30 Day Vegan Adventure: Days 1-15

I have spent the last 15 days eating a vegan diet. So far I have been successful in sticking to the diet, but it has been testing for me. I have had to pay attention to areas of my diet that I don’t have to regularly. In addition, I have had to cut out some of my favorite foods, which hasn’t been easy.

Sodium:

Sodium works with other electrolytes in helping muscles contract and relax, maintaining fluid balance in cells and helping transmit nerve impulses throughout the body.

Humans need at least 500 mg of sodium per day for our body to function. However, you can lose over 1,000 mg of sodium per hour while exercising. I run over 30 miles per week in addition to weight training, so I do my fair share of sweating.

The average American consumes 3,436 mg of salt per day, most through processed foods. Most unprocessed plant foods have little to no sodium in them, so a vegan diet is low in sodium.

To make sure I get enough, I have been adding a little bit of sea salt to my meals.

Protein:

Getting enough protein is also work on a vegan diet. I aim for about 100 g of protein per day. To get enough, I have been eating a lot of beans, nuts, nut butters and seeds. I also have been eating grains that are high in protein. I haven’t been meeting my goal regularly on this one, but I have been getting at least 60 g each day.

Temptation:

The hardest part for me is being tempted to eat delicious foods that contain animal-based products. The cravings peaked about 1 week in and have decreased since. I really only crave it now when I see it or smell it… other than that is isn’t an issue.

I have found a new appreciation for Oreos, since it is basically the only junk food I can have.

 

 

Perfect is Boring

There are countless articles, books and other forms of advice on how to improve yourself. They give you these set of rules on how to live your life to be what they consider a better person. They share their secrets to success in careers, health, relationships and more. They tell you to do this and do that. Some even tell you which people to allow into your life and which ones you should throw out like human garbage. But there is a bit of an undertone in this advice of “you aren’t good enough” or “you need to be fixed”. While like many people, I want to be the best version of myself… I’ve also come to realize the absurdity and self-absorption of it all (sometimes I forget). I think accepting some of these little so-called flaws and quirks are key to really being human.

So many aspects of our life revolve around judging. We judge others. Other people judge us. We adapt our behaviors and goals accordingly. We determine our self-worth and the worth of others based on our ability to adapt ourselves in alignment with those judgements. While judgements have a value, sometimes I think we are excessively influenced by them. What if we learned out of curiosity rather than because we feel obligated to get better grades? What if we chose our romantic relationships based on love rather than”practical” reasons? What if we didn’t give a shit about the conventional definition of success and did what we really wanted instead? I don’t think it would make society fall apart, I think it would make things more balanced.

If we keep looking at people through a lens of how they are “good/bad”, how can we expect to actually connect with them? How can we expect to have genuine relationships with people if we are constantly trying to assess if they are “good enough” and are constantly distracting ourselves in some way or another with those judgments? It is one thing to acknowledge the characteristics of a person and consider what that means, but I think in excess they can distract us from truly connecting with them. I think this may play a role in a deficiency of true compassion for both ourselves and others.

I think the only way we would be completely flawless in everyone’s eyes was if everybody didn’t give a shit about anything at all. Collective apathy doesn’t sound very appealing to me.

Flaws are beautiful. They are what make us human beings and not human fucking robot barbies.

Why I am Grateful for Having Been Overweight

I used to have a lot of resentment towards myself for having been overweight. I was mad at myself for letting myself go like that. I was ashamed. But as I have become further removed from being overweight, I have taken a new perspective on the experience and have become grateful for it.

I believe that good can be taken from any situation if you just find a new way to look at it. Rather than looking at a challenge you face as a problem, look at it as an opportunity for growth. See how you can take that challenge and create something good out of it. See how you can use it to find a new appreciation towards other aspects of your life. This is how I have become grateful for my experience with being overweight.

I don’t think it is likely that I would be as fit as I am today if I hadn’t first become so overweight. I wouldn’t have been uncomfortable with myself enough to take action. People usually don’t take action and change when they feel comfortable with where they are. This is why I think a little bit of discomfort and suffering is needed to become our best selves. I believe that wherever our greatest sources of fear and suffering are in life are also where our greatest potential for growth is.

I think having been overweight has made me appreciate my health more. It has made me love of my body more. I think it has made me enjoy food and all forms of physical pleasure more. I have learned to savor each and every bite of food I eat. Each meal is more satisfying to me. I appreciate indulging more because I do so less often and I do it with a more positive mindset.

