Tuesday, November 24, 2009

On How Women Are 'Supposed' to Look

Warning: minor rant ahead.

A few times of late I've heard people say that muscular women 'aren't supposed to look like that', that they look like men. Well here's the thing, I look like this because I use my body to do what it evolved to do: work hard and move a lot. Our ancestors didn't sit on their butts all day like we do. They walked thousands of miles every year, they hunted (chased!) game on foot, they built their own shelters (sometimes several times a year), they carried their young on their backs, they dug tubers out of the ground and gathered fruit from the tops of trees, they crossed rivers with loads on their backs, they climbed mountains and crossed deserts and rowed boats across entire oceans...they depended on their bodies to be strong and agile, and you can bet your patootie that our foremothers had biceps and pecs and lats every bit as well defined as our forefathers. THAT is how women are supposed to look. That is how our bodies evolved to function. If my body wasn't supposed to look strong and muscular, it wouldn't. All I'm doing is moving. I'm not taking steroids or supplements or even eating a high protein diet. I'm simply using my body the way it was designed to be used, and the result is that I look...GASP...strong. The truth is that I don't look like a man, I look like a strong healthy woman, and people are just so unaccustomed to seeing such a thing that they file me under the heading they're used to filing strong people under, 'man'.

I can do pullups and you know what? You can too. Women are NOT inherently weak, our capacity for strength is far greater than we (and our society) give ourselves credit for. And there is ABSOLUTELY NO REASON that we shouldn't use our bodies to their full capacity. In fact, I'd contend that NOT using our bodies to their full capacity is the real disservice.

Monday, November 23, 2009

"Ramen" Noodles, Vegan Foodie Style

My kids like these. I do too, they remind me of the Top Ramen we ate every day after school (can't believe we survived). Simple and easy, this is all about kid-friendliness, and certainly a step up the nutrition ladder from Ramen.

2 garlic cloves, minced
olive oil
7 cups vegetable broth
1 pound whole wheat linguini, spaghetti or angel hair pasta
2 cups cooked chickpeas
fresh herbs, chopped

Brown the garlic in the oil, then add the vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook, stirring, until pasta is al dente and most of the liquid is absorbed. Stir in beans and herbs and serve.

Friday, November 20, 2009

West-African Style Sweet Potato Peanut Soup

Like peanut butter? (who doesn't?) This is a peanut butter lover's dream soup.


* 4 large sweet potatoes (about 3 pounds), diced
* olive oil
* 1 medium onion
* 1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
* 2 garlic cloves, minced
* 1 TBSP ground cumin
* 1 TBSP ground coriander
* 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper (optional)
* 8 cups water
* 2 ounces (half a can) tomato paste
* 1/2 cup peanut butter (or more, to taste)
* chopped fresh cilantro

Saute onions, garlic and ginger until softened and lightly browned. Add sweet potatoes and water, bring to a boil. Turn heat down and simmer until sweet potatoes are tender, then stir in spices, tomato paste and peanut butter, cook a few minutes more. Puree with a hand-held blender. Serve garnished with chopped cilantro.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Protein Question

EDIT 8/9/2011:
Since writing this post I've cut most grains out of my diet and replaced them with leafy greens and more fruit. The result is that I'm now getting closer to 25% of my calories from protein.

So I get asked a lot, where do I get my protein? We're a pretty protein-fixated culture. I visit fitness blogs and see all sorts of protein-shake-this and whey-supplement-that. These same sources generally refer to animal based protein sources as 'high quality' because they contain all the essential amino acids in one simple package. Essential amino acids are the ones our bodies don't produce, that we must obtain from food. I think 'high quality' is a misnomer, I think 'convenient' (in the way that fast food is convenient) would be a more apt description. You can get all the essential amino acids from plants simply by eating a variety of plant based proteins through the day: beans, nuts, seeds and grains.

My simple answer to The Protein Question is that I get my protein from plants. The slightly more complicated answer to the question is that virtually ALL the sound, peer reviewed science out there suggests that the human body runs best on a diet of 15-20% protein. If you are an American with anything close to a typical American diet, you're getting WAY more than that.

Recently I started tracking my food at Calorie Count. I average between 10 and 15% of my calories from protein per day. Conventional 'wisdom' says I'm not meeting my protein requirements, especially as an athlete with a vigorous workout schedule to fuel and recover from. Um, you've seen my picture there at the top of the page? Does it look like I'm not getting enough protein? Or any other nutrient, for that matter?

I think we really need to get beyond The Protein Question. We're all getting enough. If you're having a hard time with energy levels or building muscle mass, look elsewhere in your diet. Are you getting enough fiber? Are you getting enough vitamins and minerals? What about the nearly 1000 phytonutrients that have been identified in whole plant foods? Are you getting enough of those? Our bodies need more than protein to run efficiently and to build and repair muscle. The best source of the nutrients most of us are deficient in is fruit and vegetables. I eat 15-20 servings of fruits and vegetables every day. I don't even think about protein, my priority every day is to get those fruits and veggies into my body. It's working out pretty well for me.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

See? I'm not the only one!

