Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Days Five & Six: Moments of weaknesss/Moment of truth

Day five was hunger hell. I followed the schedule, but switched some meals around for time's sake. I've been working every day of the fast forward and have to make sure I have everything ready in advance. As usual, tons of energy in the morning (thank you, breakfast?) and tapered off a bit for the evening. But the main deal was that I was hungry. So hungry. I'm not sure if it was knowing that the "end" was in sight or just having a pretty physical day at work, but my body was no longer having it. So I made it through the work day, headed to Whole Foods, and grabbed some Amy's Gluten-Free/Dairy-Free mac'n'Daiya cheese and at it alongside some green peas and a single Uncle Eddie's cookie. Heaven. Fast Forward? Finis.

Day six, or, "the day after," was pretty sweet. I didn't follow the fast-then-feast model that a lot of people do when dieting -- celebrating the end of their diet with a double-fudge sundae. Yogurt for breakfast had been working out well, and I was happy to be able to add some beloved cranberry pecan granola and bananas to the mix.
And then, the moment of truth: Project Anthropologie Pants -- Fail. They "fit," but it's not a good fit. Before admitting defeat, I dug in the closet for two pairs of hiking pants that were a little snug around the waistband, and, voila! They fit! Room to spare. So my scientific observation is that the five days resulted in the slight shrinking of my waist, but had no effect on my hips and butt (hence, the skinny pant fail). But the true benefits, I think, are in reconnecting with my hunger-patterns, getting on a better eating schedule, stabilizing my blood-sugar throughout the day, and tuning into my emotional connections to food.

So in conclusion, I encourage you to eat, love, and listen to your body. And right now, my body is telling me it's time for dance party. Stand up and get down!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Days Three & Four: Where our heroine is faced with fatigue and loathing...

I will not bore you with the details nor exhaustively divulge my eats and cheats for these two days, so here's the skinny:

I've had a remarkable amount of energy early in the day (without caffeine), in spite of poor or little sleep, and I think breakfast is the culprit. That's right, I blame breakfast for my perkiness, my bubbly-ness, my general skipping about and smiling. In spite of every nutrition book and self help book and public service announcement in the world, I have gone many months with not a single calorie in the morning. Wait, does vodka have calories? Just kidding.

Yesterday (day three) I caught the tired-train going down the mountain and it was full speed ahead until a near crash with the horizon in the last hour of my workday. Instead of going home to nap and abide by my diet, I went to a lovely dinner party where the hostess and friends had deliberately gone out of their way to make vegan food and desserts so I could partake with everyone else. Needless to say, I diverged from the plan, but very sensibly if I do say so myself. Dessert consisted of a single vegan cookie (about the size of the circle you make when you touch your middle finger to your thumb), two tablespoons of almond ice cream, and chicory coffee with very little sugar and a couple splashes of bourbon. It was a party in my mouth -- laissez bon-temps rouler! And I really didn't feel guilty.

A friend mentioned an article she read (will have to find out where that was and post it) about how when people go on radical weight-loss diets and shed pounds quickly, the toxins that were formerly stored in the fat are released and make one miserable. I'm not one of those people who hears about an illness and immediately self-diagnoses, but it might explain why I've been really sick to my stomach twice (including in the middle of the night) during this very clean diet.

Not sure about the weight-loss part, though. This morning I was brave enough to try on the coveted Anthropologie pants -- they button, but the fit is not ideal. I realized some of the strain is coming from the hips, and that's going to be a whole different ballgame to tackle -- luckily for me, it's football season.

Day four was more of the same -- high-energy daytime, no-energy evening, and a whole lot of hunger. Le sigh.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Day Two: Are we there yet?

You know how in cartoons when characters get really hungry and everything around them starts turning into big slices of pizza or burgers? I'm not quite hallucinating yet, but my stomach did a back-flip every time someone mentioned food (especially French toast, which is not a normal part of my diet but sounded amazing).

Though I started on the right schedule today, I also started with a small cheat -- a "tofu neal" at Bouldin Creek where I met some friends for breakfast. It was tofu and spinach with nutritional yeast -- so the cheat was mushrooms and a whole-wheat tortilla. Hardly worth mentioning. But delicious... unfortunately I was very sick to my stomach for a good part of the morning and lost most of what was in my stomach. I don't blame Bouldin -- not sure what that's all about.

12:30 snack was filling, but I really don't care much for "plain" yogurt unless it's being used in a recipe. Parfaits were made for vanilla...

At 4 p.m. my chances of making it to the next meal at 5:30 without a little "help" were grim. I stayed busy, but was ultimately conquered by hunger and gave in to a piece of toast with sunbutter. Had that piece of bread been in a red box with a glass window, I would have definitely broken the glass to get to it.

Sald for dinner was nice, but didn't last. I went on a walk (to Anthropologie!), came back to work, and was hungry again within the hour. I was in a really good mood with a lot of energy all day and am trying to stay positive about the plan, especially since I chose to challenge myself for these five days -- but it was an uphill battle until my smoothie at 10 p.m. So much so, that I added a side of spinach cooked with garlic. I don't know if Cynthia Sass made this plan with outdoor retailers in mind, but I'm on my feet all day working, and I think it's a bit impractical. If I were kayaking or doing yoga, I really think I'd need an extra meal. Three days left? I am full of the love in my life...

But oh, for some French toast!

Foodie Friday: Five Foods for Five Days

Being a pretty healthy eater (though I admit to getting just as excited about a cruelty-free cupcake as the next vegan), I really don't "diet." I don't calorie count, don't measure out portions, and if I have a craving that won't break the bank or send me too far out of my way, I usually indulge it. All that being said, after reading a preview of nutritionist Cynthia Sass' new book, "Cinch! Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds, and Lose Inches," and a few online articles by the author, my interest was piqued. Maybe it's the weather, but I've been sluggish in the mornings and my stomach has not been a happy place for the past few weeks. And I can admit to just a smidgen of vanity and body consciousness, so I booked it to the library.

I don't know if you've ever tried reading a diet book, but it's not exactly a page-turner. I skipped the intro and success stories and went straight to the research, tips, and "plan." The 30-day food ordeal (let's not call it a "diet") starts with an optional "Five Day Fast Forward." Bingo! I can do five days. I know the point is to follow the whole plan, but I figured I would just do the "fast forward" and then continue on with my normal food flow, plus perhaps a few Sass' tips and a better eating schedule. The main goals of the five-day kick start are to "lose weight...gain confidence... reconnect with your body." Okay, I can live with all that. And I get that people who see results quickly might be more motivated to forge on for the remaining days of the ordeal.

My main goals? Fit into my most small-waisted pants (the only clothing I own from the coveted Anthropologie), shake the tummy trouble, and challenge myself to re-examine my relationship with food. Since I don't weigh or measure myself (the numbers game can be a slippery, obsessive slope) and basically just go on how I feel and how my body performs, I'm not Sass' ideal guinea pig. But I thought I'd let you know how five days of spinach, tofu, yogurt, almonds, and raspberries pans out. Sass explains why she chose these five super-foods, but I won't give away the farm (is that even an expression?) -- you'll have to read it yourself if you're up for the challenge. Here I go...

Day Zero: False Start
The plan is composed of four "meals" spaced out strategically over the day. I started late (I blame my cold concrete floors and uber-warm comforter) which probably foils the plan, but proceeded none-the-less with the fruit-on-the-side scramble. Cheated and added mushrooms. Indulged in the "approved" seasonings of garlic and cinnamon. Cinnamon might be my new best friend. I think the only other place you would hear that is in Vegas -- or maybe that's just the novel I'm reading on the side. Anyway, got back on track with the yogurt/fruit/almond parfait and made it through a cello lesson. I noticed that while I was playing and concentrating, I didn't pay any mind to my hunger. However, as soon as I started my car, my stomach out-roared the engine. Cheat #1 - Vegan cornbread with almond butter from Wheatsville. Then a friend invited me to try a new Mexican food restaurant on the up-and-coming East Side of Austin -- who could resist? Learned the true meaning of "the diet starts tomorrow..."

Day One: Pretty Darn Close
Started late again. I may turn into a repeat offender on that one. Followed the plan for breakfast before work, and moved the noon-ish snack down to a later time, which turned out not to be too much later. Ate a salad "dinner" around 4 p.m. in the park. It was rather blustery and I really wanted soup instead. I felt full for a while, but was hungry within about an hour! I decided I needed a mantra and tried, "I am full of the love in my life and at peace with the world." Maybe some deep breathing would be good too. I noticed the busier I am, the less attention I pay to my rumbling stomach -- this can be both good and bad, pointing to the classic case of eating out of boredom, but throwing up warning signals that sometimes we are just too "busy" to listen to our bodies. Cheat #2: Ate a slice of toast with sunbutter (from sunflower seeds). Remembered to drink more water. Made it through just fine and happily prepared the suggested smoothie at 10 p.m. I've never read a diet book that told you to eat that late, but no complaints here. Well, except that I dropped and broke my glass before I was finished. Spent a few minutes mourning the last fifth of my smoothie, cleaned up the mess, and tried to sleep.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Feeling Fine at Fresh Roots Farm

The mosquitos and fierce summer heat (2010 was the second hottest on record since records have been kept, according to this NOAA report) kept me indoors many a day. If I wasn't out kayaking this past summer, I was probably packing, reading back issues of Backpacker Magazine, or otherwise avoiding sitting down at a computer to write. Still, during the nicest day I've felt in months, my friends Mark and Elizabeth of Fresh Roots Farm in Atlanta, GA inspired me to hop on the keyboard share what they're up to.

