Archive for the ‘Keeping it Easy’ Category

Fashion for the First Time–or, How do I buy clothes before I’ve lost those last 10 pounds

This post has nothing to do with being vegan or fit, except for the fact that after more than a year of trying to be both vegan and fit my weight has stabilized and I need to invest in new clothes.  I used to buy clothes whenever I lost weight, but I knew somewhere deep down that my weight loss was temporary so I never spent much money on them. Now, I have all these odds and ends pieces that have survived through the years.  Seriously, I have a sundress that I bought in 2001 to wear to a wedding when I dropped to 155 pounds for about 2 days.  (I know 155 sounds huge to some of you out there, but for me, it was my goal weight.)  I still have that dress and I still wear it occasionally.  It fits again and has for two years.  But, as you can imagine, I don’t always feel my best wearing an eleven-year old dress to work.

I have maintained a healthy weight for over two years now.  And, yeah, I’d still like to lose 10 or 15 more pounds, but I’m not sure if I will ever be disciplined enough to.  It’s time to invest in some clothes and quit making excuses.  That part, I’ve settled in my mind–I will buy clothes to fit the size I am right now.  The second part, what clothes?, is proving to be harder than I expected.

I need clothes that work for a soon-to-be-forty, minor executive.  I’m not that important, but I should dress in line with the important people I work with.This isn’t bad, but I doubt that I’d like wearing horizontal stripes.  I do like the mismatched patterns and the length of the skirt.  I would probably have to tone down the shoes and lose the ankle strap.  I would also like a splash of color.  I get sick of black pretty quick.  (I’m a redhead that doesn’t look good with black by my face.)  However, being a redhead means that I look like a cartoon character if I have too much color.This outfit is cute.  Again, I like the length of the skirt and the visual interest in the belt, but it’s too much color and too casual.  And, please, those shoes would look hideous on me.  (Can you say fat gladiator?)  The blouse isn’t very tailored either.  Of course, tailored isn’t always great.This, for example, is awful.  I couldn’t wear anything this straight in a million years.  I’d be pulling at the buttons to keep them from puckering and worrying constantly that muffin top would make an appearance above these low-rise slacks.  Unfortunately, when I shop for work clothes, this is what too many stores have to offer.This is better.  There’s room for boobs and hips under this dress, it has color but not busy-ness, and it manages to remain tailored and feminine.  The problem is that it’s boring.  This reflects no personal style or flare.  It’s plain.  Maybe I could throw a jacket over it and switch out the belt, but that’s part of my problem.  If I were to buy a dress like this I’d have just what I have now–a piece of a pulled together look, but not the whole thing.

Well, I haven’t solved anything in this post, but thanks for letting me talk it out some.  If you have suggestions, I’d love to hear them.  If you have pictures, I’d love to see them.  I really need ideas.  (And, remember, I live in South Carolina so it’s as hot as armpits around here and pretty conservative.  I can’t get too fancy or too layered.)

What to do with produce before it goes bad

There are few things I hate more than buying a bunch of fruits and vegetables  and finding them pushed into the back of the refrigerator 2 weeks later rotting and turning to mush.  Many of my most well-intentioned eating plans have ended just that way.  Here are a few tips for keeping up with your produce.

1.  Know what’s in season and plan meals accordingly.

You’re going to go to the grocery store in summer and see tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers dirt cheap in the summer.  Make sure you plan your meals to include lots of these ingredients.  This is the time to have homemade salsa, cold pasta salads, black bean salad (see yesterday’s post), and other such creations.  Likewise, you’re going to see winter squash, sweet potatoes and other root vegetables later in the summer.  If you match your meals to the seasons, you will lessen the risk that what looks good in the grocery store has no use at home.  As an added bonus, changing your meals with the seasons builds variety into your diet.

2.  Hang a list on your refrigerator of the produce you bought and what you plan to do with it.

A magnetic pad with a couple suggestions might keep you from forgetting that there’s a quart of strawberries in the bottom drawer.  As an added bonus, the kids might remember to eat some too.

The green sheet is my plan for the fridge. Now I’ll be reminded of what produce I need to eat.

3.  Have a few go-to recipes that use up lots of ingredients.

The other night, we made pasta and sauteed vegetables for the simple reason that we needed to use up lots of produce.  I had peppers, yellow squash, zucchini, mushrooms, onions and broccoli that were all looking a little rough.  We sliced off the ugly parts, ran the remainder through the slicing blade on the food processor, and ended up with a butt-load of vegetables for sauteeing.  The keys to making it good are don’t overcook them and be generous with the seasoning.  I seasoned ours with garlic powder, salt, pepper, an Italian blend, and a few drops of hot sauce.  Also, I sauteed in red wine instead of oil.  It made for a good Sunday lunch and a couple of good lunches at work too. When I ran out of pasta, I spooned the reheated mixture into pita bread.

