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I have been eating a (mostly) vegan diet for almost a year-and-a-half now. I say mostly because sometimes I still like to eat cheese and ice cream, so I indulge.

In the last two months, I have allowed quite a bit of cheese to re-enter my diet – mostly because I haven’t felt well. When I don’t feel well, I don’t cook. And when I don’t cook, I default to things like cheese and crackers for meals.

I knew I didn’t like how it was making me feel, but I felt powerless to stop the encroachment of the cheese.

And let’s not talk about the bread and crackers that have re-entered my diet. (I like to say that bread is a gateway drug – the carbs in bread make me crave sweets like CRAZY!)

Sunday afternoon when I was feeling particularly weak and needed to just hang out on my couch (while my kids were raking leaves), I opened Netflix and got to looking at some of the things I have in my list to see if there were any that begged to be watched. I came across Vegucated and decided to give it a watch.

I obviously was already on the vegan bandwagon after watching Forks Over Knives, reading books like Eat & Run, Eat to Live, and Forks Over Knives, and talking to friends who were on the same path, but watching Vegucated put a whole new spin on things for me.

I choose to be vegan for my health. I truly believe that our Western way of eating is killing us. We eat entirely too much in the way of animal products and processed foods and that is hurting our health. I am not saying that a vegan diet is for everyone, but I do believe that everyone could benefit by cutting down on the amount of animal products and processed foods that they consume, and upping the amount of plant-based foods ingested.

Vegucated covers the health benefits of a vegan diet as it follows three people taking a six-week challenge to eat a vegan diet, but more importantly it encourages all of us to be educated about where our food comes from, and particularly how animals are treated in the process. It was eye-opening in a new way. It’s not that I didn’t know that there were issues in the industry, but to actually see some of the conditions in which these animals are kept and killed was heart-wrenching for me to watch.

Yes, my husband is a hunter. Yes, my kids and I just attended a hunter-safety course so they (and theoretically I) can hunt with him. Yes, our family (not me) eats what he hunts. And I am okay with that.

What I am not okay with is the harsh treatment of any being – human or animal – for the sake of the mighty dollar.

We don’t purchase much meat at the grocery store. We purchase beef from a family member who raises cattle. We purchase pork from a local farmer. When we can get eggs from people who raise them in town, we do. (Again – my family eats these, but I do not. How we manage to do that is a whole different post. đŸ™‚ )

It may not be much, but in these ways we try to make sure our money is not going toward the mistreatment of animals. (Or humans – but again – a different post.)

After watching Vegucated, I re-committed to the vegan lifestyle that I have chosen. No more cheese for me.

We all have to make decisions based on our convictions, and this is one of mine – to be healthy and to promote the well-being of others – whether human or animal.

Where do you stand on these issues? (Be kind – I will remove comments that aren’t.)

I haven’t worked out in over a month. The last workout I logged in DailyMile was a two mile walk and the Bikini Body Mommy workout for day 31 on October 2. The last time I ran was August 27 and it was a measly one mile. The last long run I did was eight miles on July 6.

Between football cheerleading season, getting sick, staying sick, sinus surgery and recovery, my life has been pretty sedentary the last couple of months.

And I don’t like it.

But I can’t change it.

I am still not up to exercise; I am barely making it through the days.

But I don’t like it. At all.

I feel lethargic. I feel down. I feel like it is going to take FOREVER to get back to where I was in July.

But I also know that I can’t push it at this point unless I really want to suffer an even longer setback.

So for now, I am focused on resting well, eating (mostly) well, and recovering well.

But December 1 is coming and with it comes another training schedule for my next half marathon – the Disney Princess Half Marathon in Florida in February.

And I will be back.

Because now that I have discovered how good I feel when I work out regularly, it feels pretty rotten to do nothing.

And I am not going to go backwards.

One of the hardest parts of completely changing your diet is breaking away from the “go-to” meals that you have been preparing for years.

  • Spaghetti and meat sauce
  • Mushroom steak
  • Any kind of meat put on a grill
  • Pizza
  • Tacos

These were just a few of the staples in our family menu. We always had the stuff on hand for them and could make them at any point in time.

