Reaping the Benefits

So I don’t want to talk about food today. I want to talk about a mental and emotional change I’ve seen. I discussed it a little here, but I really seem to be on a roll lately.

I have been cleaning. A lot. That was something that suffered horribly the last almost ten years since I became mentally ill. In 2011, I hired a cleaning person to come in twice a month. It was just too much for me. I couldn’t keep them but a few months, though, as I had to get a new car and I needed the money. So then I just did the bare minimum to keep the house clean. I do laundry, and I keep up with dishes ok, but I hated bathrooms and vacuuming and picking up. Then my kid moved in with me in 2013, and he’s a teenager, so of course he hated doing housework. Skip forward to this year, around June, and I got so sick of the house (the kid’s bathroom was a health hazard) that I hired another person to come in and do a deep clean. They scrubbed the bathrooms and cleaned the ceilings/ceiling fans (so dusty). Stuff I never did. I kept them around for a month, but then of course, I needed the money for other things, and I cancelled them. But I also felt like I could actually keep up now that I had a head start. I even bought a new vacuum. Didn’t use it, lol, but bought it.

So now it’s the end of December, and I’ve been plant-based since a little before Halloween. It took two months of clean eating to even begin feeling the benefits. The first thing was the muscle spasms. Then I just seemed happier. Then I started cleaning! Then downloaded a few apps to my phone: Chronometer, Google Fit, Couch to 5k, Headspace (a meditation app), and Down Dog (a yoga app). I did the meditation last night before bed, and I did (half) of the yoga as soon as I woke up. Then I took a shower (which is another thing that was a hurdle to me), ate oatmeal and logged it into Chronometer. When I start the walking/running it will be after work.

So I know it seems like I started all that at once. I do that. But most of the time I overreach, I stop before I even start. But today I did everything I meant to. You know that voice in your head that says, “I’ll start tomorrow” or “why even start it won’t matter”. I still hear that, but I can ignore it more easily now. The benefit of following through on things is a sense of accomplishment that can be very reward in itself. I also have a greater sense of peace now, because I don’t have the nagging in my brain of letting something go for so long, and the guilt for not doing it.


Not Enough of This, Too Much of That

I think announcing and apologizing for my absence is getting old, so, hi. I’m back. I am going to try to recall what I’ve been eating for the last two weeks. Good luck with that.

So this week there was soup, which I ate a couple times for lunch this week. I’ve noticed that my soups always taste exactly the same, no matter what vegetables or pulses I use, becasue the base is always the same: Better Than Bouillion vegetable, carrots, onions and celery, garlic, garlic powder (so nice I use it twice), bay leaf, and italian blend seasonings (because I’m boring). Then like, this week I used lentils and butternut squash. It was really good, though. I’m not complaining, I just observed that the taste doesn’t change much from one reciepe to the next.

I made some mashed potatoes in the Instant Pot. Peel them, dice them, put them in a steamer basket, add some water, steam for 10 minutes. I added almond milk, Earth Balance, garlic, salt and pepper. But guess what I learned about that? That there was entirely too much butter. So as of writing this, I am making more mashed potatoes, and I am not going to add any butter, just more salt to replace the saltiness of it?

I realize that I use entirely too much oil and butter. I do. I see Vegans on Youtube cook with tons of olive oil, and I think, “Oh, they look health(ier than I do) so they must be doing something right?” I am the first to admit that I did lose weight the first time I went vegan. I think cutting out animal products will do that. But I also know that not cutting out vegetable/coconut/olive oils is doing me no favors. I don’t know. Do I beat myself over it? Do I use them and just say “oh well this is who I am?” Do I ~really~ try to avoid them (while my hindbrain screams, “fats! my precious!”?)

Let’s move on to what else I ate. I’ve had the Beyond Burger three times since Thanksgiving. I top the burger with sauteed onion, dill pickle, mustard and ketchup. We make oven fries to go with. Very good. Something like 220 calories a burger. It does have saturated fat, becasue it has a lot of plant-based oils in it.

And I wanted to say that my own son, the carnivore, told me to buy tofu (!!!) because he wanted to cook with it. I was shocked. And so he came up with a delicious tofu stir fry! Crumbled tofu and a mix of vegetables in soy, ginger, garlic and brown sugar. The veggies were a frozen mix, but pretty much standard. And it was SO good! He cooked it in the Instant Pot. I ate that a couple times for lunch this week, too.

