Vegan Ambition

Plant love has seeped into my lifestyle, and green juice is flowing through my veins these days.  I scour the internet trying to find vegan shoe options that align with my distaste for plastic’s existence in this universe.  I lovingly munch on rice and beans lettuce wraps, pondering what more I can do to promote a vegan lifestyle to others besides eat and shop.  I’ll continue to vote with my dollars as vegan consumer, but I also wish to put out more positive action into the world.  What else could I create and do?

First of all, I quietly persist.  I used to underestimate the social influence of small consistent action.  As I eat my lettuce, and admit to sometimes craving ice cream, people observe.  They see that becoming vegan can be a challenge for me as it likely would be initially for them.  They see that sometimes I struggle to convert a recipe, and that this struggle produces in me an extreme amount of joy and pride, like a difficult workout that leads to long term fitness goals.  Good struggle.  Satisfaction.  Work.

Secondly, I share.  I gift my knowledge and experience to anyone who asks to hear my story.  I do not force my vegan baggage upon people who are not ready to embrace it or are too overwhelmed to carry it.  Instead, I wear my green T-shirt, and wait for them to find the space to notice and ask.  And when they do, I try to welcome them warmly from where they are now.  I show them that the vegan side of the street is a pretty cool place to live.  Why did the chicken cross the road?  He knew his neighbor was vegan, too.  (I just made that up.)

One day, my vegan ambition is to convert more people to this community.  Could I expand my food skills by preparing meals or giving vegan cooking lessons to some hungry souls?  Perhaps I could speak to some food bank volunteers, to see if vegan options might be most affordable and healthy for those in need.  I’ll sneak a vegan cookbook into the little free library just down the street from my house.  I’ll go bigger and figure out how to present a viable business plan that influences dairy farmers to convert their facilities to profitable vegan based agriculture.  Maybe one day I’ll write my own business plan, and finally build that little barn that only serves vegan ice cream, yoga classes, and happiness, while rescued farm animals lounge in style in their own luxury accommodations across my property.  One day, I’ll find a pair of vegan shoes that are super cool and non-synthetic, and I won’t have to think about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch while I walk.

I have a lot of ambition, but for now, I quietly persist.

 

 

The Truth About Going Vegan

Earth Day, April 22, 2017 was the day I went vegan.  Prior to that, I had been a vegan & vegetarian dabbler since the age of 18.  I was mostly vegan, except when I got invited to this party and there was cheese in the appetizer (oh well, I’ll restart tomorrow), but wait, I need to drop weight fast for this race so let’s try bone broth and bulletproof coffee (yuk…what on earth was I thinking), yes, I am definitely vegan, but if I go gluten free won’t I starve to death, so I cheat, but now that I’ve watched Cowspiracy I understand that it’s not just about me, and holy cow I just ran a 50K and got smoked by the vegan founder of Farm Sanctuary, and finally met some other vegans, and I’ve meditated, and asked myself who I am and who I want to be for the rest of my life, and began to feel compassion for the Earth and all animals, and slowly the decision was made.  I would go vegan.  All In.  Even if I craved other food, or felt deprived, or gained weight, or ran slower.  I was willing to risk it because in my heart I knew that this is who I am and what I care about more than superficial personal gains.

So today is August 22, 2017, and it is my 4 month Veganniversary.  I am 10 pounds heavier, my running is slower, and I am slightly tired.  But wait, this is not a post about bashing veganism, or quitting, because I am loving the healing (mental, emotional, and physical) that is taking place, and I am not about to stop.  Ever.  In fact, I’d like to thank veganism for getting real and setting me straight on the truth.

The truth is, even if I longingly gaze upon Instagram images of hair flips in infinity pools in Bali, technicolor fruit platters, and dewy skinned millennials WWOOFING on organic fruit farms in Hawaii, I am still a 40-something living in the suburbs.

The truth is, no matter what the 80/10/10 diet gurus proclaim, I can’t eat as much as I want, or maybe more accurately, some people don’t feel satisfied as easily as others when it comes to eating.  And yes, I am one of those people and sometimes I overeat.

The truth is, I am fully capable of running raw, but that doesn’t mean I will run fast or be able to see my abs any time soon.

The truth is, I am not a minimalist when it comes to food.  I’m overcomplicated, I overspend, and sometimes making my own food still feels overwhelming.

But the truth is, I have never been happier.  I am finally living in alignment with my values, and after some pouting and anger, and more than a few internal tantrums, I have accepted that the key to success in veganism lies in understanding what is enough.  Enough food, but not excess.  Enough passion, but not militancy.  Enough commitment, but not isolation.  Enough progress, but not perfection.  As I slowly learn the process of recognizing enough, my weight and my mood and my fitness will return to equilibrium.  And I’ll be in a much better place than I’ve ever been before.

