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I ended my vegan diet after six days instead of the promised seven. I felt I had ‘proven’ my experiment but I was also very tired, and let’s face it…. hungry. In my vegan experiment, I chose to eat ONLY whole foods;  food that occurred in nature. I did not eat bread or bread-like items or absolutely ANY artificially flavored/sweetened/colored items. Much of the food I did eat was cooked however; it was not a raw diet. I also stayed away from processed vegan items like soy milk and almond milk, tofu, etc. While the food that makes up these items DOES occur in nature, the resulting product does not.

Many will say my experiment was a little extreme; I wanted to see if a hunter-gatherer would be able to survive on vegetables, fruit, beans, and nuts alone. I don’t mean the average person with a handy-dandy Whole Foods down the road, obviously it is very possible to survive and even thrive with veganism, assuming you have supplements and processed vegan food that provides all the necessary protein and vitamins. But could you not only survive, but THRIVE, without them? My conclusion is no, you cannot.

On all six days of my experiment, I failed to eat enough calcium and protein; in fact, I was only ever able to consume half of the daily recommendation. Many Vegans get their calcium from fortified orange juice, soy milk and tofu. However, my argument is, those fortified items DO NOT occur in nature. Of course, I could have eaten a much much larger salad of dark leafy greens to get enough calcium, but that would require eating six cups of kale every day or three cups of cooked collard greens. A non-vegan hunter-gatherer would need to drink three cups of milk (we will not mention yogurt or cheese because these things also do not ‘occur in nature’) which, I feel, is much more likely to obtain than finding/growing this large of an amount of calcium rich vegetables, not to mention the off-seasons which would not allow vegetable cultivation. Realistically, while it is not impossible, it would be very difficult, assuming a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, to survive and THRIVE off of calcium-rich vegetables alone. As for protein, said individual would need to find and eat five cups of spinach or two cups of almonds to get between 50-60 grams of protein. A meat eater would get 70 grams or more of protein by consuming HALF of a turkey/chicken breast. I feel that an individual living this lifestyle would have a much better chance of not only surviving but THRIVING assuming they found and ate eggs, raw milk and meat protein.

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Inconveniences

My experiment required me to shop, cook, and consequently, wash a lot more dishes than I am usually accustomed to. It was also significantly more expensive even though I pinched pennies every way that I could. I also had to plan my meals out very meticulously to ensure I would use my fresh produce before it was wasted and to ensure I got the right balance of vitamins and protein on a day to day basis.

Conclusion

Please do not think I am against veganism or vegetarianism; on the contrary, I was AMAZED at the amount of vitamins, fiber, etc I WAS able to get, quite easily, during my vegan experiment. I was able to consume significantly more Iron with veganism than during my regular eating habits, as well as Vitamin C, Vitamin A, and Potassium. I believe that vegetables, fruit, beans and nuts are extremely important for a healthy balanced diet and I plan to eat much more of them now then I ever have before. But I also believe that SMALL amounts of dairy and even occasional organic, cage-free meat are extremely beneficial in not only surviving but THRIVING, long term. Notice I say small amounts; not the enormously large servings that most Americans are used to consuming that lead to obesity, heart disease and colon cancer.

 

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However, I understand that there are many complex and multi-faceted reasons why people choose to be vegetarians and vegans that have health, social, environmental and moral implications. Obviously we do NOT have to live hunter-gatherer lifestyles any more and with the incredible innovative supplements and fortified foods we have today, both veganism and vegetarianism are very ‘doable’ and even very healthy, though I still do not feel they are necessarily ‘natural’, ironically.

I have nothing but respect for vegans and vegetarians  alike, and I am in no way discouraging either from their lifestyles. 

On a side note, artificial flavors, colors and sweeteners are a major health concern and should be avoided at all costs. It’s worth saying that I felt very good knowing that EVERYTHING that I consumed during the entire six days of this experiment occurred naturally in nature, from organic tea as my beverage to all of the spices I used. Do we really need chemically colored purple cupcakes sweetened with more chemicals? That’s an argument to save for another time.