Last night I made spaghetti sauce with cans of crushed and diced tomatoes. I tried something new, and carmelized the onions first. And I think i could really taste the difference! I ate it for lunch today. There’s some left, which I may have tomorrow, becasue as I said, I’ve got mashed potatoes cooking right now.

I am trying to think if I had any one-offs last week. I’ve been eating lots of bananas and oranges and dark chocolate. I made popcorn. I drink a ton of lemonade. We bought iceberg lettuce and I ate almost all of it. I have more, which I’ll eat tonight, I think. I ate oven fries (white and sweet) a couple of times, and some rice. I honestly can’t think of anything else. (I just asked the kid if he can remember, and he said, “Anything we could get our hands on?” LOL)

Achievement Unlocked

Another thing I’ve felt change, besides the muscle spasms disappearing, is I’ve been in a much better mood. I am bipolar and chronically depressed, and on medication for both. The bipolar med does well with the mania, but the antidepressant seems to do nothing for the depression. Add that to being overweight and unhappy with my that and ugh, a job (lol), and I am lucky to get out of bed in the mornings.

But for the last couple of weeks, I’ve felt so damn chipper. And I’m always wary of that, some because it might mean I’m having mania (I’m not), but also because I’m such a f*cking cynic, I’m always looking for the ulterior motive. Of my brain?! Is it pulling the long con on me? LOL Yeah. I guess I’m wary that all good things come to a end. All signs, though, seem to say that if I keep this up, things can only get better.

I’ve also been trying to work on my attitude. I watched a video for a motivation speaker and they said attitude is everything. And I know I have a shitty attitude. I’ve been cultivating my whole life, lol. But something has to change. I can’t point to anything I’m doing differently, except the things I’m doing as a result of feeling better, such as waking up earlier and cleaning the house more. But those things help me be happier. As for the diet aspect, I’m not beating myself up over eating crap and I don’t have that miserably full feeling I used to get when I gorged myself on fast food or pizza. Plus my clothes are just barely beginning to fit better (not digging into my belly as much), so I’m miserable at work for wearing jeans. That helps my attitude a LOT, let me tell you!

So I hope that an effect of being plant based is that your brain is happier. I wish people would focus on that instead of worrying about not getting enough protein (ugh). Kind of related: I also have a couple of coworkers with serious health problems, but I see them eat fast food and sodas every day for lunch. That makes me so sad. I am not preachy at work, but I do defend the lifestyle when confronted, and I do preach the benefits I’ve experienced and hope to have because of my diet. I really just want the results to speak for themselves, and when I actually do lose 100 pounds in a year, people I know get with the program.

Let’s Go Shopping!

Someone on a WFPB Facebook group I’m in just posted that they spent over $350 on a week’s worth of food and still couldn’t come up with a week’s worth of meals from it. However, they had things like 5 large containers of name brand coconut water, and we were all like, “no.” So I told them what I buy and stay around $75 a week. I want to share it with you.

When I was omni, we shopped at Publix, but it’s terribly expensive. Then we started going to Aldi and shopped there for about six months. I loved it but it still didn’t have everything I needed. So we went to Walmart. It’s slightly more expensive than Aldi, but has such a huge selection of food and the price difference isn’t that much. I have been able to get my weekly food bill down from $100-$120 at Publix (while I was omni) to $75 at Walmart (while my kid is still omni). Also, the grocery pick up service is so convenient. Here is an example of what I buy on a weekly basis, but I’m using this week’s order as an example:

Store brand almond milk, 5 lb bag of potatoes ($1.97 this week!), 3 lbs of sweet potatoes (they’re small so you get a few), 5lbs of white rice, 12oz each of lentils and peas (both less than a dollar), canned chickpeas and a tetra pak of crushed tomatoes, tofu, Gardein chick’n, a bag of pre-diced butternut squash, frozen Birds Eye veggies ($1 each!), 10 bananas, 2 bags of lemons, a bag of limes, store brand frozen stir fry mix, 28 oz organic coconut oil, a green bell pepper, 34oz natural Heinz ketchup, pita chips, and a mango. And on top of that, but still within the $75 budget, I bought things for the omni kid like chicken nuggets, a gallon of cow milk, breakfast Hot Pockets, and a huge box of fruit cereal bars. (He’s a work in progress.)

