Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A new path: I've gone Vegan~

A close friend of mine recently recommended a book to me that would, in effect, change the path of my life forever--for the better. The book is Alicia Silverstone's The Kind Diet which tells the long and sordid tale of the journey of food from source to our table--to be specific: meat, dairy and eggs. I'll leave the details of the book for it's author to share with you but suffice it to say that my heart was moved after reading merely the first chapter. Alicia had gotten my attention and had called me to action. I not only decided to become a vegetarian but to take it a step further by making the bold move to become vegan.

A high school friend asked me, out of sheer curiosity, what moved me to make a decision so "late" in life (That's my paraphrasing of his question, by the way. He was much more gracious than to word it like that and we are still spring chickens afterall...ugh...poor choice of metaphors for this subject though). It was a good question though. My family has, afterall, been very careful to eat healthfully and to make good choices such as eating whole grains, lean proteins and limiting sugar intake. While we aren't heavy meat eaters and often eat vegetarian dishes we did eat chicken, fish, pork, and beef with fair regularity. This healthy way of eating was impressed upon me early as my mom and stepdad cooked healthfully and introduced us to non meat products such as "Tenderbits--" a rather delicious faux scallop-ish sort of...well, stuff. My mom would toss rolled oats into her chocolate chip cookies accompanied by much teenage EYE rolling from me. But the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, no matter how hard the apple tries to toss itself when it's going through it's teen years. I matured into an adult who was mindful of what she ate and what she prepared for her family.

Still, though, we ate meat.

I'd always wondered what it'd be like to become a vegetarian but never really had the motivation or the gumption to try it out on an exclusive basis...until I read The Kind Diet. The friend who suggested the book has been a vegetarian for years as a result of her strong feelings against the harsh treatment of animals. Both of us had an awakening upon reading the book and have had several discussions with eachother about it. There was not a doubt in my mind that I wanted to do my part to make a difference. With mild concern over the fact that this was a lifelong, long-term decision with no lookin' back and a few thoughts of "Oh my gosh, am I really going to be able to do this thing," I mustered up my gumption and plunged myself into the world of becoming a vegan and in learning exactly what that means.

I'm still learning. I feel like a sponge. There's so much to read up on, so much to find out about, so much to research and plan. My basic plan is that I don't eat meat of any kind nor do I eat any dairy products or eggs. I also, in keeping with the plan of doing the best for my health, limit to a bare minimum any kind of refined flour, sugar and also artificial sweeteners. As a vegan, I'm choosing not to use any product that has been tested on animals or contains animal product. This is where the research comes into play--where I'm really having to do my homework. I need to be choosy about what cosmetics and skincare products as well as which laundry and pet products I purchase...clothing, bedding, everything!

Vegetarianism and Veganism is not a game or a contest for me. My reasons for choosing this path are very personal and hold great meaning and value to me. I'm not looking to earn any kind of brownie points by labeling myself as a vegan but am trying to improve upon my health, my athletic performance (several elite athetes, including Ironman Triathlete Brendan Brazier, will testify as to it's astounding effectiveness), and to do something positive for our environment as well as to take a stand for all animals. I'd recently been dwelling on the fact that 'we shoulda bought a hybrid!' type of thoughts but an interesting fact I recently learned is that you more effectively and dramatically reduce the amount of emissions by becoming vegan than by buying a hybrid vehicle! What a strong stance we can take--and truly make a positive difference--while doing something great for our bodies at the same time in making this choice. But I want to live and lead by example...not by brandishing some sort of "I AM VEGAN" badge. I want to walk the walk...you know?

It helps that I already love fruits and veggies, brown rice, whole oats and other whole grains, beans and tofu. Matt and I were already drinking green smoothies too. I found a wonderful vegan whole wheat pancake recipe this past weekend. My biggest adjustment, truly, has been in how I take my coffee. I've always really looked forward to it as my sweet and creamy treat...with a couple of Splendas and a couple of T of half and half. It took some adjusting but I'm enjoying my coffee with Stevia and I alternate plain coconut milk with almond 'milk.' I'm getting used to the actual taste of COFFEE. Don't know that I will EVER take it black like my husband keeps trying to get me to do (bleh) but I never say never. :D That's something else I learned from Alicia's book: eating dairy actually leaves a coating on your tongue that inhibits your taste buds from realizing their full potential! Flavors come alive once you cut the dairy out!