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Vegan Day Two

Overall I felt very good today ; a little tired perhaps and achy, but after eating a banana I felt perfectly normal.

For breakfast I had old-fashioned oats with dried cranberries and one teaspoon of clover honey. Making the oats was very easy but eating them was tiresome; a bit like eating cement. But they’re healthy, easy and cheap…I can withstand mostly anything if it meets all three qualifications.

My snack was a banana, and half a cup of unsweetened applesauce. Like I said, mid-morning I wasn’t feeling fantastic but after these snacks I was okay. Not sure what that was about.

For lunch I had my leftover Brussels sprouts and broccoli from yesterday’s dinner. Tasted good but required a lot of chewing…I felt very cow-like.

My second snack was 1/4 cup of raw almonds and 1oz organic dairy-free dark chocolate *which was delicious!!*

For dinner I made Harvest Garlic Veggie Soup with Kale topped with Bragg’s Nutritional yeast. It was truly delicious and relatively easy to make. It took awhile to chop of veggies and to cook but because I was multi-tasking, it wasn’t a problem. This meal, whose ingredients cost $5 (not counting the garlic and onion I already had on hand) made 5 large servings, and there is still leftover carrots and celery available for snacks. $1 per serving for a healthy, complete, all natural, vegan meal seems like a good price to me.

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Considerations

I had to go and buy more almonds today because I didn’t realize, before the challenge, how dependent I would be on them for protein (and vitamins). This challenge is also teaching me some simple cooking procedures, which i’m grateful for!

Nutritional Outcome 

My nutrition totals are virtually unchanged from yesterday. Still not getting enough calcium, protein, or iron. The iron and protein are an easy fix (more almonds and yeast  for protein and a small dark salad for Iron, but I am unwilling to drink Almond milk because it doesn’t come from nature; I’m not sure how I can get enough calcium from vegetables/fruit/nuts alone).

Totals 1,200 49 45 41 64 75
Your Daily Goal 1,200 100 40 60 100 30
Remaining 0 51 -5 19 36 -45
Calories Calcium Fat Protein Iron Sugar

 

Today was my first day ‘going vegan’. I woke up, pushed the thoughts of my regular coffee out of my mind and had, for breakfast, my green smoothie which tasted fine but had a LOT of seeds! After flossing my teeth twice, I still don’t think I removed all of them. While making the smoothie wasn’t too difficult because I had prepped and cut up the fruit the night before, I can see how it could be cumbersome to continue doing. But I enjoyed the two servings of greens and three servings of fruit I got from it!

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For lunch I had a large dark leafy green salad with dried cranberries, almonds, homemade vinaigrette and nutritional yeast. The yeast had a very freaky gritty texture (not unlike fresh parmesan cheese) and if it wasn’t for the distracting sweetness of the cranberries, I don’t think I could have gotten it down. I know the yeast takes getting used to, and I can see why. But overall the flavors of the salad were very good and I enjoyed it. Preparation was very easy and making a weeks worth of dressing was too.

I then went to visit my family, a large glass of organic tea in hand. My energy level was still very good surprisingly, because I hadn’t yet had any caffeine. I did get quite hungry while I was there and ended up having some raisins, as a snack.

I had dinner ready at 5, because I was very hungry. Today I had Maple glazed Brussel Sprouts and Broccoli with almonds and dried cranberries and nutritional yeast. The one dish meal was very quick to prepare and only took 25 minutes to cook. It was very tasty and very filling; I have leftovers for lunch tomorrow. It’s worth noting that I had almonds twice today; even though I’ve had nutritional yeast twice today; I needed more protein.

My after dinner snack was half of a pickle and half a glass of all natural flavored carbonated water.

