Monthly Archives: March 2012

Goin’ Veeeegan?!

I’ll cut to the chase. I’m a vegan.

Really, I’m a shocked as you are. I have, off and on my entire adult life, flirted with vegetarianism. I have vegetarian cookbooks, have “gone vegetarian” once a decade or so, and honestly love my vegetables.

But I also love meat, especially lamb. In fact, when I was a member of Leadership Boerne, I was given an award for being the only “lamb-eating-vegetarian” the group had ever met.

I’ve wrestled for years with how animals are treated in feedlots and after readingThe Omnivore’s Dilemma and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I can say with very few exceptions, I know the meat I have purchased has come from humanely treated animals. I’ve wrestled with the ethic of “dominion over all the earth” meaning that the earth and it’s creatures might not be here for us to consume and exploit. And yet, I’ve never been able to become vegetarian – for whatever reason, it hasn’t stuck with me.

Now, if you’re still reading, I haven’t gone all PETA – really, I was admiring some pretty leather handbags just this morning.

However, I have been reading about exercise nutrition for months. In order to get enough calories and the right kind of calories for my long runs, I started investigating protein and carbohydrate recommendations for distance runners. I learned a lot about nutrition and I knew some professional athletes are vegetarian or vegan, I wasn’t quite sure how that worked. What did they eat? How did they fuel their bodies?

And then there’s Lance.

I’ve had a long-standing admiration (some would say crush) for Lance Armstrong. I’ve spent many early mornings glued to the neighbors TV (because I didn’t get Versus) to watch him race and win the Tour de France. I have a Livestrong bracelet somewhere, and I subscribe to the Livestrong health newsletters.

And I follow Lance on twitter.

So in January or February, Lance tweeted about enjoying his Engine 2 breakfast and I thought, “What’s an Engine 2 breakfast?” So I googled Engine 2 because I care about Lance and had no idea what an Engine 2 breakfast might be.

Google came up with The Engine 2 Diet.
I learned that this handsome fellow, Rip Esselstyn, is a former professional triathlete, former All-American swimmer, an Austin Fireman, and a vegan. That was interesting on its own, but then I learned that in an effort to help a fellow firefighter, whose cholesterol was sky-high, Rip got his fire house to eat “plant strong.” They went vegan baby!

The firemen lost weight and their cholesterol numbers improved dramatically. The firehouse gained local and then national attention for eating differently, and the Engine 2 Diet was born. It’s based on good science, with good research to back it up.

Curious, I bought the Engine 2 Diet book, and read the stories, and made the choice to see what would happen if I stopped eating animal products, chose very low-fat foods, and learned to get my nutrition from vegetables.

The results have been amazing. The biggest change is that I feel energized. I’m not so sleepy in the afternoon, I wake up feeling ready to go. I’ve lost some weight, not the big 30+ pound weight loss you read about in the book but I don’t have 30 pounds to lose, and I already ate a fairly healthful diet before I switched. So the diet wasn’t a total shock to my system. But it was a pretty big change in my dinner plans.

I think President Clinton read The China Study, but I haven’t read it yet.

I didn’t go on the 28-day diet, I took on the dietary guidelines. t can’t say that I’m a “strict vegan” I have had a little bit of meat or fish here and there since I switched. I’ve got a freezer full of free-range organic lamb, and I’m going to help consume that delicious lamb. I still drink 1/2 & 1/2 in my coffee, but I mostly eat low-fat, delicious, plant-strong foods.

It’s funny, I’ve felt a little self-conscious about it all. I haven’t wanted to tell people that I’m eating plant-strong, or (gasp) vegan. Perhaps they’ll think I’ve gone off the deep end, or that I’m now really difficult to feed, or suddenly no fun to out to eat with, or somehow super fussy. Really, I just want to eat my veggies and be healthier. I didn’t take before and after cholesterol numbers, but I’m interested in getting my routine blood work next month, because I know my fat intake has shifted dramatically, and while my cholesterol was good before, maybe now it’s really good.

It’s also interesting to me that I’m a vegan because of the health benefits of a plant-based diet, and not because of an ethical disagreement with eating animals. I think I’ve come a long way.

I’ve made these twice and the second time I doubled the walnuts and craisins (I haven’t tried using raisins). The muffins are filling and healthful and I think they are delicious with a cup of coffee before I start my day or head to the gym.

Stop and go

I’ve written and posted a lot about my experience as a runner.  You might have noticed a significant lack of, “Yippee, I finished my marathon” posts.  In late January and early February, as I started what I consider my “really long runs” I started having pain.

I couldn’t sleep well because joints and muscles were complaining at night.  I felt pretty good during the day but when my body and mind had time to rest, the complaints came loud and clear.  Additionally, my run times were getting significantly worse.  I’ve never worried about being a slow runner, or even a slow walk/runner, but I was losing time in a big way.  On my 18 mile run, some of my miles were a full 5 minutes slower than regular miles.  It was grim.

My instincts told me I needed to stop trying to get to the marathon and listen to my body.  I checked with a friend who coaches college runners, and he agreed.  He told me that my base mileage wasn’t sufficient to support the marathon training.

Here’s what that means:

  • I was running 3 mid-week runs averaging about 10 miles total
  • I need to be running 3 mid-week runs that average around 20 miles total before I add on the marathon long runs.

I was under-prepared and my body knew it.

It was a sad, rainy Sunday afternoon when I sat down at my computer and cancelled my registration for the New Orleans Marathon.

I cried a lot.

But I also had the sense that I’d done the right thing, and that by listening to my body, I had avoided real injury.

Sometimes, it’s really difficult to do the right thing.  I had to put aside what I wanted to be true and just look at what was really true.  I had good feedback from my body.  It took weeks for all the aches to stop, but I am now pain-free.

My new challenge is now to start running again.  That seems ironic to me.  I struggled to let myself not run 22 miles, now I’m struggling to get out the door to do 2 easy miles.  Maybe I’m afraid they won’t be “easy” or perhaps I’m afraid I can’t really run 2 miles.  I don’t fully understand it.

Let's Go

Let’s Go

But sometime this weekend, I’m going to lace up my shoes, turn up the volume on my iPod and get a road-level view of the wildflowers.  Since my mileage goal is low – 2 miles with a rest break in between mile 1 & 2, it’s not going to take me long to do the run.  In fact, I’m certain that writing and publishing this post will take longer than that run.  But it’ll be a big run in terms of conquering fear, and I’m looking forward to a new beginning.