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!

 

Day 5: “Blessed are those who are flexible, for they shall never be bent out of shape”

While I’d like to think my weekly rendezvous with my yoga mat makes me pretty flexible, every week I am proved wrong by my instructor. Less than a year ago, yoga was totally foreign to me. Someone could have said “chaturanga dandasana,” and I would have thought they were speaking Polish. If you still don’t know what that means, here’s a simple infographic that outlines the basic poses you should know:

10-essential-yoga-postures-for-strength-athletes

I look forward to Fridays not only because it is the start of the weekend, but because I love my yoga class. It’s not for everyone, and it can be really scary for beginners, but honestly–yoga is good for the soul. I probably sound like some weirdo hippie saying that, but if you take it seriously that shit is amazing (and cheaper than therapy). The class I go to is hot yoga (80-90 degrees), and it is bootcamp style. What do those things mean? It. Kicks. My. Ass. But that’s why I go. I love relaxing yoga, but I reserve that for Sundays or rest days. After 60 crescent lunges into standing splits into curtsies and back to lunges, “I can’t feel my legs/butt but when I do I want to cry”–(I said this to my mom and now she loves to quote it). While this all sounds horrible, and in the last few seconds of spiderman push-ups I think horrible is an appropriate descriptor, the feeling I get afterward is like nothing else. This is different than “runner’s high.” Don’t get me wrong, runner’s high is great, but there’s just something about the tingling I feel running down my entire body during the final shavasana after a hard class.

shavasana-dogSince I’m on the subject of comparing the two–you can’t. Running and yoga are total opposites, but I believe that there are strong benefits that come from finding a balance between the two. There is a ton of research out there that supports doing yoga as a preventative measure against running injuries. Check out this article for example >>http://www.yogajournal.com/lifestyle/192. Not to mention the mental benefits. While I know I can’t convert everyone into a yoga enthusiast, there is something to be said for taking time out of the day just for yourself to clear your head. Running is great for clearing the head as well, and everyone needs to find what works best for them. In our busy lives we get so caught up with all the worry of “What’s next?” “What’s next?” that we forget to stop and think about ourselves, what our focus should be, and how we feel. How you do that is up to you, but it’s definitely important to take time for self-reflection.

This blog has also been a helpful tool allowing me to reflect a lot on choices, goals, faith, and even fears. So as I reflect on today I am proud of my choices to get more involved with the Scripture, I am one step closer to my fitness and health goals, and while I still have fears for the future, the Psalms passage I dissected in my previous post gave me a sense of comfort because as I wait for God I know He hears my voice and has plans for redemption.

Before I started all my deep thinking this morning I fueled up with an egg white scramble with bell peppers, spinach, and mushrooms. I love that this breakfast is packed with flavor without many calories, and is also able to keep me full until lunch. Eggs can become redundant on the paleo diet as they are one of the very few breakfast choices, but mixing up the veggies in a scramble keeps the flavor and nutrients interesting! Plus, I love eggs so I don’t mind having them all the time. Lunch was a repeat of the warm kale salad I posted yesterday with just a few tweaks. Overall the salad today was lighter and more savory than the decadent and pretty sweet version yesterday. Instead of the chicken sausage I used turkey bacon this time, which made it a little less heavy and gave it the more savory vibe. I also lightened up the dressing a tad. The recipe calls for 2 tablespoons almond butter, 2 tablespoons balsamic vinaigrette, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and 1 tablespoon maple syrup–I basically just halved that and it was plenty.

20140308-002004.jpg

(I had to post another pic because it just looked so much prettier this time around)

Dinner was a new paleo creation from Cindy Larkin: Spinach Zucchini Ravioli. This recipe tasted great as a finished product! It was all of the Italian food flavor, without all of the calories. The zucchini noodles gave it a very light feel, which would make it a great dish going into warmer weather (if it ever gets here). My only complaint is that actually slicing the zucchini into strips and wrapping the ground turkey into “raviolis” was definitely a pain. It’s not too horrible if you have the time on your hands, but if you need something quick this is not the dish. Overall it tasted great with very few calories though so for that it will probably be a keeper!

20140308-002011.jpgMy picture didn’t exactly turn out like Cindy’s, but it tasted good I promise