What a journey 2015 was. Not only did I become a vegan along with my husband, Art, we also became whole food/plant base lifestyle advocates. So why did we change? Well, many reasons. First of all, the word ‘vegan’ is a loaded term. It’s not just a nutritional regime but a code of ethics where we don’t use animal based products for clothing and footwear. We both have had a deep passion for animals and have educated ourselves on the exploitation of animals for food, clothing, and entertainment. I wasn’t comfortable calling myself a vegan at first because I truly wasn’t. Sure, I didn’t eat animal products anymore but that didn’t make me a ‘true vegan’. To be quite honest with you, I really don’t enjoy using the term vegan as I don’t like to be labelled. I just like to tell people that I don’t consume animal products or wear them. With that being said, I’m using the word vegan as a statement in today’s blog to get the message across that it’s very healthy to eat the way we do and still be very active and fit. To confuse people even more, we are also whole food vegans which means we don’t eat refined foods (including oil) and very little processed food. In fact, the only processed food in our refrigerator is almond milk which we have recently started making ourselves.
I had a client ask me the other day why I never use the term ‘diet’. As a personal trainer and instructor of 25 years, I’ve never believed in the term. I try not to use the term when writing my blogs and I never use the term with my clients. Why? I looked up the term in the dictionary and this was the definition of the simple term diet ‘to eat less food or to eat only particular kinds of food in order to lose weight: to be on a diet. I am proud to say that I’ve never been on a diet in my life. I prefer to use the word ‘lifestyle’ instead. When you eat healthy food, when you are active, and when you have a positive mindset, everything else will fall into place. When I train my clients, I coach them to stay off the scale as much as possible and not focus on the numbers they see in front of them. Instead, I get them to focus on how their bodies will feel when they feed it whole and plant based foods, how much energy they get when they are active, and how the power of positive thinking can change their entire mindset. It’s the whole package.
Living a whole foods plant base lifestyle I think was kind of chosen for me. I suffered severely for over 20 years with IBS, hospitalized for GERD, and omitting animal based products along with processed food cured these ailments along with others. Art and I spent several months researching, reading, watching documentary films, and speaking with holistic nutritionists on the benefits of a whole foods/plant base lifestyle. For us, there is no other way. With our long-time fitness backgrounds, we’ve realized that the importance of what we put into our bodies is more important that working out. That is not to say that we shouldn’t be active, we should and we need to, but more emphasis needs to be put on the type of food we put into our bodies and not the amount.
First of all, adapting a whole foods plant base lifestyle, you pretty much eat all the time. There is no calorie counting or worrying about if you are getting all the essential vitamins and minerals. We are currently living in a society of ‘reductionist eating’ where we are told that we have to eat meat to get our protein or drink milk to get calcium. If you are eating whole foods, this is no longer a concern. You are eating the way nature intended and there are multiple vitamins and minerals found in every type of plant base food. These foods are what we call ‘nutrient dense’ and generally have very few calories compared to those of animal based products which are high in calories and very low in nutrients.
Of course, if you are training for something specific like a race or trying to build muscle, it’s a good idea to ensure that you are taking in more calories to keep your energy level up to fuel your body and to build muscle. Yes, more calories consumed, how fun it that!
Wouldn’t it be nice to eat what you want, when you want? There are no rules to a whole foods/plant base lifestyle. There is more to what we eat than just vegetables and fruits. When you add in the whole grains, whole wheat pastas, oats, bean, seeds, and legumes, there is an endless amount of recipe ideas. You can eat beans for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You can even eat pasta for breakfast. In fact, you don’t even have to call it breakfast. You eat when you’re hungry. You will find that your body stays full from the increase of fiber you are ingesting.
Variety of Foods
I was so worried about what I was going to eat when I first switched over to a whole foods/plant base lifestyle. Little did I realize that the amount of varieties of vegetables and fruits alone would supply me with so many nutritious meals. There are countless recipe books out there as well as great web sites to find some great healthy whole food/plant base recipes. One of my favourite cookbooks is from Plant Pure Nation.
Where’s the Protien?
As a runner of 35+ years, I never got on the protein wagon. Everywhere you turn, the word protein is plastered in grocery stores, magazines, billboards, TV, radio, and on the news. We live in a protein obsessed society. I have never taken a protein supplement or protein powder as I’ve always believed that if we eat properly we can get what we need from our food to nourish our bodies. In fact, I have never seen any scientific evidence that supports that our bodies require over 10% of total calories from protein. Have you ever heard of people suffering from protein deficiency? No, me either.
So if you’re an athlete or working out, do you require more protein being on a whole foods/plant base lifestyle? Simply no or at least that’s the data proves. So how do we get our protein if we don’t consume animal products? I’m actually asked this question daily. Most plants we consume have protein in them along with beans, lentils, nuts and seeds. Even the almond milk I drink contains protein, the protein comes from the almonds.
Carbs it Up!
I wrote a blog a few weeks ago and the topic was Carb it Up! How Carbs Can Get You into the Best Shape of Your Life. On a whole foods/plant base lifestyle, the breakdown of total calories looks somewhat like this; 10% of daily calories from protein, 10% of daily calories from fat, and 80% of daily calories from carbohydrates. However, with the absence of processed food and refined sugar you are omitting all the simple carbohydrates with the exception of fruit which is high in fiber. So foods such as oatmeal, brown rice, potatoes, beans, peas, lentils are just examples of some of the complex carbohydrates we consume on a daily basis. These are the foods that provide us with energy not to just get through the day but during our workouts. It’s all about consuming the right type of carbohydrates.
Food for Training
Now that I’m training to run a long distance trail race, people are constantly asking me how I’m changing my eating habits to fuel my body. To be quite honest, I’m not. The only thing I’m changing is that I’m eating more food because I’m burning more calories. As a runner, I don’t need to ‘carb-load’ as most of what I eat is carbohydrates. If you are eating a variety of grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruits on a daily basis, you are getting all of the necessary vitamins and minerals that your body needs.
Tomorrow’s Task: Try not to consume animal products, refined sugar, or processed food tomorrow. Instead eat some oatmeal for breakfast sprinkled with some seeds or nuts and top if off with some fresh fruit. Take some fruit or veggies and hummus to snack on if you are at work. For lunch, try a pita with some nut butter and fruit, or a grilled vegetable sandwich (only use whole grains) with a side salad (no oil dressing) and for an afternoon snack, try eating some coconut covered dates or crackers with hummus. For dinner try some whole wheat pasta with a tomato sauce and veggies, or some brown rice with black beans, salsa and guacamole. An evening snack could be a fruit smoothie with some mixed fruit, seeds, and try putting some fresh greens in it. A lot of food isn’t it? Enjoy!
We need to re-train or re-program the way we think about food. Gone is the concept of eating food for one nutrient and instead replacing it with foods that are nutrient dense that fuel our body. Get off the scale and don’t worry about the numbers. If you change the way you eat and start to adapt a whole foods/plant base lifestyle, the weight will start come off. In fact you won’t even need to go on the scale, as you will start to notice it in how your clothes fit. Start to appreciate foods in their natural state and re-train your taste buds to enjoy new fruits and vegetables. I haven’t come across one client yet that hasn’t changed to a whole food/plant base lifestyle that says they don’t feel better or don’t enjoy the new food they’ve tried. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Their weight is coming off and they have so much energy that they don’t know what to do with it all.
See you tomorrow.
Art & Maureen