Monday, March 29, 2010

Eating Whole Foods

One whole day of whole foods and it was pretty much what I expected. It was easy and enjoyable and also brought about some interesting conversations and reflections.

I started out my day at the gym where I ran into my doctor, Adrian Call. I'm very lucky to have him as my doc. He's an avid marathon runner and race director and completely understands me as a woman and athlete. He came over to say hi and I couldn't wait to tell him what my day would hold. After explaining the challenge, he seemed interested and encouraging and began to share some of his own stories. Inherent to being a family practitioner, he spends his day talking to his patients about becoming healthier. All day he talks to them about diet and exercise and he's routinely met with resistance and incredulity. What he finds remarkable is how people like him and me, people who exercise daily and watch we eat are now considered abnormal by the general populace. We are looked upon as though we are crazy or odd and his patients often act as though these concepts are too difficult to grasp. They seem to think making healthy changes would be much harder than what they are already doing--which are things that are making them sick and causing them to be in his office in the first place. He told me a couple of things he shares with his patients to try to get them to consider their diets: If you have to open a package of any kind--a box, a wrapper, a can--chances are it's not good for you. If you don't recognize the ingredients, chances are it's not good for you. A serving of cornflakes has more salt than a serving of salted potato chips and even though Cheerios are made from oats, it's so much better to eat actual oats. He wished me well and told me to at least take my vitamin D and was on his way.

I thought about our conversation all day. I've always met with disbelief from people when they find out I'm vegan or don't want to have a piece of birthday cake at the almost weekly potluck at work. People can't comprehend the work outs I do, how much I run and that I actually find it enjoyable. I'm asked so often how I do it. How do you get yourself to run so much? What do you eat all day? Where do you get your protein if you don't eat meat? What I have trouble with is why this so mysterious for people. Maybe it shouldn't amaze me but I can't help it when people don't know about basic things like portion sizes, how much to exercise and what is and isn't a healthy food. I spoke about this challenge today and explained to someone if she tried it out, even a little bit each day, it might help her lose weight. She actually asked me if I'd write out a list of whole foods for her because she didn't think she'd be able to figure out what they were on her own. Even after I said to stick to the produce and bulk sections and I told her what I'd eaten that day, she was dubious and said she needed more guidance. We're almost exactly the same age and grew up fairly close to one another, so I can't say it's because she grew up too differently than me. She's a smart woman, but somehow this is too complicated for her. It's discouraging because I know she represents more people than I represent in this society. Yet I'm encouraged because she was at least interested and I will write a list out for her if it'll help.

As for the actual day, it really did go great! I'll admit I sort of expected to be hit with major hunger at some point, but it never came. I felt quite satisfied and very energetic. I didn't have any cravings, but rather just looked forward to what I'd packed for the day. One thing that made me very happy was how little waste I produced. Apparently, everyone in the US makes about 4.5 pounds of garbage every day. I don't think I even came close to that today. All together I had a banana peel, some rind from my melon and pineapple, an apple core and stems from my grapes--all of which is compostable. Then there were a few stickers off my apple, zucchini and squash and two tea bags and their wrappers. That's barely anything. Every bag or container can be reused when I buy more produce or bulk products, so I'm not wasting those. It's bonus effect of eating this way to be able to reduce what ends up in a landfill or would've needed energy to be produced in the first place. No wrappers, no cans, no boxes, no packages. Love it.

Here's what I ate:

Pre-work out snack: banana

Post-work out, quick snack to tide me over until I could make breakfast: two celery stalks with almond butter and peanut butter chopped into bit-sized pieces. Quite delightful!

Real breakfast: oatmeal with raisins, almonds and cinnamon.

Lunch: lentil salad with spinach, zucchini, squash and mushrooms. apple.

Snack: pineapple, cantaloupe and grapes.

Dinner: quinoa with edamame and roasted sweet potato.

Dessert: rhubarb and strawberries baked with a little sugar.

Drinks: coffee, water, green tea, yerba mate.

