Monday, August 25, 2014

I'm still here

Things are never clear or obvious, but as you can tell, I took a break from the blog for quite some time. In retrospect, the hiatus was building for a long time. I probably should have stopped sooner, and left some of my dirty laundry hidden. I went through a period of rigidity with my eating and exercise habits that was on the extreme side of healthy, as in, not so healthy. Then after my work conference in Las Vegas I let myself swing in the opposite direction. I have learned quite a bit about myself in almost thirty years, and even more so during this recent period of upheaval.

Last bits of debauchery

I am really good at latching on to something and doing it to the fullest. I am good at making myself do things that I perceive as being the right thing to do, even when they aren’t fun or comfortable. For the last few months I’ve been going out almost every night, drinking more alcohol than normal, not paying as much attention to what I eat and forcing myself to run on very little sleep in order to get in a workout. I’ve noticed my workouts aren’t doing much, and feel more difficult than they should.

This weekend my roommate and I went to Key Largo for a snorkeling trip, and I mentally marked it as my last hurrah before getting back to what feels right for me. I am working now on finding that balance between extremes. It’s been great to spend so much time busy and meeting people, and I’d like to continue that but at a less frenetic pace. I’m going to cut out the alcohol again. I can see the immediate impact it has on my physical form, and I can find better ways to alter my mood (i.e. good friends, music, moving my body, laughter, etc.).

I am learning to treat physical activities other than cycling/running and lifting weights as good enough exercise. I’m trying to do more outdoor things and have been kayaking three times since I got back from Vegas. I joined a softball team. I’ve never played before but I think it will be a good way to be active and social at the same time. I’m not officially on the team, but they’re letting me hang out and learn the game which is good enough for now.

I developed some new eating habits that I need to curtail, like adding granola to every smoothie instead of just the ones I make after long endurance workouts. I’ve been snacking a lot more, and on foods that aren’t the best choice. I’ve been eating out almost every night, and that’s probably the most radical deviation from my norm. I have my dog for the next two weeks, so it works out well to start cooking at home again regularly.

I don’t know what will happen with this blog. I like the idea of sharing my story and struggles, so I’d like to keep it up. I am doing  a lot of good poetry writing and might have some big work changes on the horizon so no promises, but know that I am still out here doing my best to live a healthy and fun life.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

What I Ate Wednesday + Nature

I am finally back and settled from a crazy June where I spent as many days out of town as at home!I have to admit that during my travels I didn't always make the best food choices due to both time/locale constraints and an inclination toward indulgence. I stayed pretty dedicated to my fitness and have been able to mix in some fun things like hiking and snorkeling. My second trip in June was for a work conference in Las Vegas so I didn't take too many food pictures, but I did sneak a few. Here are some food/travel highlights from the past few weeks.

Scenes from Vegas: Bellagio fountains, 2 of 3 Elvises, conference pool party, Dr. Evil on the Strip & my new favorite shirt

The first night of the trip the girls I was staying with and I made dinner in our suite. Kale salad with chickpeas to start things off healthy!

Staying fit at the gym, strawberry gelato, spicy noodles, vegan hot dog on the Strip & baked potato with BBQ sauce that I found in the conference center.

Our last afternoon some of us took a trip to the Mt. Charleston area about an hour outside Vegas for a 3 mile hike to Mary Jane Falls. Nothing like pizza and beer after a good hike!

Comfort food

Tofu and veg in a sweet & sour broth plus a veggie roll at Izziban. 

Comfort food #2.

OMG Vegan potluck! Orlando has a great veg group called VegCF that hosts a monthly potluck. I was able to go for the first time and I will go back every single time that I'm able. It was a wonderful meal with great conversation and a community spirit that was very moving. Please come if you're in Orlando on the first Monday of the month!

On the 4th of July I took a road trip with a new friend to Devil's Den for some underground snorkeling. It was such a cool place, literally, the water was about 70 degrees! 

Friday, July 4, 2014

Two Years Plant Based!