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Nutritional Outcome

I stayed under in sodium , got over triple the recommended fiber, Vit A and Vit C but I only consumed half as much calcium and protein as recommended and I didn’t quite make the cut in Iron or Potassium. Because I had a LOT of fruit today, my sugar level was triple the recommendation. Compared to my regular diet of very little produce, these nutritional levels are much better than usual, though I am concerned about how I’m going to get enough calcium and protein on this vegan diet.

Well, at least temporarily. I don’t know what possessed me to challenge myself to a week of eating clean, but I’ve gone and planned a weeks worth of meals, snacks and drinks, all vegan and all  almost completely organic. As someone whose come from a family where breakfast was always ‘pepsi and a cigarette’, this is quite a big deal for me.

Researching artificial colors, flavors and sweeteners left me very wary of what I was putting in my body but cooking ‘real’ food can be a pain; I want to see how ‘doable’ eating (truly) healthy is on a day-to-day basis, including cost, shopping, cook-time and convenience. I have a close friend who has recently become a vegetarian and I envy him and his large salads (and all of those nutrients he’s getting that I know I’m not!!).

I have many events coming up in September and October, including two weddings, one in which I’m a part of, a birthday party and a baby shower; I think this ‘cleanse’ of sorts will be very beneficial. If I lose a few pounds, that’s always a plus, but this challenge is really about nutrition. I’ve been very tired lately and on days that I eat more iron I seem to feel better.  With this challenge I will be giving up coffee (I know!!!) though I am replacing it with organic black and green tea. While I will get some caffeine from tea, I’m hoping that the fresh fruits and vegetables will give me a natural energy boost.

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Today I went to several different stores and bought the items I will need for a full weeks worth of meals (breakfast, snack, lunch, and dinner) and organic black and green tea for beverages. For breakfast I will either have old-fashioned cooked oats with dried cranberries and honey or I will have a super food smoothie, including baby kale, a cup of frozen berries, a banana and half a pear. Lunch is either a large organic spring mix salad (with almonds, cranberries, cherry tomatoes, nutritional yeast, and homemade vinaigrette) or leftovers from the night before’s dinner. And lastly, for dinner I have several different options, all of which make several servings that I can refrigerate and freeze. Those meals are ‘Cheesy’ Maple Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Broccoli, Ridiculously Easy Lentil and Veggie Stew, and Kale Potato and White Bean Soup. Snacks include natural applesauce, organic pickles, natural unflavored popcorn and fresh fruit.

In total, I spent exactly $63. The only item that I did NOT need to buy were the old fashioned oats. This might seem like a lot of money for a week’s worth of a healthy organic, vegan food  BUT the  two supplements I needed, Bragg’s Liquid Amino  and Bragg’s Nutritional Yeast came out to $11; these two items will last much longer than a week.  The tea, lentils and quinoa I bought will last several more weeks as well, as will the natural maple syrup and salad dressing. If I were to continue with this vegan diet, I would only be buying fresh produce which would make my total significantly cheaper. It’s worth saying that everything I will consume this week is completely natural; there are absolutely no artificial color, preservatives, flavors or sweeteners of any kind except for vinegar and lemon juice that are natural preservatives.

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I will check back in tomorrow, hopefully, and share how my cooking experiences went, how the food tasted and whether or not I feel any different.

So I’m ridiculously happy to announce that I’ve FINALLY committed to taking care of myself. This means that I  stopped making excuses and decided to eat healthy and exercise with the intention of not only losing weight but with the health of my entire body in mind. I was scared/nervous/etc about doing this for so many years because I knew it would be a lifestyle change, not just a quick fix diet. And so far it has been amazing. I feel good. I have tons of energy. I don’t have any guilty feelings about the food I eat. I can also look in the mirror or at pictures of myself and know that I am at least trying to take care of myself….I’ve stopped putting myself down for the way I look because I know that I’m doing everything I can to change it.

