Vegan Ambition

Plant love has seeped into my lifestyle, and green juice is flowing through my veins these days.  I scour the internet trying to find vegan shoe options that align with my distaste for plastic’s existence in this universe.  I lovingly munch on rice and beans lettuce wraps, pondering what more I can do to promote a vegan lifestyle to others besides eat and shop.  I’ll continue to vote with my dollars as vegan consumer, but I also wish to put out more positive action into the world.  What else could I create and do?

First of all, I quietly persist.  I used to underestimate the social influence of small consistent action.  As I eat my lettuce, and admit to sometimes craving ice cream, people observe.  They see that becoming vegan can be a challenge for me as it likely would be initially for them.  They see that sometimes I struggle to convert a recipe, and that this struggle produces in me an extreme amount of joy and pride, like a difficult workout that leads to long term fitness goals.  Good struggle.  Satisfaction.  Work.

Secondly, I share.  I gift my knowledge and experience to anyone who asks to hear my story.  I do not force my vegan baggage upon people who are not ready to embrace it or are too overwhelmed to carry it.  Instead, I wear my green T-shirt, and wait for them to find the space to notice and ask.  And when they do, I try to welcome them warmly from where they are now.  I show them that the vegan side of the street is a pretty cool place to live.  Why did the chicken cross the road?  He knew his neighbor was vegan, too.  (I just made that up.)

One day, my vegan ambition is to convert more people to this community.  Could I expand my food skills by preparing meals or giving vegan cooking lessons to some hungry souls?  Perhaps I could speak to some food bank volunteers, to see if vegan options might be most affordable and healthy for those in need.  I’ll sneak a vegan cookbook into the little free library just down the street from my house.  I’ll go bigger and figure out how to present a viable business plan that influences dairy farmers to convert their facilities to profitable vegan based agriculture.  Maybe one day I’ll write my own business plan, and finally build that little barn that only serves vegan ice cream, yoga classes, and happiness, while rescued farm animals lounge in style in their own luxury accommodations across my property.  One day, I’ll find a pair of vegan shoes that are super cool and non-synthetic, and I won’t have to think about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch while I walk.

I have a lot of ambition, but for now, I quietly persist.

 

 

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The Truth About Going Vegan

Earth Day, April 22, 2017 was the day I went vegan.  Prior to that, I had been a vegan & vegetarian dabbler since the age of 18.  I was mostly vegan, except when I got invited to this party and there was cheese in the appetizer (oh well, I’ll restart tomorrow), but wait, I need to drop weight fast for this race so let’s try bone broth and bulletproof coffee (yuk…what on earth was I thinking), yes, I am definitely vegan, but if I go gluten free won’t I starve to death, so I cheat, but now that I’ve watched Cowspiracy I understand that it’s not just about me, and holy cow I just ran a 50K and got smoked by the vegan founder of Farm Sanctuary, and finally met some other vegans, and I’ve meditated, and asked myself who I am and who I want to be for the rest of my life, and began to feel compassion for the Earth and all animals, and slowly the decision was made.  I would go vegan.  All In.  Even if I craved other food, or felt deprived, or gained weight, or ran slower.  I was willing to risk it because in my heart I knew that this is who I am and what I care about more than superficial personal gains.

So today is August 22, 2017, and it is my 4 month Veganniversary.  I am 10 pounds heavier, my running is slower, and I am slightly tired.  But wait, this is not a post about bashing veganism, or quitting, because I am loving the healing (mental, emotional, and physical) that is taking place, and I am not about to stop.  Ever.  In fact, I’d like to thank veganism for getting real and setting me straight on the truth.

The truth is, even if I longingly gaze upon Instagram images of hair flips in infinity pools in Bali, technicolor fruit platters, and dewy skinned millennials WWOOFING on organic fruit farms in Hawaii, I am still a 40-something living in the suburbs.

The truth is, no matter what the 80/10/10 diet gurus proclaim, I can’t eat as much as I want, or maybe more accurately, some people don’t feel satisfied as easily as others when it comes to eating.  And yes, I am one of those people and sometimes I overeat.

The truth is, I am fully capable of running raw, but that doesn’t mean I will run fast or be able to see my abs any time soon.

The truth is, I am not a minimalist when it comes to food.  I’m overcomplicated, I overspend, and sometimes making my own food still feels overwhelming.

