Archive for the ‘Weight loss’ 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!

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.

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.

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