Sunday, April 19, 2015

Stress eating

Sorry I've been slow to write - had a few things on my mind! I'm one week down at the new job and so far, so good! They asked me after Day 3 if I was still willing to come back, and I have to say that I didn't really hesitate in saying yes. I feel like I've made a good decision (if you can feel that with any certainty after 5 days?!), but it seems good so far, so I'm rollin' with that feelin.

In the meantime, it's been a bit more challenging to be vegan at work. When I told some of my new colleagues that I was eating vegan... well, it kind-of went something like... "I'm vegan. Well, no, I'm not a vegan, I'm just EATING like a vegan since Jan 1 because my cholesterol was too high". Which is way too much information, and not 100% accurate. I'm sure they were amused if not totally convinced I was the new office wack-o, but I feel guilty when I say "I'm vegan", because I don't really feel like I'm allowed to say that until I decide that I AM one, like... forever or something.

Anyway, our offices are decent. They are actually temporary offices until we move into a new building that is being custom-built. That said, they are still pretty good compared to some other offices I've been in before. BUT, given it's a temporary office, it doesn't have a cafeteria. They have restaurants around that are good options for eating, but there is actually a local food truck that will come on Tues - Fridays. It's a different truck every day. I vowed that I would support the local food trucks as much as I could, but on Friday, it was just impossible. It was a BBQ food truck and the only side items they had were mac n' cheese, coleslaw, baked beans with sausage, and something else I can't remember, but none of it was vegan. SO... I went to a local Qdoba and managed to get something I felt was vegan if not pretty close to vegan.

I managed. In the meantime, I've also realized that I'm POUNDING down food like there's no tomorrow. I think it's the stress of the new job, new schedules & routines... LOADS of new people I'm meeting and tons of information to remember. I seriously feel like my brain has been in hibernation mode for the past year. Can you believe it's been a YEAR since we landed back in the US?

Anyhoo... I just thought I'd check in and say I'm still pluggin on. I've decided that I'm definitely keeping up with it till the 1st of July. We'll schedule another blood test then. OH, and in the meantime, I'm doing a 7 minute HIIT work-out (HIIT = high intensity interval training) every day. So far, I've got the 7 minutes and the interval piece right, but I'm still working on the high intensity bit. ;) My thought is that we'll see how keepin on with the vegan eating and adding a bit of exercise makes my numbers move. Let's hope it's all down from here!!


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Final-ish Numbers

So I've got my blood test results back! Drum roll please.......

Here were my stats before on 12/31/14...
Total Cholesterol:  231
HDL:  67
Triglycerides:  78
LDL:  148
Chol / HDLC ratio:  3.4
Non HDL Cholesterol:  164

And here they are on 4/6/15...
Total Cholesterol:  180
HDL:  54
Triglycerides:  89
LDL:  108
Chol / HDLC ratio:  3.3
Non HDL Cholesterol:  126

So, my total cholesterol went down by 51 points, my LDL went down by 40 points!! YAY, right?

Now... the interesting things here are my HDL, which actually decreased (that's going the wrong way, people!), and my triglycerides increased (again, the wrong way!). I asked my brother-in-law, who is a doctor, to tell me why my triglycerides would have gone up when I haven't been eating any animal products, and he said it was a "conundrum". Hmm. I had a search over the internet and I have a feeling it might have to do with stress... looking for jobs, living with family, buying a car... all these things are very stressful things, and stress does play a part in your cholesterol! So maybe that's it? I'm not sure, but I'm interested to hear any theories out there.

Am I happy? Well, yes and no. I would have been very happy if they all went in the right direction! Just how much they moved was really up in the air. I'm disappointed that some have gotten 'worse', but we can be clear, these numbers aren't bad anyway! Definitely bringing my blood cholesterol down to normal numbers is a big plus!

As for weight loss? 9.8 pounds. I've still got about 15 more pounds that I wanna lose, so there's that. No, I didn't expect I'd lose all that in 3 months! I was just hoping to be a little closer to 12 pounds down by the end of it... that's 12 weeks at one pound a week. That would have been nice. But let's face it, losing weight is better than gaining it in this situation!

So.... what does that mean for me going forward? I've decided that I'm going to keep going with the vegan eating. Yep, you heard me. I'm keeping it going, and I'm going to try to really cut back on the desserts. Even vegan desserts add calories, right? AND... I'm adding in some more exercise. I really wasn't doing much over the past 3 months - keeping relatively consistent with my dance video and walking... but I wasn't really pushing the limits if I'm honest. So I'm going to start doing some high intensity interval training, and I'm going to put some strength training in there, too. Just exactly what that looks like, I'm not sure yet! I'm told that exercise can really help with the cholesterol levels (d'uh!), so I'm going to try injecting a bit of that action to see how much we can keep the positive streak going and how much we can affect the other ones!

In the meantime, I start my new job on Monday... EEEEEEKS! It's been a year & a half since I was a working girl, so I'm a bit nervous about what it means for my schedule, my diet, my stress levels!! - all of that. I figure that if I can get a good routine going straight from the start, then I'll be that much better off for it. "Begin as you mean to go on" and all that, right?

I'm going to get a blood test in another 3 months to see what's happened then... I figure it took me 40 years to get where I am, I can't expect it will all clear up in just 3 months, right? So we'll see how it goes. Slow and stead wins the race. Slow and steady wins the race...


Monday, April 6, 2015

90-ish Days Down

Well, Easter has now come and gone. Yesterday I went and had my 'final' blood-test done to see what 3 months of a vegan diet did to my stats. We'll see how it goes!

So given I've now finished my plan of 90-ish days on a Vegan diet... do I have any earth-shattering revelations? Well, not really, but I do have a few thoughts.

Eating vegan isn't so hard... until you try to go out to eat. The American diet, grocery store and television are all geared for meat-eaters. I mean, look at your favourite restaurant's menu and see if you can find ANY vegan items. I'm not talking vegetarian here, I mean VEGAN. Without asking loads of questions and asking for omissions, finding vegan on a menu isn't easy. Why do they assume all veggie eaters want cheese?

