Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Vicki's Secret to Weight Loss!

As I finished last week’s blog, it immediately gave me the idea about what to write for this week.  I have a friend named Vicki that I have played tennis with for ages, and a few years ago, she surprised us all by dropping about 60 pounds very quickly.  Furthermore, she’s kept every ounce of it off since!  No, she didn’t go vegan, but her advice can help vegans and non-vegans alike. 

What is Vicki’s simple secret to permanent weight loss?  She continually asks herself two questions before she chooses to eat something:

1.        Would I be just as happy (or sufficiently happy) with a healthier choice?  If not…
2.        Would I be okay eating a smaller portion of this less healthy food?

Here’s how it might look:  You’re dying for a piece of your old favorite pizza, which is definitely not vegan.  Ask yourself:
1.     Would I be happy with a vegan Tofurkey pizza (which tastes just like my childhood favorite Jeno’s pizza, if you ask me!)  This is still not a particularly healthy option, but it will be leaps and bounds healthier than regular pizza, as it won’t contain nearly as much saturated fat, no cholesterol and will have much fewer calories.
2.    If your answer is “Yes” then ask yourself if, instead of the Tofurkey pizza, you could have a pizza without cheese?  I love pizza without cheese – I put sundried tomatoes, capers, roasted red peppers, corn and all kinds of delicious toppings on it.  If you can add in a whole wheat crust, then you’re done.  This is a fully healthy meal!  If not, then ask yourself if you can have a bit less of the Tofurky pizza, and add a large salad to it instead?
3.    If your answer is “No” then see if you can just have one piece of your old favorite, instead of having the whole pizza.

Do you see how this works?  All it requires is that you are conscious before you eat.  You must be conscious enough to stop, ask yourself these questions, and answer them honestly.  If you are the type of person who eats half a bag of chips before you realize you’ve even opened the bag, then this requires some practice.

Once you begin asking these questions you will likely start dropping pounds and gain much better health.  How?  Because every time you eat, you will be conscious of what and how much you eat – you will be making decisions on what you will and won’t eat, and this will allow you to feel like you’re in control – not the food.  Even if you consciously choose to eat something unhealthy, you will feel like it was your choice.  This feeling of being in control – and undoubtedly making some (perhaps many) better food choices every day – will give you a greater sense of self confidence.  Your weight will start dropping, and you will feel good about it – not like you had to starve yourself to drop those few pounds.

I know many of you follow my blog as you go vegan to try to lose weight.  Although this tip is not relevant only for vegans, it’s one of the best tips I’ve ever seen when put successfully into action.  Let me know how it goes!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

All You Can Eat!

Last night I went to one of my all-time favorite veggie restaurants.  I ordered two entrees.  One for me, and the other for … me!  This is not uncommon – in fact, my manager once told me that I’m only to expense my own meals when I'm traveling for business – not my friends’ meals … and I had to fess up – they’re both MINE!!!

However, this is one of the things I love most about being vegan:  You can eat a lot of food and still not get fat.  If I ate normal-sized portions, I’d be one of those skinny vegans like Kathy Freston, showing off my Size 2 butt on Oprah.  But I love food and like to eat a lot of it, and since I sometimes order two entrees, I have a Size 6 butt.  Size 8 on a bad day.  I figure that’s not too bad for someone who eats like she's eating for two.

So, here’s what I’d like to tell you if you are new to veganism: 

The vegan diet is not a calorie-restriction diet!
When you are hungry, simple eat...

Just make sure it’s vegan.  The more you eat healthy vegan foods (like fruit, salads and beans) and the less you eat unhealthy vegan foods (like vegan cookies, cakes and ice cream) the more you can eat and the thinner you will be. 

Furthermore, the more you eat healthy vegan foods, the more you will crave healthy foods.  We are a nation addicted to sugar, salt and fat – even vegans – so before you pick up that bag of vegan cookies, ask yourself, “Would I be happy if I had a (whole!) cantaloupe for dessert instead?”  If not, how about some whole grain toast with some almond butter on it?  The more you can make those swaps, the healthier – and thinner – you will be … and you can eat like a horse along the way!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

What's Your Number?

