Tag Archives: diet

ideal running conditions

If I’ve learned anything during this short foray into running, it’s that my body and mind depend on a certain set of conditions to be met before and during my run. Those precise conditions are something I’m still trying to nail down.

I had a wonderful 3.15 mile run on a nearby trail this weekend. It felt effortless and smooth. I took a few very short walking breaks but only because there are a few very steep hills on the trail and I didn’t want to expend all my energy climbing them: the breaks weren’t a necessity due to fatigue or breathlessness, a fact I’m proud of. I’ve been anxious to get back on that trail, and I did so today after work. This run felt laborious, difficult, and I was absolutely exhausted. I only completed 2.46 miles and I took a few extra walking breaks that I didn’t take on Sunday (but I did complete a mental and physical challenge: climb one of the steeper hills).

Last week I ate a lot of processed junk and drank a lot of beer, so this week I’ve been paying special attention to my diet: clean eating, lots of fruits and veggies, no beer. I thought this would help my run today, but it didn’t. I started to retrace my every motion from Sunday. What made that run different?

On Sunday, the weather conditions were perfect. It was about 80 sunny degrees during my mid-morning run. About an hour previous, I’d downed two cups of coffee so I was probably still feeling a caffeine buzz. Let’s not forget that it was the weekend so I’d slept a delightfully long weekend sleep. Perhaps most importantly, I hadn’t spent 2 hours in the car and 8 hours working prior to the run.

Fast-forward to today: it was cloudy, humid, and buggy. I had spent 2 hours in the car and 8 hours working before my run. And, though I’ve been trying to eat cleanly, I did eat a clif bar around 1:30 (which was the last time I ate before my run) and my body could have been experiencing a sugar crash by the time I went for my run at 5.

I’m a very calculated person and I refuse to accept that one day, I can run 3 miles effortlessly and three days later, I struggle just to get through the first mile. I’d like to get a discussion going, hopefully from both the running novice and the running extraordinaire: what are your ideal running conditions in relation to diet, drink, time of day, weather conditions, mood, etc.? How do you get through the difficult runs, if you have them? Am I the only one that experiences such inconsistency?

On Sunday, I thought I could easily blast through a 5k and potentially shoot for an eventual (in a year or two) half-marathon. Today, I don’t even know if I could get through a 5k in under 50 minutes. Are these simply the growing pains of the young runner?

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me vs the cupcake

Baker in Recovery recently wrote a couple of posts about mindful eating, and it got me thinking.

As it was a wonderful three-day Memorial Day weekend here in the states, my boyfriend and I (like many people) had several BBQs to make appearances at. Since now I’m an “out of the closet” vegan, I’ve been meaning to bake some cupcakes from Isa’s book to prove to my family that vegan food can be delicious. My mom has expressed her doubts (“how can you call it ‘buttercream’ if it has no butter?!”) and I wanted to show everyone that YES, vegan cupcakes can be yummy! However, I didn’t exactly succeed.

Since I’ve been trying to lose weight and everyone around me seems to be in the same boat, I opted for the “sexy low-fat vanilla cupcakes.” Of course, instead of the low-fat icing suggestion, I topped them with vegan buttercream. Let’s just say things didn’t exactly turn out. The cakes were a little too dense and tough and stuck to the cupcake tins. I knew I couldn’t convincingly present these to my vegan-cupcake-eating novices. I didn’t want this to be their first taste of vegan cupcakes. My ultimate goal is to craft them a cupcake so delicious that they’d never know the difference. The low-fat option, while I still found it to be delicious, was just not the right fit for the occasion.

Since these little monsters weren’t fit to bring to the two BBQs we were invited to, I was left with my worst nightmare: a batch of 12 cupcakes in my fridge, begging to be eaten. For the past several weeks, I’ve been incredibly good on my “diet,” though I hesitate to call it that: I haven’t even craved sweets, which is huge coming from someone who used to eat chocolate in some capacity every single day. I thought maybe I’d turned a corner–maybe, just maybe, the lure of cupcakes chilling in the fridge would be something I could ignore. I learned this weekend that that’s just not the case.