With this, I am going to make over the next couple of weeks: tons of oven fries (white and sweet potatoes), tons of rice, vegetable soup with lentils, pea soup, and some kind of soup with that beautiful bag of squash!, breakfast for a work week (the bananas, plus the clementines I have left over from last week), chick’n salads, and meals of chick’n, rice and veggies, smoothies (with bananas and some spinach from last week), oatmeal (with a huge container I got a couple of weeks ago), tofu stir fry (the kid’s idea – yay!), tons of fresh-squeezed lemonade (sweetener instead of sugar of course), hummus (that’s what the chickpeas and pita chips are for), and spaghetti sauce.

Now, I shop every week. I always need milk, bananas, lemons, gardein products and to restock veggies. But, lol, sitting here writing out all of my plans with this bounty, I can’t imagine what I’ll need besides those few things next week! Plus, I still have two jars of that chili I made Sunday. (I need to eat that tonight.)

I hope this helps give you an idea of how cheap it can be to buy mostly good stuff, and what you can make with it.

‘Tis the Season (of Food Everywhere You Look)

Today is Thanksgiving in the United States, and that means food. Lots of it. And it seems that most of it has some sort of animal product in it. My office had a potluck on Tuesday, and everywhere I turned something was off limits. Even the green beans had bacon in it! I had a plan and brought a container of chili and my trusty bottle of hot sauce. And the first person who asked me what I was doing I told them that I was not going to engage in discussion about my diet. But actually it didn’t go bad. The coworkers I sat near were very interested in my chili and one even borrowed my hot sauce, lol. I did actually find some things to eat, but I am not 100% sure they were completely vegan, like yellow rice and cornbread, and store made mashed potatoes. I can’t beat myself up over it.

Also, when I’m talking about work, one of my coworkers told me that my face looked thinner. I was very flattered. I don’t see it, but I’ll take her word for it. She and I had had a talk a few weeks ago, at our last potluck, when I told everyone about my new lifestyle. She was very interested and told me her son was a pescatarian. I told her about Forks Over Knives and the Instant Pot. Well, when she told me about my face, she said, “I’ll be joining you as soon as the holidays are over.” I don’t know if she meant plant-based or pescatarian or just a calorie restriction. But I hope I had some influence on her, and she does it a healthy way.

So to get on with the big day, what did I do about our feast? First of all, it was just me and the kid (who is 18 in case you didn’t know). His whole life, he’s not been a huge fan of the food traditionally served at Thanksgiving. He’s not a fan of roast turkday, hates cranberries and really hates stuffing (sacrelidge!). So when it’s just him and me, which it usually is, we go out to eat at whatever is open. But this year we stayed home. Becuase I had plans!

See, a few days ago I was at work, and the kid texted me saying he was going to buy a hamburger. I was like, “no please don’t!” and we went back and forth. I said, instead let’s go to Whole Foods and I’ll buy you a Beyond Burger and I bet you’re just as happy. He agreed, so that night we went to Whole Foods (only the second time in my life!) We found the Beyond Burger (not very well displayed, in my opinion), but the kid also found the hot buffet. So our plans to eat it that night went away. (I ended up eating falafel. First time for that, too, lol.)

So tonight we had the burgers. I sauteed some onions in coconut oil, then added the burgers to the same pan. I sprinkled some Tony Charcare’s and garlic powder on them. I cooked the for about five minutes on each side, until they had a nice crust. Then I had mine with the grilled onions, ketchup, mustard, and pickle. We also had oven baked potato wedges and iceberg lettuce salad with bell peppers, tomatoes, kalamata olives and store bought Italian dressing. But the burger – it was SO GOOD! And my kid? LOVED IT. He said if he didn’t know it was plant based he never would have guessed. So that’s a seal of approval! And I was full but not that miserable full that you get when you stuff yourself silly. I will never miss that. To round out our day, we watched Spiderman: Homecoming (which was amazing! I’m a huge Marvel fan.) and I ate two squares of Ghirardelli 72% cacao chocolate. I am still working on not overeating, thought, and becasue I don’t feel crazy full, I am still thinking about food. We have some potato left, so I might eat that. It’s been about three hours since we ate, and I’m not going to bed soon, so I probably will eat a little something before then.

So begins the holiday season! I hope you find your balance with food being offered at every turn, and make wise eating decisions!



I’m Only a Morning Person on the Weekends

I’m waiting for the text that tells me my Walmart grocery order is ready for pickup, and I have been berating myself for not posting in awhile, so here I am. I don’t have much to report, but I did want to talk about a major improvement to my body that I’m pretty sure has direct relation to my diet. Then I’ll talk about what I’ve been eating lately.

