The Vegan Experiment?

I picked up one of my husband’s magazines recently (Men’s Journal) after being sucked in by a curious title – “Going Vegan in the NFL”.  Huh?  Then was further shocked to find that the story was based on Arian Foster, a former Tennessee running back.  (Tennessee being my alma mater, and also where my husband played football in the 90’s.)  OK, now I’m intrigued.  How would a serious athlete, especially a man in the NFL that eats about 6,000 calories per day, go Vegan??

Going Vegan in the NFL

As someone who eats a lot of fruits and vegetables, and also experimented with a strict vegetarian diet for a while, I can truly appreciate the commitment it takes, as well as the social stigma.  I mean, can you imagine the stigma fora guy, much less a guy in professional sports?  That basically summarizes the article – guy reads book, goes Vegan to improve his athleticism, gets a lot of  flack from teammates and media, then proves them all wrong with his best year ever.  So naturally, I had to check out the book, The Thrive Diet, by vegan triathlete, Brendan Brazier.  Thank goodness for my Kindle – instant book and only $9.  I’ve skimmed it so far and it looks interesting.  Will continue reading…

I’ve never been a big fan of meat, but only accepted that a couple of years ago after following a friend’s lead, along with the encouragement of several other books (Cinch / Sass Yourself Slim, Skinny Bitch).  I still eat vegetarian about 50% of the team, but to be honest, I found it difficult to stick to since our society is so meat-focused.  Not to mention burdensome for my family.  I felt like every time we had a family gathering we had to focus on what Rebecca isn’t eating these days.  An otherwise very enticing menu is instantly limited to a few vegetarian-friendly items, if any at all.  Heck, in the country even the veggies are cooked with meat.    So I can’t even imagine the added difficulty of vegan – no cheese, butter, yogurt, honey, eggs.

OK, so now I’m feeling a challenge coming on.  Could I go vegan?  I’m not going to proclaim a long-term diet change, but how would I feel and look if I stuck to a vegan diet for say, 30-days?  Perhaps my new diet experiment for 2013?  And January has always been the best time for a diet experiment – no holiday gatherings or parties, a renewed sense or focus for the new year, and the whole country seems to be on a diet too.  Most of my past diet experiments have left me better off, with new menu options and lots of new food lessons.  I still follow the Cinch / Sass Yourself Slim plan of 4-balanced meals every 3-4 hours.   Then there was the movie about Juicing, “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead”, which led to a $400 juicer and a whole lot of veggies, plus our (yep, even my husband loves it) new favorite fruit juice, “Purple Power Juice”.  And there’s been others, but those 2 were the most impactful.

So I guess I should get back to reading if I’m starting The Vegan Experiment come January 1.

Thrive Diet

Lifelong Learning

This week I’m thinking a lot about learning.  Today is my 1-year anniversary at work, and although I’ve come a very long way, I still feel like I have so much to learn!  My husband and sister both started new jobs this week and are probably overwhelmed with how much they’ll have to learn in their new roles.  But whether you’re a “lifer”, or a “newbie” in your job, I’m a firm believer in the necessity of continuous learning because things are constantly changing and we have to keep.  The things I learned in college 12 years ago are now largely obsolete, so I take every opportunity to attend local industry events, read industry publications, and network with as many people as I can.  But I don’t think learning stops at work, it’s necessary for our personal lives as well.  Take health and wellness for example.  I sometimes take for granted how much I know since it’s been a passion of mine for a decade and I love to read about it, so when I’m talking to other people who are just getting started, I have to remember that they’re still learning the basics.  My sister has moved across the country and is trying to embark on a healthier lifestyle, and the grocery store is her first battleground.  Unlike me, who thoroughly enjoys the grocery wonderland, she sees it as a maze of too many food choices with confusing and sometimes conflicting nutritional information.