It gets easier and easier the longer you do it. Now that I could technically eat meat and dairy, I've found that I don't really want to. I mean, I could have eaten chicken at dinner last night, and I was REALLY tempted to, I just didn't. And I had an excuse since my blood test was today, but given everything that I know about eating meat & dairy, I really felt like I would be putting a poison into my body. Now... why don't I feel that way about eating sugar?! I know it is poison, but it's harder to say no to the sweet stuff.

So how am I going to eat from now on? Well, I think I'll stay vegan for awhile. I think I'll also focus on shoving the sweet stuff out of my diet. And I'll continue to watch what I eat in terms of portions. I couldn't adequately weigh myself this morning because the battery is dead in our scale... but as soon as I can, I will. I'm thinking that maybe 1 day a week, I'll allow myself to go off plan, but most of the time, I'll be vegan. This should be interesting when I actually start work next week! Back to the working world - eeeeks!

I also think the whole idea of VB6 (vegan before 6pm), might be a good option. I might have to make it lunch instead of dinner as my time to eat off plan, but we'll see how that goes. I just don't know exactly how I want to continue, but I know I don't want to make meat or dairy a big part of my diet moving forward. I want to stay plant-based.

So we'll see what happens when I get my blood tests back!!
Stay tuned....

Friday, March 27, 2015

Say Cheese, or say Smack

When I decided to try the whole vegan thing, my biggest worry was how I was going to say no to cheese. Part of my earliest memories of visiting my Grandma was that she would make us her macaroni and cheese. It was legendary (in my book anyway!). All of the emotions I associate with my Grandma - love and comfort just to name two, are wrapped up in those little cheesy noodles.
I also loved grilled cheese sandwiches (I later acquired the taste for the accompanying tomato soup), nachos, scalloped potatoes, and that pepper jack cheese with all those green and red bits in it. Bleu cheese came on the scene, first only in salads, but it quickly became a favourite as well. Let's just say I love cheese.

So how has it been going without? Well, I will say that on a Friday night, I miss making a meal of wine, cheese and crackers. (Ok, so that's my secret single behaviour from when I lived on my own!) But I still miss a good slice of aged cheddar... mmmm. Ploughman's Feast anyone? Anyway, I digress. The point is that I've survived, and I've actually learned a thing or two about why cheese might be so addictive. I figured it was worth sharing because maybe you've got a hankerin for the cheesy goodness too.

I was reading the book "The Vegetarian Flavor Bible" by Karen Page. She quotes Dr Neal Barnard, who tells us why cheese 'addiction' actually has a physical component to it.

"...cheese is a special case. Nutritionally, it is awful - with a very high content of saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium. However, cheese is extremely high in casein, the dairy protein, which is not like the other proteins. It breaks apart to release opiates into the bloodstream, and these milk casomorphins attach to the same opiate receptors in the brain that heroin attaches to, called the mu-receptor. So it's not just taste, it's not just mouthfeel - dairy products are unique in that they release casomorphins, and cheese has a much higher concentration of them than milk or ice cream." 
"If I stuck a needle in your arm a half-hour after you ate cheese, there would be opiates in your bloodstream and attaching to your brain. While it's not enough to make you drive dangerously or rob a convenience store, it's enough to make you say the next day, 'I think I'd like a little more cheese.' Completely stinky, repugnant cheese become more attractive when a person associates what's going on in the brain with the smell and the flavor."

He goes on to say that "If you are hooked on cheese - or anything else- you might consider trying to make a clean break. That's easier than teasing yourself with little bits here and there."

Hmm. Cheese is like mini-heroin to your brain? Hard to believe, but lately what I've read a lot about the whole sugar / cocaine thing is similar. Why not cheese & heroin?

So... does that mean I'm going to go cold-turkey? Well, I have already, and I don't seem to need rehab. Truthfully, though, I just don't think I will stay off 'the good stuff' forever. I'll keep the doses low, carefully measured out to ensure I just take about one ounce. That should do it, right?


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Gettin my Green On

I've been busy. Sorry, it's true, that even though I'm not working currently, I've still been busy. It takes time to find a job, you see, and I've allowed myself to be all consumed with it. It paid off because I've landed a job!! Maybe more on that later, we'll see. Anyway, the other reason I've been busy is that we've had family visiting. Well, ok, that last part has only been for the last 3.5 days or so, but it still counts.

Anyway, I thought I'd take the opportunity to share 2 recipes that I'm totally in love with. The first one is what I drink every morning for breakfast. I actually feel guilty when I DON'T drink it for breakfast, because it gives me my greens first thing in the morning. If nothing 'good' happens the rest of my day in terms of my diet, at least I know I started off on the right foot!

Now... don't get me wrong, either. I'm not a juicer, and up until now the only smoothie I would fix myself contained either a yogurt / strawberry / banana / oats combo, or sub out the strawberry & banana for raw cacao and peanut butter & that's my go-to number two. That was my repertoire... partly due to the fact that I wasn't really buying the whole "drink for breakfast" thing, and partly because my blender was a typical run-of-the-mill blender. Insert my sister's Blentec and the smoothie world is my oyster!

So... let's get to it. My new favourite go-to breakfast is the "classic green monster" from Oh She Glows. It's TASTY! See my recipes section for the ingredient amounts, but it's basically made with almond milk, spinach, frozen banana, peanut butter, chia seeds, vanilla and cinnamon. You can try subbing in kale for the spinach, but personally, I'm just NOT a fan of kale in a smoothie. It just flavours the whole thing which I feel is a bit overpowering, particularly in the morning. Let's just say that if I'm going to drink something green, it better be tasty.

So... here it is!

Now, I may have said that kale does not work in the smoothie. Ok, I will most certainly go on record and stand by that. I have, however found a fantastic place for kale. My 2nd favourite recipe right now is the "festive kale salad with sweet apple-cinnamon vinaigrette & pecan parmesan", again from Oh She Glows. Let's face it, I'm seriously loving that cookbook, and I think I could eat that kale salad every night. BIG TIME. And I don't feel guilty about it at all!