Enhanced flavor is just one benefit. I'm hoping to realize many health benefits but we'll need time to provide the answers in that experiment. It's been shown to reduce if not eliminate allergies, cancer, all sorts of baddies! After only two weeks, though, my middle (as in my core) is really started to tighten up! I feel tighter and lighter. When I look at my face in the mirror I can see a vibrance. My skin's in excellent shape! Plus, I just feel super~ Some of you might say, "Well, YEAH, Lisa. You're eating nothing but veggies! You're going to shed some excess!" No, dear friends, I'm eating whole grains, fruits, beans, natural peanut butter, nuts, soy products and the occasional creamy soy desserts (like Tofutti). I haven't been counting calories but I can tell you that I'm in touch enough with that subject to know what I'm taking in and it's pretty close to what I was consuming in calories before my switch. What's different is the content. WHAT you eat DOES make a difference. I can feel it. Matt and I had already started actively listening to our bodies in terms of what they need; we cut out alcohol entirely (we were only occasional wine or beer drinkers anyway) back around Oct or November because of how even one drink left us feeling. This pathway into veganism seemed a natural part of this flow for me.

So, I'll keep you posted on my journey. It's not a diet (I don't like that word anyway). It's a complete life change. I'm not here to judge anybody for their choices or eating habits...only to provide feedback from my own experiences and to share with you if you'd like to hear it. Would love to hear of your experiences as well. I commend anybody for ANY amount of positive change they can make to their eating habits. Going full tilt boogie on becoming a vegetarian or vegan may not be how you want to go. Perhaps you want to dabble around in it a bit. I don't think ANY of us should be judgemental...neither those like myself who choose the vegan or vegetarian lifestyle nor those who maybe have incorporated some elements of vegetarianism but who haven't embraced it fully. We are all different with different sets of circumstances, feelings, goals and outlooks. But any amount of change that we can make to positively and kindly impact our world is a wonderful thing~

As always,


Thursday, April 8, 2010

Part 2: The other side of the coin

I wrote last time about the responsibility we parents have to teach our children that they are of supreme value no matter what exterior package they find themselves wrapped in. I talked about the importance of not focusing on "I need to lose weight" or "I'm fat" dialogue but looking for and eminating a positive self image. Our children mimic what we do. They look to us, follow our lead and live according to the lifestyle they've lived with us. All of that is an unbelievably important part of helping your children develop a positive self image for themselves. That being said, the second part of the equation touches on our obligation to train up our children to be active individuals.

If we sit around on the couch all day eating crap food and playing video games our children are going to learn to do the same. It's one thing to take the occasional time out and enjoy some gaming but another to make that behavior a habit. It still amazes me, too, at the continuous stream of people I'll witness circling a store parking lot to get that close parking spot when they could have parked a little distance away and walked into the store in a quarter of the time! People look for whatever shortcut they can to avoid walking, jumping, bending, stooping...it's a sad state to be in. We were created for so much more. We were created as strong, able individuals. No, we don't have to gather our food (well, some do!), build our domiciles and rummage around outside for any of a number of natural materials to create any of a number of necessities. But our bodies are still such that we DO need to take care to be creatures of movement. Inactivity=unhappiness and poor health.

As a substitute teacher I have the priveledge of working with a large number of children. I've actually been blessed with the opportunity to sub P.E. on a fairly regular basis this school year. We had the opportunity to talk about the importance of playing outside and of being active. Many children willingly and candidly offered to the discussion the tidbit that their families sit around at home and do nothing on a regular basis. Most of you from my generation (70's and 80's) remember how we'd be cut loose to run around and play outside from the moment we finished homework until the sun went down. As a family, we'd ride our bikes around the neighborhood, go for hikes at local parks, jump the waves at the beach, play croquet and toss around a Frisbee. My home was one centered not so much on organized sports but on the arts (which I'm also passionate about). I didn't get into sports until I jumped into soccer--and then added crew--in high school. But even my art-centered family recognized the importance and value in movement and in finding an outdoor activity that is FUN!