 

A few of her questions, and maybe yours too… Is bread bad for me?  I thought you’re suppose to avoid dairy?  Does fruit have too much sugar?  Good grief!  No wonder everyone is confused.  Even after 10 years, I’m still tweaking my diet based on what makes me feel the best, and I will never give up my beloved ice cream, but the simple answer is that everyone is different.  One person might need to avoid gluten and dairy, while others follow a high-carb, low-fat diet.  My simplest suggestion is to first focus on learning how to eat a balanced diet.  I think Cynthia Sass did a great job of summarizing this in her books (Cinch & Sass Yourself Slim), by outlining that every meal should include 5 puzzle pieces:

  1. Produce (fruits & veggies)
  2. Whole Grains (bread, rice, pasta)
  3. Lean Protein (chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, dairy)
  4. Plant-based Fat:  (nuts, avocados, edamame / soy, coconut/olive/canola oil)
  5. Natural seasonings (herbs, vinegar, citrus juice)

Forget counting calories if that’s not your thing, just build properly portioned meals using these 5 puzzle pieces.  I’m sure you’ve got some ideas just reading through the list.  Not sure how to portion and don’t want to buy the book?  Use a small plate – most of the plate should be your produce, then the whole grain, then a palm-size serving of protein, plus whatever fat & seasonings you’re adding.  This is very similar to the USDA’s new “My Plate“.  Or here’s an idea – just eat slowly and stop when you’re full!  Here’s an old blog post I did that shows how I used the puzzle pieces for a few different meals, and on a tight budget!  https://rockytoprebecca.wordpress.com/2011/04/24/cinch-on-a-budget/.

Hopefully I did my part to offer you a little education today!  Happy learning…

Click the apple for a “Food Labeling 101” article.

A Year Later…

1 year later, and I’m back to WordPress.  Last year, my husband and I decided to start a new website dedicated to health, fitness, and a potential future business, but then life got turned upside down.  The new site was going to take a lot of work, versus using the awesome, free functionality here on WordPress and I really missed it!  Plus, I was really only using the blog function, and I found that people could not find me as easily.  My blog is more for self-motivation and venting my daily thoughts, however I think I helped inspire some people last year to lose weight and that was equally inspiring for me. 

ImageI let the website lapse and basically lost the year’s content, however I’m not sad about that.  My life got turned upside down, and while I’m happy to report that I’m still at my Summer 2011 weight, it was a tumultuous year and somehow leaving the blog behind feels like a new beginning.  Last September, I took a new job with Wendy’s (as in “old-fashioned hamburgers”) at their corporate office near Columbus, Ohio, so we made the more-difficult-than-expected move and I’m still struggling to feel settled.  We bought a new house in the cute little suburb of Powell, and I’ve been loving the endless walking trails, beautiful scenery, great food (especially ice cream), and friendly people.  However, the stress of my new job, as well as my husband’s struggle to find one is a constant strain.  I’m glad we like it here because I don’t plan to move again for a long time.

 

As for my weight, which was the central theme in my previous blogs, I’m happy to report that I’m at 132 pounds, pretty close to where I ended up after my 5-month Cinch journey last year.  I also have purchased Cynthia Sass’ new book,  ” Sass Yourself Slim”, which turned out to be a slightly revised, re-named version of the original, and have continued to follow the 4-small meals using all of the puzzle pieces.  Having done if for so long now, its second nature and I don’t get it much thought. 

I will try and make time for more blogging… it’s food for my soul!  Thanks for the push, Trish!

Frustrated

I’m feeling very frustrated this morning.  My hopes of returning to school to work on another degree in Nutrition were quickly dashed when I reviewed class schedules.  Clearly they are made for undergraduate students that have nothing else to do – all late morning and early afternoon.  I was hoping for early morning or late afternoon!  Getting a couple of bad class schedules is one thing, but most of them seem to follow that schedule, and would require quitting my current job and going full-time, something I cannot consider right now while I am the sole income in our household.  So, I will table that thought for now and think about whether or not it’s something I want to consider later, or if I want to go a different route and get certifications or other forms of education, but not the formal degree.  I’m open to suggestions.  =(

Switching gears now… dinner last night was fabulous.  I love wraps for dinner because they are quick, healthy, and yummy.  Last night I made one with 1/2 chopped avocado (healthy fat), 1/4 chopped tomato (produce), about 1/4 cup kidney beans (protein), fresh cilantro, lime, and a sprinkle of cumin and chili powder, all on a low-carb medium-sized flour tortilla (whole grain).  It was very tasty and filling.

