My Vegucation

On my health journey, I’ve learned a lot. A LOT! I’ve read books, magazine articles, watched videos and listened to speakers and podcasts. I know plants are where it’s at for good health.

I’ve been convinced by information from scientific research as well as from the experiences of varied people. The most influential people who’ve shown me and convinced me about why and how to eat mostly whole, plant-based foods are:

  1. T. Colin Campbell, co-author of The China Study and Whole
  2. Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, author of Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease
  3. Dr. John McDougall, author of The Starch Solution and The Healthiest Diet on the Planet
  4. Dr. Michael Greger, founder of Nutritionfacts.org and author of How Not to Die

These amazing doctors figured out that what they learned in medical school taught them how to treat people with medication or surgery, once a chronic disease was present. It didn’t teach them anything about how their patients could prevent or reverse their illnesses (the top chronic diseases are: heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and high blood pressure). What did these doctors discover? Eating plants, and excluding animal products, is the answer to good health.

All four doctors discovered their knowledge through research and/or practical clinical experience. They dedicate themselves to finding the facts and to helping people learn HOW to be healthy. They base their beliefs on facts and evidence, which is highly reassuring.

If you’re trying to decide which books to read to help you on your journey to health, Campbell and Esselstyn’s books are the top two. MUST reads in my opinion. The next two books, which I highly recommend are McDougall and Greger’s books.

I’ve learned that an ideal diet for humans is whole plant-based foods. As much as possible, we want to choose to eat plants and leave animal products off our plate. We also want to try to choose foods in their raw state often. I’m not 100% plant-based, as I don’t know if I can ever be that perfect over the long term. I’m not vegan either. Being vegan is a commitment that goes beyond food. It involves the avoidance of animal products in all aspects of life: clothing, furniture etc. Although I’m making better choices by decreasing my use of products that harm the environment or animals, I have a lot to learn and a long way to go.

My primary focus now is my health.

Other amazing people who’ve contributed to my knowledge and understanding of good health through nutrition, as well as the need to eat to help our planet and the animals, are:

  1. Neal Barnard: author of many books, including The Cheese Trap
  2. John Robbins: Author of Diet for a New America (this was the first plant-based nutrition book I ever read, way back in 1990), The Food Revolution and Healthy at 100
  3. Brendan Brazier: athlete and author of The Thrive Diet
  4. Rich Roll: ultra marathoner; author of Finding Ultra; podcast host
  5. Julie Marie Christensen: founder of The Protective Diet Education Program
  6. Joel Fuhrman, author of many books, but in particular, Eat to Live and Fasting and Eating for Health
  7. Rip Esselstyn, author of Engine 2 Diet and Plant Strong
  8. Michael Pollan, author of Food Rules, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defence of Food
  9. Kris Carr: cancer survivor and author of Crazy Sexy Diet
  10. Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin, co-authors of Skinny Bitch
  11. Chef AJ: food addict turned nutrition advocate and author of Unprocessed
  12. Brenda Davis: author of Becoming Vegan
  13. Victoria Morgan, author of Main St. Vegan
  14. Victoria Boutenko, author of Green for Life
  15. Meghan Telpner, author of Undiet: Eat your Way to Vibrant Health
  16. Kathy Freston: author of many books, including The Lean
  17. Thomas Campbell, MD, author of The Campbell Plan (and co-author of The China Study)
  18. Morris Hicks, author of Healthy Eating, Healthy World
  19. Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Eating Animals
  20. Michael S. Moss, author of Salt, Sugar, Fat
  21. Nancy Montuori from The Ordinary Vegan website and podcast

Specific documentaries that have helped me understand how food affects my health, the environment and the well-being of animals:

  • Forks over Knives
  • Hungry for Change
  • What the Health
  • Cowspiracy
  • Food Inc.
  • Food Matters
  • Super Size Me
  • Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead
  • Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead 2
  • Fed Up
  • Plant Pure Nation
  • Vegucated
  • GMO OMG
  • Food Choices
  • A Place at the Table
  • Sugar Coated
  • That Sugar Film
  • Live and Let Live
  • What’s with Wheat?

All the documentaries listed have valuable information, but the top three on the list are the ones I’d recommend watching. Forks Over Knives (2011) was probably the first documentary about plant-based eating for health that really went mainstream. What the Health is more recent (2017). Either would be a good start.

Taking time to get vegucated helps to fuel my health journey. I continue to read, watch and listen so I can learn as much as possible. I’m grateful for all the plant-based pioneers who have provided me, and other newbies, with information and recipes.

If you haven’t had a chance to check out some of the resources listed above, definitely carve out some time to do so. You won’t regret it. Even if you aren’t ready to go 100% plant-based (I am somewhere between 90-100%), you can benefit by including more plant-based food in your diet and eating less animal-based products.

Wishing you health and success on your journey,

SignatureAli

 

 

My Food Path to Health

My journey to good health has had its successes and its obstacles.

In my early 50’s now, I feel like I’ve finally figured out the healthiest way to eat. Finally! Actually, I’ve really known for years now, but along the way, I’ve had a hard time truly committing to it:

Eat a balanced diet with mostly fruit, vegetables, grains and legumes.