So the thing I’ve noticed about my body is that I used to be plagued with muscle spasms in my rib and abdominal muscles. They were as painful as Charlie horses. I would get them at work, in bed, when I tried to get up from lying down, and for no reason at all. I read it was probably from inactivity but I also read that people with MS get them around their rib cages (the “MS hug”) so I was kind of freaking out. I even went to my doctor about them. But in the last few weeks, I haven’t had one. And obviously I’ve noticed, because they were such a constant part of my life and a source of major pain. So I’m definitely attributing their absence to my change in diet.

Last Sunday I made another soup in the Instant Pot. I wanted something very stew-like, but I’m having a hard time finding things to thicken it up that does not include flour. I added a ton more potatoes, becasue I know that the starch in them will help. The soup consisted of: white potatoes, carrots, celery, white mushrooms, grape (smaller than cherry) tomatoes, onion, and garlic. I used Better Than Bouillion vegetable base, Tony Charchare’s, chipotle powder, garlic powder, bay leaf, italian herb blend, and basil. Pretty much everything in my cupboard. I ate two bowls for dinner, then put the rest in three liter jars for lunches.

For the other two days of lunches, I have been really into Frank’s Red Hot Sauce, which is pretty much wing sauce. I sauteed some Gardein Meatless Chicken Strips and coated them in the hot sauce, and made up two divided containers of that, frozen mixed veggies, and some brown rice. I had made WAY too much brown rice in the Instant Pot on Monday, so I ate that a couple of times for dinner, too.

I’ve been bringing two bananas and three clementines to work every day for breakfast and snacks. Then I’ll eat a small cup of peanuts as well. The peanuts are really good at filling me up.

For dinner, I ate the meatless chicken strips with hot sauce twice, and berry/banana/spinach smoothies a couple of times, and a couple of times I had peanut butter toast. I also ate sweet potato fries last night.

I’m still struggling with my salt and oil intake. The soup had a lot of sodium, from the bouillion and the Tony’s, and the peanuts and the hot sauce have a lot, too. But I’ve cut down the amount of peanuts I eat at work, and I try not to overdo it on the hot sauce. As for oil, I’ve been using Earth Balance Olive Oil spread on my rice and bread, and I cook with Organic virgin coconut oil. Not a ton of either, mind you, but I’m having a hard time with feeling like I’m missing something if I don’t. So I have to work on that. Let me know if you have any suggestions.

Yay, Weekend

It’s been a few days, I know. My diet has been pretty uneventful this week. A new thing I ate (twice) is a sofritas burrito bowl from Chipotle. I like it lot. I got with white rice, fajita veggies, guac and mild salsa. But eating that, along with the other things I’ve been eating (yam and potato fries, lot of peanuts and pretzels at work) means I’ve been ingesting a TON of sodium. And this is not recent. I’ve always had a salt heavy diet. I crave salty things more than sweet. And I love sweets. But like, I can eat a half a bag of tortilla chips no problem. And that’s not what I wanted from this diet change. I wanted less fat/oil, less sugar and less salt.

I’ve been pretty good on the sugar front. I am eating a lot of fruit (albeit in smoothies) and I haven’t had anything really sugary (like dessert or snacks) in a while. I don’t even crave sweets anymore. As for oil, the chips, of course. And I’ve been tossing my yam and potato fries in coconut oil before I bake them. I just don’t like that weird smooth texture they get when they’re baked dry. So yeah, I have to work on oil. But salt is still a major problem. Yesterday I didn’t bring lunch to work so I had two breaks where I ate a cup of pretzels each. Then I ate the sofritas Chipotle for a late lunch. For dinner I had a smoothie with mango, mixed berries, spinach, and almond milk.

So today I had oatmeal (no salt) with Earth Balance and almond milk. That was around 1pm, becasue I got up late, and then I just had two pieces of whole grain toast with peanut butter around 4? The oatmeal really filled me up, which it exactly what it’s supppose to do. I was feeling munchy, and the peanut butter has enough sugar that it satisfied that craving for a while. Now I’m home for the night, and I’m trying this snack I got as a promo called Vea. It’s Thai coconut flavored crispy sweet potato bars. They’re pretty good for a “healthy” processed snack.

My good deed for the day was cleaning the main living area of my apartment, which is a living/dining/sun room. And my kid actually cleaned the kitchen without complaint. We are so bad at housekeeping. But we threw on some music and got moving, and everything looks so much better now.