My breakdown for the day was just under 2000 calories, about 47 grams of fat and 66.5 grams of protein. Pretty good. Nutritionally, I was overall very good, but low in calcium and vitamins E and D--only 1% which Doc Call warned me about and why he advised I continue my supplement.

I hope to sustain this longer. I feel very good, inside and out and would like to see how it'll make me feel in the long term. I don't think I'll be 100% whole foods all the time. I'd like to keep my soy- and coconut milk-yogurts as I feel the probiotics are important for my system. They fight infection and help with my tummy's digestion and the versions I eat have by far less sugar than the conventional dairy yogurts. I'll also admit I still can't see completely giving up cereal for all time. My doc even says I can certainly afford to eat it and it's important to allow yourself some comfort food in moderation. I like something sweet before I go to bed and tonight the strawberries and rhubarb were indeed super tasty. But the crunch of cereal soaked in almond milk...mmm...makes me smile all over. Even so, I would like to reduce my intake by eating only one bowl thus ending my nightly statement of "I think I ate too much cereal" as I rub my full belly. I've been challenged to forego it for a week. I can do that...maybe next week. I want to be reasonable and healthy about my entire diet. Last thing I want to do is to become obessive or too strict, but I think a balance is easily obtainable. We'll see how it goes. So far I like it. I'm into it.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Eating whole foods from Whole Foods

Matt first tried to get me to do eat nothing but whole foods by saying he'd be vegan for a day if I'd eat only foods my grandma would recognize. No problem, I told him. He said that meant no cereal, a known weakness of mine. "Are you kidding?" I asked him. "My grandma loved cereal!" It was true--raisin bran, Rice Krispies, Fruity Pebbles--there were always several boxes to choose from in her cupboard. Matt amended his idea to be a whole day eating nothing but whole foods and the Whole Food for a Day Challenge was born. I was in. I am in.

I'm already vegan and try to eat mostly organic. I make sure to eat fruits and veggies, good proteins and grains every day. For the last couple of months I've been eating out less so more in charge of what I ingest. I've noticed I've leaned out a little and feel overall better. Yet I know I've still become lazy in how I eat. I used to love trying new recipes and have several favorite cookbooks with bookmarks and stains of food splattered on the pages. Now I eat the same things over and over throughout the week and just assemble things from packaging--frozen foods, cans, boxes without considering what's really on the inside of those packages and how it affects me and the planet. So the idea of eating foods with only 1 ingredient would simply further the progression of my diet to being healthier, more interesting and creative, and less wasteful. I know it'll help me really consider what I put in my body, what I buy and what I waste.

Speaking about this with people over the last week the one concern people voiced was cost. Isn't it more expensive to buy food that way? I didn't think so and my grocery bill proved it. Take away the cereal, soy-yogurts, almond milk and dinner I bought at Whole Foods last night and my bill would've been less than $60. I focused on the produce and bulk sections and walked out with apples, bananas, avocados, melon, pineapple, sweet potato, spinach, carrots, celery, zucchini, squash, mushrooms, quinoa, almonds, raisons and even freshly ground almond and peanut butters. As Matt so lovingly putt it, I eat a "shit ton" so believe me when I proudly say this is a lot of food. Not bad for $60, eh?

My personal concern has been protein. Usually I get a fair amount from a scoop of soy protein with my oatmeal in the morning, but since this is processed and doesn't follow the 1 ingredient rule, I have to drop it. Otherwise, I always mixed my proteins and get my requirements from many forms. But since soy is the only plant protein that is considered complete, I worried I'd need to start complimenting my protein sources in order to optimize my amino acid intake. I know I'm only doing whole foods for one day, so I shouldn't worry too much about what one day would do to me protein-wise, but I can't help but think in the long term. If I wanted to sustain this how complicated would my diet need to be? Shouldn't I already know this stuff anyway? Thankfully, a little research showed me the idea of protein complimenting is obsolete. As long as I eat a wide variety of foods, which I will and do, I will be fine.

