Archive for April, 2012

I need to lose a few pounds. Please pass me some carbs.

My biggest obstacle to being vegan is my own headtrash.  I’ve been told for so long that I need a certain amount of protein and that I need to stay away from carbs that I find that mindset sneaking back in.  In my gut I know that feeding oneself should not require a degree in chemistry.  But, in my head, I can’t always shake off all those tired old formulas for weight loss.

Yesterday, I  read a wonderful book that makes losing weight and keeping it off with a whole foods, plant-based diet simple.  It’s called Foods That Cause You to Lose Weight:  The Negative Calorie Effect by Dr. Neal Barnard.  Although this book is a compilation of some pretty technical research, Dr. Barnard’s conversational style makes it accessible.  He spells out in plain language how carbohydrates are used for energy, are not easily stored in the body as fat, and are the key to keeping your metabolism healthy.  I made it through the whole book in just a few hours while I waited for my son’s baseball practice to end.  Dr. Barnard’s explanations make sense and are grounded in science.  I’m going to make a conscientious effort to eat more grains (like brown rice, barley, and whole wheat pasta), beans (like black beans, chick peas, and lentils), vegetables and fruit.  In fact, I’m going to eat until I’m satisfied, and when I get hungry, I’m going to eat some more.  No deprivation allowed.  I’m just going to fill my plate with grains, beans, vegetables, fruit, and food that comes directly from them (like tempeh, soy milk, smoothies, low-fat vegan desserts, salads, cereals, breads, etc.) and enjoy!

Doesn't that look filling? I didn't make this dish of it, but I could...

Dr. Barnard’s work warrants lots of attention really.  I read another book of his last week called Breaking the Food Seduction:  The Hidden Reasons Behind Food Cravings–and 7 Ways to End Them Naturally. 

I think this book might be the key to what I’ve been missing all along.  I have been fighting against my cravings my whole life.  I can beat them back for a while, but eventually I’ll have a moment (or month) of weakness and they’ll get me again.  How many times have I marveled at people who can eat a single slice of cake and then forget that the rest of it is beckoning from the kitchen?  How many times have I wished that I could be one of the people who could effortlessly pass the doughnuts in the break room at work?  Why is it that junk food has had such a hold on me when I don’t want it to?  How can I break away from it long enough to establish good eating habits that don’t dessert me at the first sign of stress?  I think Dr. Barnard might have the answers, and they lie in embracing a whole foods, plant-based diet rich in carbohydrates and low in fat.  If you struggle with emotional eating or stress eating or food cravings, you need to read and reread Breaking the Food Seduction. And, then you need to tell me what you think about it.

Lani Muelrath is my hero

Ten years ago, Lani Muelrath lost 50 pounds and launched a new life and new career.  She’s a fitness and plant-based, whole food expert who has her own training programs as she consults for some of the biggest and most reputable names in the vegan world. I think her transformation is amazing.  It’s like she made time stand still. 

Right now, I’m probably between her 2000 and 2001 picture, but I’ll be at 2006 someday.  Thanks for sharing with us, Lani!

You need this chopper

My husband brought one of these home a year or so ago, and we’ve just loved it. 

Here’s why:

  • it’s safe enough for the kids to use.  Their hands never come in contact with the sharp edges.
  • it comes apart and goes in the dishwasher.  The top piece requires more attention, but it comes with a tool that cleans it out pretty easily.
  • the pieces are uniform.  I have had other choppers (like Pampered Chef’s, Styliss, the Slap Chopper, and a small electric one), but they’ve all given me a mixture of tiny shreds and giant hunks.
  • it comes with 2 different sized grates for smaller pieces.  One is good for a soup or salad.  The other is good for salsa.

I think my husband paid about $15 for it.  Well worth it.  I highly recommend you pick one up for yourself.

This is what it looks like in the box. Go ahead and get your sister one too while you're at it.

How much protein do we really need?

I get asked about protein and calcium every time I tell someone I’m trying to be vegan.  It amazes me how well we’ve all been brainwashed into believing that only meat has good protein and only milk has good calcium.

Let’s go over a few simple facts that have put my mind at ease about my potential deficiencies:

1.  Behind these questions about protein and calcium is the assumption that non-vegans have all the nutrition they need.  In fact, that is not always the case.  Vitamin D, C and E deficiencies are common among meat eaters.  Omega 3’s also have a tendency to be out of proportion with omega 6’s because of the inordinate amount of omega 6’s in processed foods.  Beta carotene intake is often lower than it should be, and so is fiber intake. Vegans, on the other hand, may have low levels of one B vitamin, but only if they don’t drink fortified soy milk, which I do. Otherwise, the vegan diet is complete without supplements.

2.  If increasing your protein made you thin, than the United States should be the thinnest country in the world.  We have a protein-heavy diet and yet we are getting fatter and sicker all the time.

3.  When was the last time you heard of a cow, hippo, giraffe, or whale with a protein or calcium deficiency?  They don’t eat meat.  They don’t drink milk once they’re adults.  The largest mammals in the world are vegan.  How many gorillas suffer from osteoporosis?  They don’t drink milk either once they’re out of their infancy. 