What this boils down to is something I am very ashamed of: between the two of us, my boyfriend and I, this batch of 12 was demolished within 24 hours time. We had three each the night I baked them, and three each the following day. The worst part of it was that I knew I was bad enough eating one for breakfast. Then, after he left, I stuffed two more down my throat. I knew it was wrong, and I knew I wasn’t even hungry. I’m like a junkie around sweets. I felt like a closet-eater. The shame and embarrassment encompassed me and put me in a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad mood. What good is it that I can diet and lose weight if the heart of the problem remains: that I just cannot be around sweets unsupervised without devouring them all in one sitting?

I even went as far as to put my entire recipe into MyFitnessPal to calculate the calories per each cupcake, hoping that would dissuade me from eating them. They were around 300 calories a pop. And no, it made no difference.

I started to think a lot about mindful eating, which we talked about at length in my yoga + book club back in January-March. I thought I learned a lot from my close reading of Geneen Roth’s Women, Food, and God, but what good is knowledge when it’s not fully realized?

I’m mad at myself and I think this probably means I won’t lose any weight this week (but I’ll still try to stave off a gain)–but the best thing I can do is jump back on the horse and try, try again. So I failed. Lots of people fail. And lots of people treat food like a drug just as I did this weekend. There’s a reason I do that–it’s to fill some emptiness I haven’t yet identified. Part of this journey to healthfulness is being able to identify the holes in my life that convince me to eat, drink, or partake in any other self-destructive behaviors. Beating myself up is something I’m good at, but that only dances around the problem. Punishment and forced misery will not make this problem go away; digging deeper will.

So maybe I’m one of those people that can’t have sweets in the house. Whatever works, I guess. Different strokes for different folks. One day, I aim to be able to have a fridge full of cupcakes without the immediate impulse to demolish them all. That day isn’t today, and that’s okay. I’ll get there.

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vegan cupcakes take over the world

I have completely fallen off the diet wagon and have decided to hop back on…tomorrow. Well, okay, later today. Starting at dinner time. I’ve been feeling sorry for myself because my ankle has prevented me from working out but I think it’s getting better and that means it’s time to get my food situation in check, too.

Since we both took tomorrow off, today has been Sunday Funday! We went to the book store and I found it, I finally found it!

My boyfriend was kind enough to buy this for me as an “I’m sorry this weekend has pretty much sucked for you” gift. It was between this and Isa’s cookie book. It was a hard, hard decision but the cupcakes won out by just a smidge. Was this going to sit in my kitchen untouched? Um, no! I obviously had to try out a recipe.

I picked the cookies ‘n cream cupcake recipe which is a variation of her “Basic Chocolate Cupcake.” I realized when I was already mid-frosting that I did not have nearly enough confectioners sugar but decided to wing it. The frosting wasn’t perfect as a result and I actually have a little bit of a tummyache now because it called for nonhydrogenated shortening but I could only find hydrogenated (probably mostly because I’ve never purchased shortening before and had no idea what I was looking for). But the cupcakes are beauties. Just beauties! I really do love me a coarse frosting that can be spread with a spatula because pastry bags and piping tips and I just do not get along.

Isa really is a genius, which most vegans with a sweet tooth have known for years (I’m a little late to the party). I ate three of these bad boys before the tummyache came on. I really do have a problem soothing myself with food. After I stopped by my parents’ today, told my mom about my ankle, and she came back with “I don’t think it’s really swollen,” I decided maybe I’ve been making this into something it’s not. Time to jump back on the wagon!

Preoccupied by spitting venom in my last post about CPK, I forgot to mention my other rant of the day. I attended a St. Patrick’s Day/80th birthday party yesterday, which I’d been secretly dreading because I knew about it much sooner than I knew about the baby shower (which turned out to be a vegan disaster). I’d been thinking that this would be my first big social function as a vegan and I was unsure how to navigate. I obviously had a dry run at the baby shower a couple weeks ago and that ended pretty badly so I started to worry even more about the party. Luckily, there were plenty of people there and very little chance that anyone would question what I was (or wasn’t) eating. But of course, when we went up to get food, the hostess was right in front of us, paying very close attention to the fact that I wasn’t grabbing a plate–I was just putting the few things I thought were safe to eat on my boyfriend’s plate. When we said goodbye at the end of the night, she mentioned that it looked like I didn’t eat at all. Ugh, what do you say to that?

