the day, then I could wolf one of these down. And I did. I drank about half of this on the way up, the other half on my way back.

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Sumo tangerine, hand for scale.

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Hotel coffee upon arrival. I never drink coffee after my morning 2 cups, but on Thursday I needed it.

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Do you think the Hampton Inn realized they provided me with a Gomez Addams mustache?

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I had dinner with a couple of fellow graduate students, and this was one of the meals out I’d like to talk about. If you live in a little bubble like me with lots of vegan options around that you frequent going to a non vegan literate place is a bit bewildering. I ordered a portobello burger: sans bun and without dairy. It same covered in cheese. Luckily, the waiter was very sweet and brought me a tasty salad instead.

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After that debacle, breakfast was a breeze. A bowl of fruit from the hotel breakfast bar, banana, and my first ever squeeze pouch. (Fun fact: I know the guy who patented these. Very cool dude.)

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Stuck in my bag for the day: a chia squeeze, Lara bars, bananas. So glad I had these to snack on!

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One of the amazing buildings on the UA campus. Couldn’t believe the architecture there! So beautiful. This was after the conference and my presentation. (Which went well, yay!) Went to get some Thai with more grad students after. I wolfed down an entire bowl of green curry with rice and an order of veggie sushi. Can’t remember the last time I’ve been so hungry!! Too hungry to photograph it any way.

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Another Sumo on the way back.

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And a Kevita probiotic, which I only had a few sips of. A bit too sweet for my taste.

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Spent most of the road home with George Carlin. If you’re a history buff like me, then you’ll love this podcast. It’s a super nerdy, engaging narration of various fun historical topics. Carlin is great at providing examples and linking facts together. He’s also super animated and clearly loves what he’s talking about. Check it out!

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Home made pasta with eggplant marinara sauce that I packed in my cooler for lunch.

AAANNNNDDDD! More thai! Again, too hungry to photograph. Somehow, both vegan restaurants in town were closed when I tried to go last night. Some what of a bummer, but red curry and tofu summer rolls soon put me right.

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And so did this. Vegan gluten free strawberry chocolate cake! Delicious. And handmade my a local baker!

So from my travels as a vegan I’ve learned a few things that I think sum up this food journal quite nicely:

Make sure you get your veggies and greens in! It’s far too easy to settle for carbs as a quick, cheap filler while away from home. This only results in a quick burst of energy that leaves you tired later. This happens to me a lot when I travel, and on my last couple of trips I’ve finally successfully corrected it pretty easily via green juice and a few salads thrown into the mix.

Try to avoid fast food. If you’re road tripping, try and pack snacks with you. If you need to grab something on the road, Subway makes decent salads (even has spinach!) and Taco Bell is an easy vegan choice. A lot of super markets also carry sushi now, and Target is a surprisingly amazing place for vegan snacks and products. Most airports are also fairly vegan friendly, again sushi!

Keep snacking healthy! If you need to stop, try and stop at a grocery store (again Target?) to walk around and freshen up if you’re also in need of a snack. Carrots and hummus are often fairly cheap, help pack in the veggies and protein, and are far healthier than chips!

Enjoy the food you eat, no matter what you’re eating. If you get to indulge, do it! And enjoy it!

Stretch or exercise. Traveling usually leaves to cramped muscles and stiff joints. At least walk or stretch it out as soon as you can.

Any of you out there have some other good ideas for healthy eating while out and about? Let me know in the comments!

Also in other news: I’ve started Gillian Michaels’s 30 day shred with some mixed feelings about the idea. Today was day 1 and I feel great! I’ll try and keep everyone posted on the progress!

 

The (Vegan) Body: Strong and Recovered; Frida Kahloed; Cat Crazy; Self-Caring

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Hi there lovelies! Whew! What a week it has been. A very long, very weird week. A lot of the snow that’s hit the rest of the East Coast (Including my NC home) manifested in torrential rain here in Florida. As in monsoon, ankle deep in my cute black buckle boots rain. It’s taken us both several days to recover.