That's the key, my friends. You must find activities that you and your family enjoy doing and then, well, you've got to do them...REGULARLY! True, I'm an athlete and I enjoy running, biking and swimming. I enjoy participating in 5K runs, half and full marathons and triathlons. While these goals may seem lofty for some of you, I think you'd be surprised by how attaintable they truly are. I also realize, however, that running is not everybody's 'bag.' I AM pleased that our entire family is participating in a 5K together this coming weekend (it'll be our girls' first; our son has already finished several) but there are other things we like to do together to stay active.

Take this week--Spring Break--as an example. I haven't done my first run this week and I've been off from both jobs. But we've been super active all week. Monday we went to a nearby park and went letterboxing. This involves lots of hiking around while following clues to find a 'planted' hidden package containing a rubber stamp. We hiked around for a good couple of hours. Tuesday we went to the beach and jumped some waves followed by another hour of letterboxing at a park in Cape Canaveral (which just happened to include an exercise trail! Right up our alley!) ;) Yesterday we relaxed at home for awhile then, inspired by our favorite scene in Twilight, headed off to our local baseball park to play family baseball. We blasted our Twilight soundtrack out of the truck. Muse's Supermassive Black Hole always makes me feel, now, like I'll bust onto the baseball diamond with excessive speed, vertical leaping ability and a throwing arm that'll send a ball a mile down the road. Vampire superpowers aside (we don't really have them, hehe), we had such a great time that we found ourselves glued to the diamond; we played a 1/2 hour beyond the time limit we'd set for ourselves! We hadn't even driven away when everybody was saying, "Let's do this again tomorrow!" (and boy was it a workout).

Regular exercise results in such a feeling of peace. Those endorphins kick in and make everything feel peachy. Stress melts away. You're able to better DEAL with any stress that attempts to flutter its wings at you. You sleep sooo much better. With proper nutrition (another critical key we'll touch on later) exercise helps your body maintain it's proper balance, shape and level of ability. My friend Shelly and I really love Nike's longtime slogan: "Just Do It!" I'm a firm believer. It's so easy to make excuses and to let one day of inactivity merge into the next. Before you know it (because we all know how blasted quickly time passes) you AND your children have had several years of experience as professional couch potatoes.

FIND SOMETHING (S) YOU AND YOUR CHILDREN LIKE TO DO TOGETHER that involves movement! Try different things. I've mentioned several. If you're lucky like we are to live in Florida you've got water everywhere! SWIM! We have our own pool and, in the summer, we live in it. If you don't have your own pool there are lakes and public pools and beaches everywhere. Play ball: baseball, basketball, kickball, soccer, football. Play catch, toss a frisbee. There's a great game that we have and love to play called "Cosmic Keepaway." Look for it at your local Wallyworld or Target, etc. Run together. Change it up. No need to do the same thing all the time. Keep it fresh but JUST DO IT! If you've been doing this, you know exactly what I mean. If not, you're heart will be warmed by the quality together time it provides for you and your family. Not only will you be setting your children up for a positive lifestyle and self image but you'll be doing YOUR body and mind a world of good!

By the way, BeachBody has a couple of fun workouts for children. We have both of them and do them from time to time together for fun. Shawn T put one of them out and it's part of his "Fit Kids Club" and the other one seems more geared toward smaller children (like preschool, k and 1st). It's by P90X's Tony Horton and it's called Tony and the Kids. Pick these up from my website in the BeachBody store by logging onto http://www.beachbodycoach.com/LisaErin

Keep it fun! Keep it positive! Keep the movement flowing~

As always, I welcome comments and am here for you if you need help or encouragement or just want to exchange ideas.



Friday, April 2, 2010

Do your children a favor...STOP talking about losing weight!

