Monday, January 03, 2011

Raw Vegan Challenge 2011

For the time being, there's a bit of a change of direction over here in the Live Green, Wear Black kitchen.  I decided to start off 2011 by going 100% raw vegan.  I was planning to do it for 1 month, but now I am thinking that I am going to extend it through April - a full 16 weeks.  Partly, I want to lose weight - the other goal is to experience the benefits of eating a live foods diet.

Let's rewind to two years ago.  January 2009 saw me dealing with the sudden onset of a really bad kink in my neck - I fell asleep in a weird position and didn't move.  For two months, the pain was so excruciating, that I gave up swimming.  I quit taking the train and went to work and back via bus because the pain was so bad that I was having Anna Karenina fantasies.  I discovered restorative Iyengar yoga and ART chiropractic - and things began to improve.  I also started riding a motorcycle (hey, fun is always a good distraction) - and my bicycle started collecting dust.

By June 2009, my neck pain was improved by going to yoga classes 2-4 times/week, and I was going to the gym 4-5x/week at lunch.  I was around 155 lbs.  My breakfast consisted of a smoothie (water, fruit, brown rice protein powder), and my lunch consisted of a big salad with lots of romaine, different raw veggies, ground flaxseed and some raw nuts, dressed with lemon & salt (usually around 500 calories with the nuts).

That summer, I experienced a lot of very stressful life changes - not the least of which being that I left my job, had a couple short term temp jobs and then transitioned to working from home at the end of the year.  I also stopped going to the iyengar studio due to differences with the owner.  The biggest change was basically cutting out the 2-4 miles/day that I walked between home/work and public transit, walking around in an office (I often took stairs if it was fewer than 2-3 floors), trading the bicycle for the motorcycle, and not having the routine of wanting to escape the office to the gym at lunch time.

In a year, I went from a 32C size 8 to a 36D size 10 - at 5'10" - most people insist I look "great" - but if I cared what other people thought about how I look, I'd probably wear make up, maintain a hair style and put more effort into my wardrobe.  I got back into the pool last spring - and the neck problem flared up again, so I would swim and back off periodically.  I went back to the gym and I spent a lot of time hiking (both mushrooming and regular hikes).  I was in pretty good shape by the time I went to Kauai for my solo backpacking trip in April 2010, but not thrilled with the size of my backside.  Actually, I was doing pretty well until I injured my knee in July 2010 and was basically on my butt for 3 months.  Bye bye, summer!

After 3 months of physical therapy, I found motivation to get back into the pool and the gym.  To be honest - I love fried food and desserts.  Hanging out with people who ride motorcycles often means lots of beer - and long motorcycle rides in Northern California don't burn calories like bicycle rides.  Often the destinations don't have a lot of healthy options for vegan dining (Barstow, for example).  As a vegan, I have to make sure I bring my own food or I end up eating french fries & beer for lunch, or some wilty horrible looking salad.

To be brutally honest - this is the most I have ever weighed in my entire life.  And yet, I'm only about 10# over the weight of the average woman in the US, and 5 inches taller.  Blame it on vanity, blame it on being cheap (seriously - who wants to go buy all new clothes? I hate shopping!) - I'm determined to get back on track.

A raw vegan diet is something that has always interested me.  I adore the food at Cafe Gratitude - but as many friends are quick to point out: there are lots of nuts in their dishes.  Nuts, it would seem are a great way to gain weight if you over-rely on them.  They are just as much a convenience food as bread & pasta.

I spent about 3 months doing a lot of reading up on various raw vegan diets, including "high fat," "low fat," the 80-10-10 (calories should come from 80% carbs, 10% protein, 10% fat), green smoothies vs juicing, fruitarianism and more.  Some basic findings include:
  • Reduce frequency & don't graze.  People do not need to eat 5-6 meals a day.  This does not copy patterns found in nature and results in obsession with your diet & feeding yourself.  Eat 2-3 times a day, fast every so often (ie, skipping a meal if you aren't hungry).
  • Know when you are hungry.  Most people don't really know when they are hungry - they eat because they are bored (ie, entertainment) or they eat because they are thirsty.
  • Protein is synthesized by our own bodies using the amino acids in the food we eat.  Eat lots of different leafy greens and other colored veggies -- you'll be fine.  No need to obsess.
  • Raw, sprouted nuts are not as fattening for you as unsprouted or roasted/toasted because they contain the enzymes our bodies require to properly digest the fat in the nuts.
  • You can't eat too much kale.  I am not kidding.  It is just about the most perfect vegetable.
  • Raw fermented foods are essential to the raw diet.  They provide bacterial cultures that promote digestion and taste yummy.
  • Smoothie or juice - concentrated greens every day are also critical.
  • Water - early and often.
Of course, standard diet advice applies: don't be too hard on yourself, if you fall off the wagon, get back on.  Also, if there is one thing that is outside the diet that can be reasonably included - indulge.  A diet is not about punishment.  My exception is decaf coffee with coconut creamer & sucanat in the morning.

My library of raw cookbooks includes:  I Am Grateful: Recipes and Lifestyle of Cafe Gratitude, Sweet Gratitude: A New World of Raw Desserts, The Complete Book of Raw Food, Entertaining in the Raw.

The web is incredibly helpful and I have found tons of great resources for information about nutrition & recipes.

My goal is to to lose at least 30# and get back to 32C (bras are so expensive and I like the collection I have in that size!).  I already eat a lot of raw food - I love salads of all sorts, I use my dehydrator to make flaxseed crackers and kale chips (among other things).  The main changes for me in this diet are the elimination of wheat (including beer), fried food, refined sugar and other convenient snacky type items.  Actually - you can see it's not nearly as "radical" as it might sound at first.

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