Progress Report #2

It’s been three months since I decided to transform my life, and about six weeks since my last progress report. Here’s how things are shaping up.

No Alcohol at Home

Early in 2018, my husband and I chose to reduce our alcohol intake by not drinking at home. It wasn’t because of an alcohol “problem”, but to change our habits to become healthier. Few benefits come from drinking alcohol.

Whatever benefits are in beverages like wine, which we often hear about, there are more benefits in getting those same nutrients/phytochemicals etc. from the whole food (aka: grapes). Alcohol = empty calories, so since part of my health goals include losing weight, minimizing alcohol is a good thing.

Our mid-January commitment to not drink any alcohol at home was a success! Between Jan. 13 and April 1, we did not drink any wine, martinis etc. at home. We went out on the weekends to indulge, and a few times we went out during the week.

On April 2, we had our first drinks at home, a couple glasses of wine. I actually took a picture and sent it to my friend in a text, to let her know I had caved in. You know what her response was?

text

Isn’t that amazing? She saw only the positive, while I viewed the whole thing through a negative lens. I learned something that day, or rather, it confirmed something for me. Even though I consider myself a positive person, I continue to be quite hard on myself.

A goal for me is to look at myself more positively.

What’s really cool about the original alcohol challenge is that I find that I’m just not as interested in drinking alcohol as I was before. I consume less whether I am at home or out.

Healthy Food               

I continue to focus on eating healthy food. After our trip to Mexico in March, I jumped back into my regular routine. We focus on eating whole foods that are plant-based, and we cook our own food at home. I will admit, we do tend to go to restaurants on the weekend.

Do you hear that? That’s me being hard on myself again! Instead of thinking, “Way to go for cooking at home during the week!”, I somehow focused on the treats on the weekend. It takes time to change your thinking patterns, so I’ll keep working on it.

I continue to keep staples, like cooked oatmeal and brown rice, in the fridge. Canned beans and fresh vegetables and greens are always handy. We’re in the habit of keeping healthy, whole foods on hand, so this habit really helps us stay on track.

Exercise

I really haven’t kept up with my exercise goal of moving my body everyday. I walk on the treadmill in my basement occasionally, but I haven’t done that for a little while now.

I’m totally ok with that because I know it’s the food that’s my main problem. Moving my body each day is still important to me, but it’s on the back burner for a bit.

Weight Loss

My weight is the same as it was at my first progress report. I’m still down 5-6 lbs since mid-January. I know I’m doing something right because my weight is not up.

I don’t see the lack of weight loss as a negative at all. I will just continue on my journey, learning from my successes and mistakes.

Attitude

I’m feeling awesome! The arrival of spring has helped I’m sure, but it’s more than that.

I’m continuing with my goals and not giving up. When I veer off course a bit, like when I snacked on potato chips yesterday, I enjoy it and move on. Yay for me!

Just. Keep. Going.

What’s Next?

For the past week I’ve been directing my attention towards consuming food as close to 100% plant-based as possible.

I recently watched a documentary, H.O.P.E.: What You Eat Matters, which was excellent.

During the first part, it addresses the health benefits of eating plant-based. Then it moves on to look at the effects of factory farming on the environment and animals. Very eye-opening.

I’d highly recommend this documentary.  It makes the point that what we put in our mouths DOES matter to our health, to the environment and to animal welfare.

H.O.P.E.: What We Eat Matters reminded me how much I really don’t want to eat animal products. At this point in my life, I am about 90% plant-based. I’m proud of that, but have room for improvement.

Aside from focusing on eating more whole, plant-based foods, I don’t have any other changes planned. I’ll continue my journey, and I look forward to taking a break from teaching when my summer vacation arrives in late June. Until then…

Wishing you health and success on your journey,

SignatureAli

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

 

 

Day 7 Plant Eating Challenge

My daughter and I have made it one week eating only plants!

It’s amazing how our bodies adapt to what we eat! When I was in a slump a few weeks ago, I was eating food that my heart knew was wrong for me. I ate processed junk food (aka: CRAP) and animal products such as: chips, McDonald fries, pizza, chicken fingers…I mean…YUCK!

The reason I kept eating crap is because my body wanted more. Why?