It’s so simple. Or is it?

We know that brown rice, black beans, apples and greens are better for the human body than donuts or French fries. We know soda drinks and chips aren’t real food.

So, what’s my problem? Like most women, there are so many other factors that influence what we eat. Knowledge of nutrition helps, but it isn’t the only thing that contributes to our food choices.

Other obstacles many of us have to tackle:

  • The addictive nature of so many foods, especially sugar, salt and fat
  • Emotional associations to certain foods
  • Food temptations are everywhere now: convenience stores, restaurants, fast-food, food delivery
  • Social situations where food we don’t usually eat is right there, offered to us
  • Patterns and habits, which can be difficult to break
  • Dealing with stress on a daily basis through commitments related to work and family

Whoa! Ok, the terrain is tricky to get through, but we need to be careful. If we point to those things on the list too often, they’ll become our EXCUSES.

So, let’s get back to how I’ve finally found my food path to good health, which includes being close to my ideal weight.

Like many people, I’ve tried many different approaches to eating. Check out the different diets I’ve eaten over the years.

  • Meat and potatoes, a standard North American meal (with a veg or small salad thrown in, almost like a condiment)
  • Meat, meat and more meat (think Dukan Diet, similar to Atkins)
  • 80-10-10 Diet (80% carbs, 10% protein, 10% fat): Nothing wrong with these numbers (80% of our calories should come from carbohydrates-the complex, healthy ones in fruit, veggies, grains and legumes) With the 80-10-10 Diet, however, the 80% is supposed to come from fruit mainly.
  • Raw Food Diet, with low fat (easy on the avocados and nuts)
  • Plant-based Diet, where anything non-animal goes (including potato chips and highly processed fake meats)
  • Plant-based Diet, with low fat (easy on avocados and nuts)
  • Plant-based Diet with low fat and little or no sugar

For each different style of eating, I either felt good or I didn’t. I either knew it was good for me, or wondered if it wasn’t. I felt it was either sustainable, or it wasn’t. My different experiences taught me what works and what doesn’t.

What works best?  Whole plant foods. No animal products. No highly processed food. No oil. Very little sugar. Keep an eye on the sodium.

Why?

When I eat these foods, I feel great. I feel light. My energy soars and my weight drops.

Here’s what I had for a light dinner tonight: Homemade Kabocha Squash Soup

IMG_2299

I just threw all the following in my Vitamix blender and voila! Yummy!

-a whole squash, unsweetened cashew milk until it was a consistency I liked (cashew milk is a thicker variety of plant-based milk), maple syrup, and spices (garlic, ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, cumin).

kabocha
Kabocha squash: put one squash (cut in half) in oven at 350 degrees for 45 min or so, until very soft in center. Let cool, and then scoop out the seeds. Scoop out the flesh.

It’s hard to eat this way ALL of the time, so I’ve decided that as long as I eat this way 90-100% of the time, health is within my reach. It’s too much pressure for me right now, to commit to all the way, all the time.

I’m proud of my progress so far. I’ll share more details as I continue the journey. In my next post, I’ll talk about some major players who’ve helped me understand the why and the how of plant-based eating.

I wish you health and success on your journey,

SignatureAli

Inspired to Become the REAL ME!

A week ago, on Jan. 14, I decided to become the real me. I’m really excited to let the real me blossom and to get to know her again. Nice to meet you: healthy, active and vibrant Ali!

I’ve been trying since Jan. 1, 2010 to become the person I want to be. If you look in the archives of this blog, you’ll see I’ve been on and off again at writing about my health journey since the summer of August, 2013.

Before I go on, I must tell you that starting this blog was thanks to a good friend of mine, Susan Kuz (you can find out more about her and how amazing she is at teaching/coaching people and organizations at beingpukka). She encouraged me to share my ideas about eating healthy foods, even though I didn’t think I was “good enough” to do so because I hadn’t yet achieved my own health goals. Well, I wasn’t perfect, and I realized that was ok. Thanks, Susan!

So, feel free to join me on my imperfect journey.

I’ve learned over years how each of us is on a journey to health, our own customized journey.  Even if you’re at your perfect weight and feel your health is ideal, you continue on your journey each day, month and year that passes. Health isn’t achieved, and then, “Ta da!” we check off that box on our To Do list. Being healthy today doesn’t mean you’ll be healthy tomorrow unless your journey of seeking health continues.

Ok. Back to the future real me. I have a vision of that person; it isn’t about weight and size, but more about lifestyle. By living a lifestyle I see as healthy and most beneficial for me physically and mentally, I will feel good, and as a by-product, naturally lose the extra 40-50 pounds weighing me down. I’ll have energy in my body and my mind.

I am 52 years old, and 5’ 6”. I’m not sure what my ideal weight is, but I feel confident I’ll know it when I get there based on how I feel. I look forward to the discovery.

What led to my decision to find the real me? A few things:

  • I am close to my highest weight.
  • I veered off course the last few months, eating unhealthy food on a regular basis.
  • I feel slow, unhealthy and fat.
  • My clothes are tight.
  • I feel uncomfortable in my own body.
  • I felt inspired after listening to a Rich Roll podcast where he interviewed Charlie Jabaley, who lost a whole bunch of weight and turned his life around.

I was inspired by the podcast, but it wasn’t the first time I felt determined to seek health. Each time I’m excited by a book, article, video, podcast or conversation, it kick-starts my energy, desires and motivation about things that are important to me.

Who is the Real Me?

  • Physically healthy and vibrant
  • Mentally strong and energetic
  • At an ideal/comfortable weight for my body

That’s it. Sounds like something most of us want, but at the same time, it seems impossible to achieve. Of course it’s not impossible, but it’s challenging. For many of us, life gets in the way. But that’s not really true. We allow life to get in the way.

Ok. Here’s my plan, ‘cause I’ve got to have a plan.

I need to remind myself every single day about who I want to be. About the person I want to become. I can see her:

  • She rises in the morning with energy
  • She eats food for fuel and doesn’t obsess about food
  • She eats real, whole food that is as close to its natural form as possible, most of the time
  • She eats a plant-based diet, most of the time
  • She consumes alcohol infrequently (once a week or so)
  • She exercises for joy, fitness and energy at least 3-5 times a week (walking, running and whatever else feels good)

Ok…so now I know what I want and I know what I want to be doing. What next? This is the wall that many of us run into. HOW CAN I DO THIS?

Let’s get back to that inspiration I was talking about for a minute. I’m not saying I feel a little inspiration to eat better and get healthy. I am inspired to make my own personal transformation.  

It’s beyond making changes. I’ve tried that. A complete lifestyle overhaul is in order.

Uh oh…there’s that fear creeping into the conversation. Did you feel it?

  • Fear that it will be difficult
  • Fear that I don’t really want to live without the unhealthy foods
  • Fear that I will fail again
  • Fear that I will start something but not finish it all the way through and be consistent
  • Fear that I can’t do it myself

Wait a minute. Did I just say “can’t?

I deeply believe people can accomplish anything they want.  I really do, to my core. Within reason. Can I lose 20 pounds in 5 days without cutting off some limbs? Not realistic.

So, if I believe other people can accomplish almost anything they really want, and if that is one of my core beliefs, then of course I can do it. There is no can’t. My life is up to me.

How empowering! Let me just soak that in for a minute. I CAN do it. I have the POWER to be the real me! WOW!!

Having true power also means if I don’t transform myself, it’s because I choose not to. When I’m faced with obstacles, will I choose to push forward to find the real me, or will I give in to the easy, familiar route?

The funny thing is that there are people who don’t know what to do to successfully lose weight, get healthy and live an active lifestyle. But I DO know what to do. I know exactly what to do, and it works!

So why don’t I do it, consistently? I’ve tried many times to make a change. I’ve had some successes.

I think it’s the lifestyle. My husband and I spend a lot of our free time together, and we have the same interests. Our energies are focused on “relaxing”, whether we do it at home or in a restaurant. It involves food, often wine or martinis and if we’re at home, Netflix. Well, that doesn’t sound like the healthy energy-filled lifestyle I want, does it?

My husband and I do a lot of talking. We make a lot of “we should” plans. We start and then we fall back into our familiar routine and fizzle out. We lose weight together. We gain weight together.

For true success, I need to decide what I want. I need to want it so bad that even when I’m stressed, or angry or feeling low or when temptations and influences pop up, I still commit to finding the real me.

Like I said, I’ve had successes before. I lost 14 lbs in two weeks eating real plants without any added crap (sugar, oil, processed food, animal products). With no exercise! I didn’t starve myself either. I was eating mashed potatoes almost every day with a yummy plant-based, very low-fat mushroom gravy. The food tasted great! It really worked while I was committed.

In 2017 I was consistently plant-based for 7.5 months. I was very proud of myself during those months, and I thought I had it mastered.

In the summer of 2017 my husband and I did a 15-day water fast. It was difficult, but I learned a lot about my body and about what I want in life. Sure, I dropped over 20 lbs, but that’s not a realistic weight loss. My body cleaned out a lot of crap, but I didn’t continue afterwards with a healthy diet. I went back to my old ways when I allowed stress to be my master.

A couple of years ago, I ate only raw foods for four weeks. I felt terrific, and I think doing such a cleanse can really help you clean out. It can also be a good kick-start to weight loss, but it’s not sustainable.

I’ve had other successes too; they just didn’t stick.  Eventually, I fell back into my old ways because I didn’t fully commit to transforming myself. I was still hanging on to the lifestyle.

I KNOW WHAT to do. I KNOW I can do it.

It’s been a week since I started my personal transformation.

I’m doing well so far! Down a few pounds and I feel terrific. I am sleeping better and already have more energy each day. I feel happier too. Happier because I feel good and because I’m excited about the future.

I FEEL GREAT and can’t wait to see how things turn out.

Wish me luck on my journey, and of course, I wish you health and success on your own journey.

SignatureAli