Today is the day, the anniversary of my decision to be fully plant based two years ago. I get asked about my decision quite often, so I thought I'd share my story here.

I was a vegetarian for a little over a year in high school, and by that I mean I ate potatoes and noodles and fruit. I ate some veggies, but sparingly. I hadn't yet fallen in love with hummus. I was not in a healthy place and it didn't stick.

In 2007 when I was at my heaviest, I started learning more about food and the impact of diet on more than just weight. The quest to lose weight morphed into a quest to be healthy, and I did a lot of reading and documentary watching in that time. I was heavily influenced by The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan, and I think everyone should read it.

After I learned about the factory farming and big Ag industries I started doing my best to make more informed choices. I stopped buying conventionally farmed meat and tried to buy as much organic as possible. I was living in Baltimore at the time, and it was easy to find access to local and sustainable sources of animal protein.

When I moved to NC it was more difficult to do this, and I was still educating myself about food and the industry that provides it. I watched the documentary Forks Over Knives in close proximity to reading Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. The documentary convinced me that removing animal protein from my diet could greatly improve my health, and the book showed me how significant the environmental impact of eating animals can be.

I had a moment at work shortly after this where I was chewing the sausage in my Jimmy Dean sandwich and felt disgusted by it. That was February 3, 2012 and was the last time I ate meat. I spent the next few months stressing about getting enough protein by putting cheese on everything I ate. At the same time I was starting to read vegan/plant based blogs and literature and began mentally accepting the idea that I should cut out eggs and dairy as well.

I decided to make July 4th my first day fully plant based because it was 5 months after my vegetarian-versary and an easy day to remember. My last vegetarian meal was a few slices of the closest to NY style pizza I could find in NC. My first big vegan meal was this cherry tomato focaccia bread and some assorted salads that I made for a 4th of July hike.

My eating style has evolved since then. I started out relying heavily on vegan versions of traditional foods (fake meats, sandwiches, pasta, etc.). I struggled a lot at first with deciphering what ingredients were plant based, until I had the epiphany that I shouldn't be eating foods with unfamiliar ingredients in the first place!

I was greatly inspired by the Thrive series of books and online information from Brendan Brazier, and because of this I eat a pretty healthy whole foods plant based diet. You should know this if you follow my blog! Here are a few highlights of some amazing meals I've had in the last two years:

Burger at Pure Food in NYC, still the best!
Rawco Taco Salad at Luna's Living Kitchen in Charlotte, NC
Smoothie bowls with granola, just about every weekend
Raw pasta with hummus or pesto, at least once a month

Bun salads

Roasted beet arepa at Tako Cheena in Orlando, FL.
Can't forget about dessert! Treats from Raphsodic Bakery in Orlando, FL

One of the best things about this lifestyle for me is that I don't have to count calories and can eat until my hunger is satiated. It's gotten easier to eat plant based in the last year and I think many more restaurants and stores support eating this way. I can't say that I'll always eat this way, and I can't truthfully say I haven't eaten anything from an animal in the last two years. Some things may have slipped by. For now, it's still working, and I'll continue on my merry plant based way.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

WIAW - New York Edition

Hiatus temporarily broken - I have to share the great food I had on my amazing trip to New York last week. I'm off to Vegas for work on Friday so will likely take another break from the blog. As always, follow me on Instagram if you want to keep up with food and other adventures.

Some of the breakfasts I enjoyed on my trip. I was able to make smoothies once I was at my parent's house!

My vegan plate at the wedding.

Me and my gorgeous cousins, congrats to Kirsten & Matt on their amazing ceremony!

An assortment of vegan eats/drinks: wheatgrass shot at the Newark airport, kale & sweet potato wrap at Blossom du Jour, stir fry veg at a random Japanese place, kale & radicchio salad at Etcetera Etcetera, summer roll from Trader Joes, hummus at a random place, mango boba from the Japanese place.

Decided to be spontaneous and get a tattoo! Had the design picked out for years. If you're in NYC check out Studio 28 Tattoos! 
Another amazing assortment: hand roll and roll of the month at Beyond Sushi, vegan s'mores pudding at Blossom du Jour, Tallarines a la Huancaina at Rockin Raw, and lentil pastries at Meskerem. 

