Squishyplum

All plants. All the time.

Tag: whole foods (page 1 of 2)

Stress: That Sneaky Culprit

So Delicious Cashew Milk Salted Caramel Cluster Frozen DessertSo it happened. I wondered if it would. And it did. The stress finally caught up to me: the stress of finishing a big work project while packing to move; moving day, accompanied by the worry of how I am going to afford to buy furniture (I have virtually none); being on my own, alone, in my own place, with everything I own piled up in boxes around me, for the first time since the late 90s. I thought I was handling it. I really did. But last night I snapped and ate a whole carton of ice cream.

The entire concept of my whole-foods mission went out the window. Highly-processed with Iots of sugar and fat, you say? Bring it on. Yep, I scarfed back a full tub of So Delicious Dairy-free Cashew-milk Salted Caramel Cluster. Not all in one sitting, mind you. But all in one evening. Because that’s so much more dignified. Oh, and I quaffed a bottle of rootbeer. Artisanal, family-owned, small-batch brewed, of course—nothing but the most pretentious of rootbeers for me when I’m self-medicating with food. But I’m not fooling anyone; we all know it’s still just pop. Might as well be mainlining sugar. Sigh.

So what’s a girl to do? I thought I had the answer. My first class of Beginner’s Yoga that I had signed up for at my new community centre was the next morning. Perfect. Mitigate the damage with some soul-soothing yoga. Good plan. I hit the snooze button a few too many times but managed to finally drag my ass out of bed and get organized. Not a moment to spare. Then I looked up my registration receipt and noticed that I had the time wrong; there was no hope of making it to the class on time. Arghhh. Best laid plans. “Well, I’m up and all dressed in workout gear,” I thought. “I’ll go for a walk.” But first lemme just lay back down for a few minutes. I’ll just close my eyes for half an hour and then head out. Right. I’ve heard that one before. Finally rolled out of bed at 2pm. Yep, mid-afternoon.

So how does one rescue a shitty day? With cupcakes, of course! I spent what was left of the afternoon exploring my new neighbourhood and stumbled upon a fabulous vegan cupcake bakery. Lemon cupcake? Yes, please. Oh, and a chocolate-vanilla one too. The only saving grace is said bakery is 16 blocks from my house. So there was some walking involved.

Thankfully there is a happy ending to my story. After gobbling up the aforementioned cupcakes, I jolted my body back to a whole-foods plant-based (WFPB) reality with a big kale salad and some quinoa & black bean salad. This is the only strategy that actually works to get me back on the healthy path. Recalibrate. Pressing the reset button. Whatever you want to call it, my body is reminded of what real food tastes like. Because I never feel great after I eat highly-processed foods—whether it’s cupcakes, ice cream, fried foods, donuts, whatever my poison of choice—I’m always tired and lethargic with a slightly off-kilter digestive system afterwards.

Putting suboptimal foods in my body not only stresses my physical body but it messes with my mental and emotional health too. I sleep too much, either sleeping in or napping a lot. Negative thoughts about my body run rampant in my head. Stresses and worries are disproportionately heightened. Obstacles suddenly seem insurmountable. So it’s critical to shake the processed-food blues as soon as possible or I start spinning down a scary vortex. And the secret is a hit of WFPB foods. Kale and black beans to the rescue. Give it a try and see if you can wake up from that processed-food coma.

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This is not a weight loss blog.

Woman with loose pants at the waist

I was determined from the outset that my blog would not be about weight loss. Nope, no diet talk here. You see, I am not a calorie counter. Never have been. I am not one of those women who know the number of calories in every morsel of food that passes their lips; I know some who can tell you exactly how many calories are in three bites of a McDonald’s cheeseburger, or a handful of jelly beans, or two-thirds of a bag of Doritos. Craziness.

I’ve always been a Big Picture kinda gal, more interested in the powerful impact of diet on chronic disease, like cancer and heart disease and diabetes. And how our food choices as a population are slowly killing us—which is what led me to pursue my Masters in Nutrition. But I digress.

Let calorie obsession be the domain of the myopic dieting crowd. Because with a whole-food plant-based (WFPB) lifestyle, there’s no need to count calories. Instead, if I want to flex my arithmetic muscles, I can count how many pieces of fruit I enjoyed today, or how many Elaine Benes Big Salads I gobbled up this week, or the shrinking number of my pant size.

Now granted, it’s hard for a blog about WFPB eating not to be about weight loss in some way. Let’s face it: if you are overweight, which I am, you will lose weight eating this way. It’s unavoidable. And I’m not complaining. A woman who is barely 5’5″ should not weigh more than her 6’1″ partner. It disrupts the balance of the universe.