For fruit, try a smoothie.  The key to a good smoothie is a banana–it makes it creamy.  Whenever a banana starts to turn brown in my house, we peel it and put in a plastic bag in the fridge.  For your smoothie, add whatever fruit you have on hand.  The other night we used a half bag of frozen mixed berries, cantaloupe, pineapple, a half an orange my son didn’t want to finish, and enough soy milk (or fruit juice) to cover it in the blender.  I froze the leftovers and ate them for breakfast.  It was like having ice cream for breakfast.  All our fruit goes into the freezer when it starts to get mushy or overripe.  It makes a great smoothie that way.

Off to the Farmers Market!

Easy Black Bean Salad

This salad is so delicious.  We ate it as a side dish one night, for lunch the next day, and as a snack with crackers on day three.  It’s super good for you, totally vegan, and comes together in about 10 minutes.  Great for hot summer days.

This is what you need. I got this out of the Forks Over Knives book you see in the background.

Black Bean Salad

2 cans of black beans, rinsed well (if you don’t rinse them well, they’ll turn the salad grey)

1 large tomato, diced

1 bag of frozen corn

1/2 red onion, diced

the juice of 1 lime

3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar

1 bunch of cilantro, chopped

Mix all the ingredients and serve!  It doesn’t get any easier than that!

It makes a great side dish for anything grilled.

 

 

Hey, Look at Me! I’m Trying to be a Blogger!

I am a goal-oriented person.  I like setting them, planning my strategies for achieving them, and bragging about them later.  My affinity for goals is probably my primary source of self-esteem.  So, in order to boost my flagging self-image, I’m setting a couple for July.

July will be the month of “Dogs and Blogs.”

Here are my goals:

1.  Exercise my dogs several times a week.  I live in the deep South with a good, fenced-in backyard.  My dogs live outdoors.  It’s stinking hot.  Too hot to walk a dog.  But, I’m going to even if it’s just a little.  My dogs are out of shape.  They’ll tire quickly.

2.  Blog more.  My goal is to blog 15 times this month.  I’m also going to take more pictures.  I don’t usually take my own pictures, but I’m going to.  Otherwise, how will I ever get better at it.

I think that getting a little more exercise at night with the dogs and being a little more conscienscious (did I spell that right?) with my food, I should see my dogs become more pleasant company and my food get interesting again.  (I’m pretty sick of humus and crackers, pasta, Boca burgers and canned minestrone soup.)  I may even see the 3 pounds I gained in Disney World magically disappear.

A Little Relief–Kids in the Kitchen

Let me show you something amazing. 

I know it doesn’t look like much, but I think these three little list will make my summer much easier.  In case I haven’t bellyached enough in previous posts, I work full-time, have four kids and two dogs, and live in a 1,000 square foot house.  Neither luxury nor time abound in my life.  On top of all that normal aggravation, I have made the commitment to be as vegan as I can be.  It’s not easy.  Being as vegan as I can be means that I can’t just pop a Stouffer’s lasagna in the oven or pour a bag of Chicken Voila in a skillet.  We can’t drive through Arby’s and get the 5 for $5 deal on the way to ball practice.  I can’t complain about it too much because it’s a commitment I made by choice and generally I’m very happy with the results.  However, on a busy weeknight, it’s difficult.

So, I have devised a plan and you’re looking at the beginning of it.  Last weekend we did something brilliant–we told two of the kids to decide what they wanted to fix for dinner.  They looked up recipes online and in magazines and wrote up their shopping lists.  I added their lists to my grocery list and got all their ingredients for them.  Then, I wrote down what we’d be eating for the whole week.  Now, when someone meets me at the front door 2 nanoseconds after I get home from work and asks, “What’s for dinner?”  I don’t have to blink.  I just read the plan straight off the fridge.

If you would like to engage your children a little more in dinner, I have a few tips.

1.  Most importantly, be prepared to eat it no matter what it is.  After all, if you want great food, fix it yourself.  If you want a break from kitchen slavery, don’t bite the hand that’s feeding you. 

2.  Don’t expect them to be able to choose a recipe and follow it right away.  For a child that’s under 8, let him make sandwiches or a simple salad.  If you’re worried about knives, find a child-safe knife.  I have a couple of child-safe pumpkin carving knives that my kids used when they were younger that did the trick just fine.  Older kids can make just about any pasta dish (if you drain the hot water.)  By the time a child is 12, she should be able to follow a recipe off a box and then out of a cookbook or magazine.

3.  Don’t help.  If you’re in the kitchen overseeing every last step, they’re not really making it on their own.  If you’re doing all the hard parts or all the tricky parts, they’re not going to have the satisfaction of doing it.  Of course, you will have to supervise novices at the stove or pull a hot dish out of the oven.  But, that’s all.  Leave them alone and let them learn.  If you think they don’t know how to do something, then teach them one night when you’re cooking or write down specific instructions for the hard parts.

4.  Warn the kids ahead of time that they will have to clean whatever they mess up.  Naturally, when dinner is over, you’re going to help clean up the kitchen.  But, if the kids don’t go into it with the idea that they’ll have to clean up their own mess, you’ll be in trouble.  Besides, the point of this whole exercise is to make your life easier.  Cleaning up after a culinary tornado is not my idea of taking the evening off.