It finally dawned on me one day, while visiting my grandma in the hospital, that I might actually have some control on whether or not I’m going to end up in one. It’s a long shot though. People that live extremely healthy lifestyles still get cancer, and you know what? They still die. While the opposite sometimes happens to sedentary people who eat junk all day. But I decided that it was all worth it to increase my chances of living a longer, happier life. So even if I do get sick and end up in a hospital I can at least know that I did everything I could to take care of myself instead of blaming myself if I end up in one after living a life making bad choices.

I now eat tons of fruits, vegetables, and ‘whole foods’ in general. The less processed the better. I keep track of all my calories so I hold myself accountable for everything I eat. I discovered that junk makes me feel like junk, that the reason I had no energy and had breathing problems, etc, was BECAUSE I ate junk all day. I am now a firm believer that you are what you eat. I discovered that my small, moderately active body doesn’t need nearly as many calories as I had been eating to maintain it. Eating less calories and burning off the excess fat makes me feel so much better. I eat less, exercise more, and I’m completely satisfied. I truthfully crave healthy food!

I am also excited to announce that I am doing the Couchto5K program. Basically I alternate between walking and jogging during a 30 minute exercise routine which I do three times a week, or every other day. This program is supposed to get you running a 5K in 8 weeks. At first the workouts were difficult and I ended up feeling sorry for myself. But since I had already committed myself and made the decision that I wanted to get healthy, I pushed myself to do it again and again. The third time it was easy. The fourth time (which is more difficult) was very easy. I can’t describe how excited I was to not only run/walk two miles successfully but to actually feel like I could run two more immediately after.

Now that it’s cold outside I’ve had some issues running because I decided to run in shorts and my leg muscles locked up. Next time I plan on wearing appropriate clothing.

In the first week I lost 7 pounds and 4% body fat. THIS WAS EXTREMELY ENCOURAGING!

As if the freedom and joy I feel running and eating healthy wasn’t enough motivation.

I never EVER understood why people got so into taking care of themselves. Health shakes, vitamins, organic, blah blah blah. I never thought I would care about how strong I could get or how hard I could push myself or the distance I could run. But now it’s almost addicting. It’s so fun to see how far you can make yourself go if you have the courage to try.

This isn’t just about losing weight at all. This about making myself stronger, accomplishing goals, making myself do things I may not want to do at that moment. It’s about self control. I’m hoping that at the end of the program I will be able to run a 5K but I’m not for sure yet if I’m going to shoot for it. I would love to some day, but right now I’m still getting used to being able to breathe and function normally after exercising for 30 minutes.

Big thanks to my friend Darius who debated with me long enough to make me realize I was making ridiculous excuses and who encouraged me to try the Couch25K program. Thank you for motivating me and giving me tons of tips and tricks on nutrition and exercising. I really couldn’t have done it without you.

Weight loss pictures to follow! :-D

Cruise Countdown!

As of this moment, there are currently 112 days left until our cruise to the Mexican Riviera. By ‘our’ I mean Jake and I. By ‘Mexican Riviera’ I mean Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta. I’ve NEVER been on a cruise before or heck, even out of this country. I am beyond excited! Plus, this trip has given me an awesome incentive to finally lose weight. I’ve been doing really good job watching not only what I eat but also my portion control. And yeah, even though I hurt my back exercising (slinging around a 10 pound dumbbell) I have still been exercising, though now it’s mostly walking and occasionally an exercise video. I’ve been saving my money LIKE CRAZY (except for buying a new bikini for the cruise today) not only for the cruise but also for Christmas, and for a treadmill. I’m trying the get the treadmill very very soon so that I can literally run my ass off. You may ask why I don’t run around the park that is literally two blocks away from my house… Well there are several reasons. Mostly because I don’t want people seeing me, I don’t want to have to wear weather related clothes, but the main reason is because I reeeeally like being able to keep track of how many calories I’ve burned and how many minutes and at what intensity I’ve exercised.

