Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Verging on a Plant-Based Lifestyle

I've been going through a lot of ch-ch-changes over the past 7 or 8 months.  After smacking into some really bad lab results at my annual doctor's visit, I decided that I needed to start focusing on myself if I wanted to stick around and write for another 80 or 90 years.

Project Get Healthy began with me finally embracing my slagging gym membership.  I lost about 15 lbs just by working out religiously at the gym 2 – 4 times a week and watching my diet.  Watching my diet meant cutting out desserts and junk food and watching portion sizes.  I still ate all the food I normally did - chicken, fish, beef, Rice a Roni, Pasta and Rice Sides, all that good packaged stuff, and veggies/fruits.  Think: Your average American diet.

Then I had my second kidney stone attack in a decade.  I grew up knowing I'd be a chronic stone former, but I didn't have my first attack until college when horrible eating habits ebbed into exercise and high levels of stress flowed in daily lifestyle.  Oddly enough, this most recent attack came at a similar time.  I had just started correcting my health habits, lost weight, worked three jobs and kept a house and husband happy ...and a 8 millimeter stone decided to come on down.

Thanks to my awesome nephrologist, this caused a major diet change that is a prime contributor to my weight loss now, especially since I haven’t been able to work out as much lately.  (I hit the gym for the first time in 3 months yesterday.)  Not only have I maintained my weight loss, I've lost an additional 5 lbs. just by eating right.

Basically, I’m adapting into a Plant-Based, Nutrivore style of eating.  Note: style, not ‘diet’. 

How, my co-worker asked?  Here is my response:

The first thing you MUST do is STOP eating based on calorie counts.  You can eat a ton of crap a day and still maintain a calorie count – but those calories will be empty of nutrition. 

Start eating based on nutrient values.  Instead of looking at calories, look at carbs, good fats, fiber, vitamins and minerals in what you eat.

You’ll find that processed foods have had the nutrient values sucked out of them.  Refined flour and sugar are the worst.  High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) forget it. And avoid trans fats.  Jamie Oliver advises to stick to the perimeter of the food store where the fresh stuff is and avoid the center aisles as much as possible.

When cooking - Oils – use olive oil as much as possible.  Look for the fresh stuff – no trans fats.  Avoid vegetable oils.  Use a variety of spices – they have great health benefits and are better than salt.

This leads you down a road focused on fruits, veggies, seeds, nuts, grains as your primary diet.  There are arguments over raw versus cooked – each method has its worth.  The thing to remember about cooking veggies is that steaming them is the best and avoid using the microwave as much as possible.

Cutting out meat/animal products is a requirement for me, but isn’t necessarily for you.  Now, given what many studies have shown – that eating animal-based diets is harder on your digestive system and a main contributor to heart disease and cancer, you may start to rethink exactly how much meat/meat product you consume. 

And, ultimately, if you’re aiming for optimal nutritional value, you’re going to lean towards organic foods to avoid the chemicals associated with non-organic farming.  Yeah.  Big bucks – or at least it can be.  Trader Joe’s is pretty on par with Shop Rite prices and seasonal farmers markets help keep costs down.  I’m not organic.  My husband would kill me if he saw those shopping bills.  But I do seek to be aware of what is going into my food.

Now – digestive issues.  I know what you’re thinking: All these veggies are going to give me heartburn.  Trust me; I was heartburn queen before I started this diet.  Since then, not one case of heartburn.  To aid in any digestive concerns, try drinking a warm cup ofwater with a slice of lemon or lemon juice in the morning.  Lemon juice is a GREAT digestive aid.  So are ginger and chamomile – I like mixing the Rooibos Zingiber Ginger and Peach Tranquility teas from Teavana for a nice, comforting brew.  Remember: acid reducers, Tums, etc. are helpful – but ultimately  they’re killing the good acid and good bacteria in your digestive tract, which is only going to cause you more problems down the line.

Speaking of tea – go herbal.  Need a caffeine boost?  Try Yerba Mate dried (NOT smoked – too many carcinogens) it’s a heavier green tea that you can mix with any flavor and has as much caffeine per cup as a cup of coffee.  Black tea has a load of oxalates that can build into kidney stones, so it’s advisable to stick to Yerba, or Green Tea (10% of the caffeine of coffee) or herbal (no caffeine).  Herbal teas have the most health properties.

And take a multivitamin!

Some good resources:

http://caltonnutrition.com/nutrivore.aspx - Read their book “Naked Calories” for great facts on nutrients in food

www.theplanteater.com  references a number of great studies being done on a plant-based diet. 

Remember, the plant-based idea is a Biblical one.  Know the story of Daniel and Shadrach, Meshach and Abedigo?  They ate fruits/veggies/grains instead of the Babylonian King’s rich meats and wine.  In one week, they were healthier than the king’s men and Daniel won the favor of the King.  Yep.  Not to mention, Biblically speaking, the human race didn’t start eating meat until after Noah’s Ark landed on dry ground.  At the same time God permitted man to eat meat, He also cut our lifespan to a max of 120 years.  (Hence all those truly ancient folks living until 800 or 900 Biblical years…yeah…we don’t do that anymore.)

Whole Living Magazine (picked mine up at Barnes and Noble) has a LOAD of great easy recipes.  They’ve got a 21-day menu in the latest edition that helps you cleanse and break into a plant-based lifestyle.

Hope this helps!  Remember, it’s a lifestyle change.  Start slowly.  Incorporate things gradually.  You’ll find yourself having more energy and just feeling better in general – better health, better mood.  Your skin tone will also improve and your hair will shine.  And you’ll sleep better, too.

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