In that vein, as many of you likely know today is the last day of NEDA (National Eating Disorder Awareness Week). I was at first confused, then comforted, then thrilled to see a series of happy yellow post its on every mirror in the ladies’ rooms in my department this week. I was however, not thrilled to hear some very astonishingly rude and insensitive remarks come from people who saw them. While I’m happy to see a lot more sensitivity around eating disorders (ED) including some fantastic activism, this shows that there is still work to be done.

I have a little mantra that I always say to myself and to others if they will listen:

You never know what someone’s story is.

And you don’t, unless they tell you. Words are extremely powerful and can at once cut like swords and soothe like chamomile tea. Be careful about the language you use when talking about any sensitive issue. You never know who in the room has dealt with trauma, identifies against the gender binary, is LGBTQI-identified, or is in ED recovery (or has recovered). Always be sensitive.

Along those lines, if you make a faux pas and do say something insensitive around someone whose past you know and understand please, PLEASE approach them INDIVIDUALLY. And apologize. Tell them, straight up: “That was insensitive of me. And I’m sorry. It was brave of you to share X with me, and that was very irresponsible of me.”

As activists and advocates, words are our weapons. Wield them with care.

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Now! For a few links and thoughts on recent events (both within and outside of my own little life) that relate to The Vegan Body.

Gena Hamshaw of the blog Choosing Raw is an ED survivor and very bravely shared her story of recovery on her blog this week.

I really appreciate Gena’s thoughtful handling of a painful and tender subject for many of us. She attends to her ED and recovery in an approachable way that truly shows inner strength and is such an inspiration. In fact, this article inspired me to write up today’s post and mention the bit at the top about language. I appluad Gena for her sensitivity and care in all of her writing, especially when it comes to handling ED.

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I’ve always been interested in eating lots of raw fruits and vegetables, and especially RAW DESSERTS!! I’m hankering to make these raw tahini cups. Also, I’ve been pinning a lot more lately and collecting recipes to make each week (part of my New Year’s goals). Which brings me to:

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FRIDA! I have a Frida board, check it out! I’m writing a paper about her this term and loving the research that’s involved.

Also, I love this post about having Frida and Diego houses (my ideal if I am ever to be in a long term relationship).

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New haircut! (A couple of weeks old now.) Should I retouch my black underdye? Or let it grow out? Thoughts? Not sure yet. Luckily, I can leave it be for a good while until I decide.

Self-care is something I’ve thought a lot about this week. Suddenly, after years of thinking about it and intentionally practicing self-care it’s coming more naturally to me. I’ve started to baby myself when I need it and feel ok with that instead of guilty about it. Grad school, what a transformation you have been.

Love this post from a while back on the topic.

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Thai food! I got some the other night after my loooonnnngggg and weird week and it was just the thing to help me relax. Also Netflix. Netflix always helps me relax.

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SUMMER ROLLS FOR DAYS!

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Yup. Pretty much it these days.

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Mhm. Literally ankle (now knee, maybe thigh, ok waist) deep in books.

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 Maybe my new go-to box brand? It’s gluten free and tasty. A bit more expensive than the others I’ve tried but it’s also a much bigger box! Which is good because an active lady like me needs that. And I like to have leftovers.

IMG_6024Ah-HA! Now we get to the goods. I recently found this website and it’s kept me amused for the past several days. Especially the cat costumes. Oh, the cat costumes. Also, apparently cat wine? Not sure how I feel about it, but an amusing browse nonetheless for all of you fellow crazy cat parents out there.

Enjoy your weekend! Be safe out there if it’s snowing (or monsooning).