So anyway, back to the cruise. We are going on a six day trip to Mexico, the ports of call being Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta. I plan on getting a massage, playing mini golf, swimming in each of the three pools, using the waterslide excessively, hot tubbing it up, not to mention all of the food I’m going to eat or the all of the live shows we are going to watch. Oh, and did I mention that there is a library, a spa, parties every night, a comedy club, an art gallery, a coffee bar, a sunrise yoga class (!), and A CASINO! There are so many things to do, I am so glad we have six days  to try and do them all!

 

 

 

 

 

And I’m only including the things that I’m interested in, there are a ton of other things to do as well.

I really couldnt say what I’m most excited about although, getting a facial/massage, the live shows and gambling are way up there on my list. Sunrise yoga also sounds absolutely incredible.

We haven’t yet decided what excursion(s) yet we are going to do though we are leaning heavily on snorkeling and extreme zip-lining. They are both quite expensive, and with the spa treatments, shopping, gambling, yoga, etc……like I said, I’m saving my money like crazy.

Expect more posts soon, hopefully sharing my weight loss results!

Every time I look at pictures of Disneyland days, I cry. I honestly thought that once I left and came back home, my life there would fade to a distant memory, that it would become ‘something cool I did back when I was in college’. But it hasn’t. It’s been 6 months since I’ve left Anaheim, since I’ve left my roommates, since I’ve left my apartment, since I’ve left the happiest place on earth and it’s not getting any easier. Truth be told, I miss one particular roommate so much that  every time I wear the leather bracelet she bought me for Christmas, I tear up. Every time I glance down at my wrist I feel a compelling need to tell someone about Katie. In fact, I once had a customer at PetSmart, a young girl maybe 15, who was wearing one identical to mine (of course it said her name instead). I excitedly asked her if she got it at Disneyland and she said yes with a big smile. I proceeded to point to mine and started to explain that my roommate, from when I worked at Disneyland, bought it for me only to realize that I wasn’t actually wearing it that day.

While the DCP experience was incredible, there were some parts that weren’t so great. I’m not going to butter up my experience and make it sound like an absolute and complete dream because parts of it were not. I worked. A lot. So much in fact that I developed Plantar Fasciitis, an extremely painful tightening of the muscles in the arch of my feet. The very second I sat my feet on the ground in the morning (without even standing up) my feet ached in pain. I walked and walked and walked so much, literally all day long, and my feet were not used it at all! From 8 am until I got home at night (late at night if I went to Disneyland after work, which I almost always did). Walking to the bus stop four blocks away, walking from the city bus to the security check point, from there to the backstage tram, from the tram drop off to clock in behind my attractions and then finally to my attractions. Thankfully, Disney provides gel mats to stand on at every safety position, so once at work, my feet were saying hallelujah. But  the first days of training were an absolute nightmare, feet speaking.

When Kylie and I went to buy work shoes, we both chose different shoes based on what we thought would be comfortable. I chose WRONG. The shoes I chose were slightly to large which meant that the end of the shoes rubbed the back of my feet raw. Not only that, the actual shoes were not comfortable in the least. The ‘gel cores’ were extremely hard and had no ‘give’ for my bruised, tired pathetic feet. They hurt SO BADLY, that, I honestly shouldn’t admit to this but…..almost all of my training I didn’t hear a word of. In all truth, it was all I could do to stand up straight. I made myself stand on my tip toes and I also balance precariously on the side of my feet (so the soles  weren’t touching the ground) to help alleviate the pain. It helped for a few seconds. I remember I was almost okay when I was standing still, but when he announced we were going to walk somewhere else (which was very very often) I wanted to sit down and c-r-y.

Do not make the same mistake I did. Buy good shoes before you work at Disneyland! It was an absolutely miserable week for me, and extremely dangerous and irresponsible since I could not pay attention to safety spiels and disaster preparedness from the pain. After my first paycheck I was able to beg a ride from my wonderful roommate Kylie to return the shoes to get much better ones and a pair of Dr. Scholls insoles. Strangely, my feet still killed me BUT only when I was barefoot. If I wore shoes, I was absolutely fine.

