Friday, February 28, 2014

I Have Lost to February

It’s the last day of February. A short month, but this one has been rough for me. I’ve been ruminating over this post for a few days. I did a January recap and still want to do one for February, but it’s not positive. The title of this post comes from a Dar Williams song that feels eerily appropriate. My other quote for the month is “Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got till it's gone” from the famous Joni Mitchell song “Big Yellow Taxi”.

For me this refers to two events that have happened this month. I’ll start with the health because this blog focuses on wellness. In my recent post “Setbacks” I wrote about a foot pain that was nagging. I went outside to run for the first time in almost a week. It was cold and raining. I didn’t care, I was thrilled to be outside and running. After about a half mile the pain came back. This means no 10K tomorrow and that I’ll miss meeting one of my running goals for the year. I also have a half marathon scheduled on March 23rd and am hoping to not miss that goal too. I was wishing for this to easily resolve itself, but I bit the bullet yesterday and decided to contact an orthopedic doctor. I have an appointment today.

I was so devastated yesterday morning after my run attempt. Running has become such an important part of my life, and not having it has been especially challenging due to the other development that’s come about this month. My partner of over 11 years and I have decided to split up. We met three weeks before my 18th birthday, and started dating a week after we met. We moved in together in August 2003. We were always the type of couple that people envied. I genuinely thought that we’d be together for our whole lives.

I have committed to being honest on this blog, so I felt weird not writing about this. This has been coming for a long time but I think we were both holding on because it felt too scary not to. She’s still my best friend and I can’t imagine not being in each other’s lives. There was a sense of urgency in our split because we had to notify our leasing company if we wanted to renew our lease by the end of this month. Oh, February.

I have decided to stay in our current house, and have a friend moving in. She is still looking for a place to live, and that place may not be in Orlando. I moved into our guest room two weekends ago. It has been extremely difficult to continue living a healthy, balanced lifestyle in the midst of this. I have experienced depression, anger, anxiety, and a host of other negative emotions. I love to exercise, so that hasn't been as much as a problem (until the foot issue – really awful timing), but eating is my weakness.

My strategy to cope with the desire to eat unhealthy foods is to try to find a healthy substitute for each craving. Fortunately, I don’t keep much unhealthy food in the house. I also engage in a lot of self talk and mindfulness. I ask myself why I crave a thing, how much pleasure I’ll really get from it, and what impact it will have in the long term. This has helped, but is clearly hard ass work. I am ready for March and hope for good news at the doctor today. Creative suggestions for exercise that don’t put pressure on my foot are much appreciated. Also, if any of you have gone through a divorce/separation I’d love to hear from you about how you got through.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

What I Ate Wednesday

I am still dealing with foot pain when I run. It still sucks and I really miss my outdoor activity time. I'm still eating pretty food though - so here are the highlights from the week.

This dish was inspired by an Instagram post. There's chipotle lime kale salad, cilantro lime chickpeas, quinoa with cranberries, and of course fresh veg.

Mediterranean goodies: grape leaves, falafel w/baba ganoush, lentil soup plus a giant salad with lemony artichoke kale. 

Friday nights are almost always big salad bowls - this week I mixed it up with purple sweet potato wedges. They were delicious - starchier than a normal sweet potato but with the same flavor. 

Saturday was national margarita day so we indulged in a Mexican dinner. I had fajitas, which were so so. 

Cabbage rolls stuffed with quinoa and mushrooms, topped with a spicy tomato sauce. Roasted cauliflower and fresh veg on the side. This was great & I had it for lunch the next two days!

Roasted tomatillo and black bean soup with hominy. Please make this soup!! 

Missed my rawsta! This one is mixed with spicy and regular hummus, topped with cooked broccoli, onions & mushrooms. There's a huge bed of baby greens underneath too. 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Small Step – Listen Up!

I just finished reading the book “The Compound Effect” by Darren Hardy. It was an easy read and most of it wasn't new to me as I've been studying the topic of achievement and goal setting for awhile. The biggest takeaway I got from the book was that small changes can have huge effects when applied consistently over time. This is good when we have good habits, but terrible when we have destructive habits.

One extra 150 calorie cookie a day doesn't seem like much, but in a year that means 54,750 calories added to your diet! I struggle with this myself and know that if I want to be the best physical version of myself I should stop cheating on hard workout days. It’s a work in progress. That is part of why I am doing my best to share an easy wellness tip each Sunday – over time these small steps will add up to big changes!