Many people who ask me with interest about the vegan diet, ultimately give me that wistful look of having a dream they think is unlikely to ever come true, saying, “I wish I could be vegan, but I just can’t seem to give up eating ________.”  They feel that the idea of being 100% vegan is something that is just too hard, and that they’ll never be able to succeed.

But herein lies the question: Do you have to be 100% vegan to make a difference in your health, the lives of animals, and the environment?  The answer is, “absolutely not!” 

While I do believe that being 100% vegan is one of the best things you can do for your health and one of the most compassionate acts you can make toward our fellow earthlings and our planet, you don’t have to be 100% vegan to make a big difference.

Every meal you choose to eat that has no meat and no dairy will most likely be better for your health, will help to save a life, will help avoid further suffering of animals, and will make our environment cleaner.  (For details on how, read John Robbin’s epic book, The Food Revolution.)  Like a smoker that can’t quit seem to quit, he will benefit by cutting back on smoking, even if quitting altogether is what’s ideal.

The more you can have meatless meals, the more you can choose fruits and veggies over fast food and processed foods, the more you choose to cut back half (or all) the cheese on your pizza or the butter on your bread, the more you will make a difference in your health, the lives of animals and the environment.

So, if the idea of being a vegan sounds great but you’re overwhelmed by the thought of it, don’t think that you can only benefit by going 100% vegan.  Try going vegan on Mondays.  Try going vegan on weekends.  Try going 20% vegan, then 40%, then 60%...  My husband is about 80-90% vegan, yet enjoys superb health and is still making a huge impact on the lives of animals and on our environment by making it this far.  It’s something to be very proud of!

One of my biggest motivations in teaching others to go vegan is a statistic that PETA has on their website:

Every vegetarian saves 100 lives each year by not eating meat.

If this is true, you can save 10 lives every single year just by going 10% vegetarian or vegan!  20 lives each year by going 20% veg!  50 lives by going 50% vegan! Multiply your veggie percentage number by the number of years you expect to live, and you can see what an amazing impact you can have! Imagine how high your number could get!  Imagine how much healthier you’ll become along the way!

And then, if you find yourself thinking wistfully about all the lives you’re saving, but wish you could save even more … teach it to others.  

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Weight: Be Kind to Yourself

Many people assume that once you adopt the vegan diet, you’ll never overeat or have to worry about your weight again.  This isn’t necessarily true, although I will say that it is incredibly hard to be a fat vegan.  Having said that, overeating is an addiction just like smoking or alcohol can be, and many addicts will simply switch out Oreos for vegan cookies.  I know I did!

Here’s the good news:  Vegan junk food generally has fewer calories and saturated fat than standard junk food, and certainly won’t contain any cancer-causing animal proteins.  So, even if you are addicted to sugar, salt, fat and thus, overeating, you’ll probably still lose weight as a vegan junk foodist.

However, here is something else I have learned in all my studies in Plant-Based Nutrition and putting it to use in my own life:  If you cut out most salt, sugar and fat from your vegan diet, you will naturally begin to crave healthy foods.  Grapes will explode on your tongue and corn will cause your taste buds to dance!  Then, when you get stressed out and go on a binge, you’ll want to reach for healthy foods, and I’ve never known anyone to get fat from binging on apples or spinach.

But here is what I’d really like to say today about weight:  Be kind to yourself.  If you are in the middle of a very stressful time and have put on some weight, that’s okay.  It will come off when it’s ready, and quite frankly, I believe in the phrase, “The more you resist, the more it persists.”  So, instead of resisting the new pounds and trying to bludgeon yourself into a miserable starvation routine to get them off (which will just induce even more stress), sit quietly in meditation for a few minutes, and know that all is good, just as it is.  The pounds will come off eventually.  Go to the issue that is causing you stress, and work on resolving that issue so that you can move forward, back into your most healthful body.

All is good, just as it is, right here, right now.