Thursday, February 23, 2012

Week 8: An Apple A Day....Adopting better eating habits

There is no hiding the fact that I have been indulgent and lazy in my lifestyle over these past few months. I could blame a new (very happy) relationship, holidays, a knee injury....there are plenty of excuses! But the fact is, I've gotten in the habit of making bad choices in regards to my diet and exercise. Sure, I trained for a half-marathon, but I pretty much did the bare minimum for that. I have completely neglected all the hard work I put into getting in shape for triathlon season last year, and it's time to put an end to it.

My family and close friends will certainly agree to this next statement- I have slight OCD tendencies. And these tendencies often manifest themselves in different ways. When it comes to trying to lose weight, they can definitely kick into high gear. For me, that usually means an all or nothing approach, and that's exactly how I'm tackling my current situation. Not everyone agrees with it, but it's what works for me. Here's how my recent "project" started...

I met up with a friend for drinks, and she was filling me in on her recent "plant-based diet", the result of a New Year's Resolution to eat better. I know I probably looked at her like she was crazy. No meat! No dairy! NO CHEESE!!!! For the love of God, why would anyone do this to themselves?! But the more I listened to her talk about the why, the more interested I became. She told me about a documentary called Forks Over Knives that focuses on the science behind a plant based diet, and the belief that it can help prevent/cure diseases and help people lose weight. The film also features a local Austin firefighter, Rip Esselstyn, who helped a fellow firefighter with life-threatening high cholesterol lose weight and get healthy, through a plant-based diet. He went on to write The Engine 2 Diet, full of helpful information, recipes, etc. Book #2 is currently in the works.

Hunk and I had both been moaning and groaning about how we had each gained weight, so he tossed out the idea of giving up meat and dairy for Lent. I'm not very religious, so my purpose was more about getting back to a healthier me. But how could I not support him for 40 days? So Lent it would be. But remember that OCD I mentioned? Starting a new way of eating on a Wednesday was not going to fly with me, so we did a bunch of meal planning over the weekend, a ton of shopping on Sunday, and officially started our plant-based diet on Monday.

The general guidelines (according to the Engine 2 book) are to exclude meat, dairy and oil from your diet. Most people (myself included) think that things like olive oil are "good fats". But the fact is that it has highly concentrated calorie and fat amounts, with almost no nutrients to make it worth eating. So the goal is to limit as much oil as you can, especially if you're trying to lower your cholesterol. That's not a problem that I have, but I'm sticking with it for now just to see what it does for me. You can get enough protein from sources like beans, whole grains, soy, and even vegetables (broccoli and spinach are two great examples) without eating meat and dairy.

Four days in, and I'm doing better than expected. Planning is a key factor in being successful, as far as I'm concerned. That way, you don't set yourself up for getting hungry, and then not having food you can eat readily available. I think our menu for the week looks great! I tried really hard to meet protein needs, as well as getting enough calories and other good nutrients. It's pretty easy to do as long as you're including a variety of food in your meals. I spent about $100 at the grocery store (excluding non-edible items), which I don't think is that bad for 3 meals a day for 7 days. Plus, I had to buy a few extra things that I'll use over the weeks to come, so I expect my grocery bill to go down next week. Here is what my first week of plant-based eating looks like:

B- oatmeal, berries, ground flax seed
L- large spinach salad w/ mixed veggies and Cashew Ranch dressing
D- Galloping greens w/ cashew sauce (from E2 site) 
snacks: clementine, hummus and veggies/crackers

B- mixed cereal w/ soy milk, bananas and kiwi
L- spinach salad with black bean veggie burger, mashed sweet potatoes on the side 
D- Pasta Primavera (from E2 site)
snacks: apple w/almond butter, veggie sticks (carrots, bell peppers, celery)

B- oatmeal, berries, ground flax seed
L- leftover Pasta Primavera, small spinach salad
D- black beans and rice w/ veggie mix (peppers, corn, tomato, jalapeno, kale)
snacks: clementine, kale butter w/carrot and cucumber slices

B- mixed cereal w/ soy milk, bananas and kiwi
L- leftover beans and rice, grapes
D- roasted tofu and steamed green beans with cashew sauce
snacks: apple w/almond butter, veggie sticks w/kale butter

B- Fruit smoothie w/soy milk, frozen banana, mango pineapple, and protein powder 
L- Hummus sandwich w/leftover veggies, applesauce
D- sweet potato gnocchi with veggie meat crumbles, tomato sauce and spinach
snacks: grapes, roasted sweet potato slices

I realize that this is a pretty radical change to our typical eating habits, and it's not a likely plan for everyone. I know my mom thinks I'm nuts, and wonders where the "real food" is. But honestly, all of the meals so far have been really good, and I don't feel like I'm missing out that much. I'm excited to see how I feel after a few weeks, and am hopeful that this will point me in a better long-term direction. I'm sure I'll start to miss things soon (cheese pizza anyone?), but so far so good. Hunk and I are trying to make it a fun adventure, complete with a hummus cook-off, date nights at Whole Foods, and even a picnic lunch on Fridays. I bet we can find even more ways to make this fun as we go along!

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