Please don't take the picture as any indication of what it tastes like. This picture makes it look like something you picked out of the seaweed at the beach - but that's partly because I've used Lacinto Kale. I was using curly kale originally, and it's not so dark green, but I figure it's good to change things up in the kale department every once in awhile! Both types of kale work really well, but I will say, you have to MASSAGE it. If you've never heard of massaging your kale, well, then you've probably never eaten kale (or enjoyed it if you did). What a chewing nightmare. If you've massaged the dressing into it properly, and even let it sit awhile (a few hours maybe) before you eat it, then you should have a perfectly 'relaxed' kale that won't make you feel like a cow eating dinner.

So... I've been busy getting my green on, and hopefully these 2 recipes will help you do it too!


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Moving Outta the Neighborhood

My sister and I went to Atlanta over the weekend. We went down there to go to Dr Furhman's "Nutritarian One-day Intensive" course on Saturday. If you've heard of Dr Furhman before, then you know what it was probably about. But for those of you who don't know who he is, he's written books like Eat to Live, The End of Diabetes, Eat for Health, and The End of Dieting, among others.

Dr Furhman promotes "Nutritarian" eating, which basically has 4 principles.

  1. Your health expectancy is in direct proportion to the number of micronutrients you take in. Micronutrients are things like vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. You should focus on eating the foods that will give you the most micronutrients per calorie you eat. 
  2. Comprehensive Nutrient Adequacy. It's a long term that basically means you need to eat the rainbow. Haven't heard that before? You know, eat reds, greens, yellow, purples... so that you get all the different nutrients you need and don't end up looking like a carrot after eating too many of them.
  3. Hormonally Favourable. Our bodies are full of hormones and they react to the different foods we eat - insulin and IGF-1 to name a few. He is basically saying here that we should eat foods that don't spike up our insulin and cause us to gain weight. IGF-1 is "Insulin-like Growth Factor 1" and it's a bad boy. It promotes cell division and growth. That ain't bad, right? Well, if you are a growing kid, no, it ain't bad, but if you're a cancer cell, well, that's really bad. So.... it's good to limit that sucker if you can.
  4. Avoid toxins. Easy, right?! Not so easy. For example, I took a trip to my local grocery store to buy some corn tortillas to make enchiladas. The kind we buy at Trader Joe's have corn, water and lime in them. That's it. I don't think the corn is non-GMO certified or anything, and they aren't listed as organic, but in my book that's WAY better than the list of ingredients you'll find on a package of Mission (a popular brand).
Ingredients: Whole Grain Corn, Water, Cellulose Gum, Propionic Acid (to preserve freshness), Benzoic Acid and Phosphoric Acid (to preserve freshness), Guar Gum, Amylase.

What IS that stuff?!?  The point is, toxins are everywhere and in nearly everything. You really have to be diligent to avoid toxins, but believe me, I'm doing it. I even try to avoid toxins in my cosmetics... ok, I haven't graduated to eliminating it from my make-up, but I use brands like Yes To for my shampoo, body wash and lotions!

Anyway, whether you subscribe to the 4 principles or not, basically it's a primarily vegan diet that's low on grains (whole grains only if you're gonna have them) but still allows nuts and seeds - even recommends them! It's a plant-based diet that really focuses on eating healthy rather than just eating vegan... cause you and I both know by now that they really aren't the same. You can eat vegan potato chips all you want and you aren't going to lose a single pound, or improve your health.

So what do I mean about moving out of the neighborhood?

These questions were asked...
How many of you have ever been shot at?
How many of you have ever been car jacked?
How many of you have ever had your house broken into?
And now imagine you were sitting at your local town meeting, and those same questions were asked. What would you do? You'd think "I'VE GOTTA MOVE!! This place is no place for me to live!" If your family knew you were living in a place like that but refused to move, they'd think you were crazy!

Well, basically, we're living in a neighborhood where cancer, diabetes, heart attacks, alzheimer's and other ailments all seem to be the norm... and yet we are STILL living in the neighborhood and not moving. Those diseases don't have to be the norm! We can change the way we eat and make an impact on our health. I liked thinking about it that way. Sometimes it's really hard, but when I think about this.. "If you eat what most Americans eat, you'll get what most Americans get", it makes sense. I don't wanna get what most Americans get. FAT is just one of them.

The other statistic that he stated which scared the bejeezus outta me (that's a technical term).. was that 95% of American women over the age of 65 have active cancer in their breasts. It's just not detectable yet. SERIOUSLY!? I wish I knew where he got that information, but basically it's saying that the older you get, the more likely you are to have cells in your body that are acting up and morphing into things they shouldn't be. But that's not to say that it's all in your genes... basically the idea is that WE HAVE THE POWER to change our course. Sure, we might be born with some nasty buggers in there, but we can either turn up the volume and get them multiplying like crazy, or we can chill them the hell down and keep them at bay. I know, maybe it's not that easy but thinking of it as simply as that makes me at least feel like I've got a bit of control over the situation.

So... I'm moving out. Just how far away I go is yet to be seen.... but I'm doing it. This sh!t is for the birds.


Saturday, February 28, 2015

I like to move it, move it

I hit a slump this week. On Monday, I was totally bummed. I just woke up in a funk. Do you ever feel that way? It's like you probably shouldn't be sad, but you are, for whatever reason. I just felt down and like I wasn't sure what I was doing with my life. Wasn't that supposed to happen 5 months ago when I turned 40?! Talk about Monday blues!

I feel thankful, though. As I felt really lonely in my head, I reached out to a friend and just touched on the feelings I was having. Her advice? Start MOVING. And I'm so very thankful for it! 