I think my experience with being overweight has made me more confident with who I am today both internally and externally. Even though there are days where I look in the mirror and am not happy with how I look, for the most part I am. To be honest, I was kind of obsessed with mirrors when my weight loss first hit me. It was a version of myself I had never seen. I remember seeing my reflection in a window while walking down the street, and at first it didn’t even register that it was me. I think that was when I first really saw myself differently. I think seeing myself without realizing it made me able to see myself for what I really look like.

I think being overweight has made me appreciate clothes more. I actually enjoy shopping now. I like to wear things that I find flattering. I feel more comfortable playing with new patterns, colors and styles. I use clothes to highlight the parts of myself that I love rather than hide what I don’t like.

Learn to see challenges you face as obstacles to overcome rather than barriers preventing you from reaching your goal. Rather than focusing on your problems, focus on the solutions. By making this simple shift in your thinking, you will be able to become much more resilient and be able to appreciate even the difficulties you face in life.

Instead of looking at the mistakes you regret, appreciate and become grateful for the lessons you have learned from them.

Dirty Little Secrets from When I was Fat

I thought it would be fun to spill the beans on all the irrational shit I would do before I lost weight.

1. Wearing black because it is supposed to be slenderizing.

2.Repeatedly bingeing at night, not eating enough the next day, then  bingeing again that night… and the cycle continued.

3. Wearing exercise clothes to make other people think you are coming from/ going to the gym.

4. I used to lie about my weight constantly. Like it’s just a number and it clearly does not change anything about what is right in front of you.

5. The Red Bikini wasn’t the only time I bought something that I had no plans of wearing in the present. When I bought The Red Bikini I definitely felt more of a pull from it, but I bought things I didn’t fit in all the time. Like buying clothes a size or two down will magically make you to lose weight. Being an optimist is only useful if you are willing to implement the solutions.

6. I used to order diet sodas with my fast food. Totally logical.

7. I had a habit of watching the Biggest Loser while flopped onto my bed and eating junk food. It was glorious.

8. I used to fake check-in at the gym on Foursquare.

9. I would tell myself I was going to start a diet on Monday which would give me a great excuse to go all out until then.

10. Most of the diets I attempted involved cutting something out entirely (no grains, no sweets, etc.). The result? Bingeing on that same food group about 2 weeks later.

11. I used to order most of my clothes online because I was embarrassed to go shopping in person. Then the clothes I ordered didn’t fit right. I kind of went on a mall rat phase when I first lost weight (I had no clothes that fit me anyways). Seriously, weight loss is a great excuse to take up shopping as a new hobby.

12. I complained about my weight all the time, but rarely would I actually do shit about it.

13. I would wear Spanx all the time. We’re not just talking when you need to look nice. I would wear them on a daily basis. I made a contract with myself that I would never wear Spanx again. I think it represents the idea of not accepting yourself and feeling like you are not enough (or too much, I guess).

14. I bought countless weight loss products, joined a handful of weight loss sites and researched anything and everything relating to weight loss. I had a library of nutrition books. I read so much about nutrition that when I took a nutrition class my senior year of college, there wasn’t much new information for me. I did the same with exercise as well.  I could tell you all about all the muscle groups to work. I knew countless strategies for working out. I pretty much had the nutrition facts of the menus of every restaurant I went to learned by heart (and brain). I looked up countless scientific studies on weight loss and how to best lose weight. I was fascinated by the subject. It wasn’t only with individual weight loss. I did a ton of research about the obesity epidemic, nutrition in the education system (or lack thereof), government policies that impact the health of the population. I was kind of embarrassed about how much I knew about it all while still being overweight.   Actually taking action on my own weight problem? Haha nope. Mind over matter only goes so far, I can tell you that much.

I think the source of a lot of these  behaviors were a sense of knowing there was an issue to be dealt with, but the only motivation at the time was external. There is only so far that wanting to look good for others, impressing other people and doing something to gain more acceptance in general can push you. If you really want something and want to improve yourself, the drive has to come from within, for yourself and your own good (at least for me it does). I didn’t start taking action until I had that spark go off, until I was able to see myself at my goal weight in my own mind. Up until that point I didn’t have the drive. I didn’t have a true inner desire for it or belief in myself. I had to see it to believe it (just not necessarily in present physical reality).

Weight Maintenance: Expectations vs Reality

What you think weight maintenance will be like:

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  • …and I lived skinny ever after. The End.

What weight maintenance is actually like:

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  • Weight maintenance is going to be a piece of cake. Ooh cake sounds good. Fuck it. Why not? I get to eat more now that I’m not losing weight.

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  • How the hell did I just gain 7 lbs.? Why is my body out to get me?