So what happens when you decide that you are going to now eat a plant-based, whole foods diet?

All those “go-to” meals go down the drain, and you have to figure out what to cook.

When I made that switch about a year and a half ago, I spent hours researching recipes and trying various things. I still do sometimes just for fun because I love to cook. The difference now is I have that list of things that I can pull from quickly when deciding what’s for dinner.

And lucky for you, I am going to share some with you!

First of all, I have a list of cookbooks that I use and love (some of my favorite recipes in parentheses):

  • Appetite for Reduction, Isa Chandra Moskowitz (Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes; Black Bean, Zucchini & Olive Tacos; Cauliflower Pesto Soup; Kidney Bean & Butternut Jamba Stew; Pasta de los Angeles)
  • Veganomicon, Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero (Leek and Bean Cassoulet with Biscuits; Cauliflower and Mushroom Potpie with Black Olive Crust; Acorn Squash, Pear, and Adzuki Soup with Sauteed Shiitakes)
  • Forks Over Knives: The Cookbook, Del Sroufe (Quinoa, Corn and Black Bean Salad; Tomato, Corn and Bean Salad)
  • Quick-Fix Vegan, Robin Robertson
  • Fresh from the Vegan Slow Cooker, Robin Robertson

The last two are newer ones that I have gotten and I have a list of recipes I want to try, but haven’t gotten to them yet. I am particularly looking forward to the slow cooker recipes this fall and winter.

Then, I have created a Pinterest Board called Go-To Vegan Dishes. The only things on that board are things that I have tried and liked. I also have posted information there about substitutions for vegan cooking, because most recipes I find can be adapted to be vegan if I want them to be.

If you are considering an option like Meatless Mondays or even going all the way to a plant-based, whole foods diet, take a look at some of these tried and true recipes that I have posted and pick one to try for yourself. You will be surprised at how flavorful and delicious plant-based eating can be!

If you have questions about plant-based eating, feel free to ask. I don’t know it all, but I am learning more about it all the time.

I saw this and thought it was so hysterical and true that I thought I would share it with you all.

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It’s fall. Which means it is soup season. I love soup. The problem is, since changing over to a plant-based, whole foods diet, two of my favorite soups have been off the table:  Split Pea (with ham) and Ham and Bean. And I have missed them.

So last week I decided to go hunting and see if I could find some vegan alternatives that would give me the same flavor without having to add ham to the soup.

And I hit the jackpot!

Sunday, I tried this Vegan Split Pea Soup in the crock-pot. I even served it to my neighbors. It was great! The addition of liquid smoke gave it that meaty flavor without the meat, and the hearty vegetables were delicious.

Then Wednesday, I made this Vegan Country “Ham” and Beans, minus the seitan ham because I didn’t have any and didn’t feel like attempting to make any. I did it in the crock-pot instead of on the stove top, and I should have cooked it on high instead of low, because the beans didn’t get done and I ended up cooking it on high again Thursday for a few hours to get the beans done. At any rate, the kids and I ate it for dinner on Thursday and it was good. I added liquid smoke to it as well, to add that meaty taste. It was a little heavy on the sage, so I think next time I would cut that in half, and it needed more salt, so I would increase that.

So many people wonder how I can get by without meat, but these two soups are perfect examples of how our meals don’t have to center around meat to be tasty and healthy.

Fridays are supposed to be all about food and fitness on my blog.

The problem comes when I am not feeling very motivated in either of those areas and feel like I am lacking in information to share.

I have been sick for six weeks.

I haven’t cooked “real” food in about that long.

I have exercised sporadically – trying to keep up with the Bikini Body Mommy Challenge in the midst of being sick.

I haven’t been to the grocery store, other than to grab things like milk and bread in at least that long.

But there is one thing that has saved me from eating terribly – my local produce co-op.

Even when I can’t get to the store – I can pick up my produce bag every other week that is full of healthy options.

There is always fruit for my kids to snack on. There are always veggies that we can grab.

And that means that we are still eating (somewhat) healthily in the midst of my blah-ness.