Now, I know this kinda stuff. It's not new to me. I know that exercise will not only do wonders for your body, but it will help lift your mood. It's proven. Somehow I wasn't making the connection, or perhaps more truthfully, I didn't WANT to make the connection. I'd gotten myself into a funk and part of me was wallowing in it. Getting up the next morning and putting on a dance DVD was hard in some respects, but I started slowly. It's a dance DVD. Like.... geriatric, nursing home, low-impact dance DVD. Ok, it's definitely not marketed that way (see youtube video here), but it was certainly low-key compared to the P90X3 that I was doing before! Anyway, the point is, it got me moving, got a little sweat on and made me feel like I actually DID something productive for my health.

All this vegan stuff is great, but it doesn't seem to shift the weight effortlessly. Did I expect it to? No, not really, but I certainly hoped (prayed) it would! So, now I'm moving. Slowly, probably too slowly for some, but definitely DOing something. And that's a good thing.

So... to my friend... who knows who she is.... THANK YOU!! I needed that.


Sunday, February 22, 2015


I can't say for absolute 100% certain that I've eaten some animal products, but if you asked me to put money on it, I'd probably bet against myself.

This week I had several networking events and meetings that weren't vegan friendly. The first was at a steakhouse - which, although I ordered the vegetable plate - I'm pretty certain one of those vegetables was doused in butter or cream or something. I didn't ask. Don't ask, don't tell, right? And then on another night, I was at an event where none (and I mean NONE) of the options were vegan-friendly. There was a caesar salad where the parmesan was already sprinkled on, a broccoli-cheese casserole with breadcrumbs on top, a breaded mozzarella chicken breast, and mashed potatoes (which looked yellow-y, so I'm assuming there was butter or cream involved). For dessert, they had cheesecakes or buckeyes (for those of you not from Ohio, they are basically peanut butter balls dipped in chocolate.) So... I was a bit disappointed with the choices and I'm relatively certain that I didn't get all those bits of cheese off of the salad. FAIL.

Both of those events this past week were particularly tempting to me. To some people, "Broccoli-cheese casserole" may seem like a good title for a B-grade horror movie, but to me, it's TAS-TY. I love the stuff. It was particularly hard for me to say no - so....well, I didn't. I took a little piece of broccoli and I made sure that there was no visible cheese-flecks on it, but I can tell you that if I had to pass a cheese-blood test, I'd fail! At least I'm admitting to it - you won't find it necessary for me to show up on Oprah on a "Sorry, I lied" program. (ahem, Lance)

Anyway- the whole point is to say that I've cheated a little this week. In my defense, it wasn't PURPOSEFUL cheating, it just kinda happened. All of a sudden I feel like the guilty cheating spouse who says "I'm so sorry, but if it makes you feel any better, it didn't MEAN anything to me!!"

The good news is that I've lost close to 5 or 6 pounds since the beginning of this whole thing. (Wait - that's not to say that the cheating was still ok!!)
Anyway - we're now in week 7 1/2, so it's not great weight loss, but considering that I've done virtually no exercise for the past 7.5 weeks...well, I'll take it.

p.s. I forgot to post a photo of the Valentine's Brunch that OE treated me to! It's at a place called Fern Flavors from the Garden. It was pretty tasty! No cheating there... oh wait, I think it's possible that they didn't put the vegan version of their hollandaise sauce on there, but given I asked for the tofu instead of the egg, I was hoping they knew what I meant!)


Tuesday, February 17, 2015


I feel weird today. Not because of anything I ate, but because of the things that I know.

I mentioned in previous posts about how it feels like more and more people I know have been getting sick. Today, I found out about another lady who went to college with me who has been battling cancer for the past 14 years and has just moved into hospice care. FOURTEEN YEARS. She graduated two years before me, and although I recognize who she is from pictures, we weren't friends back in school. But this new information still hits home because she is very close to my age, ran in the same circles and experienced some of the same things I experienced in a significant part of my life. Even more so because it adds another name to the list of people in my head that are sick with cancer.

The other thing is, she has a blog, and she's been talking about her experience with her illness since it went into Stage IV in 2010. I can't read it. My sister was reading a somewhat similar blog the other day and I asked her "why are you reading that stuff? It's not exactly a pick-me-up." And although that may sound harsh to some, it's the way I feel. There are so many negative messages out there and depressing things in the world that sometimes I just want to block it all out. Why add to it? I know, the blogs that I have read around these things are usually focussed around positive things... simple pleasures, time with family, giving thanks. But it makes me feel so conflicted- conflicted because I feel so very very bad for them, and at the same time, I am thankful that I am not experiencing the kind of reality that they are facing. But all of that is beside the point.... the point is that she is blogging about her experience in dying. And when I think about what that must be like for her, her family, friends, and even people she doesn't know... it makes me wonder about the value in blogging about changing your diet for 90 days. I mean... seriously?

So....I'm conflicted. I guess everyone has a voice, and everyone can use their voice to help others in some way, or to help themselves cope with what they are experiencing, however great or small. I guess the point of my post today is just to stop and be thankful. Take a breath and be thankful for health, for friends, for family, for time. There are more important things in life than what I ate for breakfast... but I'm going to continue on this path because it's a positive path that I believe leads to better health, which is something I think everyone can use a little bit more of.


Saturday, February 7, 2015

California Dreamin'

OE and I just returned from a holiday to California, and if I ever had worries about eating vegan in San Francisco... well, I just shouldn't have! I was worried that eating out would be a total pain, and that it would steal all the fun out of our holiday. I do love to go to new restaurants and try new foods or eat foods that I normally wouldn't get to eat at home. How can you do that when you're eating vegan?! The fact is that, particularly in San Francisco, saying "I'm vegan" in a restaurant is absolutely no big deal, and it seemed as if the waiters were more than happy to help me navigate the menu to find some options that would work for me!

This is a pic of us crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. Get a load of that California blue sky!!

California is probably one of the birthplaces of the whole vegan movement (if you can call it that). There are plenty of options that offer vegetarian (and some vegan), so we tried a restaurant in Santa Cruz which was solely vegetarian / vegan since 1981. They definitely have whole thing down pat. It was DEE-lish! It was called Dharma's Restaurant. And I LOVED it. They also served some mighty big portions! I figured I'd be a piggy and eat all of it- just look at all those veggies in my veggie burrito!