I can totally relate to this guy's experience. I've also seen enormous changes in my body and energy and health by following a plant based diet. And though I haven't completed an Ultraman (yet) I HAVE accomplished far more, athletically, than I EVER thought I was capable of. I absolutely, without reserve, credit my diet.

Monday, November 16, 2009

What DO I eat?

EDIT 8/8/2011:
Since writing this post my diet has evolved a bit. I've cut most grains out of my diet and replaced them with more leafy greens and fruit. This has bumped up my protein intake (as a percentage of my calories) considerably. You can see my recent posts for a more accurate idea of what my diet looks like.

I get asked this a lot. People think that a plant based diet is limiting! But there are thousands of edible plants! My diet is actually quite rich and varied, the only time I have trouble finding something to eat is when I go to a potluck-type function. It's AMAZING to stare at a long table spread with dish after dish after dish, and every single one of them has meat in it. People really have a hard time getting out of the meat box. So here's a sampling of the kinds of foods I eat.

Breakfasts are typically toast (made from homemade bread) with natural peanut butter, or soy yogurt with fruit, or oatmeal with raisins and walnuts, or a homemade muffin and fruit, or tofu-veggie scramble, etc.

Lunches are typically a huge salad with all sorts of raw veggies and nuts, or leftovers from the evening before, or a veggie burger on homemade bread, or a vegan 'caprese' sandwich (sliced tofu, heirloom tomatoes, basil leaves, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper on toasted bread), or a hummus and veggie wrap, etc.

Dinners are typically some kind of veggie and bean soup or stew, or pasta with an herb/nut sauce (walnut pesto for instance), or tofu/tempeh prepared in any number of ways, or a veggie stir fry with quinoa or rice, or homemade veggie/bean burgers, or lentil loaf with mashed potatoes, or bean burritos, etc.

I love larabars for snacks, as well as fruit and nuts/nut butters. I eat dark chocolate and drink coffee every day. I eat between 2500 and 3000 calories in a typical day. I try to include at least one (and preferably 2-3) different fruits/veggies in every meal and snack. I base my meals (especially dinners) around the veggies I have on hand, rather than around a protein source. Speaking of protein, I don't make any effort to increase the protein I consume. I barely spare a thought for it in fact. As you can see from my pictures, it doesn't seem to be preventing me from building lots of good strong muscle mass. I don't take any supplements other than turmeric (which I think everyone should take). I DO eat walnuts every day for essential fatty acids. I drink copious amounts of water. Plain old tap water. I don't drink energy drinks or protein shakes or any other new-fangled sports 'nutrition' invention. I don't eat anything concocted in a lab or manufactured in a factory. I eat foods as close to the way they come out of the ground, or off the vine or tree, as possible.

By following this 'diet', I've lost 70 pounds (and counting) without counting a single calorie or ever going hungry.

Weight Loss Progression

A bikini shot progression, starting in May 2009. I had already lost about 45 pounds at that point. I wish I had started taking these pics sooner!
May '09July '09August '09 Sept. '09

dec. '09

feb '10

Dec. 2010


Here are some of the few before pictures I have. I did a great job of staying behind the camera.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

WHAT?!?!? I haven't posted my vegan pesto recipe?!?!?!


• 1 bunch basil, woody stems removed
• 1 lb. Spinach, steamed (ok to use frozen, thawed)
• 1/4 cup olive oil
• 1 cup raw walnuts
• 1 Tblsp lemon juice
• 1 Tblsp minced garlic
• Salt and pepper to taste

Puree it all up in your food processor and enjoy! This stuff is so good I could eat it with a spoon. And it's a great way to get spinach into the kids.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Two Warm Cozy Soups

I made two good soups this week with veggies I had handy. They both turned out well enough to share. So here goes...

None of the ingredients here are exact, just eyeball and go with your gut, both of these soups are pretty hard to mess up.

Cream of Potato, Leek and Broccoli Soup

olive oil
2 large leeks, chopped
5 stalks celery, chopped
8-10 fingerling potatoes, skins on, diced
6 cups water
1-1.5 lbs broccoli florets, chopped
handful of fresh dill
handful of fresh parsley
4 oz. crumbled tofu
1 cup unsweetened plain soymilk
salt and pepper

Sautee the leeks and celery in olive oil until softened and lightly browned. Add potatoes and water, bring to boil. Turn down heat to medium and simmer until potatoes begin to soften. Add broccoli and cook another 5-10 minutes until broccoli is soft but still bright green. Add herbs, tofu and soymilk, and blend with an immersion blender until smooth (or process in food processor). Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Butternut Squash and Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Braised Greens Garnish

olive oil
2 large leeks, chopped
1 butternut squash, peeled and diced
6 cups water
2 roasted red bell peppers (ok to use jarred)
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 TBSP dried coriander
4 oz. tofu
1 cup unsweetened plain soymilk
2 cloves garlic
2 bunched chard, chopped

Sautee leeks in olive oil until softened and lightly browned. Add squash, water, cinnamon and coriander and bring to a boil. Turn heat down and simmer until squash begins to soften. Add peppers, tofu and soymilk and simmer a few minutes more. Puree with an immersion blender (or food processor) until smooth.
In a separate pan, braise the greens and garlic in olive oil until cooked through. Serve soup with a spoonful of greens garnish floated on top.