Thank you for the life lesson, veganism.  I’m glad I didn’t blame you or walk away.  I’m glad I had the wisdom to turn within when I didn’t experience instant success.  I’m glad there is a passionate vegan online community to turn to for answers when I’m struggling.  I’m so glad to call myself a vegan now.

Easy Golden Milk Mix

golden milk

I have a love-hate relationship with turmeric.  I love it for its anti-inflammatory effects, as most athletes would agree.  I hate it because every time I add turmeric to a recipe, I think how much better that recipe would have tasted, had I only left out the turmeric.  Let’s just say it is an acquired taste.

Perhaps it’s the powdered version I dislike.  So, I hopped onto my online produce delivery service, and ordered the real thing:  a horrific, wormy-looking root that stained my fingertips almost as much as my other nemesis, beet root.  Each day, I reached past the ugly turmeric root in favor of my fresh ginger & lemon, until the sad, neglected plant shriveled up and died in the back of my fridge.

Then I found golden milk.  Ok, not quite as great as hot cocoa, but this I could probably tolerate.  I tried a few homemade recipes, but something about them made me gag slightly.  I am chai tea averse, so apparently, the more spices you mix together, the more my taste buds revolt.  Some golden milk recipes taste overly pungent and complex.

I recently came across a jar of powdered golden milk mix in my online grocery market.  Ok, it has only a few ingredients, so let’s splurge and order it, to see if I might enjoy the flavor.  Or more accurately, so I can copy the recipe, make my own and reuse the jar, thus only paying the $14 premium price once.  Done.  Click.  Purchased.

Golden milk mix arrives at my doorstep with only 6 little ingredients:  Turmeric Root, Date Palm Fruit (what the heck is that), Cardamom Seed (nope, not in my pantry), Ashwagandha Root (that just sounds expensive), Vanilla Bean (confirmed…definitely expensive), and Black Pepper.

Now, everybody knows you’re not allowed to consume turmeric without a pinch of black pepper, or the anti-inflammatory police will show up at your doorstep and fine you for your lack of research on curcumin absorption.  Don’t even think about leaving out the black pepper here.  No one is concerned with your personal taste preferences when it comes to the proper turmeric-absorbing lifestyle.

Just kidding.  Remember, you get to do health your own way…no one is policing you.  So anyway, my jar of expensive golden milk mix was on its last remnants, and so it was time to make my own.  My new streamlined golden milk mix consisted of the following:

1 jar of powdered turmeric (I used Simply Organic brand, 2.38 oz.)

1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. vanilla bean powder (unsweetened)

1 tsp. ground black pepper

I combined this into a mix and used 1 tsp. of mix per 10 oz. mug of warmed non-dairy milk.  I sweetened to taste with stevia, but any sweetener of your choice would work.  I have to say, it tasted remarkably similar to the original version, and so far, I have had no adverse side effects due to Ashwagandha deficiency.

Vanilla bean powder is simply ground up whole vanilla beans, and can usually be found in the spice aisle.  You can make your own using dry vanilla beans and a coffee grinder if you are feeling ambitious.

I buy vanilla powder when I can find it, as I also like to add it to my smoothies.  My precious supply of vanilla bean powder is currently depleted, so my next batch of golden milk mix might have to be made sans vanilla.  I suspect the world will keep on turning if so.

As long as I am still able to choke down my daily (or weekly, depending on my mood) teaspoon of turmeric, then mission accomplished.  If not, there’s always hot cocoa.

Vegan Closet

plant shirt

My new favorite shirt.

I’m 43 years old, and I have been mostly vegetarian since age 18.  At age 36, I finally decided to go vegan.  It’s not that I pondered going vegan for 18 years before committing, it’s just that it wasn’t really on my radar.  In 2010, seeking answers to health problems, I read The China Study by T. Colin Campbell and Eat to Live by Joel Fuhrman.  After reading those two books, I finally understood the advantage, and the choice to be vegan became a no-brainer.

I naively thought that once other people heard the same message, they would have the same epiphany.  That my friends & family would start asking me lots of questions, like how I was suddenly able to run back to back endurance races without injury or fatigue, or why my skin looked so clear, or how I looked so fit.  Instead, they looked at me with concern.

I suspect that many of my friends quietly thought my eating was extreme or disordered, or that I was restricting my food choices because of low self esteem.  Quite the opposite, I felt so positive, that I started valuing myself, and didn’t consider the standard American diet worthy of my body anymore.  I was addicted to feeling good, and hopeful to spread the message to others whose lives I touched.

