Archive for May, 2012

Realistic Weight Goal

I’ve been told to choose your weight goal based on your weight at 25.  However, I was pretty chunky at 25.  I was pretty chunky at 5!  There was a brief time in high school when I was playing sports and dieting pretty hard core.  I got down to 150 pounds and was nosing my way to wearing size 10’s.  That was the skinniest time in my life until now!  I’m still hovering in the 150’s, but I’m not working out 2 hours a day anymore to do it.  I couldn’t maintain that when I was 15, I certainly won’t be able to maintain it now that I’m pushing 40 and wrestling tweens’ schedules.  Looks like 149 will be my weight goal for now.  I’ve got a few pounds still to lose.  The good news is that being vegan has made losing, and, more importantly, maintaining my weight easier than ever!


The Grilled Cheese that Won a Grilled Cheese Contest

Aurora Borealis Vegan Winner

The Award-Winning Aurora Borealis

  • 2 slices thick rustic sourdough bread 
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup 
  • 2 tbsp Earth Balance or other vegan butter 
  • 3 tbsp Daiya Mozzarella Shreds 
  • 3 tbsp Tofutti Cream Cheese 
  • ½ peach, peeled and soaked in a combo of 50/50 brandy and simple syrup 
  • 1 pound of berries 
  • ¼ cup sugar 
  • ¼ cup orange juice 

Berry Reduction Sauce 

  1. Mash berries with sugar and juice and let set for at least an hour.
  2. Pour berry mixture into a small pot, place over low heat, and lightly simmer for 20-30 minutes, or until liquid has reduced by almost half.
  3. Strain out large bits and seeds (optional) and refrigerate in a glass jar (keeps for about a week).

The Sammich

  1. Melt one tbsp of Earth Balance and maple syrup in a nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat.
  2. Drop one side of the bread into mixture and remove. Then add another tbsp of the Earth Balance and syrup in the pan and place the dry side of the bread into the mixture. 
  3. Leave the bread on the heat and grill until the sugar has caramelized and is golden brown.
  4. Flip the bread and immediately add the Daiya cheese on ONE slice of the hot side of the open bread and smear the cream cheese on the other slice of hot bread.
  5. Slice the peach and stick onto the cream cheese.
  6. Stick the two open sides of bread together and continue to grill, flipping once, until both sides are crispy and middle is hot.
  7. Cut in half and drizzle with Berry Reduction.

Yep, the ingenius folks at entered a grilled cheese sandwich in the Grilled Cheese Invitational contest and won 3rd place.  This was not a vegan contest, yet the vegan choice took home a prize.  I can’t really explain why I’m so proud, but I am.  I don’t even need the Berry Reduction Sauce—just give me the cheese on a couple of pieces of fried bread.  WoOt, WooT!

Men Think Eating Meat is Manly

VegNews Daily

Culture Affects Men’s Perception of Meat, Study Says

By Rashida Harmon | May 18, 2012

Researchers from numerous American universities have determined that men feel meat is manlier than vegetables.

Mainstream attitudes about veganism and manhood seem to be changing as more male celebrities adopt the diet, but apparently not everyone is convinced. According to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research, many men continue to associate meat with masculinity and, conversely, conflate plant-based lifestyles with weakness. Analyzing the language subjects used to describe various foods, as well as their evaluation of men who follow different diets, researchers determined: “To the strong, traditional, macho, bicep-flexing, all-American male, red meat is a strong, traditional, macho, bicep-flexing, all-American food. Soy is not. To eat it, they would have to give up a food they saw as strong and powerful like themselves for a food they saw as weak and wimpy.”

Ok, guys, I think this is pretty pathetic.  Greasy, fattening, bloody and bacteria-laden is not sexy.  Neither is obesity, diverticulitis, gout, heart disease, or constipation.  My husband is a big, hairy, sexy vegan!!

Healthy Food is as Affordable as Any Other

VegNews Daily

Study: Health Food Not More Expensive Than Junk Food

By Hilary Pollack | May 18, 2012

Recent research shows that healthful groceries can be just as affordable as their fatty, salty counterparts.

