Sunday, June 18, 2006

VeggieSaurus: One Year on a Plant-Based Diet

Well, I'm celebrating my one year anniversary as a vegan! The journey has been fabulous. Once a big steak-eatin' and milk-drinkin' person, I have completely revamped my eating behaviors. I'd like to share a few thoughts and answer some of the typical questions people ask me:

1. What do you eat? The better question might be "What don't I eat?" I don't eat any meat or dairy, and I also eat a bascially gluten-free diet; that means little to no wheat and very few grains. I steer clear of high fructose corn syrup, trans fats, processed anything--especially grains--and no artificial sweeteners. I no longer drink any sports drinks either.

Okay, so I eat a ton of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. I have rice, brown or white, occasionally and I'll partake of rice noodles too. Still have my coffee in the am and will have a glass of wine or beer ocassionally.

I don't eat bagels or cereal.

These dietary changes have freed me from seasonal allergies and skin issues. Yes, I am one of the few people in the St. Louis area who DOES NOT take any allergy medication. And I've suffered nary a sinus infection this past year.

2. Do you eat alot of tofu? No, not really. I'll eat some--especially when it is prepared well at an Asian restaurant. And I'll eat an occasional Boca burger, but I stick to less processed soy as a rule. I do use soy sauce and Liquid Aminos. Fruits and veggies.

3. Where do you get your calcium? From my fruits and veggies! The whole dairy thing is a big myth--a very profitable one for the US dairy industry. Countries that consume the most dairy have the highest rates of osteoporosis in the world. There are millions of people who've come and gone on this earth without drinking a glass of cow's milk and their bone density has been just fine. Calcium can be obtained just fine with a dairy-free diet. Other variables such as Vit D, Vit K and weight-bearing exercise also impact bone density. A plant-based diet and a good exercise program will keep your bones strong.

4. Where do you get your protein? Again, from all of the foods in my diet. Animal protein is way overrated. And the more animal protein you include in your diet, the higher the incidence of immune-related disease (diabetes, MS) and cancer. My dad has MS; my grandma has diabetes and has had cancer. I stick to plant protein and keep it to about .8 g/kg. Does it look like I need more protein?????

Just to be clear: I do no bodybuilding exercises. All of my workouts are based on multi-joint bodyweight/barbell/dumbbell movements. I train to move and be powerful; not to be buff. A lean, athletic build is the byproduct of proper nutrition and training.

5. What was the hardest thing? Getting used to soy milk in my coffee.

6. Do you take supplements? No. I eat well and get my calories from natural food. I take no vitamins either. For B12, I drink fortified rice milk and sprinkle nutritional yeast on food. I sprinkly flax seed meal on my salads. Occasionally, I will add a scoop of hemp/pea/spirulina superfood to my giant post-workout rice milk/fruit smoothies. This has only 17 g of plant protein and give me probably a 7-5:1 ratio of carb:protein recovery meal.

At 37 years old, I am in the best physical condition of my life. Down 20 lbs and probably 10% body fat, I can out jump, squat, push up, pull up, power clean, push press circles around the 18 y.o. me that graduated from high school as the Female Athlete of the Year with All-Conference/All-District honors in 3 sports (volleyball, basketball and track). Imagine the athlete I might have been if I knew how to eat properly?

But now is the time to seize the day and make the most of me now. My goal is to be a walking billboard for physical health through proper exercise and nutritional excellence. And maybe along the way, others will choose the same.

And besides, who else is going to demonstrate front squats (> bodyweight), lunges or overhead squats or pull ups to the high school weightroom? It certainly isn't the male sport coaches. Mrs. Fober can. (But don't let her see you doing bicep curls....)

No comments: