My 1 Year Veganniversary: My Experience So Far

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On March 16,2015,  I made the leap to go vegan. I went vegan mostly for ethical and environmental reasons. Although, I had been eating a predominantly plant-based diet for health reasons beforehand.

The Transition:

My transition to going vegan was surprisingly easy. I just made the decision to not eat animal products and didn’t look back. I think part of the reason transitioning was so easy for me was because I ate a predominantly plant based diet, so I already had a base of recipes to work with.

I still wear some leather shoes and use some leather hand bags. I had them before I went vegan, so I am just going to wear them out. I have stopped buying new leather products though. I also have started using beauty and hygiene products that have not been tested on animals.

How Veganism Has Affected My Health:

I was already very healthy to begin with, so going vegan hasn’t made a huge impact on my health. I have lost a few pounds and my skin has cleared up a bit, but nothing dramatic happened. I recently got a blood test for the first time and my total cholesterol was 125 mg/dL.

Social Settings and Holidays:

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The most difficult part of veganism has been the social aspect. It is nearly impossible to avoid making your veganism known. If everyone else is having cake or other treats that you always turn down, eventually you have to give an explanation. There also is navigating the balance between not being over-the-top and preachy, but also being open and talking about why you are vegan.

On holidays it can also been difficult, especially the first time around. Nearly every dish I had during the holidays is something I hadn’t cooked before and had no idea of how it would turn out. Then there is the issue of adding additional dishes to the menu and trying to not be in the way of everyone else.

When it comes to eating out, there are plenty of restaurants with vegan options (this may vary based on where you live). Happy Cow is a great resource for finding places to eat out almost anywhere. A lot of ethnic restaurants are also vegan friendly, since they have a lot more dishes that are vegetable/legume based.

For all these challenges, thinking ahead is the method that has worked best for me. Plan out your quick explanation for why you are vegan. Check out menus ahead of time, and eat before you go out if you have to. When it comes to holidays, check out recipes and try to find dishes that everyone can enjoy.

My Experience Overall:

Overall, I think going vegan is one of the best lifestyle choices I have made. It is a lifestyle that not only is healthy, but reduces your ecological footprint and the amount of suffering you cause to non-human animals. It is a lifestyle I plan on maintaining long term. All the challenges of being vegan in a non-vegan society are very minor when compared to the benefits.

Read More:

I’m Going Vegan! (and Why)

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Skinny Ever After: The Reality of Weight Maintenance

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After losing 1/3 of my body weight, I thought maintaining it would be a breeze. I thought I would jog off into the sunset and live skinny ever after. While I have managed to stay within a healthy weight range since I have been in maintenance mode, I have had quite a few ups and downs along the way.

I thought I would share my experiences with weight maintenance as well as some tips and tricks for maintaining a healthy weight for those that are still on their weight loss journeys.

It takes time to find your balance:

When I started to maintain I was around 150 lbs., although I went down to about 145 lbs. at one point. In the first 6 months of “maintenance mode” I gained about 20 lbs., with my weight peaking at 170 lbs. This is at the upper end of my healthy weight range. I think part of the initial weight gain was because I got too relaxed. I thought because I wasn’t dieting anymore and had more calories to spare, I could getaway with more than I really could.

Following those six months, I started to experiment with different kinds of eating approaches with varying results. I experimented with grain free diets, a miserable attempt at a vegan diet, higher fat diets, and finally finding my balance with a more thought out vegan diet.

For me a plant-based diet has worked really well. I have been vegan for about a year and I was eating mostly plant based for several months before that. My weight has stabilized and been slowly going down. I currently am fluctuating between 160 and 165 lbs. I don’t count calories or restrict the quantity of food I eat. I also haven’t had an issue with binge eating like I did with many other eating approaches I tried.

Body image issues won’t disappear.

I still have fat days. I still have those days when I base my outfit on which one makes me look the skinniest. I have days when I won’t wear shorts because I don’t like how my thighs look. I know it is not rational and that I am healthy and fit. Those days are in the minority, but they still happen.

I also feel a lot of pressure to maintain my weight. My weight loss is not a secret. The difference in my appearance from when I weighed 225 lbs. is not subtle. Many people have complimented me on my weight loss, I blog about my experiences with healthy living and physically feel better at a healthy weight. I don’t want to be another statistic of losing weight and gaining it all back again.