Today’s Menu & Workout Plan:

  • 7 am – Small egg & cheese sandwich, 1 cup carrot juice, vitamin
  • 11:30 am – Greek yogurt with blackberries and pistachios, Kashi crackers
  • 1:00 pm — Strength training: chest / back, jump rope
  • 3:30 pm – 3oz fish with mixed veggies and 1/2 cup brown rice
  • 6:00 pm — 10 mile bike ride
  • 8:00 pm – Avocado, bean, and tomato soft taco

I’m doing pretty well getting back into my healthy eating habits post-vacation, however am still struggling with sugar cravings.  I did detox for a couple of days when I got back, but that got cut short by the power outage and my cravings for sugar are still there.  I’ve can usually get through the day just fine, but feel strong urges when I get home.  It’s like my brain has been programmed to eat as soon as I get home and I start feeling hunger pangs when I’m getting close to home, even if I’ve just had my afternoon snack a couple of hours before.  The Cinch book actually discussed this and learning to separate real hunger from cravings.  This falls into the cravings category.  I don’t have much sugar around the house, aside from some macadamia-nut-Hershey-kisses that I brought back from Hawaii, and some dark-chocolate chips, which are usually on-hand for my granola bars. 

I will continue trying to fight the urge to indulge at night.  Maybe my weigh-in Friday will help keep me motivated.  I’ve set a new goal of 125 pounds by Labor Day, our next beach trip to Hilton Head.

Getting over the Hump

11 days to go on Bikini Body Countdown!

Wednesday… “Hump Day”.  I always disliked that phrase, for some reason.  Half-way through the week, but so much work that I wish I could back-track to Monday and get more done.  I’m starting to panic a little about how much I need to finish before I leave for vacation.  Sadly, I do plan to take my lap-top and check in on work from Hawaii every morning.  It’s not a requirement, and usually I’m all about turning off all electronics when I want to get away, but I’m leading a huge new project and my vacation is right in the middle of implementation.  So I think spending 20 minutes each morning is a small price to pay to avoid the mess I’d come back to after two un-interrupted weeks.

So today I got to be in a commercial, which basically entailed sitting around for 4 hours and doing a 10-minute shot where you might see my elbow.  I’m glad I had my lap-top with me!  However, I regretted having spent 4 hours last night trying to get ahead of the office time I’d be missing this morning, thinking I’d be so “busy” at the video shoot.  Not only did I sacrifice a good night’s sleep, I also ended up very hungry at 11pm, 5 hours past my dinner.  So according to Cinch, you should never go more than 5 hours without eating, even at night.  But I didn’t have any good snacks that appealed to me, so I ended up eating a handful of candy hearts leftover from Valentine’s Day, plus one too many baked chips, a small glass of milk, and about 10 apricots.  I could have done worse, I guess, but it certainly wasn’t my healthiest meal.  Oh well, I’m not stressing over it.  The lesson is not to stay up too much past your bedtime!

My meals are a little wacky today – basically snacks that I could fit in my purse to tide me over during the shoot.  Looks like too many fruit and nuts.  No idea what I’ll do for lunch.  I guess find some healthy fast food nearby.

Meal Plan Time
Yogurt parfait 7:30
Granola bar 10:00
Apples, almonds 12:00
… whatever I can find that’s healthy 3:30
Scallops and cooked cabbage 7:30
   
Workout – Arms / Legs, Jump Rope, 18-mile bike  

Super Foods & Packing

13 days to go on Bikini Body Countdown!

One of my favorite views from Hawaii. I actually have a picture of my siblings and I in front of this lookout when I was 15.