This week’s tip is to start listening to motivational/inspirational podcasts or radio shows or CDs at least once a day. You can sneak them in while you exercise, drive to and from work, while you run errands, in the shower, on your lunch break, while you cook, etc. (I knew the knee jerk reaction would be that there’s no time – busted!). This is a great way to constantly be learning or motivating yourself without taking extra time in your day. Over time, a half hour of Spanish a day might get you speaking like a native!

It doesn't have to be motivational/inspirational in the traditional sense. If you are trying to learn a language, listen to a language learning option. If you are trying to write, listen to a conversation with an author. Here are my top picks for podcasts in several areas.

No Meat Athlete – this one is great for anyone plant based or that’s a runner or both!

Rich Roll – Rich Roll is a plant based ultra endurance athlete. I've listened to all his podcasts and he has some amazing guests – mostly athletes, plant based experts, and people in the wellness community.

Runner Academy – I've only listened to a few of these but they are short and sweet with great running tips.

5AM Miracle – The premise of this podcast is that you can be very productive in the morning and that will trickle to the rest of your life. The host is a plant based athlete but his podcast covers a plethora of topics.

School of Greatness – This one is hosted by a former NFL player who dubs himself a “lifestyle entrepreneur”. His guests are all doing inspirational things in some way, and each one is asked to define greatness at the end of the episode.

NPR’s Ted Radio Hour – I like this one because it identifies a theme and then combines clips from various TED talks with interviews with the original speakers.

On Being – I can’t describe this one adequately in my own words so here is the description from their website “On Being is a spacious conversation — and an evolving media space — about the big questions at the center of human life, from the boldest new science of the human brain to the most ancient traditions of the human spirit.”

Good Job Brain – Trivia nerds unite! This show is four friends who play pub trivia and created a show that includes quizzes and trivia on all sorts of subjects. I laugh out loud at least once per episode so it’s good stress relief too!

Podcasting while I stretch!

Saturday, February 22, 2014


If it’s the only thing you do today, you should go read “The Truth About Being Healthy [hint: it doesn’t look like Pinterest]” from A Life Less Bullshit. This is without hyperbole my favorite thing I've read this year and I must admit I’m a smidgen jealous that I didn't write it.

You can leave me now or stick with me for a bit, up to you. This has been a tough few weeks for me. I have some personal life stuff going on that isn't ready to be shared in such a public way but it’s deeply affecting me. I love blogging and writing, but I am in a deep funk that’s making it hard to feel motivated to actually produce content. As if that weren't enough, this week I’m experiencing my first serious running complication.

I woke up throughout the night Wednesday into Thursday with pain in the top of my left foot. I knew doing the one mile run and circuit workout (burpees, mountain climbers, etc.) at home was a bad idea. I went to the gym and put in some time on the ARC trainer and focused on arms and static squats instead. I iced my foot throughout the day and took ibuprofen for any swelling (I never take pain killers unless it’s serious). On Thursday it only hurt when I walked for more than a couple minutes, and yesterday there was no pain.

I got up this morning for my planned 8 mile run and started okay. I was looking forward to the run as an antidote to my otherwise negative mood. After about a mile I noticed a slight pain but thought I might be over-analyzing how I was feeling. By 1.5 miles I knew it was real pain and I decided to turn around and head for home. I walked for a second to slow for a sharp turn and when I picked up my run I knew I should stop. It was raining. I called Carly to come pick me up and walked through the rain until she got there.

I went to the gym and did 60 minutes on the ARC trainer to simulate the amount of time I would have been out running. It’s not the same but it is something I can do to keep my cardio endurance without pounding on my foot. I am supposed to run my 10K next Saturday and my half three weeks later. My plan as of now is to RICE my foot, sub ARC training for my runs this week in terms of time, and do a test jog Thursday to see how the foot feels. If it still hurts I’m going to have to skip the 10k. Luckily I only paid $6 for it, no big loss. The half is much more important, it was more expensive & I already paid a deposit on a hotel.

Any advice from runners is welcome. I don’t have a primary doctor here but I may have to seek one out. To bring it all together, health and wellness is hard. This has been an exceptionally hard week. Running has become a great stress reliever and joyful practice, and it’s hard to not have it in this emotionally draining time. The temptation to eat a bunch of crap and lay around all day is ever present and I’m fighting it constantly. Fingers crossed that the foot feels better in a week!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

WIAW + Training

Life has been complicated lately and I haven't been able to post as much as I'd like. I try to at least be consistent with these Wednesday posts because I know how much I personally enjoy getting a glimpse of other people's lives and plates. Before I jump right into that I wanted to direct all the runners out there to a great podcast called Runner Academy. I am only through the first six episodes but I think it's full of good advice and inspiring stories. This morning I listened to two episodes while I ran and did my cool down routine.