4.  Countries that consume the most dairy have  higher rates of osteoporosis.  The condition is almost unheard of in areas of the world where milk is not consumed (rural Asia).  Here’s why:  Excessive protein, like the type found in animal products, causes your body to become more acidic.  Your body, in order to keep its pH balanced, uses the calcium stored in your bones to bring your body chemistry into balance (like a Tums for your circulatory system).  Thus, your body loses calcium at a higher rate when animal products such as milk are consumed.  If you didn’t need to leach calcium out of your bones to straighten out your body chemistry, you wouldn’t need to consume such high amounts of it or risk lower bone density.  By the way, grown cows don’t drink milk.  They get their calcium the same way vegans do–from greens.

 I should follow the protein question with a few of my own.  The conversation may go like this:

“As a meat eater, where do you get your fiber since animal products don’t have fiber and a lack of fiber has been linked to certain cancers?”  …Pause for interesting answer…

“What about the calcium deficiency that comes from having an acidic pH?”…pause for another answer that will probably cite some experts called “they”….

“Where do you get your vitamins?”…pause for explanation of how some of their meat and cheese has vegetables under it in a salad…

I wouldn’t ask any of those questions obviously because that’s obnoxious and really none of my business.  Besides, meat eaters may have very complete, well-rounded diets.  They’d have to be very conscientious and plan their meals carefully to fit in all the nutrition they need without exceeding their caloric boundaries, but they could do it.  I respect that and wouldn’t dream of interrogating them over it.  Maybe someday my well-meaning friends will feel the same way about me.

What’s the Point of Exercise?

I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to realize this.  Maybe it’s because I assumed the machines at the gym were just wrong.  Maybe I just don’t really understand what a calorie is.  Maybe I was just willingly ignorant.  But here’s the truth:

I would say things like, “It’s alright–I’ll work it off later,” or “it’s okay since I work out,”  but I know that’s not true.  I mean, look at the Biggest Loser.  Those people work out like athletes and eat nothing but product-placed diet food.  As big as they are, even the most miniscule exercise should burn tons of calories.  Yet, every week, somebody steps off the scale teary-eyed and begs their team to believe that they really tried and they don’t know how they only lost 2 pounds.

I’ll eat a cookie and a cappuccino from Starbucks vowing to work it off later.  If I get a soy milk cappuccino and a fairly plain cookie, I’m probably looking at about 300 calories.  When I go jogging later for 30 minutes, I’ll burn most, but not all of that.  That wouldn’t be so bad if that was the only thing I overate today or ever.  But, if I’m jogging to lose weight, I need to be burning off what I ate yesterday or last year or 10 years ago.  Spending 30 minutes working off most of a mid-morning snack that took me a minute and a half to eat is a waste.  Why bother?

Here’s the real reason to exercise:  Exercise makes your muscles insulin sensitive so that when they get fed (when you eat) they’ll more readily produce leptin, the hormone that signals fullness.  Here’s another one:  Exercise makes you sweat so that you can fast track toxins straight out of your body.  Here’s another one:  Exercise makes you sleep longer and more restfully so that your body can repair itself and operate more efficiently.  Here’s another one:  Exercise promotes strength and flexibility (when it’s done correctly) so that you retain your youthful vigor longer (or rediscover it).

Here’s the bottom line:  Your weight correlates more closely with your diet than it does your exercise.  If you want to lose weight, eat better.  If you want to feel good while you do it, exercise.

Raspberry Ketones? Let’s take a reality check.

I know Dr. Oz recommended that folks struggling with obesity and Type 2 diabetes should look into taking raspberry ketone supplements.  Apparently, in recent studies of fat mice, raspberry ketones helped them melt off body fat.  The mice eating raspberry ketones secreted adiponectin, a hormone which regulates the metabolism of sugar and fat.  The more adiponectin on has, the less fat one stores.  Thus, the group conducting the study released data suggesting that raspberry ketones could be a potential fat burning wonder drug.

Here’s the part that may be a bit of a buzz kill for anyone looking for a fat-burning wonder drug.  (But, we should have read enough press releases on scientific studies to know to look for the fine print by now.)  These mice were fed exorbitant amounts of ketones–up to 2% of their daily caloric intake.  Now, for an adult, that could be 200 calories.  And, remember, we’re not talking about raspberries.  We’re talking about one chemical in raspberries, the chemical responsible for their smell.  To get the same environment that rats in the study got, you would have to eat over 90 pounds of raspberries a day.  Not possible, right?  Not even desirable.  Clearly, nature did not intend for us to have 2% of our daily calories originate in ketones.

Also, the natural compound is extremely expensive.  The stuff we’d get in the supplement is manufactured synthetically.  When humans upped their normal intake 200 times, no effect on body weight was observed.  Check out the article on wikipedia.  It’s very well documented and was published before the Dr. Oz show mentioned the supplements.

For folks who are struggling with obesity and type 2 diabetes, I’m sorry that somebody got your hopes up again.  I know they have because GNC sold out of their raspberry ketone supplements within days of Dr. Oz’s show.  You rushed out to get it.  Just like we scrambled to buy chromium picolinate back in the day, then green tea extract, then hoodia.  I can’t even begin to list the not-so-natural ones like Dexatrim, phen-fen, Hydroxycut, Redux, Xenical, Alli, etc., etc. 

 

There is a natural way to lose weight–eat the highest quality, most natural food you can afford and enjoy your life.

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