Coming off the Memorial Day weekend may be a good time to reassess how much food we ingested while celebrating our freedoms and the lives to secure them.
The terms vegetarian and/or vegan are not necessarily synonymous with being slender, ‘thin’, or otherwise lean. I have seen many a hefty person who is totally plant based. And, truth be told, there is such a thing as vegan junk food. Just because it says vegetarian or vegan does NOT mean it’s totally good for you. I make some great cookies that are vegan but if you eat a LOT of them, you can certainly pile on the pounds.
You’ll find that there are as many schools of thought about counting calories as part of a weight-loss/maintenance regimen as there are chia seeds in a tablespoon. You just have to do your research or homework to determine what works best for you. As obesity is epidemic and diabetes rates skyrocket, we do need to look long and hard at how to manage our diets to get rid of the excess weight and prevent the onset of diabetes. I’m no nutritional expert or registered dietitian so will never tell you what you should do. I WILL share with you what I do…I count calories (and other nutritional values such as sugar, fiber, protein and sodium) and have for the past 3 years. It is now a way of life. Initially, I was compulsive about entering everything that went into my mouth and could barely swallow something before rushing to the computer (or cellphone) to enter it. Thankfully, those days are pretty much over; I do monitor my intake but am not so crazed that if I miss a day, I get freaked.
ESTABLISHING A HABIT
That being said, it did take some initial compulsivity to keep me on track to lose weight. I was not obese but my BMI (Body Mass Index) was borderline over-weight. At 5’3”, it’s easy for weight to show and accumulate. Years of eating on the road had me gaining about 30 lbs…I mean, REALLY..when you travel to great places such as Seattle, LA, San Francisco, San Diego, Denver, Minneapolis, Portland Maine (to name a few), it’s only RIGHT that you sample and indulge in the best restaurants in the area and eat local delicacies—INCLUDING dessert. Not to mention that ‘after-work’ reward of a martini or two. Couple that with NOT taking time to exercise (there’s always an excuse) and it doesn’t take long before the weight is on you like a one of those lead aprons you wear when getting an x-ray. So, I went from a size 4 to a size 12 or in Chico’s terms from a 0 to a THREE!!
IT’S ALL ‘HER’ FAULT
|Shannon down 70 lbs|
When Shannon Hall (the ultimate culprit in my move to plant-based) decided to become vegetarian, the slow change began. I watched her be rigorous in her commitment to vegetarian eating (not vegan) and in making sure that she ate smart. She took on exercise, finding time even on 14 hour days to make it to the gym (as I watched and just shook my head). And as she did this, the weight fell off of her. Every time we’d meet to work together, which was often, there would be less of her than before. She lost and lost and lost and as she lost, she was more energized than ever. SEE! As of this picture, she'd lost 70 lbs with exercise and eating vegetarian.
I on the other hand, was stagnant, disgusted With wearing the same comfortable clothes (those LARGE Chico’s traveler pants and a blousy silk top) to hide as much of me as possible. I FINALLY saw a picture of myself (YE GODS!!) that threw me for a loop. THAT WAS IT!! And as embarrassing as it is, HERE YOU GO…
AND SO THE CHANGE BEGAN
So, I sorta backed into the counting calories…I knew what I weighed, I knew what I WANTED to weigh and then sought the best online (free) programs to help with that.
Ultimately, it was My Fitness Pal--easy to find with Google, Bing or however you look stuff up. Now, as free programs go, this is a good as any I’ve found but I’ll qualify that by saying that their search engine and capability to share recipes is VERY FRUSTRATING! For instance, when I’m entering a recipe that calls for a cup of a certain ingredient…the ONLY size I can find is like ½ tsp. How in the HELL do you figure that one out. OR…finding a food that you want to enter (such as vegan lasagna) and your serving size comes up as ‘a piece’. WTF!! I enter a LOT of the recipes I use because I tweak them with either more/less ‘stuff’ such as less oil or more pepper. BUT, I cannot copy them to Big Solid’s MFP (My Fitness Pal) nor can he import them. So he winds up having to RE-ENTER. Those of you who may be MFP devotees may be able to set me straight and that would be totally appreciated.
So, for me, counting calories works and is habit now. I know besides calories if I am getting enough of (or too much) other nutrients such as protein, fiber (enough) or fat, sugar, sodium (too much). I find cookbooks/recipes that do NOT include nutritional values and serving SIZE to be very irritating. But if the recipes are good enough, I’m still game. Over a year's time, I lost 35 pounds and feel better than I have in a very long time.
Bottom line is that you just have to explore what works for you. I'll tell you one thing though, no matter WHAT you do...when you start tracking the foods and the amounts you eat (whether you are counting calories or not), your eyes dang near fall out of your head. When you THINK you don't eat much....hmmm, it's a revelation.
Resources, Links, Sites and People
Starting with this post, I’d like to salute/acknowledge or otherwise offer up some of the sites and resources that have been meaningful to me. Instead of just listing a bunch like we have previously, I want to take one at a time and explore them a bit with you.
In our inaugural post, we noted Fat-Free Vegan http://blog.fatfreevegan.com/ as one of my ‘go-to’ resources. This blog is by a fellow Mississippian, Susan Voisin, and has some really good recipes. For those of you who are really watching the amount of fat you ingest, Susan does a terrific job of minimizing the amount of fat (if any) in her recipes. She is also very accessible and responds to questions, comments or general acknowledgement. Susan's Fat Free Vegan Kitchen is also found on Face Book at https://www.facebook.com/FatFreeVegan and of course, everybody on EARTH is on Pinterest.