Me housing the pudding. 

CINNAMON SNAIL. Wish I could have gone for lunch but I had to settle for these phenomenal choices: lentil puffed pastry and a pistachio cardamom donut

The BEST THING I'VE EATEN since I went plant based. The portabella and hemp seed burger at Pure Food & Wine. It had this ridiculous smoked cheese and sauerkraut and was so so so good.

PSA: Take the Staten Island Ferry at sunset, even if you don't live/stay there.

A mashup lunch while waiting for my train at Penn Station. A raw salad from Raw Organics topped with baked falafel from a little shop in the station.

Had to eat a big ass salad and home cooked meal at my parents!

Family dinner, NY style. Amazing white veg pizza topped with marinara.

Took myself on a hike to Hadley Mountain.

PSA 2: Hike the Adirondacks!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

What I Wrote Wednesday

Trying something new today. I've written a bit about my struggle with healthy eating and being too obsessive, and I wrote a poem about it recently. If you want food pics, check out Instagram.

Pound of Flesh
I write about love but I
haven't yet told of my
longest lasting love affair.

I don't know what to call it.
Food, flavor, gustatory delight,
always chasing the next mouthful.

I wonder if I'm wired wrong.
Every emotion leads to
Pavlovian drooling for the
brief explosion of taste
that will enhance my pleasure,
mitigate my anger,
soothe my sadness,
quell my fears.

Emotions fade but
homeostasis breeds
and even more unyielding
desire to chase the
next morsel of distraction.

I make rules so that I can
feed the hungry ghost
without the consequence of
a pound of flesh.

Rules are easy to follow
but the making is hard to quit.
Will there ever be a day
where I can relax?
Where my brain doesn't sort
every bite into a pattern
or a nutrient.

The junkie that can’t
avoid her vice
is doomed to a life
of control.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Small Step Sunday: Rest

My wellness advice for this week is probably the most difficult to do, even though it sounds easy. Our modern culture has conditioned us to feel as though we always need to be working to be making progress, and that we don't have enough time in our lives for all the tasks we must do. This makes it almost impossible to let yourself take breaks and rest.

A restful place

I struggle with this, and it's been even harder during a time of emotional unrest. Days when I'm not busy unfortunately are often paired with a low mood. I've realized that feeling sadness is okay, just as getting adequate rest is okay. Rest might mean putting your feet up, or spending time in a peaceful place, or doing light yoga/walking, or getting a massage.

Take some time this week to force yourself to take a break from your day to day, and from modern distractions. If there's something in your life that's causing undue stress, take some time away from it to see if it's genuinely an activity you need to pursue. On that note, I might be posting to the blog less frequently. I've enjoyed it but am not feeling the same passion. I'll be traveling for most of the rest of the month and am planning to re-evaluate after that. If you enjoy my food pictures you can follow them on Instagram, I'm hoping to eat some good food in NYC!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Embracing New Passions

I spend a lot of time on this blog talking about health and wellness, and that discussion is primarily based on nutrition and moving your body. Often those choices influence our state of mind, but I don't know that I've adequately addressed the importance of taking care of your mind and spirit when you aim to be the best version of yourself.

I am not a religious person, I find my connection with the Earth and nature to be the most soul satisfying and I nurture that by spending time outdoors. I flirt with meditation and can unequivocally state that it's a wonderful practice to heal the mind, body, and soul. Lately, especially with the nagging foot injury and more free time as a single person, I've been obsessed with expressing myself through poetry.

I wrote a post a few weeks ago about writing, but now I finally feel comfortable to share a poem on here. Thanks to all of you who choose to read it.


Coconut scented sunscreen
sprayed liberally on pale skin.

Soft sand supports the
weight of my supine spine.

Steady winds dance across my skin,
tempering the heat of the sun.

Roaring ocean fills my ears,
broken only by giddy screams
of children at play.

Solitude hurts less at the sea.