I'm Alec Smith, a Registered Dietitian, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, and owner of Feel Good Nutrition & Fitness. As an athlete myself, I understand the importance of a quality nutrition program and equally solid and consistent training program in order to reach one’s full athletic potential. Through research & real-life experience, I can help you find that potential.
Okay, so it actually wasn’t all that big of a deal. The first couple of days were kind of tricky, but that was on us. We hadn’t really planned it out too well leading into the vegan way of life. However, after we had things figured out it, we found it pretty easy to do. And pretty tasty too.
Tofu is the chicken of the vegan world. It doesn’t have much flavor until you season it. And it’s a great source of protein. And if tofu is the chicken of the vegan world, then tempeh (fermented soybeans) is the ground beef of the vegan world. And it’s heartier than tofu so it works in other dishes where tofu would not. And then there is seitan (pronounced say-tan) which touts itself as the ultimate “meat” substitute. And while I admit that I enjoyed this wheat protein, I didn’t feel it really lived up to its name. And since most of the questions I received were in reference to protein (in that, where did you get it from?), here is a list of the sources of protein we ate. And yes, we got plenty of it.
Tofu (love it’s versatility)
Nuts, nut butters, seeds
Soybeans (roasted these are an awesome snack)
Beans (we had a LOT of beans)
VEGA vegan protein powder (my post workout shake)
There are others that contributed in a smaller way, but these were the big ones.
What I noticed and my final takeaways:
It’s best to ease into this slowly. The increase in fiber is larger than you think and we um…. noticed. Things settled down after the first week though.
If you plan this out, it’s no big deal. This includes social situations. You learn after a bit what you like, what’s easy to make, etc. Just not all that hard.
You’ll likely save money. Meat is expensive, man. Beans aren’t.
It’s (probably) healthier than your current diet. We ate tons of varieties of fruits and vegetables and even found myself eating fruit and nuts for snacks and absolutely loving baked carrots. Perfect snack.
You eat more cheese than you think you do. We are cutting way, way back on this moving forward.
It’s easier to get your protein than you would think. See above.
The recipes we made were almost all really, really good. We will continue to make them.
We did miss traditional pizza, but did find ways around it. Shout out to WB pizza here in Indianapolis for their creative ways of making vegan pizza really tasty.
You’ll lose weight…. maybe….
Which leads me to the title of this post. Yes, I did lose 7 lbs in 30 days. Man, that sounds like a headline you’d read on a magazine cover of Cosmopolitan doesn’t it? But it’s true. Here’s the kicker though. I intentionally lost weight. This really ended up being a timing issue. Coincidentally, October 1st not only marked the end of our month of veganism, but it also marked the day of an Olympic distance triathlon I had signed up for a while back. And to prepare for the race, I wanted to get back to what I feel is my best “race weight”. I could have, and would have, lost the weight on any diet really. I simply cut back on calories (mostly from fat as I kept carbs high for training purposes) while simultaneously running, biking, swimming, and lifting weights each week. With the triathlon over (whew), it’s highly likely I’ll creep back up 3-4 lbs…. and that’s okay. Or maybe I’ll stay keen on what I’m taking in and it will stay down. And if you’re wondering how this weight loss was determined, I weighed in on my super cool scale here at my office on day 1 and weighed out on September 30th. Starting weight was 168.6 lbs and final weight was 161.4 lbs. And for the record, I weighed in today at 163.4 (scale tells me thats almost all water though).
Final thoughts here: Megan enjoyed it so much that she is done eating meat. However she will still on occasion eat seafood. This technically makes her pescatarian, or a vegetarian who still eats fish. As for me, I will eat meat again, however it’s pretty clear that I will be eating quite a bit less, and that’s fine with me. The biggest change back from being vegan will be my addition of cottage cheese, eggs, and Greek yogurt. And speaking of eggs, I picked up a carton at the store yesterday… and proceeded to make my tofu/bell pepper/onion/bean breakfast. It’s really good I promise.
At the end of the day, it wasn’t bad at all and I enjoyed many parts of it. I’ll keep many of the pieces I picked up during my time as a vegan and carry them with me moving forward. And I think that’s a good thing.