You have to stay vigilant.

When I say I don’t count calories or restrict the quantity of food I eat, that doesn’t mean I am not very mindful about my weight and food choices. The reason I don’t have to count calories is because I eat foods that I know are more satiating per calorie.

I get about 85% of my calories from whole plant foods. The other 15% being small amounts of oil in my cooking and small treats here and there. I average over 10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. I make sure I have a good source of protein, healthy fat and plenty of fiber in each meal. I am very careful of the amount of refined carbohydrates, sugar and added fats I eat. When I do this, I eat about 2300-2400 calories per day, which is what most medical guidelines say is appropriate for my height, age and activity level (I ate around 1700-1800 calories/day to lose the weight).

But how do I manage to always eat plant based, and almost all of it from whole foods? I plan ahead. I make large batches of staples like quinoa and hummus on the weekends that I can throw into any meal throughout the week. I use convenient healthy foods like low sodium canned beans and frozen vegetables that I can quickly microwave. When I make dinner, I make enough for lunch the next day. I have back up plans for quick but healthy meals like almond butter sandwiches or hummus and veggie wraps. If I am going to be out for a while, I make sure I eat a large nutritious meal beforehand. I also keep healthy snacks like nuts on hand at all times in case I get hungry and am tempted to eat something I shouldn’t. I am very careful about how much junk food I have in the house, because I know with certain foods, I struggle to eat responsibly. I have also learned to accept the social discomfort of sticking to a healthy diet, and a vegan one at that.

In addition to being very careful about my food choices, I exercise about 5 times a week incorporating both strength and cardio. I also weigh myself regularly to keep myself accountable.

The times where I haven’t been this vigilant have resulted in me gaining weight. It is very easy for me to get back into the habit of not exercising or allowing a daily treat from the convenience store. At first it would be just a drink or a candy bar, but before I knew it I would be bingeing on the same amount of junk food that resulted in me weighing 225 lbs. My wake-up call to get my act together has always  been whenever I hit 170 lbs, since it is close to the upper end of my healthy weight range and when I start feeling uncomfortable with my size.

Maintaining weight loss is not easy, but it is possible.

If you were obese and lost weight or are in the process of doing so, you will likely have to be vigilant about your habits for the rest of your life. Just because you get down to a normal weight does not mean you can take the same approach to weight maintenance as someone who was never overweight to begin with. I wish I could say you can relax and live skinny ever after once you hit your goal weight, but losing the weight is only the first step in a lifelong process of living a healthy lifestyle.

That being said, it is possible to maintain a healthy weight long term. You don’t have to overly restrict food or over exercise. You just have to continue to maintain the habits that got you there.

Read More: 

My Weight Loss Journey

Weight Maintenance: Expectations vs Reality

Former Fat Person Disorder (FFPD)

How to Annoy Someone Who Has Lost Weight/ Is Losing Weight

National Weight Control Registry

7 Habits of People Who Lose Weight and Keep It Off

The Habits of People Who Lose Weight and Keep It Off

5 Secrets of the 5%: What You Can Learn from Successful Dieters

 

 

Sundried Tomato and Basil Cashew Spread

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Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups of Roasted Unsalted Cashews
  • 0.25 cups of Unsalted Pine Nuts
  • 2 tbsp of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 6 Cloves of Garlic
  • 0.25 cups of Basil
  • Juice of 1/2 a Lemon
  • 0.5 cups of Sun-dried Tomato
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • Add a small amount of water into blender/ food processor if needed to make it blend.

*Makes 8 servings

Directions:

  1. Add ingredients into high-speed blender or food processor.
  2. Blend.
  3. Move ingredients around if the blender/food processor gets stuck.
  4. Add in a small amount of water if needed to keep things blending.

*Check the capabilities of your blender/food processor before making this recipe.

Review: Teeccino

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After recently quitting caffeine, I had a void to fill in my morning routine where my coffee used to be. While the caffeine boost was part of the reason I drank coffee, I also liked the morning ritual. Even though I enjoy herbal teas, I wanted something with a fuller, more robust flavor. In looking for an alternative to coffee, I discovered Teeccino.