But what evolved was more like isolation, like being stranded on a vegan island.  (Not that I would complain…I think a fruit farm in Hawaii sounds amazing).  I invited a friend to join me at the Woodstock Fruit Festival, an idea which she quickly rejected as the worst idea of a vacation ever.  I cooked vegan meals at home, about which my family openly complained.  At age 43, countless races & blog posts later, I can honestly say that still none of my close friends are vegan (that I know of).

And neither is my local neighborhood.  A quick search of the Happy Cow app reveals that the closest vegan restaurants are not in my zip code.  In order to buy groceries, I still have to spend my money at markets carrying meat and animal products.  Even my produce delivery service has expanded to offer meat & dairy.

It can feel lonely being vegan, but I encourage you to keep seeking out community.  For me, that started online, and eventually led to a visit to the Stanford Inn, a vegan eco-resort in Northern California.  I cannot express how positive it felt to hang out with some vegan people for literally the first time in my life, and to not be in the minority.  I physically felt that long-held tension melt away, like my insides were finally untwisting and relaxing.

Since that visit, my soul has changed.  There is no more wavering in my commitment, no more hiding my dietary preferences from friends, no more bending at social functions, so as to not make waves.  I am unabashedly vegan now.  I’ve come out of the vegan closet.  I’m wearing green more often, in case someone should happen to ask.  No, I’m not an angry vegan, I’m still full of vegan love, and I’m ready to be friends with you.

 

 

Yoga Retreat

yoga retreat

This one is called ‘Panic Pose’

After my recent beach trip, I set off on my much anticipated yoga retreat to the George Washington National Forest.  Yoga is something I suck at, but enjoy.  What I love about yoga is that you are allowed to suck, and this act of sucking is kindly referred to as an ‘individual practice’.  If sucking is too much trouble, you are always free to revert to ‘child’s pose’.

Last week, I was chatting with a friend who is new to yoga, and she described how her first yoga class was such a disappointment.  It was a little too confusing, hard core, and Sanskrit-spewing for her taste, so she promptly decided yoga wasn’t for her and never went back.  I get that.

I imagine she is not the only woman who has felt this way, exhausted and disheveled from a sweat-filled power yoga session, lower back twinging, while the lululemon-clad twenty-somethings remain glistening and beautiful on their way to grab a green juice.  Don’t even get me started on the intimidation guys feel.  My husband insists that he would be denied entry since his bald head is incapable of producing a man bun.

I recently discussed this with a thoughtful young instructor who had the body of a goddess, and even she admitted that some classes have evolved (due to demand) to be more like high intensity workout sessions masquerading as yoga.  Glad I’m not the only one thinking this.  I am also thinking, “Why did I not have her body when I was that age?” but I digress.

As I told my friend, if you’ve been to one yoga class, you’ve been to one yoga class.  Yoga classes and yoga studios are as unique as the many yoga instructors who teach them.  You have to try a few on, date around, until you find a good match.

Once you find an instructor or a style of class that resonates with you, you will experience the yoga buzz firsthand.  If you walk away feeling disappointment, then move on, but do keep looking.  Nothing beats the serenity of a good yoga buzz, surrounded by your happy yoga forcefield, inpenetrable by the grumpy people or aggressive drivers you will invariably encounter on the way home.

It took some time for me to find a good instructor, and of course, my favorite instructor will be different from yours.  My current instructor is close to my age, spiritually curious, sporting a cool tattoo, singing bowls, and is newly vegetarian (I think I’m rubbing off on her).  She’s also a smoothie entrepreneur, tree hugger, and she will hike your ass into the ground, because she’s cool like that.  I’ve seen butterflies land on her.  Enough said.

Accordingly, her yoga retreat was amazing.  Totally unplugged, rustic mountain cabins with bunk beds, drum circle, bonfires, babbling streams, ridiculously good vegan food (at my request), and a hike she described as featuring a small ‘rock scramble’, which turned out to be a death-defying mountaintop climb over boulders the size of small cars upon the summit of which she did a balance pose while I sat trying to stop shaking with fear.

That very same hike is the reason I love my yoga instructor and her adventurous spirit.  I am so grateful to have returned to my yoga practice this year.  Like every other form of movement I pursue, I try to embrace being in over my head.  Yoga is one of the few practices that will literally turn you upside down if you allow it to.  Namaste.