Packing has commenced!  Yes, I don’t leave for 2 weeks, but I have a love-hate relationship with packing and thus it works best for me to start early.  I am an infamous under-packer and like to travel light, usually taking only a tiny duffel bag for weekend trips that I throw together the night before.  Our weekend trips are usually to visit family, and thus packing basic necessities such as toiletries and snacks is not necessary.  I usually don’t even pack a make-up bag for weekends, just make do with the few things I carry in my purse.  So long trips are a whole different animal.  I love travel, but for some reason, I always go into a packing funk a couple days before I leave and can’t seem to put a decent outfit together to save my life.  I think it’s probably a panic over running out of time and forgetting stuff, and also my obsessive organization.  So my guest room has been transformed into the Hawaii Packing Room, and over the next week, I’ll add things to the room.  Then the following week, I’ll go through everything, try on outfits and accessories to make sure they actually go together (haven’t we all made that mistake?), take inventory of toiletries, and add anything else that comes to mind.  Sound crazy?  It doesn’t take as much time as it sounds, it’s just my personal packing strategy and I’ll end up thinking of new things to add every day until I leave! 

OK, moving on.  I found this article in our AAA magazine, and thought it was worth posting.  It’s a list of the Top 10 Superfoods, and I’m happy to say that I incorporate most of these into my daily diet!  A couple that I don’t, but probably need to look into, is Garlic and Green Tea. 

Below is my meal plan for the day.  You’ll notice that I occasionally incorporate a little meat into my meals, but still eat a mostly vegetarian diet.  Although animal welfare is a major concern for me, I do not claim to be a committed vegetarian and think that simply cutting back on your meat consumption and getting protein from plant-based sources can offer a lot of health benefits, while also being more environmentally friendly (animals use more resources than plants).   The Cinch plan is very helpful in this regard – offering tons of vegetarian or vegan substitutes in the book and encouraging everyone to try eating vegetarian several days a week. 

Meal Plan Time
Grape Nuts cereal with berries, 1 cup carrot juice 7:30
Yogurt parfait, 5 crackers 11:30
1/2 ham & avocado sandwich on pumpernickel 2:30
Apple, pretzels (pre-bike snack) 6:00
 2 veggie soft tacos 8:00
   
Workout – Chest/Back, 30m cardio circuit yes
Vitamins yes

Bikini Body Countdown!

 

I’m officially on BIKINI BODY COUNTDOWN!  34 days until Hawaii!

Time to get serious, cut the sugar, and increase the workouts.  I’ve done pretty well since starting Cinch in January, although have indulged in one too many sugar binges.  My clothes fit better and I feel good, but I’m disappointed that the scale has not budged much.   I’m still the same weight I was in January after finishing detox (138), although that’s still 6 pounds less than where I started.  My husband has reminded me that some of that might be muscle weight that I’ve put on to replace fat (since muscle weighs more than fat), but seeing the scale was still a bit deflating.  And thus, that’s why I’ve been avoiding it for a month!

OK, so here’s the plan.  Stick to the basics of Cinch for my diet, zero sugar and very limited refined carbohydrates.  Increase workouts to 5-6 days per week, including running, cycling, weight training, and plyometric intervals.  I’ll post my food journal and exercise plan as often as I can in case anyone else wants to join in!  I also see some great articles about bikini-body-prep from time to time, and will link those as well. 

Monday’s Menu:

Meal Plan Time
Cereal with skim milk; orange juice 7am
Greek yogurt with berries and granola 11am
Salad w/ lt ranch, almonds, 1/2 pear 3pm
Whole wheat pasta w/ veggies, olive oil 7pm

Workout:  Weights (chest & back), cardio intervals (10m treadmill, 10m elliptical, 10m jump rope), 10-mile bike.

My husband forwarded me a cool blog link today.  I had to laugh because I love that feeling of beating a guy at something sports related and seeing their reaction to “getting chicked”…  http://www.rev3tri.com/!/blog/2011-3-21-gettingChicked.htm.  And yes, I have “chicked” my husband on many ocassions, although he won’t admit it!

Cinch on a Budget

Wow!  What a busy week, and this one is not going to be any better.  So I’d better get in my blogs while I can!