It really was a tasty meal and inspired me to recreate some of the same options at home. I also followed it with a nice big slice of their vegan chocolate cake, but I can't show you that here. I gobbled it up too quick!

While we were in San Francisco, we stopped at a place for lunch called The Plant Cafe Organic in Mill Valley, where I had a fabulous Huervos Rancheros without the egg, sour cream or cheese. They sub in a basil-tofu scramble, and I seriously didn't miss the dairy for one second. It was fantastic! When places prepare options like that which really taste good, it makes me happy to be eating the way I am right now because I don't feel like I'm missing out and I'm doing my body good. And I'm not hungry afterwards!

One of the things I probably do a bit too much of is eating dessert and sweet things. Being vegan means I'm less able to choose whatever I want when we walk past a little cupcake shop or a patisserie. So I was absolutely delighted to find out that San Francisco has a donut shop that makes SOLELY vegan donuts. I know, right?! (Cue the angel choirs singing). Can you believe it?! Pepples donuts makes tasty donuts in quite a few different flavours - and they tasted pretty close to the real thing. I can definitely say that you would have had a hard time telling the Vanilla Glaze from a typical Dunkin or Krispy Kreme cake donut!

 Now... one of the things that makes me love OE, is that he doesn't complain when I say that I want to walk through a grocery store while we're on holiday. I know, I know... it's probably not the first thing that a normal person would do while on vacation, but I actually like going grocery shopping. (Food nerd alert.) And while driving around, I spotted a store called Mollie Stone's and wondered what it was. We don't have those in Charlotte, and it turns out that it is a grocery store! Our friends said that it was more upscale, so of course, I wanted to see it! Maybe it's because I miss the Marks & Spencer of the UK. I don't know. Either way, we went inside, and they really do a nice job of presenting their veg. (Again, ... food nerd.)

I imagine these photos are pretty lousy - I'm not intending to make a real foodie photo blog here but you get the idea.

And lastly - while in Santa Cruz, OE wanted to visit the amusement park where they filmed the movie The Lost Boys. Now... let me just say that when I saw that movie on a VCR tape in our refurnished basement circa 1987... it wrecked me. I still, to this day, hate vampires. I could only fall asleep if I had a sheet covering my neck after watching that movie. (Nevermind the fact that they'd bite through the sheet and apparently you have to invite them inside in the first place... ew... even talking about it now makes me get freaked out. BLEGH.) Annnnnyway... the point is that we went to see it and it was a pretty cool amusement park. The other thing I noticed was that there's no way you'd go to an amusement park hungry if you're a vegan.

Only in the USA, right?

So overall, it was a fantastic trip! I found it difficult in a smaller town (Carmel Valley) to find things that were vegan options. Most of the restaurants had maybe 1 or 2 vegetarian options, but that usually means it has cheese on it. Sometimes you can't get them to leave off the cheese either - like in an alfredo! Anyway, I did my best. I had a few salads and I hoped that the options I chose were vegan when I asked for no dairy. They might not have been purely vegan, but on holiday, I figured a 98% vegan diet was pretty good enough.


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Vegan vs Plant-Based Vs "Plant-Strong"

There's been a lot of hype lately about fast food restaurants offering vegan options on their menus. (Chipotle in particular.) YAAAY! I'm all for that. Particularly because I've been to a few networking functions lately where the entree choices were "beef, chicken or fish", which isn't particularly vegan (or even vegetarian!) friendly. I've made it work, though. I've picked cheese off of salads and asked for vegetable plates, but I haven't been that person who asks a million questions about how they cooked those tasty vegetables or mashed potatoes. Cause you can almost bet $100 that there's butter in them there 'taters.  And I just don't want to know. The point is that it has made me more sympathetic to the vegan / vegetarian plight when it comes to eating away from home.

So anyway, I've been following "Engine 2 Diet" on Facebook. They made a comment about all this fast food vegan malarky and gently reminded their followers that the options at fast food restaurants aren't "Plant Strong". I thought... "WHAT?!! How can a burrito with brown rice, beans, no cheese and loads of guac and veggies NOT be plant-strong?!?"  Well, it turns out that "plant-strong" isn't the same as "vegan" or "plant-based". The way I see it, vegan and plant-based are the same thing. "Plant-strong" is Engine 2's definition of a diet that is not only vegan, but it also cuts out things like any oil or salt. So.... it's basically HEALTHY-vegan rather than just "vegan". All of this just makes my head spin anyway. I'm feeling like I must be eating too many grains. Every meal I've eaten lately has probably had some sort of grain in it. Whole, of course, but still a grain. I think there's some changing and revamping that I need to do here. And don't even get me started about sugar. I KNOW that is the devil. D.E.V.I.L.

In the meantime, I'm still contemplating how I'll eat in California. It's only about 30 days into my 90-day experiment, and although I think it would be easy to fall waaaaaaay off the wagon while on holiday, I'm going to really try to keep it up. I'm not going to get picky about whether or not there's egg in my bread, but I am going to hold off on eating dairy or meat. If I can do that, I'll feel it will have been a good success! Just don't put me near a plate of bacon at breakfast....

So in the meantime, there's a glass of wine waiting for me!


Tuesday, January 27, 2015


Sigh. I haven't written in a while because I've been a bit disappointed with the whole thing. Just as soon as I wrote about the piggy pink tongue, wouldn't you know it - the next day my tongue was back to normal. TMI?? Anyway, it made me think that the results were just a fluke, just a one-off for that day, which then disappoints me because I want some freaking LASTING change, right?

And there's been no more weight loss. I think I lost about 1.2lbs that first week and then I haven't gone down any more since. Pfffft! It's been 27 days today! It really makes me want to know what my cholesterol is RIGHT NOW so I can see if this is actually making any other differences at all!!