They were expecting quite a few guests and the party was catered. An assistant came to set up the food and help clean up and she was in the kitchen when we were putting together our plate. I asked my boyfriend to ask on my behalf about the carrots because I figured they were probably buttered. I didn’t want to draw attention to myself since the hostess was right there, so that’s why I volunteered him to ask. This was her response, which I can hardly believe: “I have no idea, I didn’t make the food.” You what? You don’t know anything about the food? What? You were hired to warm the food and be a representative of wherever this food was catered from. You are employed by the catering company. And you don’t know anything about the food? After the CPK incident, that was the last thing I wanted to hear. I’m realizing what a long and lonely road ahead this veganism will be.

Needless to say, I did not eat any carrots.

I realize I am a very small minority but again, like my complaint about the waitress at CPK, if you are a representative of a company or restaurant and you are the only person I can be in direct contact with, I expect you to be knowledgeable of the food your company or restaurant has provided.

(Oh, also. It really sucks when you’re the one person at a St. Paddy’s Day party that can’t take an Irish car bomb.)

But I’m going to jump off my soap box now. Too much strife for one weekend! I’m going to try to enjoy the beautiful, unseasonably warm weather and my extra day off tomorrow. Adios!

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Day 1, also known as “why I’m not postponing my life changes ’til ‘tomorrow'”

When was the last time you decided to make a life change with diet and/or exercise but you said “I’ll start tomorrow”? And how many times did tomorrow never come? Maybe you have a stronger willpower than I, but I can honestly say that my “tomorrow” life changes have numbered in the thousands so far and I’ve only been on this planet for 23 years. Especially where diet is concerned, we usually arrive at the conclusion that we need to change after scarfing down something greasy or fatty or chocolately, but by that time we’re too far gone–so we postpone ’til tomorrow, because that seems like the reasonable thing to do. We want to start with a clean slate. It’s logical, right?

Something interesting happened yesterday. Let me preface this by saying that I never weigh myself. I know it’s just a number and what matters more is overall health and happiness. If you change your diet for the better and your clothes start to fit looser, that means you’re succeeding in weight loss. Why fret about that number? It will inevitably jump up a pound or two or jump down a pound or two depending on the day. It’s nothing to obsess over. But we do–and I decided to stop obsessing over it. When I moved back to my parents’ after college, I brought my scale with me but it sat on the bathroom floor collecting dust. When I moved out, I left it there. Aside from my most recent doctor visit last year (which taught me enough about the fact that I was starting to pack pounds back on after my 25-pound weight loss), I haven’t weighed myself once. I haven’t even had the urge to.

In my yoga + book club, we talked about scales. My instructor urged us to put the scale away for the week. I thought, this is an easy challenge for me considering I don’t even own a scale! But then, just like telling a child they can’t have candy, I wanted it. I wanted my scale back. I wanted to assign a number to myself. And to be quite honest, I was a little curious! It’s been over a month since I changed over to a vegan diet and I did think maybe my clothes felt a little looser, so I wanted to know–is my number less than it was a year ago?

So when I was at my parents’ this weekend, I picked up my trusty old scale, brought it home with me, and prepared to see “the number.” What happened was this: I have a number in my mind of when I was my heaviest, the number that prompted me to go on Weight Watchers and lose 25 pounds. That number is gross. That number embarrasses me. And yesterday, when I weighed myself, not only was I at that number…I was at that number +8.

A month ago, this would have been devastating. I might have cried. I might have ordered a pizza and binged because what does it matter anymore? But weirdly, I was unfazed. It is not a healthy number by any means. I know that I am overweight. I know that my BMI is higher than the normal range. I know that I need to change. But instead of worrying, or crying, or screaming, or turning to the comfort food in the kitchen, I very calmly stepped off the scale and said, okay! Time to change.

I was so proud of my calm demeanor that I went to yoga and bragged about it to my classmates. We’re reading Women Food and God and we’re all battling with food in our different ways. I sabotage myself with food. I eat when I’m not hungry. I feel guilty all the time. For me, a person who has those feelings laying dormant at all times, to feel comfortable with the number I saw and not have the urge to either a) binge or b) crash diet, is a huge deal. A classmate even said so to me. I’m content.

I had one of the best yoga practices thus far last night. I was completely at peace, the practice was challenging, my body was slightly sore this morning. And then I resolved to do something else I’ve been meaning to but never do: go to the freakin’ gym! One of the perks of my workplace is free membership to the gym downstairs. This was a selling point to me when I was interviewing for the job. A year ago, during my interview process, I thought damn! I’ll have no excuse! I can work out every day for FREE! And I did, for about a month. And then I fell off that wagon just like every time before.