I Do Not Count Calories: Oil Pulling and My Current Food Philosophy

 

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So, I’m sitting here doing my first ever round of oil pulling and it’s weird to say the least. To keep my mind off trying to swallow the zillion calories in my mouth, I’m writing this post. The oil pulling is what got me to thinking about calories in the first place. (Also, talking about juicing with a friend the other day.) That exact thought crossed my mind: “I wonder how many calories I’m swishing around right now?” Pondering this is rather fun because I NEVER look at calorie counts on anything. Yet swirling coconut oil around in my mouth has got me to thinking. I started thinking about the rhetoric surrounding how people maintain healthy eating practices in their daily lives. Obviously this has been a subject that’s preoccupied me lately, and I’ve written about it a few times fairly recently, mainly in my The (Vegan) Body posts.

I don’t count calories. At all. Like I couldn’t care less. The only times I think about the little boogers are when I’m hungry and in a hurry and want to pack in as many as I can quickly. But counting and keeping track? Definitely not. Which brings me to my current food philosophy. Getting to a place of health has allowed me to acknowledge the sensations of hunger and fullness. I approach food from a stand point of eating to FEEL healthy, and I try to make variety and abundance the key features of my diet while incorporating moderation and indulgence into the mix. The backbone of my eating is a whole foods based diet but not without fats thrown into the mix. I get these through a variety of sources: olive oil, olives, nut butters, nuts, and avocados. While I’m primarily gluten free, I do still get carbs in my diet. I eat mainly brown-rice based goods such as pastas, tortillas, rice cakes, and a new brown rice and millet based bread I found at the co-op this week.

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During the week, I try and eat lots of veggies, beans, rice, and salads with a hearty casserole on Tuesday nights and sometimes a meal out on Thursdays and/or the weekend. I utilize leftovers to the fullest extent possible: cooking more than I need to fill up my little pyrex dishes throughout the week and prepping to make delicious dishes that I can easily heat up to keep my body pumping out the energy I need to thrive.

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But, then there’s hanger. Oh, hanger. I get hangry a lot. Too much as a matter of fact. Hanger can have a huge impact on your life and home. Hanger=hunger+anger. The best strategy here is to avoid getting to this point in the first place, which means snacks. Also if you’re like me when you get hungry, you tend to over eat and just cram a lot of food into yourself quickly. This doesn’t equate to mindful eating–enjoying and appreciating your food–nor does it necessarily promote good digestion and a healthful balance of snacks and meals throughout the day. So how to combat the hanger monster?

If I get insanely hungry, I do try and have a snack that will at least take the edge off. This is often a bar of some type, a small bowl of leftovers, or a smoothie. I always try to notice what my body is telling me and when. If I’m hungry, I eat. I try not to get to a point of sheer hanger, especially when I’m away from home and don’t have access to as many food options. This is where the calorie counting comes in. I’ve noticed that on cardio days my body seems to need a lot more fuel, though my weight lifting days have a similar impact on my eating. Especially if you’re active, your required calorie intake is going to vary, A LOT. It’s going to change from day to day based on your physical activity and what you’ve been eating.

Recognizing this fact imploded my idea of “healthy eating.” Growing up with an Atkins/South Beach/Slimfast saturated media perpetuated the idea that making sure your diet was regulated by a certain set of numbers was akin to a healthy approach to food. I’d argue that it’s not. I’m glad to see a significant change in calorie-centrism in the media these days, but I definitely think that it still exists. I still see products proudly emblazoned with “100 calories per serving” on their packaging, or large bags containing a multitude of smaller ones inside, broken into tiny calorie-conscious servings. For me, I’d have to eat at least 2 of those little servings to feel satisfied and let’s be honest I’d probably have to supplement it with something else, even just for a light midday snack.

Since becoming more keyed into my own health over the past 6 months or so, I recognize that what works for me (and I think would work for most other active people) is quality over quantity. If you run 2 miles and do stretches in the morning, you’ll be in a calorie deficit, and those numbers on a package might not match up to what your body needs. I vote for ignoring those numbers, and tuning into your body’s wants and needs: learning to listen and learning to be patient. This has been what’s truly worked for me as I’v ventured to find and (re)gain my personal health and wellness. It’s something that I live by, and you can bet I feel better about what I eat when I don’t let those numbers get me down.