I'm doing this tomorrow. I'm jazzed about it. I think it'll be interesting and easier than anyone can imagine. I'm hoping I'll be able to sustain it longer and see how I can reasonably incorporate it into my daily life. I'll tuck into a big bowl of cereal tonight, but I'm betting I won't miss it tomorrow.


I miss my boy Drake. In 2005 I was living with someone who I'll call Bronx. I had my girl kitty Shazzar with us and had turned her into an indoor kitty much to her chagrin. I mentioned I was considering getting a friend for her so she wouldn't be so bored. Since Bronx was allergic to cats and not happy Shaz was with us in the first place I was surprised when he came home one day and said he'd told a lady at work we'd adopt the last kitten from a litter her cat had. The kitten was the run and no one wanted him. I love the underdog, or undercat in this case, so I was all about taking this kitten.

We met the lady in the parking lot of a hospital in Bellevue since it was halfway between our homes. She handed over the little kitten and I was instantly in love! He was a tiny puff of black and white. Bronx drove home and I held the teeny one in my arms. Bronx wanted to name him Oreo thinking he was being clever because the kitten was black and white. I do believe I rolled my eyes right at him and told him no way. I did a little research and found the name Drake which is an English form of Dragon. Bronx was born in the year of dragon and because he was insisting this kitten was HIS because Shaz was mine, I thought I'd find a name that would suit the both of them. Secretly, I was also naming him after the cat in Rats of NIHM, but Bronx wouldn't have understood that. Drake fit the poof quite well.

It's so fun to have a kitten. Everything they do is cute and sweet. He was so funny to look at because he was teensy and looked like he'd stuck his paw in a light socket. His fur was a fuzzy halo around his little body. He was so curious and tried with all his tiny might to be a big cat right away. He'd try to jump onto the counter because Shaz was up there, but couldn't make it even half way. He was all over the place and into everything. Shaz was mortified! Drake kept her on her toes,pissed her off and entertained her. I'd catch her gently sniffing him and letting him be near her, but mostly she acted as snooty as she could. I could tell she was pleased to have him around in her own bitchy way. Bronx didn't really know what to do with him. He'd hold him and try to cuddle, but Drake would quickly wander off and come over to me because he'd learned from the get go that I provided the most love...and food. Drake rapidly became my cat against Bronx's plans.

It was a very rough time in my life. Very soon after Drake took over my heart, my daddy was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Life became consumed by Daddy's illness, so Drake was the little light spot that helped keep us smiling. Daddy loved Drake and got such a kick out of holding a kitten in the palm of his hand. When Daddy passed away, he was surrounded by his entire family. It was a beautiful yet exhausting experience. I needed Bronx to help with the cats and I asked him to go home and make sure they had food and water. When I got home that evening, Bronx was asleep on the couch after eating an entire frozen pizza while the cats' food and water dishes were completely empty. I knew then what I'd suspected for along time. My relationship with this person was over and Drake was definitely my cat.

The following couple of weeks were a blur. I missed my Daddy and cried while my cats, both Shazzar and Drake gave me comfort. Bronx was away at a work training camp, so I didn't have to deal with him much and could take comfort with a few of my closest friends and these soft animals who seemed to know I needed them. Eventually things were settled. We had Daddy's memorial and laid him to rest. I began to consider moving home with Mom so I could offer her my strength and also because I was planning to start grad school. However, Mom already hd a full house with my brother's family, so moving in would make the house break at the seams. Ideally, I would continue to live with Bronx as a roommate. One night I discussed this idea with Bronx over the phone saying I'd move into the second bedroom and increase the amount I paid for rent. He found this unacceptable and said I shold find a new place. I explained if I left Drake would come with me. Again, he found this unacceptable and said I was taking Drake out of spite. I went off and pointed out how he was allergic, didn't show the cats any love and couldn't even manage to put a scoop of food in a dish. He didn't agree and said there was no way I was taking Drake. I hung up on him then called my friend Michelle and brother Paul and we had me moved out of the apartment with Drake in tow by mid-day the very next day. Bronx never even tried to take Drake back.

