This is a non food related post. It’s about my personal transformation in many ways

Awhile ago, I was having a conversation with a friend whom I had not talked to in a long time, but we are friends with each other on facebook. She said, “this is your year.”

I told her I didn’t want just this year to be my year.

I actually think this next calendar year will be even better! I have a lot planned for it. But really, I think each year can get better and better, considering all the things I have accomplished this year, and how much my attitude and mindset has changed!

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In 2013, starting in April (I’m not one to care about new year type things really, I need more personal reasons to make change in myself), I have gone from being very unhealthy with my food choices, to being a conscious, healthy (with unhealthy vegan food in moderation, which I personally feel is important) vegan. I have lost 65 pounds. I have made working out a routine. I have tackled many of my fears, for example, being afraid to run, math, making up my own recipes, etc. I have started this blog and though I don’t write in it as much as I’d like to or as much about what I want to write about, I keep up with it and do it. I have even improved my health in measurable ways, like my hemoglobin a1c levels, my bmi, my blood pressure, my cholesterol, and my iron levels (they were very low). I took on an important role in an organization I love and that empowers me and makes me feel all warm and fuzzy (Girls Rock). I have tried to make practice of being more creative and doing more awesome things. I am starting to work on having a better social life, something I’ve been neglecting to do for awhile.  I accidentally discovered a recipe I created two years ago was semi famous. And other awesome things I am forgetting or not putting a priority on.

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Next year though, I believe will be even better. I will graduate a college program, something I have been longing for a very long time but never quite achieved. That’s a big one for me. I would like to see if maybe I can win the contest to speak at my graduation, but that’s not something I can control the outcome of (I also think I might start bawling if I started to speak about all the things I’ve accomplished during my time in school. It’s one thing to write about it, but to speak it? heh). I will continue to write in this blog.  I plan to either start a new college program, or begin to work on my career goals. I will volunteer at an animal shelter (which I’m actually starting this year after finals hopefully). I will be a vegan for the longest stretch of time so far. I will continue to be a healthy person and have goals for that…including running a 5k by the time I turn 30 on my Birthday in October (or thereabouts), and starting to lift weights. I will have stronger relationships with my friends. Most importantly, everything about me will get stronger. My mind, body, everything.

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My mom and I! She’s a big supporter 😉

I am sharing this because maybe someone is reading my blog and is feeling badly about their ability to meet their goals, or get healthy, or change their bad habits, or whatever else. I want to inspire people, that’s my primary goal. Well, that and help as many people as possible. If 2013 is the year of the Laura and 2014 will be an even better year from what I can see and so on for the rest of my life, then other people can do the same thing! I don’t want to spew too many cliches. But really, believe me when I say that anything you put your mind to is possible.

Okay. Now here’s the part where I talk about what/who has helped me out when I thought I couldn’t do it. I’m not going to mention everything, but there are some clear, concise things I want to share that everyone can use if they want to.

Mostly it’s just support from other people. Like especially my mom, my aunt, my friends, mentors, doctors, etc.

Also myself, which I’ve already alluded to. Like really. It’s all about my mindset. I watch the Biggest Loser sometimes on tv, and I would tell myself I am my own biggest loser, as silly as it sounds. Actually it’s not really silly. It’s true. I did it without having to go on a tv show that’s actually pretty extreme and a last resort kind of thing. Or, I’ll be my own therapist sometimes, by anticipating the advice another person would give me, but instead it’s me giving myself actually helpful advice, and then just doing what the advice tells me I should do instead of waiting to feel bad I haven’t done it, or have someone else telling me to do it. Like today, I beat my own personal record for running. First of all, I walk and run in intervals, and I keep track of my progress with an app called Runkeeper. Usually I have been setting my activity to “walking” but today, I was like “okay I am going to run!” and set it to run. And I ran. I ran as far as I could for as long as I could, as fast as I could, until I needed to walk, and kept going for 45 minutes. Plus, I set a goal to run faster than my usual record when I was walking more. I wanted to go just under 13 min/mile. Instead, I ran 11:51 min/mile! I was proud and sort of in shock. But I am not surprised. If someone else could hear the awesome things I was telling myself while they were running, I bet they’d do just as well (considering some factors, of course).

Another final thing I want to mention, to make it more inline with the purpose of my blog which is spreading, sharing, and showing the awesomeness that comes with being a vegan is this facebook group I belong to. I really like to follow the work of Christy Morgan, author of the Blissful Bites cookbook, and awesome athlete/vegan educator extraordinaire. After commenting on one of her photos on instagram, she asked me if I belonged to her vegan ladies who lift facebook group. I was hesitant because I don’t think I am ready to be lifting weights quite yet, but she still encouraged me to join. And it’s one of my favorite vegan facebook groups! It is so supportive and everyone there is awesome. Not only do I get inspired by so many other strong vegan ladies, but I can also inspire others there. And it’s very informative and just…really cool for lack of a better description. So, I highly recommend it if you’re a vegan lady and interested in also getting stronger.

Okay, well, sorry this isn’t about food this time! But I hope this is just as tasty a read as any of my other entries. And I hope you were inspired in some way from my story. Here’s to having each year be the year of us for a very long time!

