Don’t Be Afraid of Change: It is Leading you to a New Beginning

Change

 

Well, it has been a hot minute since my last post and I apologize. Sometimes life gets in the way, takes you a new direction, and completely changes for that matter. Since my last post I have:

-Nearly completed my Didactic Program in Dietetics

-Been accepted into my Dietetic Internship & Master’s Coordinated Program

-Switched from running, to bodybuilding, to powerlifting

-Changed my dietary philosophy from Paleo to…Vegan

It may take more than one blog post to thoroughly discuss these changes, but I’ll try to do the best I can without being a bore. Let’s do this Q&A style to keep it interesting:

Why am I getting a degree in Nutrition?
Simply put: because I could not see myself pursuing an education in anything else. Nutrition is my passion, and I am constantly seeking knowledge outside of classes whether it be from books, podcasts, research articles, or personal experimentation. There is so much mis-information, and I love having evidence-based knowledge to share with people to help them reach their goals. 

What do I plan to do with my degree/what does life look like post-grad school?
Right now I am very interested in critical care, and hope to land a job as a critical care dietitian in a hospital after I finish rotations. I am also interested in GI disorders, as I struggle with one myself, and know how hard it is to find true answers. For that reason, I also love research, and plan to assume a Graduate Research Assistant position while I complete my Master’s Degree. Finally, long-term I want to own my own business. I am a risk taker, and I am very independent. I feel like my success comes from my personal ambition and drive, and for that reason I feel as though I have an entrepreneur’s mindset. I would love to grow my influence in order to use my social media platforms to grow a business around evidence-based nutrition coaching. 

What prompted the changes along my fitness journey?
When I first began my fitness journey, it was, as it is for many people, because I hated my body. I have struggled with eating disorders and poor self-esteem for as long as I can remember, and I took to the gym as a way to change what I didn’t like in the mirror. Over time and as life brought some tough situations my way, exercise became my escape. The year that I started this blog was actually the toughest year of my life, and during that time running was my escape. Each step was a way to clear my head, and focus on the breath filling my lungs instead of the anxieties filling my thoughts. I quickly learned after my first half marathon however that running was not my exercise of choice. I’m not very fast, I didn’t see much change in my body, and I began to dread it. So in doing my own research on how to see the results I wanted, I began weight training. I have never fallen in love with something so quickly. I began to spend every moment of free time in the gym, and every moment outside of the gym wishing I was there.  I began to see the changes I desired, and that only pushed me to continue. I looked forward to my workouts, and there seemed to be an ever-flowing stream of motivation. The problem with “bodybuilding” I suppose you could call it, is that once you start: you are forever small. The muscle you want will never be big enough, you will never be lean enough, there is always room to improve, which is both a blessing and a curse. Though my relationship with food had improved, I still struggled with body image–only exacerbated by an industry so consumed with external appearances. After a few years of training, I began to grow in strength and confidence. Something in me finally “clicked,” and I began to appreciate my body for what it could do, not just what it looked like. This is where I have landed today. I’d be lying if I said there weren’t still a multitude of things I’d love to change, but I have a peace with myself that seemed too far away when I first began. My decision to focus on powerlifting motivates me to work harder because the numbers on the bar are tangible. I know if something is working or not because I either fail the lift, or I PR. 

Now the big question…why vegan?
If you’re an O.G. reader you know how much I struggled with stomach issues. Multiple hospitalizations, severe pain, you name it. A struggle I have been less open about is my acne. I previously completed 3 rounds of Accutane-the most potent acne drug on the market with well-known severe side effects-but still struggle with cystic acne. In my search to overcome these issues, I have done a lot of research on the gut microbiome. A healthy microbiome leads to a healthy body overall. Research is showing the microbiome’s affect on immunity, acne, chronic disease, bodyweight, and much more. I knew I needed to ditch dairy. Dairy was inflaming my acne AND my GI symptoms. Unfortunately, it is HARD to give up something so prevalent and delicious. I was a HUGE ice cream person, but luckily they have some great coconut and cashew milk alternatives! I knew I needed a complete dietary overhaul to stick to my goal of ditching dairy, so I went vegan. After speaking with a girl in my program who told me that it cured her stomach and acne problems similar to mine, I went cold-turkey and never looked back. 