The second episode was about tapering, an issue that is relevant for me since I have two races coming up shortly. I have a 10k in a week and a half here in Orlando. I'm actually not really planning to taper for this beyond not doing any speed work in the week before the race, and cutting my long run to 8 miles this weekend. I am really using this race as more race day practice for my second half marathon on March 23rd in St. Pete Beach. After listening to the podcast this morning I realized that some of my struggle in my first half marathon was likely from not tapering properly. I didn't cut my mileage as significantly as I should have in those last two weeks, and I took a fresh look at my plan to make sure I wouldn't make the same mistake this time.

Okay, enough running chat, on with the food pics!

A new favorite recipe Moong Dal Curry. Moong dal are mung beans, and I've been looking for new ways to use them beyond just sprouting. Of course I dumped turmeric and cayenne on the top of mine!

Salad topped with a Thai peanut slaw and pineapple tofu. Also good filling for tacos, but I'm a salad junkie!

Post long-run lunch on Saturday at Hubbly Bubbly Falafel Shop. I had my falafel on a big salad. Not the best falafel I've ever had, but the pickled turnips were amazing! 

This is the winner this week: bean tostadas. Corn tortillas baked with refried beans topped with a saute of mushroom, onion & zucchini and fresh cilantro lime lettuce and avocado. 

Collards cooked slow with black eyed peas and tomatoes. I topped mine with buckwheat groats instead of eating it on top of a cooked grain. 

Pho/miso soup mashup: miso broth with ginger, mushrooms, broccoli, tofu, noodles and bean sprouts. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Small Step – Make a Plan

Take some time this Sunday to look at your upcoming week. Figure out what your work, family and social commitments are. For example, this week I have to work late on Tuesday to teach a class.

Once you've looked at your time commitments, you can plan your meals or workouts or both based on this. If you’re new to planning I’d only pick one at a time.

For food, Carly does our shopping on Friday because she has that day off each week. We plan our  meals for the week from Saturday to Thursday (Friday we always eat leftovers or salads with leftovers). This week she has an appointment Monday after work and I work late so we planned to pre-make soup today for Monday and to eat leftovers on Tuesday (either from the freezer or what we made through the weekend).

We also try to plan meals that use vegetables that go bad quickly (like bean sprouts) earlier in the week and feature meals with pantry staples like beans, rice, artichokes and olives later in the week. We also try to analyze the fridge and pantry to make sure we’re using up what we have before buying new things. Once this is done, we make our weekly list in an app called Our Groceries. This app is great because it saves your previous items, so it’s easy to add the things you buy regularly.

For workouts, I’m loosely following a combination of half marathon training plans for my race on March 23rd. I schedule 4 run days (1 with strength training), 1 crosstraining + strength day, 1 yoga day, and 1 day to rest or take a long walk or do yoga. I usually do the same thing each day of the week, but will be switching my long run to Sunday (from Saturday) in 2 weeks since my race is on Sunday. It’s important for me to consider my other time commitments when I make my training schedule, and I try to make sure I take advantage of days where I have off work or go in late. I've shared my training plan before if you’re interested in taking a look!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

What I Ate Wednesday

We've been trying some new recipes this week along with old favorites. It's been a great food week!

Mushroom summer rolls

Catalonian kale salad with roasted cauliflower on a big salad. 

Couldn't resist snapping a pic of this ridiculous daikon radish at our produce market!

One of my favorite go-to plant based restaurant meals: veggie sushi!

Fueling up for my Saturday AM long run - big salad with a baked sweet potato and black bean burger

Made our tempeh taco lasagna but chopped the zucchini instead of doing it in strips. Side of jicama.

New recipe: Lentil Soup with Plantains. It's amazing! Had to add greens though :)

Another new recipe: Spaghetti Squash Primavera. Also excellent!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Ode to the Long Run

On Saturday mornings my alarm rings between 6:45 and 7:30, depending on my plans for the day and the weather. I get up, use the bathroom, and make my way to the kitchen where I eat a banana and adjust to being awake. I check the clock when I finish, I need at least 20 minutes before I can head out the door. If it’s cold out I start getting dressed for my run in some combination of special underwear (I call them my runderwear), full length compression tights, socks, shoes, bra, tank/tee/long sleeve shirt, hoodie, gloves, and headband/hat. If it’s warm I waste some time first by reading or checking emails.