 

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Becoming a Healthy Vegan

I’m on a quest to become a healthy vegan. Becoming a healthy vegan may not always mean the person trying to become healthier needs to lose weight, but for me it has. I started out obese, and a doctor’s visit before I went back to veganism showed that my cholesterol was high, and so was my blood pressure (for my age especially, which scared me, which is why I started this quest right away after realizing it all). So far I have lost a bit over 50 lbs, and am really happy so far with my progress. I want to share some ideas I have about how people can become a healthy/healthier vegan, based on what’s worked for me and also what I’ve read about and the information I’ve absorbed.

As I like to say, often when talking to non-vegans about veganism, it is entirely possible to be an unhealthy vegan. People seem to think vegan = healthy or vegan=skinny but that’s just not true all the time.  Just taking a look at all the mainstream brands listed here that carry “accidentally vegan” products will give you an idea of how that’s possible (note: I’m skeptical that some of these are completely vegan, as some may have bone char sugar used sometimes, etc so eat these at your own risk).  Plus, vegan companies (and companies that aren’t exclusively vegan but market vegan products occasionally) are often devoted to veganizing non-vegan junk food staples.

My philosophy about becoming a healthy vegan though is to not give up too much more than what I have to. I’m already refraining from dairy, meat, and other animal derived products (for many reasons- both ethical and health-wise), so having junk food in moderation, or a good helping of pasta (like the cashew mac and cheese I made the other day) once in awhile isn’t going to totally hurt me. Especially if you look at the types of foods I’d typically eat when not vegan.  I mean, if you want to totally cut out all overly oily, starchy, sugary, types of snacks and meals all the time, and stick to just the healthy necessities,  then I commend you! But personally I feel like I will be too grumpy without indulging sometimes. It’s okay to have treats as long as I don’t go overboard or neglect other healthier and important food groups.

With that in mind, I try to eat at least 7 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, but really, I aim for at least 10! The most I’ve ever done in a day since trying to increase my consumption of fruits and veggies is 15 (but I counted 5 of them from my shake, so maybe that’s technically cheating?) I try to have well balanced meals with every main food group involved but that can be difficult especially because I personally can’t eat 3 large meals only a day…I need to have 3 medium sized meals a day at normal mealtimes and about 3 other small meals (basically snacks…but not always junk food snacks) in between or I get too hungry and irritable feeling.

So, you may have seen it on pinterest or my facebook page (which by the way you should like it here if you haven’t already!) but a little while ago I illustrated a vegan food pyramid to put in a post like this.  I’m really excited about it because it looks SO AWESOME. I definitely put a lot of love and time into it. It’s not a perfect nutrition guide, but hopefully it can give you an idea of what a vegan food pyramid would be like, and all the different examples of awesome food we vegans eat. It’s not a comprehensive list of all the foods in each group, because, uh, the possibilities are so abundant and always expanding and I wouldn’t have room for that on a 8.5×11″ paper… (my hands would’ve hurt 1,000x more too after it was “complete” hehe). Anyways, without further ado (Please click on it to see a larger, more readable size):

food pyramid

I can’t say I follow this perfectly every day, but I do make sure that I eat at least 7+ servings of veggies most days, and that basically everything else is met throughout the day. I just don’t necessarily make sure every meal is the way the food pyramid says to do it (I based/adapted my image off of a vegetarian food pyramid I saw on the back of a can of chickpeas). I have given up all carbonated beverages after reading in several places how horrible carbonation is for your body (never mind the artificial sugars or fructose syrup they’re often ladled with), only cook occasionally with alcohol (but never drink alcohol or do drugs!) and only have about 1 cup of coffee a day. These things are definitely good to keep in moderation if you  don’t want to completely abstain from them.  I probably should have had something about smoking and drug use illustrated too, because I don’t recommend that in order to get healthy either, but yeah! And I drink at least eight 8oz glasses of water a day (I’d rather get my calories from food, not drinks that neglect to make me feel fulfilled.) Also, exercise is so good for you! It helps me a lot with mood problems and has lots of other benefits for your body, such as ability to decrease blood pressure, lose weight, stay active and sharp-minded, have fun, reduce stress, combat depression, etc (the list goes on and on!)

In addition, there are some really great tools I have found. For me, it’s made sticking to my goals much easier if I track my food and exercise every day and am completely honest with myself about it. The best place to do it I’ve found, is a website sparkpeople.com. I love this site because not only does it have a calorie tracker, but it also takes some of the guess work out of figuring out a calorie range you need if you want to lose weight healthfully, has an exercise tracker and lots of exercise demos (both strength training and cardio), lots of ways to get support from people on the web (especially people like me trying to get healthy or trying to lose weight), message boards, health articles, recipes, etc! It can be a great way to get a fairly good idea whether you need to ramp up your B vitamins and other vitamins and nutrients because it keeps track of how much you’ve consumed through food each day. It’s the best. I recommend it to everyone who asks about what I’m doing or who talks to me asking for advice based on my success so far. The best part is it’s a completely free website except for the sparkcoach, which I don’t need or want…haha.

I also like some exercise apps on my iPhone, such as Runkeeper and Gympact. Sparkpeople has an app that is really useful, although that does cost a small amount to purchase from the app store. It has all the same stuff as the website has though, I just like it because I can track things on the go without having to go to the computer all the time.

Also, if you’re reading this as a non-vegan and want to know more about simply becoming a new vegan, here are two great resources I recently found:

Going Vegan Isn’t Crazy (Reader’s Digest)

Go Veg Guide (Vegnews Magazine)-for people ready (or who may need some convincing!) to take the Vegan plunge (in .pdf form)