The good news is that some of the stress of finding jobs for me and OE is relieved... today he signed a contract! YAAAY! Very positive and a step in the right direction for us. That's great! In the meantime, we've decided to head over to San Francisco to take advantage of his delayed start time and get some quality time in with friends and family. That's great... BUT... we're vegans, right? So I usually spend my holidays eating my way through a city. I love to try new foods, new restaurants, new bakeries... etc, etc, etc... and I just don't know how that's going to fly in San Fran. I mean, I know they must have loads of vegan restaurants- I mean, it's freaking California, right? - but it also means I need to be careful about what I eat and make a point of not tempting myself too much. ARGH! It will be worth it, though, right? RIGHT?!?!

So... that's the latest. Not exactly earth-shattering stuff here but I'm keepin on keepin on. I am still enjoying trying the new recipes from the cookbooks.. the latest was a chocolate cake from Happy Herbivore Light and Lean. Hmm... maybe that's why I'm not losing any weight.....

Oh yeah, and these Jamie Oliver recipes look mighty good too! Although not all of them are vegan, there are still some nice options there. The 'Shepherd's Pie' looks tasty!

15 Veggie Recipes to Make Meat-Eaters Jealous


Sunday, January 18, 2015

Stick out your tongue

So yesterday, OE asked me if I'd noticed any differences since I've been vegan for 17 days now. I thought I was losing some weight, but it turns out I've only lost about 1.5lbs. ARGH! I definitely thought it was going to be more by now. Then again, I guess it's a healthy loss because they say, whoever "they" are, that losing 1 - 2 lbs a week is pretty good going. What's wrong with wanting to be an over-achiever?! It didn't take me 2 weeks to put on this poundage, I guess it will take just as long to get it off.

Anyway, back to differences... as I was brushing my teeth a day or two ago, I stuck out my tongue like I normally do to brush it. I don't know if you brush your tongue, but it's something I generally do right before the final spit and rinse. Anyway, I noticed that it was pink. Like, evenly pink. Which probably shouldn't be a big deal, but I don't think that I could say with certainty that my tongue had ever been as evenly pink as it was (and is) now. Is this something that is happening as a result of my diet? I can only think so. If you've ever googled "tongue health" and seen some of the pictures that come up, well, don't do it on a full stomach is what I'll say. DIS.GUS.TING. I've never had anything like those photos, but I can say that sometimes it looks a little white-ish, or just not a nice piggy pink. And now that's changed! Oh, and by now, I am supposed to be dairy free.. I mean, my body has probably gotten rid of the proteins from any dairy that I was consuming before. Maybe that has something to do with it. Either way, I like this new piggy pink. I think I'll keep it for awhile.

So stick out your tongue and see what cha got!


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

the devil is in the donuts

So I think I've been doing pretty well. 14 days in now and I've been able to keep away from the animal products. Tonight, however, was a test. Tonight my sister asked me to go to the grocery store and pick up some Krispy Kreme donuts for my niece's birthday at school tomorrow. And let me just say, HOLY freaking SMOKES.

I'm not actually a huge Krispy Kreme fan. (gasp! blasphemy!) Yes, there's that whole "hot donuts" sign and you get to have them all warm and gooey straight out of the oven, but in that way they are actually a bit too gooey for me. Too sweet. Maybe one bite and I'm fine, a few more and it's a bit too much. Not that it has ever stopped me from eating one, I dare say. I'll pound those down just like the next fat cat, but I can't say I loooooove them. But tonight? Tonight, even in their day-old, not-poppin-fresh state in the grocery store, they looked like sheer gold and I really wanted to cram one into my beak. I'm just being honest here. It was rough.

Fortunately, I didn't. And I'm going to stop thinking about it now and celebrate the fact that I'm doing a good job. I'm keepin it real and I'm making changes in my life that are going to help my health. Some day I'll be able to have one donut and it won't be a big deal. It will be a sometimes treat that I don't have very often. But I'm not there yet, not quite yet. And so today, I'll celebrate getting through today.

By the way, I've now added a few good cookbooks to the "cookbooks" section! They really are good recipes and I've been pretty pleased with the results, particularly because they don't rely on faux meat. Yeah, it's actually called "faux meat" in some other cookbooks. Are you kidding me?! Let's get real. Anyway, check 'em out!


Sunday, January 11, 2015

What I know for sure

Today is day 11 and I am pretty pleased that I've made it this far. We'll see how easy it is tomorrow when I have to go to a networking / learning lunch where they are serving, well, lunch. I don't know if it's a buffet or if they will have set courses, but I know there hasn't been a form or anything for me to fill out about "dietary requirements". And, even if there was, I don't know if I would have filled it out, because, although I maybe eating a vegan diet, I'm not sure I wanna be that person. You know, the one with all the dietary requirements. I figure I probably better eat a bit before I go and just hope that they aren't serving animal or dairy with every course, or that there's something on the buffet that I can snack on so I'm not drawing any unnecessary attention to myself or my plate. Man, do all vegans have to worry about this kind of thing?!

So anyway, I titled this post "what I know for sure", because at 11 days into this thing, I don't really feel like I'm any closer to answers about what I'm truly supposed to be eating. I mean, not to be vegan, just to be... um... in perfect health, I guess! Because I've spent the last few days (ok, not entirely by any stretch), but a few hours of the last few days, trying to read a lot of conflicting research about what you're supposed to eat. I've included the different sites in my "references" tab, and I haven't really nailed down exactly what people are saying, because people are saying different things!

For example, people who eat paleo (like cavemen), say that any grains are bad. They don't care if they are whole or not, just grains in general are bad so don't eat 'em. The reason they say not to eat them is because allegedly (isn't that what you're supposed to say when the evidence hasn't completely proven guilt?!), allegedly grains bump up against your digestive tract and make a mucus'y substance and release enzymes that aren't supposed to be released (that's the uber scientific version, you realize). But then on the flip side, others say you are supposed to eat grains (albeit WHOLE grains), because that "film" that develops is what helps keep your blood sugar from spiking and protects your liver! So... WHICH IS IT?! To grain, or not to grain!! I just don't know yet.