Once the clothing is set I make my way back to the kitchen to finish my prep. I put the bladder of water in my hydration vest, I check to make sure I have at least 2 dates wrapped in the pocket, I strap on my Garmin, and I plug my headphones into my phone. I eat a date about 5 minutes before I’m ready to leave. I visit the bathroom again (just being real, this is crucial for a long run!). I set up my running app, podcast, and metronome. I grab my sunglasses and head out the door.

The most effective warm up for me is five minutes of brisk walking. The energy is different in my neighborhood on a Saturday morning. It is quiet and still. There’s very little traffic. The dogs haven’t been let out for the day yet. I think of people in their houses sleeping and feel a sense of pride. Five minutes goes by quickly and then I am running. Slow. I am still in the neighborhood and wonder if people are watching and what they are thinking. The first mile is a drag. My body is still getting ready, trying to catch up to my mind. My mind is what pushes me through those first slow miles.

I choose my route based on the weather. Low visibility or slick roads leads me on a route of endless sidewalks. Sunshine gives me the freedom to run on mostly empty roads. I vacillate between distraction, struggle, meditative states, private pep talks, and pure bliss. I make sure to eat a date somewhere between miles 5 and 6 depending on how I feel. I savor that moment, taking small bites and letting the date dissolve slowly in my mouth. I take small sips of water between bites. I can feel the sugar hitting my brain and my muscles.

My watch and my app alert me as the miles go by. The mileage isn't usually the same, but the goal remains unchanged. My current goal is a half marathon on March 23rd, and I think about it while I run. I’m working on visualization and try to treat each long run as practice. Sometimes I eat another date or half date if I am feeling sluggish. Going slow is hard, and I usually let myself go for the last mile whether it’s mile 8 or 11. I am good at gauging my distances, and often hit my goal within a 3 minute walk of my house. I catch my breath and take time to reflect on the run.

I get home and greet Carly and Emmy. I update Carly on the run and anything interesting I observed (army drills, eagles, possums, horns honking, etc.). I mix a blend of water, coconut water and electrolyte powder. I make my way to our office where I take my time stretching, working on my core, and doing leg drains while I analyze the numbers from my run. By this time I am ready to strip off my run gear and shower, but always eat a homemade recovery bar first. I take my time in the shower and reflect more on my run. I usually feel amazing.

The last step of my routine is the reward. A smoothie bowl topped with granola and fresh fruit. The size of my bowl grows in proportion to the length of the run. This weekend was 11 miles. It was a big bowl. I eat it on the couch, feet up, with a guilty pleasure show on the TV. The perfect start to my weekend.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Small Step Sunday

Drastic changes make for drastic relapses. Restrictive diet plans don’t work in the long term because they’re not sustainable. It’s easier and more realistic to make small changes, one at a time, and make them part of your life. It’s also easier to feel like you’re adding something rather than taking something away. In this vein, I've decided to start posting semi-regular suggestions on Sunday that are small steps you can take toward a healthy lifestyle.

This week’s tip: buy a fruit or vegetable you've never tried before the next time you go shopping.

Many of us are trained to seek the most common fruit and veggies that we grew up with. There was a scene recently on one of my very favorite shows “Parks and Recreation” that made me think about this:

When you’re picking out the new item don’t be afraid to ask someone else buying it about how they prepare it. If you don’t see anyone nearby, look it up online when you get home. I can guarantee you will be able to find recipes and even step by step guides for how to prepare any produce on the planet. I recently bought a cactus pear for the first time and found a video online that showed how to peel it and what parts to eat.
I love this idea because it’s fun, it could add something that you really enjoy to your life, and will make you more adventurous with your future food choices. I suggest starting with one of my two more exotic favorites: jicama or plantains.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

What I Ate Wednesday

Small set of pictures for this week since I posted two recipes yesterday! Made some favorites this week so I linked to those recipes too.

Lentil sloppy joes on greens with roasted Brussels sprouts

Maple roasted root vegetables (purple potato, carrot, parsnip & rutabaga) with roasted tofu. This one is still a work in progress, but I loved the roasted rutabaga!

We went to a Vietnamese New Year festival on Saturday and I was hoping to share food pics from there but it was a bust for plant based options. This is my lunch from Whole Foods - a little bit of everything!

Dinner at one of my new favorite restaurants, Tako Cheena. This is two arepas (corn cakes) filled with roasted beets and slaw. Seriously one of the best things I've eaten in a long time.  