1. The salt and fat (probably some sugar in there somewhere too) in those processed foods is addictive. Companies design the food that way. And, I knew this while I was eating it, and I didn’t care! That’s how bad my slump was. I couldn’t get enough of it. If you want to learn more about the addictive powers of sugar, salt and fat, check out the book with the same title:

saltsugarfat

2. My taste buds wanted more fat and more salt. I craved those foods. In fact, I frequently turned up my nose at any vegetables. Now, my taste buds are as they are meant to be (not manipulated by the concoctions of processed food). When I eat cooked potato, WITHOUT any butter, it tastes good. I will be honest here, and say that I still use salt, and my husband often thinks it is too much. But, if I have to use a little more salt than I need to transition to plants? So be it. I can work on decreasing it later.

3. For me personally, part of my slump was related to my braces (just got them three months ago). Eating salad greens is not a whole lot of fun with braces. So, that had me drawn to soft foods and away from crunchier vegetables. Now, I just eat more green smoothies, and basically, my smoothie is my salad.

4. Another reason I kept eating that way is because, well, like I said, I was in a slump. It was easier to buy something premade than it was to think about preparing something. It was easier to just give in. I could see my weight increasing, so that didn’t help either. Slump continued.

I am so happy to say that my slump is over!

Each day, I am focused on accomplishing my other goals at the moment: working out every day (almost) and staying on top of my work commitments.

I don’t think about food at all, unless it is to think about what I might throw together for dinner. I don’t fantacize about the food I am going to eat later, like I used to. I don’t dive into bad food when I feel stressed.

First off, I feel way less stress.

And secondly, I deal with my stress in other ways, at least so far. I really like deep breathing. If I am on my way home from work, I often take many deep breaths, and push out the leftover busyness/stress from the day.

We just finished dinner: kale chips followed by baked sweet potato and regular potato fries. All cooked in my oven.

I don’t feel bloated or guilty. I feel satisfied and at peace.

What a concept!

Time to Renew

I haven’t posted since the middle of July. I was married in early July, and then went on my honeymoon in August.

Right after that, my sister and I hopped on a plane to visit our dying father. We were able to say our goodbyes, which was good, because he passed away three weeks later.

What has happened since then has surprised me. I have been way off track in terms of my health. Usually, when this happens, I am able to kickstart myself into getting back on track.

Not this time.

All of September and October were just low months for me. I would decide to eat well, and then the same day, I would give up. This past week, the first week in November, has been much better.

One of the things that has helped me is the book, The Monk who Sold his Ferrari, by Robin Sharma. I found it on the bookstore shelves in the summer, when I was looking for an inspirational read. I was only able to get to it a few weeks ago.

monk cover

Why is this book so great? I canno speak for others, but for me, it redirected my thoughts to the fact that I am in charge of my mind, and therefore; I am in charge of my life.

Here are just a few quotes that have stood out for me, just in one particular chapter (chapter 7).

  • Worry drains the mind of much of its power, and sooner or later, it injures the soul.
  • The average person has 60 000 thoughts per day, and 95% of them are the same thoughts from the day before.
  • Dare to dust off your dreams.
  • The boundaries of your life are merely creations of the self.

These words, and many other ideas from the book have reminded me that I am creating my own life. I don’t want to find myself 20 years from now, having the same thoughts every day about losing weight and getting healthy. I would like to reach my goals well before then.

If you need a recharge, try this book. It reveals many techniques, ideas and new habits that may give you the same boost I needed.

I feel a greater sense of calm in my thinking and in my life, since reading the book. Now, I need to take some of the specific techniques and give them a try.

Hoping your journey is healthy.

Digestion-the key to health

I recently read a book written by a naturopathic doctor based out of North Vancouver, BC.

In his book, he clearly explains how our digestive system works, but most importantly, he shows how the food we eat affects our digestive organs and overall system.

If you have any illness or health issues, or you sincerely want to avoid getting sick, you should check out his book, Eating Alive, by Dr. Matsen.

Very informative and enlightening. He uses funny cartoons throughout the book too.

 

Disease-Proof Your Child

DiseaseProofyourChild

As a parent, I greatly appreciate learning about how to provide nourshing food for my child. Dr. Joel Fuhrman, in Disease-Proof Your Child will give you valuable information on how to feed your children from their newborn stage and beyond. You will learn that if your children are having repeated ear infections, there is something lacking in their diet. Teach your children how to eat healthy, and they will adopt this habit. The earlier they start, the better!