Kylie, one of my roommates I mentioned before, had the same attractions as I did and we lived together (obviously). It is very very rare to have a roommate that shares the same position as you (even to share the same field as you like attractions), particularly since we were the only two of the three hundred who ran those attractions!  We also were the same height, 4 ’11, and had the same curvy-chubby-large hipped body type. It was truly fantastic to not only enjoy the perks of commuting to work together and being able to share each others costumes (which we did quite often, especially coats) but to also have someone who always understood what I was talking about when I came home after a long day at Jelly. We shared funny/sad stories, new jokes to spiel to the guests, the potluck dishes we brought to work, friendly criticism, books (we both loved to read) and the same amazing cast member friends. We even helped each other study for our attraction assessments, which was an immense help. I really can’t imagine how my Disney experience would have been without Kylie and me always being the others shadow. I remember several times when the cast members we worked got us confused with each other or would call us by the wrong name. I also had several people tell me that I was beginning to talk like her! Kylie used to say we were actually the same person.

I’m proud of myself for ‘working my way up’ since my first teenage job of chopping cotton. I’ve climbed the job ladder going from fast food, to private coffee shop, to taking tickets at a swap meet to Disneyland. A month before my internship had ended I applied for a couple jobs back home, secretly terrified I wouldn’t be able to find work once I got back. I remember the economy and the struggle to find work when I left. Amazingly, the wonderful folks at our towns not-opened-yet Petsmart saved a position for me and hired me immediately. Now I work here passionately putting my heart and soul  into everything I do, feeling at the end of the day like it doesn’t really matter, because I’m not really making a difference. At least not like it did when I worked at Disneyland. Because my problem has been and always will be caring to much. I can’t do something half heartedly. It’s either all or nothing. I can’t understand the concept of doing something for a living and not actually caring about it. There’s no such thing as a job. I don’t mean necessarily loving what you do, I mean putting all you’ve got into it and not saying afterwards that you could have done a lot better. I’m confident that I did my best after every encounter I have with a pet parent. Just like at Disneyland, the valuable skills I picked up transferred over to not only this new job but also my life in general. I never tell anyone ‘I don’t know'; I always find a book or find another employee who does know. I also genuinely care when someone cares to share with me how they’ve struggled after losing their family dog of 14 years.

In fact, there is one gentleman who, after coming in within the first couple of days after we opened, shared with me his little long-haired Dachshund’s name (Tessa) and explained that his wife had just died and that he and chose Tessa from the Animal Shelter to help keep him company in his big, now lonely, house. This story truly crushed me and nearly made me cry when I saw the tears in his eyes after he utter the word ‘died’ and how much hurt he must have been feeling to share a story like that with me, a simple cashier. He now brings her in biweekly and gets her groomed, perfumed, and shops for her until she’s done in the salon. He speaks of her with sheer delight when I ask about her and never fails to bring her by the register on his way out to let me see how pretty she is and pet her. The last time I saw this gentleman, I asked how Tessa was, and after he told me, he patted my arm and said, ‘You know, I shared with you the first time I came here that my wife had died and that I had adopted Tessa and you make a point to not only ask me how she’s doing but remember her name! I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your kindness.’ He was nearly crying as he emotionally said this, and it was all I could do to keep myself composed. Him letting me know how much of a difference I made in his life, keeps me believing that working at Petsmart isn’t just a job like some people believe but that it’s an experience, somewhere exciting, a place for memories, a place to battle fish tank issues, to get advice, to tackle problems, to be consoled, to be cheered for. I take pride in being ‘just a cashier’ because experiences like this make me feel like I matter, like I have a purpose. It’s amazing how two people that come from different walks of life can uplift and encourage each other, with very little effort. So yes, I care immensely for people and I’m grateful to work at Petsmart.  Even though I miss Anaheim and even though Petsmart isn’t as prestigious or as ‘cool’ as Disneyland, what I do is still important. To someone.

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