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One of the keys to healthy eating is having healthy options available, and one of the best ways I have found to have these options available is to participate in the Community Helpings Co-Op  available in my area. I get a wonderful assortment of fruits and veggies every other week – and even get to try some new things that I might not have tried otherwise. The quality of the produce is amazing, and much of it will last the entire two weeks without going bad, which is much more than I can say for the produce I have purchased at grocery stores.

If you live in the St. Louis area, there is likely a co-op in your vicinity. Just check the link above for a list of communities that participate in the co-op.

If you aren’t in the St. Louis area, do some checking online and asking your friends. My sister in the Des Moines area has found Bountiful Baskets, which has locations a number of places around the country. My friend in Indianapolis has found Green Bean Delivery. There is likely something in your area that will help you get quality produce into your house for a reasonable price.

And having it available is half the battle.

The other half is just making the choice to eat it instead of processed, unhealthy foods. But that’s a blog post for another day.

I often get asked why I have chosen a plant-based, whole foods diet.

The answer for me is simple: for my life and health.

There is a history of heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes in my family.

Animal products contribute to things like heart disease and stroke. Eating more whole foods and vegetables are said to help with cancer prevention. Eating well and exercise help me to keep diabetes at bay.

But my real motivation is this: I want to be around to watch my grandchildren grow up.

I lost my paternal grandfather when I was two – cancer.

I lost my maternal grandmother when I was in eighth grade – an accident.

I lost my paternal grandmother when I was a senior in high school – cancer.

I lost my maternal grandfather when I was a freshman in college – cancer.

I have many friends whose grandparents are still living and an active part of their lives. I loved my grandparents and loved the time I had with them, but it wasn’t enough.

My kids have already lost one of their grandparents.

My theory about my health is that if there is something I can do to keep myself healthy and even potentially prevent disease, it is worth it so I can be around for my kids and their kids.

Yes, there are always things that could still happen – accidents, cancer, and more – but I can do the things that are in my power to do for my overall health and longevity.

Not to mention, my body is the temple of the Lord and I am called to care for it.

Not everyone shares my philosophy of health. Some say whatever is gonna happen is gonna happen and they can’t do anything to stop it. And maybe that is true.

But if there is even a small chance that I can do something to keep me healthy for longer, I am going to do it.

What do you think?

Overall health doesn’t come because we make healthy choices in one area of our lives. We have to make choices that encompass all of life. The problem comes when we try to conquer all of those choices at the same time. When we do that, we get overwhelmed and then we either don’t do any of them well, or we quit altogether.

So what are those things that we need to do to be healthy?

  • Eat better. Fewer calories. Less processed food. More whole foods. Less sugar. Cut back on breads. Eat more fruits and veggies.
  • Exercise. Do something three times a week for at least 30-60 minutes. Be more active in your day in general.
  • Sleep. Get at least 7-8 hours of sleep a night.
  • Manage stress. Find a way that works for you.
  • Don’t quit. Finish what you start. Keep going even when it gets hard.
  • Find a friend. Talk to someone about what you are doing so you have some accountability.

This is a place to start. If you want to get healthy, pick one of these things and start there. When you feel like you are ready to conquer the next thing, add it in. You will be more likely to keep going when you don’t overwhelm yourself at the outset. There may be a couple of things that naturally go together that you could start with. For example, you might want to adjust your bedtime so that you can get 7-8 hours of sleep and feel rested so you can set that alarm to get up a little earlier and exercise.

But whatever you do, do something. Always be working on your health. It is worth it. You’ll feel better. You’ll feel better about yourself. You’ll be an example to others. And in this day and age where we are surrounded by unhealthy people and habits, it has to start somewhere.

Let’s put these pieces of health together in our lives and start a health epidemic!

 

In case you live in a hole and have no concept of time, September starts on Sunday.

September. Of 2013. There are only four months left of this year.

And as fall approaches and we start craving pumpkin dishes, hot drinks, comfort food, and sweatshirts, we tend to slow down in our workout and healthy eating regimen that we have tried to maintain all summer long.

Why do we do that?

Because we can cover up our bodies with sweatshirts?

Because we are tired from the school-year activities?

Because the garden bounty of fresh veggies and fruits is done?

Because we are wanting to put on some extra weight for the cold winter months?