Teeccino is a blend of herbs, fruits, grains and nuts that are roasted and ground to brew and taste like coffee (more here).

I ordered a sampler pack of their coffee ground form and tea bags of the French Roast and Hazelnut flavors.

So far I have tried the Almond Amaretto, Chai, French Roast and Hazelnut flavors. I enjoyed all of them, but the French Roast is my favorite and so far is the one I plan on having as my everyday coffee.

The coffee grounds were able to brew just like coffee, although I would recommend having your coffee pot drip as slowly as possible to get a richer flavor.

When it comes to the tea bags, make sure it sits for a couple of minutes before adding in your milk/plant milks. I tried adding coconut milk to it right away, and the flavor didn’t end up as strong that time.

Overall, I would recommend this product to anyone looking to cut back or cut out coffee, or people who just want to try a new interesting warm beverage.

You can buy it online at Teeccino’s website, Amazon, health food stores and some regular grocery stores.

I Quit Caffeine!

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I recently decided to start a new experiment with my life and quit caffeine. I have been a regular coffee drinker for over a decade, and my caffeine consumption was exceeding 400 mg per day (sometimes over 500). This is more than what many health organizations recommend. I also don’t think as a healthy person in my twenties, I should be dependent on a substance just to have enough energy to get through the day. So I decided to quit. Cold turkey.

I planned in advance to make sure that I didn’t have anything to do the first 2 days (although day 3 turned out to be the worst), and was well stocked with ibuprofen ahead of time.

Day 1: Relatively easy. No headache until the evening and was only slightly fatigued.

Day 2: Had a more noticeable headache and was fatigued all day. I was also more irritable and was resorted to some recreational eating during the day. I kept my appetite in check by drinking a lot of herbal teas. I saw coffee everywhere. I didn’t physically crave it, I was just very well aware that drinking coffee would make everything feel better.

Day 3: Slept more the night before. I woke up with the headache at its peak and getting out of bed was a struggle. Had to go from 2 ibuprofen to 3. I was exhausted and out of it all day and ended up going to bed at 9:30.

Day 4: Headache was gone and I finally started to feel like a human again. My energy levels weren’t 100%, but I felt functional.

Day 5-7: My energy levels increased each day. They are now where my energy was with caffeine, except I don’t need a drug to keep them up and I don’t deal with the crashes every few hours. I still can’t focus as well as I did with coffee, although I’m hoping that will improve over the next week or so.

My workouts this week were lighter than normal, and I mostly focused on cardio. But I actually felt more of an endorphin rush from my workout than before when I would usually drink a coffee before working out.

Learn More:

Caffeine: How much is too much? – Mayo Clinic

Caffeine Myths and Facts – WebMD

Coffee – You Are Not So Smart

 

 

Brussel Sprouts with Tahini

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This is one of my favorite recipes to use when I want a quick, easy and delicious way to add more veggies into my day. I use this same recipe with spinach, broccoli or really any other veggie I’m in the mood for.

Ingredients:

  •  3 cups of Frozen Brussel Sprouts (1 package)
  • 3 tbsp of Tahini
  • 2 tbsp of Nutritional Yeast
  • 1 tbsp of Lemon Juice
  • Garlic Powder
  • Onion Powder
  • Paprika
  • Oregano
  • Lemon Pepper
  • Salt

*Makes 2 servings

Directions:

  1. Cook Brussel sprouts as directed on package.
  2. Mix with the rest of the ingredients.
  3. Eat and enjoy!

 

Pecan Pie Butter

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Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of Unsalted Roasted Pecans
  • 3 tbsp of Coconut Oil
  • 4 tbsp of Maple Syrup
  • 2 tbsp of Cinnamon
  • A few dashes of Salt

*Makes 10 servings

**Check with the capabilities of your blender/ food processor before making this recipe.

Directions:

  1. Microwave coconut oil if it is in a solidified state.
  2. Measure out pecans (2 cups) and put in blender or food processor.
  3. Once blended into a flour like consistency, add in coconut oil, maple syrup and cinnamon.
  4. Blend until desired consistency is reached.
  5. You may need to periodically use a spatula to scrape the nut butter from sides to bottom of blender/ food processor.
  6. Bon Appetite!