How do you still build muscle while being vegan? Where do you get your protein?
The question I get asked daily. No literally, daily. Going vegan challenged my culinary and meal planning skills. Instead of beginning with meat, and adding sides, I have to begin with vegetables and think about how I can use them, how many I can use, and then where I can get protein. Since going vegan, I’ve learned that we thoroughly overemphasize protein. Yes, me, the previous “protein princess” is saying that we overemphasize protein; at least in the fitness world. The RDA for protein is .8-1 gram per kilogram of bodyweight, not per pound. I find my digestion is better when I hit around 100 grams of protein per day versus the 140 grams I used to hit. I am able to allocate more calories to carbs, and therefore I have more energy for my workouts. Some people my say, carbs?! but surely you’ll gain weight! Guess what? I’ve lost weight eating more carbs than I ever have. carbs are not the enemy. Overall energy balance (calories in vs. calories out) will determine if you gain or lose weight. There are plenty of plant-based protein sources:

  1. Tofu/Tempeh – people demonize soy, but the research does not support negative side effects when consumed in normal amounts. In fact, men often worry about the estrogen inducing effects of soy products, but one of the most estrogenic compounds is beer.
  2. Lentils – Lentils are SO underrated. They are such a versatile food! You can make lentil chili (recipe to come soon), throw it in salads, and they even make pasta out of lentils that has a ton of protein! My recent favorite way to incorporate lentils is to buy them pre-steamed from Trader Joe’s and toss them with some roasted butternut squash and sauteed shredded brussels sprouts.
  3. Beans – not just for your Chipotle bowl! Beans are a great source of soluble fiber, plant based protein, folate, magnesium, B6, and zinc. Use black beans in a veggie burger, kidney beans in some of that lentil chili, or chickpeas (garbanzo beans) in a Buddha bowl!
  4. Quinoa/Freekeh – these ancient grains are a versatile base for any bowl and have tons of plant based protein as well as manganese, copper, folate, iron, magnesium, and zinc.
  5. Meat Alternatives – I believe meat alternatives have their place to help those in transition or those who may still crave meat. They are okay in moderation! If you are still worried about soy, the brand Beyond Meat has some great pea-protein based options. Other great brands include Gardein, Sweet Earth Foods, Field Roast, and Light Life. Meat replacements have come a LONG way since the last time you tried them!
  6. Protein Powder/Protein Bars – It is unrealistic to expect everyone to always get their protein from whole foods. We all lead busy lifestyles, and it is important to have options for on-the-go. My favorite brand of plant-based protein is Orgain, which can be found at Costco and on Amazon. My favorite vegan bar that I have found (and fair warning: most of them are not good) are Clif Builder’s bars! These are not marketed as a vegan bar, but I have label checked and they are vegan! My favorite flavors are Vanilla Almond and Mint Chocolate.

I want to hear from YOU! Did something about my life change inspire you or spark your interest? What do you want to know more about? I’d love ideas for what direction to take this new blog, and although I have some ideas I want to hear from you! Comment down below with ideas!

Happy Healthing!

 

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Day 23: Feelin’ Peachy

Today was the day. The day they let us know if we were selected in the Peachtree Road Race Lottery, and I made it!

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I’m so excited. I’ve been wanting to run this race for years, but I’ve never been able to and I’m so excited that this year I finally can! Not only do people collect the prized tshirts from this race, but if you’re from Georgia it is a race that should be on everyone’s bucket list. This race will be after my half marathon, so I’ll be well trained, but it’s long enough after that I’ll be adequately rested. In the past month I have jumped into more races than I’ve done in my entire life! My very first race was the Abba House Run for Recovery 10K, and I placed 2nd in my age group, which for my first race I was super proud of. While I’ve kept up with running at least 3 miles 4-5 times per week, I never trained to go any longer distances or get a faster pace. When I saw the Asheville Half Marathon I knew it was exactly the push I needed to get out there and train and accomplish a race that would challenge me. Asheville is so beautiful, and since I have family there I can stay for free. It was a no brainer. To help me in my training, I will be running the newly added Abba House Run for Recovery 10 Miler, which is conveniently at the time in my training when I need to be hitting that kind of mileage. What better motivation is there than a race for a good cause? I’m looking for a few more supplemental races before my half, but right now being signed up for these 3 is keeping me motivated to push harder than ever before. The Peachtree will keep me running after my half because I’m pretty sure if I wasn’t running it I would take a few months off. Now if I could only get this hip pain in check…

Despite spring supposedly “officially” kicking off, it was freaking freezing today. I wore my pullover during my entire run, and my nose was running so much it was distracting. On the bright side, I took it as an advantage in the kitchen to say one final goodbye to some of my cold weather favorites before this warm weather (hopefully) kicks in. Breakfast was Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal. Simple and delicious. I used 1/4 cup organic oats, cooked in unsweetened vanilla almond milk and water, then added 1/2 cup pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, a splash of vanilla extract and maple syrup and topped with pecans. NOM. It did it’s duty too, fueling a 5 mile run at one of my fastest paces per mile ever! I’ve been trying to pack more veggies in, so lunch was a vitamin packed paleo creation that’s easy, filling, and (hopefully, for tomorrow) easily portable. I put some organic roasted red pepper hummus on some sliced turkey, added sliced bell pepper, and rolled into tasty wraps. With a large side of carrots, my MyFitnessPal calorie counter app said I was at 707% of my recommended Vitamin A for the day and 239% of Vitamin C. I don’t know if this is totally accurate, but I’d like to think I was doing pretty good for myself.