What, Lisa? You want me to take the focus off of losing weight? I didn't say that at all, dear friends. What I'm talking about is this continuing stupid cycle of placing so much focus on 'being thin.' We still talk all the time of needing to lose weight; we obsess about how we used to look and how we really need to lose 10, 20, 30 pounds or more. What's worse is that people--usually moms--make these dreaded comments in front of their children. Wake up, folks! If you're guilty of doing this then you're part of the cultural impact bombarding our children with the desire and need to fit into a particular (ie: skinny) mold in order to be of worth and value. Time to man (or woman) up to the part we've played in this horrible situation and do something positive to change it.

I suffered from an eating disorder in high school. It's a lurking, secretive, horrible burden to bear. Let it be said that I didn't fall into mine because my mom obsessed about weight (she never did...she was always awsome about helping us discover our beauty within and for praising us for who we were and not what we looked like). I fell into my problem for other reasons--I tend to be a perfectionist and, I believe, a bit obsessive compulsive. Who knows why? Genetics? Life situations? It's anybody's guess. Go to this website for some good, basic info on eating disorders: http://www.eatingdisordersonline.com/eating-disorders-statistics

Our children are not oblivious flies on the wall. Just yesterday, I was talking with a friend about how intuitive and adept at observation children are. In other words, they don't miss a beat, people. They catch your miserable glances at yourself in the mirror. They quietly listen to you complaining to your friend about how 'fat and bloated you feel,' about how you wish you were as skinny as you used to be and about how you're just going to starve yourself and work out like crazy to lose that weight. Then, they file that info away into the recesses of their brains and they store them in their hearts and these tidbits become the foundation that will haunt them forever. Raising an American Girl (a great book, by the way) talks about how these types of comments make girls feel that the natural changes their bodies will be going through are unwelcomed and something to fight. Boys are not immune to eating disorders either. Many, many suffer.

Many folks DO need to change their incredibly bad habits related to their eating and lack of exercise and, the truth of it is, so many folks (Americans in particular...we ARE so flippin' fat!) need to lose weight! The key is in placing the focus not on looking a certain way but on being healthy...being healthy so that you:

~FEEL great

~have energy to do the things you want to do and play with your children!

~decrease risk of diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and all sorts of ailments

~live, God-willing, a wonderfully fullfilling and healthy long life

~be strong enough to function in life--lift things, climb flights of stairs, carry packages, etc

~ maintain Joie de Vivre!

If you ARE overweight then you do need to formulate an action plan to get healthy. There are lots of 'skinny' folks who are terribly unhealthy, though. People all over this country could stand to look into eating clean and getting active. Place your emphasis on goals such as those above as opposed to 'being skinny/think,' looking a certain way and on losing weight. You can make your journey toward good health a family affair. Tell your children that you're tired of being too tired to run and play with them and that you're making some changes so that you can enjoy the great outdoors together! Make a point of saying positive things about yourself and about your children...and PLEASE! Do not continually compliment them on 'how pretty they are,' or 'how thin they are.' Tell they you're proud of how well they read, how well spoken, well-mannered or respectful they are of others. Let them know you think it's awsome that they did 5 pull-ups at school when they tell you about it (and if they don't, ASK them what they've been up to in P.E).

Drop me a line if you need encouragement and direction. You can leave me a message here, find me on facebook (Lisa Fitzgerald Amos) or email me at Lpebbles2@aol.com. My BeachBody website www.beachbodycoach.com/LisaErin is loaded with tools to help you get and stay on track (such as a BMI calculator to give you the proper info on how much weight you actually need to lose and a calorie calculator to assist you in setting up a successful eating plan). Our children absolutely love getting active with us...be it a run outdoors (we're all doing a 5K road race together next weekend) or one of our BeachBody workouts to name a few.

Do your children one of the biggest justices you possibly can by checking your 'diet' and 'weight loss' talk at the door and focusing on being healthy, happy and fully enriched by togetherness, relationships, art, music and all that jazz~~~♫♪~~ Until next time...~~slainte!~~