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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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!
- 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!