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While I was at it I went ahead and fixed dinner and threw it in the crockpot for later. The menu? Beef Stew with Paleo “Cornbread” Muffins. The name is quite deceiving. The beef stew had more vegetables than beef, and the muffins didn’t contain a trace of corn. For the beef stew I used green beans, carrots, purple potatoes (read more about the health benefits of purple vs white here), and tomatoes. Season with paprika, oregano, basil, salt, pepper, cumin, and a few sprigs of fresh thyme, and you’ve got a veggie packed cold weather jackpot, err crockpot. Old habits die hard though, and I can’t have beef stew without cornbread. So instead of breaking out the Jiffy, I found an awesome recipe from Cassidy’s Craveable Creations.
YOU WILL NOT MISS THE REAL THING. These turned out great.

Day 10: Top 10 Healthy Snacks

Wednesdays are always busy, but in a good way. I always get to spend time with people and causes I care about, and I could stay busy that way for the rest of my life and be content.
I started the day with a bowl of Bob’s Red Mill Muesli topped with honey and some fresh blueberries. Part of being busy on Wednesdays is finding a way to eat healthy on the go, so lunch was an Asian Sesame Chicken Salad from Panera with reduced sugar Asian vinaigrette, I asked for a whole grain baguette but they gave me a regular one so…just salad for me (probably better anyway). It was good fuel for my run although the weather was dreary and made it a daunting 3 miles. My post workout snack was an apple with almond butter, a forever favorite.

Today at Campus Kitchen we made probably the most beautiful meal we’ve ever made: some lovely quiche with broccoli, tomatoes and spinach. Everyone wanted to take one home!

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Dinner was a less than satisfying plain turkey burger and a green juice with far too much kale, but then again I was going to be disappointed with just about anything but a meal from Bobby Flay himself after our perfect quiches.

So since it’s my 10th day, I decided to make a top 10 list. I am such a snacker, I can’t go more than like 3 hours without a snack otherwise I get hangry.hangry
(I need this pillow)

So, I decided to list some of my faves!
If I had to list my top 10 favorite healthy snacks they would be:
1. Apple with almond butter
2. Kale chips (try Rhythm Superfoods Mango Habanero!)
3. Almonds, dried cherries, and dark chocolate chips (kinda like homemade trail mix for those with a sweet tooth)
4. Greek yogurt with granola and fresh fruit
5. Smoothie! A great way to combine tons of different health foods into one delicious cup (I like chia seeds)
6. Dates cut in half with a little bit of almond butter (also great for a sweet tooth plus packed with fiber!)
7. Basically any fruit, any time of the day. Switch it up, try new ones! I didn’t start eating pears until recently and boy was I missing out. Also, try freezing grapes; it makes them taste like candy!
8. Spirulina chips (these can be hard to find except at super earthy organicy stores but if you find them they are amazing!)
9. Dark chocolate-don’t fight it, just don’t overindulge
10. Boars Head Honey Maple Turkey (this is not your average lunchmeat, and it tastes great by itself for a protein packed snack!)
So there you have it, snack away all my hungry girls! (And guys) I’m sorry to report such a routine day, but tomorrow is going to be action-packed. And by that I mean I have some serious work to do training-wise and lots of praying to do for my daddy as he deals with some serious health issues. In case you thought I was just a nutcase, I promise that was the fuel to my “research all the things” craze for the past few days. I believe in nutrition as alternative (and when done correctly-preventative) medicine, and I can only hope that my efforts benefit him in this hard time.