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  • Time to behave again.

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  • Just lost 5 lbs.! #winning

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  • Oops. Just gained 5 lbs.
  • Am I getting fat again?
  • Never mind. Weight is back down. False alarm.

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Embracing Your Inner Fat Kid

Because we all have an inner fat kid.

Can we be honest here? Nobody is perfect with their diet and fitness routine. We all make mistakes. And guess what, mistakes are usually a lot of fun. Who doesn’t love to spend an entire day on the couch binge-watching Netflix and not giving a shit? Who doesn’t love the occasional gluttonous feast? And there is nothing wrong with that. We shouldn’t feel ashamed when that happens.

Part of why I am able to stay in shape is because I’ve learned to not be too hard on myself. I made a lifestyle style change. I didn’t ever go in saying I was going to always stick to the plan. I suck at that. I am messy, disorganized and show up late to everything. So why would I expect myself to pitch a perfect game? Not my style. But I eat healthy most the time. I love fruits and vegetables. I love healthy food… but, junk food is kind of delicious. I eat the occasional pint of Ben and Jerry’s. I occasionally say “fuck it” and get a soda instead of water. And I’m going to say it, I LOVE FAST FOOD! Well, I usually feel like shit after, but it’s delicious in the moment.

So you want to know the real secret to being healthy and balanced? It’s called moderation! It’s this great thing when you are healthy most of the time, but you still unleash your inner fat kid every once in a while.

And the best part is I get to I eat chocolate on a daily basis.

The Red Bikini Project

The Red Bikini:

It all started with a red bikini. I found it during the summer of 2010. I had recently completed my freshman year of college and had inflated to 210 lbs. I bought it believing that I would wear it someday. It took me another year and an additional 15 lbs. of weight gain before I changed things around, but I eventually followed through on that belief. Throughout my fitness journey I have used it to remind myself of the person I want to be.

The Red Bikini Project is my constant striving towards being the best version of myself through health and fitness. The Red Bikini is a symbol of what I aspire towards. It represents confidence, strength and not being afraid to stand out.

The Weight Gain:

I started to struggle with my weight in high school, although I was never more than 10-15 lbs. overweight. My weight escalated much more rapidly during my first two years of college. I used food as a way to handle stress. It would make the stress go away quickly and the effects would last long enough to get whatever it was off my mind. I kept burying every negative feeling I had with food rather than actually dealing with it. While I exercised a moderate amount, it didn’t make up for taking full advantage of an all-you-can-eat dining hall, late night study snacks and weekend festivities.

The Weight Loss:

I was able to get an on-campus apartment for my junior year, making me feel like I had much more freedom and control. I had avoided weighing myself for months, but I finally decided to rip the Band-Aid off and face the facts shortly before classes started. Once I saw my weight I could not hide from it anymore. Weighing myself was an expression of accepting the situation for what it was and committing to changing it for the better. An extra push was that I majored in health sciences. I didn’t want to make a career out of health and not make healthy choices in my own life.

I exercised about 5 times a week incorporating both strength and cardio. Taking fitness classes helped with regularity since I never made excuses and skipped workouts those days. This prevented me from getting into those ruts where you skip a few workouts and suddenly you haven’t been to the gym in a month. Running was one of the few physical activities that I used to dislike, but now running outside in nice weather is one of my favorite activities.

Calories were not my focus, but keeping track of them was helpful at first to hold myself accountable and get a better understanding of what an appropriate portion was. While losing weight I ate about 1700 calories a day, but I would usually go over on the weekends. I eat a balanced diet full of healthy and natural ingredients. I don’t believe in choosing between eating for health and eating for pleasure.  I love food; eating a repetitive micromanaged diet of food I don’t like is not an option for me. Every time I go grocery shopping I buy something healthy that I haven’t tried before. Healthy cooking has become a creative outlet for me. Whenever I want to eat something unhealthy, I nutritionally upgrade it in a way that still tastes great. I love experimenting with different ingredients and creating  healthy concoctions.

I never let weight loss take over my life; I made sure that I still had fun. I ate small amounts of dark chocolate on a daily basis. I allowed myself to occasionally have some junk food or moderate amounts of alcohol. I did not allow weight loss to feel like a punishment. While I had a goal weight, I approached it as a lifestyle change. This approach kept things in perspective when I made mistakes or inevitably didn’t always get the results I expected. Having a positive mindset is extremely important. When you change your behaviors out of love rather than shame, it is much easier to continue making healthy changes and feel good about yourself in the process.

My current focus is to maintain my weight, continue to improve my overall fitness and stay balanced.

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