We had a very nice, relaxing weekend, as is appropriate on Easter weekend.  And no, I did not have a single piece of candy!  About the only thing I actually accomplished was to plant this year’s veggie and herb garden on Saturday.  Think you don’t have space for a garden?  If you have any outdoor space whatsoever, you do.  For very small spaces, you can try a container garden, and plant veggies that are specifically labeled for containers.  With a little more space, you can carve out a little space in your yard, like me!  We have a small 1/4-acre yard, and also have 2 curious dogs, but I discovered that my fence-row makes an ideal spot for my little garden.  This year, I planted a variety of peppers, tomatoescucumbers, squash, and zucchini.  Then, I also planted a container garden with basil, thyme, cilantro, dill, and mint.  Some were grown from seeds and then re-planted outside, and others I picked up at my local Home Depot, but all in all, the plants themselves did not cost me more than $15.  I could easily spend that much in one trip to the farmer’s market!  In addition to the plants, I bought some black-plastic border to help create a sort of raised-garden, and also 3 bags of garden soil.  Total cost – $51.   I could easily spend that much in a few trips to our farmer’s market or grocery-store produce section!  So not only does growing your own veggies save money, it also gives you a great sense of pride when they are ready to harvest, and you’ll actually be excited to eat them!

As promised, I’d like to talk about following the Cinch plan on a budget.  Below are some meal ideas that I’ve been using recently, along with the breakdown of the Cinch puzzle pieces and approximate cost per serving.  Each meal is quick and easy to make, and all ingredients are readily available and inexpensive.

***

First up, breakfast: French Toast and a Fruit Smoothie.  For the french toast, I used 2 slices of whole wheat bread dipped in a mixture of 1/4 cup milk, 1 egg, tsp of vanilla, and a cinnamon-Truvia blend.  Cook on a skillet or griddle until lightly brown on each side.  For the smoothie, I blended some frozen berries with low-fat, no-sugar-added vanilla yogurt, light orange juice, and ice. 

Puzzle Pieces, Time, & Cost:

  • Produce: strawberries, orange juice
  • Whole Grain: whole wheat bread
  • Lean Protein:  milk, yogurt
  • Plant-based Fat:  egg
  • Time:  < 10 minutes
  • Cost:  < $2

 ***

Next up, lunch: Veggie Pizza with Fruit Salad.  For the pizza, I used a pre-made whole wheat crust lightly brushed with olive oil, a pre-made pizza sauce, a variety of veggies, and light mozzarella.  (For my husband’s half, I subbed the veggies with turkey pepperoni.)  Pineapple and strawberries with a little bit of whipped cream made a very tasty dessert.

Puzzle Pieces, Time, & Cost:

  • Produce: tomato sauce, spinach, mushrooms, peppers, onion
  • Whole Grain: whole wheat crust
  • Lean Protein:  cheese
  • Plant-based Fat:  olive oil
  • Time:  < 20 minutes
  • Cost:  < $4

 ***

Now for dinner, plus 3 more to-go for lunches this week:  Grilled Tilapia over Brown Rice with Cooked Carrots and Spinach.  Tilapia is one of my favorite proteins because it’s super cheap (about $1.50 for a fresh 2-pack at Kroger), and has a very mild flavor, which makes it very versatile.  My husband grilled the tilapia, but you can also pan-fry it or bake it.  Then I cooked 2 servings of brown rice (which I’ll divide into 4 servings), steamed the carrots in the microwave, and cooked the spinach in a little olive oil in a skillet on the stove.  This one took a little longer to make than most simply due to the rice (30 minutes), but if you used minute-rice, it would be much faster.  However keep in mind that minute rice will be processed and thus spike your blood sugar.  I bought a huge bag of this brown rice at Kroger, which makes 38 servings (half-size) for about 8 cents each!

Puzzle Pieces, Time, & Cost:

  • Produce: spinach, carrots
  • Whole Grain: brown rice
  • Lean Protein:  tilapia
  • Plant-based Fat:  olive oil
  • Time:  30 minutes
  • Cost:  < $1.50

 ***

Saving the best for last, snack / dessert:  Light Vanilla Ice Cream with Granola and Berries.  Long ago, my husband and I discovered Kroger-brand no-sugar-added ice cream, but only recently did I discover the vanilla flavor.  Although technically, I guess you should steer clear of ice cream, and Cynthia Sass (Cinch author) is not a fan of artificial sweeteners, sometimes you really need something sweet and this really fits the bill without guilt.  The ice cream is low fat (3g per 1/2 cup) and does not have any added sugars, and yet tastes great!  I added a few berries and 1/4 cup of granola for the perfect snack!