So... I'm going to keep reading. I will say that no one is suggesting that you eat more sugar. And no one is suggesting that you eat more refined carbohydrates. Everyone suggests that it's good to eat more green vegetables. So at least there's that.


Thursday, January 8, 2015

Baby, it's cold outside

It's SOOO freaking cold outside today.  I don't even think it got up to freezing out there. It's bitter. And when it's cold outside, I want warm, comforting foods. Given the fact that I'm only 7 days into this shindig, the thought of a "cauliflower roast" still just doesn't cut it.

I kept remembering those ricotta stuffed shells I'd been tempted with a while ago. (Holy smokes, it wasn't even a week ago yet?!) Anyway, I kept remembering them and wondered how I could make a "ricotta" cheese that was vegan. Fortunately, Charlotte has a vegan restaurant nearby and a food delivery service. Why do I say that? Because when I read their menu items, I get ideas. And one of their menu items had a lasagna with a "white bean ricotta". That sounded do-able to me! So I looked online and found a "vegan ricotta" which included both white beans and tofu. Now, I don't like the look of tofu, but it's not as bad as I thought it would be. So, I tried making it tonight and putting it into a lasagna with rice noodles (cause I couldn't find whole wheat lasagna noodles).

The results? Well, it was tasty! Both OE and my sister said that it was "definitely not a fail", which in my book, is pretty damn good when it comes to tofu! I don't think I put enough sauce in the mix so it ended up being a bit drier than I'd hoped, but I've done that with regular ol' lasagna sometimes, so I figure that's par for the course. I was pretty pleased with the result and started thinking of ways that I could make it even tastier... adding caramelized onion, mushroom, roasted garlic... lots of ways to add some more flavour!

I've taken a picture of it, but unfortunately this is after my sister shoved it into a tupperware container for leftovers...
so, it's not so appealing in the aftermath, but you get the idea. I'll also have to figure out my recipe and post it in the "recipes" section. How exciting!

Anyway, I'm pretty chuffed to bits (that's British for "proud") about that. YAY lasagna!


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

WHOLE lotta love

I think there's a danger with the vegan diet, probably similar to a lot of diets, in that if you don't do it the way you're "supposed" to, it's just unhealthy. For example, you could eat loads of carbs all day, even if they are whole grain, and it wouldn't really be the kind of plant-based that's healthy as I see it. And you could eat salt & vinegar chips all day, still be vegan, but not be healthy. I think we all know that (as tastily addictive as they may be).

So I think I've maybe been eating too many grains. I've been luvin' the WHOLE grains, but maybe I'm getting too many of them. I'm not sure. That's one thing I'll need to check on. I figure I've got 5 food groups now.

  1. Vegetables
  2. Fruit
  3. Legumes
  4. Whole Grains
  5. Nuts and Seeds
And you know, that's potentially the order they should go in terms of quantity... I'll have to check. Maybe legumes should be before fruit... I don't know. The point is, you can eat a lot of whole wheat if you aren't careful. I figure I might need to start looking at (gulp) the green smoothie! (Eeks) Maybe that's one way I could get some veg into my quick morning routine. Stay tuned.

One thing that I noticed today was that I do feel a little lighter. Maybe not so bloated? And OE said he thought my skin looked like it was clearing. Not like I'm a pock-face normally, but he thought that it looked "clearer". So I figure that's good. I didn't really expect to see any changes for about 2 weeks... why? Well, because I'd heard that when you quit dairy (my sister's doctor told her), it takes about 2 weeks for the proteins to clear your body. One website I looked at said 3 - 4 weeks. I guess the changes will probably be gradual, at any rate. And if they are truly starting already, well, that's Day 6.


Monday, January 5, 2015

Day 5

Today was pretty stressful. Not because of the diet, I might add, just stressful in general.

Both OE and I are currently looking for work given our "recent" move back from overseas. I think it's always stressful looking for work... you send out all these resumes and wonder if somebody will like you enough (not the Facebook kinda like), to give you a chance at chatting with them about a role. It's like having your profile up on a dating website but not only aren't the losers calling you, sometimes nobody is calling you. It's stressful! Hearing good news is sometimes even more stressful (at least to me) because now you've actually got to deliver, right?! You've got to be even more sparkly than that piece of paper they "bought" the idea of you with. Thankfully today was good news, but either way you cut it - S T R E S S.

Anyway... the whole stressful day made me realize just how much I mindlessly eat when I'm stressed. No, I didn't do it today, because I caught myself. Let's be honest, it's not because of any insane willpower, but simply because I knew that there was no way I'd feel what I was hoping to feel after eating a carrot. Ok, maybe I'd feel better because I ate a carrot instead of a whole bar of dark chocolate, but that's because of the 'after-guilt-factor' of eating a whole bar of dark chocolate. You know what I mean. Carrots ain't what I was looking for today. So... I acknowledged to myself that I was 'jonesing' for some comfort food in a big way and I took a deep breath, drank a whole glass of water and thought - I will power through! So I am happy about that. Score one for me today!

The other thing that is actually helping me a lot is that damned cholesterol score of 231. Any time I think about cooking with oil, or want to eat something that I shouldn't, I think "TWO-freaking-THIRTY-ONE". It helps me. It actually soothes me in some ways - because I have no choice. If I want that number to come down, I've gotta make some better decisions. I mean, if not now... when?! So it actually helps to have that big number right now. If I didn't, well, maybe I would be more tempted, or maybe I'd sit there and think "man, how bad was I eating and my cholesterol was normal! I'm golden!" Alas, not so. Hmm... this revelation kind-of worries me, though. The realist in me says that once my cholesterol returns to normal, I might be tempted to go back to the old ways. What? Relapse? Nah... not meeeeee, I say. I guess we'll cross that bridge later after we figure out what this change in lifestyle does.

Five days down and I'd say it's going pretty well. I do still need to figure out the meal plans for the rest of this week, though. Awww, snap!