A new study from the US Department of Agriculture debunks the widespread argument that fresh, wholesome foods are more expensive than processed, high-calorie items. The study was intended as a counterpoint to a 2010 University of Washington study which found that junk food is more cost-efficient calorie-for-calorie. However, the new research demonstrates that when measured by weight or portion size rather than caloric content, fruit, vegetables and grains are actually less expensive than meat and foods with high levels of salt, sugar, and saturated fat. USDA scientist and study author Andrea Carlson argues, “Using price per calorie doesn’t tell you how much food you’re going to get or how full you are going to feel.” Other nutrition advocates also point out the issue of “empty calories,” which contribute to obesity and offer no health benefits.

Jumping off the hormone rollercoaster: Is there a cure for chocolate?

“You can tame estrogen with rather simple diet changes.” 

Does that sound too good to be true?  Well, according the Dr. Neal Barnard (whom I consider to be the nutrition rockstar!), by controlling you diet, you can mitigate the spikes and drops in you estrogen levels during a month and lessen your PMS, cramps and cravings.

I read Dr. Barnard’s simple explanation about how estrogen is linked to diet in his remarkable must-read Breaking the Food Seduction.  According to his research, estrogen levels peak right before ovulation and then drop to nearly nothing after ovulation.  Over the next few days, estrogen levels rise again until they hit a second peak immediately before menstruation and then drop off when you start your period.

Here’s a less scientific but infinitely more practical interpretation of his data for me.  At the beginning of my cycle, I’m a nice person with lofty health and fitness goals.  About two weeks later, I come to the realization that none of my goals will ever be reached because I’m just not good enough or lucky enough.  In fact, the only thing that will make me feel better is enjoying something sweet, like a pastry or really moist cookie or maybe just a few spoonfuls of cookie dough.  Why not?  What else do I have to live for?

This mid-cycle breakdown in will power and common sense will be followed by a tenderness in my lower abdomen.  At this point, I will realize that I’m ovulating.  (My husband, oddly enough, will have realized I was ovulating about 24 hours sooner than I do.)  Pleasantness and lofty health and fitness goals will return.

About 12 days after ovulation, I will get hungry, really hungry, for salty food.  (Did the kids finish off all the chips?) But, salty food will need to be followed with something sweet to achieve the perfect food balance.  (Is there any cookie dough left?)  No doubt, the sweets will hit part of the spot, but not quite all of it, because I will really need something crunchy—crunchy and sweet with a touch of salty.  (Do we have kettle corn? Or, better yet, Crunch ‘n Munch?)  It may take the better part of a day to find exactly what I need to satisfy the insatiable demon that has possessed me.  I worry that one of my kids will spill chocolate sauce on her fingers and I’ll bite off her hand before I can stop myself.

Once the demon has been fed, he expects more.  He’s like the talking plant in Little Shop of Horrors.  For about 3 days, I will be a slave to the voice inside my head that’s singing, “Feed me, Lynda” in impossibly low octaves.  The spell can only be broken by excruciating cramps and five straight days of anemia.

Naturally, when I read Dr. Barnard’s claim to control estrogen with diet, I perked up.  Using the research that links estrogen levels to certain types of cancer and certain types of food, his team identified two key ways that diet affects estrogen.  First, fatty foods encourage estrogen production.  In other words, if you eat a high fat diet, your estrogen highs will fly higher.  High highs make for more dramatic (and traumatic) lows.  Second, high fiber diets help to dispose of excess estrogen in your body.  Your liver filters the estrogen out of your blood and sends it packing into your intestinal tract.  If you have plenty of fiber in there, the fiber absorbs the estrogen along with other toxins and ushers it out of your body.  If you do not have enough fiber in your diet, the estrogen will pass right back through your intestines, back into your bloodstream.

Dr. Barnard’s prescription—eat plant-based, whole foods with no added fats for a month, starting on the first day of your period, and see if your PMS, cramps and cravings improve.