Yes, you read that correctly. And as of tomorrow (Friday) morning, I’ll have been vegan for a week. If you’ve followed me on here since… geez… I think 2010, then you know that me doing 30 day challenges is nothing new. I’ve done vegetarianism, intermittent fasting, etc. and none of them were a big deal. So when Megan suggested we both go vegan for a month I thought, “what the hell, why not?”.
So for those of you who don’t know what veganism is, it is essentially vegetarian to the extreme. Not only do vegans not eat meat or fish, but they also don’t eat anything that comes from animals, often referred to as animal byproducts. So that means no eggs, cheese, milk, yogurt, etc. So it’s a fairly restrictive way of eating, but one that also, when done correctly, can be very healthy.
If you were one who followed when I went vegetarian for a month, then you know that I did a pretty awful job on it. I gained weight. I gained fat. I felt pretty lousy.
Why? Because I intentionally did it in a manner in which I imagined a majority of the people who go vegetarian would do it. I picked up a bunch of processed, pseudo meat alternatives and other junk like that. I didn’t stick to whole foods very much. This time around, however, I’m (we’re) going about it in what I would consider the proper way. So far it has been very whole foods based with only a touch here and there of pre-packaged, processed stuff. So what exactly are we eating? I’ll break it down for you by meal and then I’ll offer up what I’ve learned so far, what I find easy/difficult, and how it has affected our shopping and social aspects of our lives.
So let’s start with what we’ve been eating:
Breakfasts: Now I’m an egg guy through and through and have them almost every morning, but obviously I had to make a change for this month. A normal breakfast for me is usually some peppers, onion, and maybe some spinach cooked up in a pan and then throwing in 2-3 eggs and putting that on a piece of Ezekiel toast and usually a bit of avocado and hot sauce or salsa. I know to some that might sound like a lot of work, but when you have things pre-chopped and ready to go, it really only takes 5 minutes or less. So my alternative was to simply replace the eggs with extra firm tofu. The texture and nutrition are pretty similar and it hasn’t been a big deal at all. In fact we made breakfast tacos the other day and if I’d had my eyes closed, or just wasn’t paying any attention, I wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference. This has been really easy.
Lunches: This also hasn’t been too hard, but mostly because our routine hasn’t changed all that much. You see, normally we plan out our dinners for the week on Saturday or Sunday. We make a list of what we’ll need for each dinner and then go and pick up the ingredients. We like to try and make dinners that have double what we can eat so that we can simply take the leftovers to work the next day. Same story here. We have just been, for the most part, bringing leftovers to work. Again, no real change here except for the content of those meals. So what are they?
Dinners: Just like I’m assuming it is with you, this varies all over the place. Some examples of what we’ve made so far include the following:
Bean and rice stuffed poblano peppers
Vegan macaroni and cheese made with macaroni, sweet potatoes, carrots, nutritional yeast, and a couple other ingredients. It was pretty good.
Vegan tacos (we also make a really good tempeh taco that we made even before we started this)
Beyond Meat, vegan burgers (again, we’d had these before too and they are solid)
We also ordered in one night from Papa John’s a vegan pizza. It came with tomatoes, jalapenos, red sauce and…. that was it. But thankfully the garlic sauce they make is vegan so that helped it out a lot. Also, we had balsamic glaze in the fridge and drizzled that on the pie as well to add some extra flavor. And you guys know I’m a huge fan of pizza, so this one was tough. Or should I say, hard to swallow? See what I did there?
Snacks: Full disclosure, I’ve lost 2 lbs in the first week. And I think a big part of that is snacks. I usually keep my desk and mini fridge stocked with fruit, Greek yogurt, string cheese, cottage cheese, nuts, and beef jerky. And since I knew we were going to be doing this, I hadn’t stocked anything in a while (most of it being on the restricted list) and I simply haven’t had anything to eat. So I just have been hungry during the day. However…. Megan to the rescue. She made this AWESOME trail mix with pumpkin seeds, roasted soy nuts, dried cherries and raisins, and walnuts. Methinks the scale won’t continue trending down anymore.
So what have I/we learned so far?
Planning and preparation are critical. It’s not so easy when you haven’t prepared and are limited on what you can eat. You can’t just order up carry out Chinese or pizza. It takes a lot more thought than that (finding the vegan Papa John’s was a chore. We tried other places first, but it was kinda difficult).