Our experiment has just begun, but we’re happy so far.  Last night we had a sugar snap pea stir fry and Israeli couscous compliments of our 14-year old.  Tonight we’re having arugula and peach salad, corn on the cob, and coconut milk ice cream compliments of our 12-year old.  Not bad, huh?

Does Being a Healthy Weight Really Have to Be Like Having a Part-time Job?

If it does, I’m screwed.  I won’t do it, at least not for long. 

Recently, I’ve had a discussion going with some readers about whether or not being vegan is enough to ensure a healthy weight for the long term.  A couple of ideas have emerged from our discussion and warrant a little thought.

#1.  Not all vegan foods are healthy.

Absolutely.  Oddly enough, potato chips, PayDay bars, Coke and french fries are all vegan.  But, eat a serving of those bad boys more than a couple times a month and prepare to kiss your healthy weight goodbye.  It is for just this reason that I must clarify what I mean when I say “vegan.”  Vegan is a short cut for saying a “plant-based, whole food diet.”  It’s made up of food from plants in an un-processed state.  I don’t mean raw, just not shot full of chemicals that will cause it to have the shelf life of a nuclear warhead.

#2.  You can have too much of a good thing.

The thought here is that if you eat too much food, even healthy food, even vegan food, you will still gain or fail to lose unwanted weight.  True, there’s definitely no denying that.  (After all, cows, hippos, and rhinos are vegan–not exactly slim and sexy.)  However, have you ever looked at the caloric and nutritional content of beans, spinach, barley, strawberries, etc.?  You are liable to get a serious case of the trots from all that fiber before you get a chance to over indulge yourself.  I’m not saying that you can’t eat too much plant-based, whole food.  I’m just saying that you’ll have to try really hard.

#3.  No matter what you’re eating, you’ll still have to count calories.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and give my personal, yet well-informed opinion without citing any particular research.  (I know that such research exists, I just don’t feel like interrupting my typing groove by looking for it.  Check out anything by Dr. Neil Barnard.  He’s pretty much the premiere authority on all things nutrition.)  But, it makes sense to me that my body knows what to do with natural food.  It knows what to keep and what to discard.  When I’m eating natural, whole food, I get full and satisfied.  I get plenty of fiber to keep things moving along at a healthy pace.  I get plenty of nutrients to keep cells fed and regenerating.  My body does not have to treat the food I’m eating like toxic waste.  I don’t over work my liver, and therefore it is able to convert food to energy more efficiently.  

Call me crazy, but I have to assume that my body is as capable of taking care of itself as every wild animal’s running around.  (When was the last time you saw a fat squirrel.)  But, our consumption-crazed culture has thwarted our natural instincts and undermined our bodies’ regulatory capacities (thus, there are plenty of fat domestic animals–you know, animals fed by humans).  When we get out of our own way and feed ourselves the food we actually need to eat, our bodies will behave.

#4.  Not all vegans are naturally thin.

I assume that we’re talking about whole-food vegans and not potato-chip vegans otherwise this would be a ridiculous thing to discuss.  But I agree, not all vegans are thin.  Some are more curvy, not fat, just curvy.  Some seem to carry a few more pounds than others.  Some are a little stocky.  Some aren’t very defined.   Some are shaped liked apples.  Some are shaped like pears.  No shit.  In case you’ve forgotten biology class, no two humans are exactly alike.  The shape your body assumes as it grows, matures, and ages will be different than mine.  Not necessarily better or worse, but different.  If you’re deciding the merits of healthy eating based on whether or not people who eat healthy all look like movie stars prepare to be disappointed.  Some of us didn’t win the genetic lottery. 

My opinion about healthy weight has changed as I’ve gotten older and observed my grandparents.  My grandmother was about 5’4″ (she’s shrunk a little as she approaches 90), and she always fought her weight.  She was never fat, but only because she was always vigilant.  She hovered around 140-150.  If her weight crept up to 160, it wouldn’t stay long.  She’d cut out desserts and second-helpings and dive into whatever exercise was the latest craze until she was back into her size 12’s.  As she’s aged, she’s gotten smaller and smaller.  Now, at 89, she has to work to keep weight on.  I look at her healthy weight when she was 60 and it was about 20 pounds more than she wanted.  But, I think that she was just the right size for her stage in life.  Her body held on to a little extra and as she’s aged, it’s had a little extra to spare.  She’s avoided being frail and sickly.  She could get normal seasonal viruses and not turn into a walking corpse.  She still has round cheeks that make her face look cheerful.  (I thank God for genes that hold onto a few extra pounds.  I plan to save them for later when I’m old and I really need them.)  Some one could have looked at my grandmother and decided that her healthy way of eating wasn’t really all that great because she wasn’t all that thin.  They would have been wrong.  There is more to health than the number on the scale.

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!!

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