But the truth is, I have never been happier.  I am finally living in alignment with my values, and after some pouting and anger, and more than a few internal tantrums, I have accepted that the key to success in veganism lies in understanding what is enough.  Enough food, but not excess.  Enough passion, but not militancy.  Enough commitment, but not isolation.  Enough progress, but not perfection.  As I slowly learn the process of recognizing enough, my weight and my mood and my fitness will return to equilibrium.  And I’ll be in a much better place than I’ve ever been before.

Thank you for the life lesson, veganism.  I’m glad I didn’t blame you or walk away.  I’m glad I had the wisdom to turn within when I didn’t experience instant success.  I’m glad there is a passionate vegan online community to turn to for answers when I’m struggling.  I’m so glad to call myself a vegan now.

Jello Salad & Other Indiscretions

burger.jpg

I was recently at a family reunion of sorts.  The traditional kind of summer picnic where the only thing available for us vegans is fruit salad, potato chips, and the standard burger topping sandwich:  a bun with lettuce, tomato, pickle, and mustard.  Who hasn’t resorted to this meal at a family picnic before?!

This picnic honored my grandmother and her wonderful talent for creating baked goods.  There were all kinds of sweet treats:  cookies, cakes, and several flavors of good old fashioned Jello fruit salad.  Determined to consume a rare dessert in my grandmother’s honor, I chose the Jello salad with pineapple, so as not to consume the dairy-based cake frostings and egg-filled cookies.

As I finished the last bite, I remembered with horror that Jello is made from gelatin, an animal-derived product.  Here I was, queen of nutrition, and I was so distracted with visiting my family that I completely forgot this dessert was animal-based.  I exclaimed out loud, “OH NO!  I just ate gelatin!” to which my mom replied, “I was going to tell you, but I didn’t want to hurt your feelings.”  It’s such a mom instinct, protecting your kid’s feelings above all else.

Problem is, I kind of hurt my own feelings by eating the Jello by mistake.  I might have preferred it if mom had spoken up and stopped me.  Looks like I lost my vegan card…AGAIN.  At this point I realized that I also forgot to check the sandwich bun ingredients for milk or eggs, so there were likely more indiscretions that day.

My perceptive mother could sense my internal battle, so she reminded me that health was not about perfection.  I agree with her, but I also think the animal who gave its life for that gelatin is not feeling so healthy thanks to my choice.  We all deserve health and happiness in my opinion.

I wanted to share this story because I think it is easy to slip up when you are starting a vegan lifestyle.  It is also easy to slip up when you have been vegan for years.  It happens, especially during travel and special events, when food ingredients may be less under your control.  I argue that to give up on travel or family is to compromise your health and happiness in other ways.

So if you slip up, just renew your vegan card with the next meal.  It never expires as long as you continue to feel committed and compassionate towards yourself and towards animals.  Remember, you are an animal too, so give yourself the same love you show all other living things.

 

Easy Golden Milk Mix

golden milk

I have a love-hate relationship with turmeric.  I love it for its anti-inflammatory effects, as most athletes would agree.  I hate it because every time I add turmeric to a recipe, I think how much better that recipe would have tasted, had I only left out the turmeric.  Let’s just say it is an acquired taste.

Perhaps it’s the powdered version I dislike.  So, I hopped onto my online produce delivery service, and ordered the real thing:  a horrific, wormy-looking root that stained my fingertips almost as much as my other nemesis, beet root.  Each day, I reached past the ugly turmeric root in favor of my fresh ginger & lemon, until the sad, neglected plant shriveled up and died in the back of my fridge.

Then I found golden milk.  Ok, not quite as great as hot cocoa, but this I could probably tolerate.  I tried a few homemade recipes, but something about them made me gag slightly.  I am chai tea averse, so apparently, the more spices you mix together, the more my taste buds revolt.  Some golden milk recipes taste overly pungent and complex.

I recently came across a jar of powdered golden milk mix in my online grocery market.  Ok, it has only a few ingredients, so let’s splurge and order it, to see if I might enjoy the flavor.  Or more accurately, so I can copy the recipe, make my own and reuse the jar, thus only paying the $14 premium price once.  Done.  Click.  Purchased.