I really don’t know. But this I do know – being healthy is a year-round commitment.

It doesn’t help our bodies to gain and lose weight over and over again. It doesn’t help our bodies to get in shape for part of the year and then have to re-do it all over again because we quit when fall and winter come.

I always plan to run a spring race and a fall race (usually 1/2 marathons), but injury has sidelined me from running (for now), so the full marathon I wanted to do in October is off the table. Without the consistency of a training plan, I needed a new way to stay motivated.

A few friends and I started doing the Bikini Body Mommy 90-day challenge at the beginning of the summer. We have done pretty well, although the craziness of the last few weeks has caused us to miss a couple of workouts. It is a tough, but short, workout and we have really enjoyed it.

A couple of weeks ago we were trying to decide what to do next and we decided that we would just start the 90 days over again. Day 90 falls on September 2 and it happens to be the same workout as Day 1, so we said we would just start over again on that day. About two days later, the Facebook page for Bikini Body Mommy posted that they were starting a 90-day challenge on September 2. We took it as a definite sign that we had made the right call.

What’s nice about starting September 2 is that the finish is on November 30. It leads right into the holiday season. And after working for 90 days to get/stay in shape, odds are good that pushing on through December and January will happen. Particularly when a February race (in Florida!) is coming up for me.

So, that’s my plan. And with a little help from my friends, I’m sticking to it.

What’s your plan to get through the fall and into the winter without losing ground on your health and fitness goals?

Last night, I made stuffed peppers for dinner. Yum!

The thing is, I am the only one in my family that maintains a vegan diet. So I have to make two kinds. But I don’t want to follow two recipes.

So I used theirs. And made mine up as I went.

Instead of sausage, I used chopped mushrooms. And then added some navy beans. And that was the only difference between the two “sets” of peppers.

And I don’t know (because I didn’t try theirs), but I would guess that mine were better. đŸ™‚

That is the kind of cook that I am, I follow recipes somewhat, but if I see improvements or adjustments or substitutions that need to be made, I just do it. And fortunately for my family, it usually works great.

That is kind of what my workout life has been lately, too. Making it up as I go.

I got injured about three weeks ago and haven’t been able to run (AAAAAARRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHH!). For the first two weeks I couldn’t do anything because even walking throughout the day hurt.

That sidelined my plan to run my third marathon this fall, which sidelined my workout plan (a.k.a. training schedule).

So when I started working out again at the end of last week, it was my HIIT workout and walking only. And only every other day because I was still fighting the injury.

But that has made me re-focus my plans for the fall.

I have a new plan. And it may or may not look exactly like I think it will right now, but that’s ok, because life is all about adjusting to what comes and making improvements and substitutions as needed.

Kind of like my cooking.

What is your plan for caring for your body this fall?

I was reading this blog post the other day, which just happened to coincide with the final Biggest Loser weigh-in for the summer, and I was left asking myself if I have grit.

I would have described myself as having grit when I first started running again and got myself out of bed to go run, all by myself, and train for my first half-marathon, all by myself.

I would have described myself as having grit when I worked my tail off and lost nearly 50 pounds a couple of years ago.

I would have described myself as having grit when I trained for my first marathon through injury and illness.

I would have described myself as having grit at a number of points in my life.

But I feel like I have lost some of that grit recently.

A running injury has kept me down for two weeks now.

The last few days, every morning I wake up thinking I am going to do a great job with food and exercise today. And then I go back to sleep or eat something I shouldn’t, or too much of something that wouldn’t be so bad in moderation.

And every night I go to bed thinking tomorrow is going to be different and I am going to do better.

And then it happens all over again.

I have lost my grit.

And I am not sure how to get it back.

But I am going to get it back. Somehow. Someway.

Because I am not happy with the way things have been the last couple of weeks (months?).

Because I am not happy with the way my clothes fit.

Because I am not happy with my low energy level.

Because I am not happy being lazy.

Because I am not happy when I am not cooking healthily.

Because I am not happy with my current mindset.

Because I am not happy.

So here’s to finding my grit, and keeping it.

Have you lost your grit in some area? How are you going to get it back?

Oh, the things you learn as a Daughter of the King, if only you listen.

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