Saturday, January 3, 2015

A bitter pill to swallow

Remember how I got a blood test on the 12/31/14? Well, I got the full test results back today.

Total Cholesterol:  231
HDL:  67
Triglycerides:  78
LDL:  148
Chol / HDLC ratio:  3.4
Non HDL Cholesterol:  164

Um, yeah. In case you weren't aware, that's not good. Your total cholesterol is supposed to be below 200, even better below 180, ideally below 150 (mine = 231). Your LDL is supposed to be at least below 130 (mine = 148).  Only a few points higher in the total cholesterol and I'd be a candidate for medication. I'm 40 years old. WTF. WTF. WTF.

I was hoping that I'd see some changes in my numbers at the end of this "experiment", and I assumed that my numbers to begin with wouldn't be great, but not outside normal ranges. I did not expect that I would actually need to do this experiment! I mean, seriously??!

I guess it's the best outcome - I mean, without doing this, I wouldn't have been aware that my cholesterol was creeping so high. And thus, I probably wouldn't have been taking drastic action to make some real lifestyle changes. So... that's good. But seriously.... what a bitter pill.


Friday, January 2, 2015


Day 2 wasn't as bad as Day 1, but it had its moments. I won't say how, but I was mercilessly tempted with some very tasty looking ricotta stuffed pasta shells, some homemade macaroni and cheese, as well as some gooey brownies and soft-looking chocolate chip cookies. Some serious big-time comfort foods that just looked way to irresistible to resist. But, I did. YAY ME! It's those small victories, right? Whew.

So I was thinking a bit today about addictions. I read or saw somewhere (I'll have to find out where it was) that people can have food addictions that basically register activity in their brain similar to heroine addictions. Who would have thought? It makes sense, though... sometimes you feel like you've just got to eat something. Well, I do sometimes. It's a coping mechanism. And I imagine (because I really have no idea) that being addicted to a drug is very similar. Only, you have to eat food, and it somewhat surrounds you every single day of your life. I don't mean to say that drug addiction is easier to deal with (far from it!), what I'm saying is that food addictions aren't thought of in the same way or have the same type of taboos that drug addictions do. For example, if you're anything like me, you've sat around chatting with your girlfriends about how much cake you ate one night, or how you shouldn't have had that second helping of dessert, or how you stood at the food table all night at a party because at least you knew you wouldn't be bored, or boring. What? Is that just me?! Anyway... think if we switched food and drugs or alcohol in that situation. Alcohol might not be exactly the same, but I know my friends would do more than just raise an eyebrow if I said I'd practically overdosed at a party. Am I right?

I think this whole adopting a vegan diet is good for me to realize what I want from food. Am I seeking comfort or am I just looking to 'not be hungry'? At any rate, it's one day at a time. One decision at a time. I am already feeling like this is a tough but good choice for me. And I think that's saying something!


Thursday, January 1, 2015

A journey of a thousand miles....

...begins with a single step! Lao Tzu's famous saying is exactly how I'm feeling today. Day 1... and although it's not exactly a journey of a thousand miles, it definitely feels like it's going to be a thousand days!

Today felt like a bit of a battle. I had set myself up for success with a good whole grain breakfast cereal (Engine 2 "Rip's Big Bowl Banana Walnut"), and I was ready with a veggie burger for lunch. And then... well... then the burger bun I was going to put my veggie burger on turned out to have egg yolk in it. Yeah. WTF. I was actually really looking forward to the burger. I truly do like veggie burgers, well,  good veggie burgers. Some of them are a bit like cardboard, but even without this whole vegan-diet thing, I like 'em. With a bit of avocado (or as Australians say "ah-vo") and some tomato ("toe-mah-toe"), those veggies burgers cook up nice and tasty. However, today that stupid bun had egg yolk. So....(ear muffs, people) I ate it anyway. GULP. I know, I know... as OE chastised me "It's not good that you are compromising and it's only day 1," I was struck with the thought "Good Lord. Can't anybody even have a freaking BUN around here without there being some freaking ANIMAL in it?!"  So... I figured that next time I need to read the label before I get all psyched up for the meal.

I guess I should get used to reading labels more closely anyway. I usually read labels like a champ. OE truly doesn't like going grocery shopping with me. He knows that if I send him on an errand to go get the (insert pantry item here), he will come back 5 minutes later and I will still be standing in the yogurt aisle reading the labels. Well... NO MORE! I mean, no more yogurt anyway. I'll still be found reading labels, and probably right where he left me, too. But that's fine, because next time I won't be eating a freaking egg yolk bun.

One good thing that happened today was that my sister and I went for a walk. A good hour-plus walk does you some good, and it hurts your legs if you've been a sedentary wildebeest for the past month like I have. It's ok, though, because it made me feel good to have done something productive. I spent the rest of the day combing through vegan cookbooks and planning meals for the next 3 days. Yeah, that's all a whole day of planning got me... 3 days worth of meals. It takes a while to figure out what you've got in the house and what you're willing to eat. I couldn't find oat flour at the grocery store. And I think I may have the wrong kind of tofu, but I guess it's part of the learning process, right? I know I will learn a lot during the next 3 months and that's really all part of why I'm doing it in the first place. What sort of meals can I transform into vegan ones? What just doesn't work? And do they seriously think I believe them when they say in the vegan cookbooks "your friends will never know it's vegan!" Um.... no, I don't really believe you. They will  know because I'm sure as hell going to tell them.

So... that's today. To be honest, and I'm going to be, I didn't really want to write today. I was ashamed that I'd eaten that bun on "Day 1"and I was also a bit miffed at having to say "no" to loads of tasty looking foods today. I should be fine with it but when you want something, you want it. The grocery store is the devil. Temptations everywhere. Do true vegans just not see that stuff anymore?! I guess we'll see how it goes. Currently I sit here with yet another glass of Asti to toast the new year. And if Asti isn't vegan, well, then don't tell me, it's NEW YEARS! Wow, I nearly forgot! HAPPY NEW YEAR!!