Golden milk mix arrives at my doorstep with only 6 little ingredients:  Turmeric Root, Date Palm Fruit (what the heck is that), Cardamom Seed (nope, not in my pantry), Ashwagandha Root (that just sounds expensive), Vanilla Bean (confirmed…definitely expensive), and Black Pepper.

Now, everybody knows you’re not allowed to consume turmeric without a pinch of black pepper, or the anti-inflammatory police will show up at your doorstep and fine you for your lack of research on curcumin absorption.  Don’t even think about leaving out the black pepper here.  No one is concerned with your personal taste preferences when it comes to the proper turmeric-absorbing lifestyle.

Just kidding.  Remember, you get to do health your own way…no one is policing you.  So anyway, my jar of expensive golden milk mix was on its last remnants, and so it was time to make my own.  My new streamlined golden milk mix consisted of the following:

1 jar of powdered turmeric (I used Simply Organic brand, 2.38 oz.)

1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. vanilla bean powder (unsweetened)

1 tsp. ground black pepper

I combined this into a mix and used 1 tsp. of mix per 10 oz. mug of warmed non-dairy milk.  I sweetened to taste with stevia, but any sweetener of your choice would work.  I have to say, it tasted remarkably similar to the original version, and so far, I have had no adverse side effects due to Ashwagandha deficiency.

Vanilla bean powder is simply ground up whole vanilla beans, and can usually be found in the spice aisle.  You can make your own using dry vanilla beans and a coffee grinder if you are feeling ambitious.

I buy vanilla powder when I can find it, as I also like to add it to my smoothies.  My precious supply of vanilla bean powder is currently depleted, so my next batch of golden milk mix might have to be made sans vanilla.  I suspect the world will keep on turning if so.

As long as I am still able to choke down my daily (or weekly, depending on my mood) teaspoon of turmeric, then mission accomplished.  If not, there’s always hot cocoa.

Vegan Closet

plant shirt

My new favorite shirt.

I’m 43 years old, and I have been mostly vegetarian since age 18.  At age 36, I finally decided to go vegan.  It’s not that I pondered going vegan for 18 years before committing, it’s just that it wasn’t really on my radar.  In 2010, seeking answers to health problems, I read The China Study by T. Colin Campbell and Eat to Live by Joel Fuhrman.  After reading those two books, I finally understood the advantage, and the choice to be vegan became a no-brainer.

I naively thought that once other people heard the same message, they would have the same epiphany.  That my friends & family would start asking me lots of questions, like how I was suddenly able to run back to back endurance races without injury or fatigue, or why my skin looked so clear, or how I looked so fit.  Instead, they looked at me with concern.

I suspect that many of my friends quietly thought my eating was extreme or disordered, or that I was restricting my food choices because of low self esteem.  Quite the opposite, I felt so positive, that I started valuing myself, and didn’t consider the standard American diet worthy of my body anymore.  I was addicted to feeling good, and hopeful to spread the message to others whose lives I touched.

But what evolved was more like isolation, like being stranded on a vegan island.  (Not that I would complain…I think a fruit farm in Hawaii sounds amazing).  I invited a friend to join me at the Woodstock Fruit Festival, an idea which she quickly rejected as the worst idea of a vacation ever.  I cooked vegan meals at home, about which my family openly complained.  At age 43, countless races & blog posts later, I can honestly say that still none of my close friends are vegan (that I know of).

And neither is my local neighborhood.  A quick search of the Happy Cow app reveals that the closest vegan restaurants are not in my zip code.  In order to buy groceries, I still have to spend my money at markets carrying meat and animal products.  Even my produce delivery service has expanded to offer meat & dairy.

It can feel lonely being vegan, but I encourage you to keep seeking out community.  For me, that started online, and eventually led to a visit to the Stanford Inn, a vegan eco-resort in Northern California.  I cannot express how positive it felt to hang out with some vegan people for literally the first time in my life, and to not be in the minority.  I physically felt that long-held tension melt away, like my insides were finally untwisting and relaxing.

Since that visit, my soul has changed.  There is no more wavering in my commitment, no more hiding my dietary preferences from friends, no more bending at social functions, so as to not make waves.  I am unabashedly vegan now.  I’ve come out of the vegan closet.  I’m wearing green more often, in case someone should happen to ask.  No, I’m not an angry vegan, I’m still full of vegan love, and I’m ready to be friends with you.