But I promise not to dwell on my weight loss. Maybe a little happy dance when I can fit into my size 12 jeans again. And an ever-so-tiny fist pump when I cross that 200lb threshold on my way back down to a healthy weight. But mostly, let’s explore all the other fabulous benefits of the WFPB lifestyle: more energy, glowing skin, better sleep, reduced joint pain, lower blood pressure, decreased risk (and in some cases, reversal) of various chronic diseases, better sex life—the list goes on ad infinitum. I say, bring it on!

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What Went Wrong?

The plan was to eat a whole-food, reduced-oil, plant-based diet for a year and chronicle how it affected me. Sounds simple enough. So why, eight months on, did I find myself sitting on the couch beside an empty bag of Ruffles, eating chocolate icing out of a tub with a spoon (you know what I’m talking about), when instead I thought I’d be jogging jauntily along the seawall, feeling great and looking radiant and svelte in my new Lululemons? What the hell happened? Where did it all go so wrong?

I’ve been plant-based for a few years now so the vegan part of this experiment was not the issue. But after a couple months of “healthy”—aka oil-free, whole food—plant-based eating, things began to unravel. I grew tired of making different, often inconvenient, choices than everyone around me. I grappled with the discomfort of planning every meal, being organized enough to have ingredients on hand, and taking the time to cook when I was hungry and impatient to fill my belly. I craved the perceived comfort of cookies and doughnuts and French fries.

And so I went into avoidance mode. I stopped writing my blog. I stopped planning my meals. I made poor choices in restaurants. I let processed vegan foods sneak back into my diet. I let my exercise routine slide. It was a slippery slope that led to me sitting on the couch with the aforementioned tub of icing and an extra 15 pounds to deal with.

I could point to a myriad of factors—lack of planning, laziness, erratic hormones, feelings of deprivation—but what it really comes down to is fear. Fear of failing. Fear of succeeding, strangely enough. Fear of change. Fear of always being the weird one who can’t eat at everyone’s favourite restaurant. Fear of being judged – for what I eat and for what I look like. Fear of not making a difference. Fear of letting my readers down. Fear of not having any readers.

Fear can be crippling. And going into avoidance mode and retreating to a comfortable place – a place with ginger snaps and coconut milk ice cream – seemed like the answer, a way to make the fear go away. But I was wrong.

“It is not fear that stops you from doing the brave and true thing in your daily life. Rather, the problem is avoidance. You want to feel comfortable so you avoid doing or saying the thing that will evoke fear and other difficult emotions. Avoidance will make you feel less vulnerable in the short run but, it will never make you less afraid.”
— Harriet Learner, The Dance of Fear

So no, as it turns out, choosing to be comfortable is not the answer – at least not the way I was doing it. Cynthia Pasquella, a champion of transformational nutrition, says, “If you want to transform, you have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” Which scares the shit out of me.

Black panther growling in foilage

In her book “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway”, Susan Jeffers suggests that the only real fear is the one that belies all our other perceived fears: the fear that we won’t be able to handle what comes. But when examined up close, this fear has no legs. I have lived through the illnesses and untimely deaths of both my parents; uprooting of my life to move house, city, and country countless times; crushing, unnerving heartbreak; and the uncertainty and risk that accompanies self-employment. And I survived. Thrived even. So why am I so afraid that I can’t handle this? Why do I find the idea of changing the way I eat so scary?

What if I try living this healthy, plant-based lifestyle and fail? What will people say? What if I succeed and have to constantly live up to people’s expectations of me? How hard will that be? The judgement of others—even the perceived judgement, what we assume other people must be thinking—can make us feel inadequate, like we are not enough. But we are all enough. Just showing up and putting myself out there is enough—a huge accomplishment worthy of accolades, frankly. So I am willing to step into a place of discomfort until it stops feeling so bloody uncomfortable. I can handle it. I am enough, damnit. Bring on the green smoothies.

So let’s try this again. Time to step back into the kitchen and re-embrace the whole food, oil-free, plant-based lifestyle – for the good of the environment, my health, and the animals. Wish me luck!

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The Power of the Pound: How to Avoid Being Bullied by the Scale

When I started Project Squishyplum, weight loss was not a primary motivating factor for adopting a whole-food, plant-based (WFPB) diet. My main goal was simply to feel better and more energetic in my body. I did anticipate, however, that eating the WFPB way would lead to some weight loss. After all, whole plant foods are definitely poster children for a super nutritious and healthy diet. And by eating fewer processed foods and less junk, I surmised I would effortlessly consume less calories, provide my body with the right kind of fuel, and start moving towards my new healthy normal weight, naturally. And I was right.

The scale started to move. A pound or two each week. Slow and steady. And I was pleased. But then the holidays arrived and brought with them all the glories of wine and Christmas cookies and dark chocolate – all vegan, mind you, but still. The scale stopped moving. And then it went in the wrong direction. That was when I realized that, although I was only weighing myself once per week, I was letting that number on the scale dictate how I felt about myself for the rest of the week. This was not good. And definitely not in the spirit of WFPB living.

