Friday, April 22, 2011

A New Way of Thinking

I have always counted calories.  I can tell you how many calories are in a banana, a glass of milk, or a blueberry scone from your favorite coffee shop.  I count up the calories in each ingredient as I cook and then do the math per serving that I eat.  I've always pushed for a goal of 1200-1500 calories a day, but let's be realistic here.  Most of you have seen me, and it's a bit obvious I've overstepped my goal a time or two (or three or four).

From Veganist by Kathy Freston:
"On a healthful vegan diet, weight comes off effortlessly and sustainably, without calorie counting." (page 1)
"Plant-based foods are naturally low in fat.  It's very hard to be--or stay--overweight
on a vegan diet." (page 2)

Although I agree with the content, I have a problem with that wording because vegan is NOT a diet or weight-loss program.  But weight loss can be a side effect of eating vegan.  I did not start this transition to veganism because of my weight.  Losing weight wasn't a goal of mine, although it is a part of living a healthier life and leading by example.  I feel good (na na na na na na na!) and I knew that I would (na na na na na na na!) by eliminating animal products from my life.

But it is difficult for me to stop thinking in a DIET frame of mind.  I've tried for years to lose the baby weight and that muffin top that I blamed on my kids.  But the truth is, that muffin top is all me.  It's cookies in bed while watching Biggest Loser (yes, I do that), and it's four slices of pizza instead of one or two.  It's a few too many lattes and way too many grilled cheese sandwiches.  It's a bite here or a taste test there.  It's nibbling and snacking instead of eating a healthful meal.  It's not hydrating and not exercising.  It's my fault, and I am taking responsibility for it here and now.  I apologize to my family for blaming them and for using them as my excuse.

In my attempts to lose weight and feel better about myself, I've tried counting calories.  I've tried the no-fat thing, the low-carb thing, the mega-workout thing.  But bottom line is that none of them were a sustainable life change for me.  There are three reasons for that.  One, I had the wrong goals with each of them.  Five or ten pounds so I fit in a dress or pair of jeans was just me being vain and immature. Fitting into a swim suit is important, but that goal gives me an "out" for the winter season.  Two, my body requires healthful fats, carbs and nutrients for daily living and exercising.  Three, I was being lazy and counting on a fad diet to do the work for me.

My long term health is so much more important to me and to my loved ones than a few pounds here or there.  This vegan thing plus an active life with my kids--walking, playing, swimming, shooting hoops, dancing around the kitchen--add up to a happier and healthier me.  I  love cuddling my family on the couch for movie night.  But movie nights are fewer and further between now. And we've scrapped the two pound bag of M&M's and replaced it with popcorn (no butter) and a big plate of veggies and fruit.  In place of a T.V. night, we'll go for a walk or go to the park or just play in the yard.  When the weather doesn't allow for outside time, we wrestle around inside or even do a workout video together.  It's silly and ridiculous and wonderfully fun.

The food part is easier than you think, too.  There is no need to count calories or worry about grams of protein, no need to weigh or measure foods.  Eating fiber-rich, nutrient-dense, plant-based foods naturally nourishes the body.  I eat when I'm hungry (far less often than I used to be) and I eat until I'm comfortable and satisfied (not full and bloated).  Eating whole foods and plant-based foods actually causes the body to burn calories faster than animal products.  It revs up metabolism so that fat (and weight) melt off naturally at a healthy pace. A vegan's body will naturally find its ideal weight and will stay there without effort.  (There is a ton of scientific evidence to prove this.  I recommend picking up Veganist by Kathy Freston as a good place to start.)

And although I'm trying really hard not to focus on weight, I do believe that it is one indicator of health.  I can't let you inside my body or brain to feel what I feel and know what I know as a vegan, so the best I can do is to update you in the best way I know how. My husband has lost 10 pounds by eating half-vegan (he eats vegan at home with me, but is a carnivore when he's out of the house).  I've lost about five pounds and three inches from around my waist. It's so much easier to workout.  I have energy like I've never had before, and I feel motivated and happy and GOOD.  My doctor is incredibly happy for our family and is supportive and excited. 

Many people have asked me how long I intend to keep doing this.  I've been told flat out that this is a silly, childish phase and I will soon get over it. But it's not a phase. This is LIFE CHANGING for me.  And the more I do this, the more confident I feel about my choice.

Vegans tend to be healthier, happier, lean and strong. Vegans tend to have a vitality and vigor that others might not. Think about it, do you know any obese vegans?  But I already knew that.  I knew that I couldn't continue to eat processed foods with all that sugar and fat and reach any of my health goals.  What I didn't know, though, was how great I'd feel just by eating vegetable proteins, whole grains and a whole lot of exciting fruits and vegetables. I am so happy that I made this discovery!

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