You learn to read labels… very thoroughly. I was at a convenience store this past weekend and was hungry. Normally I’d pick up cheese and nuts or beef jerky or something to that degree and be on my way. Might even grab a protein bar. That wasn’t the case this time. I was scouring labels to see if I could have a bar and none of them worked. I had been eating a lot of nuts and was tired of them, so I ultimately settled on a banana. This is just one example of reading labels, but you can imagine that our grocery trips take a bit longer these days. And this is also why simply buying and eating whole foods is better/easier.
Um…. fiber. There’s a LOT of fiber. I’ll just leave it at that
Social get togethers take some thinking through. And it also puts a strain on the others around you. We went to a cookout with friends last weekend and had a great time. Purdue even went toe to toe against the reigning Heisman trophy winner. Well we ended up losing, but it was, for once in a VERY long time, a good showing and fun. Anywho, we made the aforementioned Beyond Meat burgers to be made on the grill and they were great. However, leading up to the party was plenty of back and forth texting about who was making what and whether or not it would accommodate us. That kind of sucked because we don’t want to put anybody out or require any special attention. Just one of those things to think about moving forward should we encounter it again.
I’m sure I’m leaving some things out with this, but my computer just dinged and told me to get off my ass and go for a walk, which I’ll save why I do that for another post at another time. Thanks for reading!
With schools letting out and summer just around the corner, that can mean only one thing (okay, it can mean a number of things)….
This is a notoriously slow time in the nutrition and fitness business. And rightfully so I suppose. The weather is nice and lugging your butt to the gym to lift isn’t really very enticing now is it? Farmer’s markets are opening and offering up fresh, local produce (and pizza, tacos, guacamole, dog treats, pretzels, and wind chimes) so eating healthier is easier and typically more palatable due to the freshness of everything. People are also heading to the park and riding bikes and are, in general, more active this time of the year.
I also have been doing this now for just shy of 7 years and so I’ve witnessed how people’s nutritional habits/tendencies vary during different times of year. And they’re exactly what you might think they’d be. From Halloween until January 1st, our dietary intake is typically less than stellar. January to spring break is usually tidied up a bit with some not so great days mixed in there.
And then there’s summer. Summer is a mix of a bit of everything. There’s the aforementioned increased intake of fresh fruits and veggies, but there is also a lot of potato salad made with loads of mayonnaise sitting between potato chips and hot dogs.
So what do summer vacations look like? Well first let me tell you what I tend to hear from clients who are about to embark on a trip.
“Well we’ll be doing a lot of walking!”
“There will be a lot of fresh fruit”
“We’ll be near the beach so plenty of fresh fish”
“The hotel has a gym in it”
“We’ll be so busy we won’t even hardly think about food”
And the list goes on and on, but there is a single recurring theme to each of those statements….
And that’s cool in theory, right? I mean positive thinking is a good thing. And when you think about it, it makes sense too. Vacations are supposed to be fun, relaxing, getaways so the mood is a positive one overall. The problem lies in what I call the “screw-it-itis” syndrome. It goes a little something like this:
“Yeah, I could get the grilled grouper with a side of rice and pineapple, but screw it I’m on vacation! I’m getting the fried grouper sandwich with a side of fries and a margarita. I’ll get back to eating healthy when I get home.”
Happens all. the. time.
You know you’ve done it. I sure know that I’ve done it. So what do we do about it?
The answer, as is almost always the case, is it depends. However, some people respond well to, and this is typically the first place I go with my clients, but to remember the “why” they are on this health/weight/fitness journey in the first place. Do you need to come off medication? Do you want to be around to watch your daughter grow up and get married? Do you want to be able to complete that half marathon you signed up for in the fall? That “why” needs to be more important than that fried grouper sandwich and fries. There is a great quote by the late Zig Ziglar that reads: “The chief cause of failure and unhappiness is trading what you want most for what you want right now”. So by learning delayed gratification, you can really make the change. It just isn’t always easy. In fact, it almost never is.