I did it.  Here’s how last month went.  I started the month with lofty health and fitness goals.  About 2 weeks into it, I got teary-eyed watching the preview for the Chimpanzee movie.  My husband said, “Are you about to cry?”  I laughed and said, “I must be ovulating.”  About 10 days later, I got hungry.  I really wanted a cookie, but I had a couple fruit smoothies over the course of a few days because I was a little hungrier than normal.  The smoothies hit the spot.  Five days ago, the eagle landed and things started doing what they do down there.  (I’m not very progressive when I talk about female stuff.  My husband will be shocked that I even used the word “period” in this blog.)  I had cramps the first day only, and everything was done by day 4.

Dr. Barnard rocks.  I know one month of “much better” does not constitute a life-changing discovery. So, I’m going to do it again and see if it helps.  If you need some help, you try it too, and let me know how it goes.

Have you tried Zumba?

This picture right here is why I never wanted to try Zumba:

But, my daughters really wanted to go so I went too.  I learned 2 things:

 1.  It’s pretty fun for an exercise class.  I’m over the 1980’s aerobics class or the 1990’s Firm Fanny Lifter.  Zumba goes by quickly, wrings out a killer sweat, and engages both mind and body.

2.  I don’t know what I look like doing Zumba, but I was pretty darn impressed with the other women in the class.  They’re not all 20-somethings or fitness fanatics, but when they start rolling their hips ands shaking their shoulders, they look pretty damn hot.  No wonder Latin and South Americans are known for being passionate–they’re dances are like foreplay.  I come out of Zumba thinking that if I weren’t soaked in sweat and smelling like a gym sock, I’d be one sexy bitch!

All that to say, if you haven’t tried Zumba, you probably should.  You may feel ridiculous, but you’ll look fabulous!


Jumping off the Diet Rollercoaster: Change Your Mindset

Are you or do you know one of those people that lose weight on a diet and then gain it all back?  Do you have 3 sizes of clothing in your closet: your normal size, your been-on-a-diet size, and your need-to-get-back-on-my-diet size?  Are you starting to feel like there is not way to maintain a healthy weight for your whole life?  If you’re wondering what diet will work for you, the answer is probably all of them and none of them.  Let me explain.

My sister made an excellent observation years ago when we were all doing the Atkins diet, scarfing down lunch meat and eschewing carbs.  She said, “No matter how long I stay on Atkins or how much I lose, I’m never going to forget that ice cream tastes good.”  She really got me thinking.  What diet will ever work if it requires me to go my whole life without enjoying the food I really love?  I know myself well enough to know that I will eat what I want eventually.  I might be able to deny myself something sweet or buttery for a while, but eventually I’ll be at a wedding or a party or a movie, and I’ll let loose.  I’m not ready or willing to be on a diet that restricts my ability to have the food I love for very long.

I, and I think a lot of others, can watch what I eat for several weeks, maybe even months, and see some weight loss.  That’s why any diet will work.  If you become conscious of what you’re eating and eat less, you’ll lose weight.  But, I can’t live like that forever.  I don’t have never-ending willpower, and that’s why diets don’t work.  Whatever weight you or I lose by restricting our diets dramatically will inevitably return when we relax.  I don’t know about you, but I can’t fight that war forever!  I quit.  In fact, I quit a couple years ago.  No more dieting.  No more fat-free creamer, sugar-free cookies, lite bread, food journals, diet pills, cheating or binges.

The only thing that will make me a thin person for the rest of my life is behaving like a thin person for the rest of my life.  Eating good food (as in healthy and appetizing) when I’m hungry and finding something to do for entertainment other than eat are the keys for me.  Being vegan has helped me to learn to enjoy healthy food.  (I still love sweets, but I have a new appreciation for fruit salads, grilled pineapple, and vegan baked goods.)  I’m less addicted to junk food and crave it less often.  But, I’m not on a “vegan diet.”  I’m not waiting until I go on vacation to “cheat.”  I’m not planning what I’ll eat when I’ve lost my weight and I can go off my diet.

I guess what I’m saying is that before you can change your weight, change your mindset toward food.  Read these success stories from the National Weight Control Registry and see if you see what I saw.

I identify with this guy’s food addiction. Maybe that’s why both of us found help in being vegan.

The change in food (and subsequently their weight) came after the changes in the way they thought about themselves.  They took an objective look at what and why they ate.  No gimmicks.  No diets.

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