Drake was always my guy. He grew and grew and grew until he was a good 15 pounder! So much for being the runt! His fu was long and he didn't care to be brushed so he'd clump up and run from me if he saw me pick up scissors because he knew I was after them. He was such a raggamuffin! He was a total boy--always into things, not that bright, a little dirty and sometimes a bit stinky. He wasn't particular about anything and simply seemed happy to be alive. He didn't talk much so it was surprising if he ever meowed. But he sure did purr! Pet him once and he became a motor and would rub and rub against my hands and for some reason bonk his head against whatever was closest, whether it was my leg or a wall. He'd do this for a minute or two and then just sort of walk away as happy as can be. He also like to do this on his own with my bedside lamp. I never understood his obsession with the lampshade, but he loved to rub against it and knock it round while purring. I only minded when he did it at 4am. He was much more of a watcher and follower. Shazzar is very talkative and active. She's all over me when I'm around, has a lot to tell me and will roll around and speak and kiss until she's comfortable and curls up into a perfect ball. Drake would watch the whole scene unfold, sigh and flop over as though passing out and then, well, pass out. He kind of looked like a drunken cat when he'd sleep. He'd pick arbitrary places to sleep and I could often find him in that spot for a few weeks before he'd move onto a new choice. And he was passed out, barely moving when I'd pet him or move around him. He was not one for going outside. I often had to force or trick him. He'd follow me out when I was grabbing the mail and I'd rush back in and shut the door before he knew what happened. He'd go to the back glass door and look in at me with such a look of panic and give out a feeble little cry "me-e-e-e-ow!" I never understood why he hated it so much since it wasn't as if he was traumatized. He made some cat buddies and mostly found sunbeams to lay in. I also learned he went to the neighbors' houses to visit.

There are so many stories. Getting his head stuck in a hole in the wall and me needing to break the wall a part to get him out. The couple of times he got himself trapped on the roof. My nephew Jake putting Drake in a box hoping to keep him. The way he'd swipe at Shazzar's tail as she drank from the sink or how he'd rush at her like a linebacker just to piss her off--he was never disappointed with her dramatic screams and fits of hissing. How he'd hang off my friend Kristi's car window and stare at her through her windshield. He was such a good cat, everyone's little buddy and my big handsome boy.

I was in Hawaii in January to run a race. While I was there the weather was beautiful back home. Drake decided he actually did want to go outside, a very rare choice for him to make. Two neighbors witnessed a car come flying up the road and hit Drake. They said the car was going so fast they didn't have time to see who it was. Instead, they focused on Drake and said he was probably gone instantly. I pray it happened so fast he didn't have time to be afraid or feel any pain. One neighbor picked him up and took him home with her. It took her a day to find Mom and bring Drake back home. Mom called a few people to figure out when and how to tell me and decided, I believe rightly so, to wait until after I was home. She picked me up from the airport and told me when we were only minutes from the house. I was devastated, shocked, crushed. I couldn't believe it and felt panicked inside. I wanted out of the car. I wanted to find him. I wanted it to not be true. Was this some sort of horrible joke? A cruel prank? I got into the house and expected to see him him in the entry way waiting for me like usual. Instead it was empty so I laid face down right there and cried. My brother Paul was there and he picked me up and held me. I cried for days and even now still have my moments.

I miss him dearly. He was my boy, my buddy, my baby. He was there for me through my toughest time and there for the best times. I'll miss him looking at me from the floor and reaching up with one paw to poke my leg to get me to pay attention to him. Shazzar misses being pissed off by him and spent the first couple of weeks looking for him. She's still clinging to me and going outside less often than before. He was only four and we thought we had a long life ahead of us together. Now I'm just grateful we had any time at all. He was a blessing.

Me, Mandi and Mom in Athens, Greece