 

 

More Bananas

Running has been the greatest ongoing experiment of finding out how little I can get by on and still survive.  I’ve found myself buying less fitness gear, and fueling more simply the more years I run.  I haven’t discussed food here for a while, so I figured today I’d talk about how my diet has evolved and simplified during this training cycle.

Mainly, I got tired of cooking and my tummy got tired of digesting.  Typically, I look forward to meal planning and creative recipes, but this go round, I felt over it all.  Maybe the extra miles and time commitment of training left me ready for simplicity in the kitchen.  Maybe my body just required simple food in order to process the number of calories I was burning.

Either way, stuff that I used to eat all the time started disagreeing with me, and my motivation to cook waned.  Accordingly, my diet evolved into mainly fruits and veggies.  Perhaps I should say devolved, since fruits and veggies were my very first foods as an infant.  Ok mom, you were right.

What does this look like in the grocery department?  I start with my weekly farm produce delivery, then I shop for a crapton of bananas and soft, ripe fruit.  (I’d like to formally thank DC Rainmaker for the crapton reference, as it’s my favorite word I’ve added to my vocabulary since reading his blog.  I also know he’s super technical, so I totally trust his accurate use of crapton references.)

What does this look like in day to day life?  Each morning, I pretty much sip green tea until I get hungry, then I eat a crapton (hee hee) of fruit until that gets boring, and by dinner, I eat a salad made of whatever needs to get eaten before next week’s farm delivery.  If I’m extra hungry, I’ll throw in some avocado or seeds, because sometimes lettuce just won’t do.

Dates are my running food of choice, and yes, eventually they taste just as gross at that fifth GU gel I used to down near the end of my races.  Nothing tastes as good at the end of a race as sitting down feels.

That’s it.  There is no secret recipe, unless you count ‘more bananas’.  When all else fails, I just eat more bananas.  On that note, I think I’ll have a banana.

 

 

Grocery Games

from-the-farmer

After renewed efforts to track my spending in 2017, I am acutely aware of my grocery spending habit.  This is the area of my monthly budget where I have struggled the most in years past.   My wardrobe and entertainment costs are fairly minimal.  Aside from purchasing 3 nearly identical spiralizers, I rarely fall victim to the alluring trap of consumer goods.  I guess you could call me an economic hermit, except when it comes to groceries.

The grocery store shopping experience has become my nemesis.  Inside those chilly aisles, I feel trapped in the Grocery Games, under some dystopian bubble I cannot escape, where unhealthy choices and overpriced super foods dare me to evade and survive.  I head into weekly battle, armed with my shopping list and meal plan, only to face decision fatigue and emerge defeated, take out coffee splurge in hand, money gone from wallet.

There has to be a better way.  Is anyone else besides me feeling guilty and unenthusiastic at the thought of having to schlep to a farmer’s market each weekend?  I love the idea of a farmer’s market, but Saturday morning is Long Run Day, and by the time the time I finish 20 miles and towel myself off to an acceptable level of sweaty, all the good produce is gone.  And what about chia seeds and other healthy pantry staples?  I’m not ready to say goodbye.

I don’t have all the answers, but I do believe in experimenting to find out what works.  For now, I am avoiding the grocery store as much as possible, and trying a new way.  I am using a lovely produce delivery service and an online market for pantry staples.  The traditional grocery store gets my business when I accidentally run out of toilet paper…and bananas.  I love bananas.

The biggest advantage for me, besides fresher, higher quality products, has been the ability to review my shopping cart online and stay within budget for the week.  It’s easy to grab an impulsive take out coffee at the grocery store, but I find heightened awareness online in seeing that the cold brew coffee concentrate is going to take my cart over my self-imposed spending limit.  I can take the time to review, make careful decisions, and go back and edit my selections.

It takes some upfront work to start using online food resources like these, and I realize that their availability may be different in your local area.  Food delivery also creates additional packaging waste, like boxes and paper wrap.  For now, I challenge myself to fill up the empty boxes with donations from my home, and if that is not an option, I am able to reuse the boxes for my small business.

Is it a perfect solution?  No, but I believe there is value in questioning the system and experimenting to make progress.  May the odds be ever in your favor.

*Apparently, it’s cool in the blog world to put italics at the end of your post disclosing all the places you are making money off of your readers.  I am not.  Not making money, that is, or maybe not cool.  Either way, there are no affiliate links in this or any post.