Puzzle Pieces, Time, & Cost:

  • Produce: berries
  • Whole Grain: granola
  • Lean Protein:  dairy
  • Plant-based Fat:  dairy
  • Time:  < 2 minutes
  • Cost:  < $1.00

We also made another batch of Fruit & Nut Bars, something that has become a staple in our house (see previous blogs for recipe).   They probably don’t cost much less than the store-bought variety piece for piece, but they’re much tastier, have more healthy-calories (and thus cheaper per calorie), and have a lot of un-processed vitamins and minerals.  I like to use these as pre-workout or afternoon snacks.

That’s it for today.  I’m bracing for a very busy week, but at least I’ve got lots of good meals already prepared.  =)

HUGE strawberries!

TGIF!

I completed 2 days of detox and feel de-bloated from my bad weekend.  Now I’m prepping for a weekend with my family and hoping to resist the feeding frenzy that usually ensues.  I’m hosting them at my house however, and rather than stock up on bad food that I know they’ll like, I’m determined to eat like we normally would and show them that eating healthy can taste good! 

On the menu for tonight – bbq burgers (I’ll skip), roasted red potatoes, broccoli, and strawberry shortcake made with sugar-free angel food cake.  That may not sound like the healthiest food, but it’s well rounded and no fattening butters or sugars will be used in preparation.  Breakfast will be veggie omelets, whole wheat toast, and fruit smoothies.  The rest of the meals will likely be eaten out, so I’ll try and stick to healthy options!

I found this on my car when I left work yesterday.  It’s nice to know that after nearly 13 years together, it’s still possible to show these simple little signs of affection.  What have you done (or gotten) for your partner lately?  Show them they are loved!

Next week I will start posting about “Cinch on a Budget” and start tracking what I’m eating to stay on the Cinch plan while also sticking to a tight budget!

Another Monday and Feeling Great!

Normally I hate Mondays – I can’t seem to ever get ready on time and always manage to spill my breakfast in haste.  Alas, today did not start out much better.  I dumped a drink in my car (thankfully water) and was later to work than I had planned since I had an 8am meeting to prepare for.  I feel great, however, because I weighed in at 135!  Woohoo!  I only did a 3-day Detox this time around, since I need more calories for my beloved workouts, but that 3 days was all it took to get back on track and feel completely de-bloated.  It’s amazing how quickly you can lose the bloat, but also amazing how quickly you can put it back on with a couple of bad meals! 

So I plan to keep sticking to the basic Cinch methodology — 4 small evenly spaced meals using the 5 puzzle pieces (produce, whole grain, lean protein, plant-based fat, healthy seasonings) — but also incorporate some other meals from our P90X and Eat Clean Diet books.  Both have some good recipes in them that will work with my 4-meal strategy.  I made a quick menu yesterday afternoon and prepped my meals for the next few days.  I’m going to take a little more casual approach this time around and not obsess over a menu spreadsheet, but still share on my blog.  Here’s today’s plan, which adds up to about 1200 calories:

  • Pre-workout Snack (5am) – Grapes
  • Breakfast (7am) – 1 egg, cooked spinach, 1 slice toast with drizzle of honey
  • Lunch (11am) – Humbeque sandwich (tuna, hummus, bbq, spinach, avocado)
  • Snack (3pm) – Greek yogurt with berries and almonds
  • Dinner (7pm) – Chicken cordon bleu with cooked carrots

I did an amazing thing over the past week: I had 3 boxes of girl scout cookies (weak moment) plus Easter candy (another weak moment) in my pantry and did not touch them!!  Then at church they announced that they were going to be collecting food every Sunday for donation, so when I got home, I made a donation bag with the cookies and Easter candy, plus some other healthier options.   Later that night I had some serious temptations to break out the donation bag, but managed to overcome them.  It seems that these temptations were triggered by one bite of Red Velvet Cake Sundae that I had made for my husband.  Hence, I plan to skip the daily chocolate indulgence called for in the Cinch plan.  The slightest taste of sugar turns me into a ravenous cookie-monster.  I think it’s time to break out my favorite picture:

If Cookie Monster went on a diet...

 

Have a great Monday everyone!!