So last night, I carefully packed my gym bag and psyched myself up. I haven’t exercised in nearly a year. That’s not to say that I haven’t gone for walks here and there, but my lifestyle has been largely sedentary. That needs to change. I packed my gym bag and set it by the door so I would see it and not forget it on my way out. I told myself that I am not allowed ANY excuses (because let me tell you, I am the queen of excuses). When I woke up this morning, the excuses were already formulating in my head. From I’m too tired to something as ridiculous as having to carry my purse, coffee AND gym bag down my apartment stairs and to the car in heels is too much of a pain. Yes, I was hearing myself. That is one of the absolute worst excuses I’ve ever heard in my life! I blame my half-awake mind for that one. The important thing is, I did grab the gym bag. I made it down the stairs. I dragged it into the office with me. And after work, I headed to the gym. My church.

I used to love working out, to be honest. I hate to run but I do love the repetitive routine of (other) cardio. It’s a time to listen to music, to be with yourself, to focus on your breathing. The fact that I haven’t made an effort to get my ass to the FREE gym for the past year is embarrassing. There is no excuse for it. No amount of “I’m too tired”s or “I don’t have time”s is acceptable. It takes 30 minutes. I’m actually angry at myself for that fact taking so long to sink into my stubborn little brain.

Today, I also tracked my calories. Not in a crazy-diet way, but just in a curious way. I should be paying attention to my caloric intake and I should be making sure I’m getting enough protein, fruits, veggies. Veganism can be precarious. You have to take responsibility for your diet. After tracking my diet for the day, I’m seeing something else interesting: I am completely full on 1,000 calories. I actually forced down a snack of peanut butter toast and almond milk because, as much as I want to lose weight, I know that 1,000 calories a day won’t be sustainable. I’ll drop weight fast and gain it all back, story of my life. When veganism is done properly, you almost have to fight to meet your body’s caloric needs. Veggies and fruits are so low in calories. You have to make an effort some days to get what your body needs. For instance, today I only had 3 servings of grains. Aren’t you supposed to have 6-12? You have to think about these things!

The point of all of this, I suppose, is teaching yourself to respect your body. When you see a number on the scale, don’t panic. Just resolve to make changes that will make you healthier and happier. I don’t have a number in mind that I want to be–I just know that I want to feel better and have more energy. Eating right and working out is the foundation of that. I am now going to focus on nourishing my body. It needs it!

As an addendum: I can tell already that I’m going to be sore tomorrow. I’m glad I have volunteering after work so I can give my muscles a day to relax before hitting the gym again Wednesday. 🙂 Consider this an “aha!” moment. I’ve never felt more content with the idea of change and I’ve never been so okay with a life in flux. I’m going to get healthy because I need to. Goodbye, sweet Theo bars. (but not completely, of course–deprivation is an evil in its own right!)

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vegan vs. omnivore: the battle royale

I became acutely aware of the fact that I am not in possession of any happy, upbeat music. I am an indie rock fan and have plenty of music to be sad to, but nothing to get my spirits up. My past few commutes have consisted of endlessly hitting “next” on my iPod. The best I could come up with was Psychokiller by the Talking Heads. Yikes! If I’m going to have a more positive outlook, it first needs to start with the music I send to my brain. I am open to suggestions. I am not a pop fan (at least a modern-day pop fan–I’ll pass on the Ke$ha, please and thank you), but damnit, if it means lifting my spirits, then bring it.

I am still thinking about (dwelling on) going vegan. I have so many hang-ups, it’s unreal. I’ve previously discussed my fear of failing, but it’s deeper than I think I let on. If I were to go the vegan route, it would be less for my convictions and more for healthfulness. When I examined my life and considered what would make me happy, living a healthier lifestyle was one of the first things that sprang to mind. I’m now inundated with insight about what exactly is going into my body. While researching a vegan red velvet recipe, some knowledge was dropped on me about carmine and I became enraged. I want to be clear about just what bothers me about red food dye coming from crushed bugs: it’s not so much the bugs dying. I dislike bugs. I kill spiders and ants and centipedes (oh my!). Insects are necessary to Planet Earth but that doesn’t mean I welcome them crawling on me. I really hate them. I’m not so much bothered by the fact that they were killed and turned into foodstuffs. What I’m bothered by is that a) eating bugs is an extremely unpleasant thought. and b) I’ve gone 23 years having had no idea about this.