Fit from Within coverI am not a Skinny Minnie, to coin my mother’s term. And according to BMI charts and medical parameters, I am not at an ideal weight. Certainly, I’d be happy to drop a few pounds but it’s not like I’m a cheeseburger away from a heart attack, as Joe Cross of Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead fame likes to say.

I have a pretty healthy body image — I genuinely embrace my curves and am blessed with a partner who loves my body and makes me feel sexy — but it hasn’t always been this way. In my early thirties, struggling with a serious weight gain, I read a book that made a significant difference in my relationship with my body: “Fit from Within: 101 Simple Secrets to Changing Your Body and Your Life — Starting Today and Lasting Forever” by Victoria Moran.

And now, more than 10 years later, our paths serendipitously cross again. Moran is the co-founder of Main Street Vegan – a book, a podcast, a vegan lifestyle coaching program. Just makes sense that she also turned to a plant-based lifestyle to make peace with her body. And became healthier, lighter, and happier in the process.

So I’ve put away the scale. Relegated it to the storage locker, alongside the Christmas ornaments and garden tools. For now, I’m going to measure my progress in yoga classes and Pilates sessions and walks along the seawall. And remember that the ultimate goal is TO FEEL GOOD!

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The Month in Review: Confessions of a Serial Snacker

So…it’s been a month of whole-food plant-based eating. What have I learned?

Apparently I’m a snacker. A habitual snacker. The snacker who trolls the cupboards grabbing handfuls of tortilla chips because she’s bored. Not the organized kind of snacker who eats eight healthy snack-size meals a day. Nope, I’m the “I-fancy-a-cookie-with-my-latte-just-because” kind of snacker. The kind who can hoover up a package of Snapea Crisps in the blink of an eye. I simply had no idea how often I reached for “just a little nibble.” I may have a problem. 🙂 Who knew? Well, deep down I probably did, but denial is a powerful thing!

Let me just say that this WFPB thing has thrown a wrench into my usual snacking habits. And this is good thing. Really. Processed snack foods like crackers, granola bars, and chips are all off the table, literally. So what does that leave me? Nuts are good but I can easily throw back a couple day’s worth of calories of cashews during one episode of The Good Wife.

So I’ve been turning to fruit which, I’ll admit, sounds a bit lame. I mean, how many apples can one girl eat? I’m finding the trick is to have a wide variety of fruits on hand. Who knew discovering a container of melon chunks in the fridge could bring me such delight? Pineapple, mango, grapes — oh my! And oranges are particularly luscious this time of year — big orbs of sweet, juicy, citrusy goodness. Yes, I’m excited about oranges. This is what four weeks of livin’ the good WFPB life does.

Bowl of whole oranges and oranges sliced in half

OMG just look at those oranges!

WFPB Snacking 101

Fruit — Keep it interesting. Rotate through the gamut of melons and berries and citrus. Those yummy bite-size clementines are in season right now. Experiment with all the varieties of apples; smear some almond butter on a Honeycrisp apple – decadent!

Hummus and veg — Hummus is my go-to food. I just love it. All the different variations. And non-traditional versions made with black beans or lentils too, accompanied by those little cherry tomatoes, celery (the often overlooked veg – I’d forgotten how tasty raw celery is!), cucumber, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, and so on.

Air-popped popcorn — The crunch of plain air-popped popcorn in front of the tv has kept me satisfied during many a Coronation Street marathon. Don’t slather it in vegan margarine or oil. Remember, we’re avoiding high-fat, processed foods. Instead, try it with a sprinkling of salt or nutritional yeast. Yes, I realize the salt doesn’t stick too well to the dry popcorn but you’ll survive.

Applesauce — make your own by peeling and cutting apples into bite-size pieces and putting them in a pot covered with about an inch of water. Add some cinnamon and a little sweetener of your choice. Simmer until the water evaporates and the apples go mushy. Doesn’t sound that appetizing but, I assure you, it’s very yummy. (Thanks to Leah @mixedbagmag for teaching me this simple but sweetly satisfying recipe.) Or pick up some jarred applesauce at the store. I keep organic unsweetened applesauce on hand in case I need to do some baking (did you know ¼ c applesauce = 1 egg in recipes?). I also sometimes use it to replace oil in baking. Very handy stuff.

Nuts and seeds — Sunflower seeds, almonds, unsalted mixed nuts. Just don’t go crazy. Keep the handfuls small and infrequent.

Please share any other unprocessed, lower-fat WFPB snacking ideas you may have. This chronic snacker is always looking to expand her snacking repertoire.

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