Day 8 & 9: Sustainability, Steer, and SCARED

“Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them.”
–Albert Einstein

The more research I do, the more freaked out I get. I should really stop, but it’s like a train wreck—I can’t look away from all of the repulsive practices of the food industry. I also become disappointed by the ignorance of people. I’d think higher of my own mother if she didn’t diagnose me with an eating disorder for caring about where my meat comes from and being afraid of the packaged disasters we call “food.” Anyways, I don’t want to freak people out, I just want to make people aware, and I don’t find it a problem to try and get as much information as I can get my hands on about what goes into my body. If everyone were to be educated, and demand higher standards for their food, that’s what the producers would produce. Unfortunately, most people aren’t educated or they don’t care. They should. I’m not recommending it because it will make you seriously freaked out (and it’s also quite dry), but the film Frankensteer is some seriously messed up shit (literally…SHIT). Just because you shoot some gamma rays on the feces that are on my burger doesn’t mean anyone should be eating that. I’ve never been much of a beef/hamburger person anyway, but certainly not now. It really just baffles me why places like Yeah! Burger are out of the ordinary. Places like these should be the ordinary. Just look at their food philosophy: http://www.yeahburger.com/real-food. I’m sorry, but shouldn’t this be the case of everywhere we get our food? It’s infuriating to think that so many companies just think that they can destroy animals, health, and the environment to save a penny. People need to demand reform, because otherwise all we’re getting is toxic waste.

On a lighter note, yesterday was an off running day in my training schedule so I went to my fave–hot yoga. Unfortunately we worked the lower body a little more than I expected, and I was still sore for my run today, which kept my pace lower than I would’ve liked. It was a wonderful day though and I got 4 miles in. Yesterday’s breakfast was Blake Lively’s Green Juice that you can find the recipe for here. Lunch was my favorite kale salad, which is also in a previous post. One of my go-to snacks is yogurt, and I’ve recently been experimenting with new ones trying to find a new favorite with less sugar and ingredients than the one I had previously been eating. I raided the organic yogurt section of Kroger and picked up every manager’s special I could find. This may seem weird, but I totally scored getting $3 yogurt for just 50 cents! First one up: Redwood Hill Farms Goat Milk Yogurt. I have to commend them for their Certified Humane Raised and Handled badge of approval. While this yogurt was a tad tangy and different than what I’m used to, it was only 100 calories, 7g sugar, 7g protein, and 3 ingredients, so it’s pretty much an A+ for nutrition as far as yogurts go. I had to dress it up a little bit with some honey, blueberries and my favorite granola, Bear Naked Peak Protein, but I don’t mind adding a few extra calories coming from stuff that makes my yogurt more delicious and filling versus packing in 20g grams of sugar just in the yogurt and not getting all my extra treats.

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For dinner, I experimented with a twist off of one of my favorite Asian dishes from Pf Changs: Chicken Lettuce Wraps. I chopped up some chicken, bell peppers, mushrooms, carrots, water chestnuts, and shallots, and tossed it all with some rice vinegar, coconut aminos, and just a spoonful of peanut butter. It was delish! Surprisingly filling despite the lack of calories, so I’d say that’s a win.

Today’s breakfast was a slice of Ezekiel Bread with Justin’s Maple Almond Butter and a banana to fuel my run. Post workout I cut up a turkey burger to put atop some spinach, and finishedwith some delicious ripe strawberries. 

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I tried experimenting again with dinner, and I’m happy to say that I really have never had a kitchen experiment go wrong. I wanted breakfast for dinner, but with a twist. Thus, my sweet potato and kale skillet was born. This dish was kind of the brainchild of J Christopher’s (the best breakfast/brunch place EVER) breakfast skillets, but with way fewer calories I’m sure. I started by sautéing 1 chopped sweet potato in a skillet until the pieces were pretty brown. I set them aside and sautéed the kale. Then I added the veggies for the eggs—this could be anything you like, I personally love bell peppers and mushrooms in my eggs. Then I poured the eggs over top and sautéed til scrambled with some feta cheese. Then I just added back in the sweet potatoes and kale to toss it all together and voila! Super simple brinner (breakfast dinner) with tons of superfoods!

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Day 7: Paleo vs. Plants–The Ultimate Showdown

So while I may be “health obsessed” I’m certainly not an expert. I’m sure I’m not the only one that struggles with knowing what to really believe, and what is ultimately best when it comes to food and nutrition. The fact that one of my favorite pastimes is watching food and nutrition documentaries may be a little weird, but no one can argue that education is empowering. With this flood of knowledge, however, I often become overwhelmed. Some of the documentaries I have watched include but aren’t limited to: Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead, Food, Inc., Food Matters, Forks over Knives, and Killer at Large. Not gonna lie, these documentaries freaked me out, as they should. I started researching vegetarianism, veganism, and juicing. I have done tons of research on the Paleo Diet and it’s benefits, and all of these seem to be the perfect answer. The only problem is, they are almost polar opposites–so which one is better? Well my friends, that is up to you and your body to decide. I will, however go over a few differing views.

I recently watched and took notes on the film Forks Over Knives, which advocates a whole food plant based diet. While I’m not prepared to go fully vegetarian (definitely not vegan I love eggs), the film raised some alarming points.

  1. Government guidelines for diet are extremely financially and industrially motivated.
    Example A: Former American Association of Dietetics President Connie Diekman is also the advisor to the National Dairy Council and this is evident in her public views on dairy. She states that we need calcium from milk and milk products to reduce diseases like osteoporosis. News Flash: We still have a lot of osteoporosis in the US despite being one of the largest consumers of dairy. 
  2. Only a very small portion of cancers are caused solely by genes. Vegan, paleo, carnivore, or omnivore, we can all agree that nutrition is the best medicine we can give our bodies to help prevent diseases and promote overall health.
  3. One of the main causes of the overload of processed, sugar-laden, nutritionally deficient foods in US society = 1973 Farm Subsidy Bill: This bill provided incentives for massive increases in corn production, which ultimately led to heinous amounts of high fructose corn syrup being put in everything.
  4. MOE: Money Over Erry’thang. Excuse my ghetto, but a term often used by “gangstas” in rap songs also applies to the US Government. And guess what? Both of them are equally stupid.
    The dietary guidelines set for Americans are formulated by the US Department of Agriculture, whose main constituents are the farmers, not the American people. Milk is heavily subsidized (why we see so much in school cafeterias).
    The research behind national nutrition policies is corporately funded by the big corporations that want you to eat what they produce (meat, dairy, corn).
    The panel that actually forms these so-called “dietary guidelines” is only composed of 11 people. 11. 6 of those 11 have financial relationships with the food industry….can you say conflict of freakin interest?

**Soapbox moment: It’s these kinds of issues that truly bother me. I love public speaking and writing, but I also love nutrition. As a student, I used to think these two could not go hand in hand. Recently I’ve discovered that it’s through speaking out about issues like this that my passions can work together. I want to advocate for healthy lifestyles, less processed foods, back to nature, more human treatment of animals, and more realistic nutrition information to the American population. It’s something I’m passionate about, and it angers me that the same government that was put in place to protect our rights is keeping us in the dark about what goes into our bodies, literally a life and death decision.

Anyways..

Okay so being completely honest this film made me want to go totally vegetarian. BUT, Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead had me wanting to go on a 30 day juice fast, and research on “leaky gut” being caused by grains as the Paleo Diet suggests makes me never want toast with my eggs again! So where does this leave me? Well there are two sides to every story, so I recommend you do research on both sides before going gung ho on a particular diet. While I think Forks Over Knives has some valid points, so does fellow blogger Denise Minger, and she definitely did her research before critiquing the film (see here). While juicing can be beneficial to add extra fruits and veggies to your diet and the occasional week-long cleanse can be beneficial, not everyone needs to go on as extreme a fast as Joe Cross or Phil Staples. And finally, while the Paleo Diet is great in its focus on whole, unprocessed, ancestral foods, there is still something to be said for increasing veggies and not just increasing protein (as many people do on the paleo diet).

Like I said, overwhelming right? I think the main takeaway is that you need to find out what works for your bodyFor some more differing views check out this awesome website that compares all 3 diets. Everyone will have different results no matter which diet they choose. I think moderation is an important value that many people often neglect. The “go hard or go home” mentality sends people home discouraged more often than not. No one is perfect, no diet is perfect, and every day is a learning experience. So take everything with a grain of salt (but not literally).

thomas edison nutrition quote

Speaking of moderation, I pretty much always eat a healthy breakfast. It’s just something that is engrained in me (no pun intended). Sunday’s are usually splurge day for breakfast though so today I whipped up some Buckwheat Pumpkin Pancakes and boy were they delicious! Then I took the puppy for a run on one of her favorite trails that goes down by the river in our old neighborhood.

20140310-000001.jpgIt was a good 4 mile run, but it was hard to keep a good pace with such rough terrain and steep hills. Despite being a little slower than usual, this kind of run is still good for my training to get used to all different kinds of terrain especially since I’m basically graduating from treadmill only runs. When I got back I refueled with a Papaya Ginger Mint Smoothie that was equal parts refreshing and digestively soothing. Dinner was my famous Sun-Dried Tomato and Spinach Stuffed Chicken Breasts with green beans (both of which you can find the recipe for here) and roasted root vegetables.

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Hope this post wasn’t too long I just felt it worthy of discussing. I’d love to get some feedback on what you guys think about all of this conflicting information and how you’ve made choices concerning your own diets!