Super Seed Smoothie Mix

I remember when food was what we ate for nourishment, chosen for its color, freshness, and taste.  These days, our food choices seem more driven by macronutrient content.  Ah, macronutrients:  protein, fat, and carbohydrate.  You have so little to do with wholeness and enjoyment, and so much to do with reductionism and stress.

When did we forget about eating whole foods and start breaking down every morsel into isolated components?  I believe the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, which is why it turned out to be detrimental to our health when we isolated and concentrated macronutrients from actual real food.

Flour and sugar?  Isolated carbohydrate.  Oil?  Isolated fat.  Not exactly what we consider health foods.  Following this same logic, why should we consider protein powder a health food?  Isn’t this just another isolated macronutrient?  Not just that, protein powder is often mixed with sweeteners and other additives that aren’t doing us any favors.  And oh, by the way, it is super expensive.

Now, I love me a good smoothie, but I began to question why I was avoiding flour and oil at all costs, yet purchasing protein powders with reckless abandon in the name of health.  There had to be a better, more simple way.  That’s why I created my Super Seed Smoothie Mix.  It’s easy, less expensive, and tastes good.  I’ll share the formula with you, but it is so simple, it barely qualifies as a ‘recipe’…one more reason that I like it!

Super Seed Smoothie Mix (Makes 3 Cups)

1 cup ground flaxseed

1 cup chia seeds

1 cup hemp hearts

Mix all ingredients and store the mixture in an airtight container in the freezer.  I add 1-2 Tbsp. to my morning smoothie each day.  I rarely use protein powders or non-dairy milk in my smoothies these days.  I just use water, frozen fruit (usually including banana for sweetness and texture), and a scoop of my Super Seed Smoothie Mix.  The flaxseed provides fiber, the chia seed helps thicken the smoothie, and the hemp hearts provide some satisfying fats.  I hope you and your wallet enjoy this simple tip.

Imperfectly Vegan

I like to think of myself as vegan.  I’m not actually a card carrying member (I don’t know if a card even exists…maybe a Whole Foods gift card?!) but it’s a dietary choice I strongly identify with and enjoy.  This summer I took a trip to France, where I subsisted for a week on mostly bread, cheese, eggs, and red wine.  I wanted to experience the local cuisine, and my host graciously prepared vegetarian meals for me all week.  I valued the chef’s extra effort in planning and preparing my vegetarian meals, and I felt extremely grateful for them.  They were absolutely delicious.  Has my vegan card been revoked?  Maybe, but I hope not.

Is your diet ruined because of one week?  Is a commitment to losing weight ruined because of one dessert, or a marathon training plan ruined because of one missed long run?  Only if you judge yourself negatively do you give a single choice power over your greater intention.  Perfection is the enemy of progress, in my opinion.  I returned to my imperfectly vegan routine once I arrived back home in the United States, and that got me reflecting on why I eat this way.  It is certainly not to be perfect or critical of myself, but rather:

It makes me feel good about every bite I take.  There is a lot of guilt over eating when you are a girl, and being vegan refrains eating into something positive.  I know I am eating to help the environment, to be compassionate, to be healthy, and to enjoy my food guilt-free.

It forces me to be humble.  Being vegan means I don’t feel entitled to eat anything I want.  I have to consider the bigger picture, and where my needs fit into that.  It helps place the importance of other things before my own needs.

It helps me be mindful of my eating habits.  I have to make conscious choices, and consider what is in my food.  This habit spills over to other areas of living.  I am more thoughtful in where I spend my money, in how I spend my time, and in all the little choices I make throughout my day .  It forces me to pause before I take action.

It promotes creativity.  It’s fun to pour over recipes and ponder how I can make them vegan.  I also have to think out of the box when traveling or attending social functions.  A good plant-based meal can be as colorful as a work of art.  It keeps my mind sharp and my senses happy.

It promotes simplicity.  Having limits on my choices prevents decision fatigue.  I can skip over certain sections of the grocery store.  On days I feel tired, I can toss a few veggies in a bowl with rice and call it a meal.

It makes eating inconvenient.  Let’s face it, cooking from scratch is more work, it takes more time, so it makes food feel valuable, something to be savored.  It’s tough living in America, where calories are cheap, fast, and easy.  In many ways we are all victims of convenience when it comes to overeating.

It tastes good.  This is a subjective one, but I’ve preferred plants over animals my whole life, and so I simply enjoy the taste.  Colorful, clean, simple.

People can thrive on a variety of diets, and athletes can excel through many nutritional paths.  All it takes is 5 minutes of browsing in the nutrition section of your local bookstore to realize that you will never find non-conflicting answers on what to eat for optimal health.  That’s why I gave up asking other people and started listening to my heart.  At that point, the choice became clear.