I hadn't seen Mark since 2007 when we attended Greenpeace's "Change It" training for student activists, but I'd followed his endeavors (without the help of Twitter) through a tour with Greenpeace's Rolling Sunlight (selling crowds on solar power), building trails with AmeriCorps, serving Peace Corps in South America, and landing back in Atlanta -- and that's when things got really interesting!

Though you have to ask Mark for the full backstory, the end result is a sweet little urban farm sprouting natural and organic veggies and offering local, healthy choices right in the heart of Atlanta. I was lucky enough to visit this weekend and meet the lovely residential pig (Olivia), pup (Cocoa), two roosts full of chickens and hang with the farm fresh couple running the show.

The farm is basically a front yard for Mark, Elizabeth, and a couple of neighbors in their 19th-century, post-industrial warehouse turned loft abode. I was greeted by my gracious host circa 2 a.m. (traffic was thick as molasses in Tennessee and I forgot about the time difference from Texas, to boot). My eyes widened to fit the space as I stepped from the entryway into the living room with a ceiling so high it could have housed the moon. I was further delighted by the way the decor seemed to simply capture the important things in life: pinned up sketches, a large kitchen table, a bookshelf balanced with history and fiction, a drum set, a few tomatoes no doubt fresh from the vine. Bunking on the futon, I was sun-kissed in the morning (with two-thirds of the wall being window) and set off to see what the many-hat-wearing Mark was up to...

The community that houses Fresh Roots is also a collection of residences occupied by artists and their adjacent studios, a gallery, a community coffee house, and a flexible space for all sorts of other gatherings and endeavors. While I sipped on coffee and tea and talked to Mark, a man came in and inquired about using the site for a music video. Apparently, on any given day here one might walk through the set of a far-out indie sci-fi flick, clothing-optional photo shoot, film festival, medicine show musical, or beer and pancake party. In the midst of all the abstract, Fresh Roots Farm keeps the place down-to-earth in a funky but wholesome way.

To visit, volunteer, inquire about their CSA, or just hook up with some really cool, bright people, check out Fresh Root's website and Facebook page and blog (managed by the loveliest chicken wrangler this side of the Mississippi, Elizabeth Stephens).

(Pictured: Mark, Elizabeth and Cocoa)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Be a pig! A SmartyPig.

Well, I've never been called a "pig," but under most circumstances I don't think I would be offended. Pigs are cute, fun, smart, sassy, and contrary to stereotypes, clean (and love belly rubs). But I'll take it a step further, and challenge you to do the same -- be a SmartyPig.

Okay, so SmartyPig is more so a reference to the piggy banks of our childhood allowance days than to the squeaky pink babes romping in fields (at least at farm sanctuaries). This hip new addition to the drift of online banking outlets has keenly brought merger to online banking and social networking, neglecting not a nuance. For example, savvy savers can watch a collection of YouTube-style videos (e.g., Setting Up A Savings Goal) as an introduction to SmartyPig rather than pouring over pages of fine print.

Once users have watched the videos (or you know, read the fine print), they can set up specific savings accounts for "goals," such as an "Adventure Fund" or "Emergency Savings" or even "Trip to France" with a scheduled goal deadline, customized savings amount, and scheduled contributions (or the option to contribute "whenever"). Upping the cool factor from the boring online banks of olde, SmartyPig allows users to chose an avatar, create a widget, and even share their goals and progress via Facebook. In addition to the factor that making a goal public generally gives us more inclination to stick to it (like the "21 day Vegan Kickstart"), these tools allow SmartyPig's savers to accept contributions from supportive friends and family.

So, full-disclosure, I am myself an enthusiastic SmartyPig with an adventure fund and emergency savings account, but I haven't gone public (widget-wise) with my savings goals. However, SmartyPig isn't giving me any kickbacks to write this post. Actually, I'm pretty sure this modest blog is below their radar. But I'm an advocate of a program that rewards members for saving (as opposed to credit cards that "reward" members for spending). Even barely eking by with an entry-level, non-profit salary and student loans to repay, with a 2% APY, I feel like I'm making hay of what I can scrape into my accounts.

So my recommendation? Be a pig; take your tax return and start a goal toward the vacation you don't think you can afford, create an "F* You Fund" for getting out of a dead-end job or crappy roommate situation, or save up to donate to your favorite charity. Maybe $oink$ will become the new "cha-ching."

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Vegans Eat the Craziest F*ing Things

I just had an excellent sandwich: 

Whole grain bread
Sun-nut butter (from sunflower seeds, like peanut butter, but peanut butter kills me)
Shredded Carrots
Shredded Zucchini, courtesy of the local Uncertain Farms
Shredded, dried coconut (although fresh would be better)

It was delicious. Some of my friends could say "That's the craziest F*ing thing I ever ate," but not anywhere near as crazy (and cruel!) as eating diseased, enlarged duck liver and calling it a "delicacy." What's the craziest F*ing thing you like to call lunch?