So the post title is obviously about vacationing, but the meat of this post can be applied to any situation where you’re vulnerable to make a decision that isn’t helping you get closer to your goal. As a matter of fact, I’m looking out over my gym right this moment and I know I have a lift scheduled here in 5 minutes. And I gotta tell you I really don’t want to do it. I’m tired from my lift yesterday. It’s beautiful outside. I need to head home and do laundry/pack/clean for my trip to Chicago tomorrow. But you know what? I’m lacing up and doing it anyway. It won’t be my best, but it will keep the habit. And as a bonus, it will get me one step closer to a goal I set for myself. So I’m just gonna suck it up and bang it out.
“Dude, if I got paid what those actors get paid I’d be freaking jacked too!”
“I could get in sick shape if you paid me a million dollars, yeah!”
And I’ve heard plenty of others like this. It’s this sense that somehow money is the ultimate motivating factor in being in the best shape of your life. It’s what thousands of “challenges” offer up as their reward following a 30 day or 8 week weight loss challenge. The popular online program among the fitness industry, Precision Nutrition, gives away tens of thousands of dollars annually to their clients who excel in losing fat or getting into better shape. Hell, I personally know a couple who owns a very successful gym out in California who, at the end of the challenge they ran, awarded the top winner a weekend stay on Richard Branson’s private island! After hearing this I asked one of them why they would go to such an extraordinary length, to which the blunt reply was “because we don’t f*** around”.
Well alrighty then!
But all this got me to thinking “why”? And at first glance that seems like a stupid question to ask, doesn’t it? It’s freaking money after all! And there ain’t isn’t such a thing as too much of that is there?
But I decided to think a bit deeper. Go beyond the obvious. You see, in my line of work it is really important (scratch that, it is crucial) that I find what motivates each individual client. And you already probably guessed that it’s different from person to person. And you’d be right. But did you know that there is more to the story? It involves looking at the situation from both an external motivational standpoint and an internal standpoint as well. And what we know is that long term adherence to something like, say eating well and exercising, is correlated not as much with external motivators as it is with internal ones. Now this is probably a bit of an oversimplification, as it will no doubt vary from person to person, but overall, the internal motivators are what I’m looking to get to. Sure, external ones such as money or a trip to an island are great in the beginning, but the shine or luster wears off after a while. And that usually occurs before we’ve had enough time to develop the habit.
“What would your life look like if you lost 50 pounds?”
“So you’re looking to lose ‘x’ amount of weight. Why?”
These are just a couple of questions I ask my client’s regularly. They may seem kind of dumb to you, but they are really important. Most people come to see me because they step on a scale, look in the mirror, or need to buy new clothes because the old ones don’t fit. Or maybe their doctor told them they need to lose weight. That one comes up quite a bit too. But aside from the doctor recommendation, those are really more about vanity than anything else. And not that there is anything wrong with that. AT ALL! Hey, we all want to look good naked, right? But long term success rarely results from just wanting to look good. There just isn’t enough pull for it to last longer than say, a few months. That’s why you see 21 day fix, and 90 day whatever challenges. You don’t see many 730 day challenges do you? And that’s because no one can jam on the gas pedal that long. But 21 or 90 days isn’t enough to establish habits for most people either. So my challenge is getting to a more internal motivator.
Often times I ask the “so you’re looking to lose ‘x’ amount of weight, why?” question at the end of the session. And I then tell them to really think for a long time on it. Don’t just blurt out the first thing that comes to mind because that usually goes back to vanity. And what I find when they come back to me a week or so later is that they’ve found the actual reason. It’s not to look good or because their doctor said so. Here are a few examples:
“I need to be there for my grandchildren”
“I want to watch my kids grow up and get married”
“I won’t live past the age of ‘x’ if I don’t change”
“My dad died of a heart attack and he wasn’t even 50”
Is the theme starting to sound familiar? Sure, looking good is great, but the real reasons hit home hard don’t they? That’s why I have to keep Kleenex on my desk. Many of my clients end up crying at the thought of what might happen if they don’t change. And I also know this:
Win the heart and the mind will follow.
The mind can easily create logic to justify
what the heart has already decided.
So I’d like to pose a question.
Why is it that money is this big motivator in the weight loss industry? Is money really more important than your health? Your spouse? Your kids? Why not change for them instead of something that, according to The Notorious B.I.G, only causes mo problems anyways? Why not do it for you?