I consider myself pretty educated and well-read. I purposely steer away from PETA, etc., because I know that slaughterhouses are awful and I know that pumping our cows full of antibiotics is disgusting and I don’t really want to see it, because if I see it, I’ll cry (or barf). I choose to shield my impressionable mind from it. But I am at least aware of it. The thing that bothers me most about this carmine business is that I HAD NO IDEA WHAT CARMINE WAS. And I want to assure you that if I saw “carmine” on a food label, here is what my thought process would be: hmm, sounds chemical-y, it’s probably a preservative, but at least it’s not chickenstock so looks like I can eat this! You have to be stubbornly educated to know what goes into your ingredients, and most consumers are passive. For most, slapping on the word “ORGANIC” is enough to feel pretty good about your choices and forget about what goes in to manufacturing the food you’re feeding your body with. This makes me feel both angry at the common ignorance of consumers and angry at the secrecy of manufacturers and the manipulation of using branding such as “organic” when there are virtually zero regulations determining what can be considered “organic” or “natural” or “green” or whatever other buzz words are floating around out there.

Putting my convictions about ethical treatment of animals aside, if I were to “go vegan” it would be more of a dietary choice because I feel that it is my right to know exactly what I am ingesting. Something as wholesome as freshly baked cookies can have such a gruesome, disturbing underbelly. And why is it necessary to bleach sugar with bone char? Is it really the case that if sugar was shelved in all the glory of its natural color, we wouldn’t buy it? It’s ironic to transform something to the color of purity using something so unnecessarily impure.

And while I sit here tackling my own ignorance (I don’t know how I lived this long without knowing about carmine or sugar), I would then have to face the ignorance of my peers. Deciding to “go vegan” puts your beliefs out there in a way that provokes others to criticize. Vegans get a bad rap for appearing pretentious or thinking that they’re better than omnivores (anyone seen Scott Pilgrim?) and this is only because vegan choices are “othered.” People would rather ignore the truths about food production and are, for whatever reason, put off by people who choose to not ignore. If I go vegan, it’s not anybody’s damn business unless I make it their business, but I can see several future conversations with non-vegans where I am expected to present my case. What if I don’t want to talk about my case? What if I want to just do what I do and have it affect only me and my body? I am not going to persuade anybody to give up meat or dairy. I would be happy to speak with an open-minded person who isn’t going to shoot me down, but I’m not about to engage in any verbal spars with people unwilling to accept that I come with peace.

IRL, I have spoken to no one about this except for my boyfriend and my best friend. I have a very openly-vegan coworker and I had several opportunities to discuss my sentiments with her today, but I didn’t bring it up. I don’t want to put myself out there. I don’t want to make this my office’s business or my family’s business. I also don’t feel comfortable putting my body in the limelight. If, for example, I adopted a vegan lifestyle and it led to successful weightloss because I am being more conscious about my food choices, and then say I “fell off the wagon” and started eating dairy and that led to an unfortunate weight gain, my body has invited public discourse. I need to lose weight and I don’t need anyone to tell me that for me to know. If I lose weight and then gain weight, that is not an invitation for conversation about it. This is my battle to fight and I don’t need the negativity or the “I told you so”s that come with a dietary or lifestyle change.

Being vegetarian has prepared me for what I know comes next: ignorance from all directions. A vegan vs. omnivore throw-down is not something I’m willing to entertain. I am a commitment-phobe about most things and that is one reason for teetering on the vegetarian/vegan edge, for now. I am in the research-phase. I am learning. I am trying to decide if something like this is sustainable for me. For once, I am considering a lot before throwing myself into something. This is something I don’t normally do when weighing decisions, and I give myself props for that because educating yourself should be the root of all major life choices.

I shouldn’t have to feel like “coming out” as vegan is the same as coming out as an alcoholic, but in actuality the two are very analogous. If an alcoholic goes out and has a beer, it becomes a topic of discussion. If a vegan goes out and eats a grilled cheese sandwich, stop the presses!–it becomes big news. I don’t want to live in fear of failure and I don’t want to be compared to an addict. I won’t accept that treatment and I will turn a deaf ear to it if and when it comes time to cross that bridge.

And that, friends, is how I feel about that.

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