I also got an African inspired tofu burrito at Tako Cheena that I only ate a third of. This is the rest of the burrito filling on a salad. It had quinoa, tofu, corn, bell pepper and potatoes. I also had some of their excellent homemade ghost chili hot sauce. 

Fruity pancakes for dinner! Of course, I had to have a side of broccoli to get extra veg!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Two Years Meat Free + A Recipe

Today marks two years since I stopped eating meat. I had been struggling with accessing sources of high quality meat and watching documentaries like “Forks Over Knives” and “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead”. I distinctly remember on the morning of February 3, 2011 eating a turkey sausage breakfast sandwich and having trouble physically eating it. That’s when I knew I wanted to give up meat. Two years later I am fully plant based and eating an incredibly healthy diet. More on that when I hit my two year animal product free anniversary in July!

In honor of my veggie-versary I wanted to share a few recipes. First is the Mexiquinoa I ate last night which was quite popular on Instagram. I actually posted a recipe in June 2012 for it here. Last night’s version had chayote squash instead of zucchini, corn, and I used a blend of black beans and chickpeas because it’s what I had leftover! I served it on a salad with romaine, mixed baby greens, jicama, bell pepper, and scallions with a side of roasted plantains.

On Sunday I made a pizza based on the Thrive pizzas that Brendan Brazier makes. It was excellent, and I wanted to share that recipe as well.

Beet & Chickpea Pizza

1 roasted beet, sliced
1 C chickpeas (canned or cooked from dry)
¼ C tomato sauce
¼ C sunflower seeds
¼ C sundried tomatoes
¼ C buckwheat groats (can sub oats)
Spices (salt, pepper, garlic powder/clove, harissa)

Tomato sauce
Broccoli, small chop
Red onion, thinly sliced
Bell pepper, thinly sliced
Sundried tomatoes, sliced
Kalamata olives, sliced

Preheat the oven to 300.

Combine crust ingredients in a food processor. Process until the mixture comes together. You will likely have to scrape down the sides a few times. If it is too wet add more buckwheat/oats, if it’s too dry add more tomato sauce.

Spread the crust onto a nonstick cookie sheet. This was enough to fill a small cookie sheet with a thin layer. Bake for 5 minutes.

Crust, pre-baking - love the color from the beets!

Remove crust. Add toppings to your preference, just make sure everything is small so it will cook at a lower temperature. Bake for another 35-45 minutes or until your toppings look done. Top with vegan parmesan if so desired.

You will need to eat this with a fork!  I cut mine into 4 large pieces, 2 per serving.

Served with some steamed broccolini

Monday, February 3, 2014

In Other Words

What are Americans eating?
I've featured articles from Marion Nestle before. If you have any interest in food (which you probably do if you read this blog) you should read her blog and her books. This one is a simple comparison of what American’s buy at the grocery store compared to the recommendations for healthy eating. This reminds me how important it is to share my love of veggies with the world!

Prison Gardens Help Inmates Grow Their Own Food — And Skills 
Several podcasts and blogs I consume have recently shared stories of the American prison system. The US has more prisoners than any other country in terms of total number and per capita, and many of those prisoners have no access to rehabilitation programs. This article details initiatives to have prisoners grow their own food. I love programs like this – they are rehabilitative, reduce costs to tax payers, and educate everyone involved on how to be more sustainable.

How To Make Healthier Food Choices (No Drastic Changes Required!)
I am firmly anti-diet and I know from personal experience that drastic changes in any area of life aren't sustainable, and this is especially true for food choices as we make them regularly throughout each day. There is a great graphic in this article that shows how to move toward healthier choices in your cooking, sweeteners, spices & flavorings, grains and dairy.

Healthy Fats Don’t Make You Fat
We are woefully misinformed about our macronutrients. This is a great guest post featured on Herbivore Triathlete that discusses the different types of fats with their benefits/harmful effects on the body plus examples of each type and a discussion of how this information fits into a healthy diet.

Do You Know How To Suffer? 
A Life Less Bullshit is my new favorite blog. I heard Nicole on the No Meat Athlete podcast and I love her approach to life, health, and challenges. This article discusses the usefulness of suffering and how we can use it to learn about ourselves. This reminds me of my half marathon when I got a side stitch at mile 6 and had to embrace the suffering as my reality in order to finish my race.

15 Ways To Improve Your Health In 15 Minutes
I feel like this wouldn't be complete without a great list! These really are quite easy changes to implement and cover everything from food to health to volunteering. Improving your overall wellness doesn't have to happen in giant leaps – small steps are easier and more rewarding!