Archive for the ‘Keeping It Fit’ Category

Kickstart Your Vegan Diet

If you need help getting started with a vegan diet, here’s great news.  Some of the most well-informed, well-respected vegans in the country are pulling together their resources to bring you recipes, research, meal plans, and cooking tips.  It starts September 3 with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine’s 21-Day Vegan Kickstart.

I did the kickstart in April, and it was just what I needed.  It’s free and informative.  I tried new recipes and got to see what a healthy, plant-based, whole food diet looks like breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Check it out if you’ve been looking for an opportunity to get healthier or drop a few pounds.  You’ll be glad you did!

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.)

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.

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.

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!

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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