Tag Archives: health

Kino MacGregor: Extra Stretches for Hips and, On Having Bratitude

7 Jan

Oh buddy—jackpot. Just watching this made me hurt, but sort of in a good way. While my room is warming up, I decided to check youtube for any new Kino videos to inspire me to ACTUALLY FUCKING PRACTICE in my bedroom. I have been sulking and missing my yoga room in Las Vegas. Well, welcome to reality, Sunshine. There’s no yoga room anymore! Do I want to give up my Ashtanga practice simply because I am having bratitude (Bratty Attitude) about my smaller, pared down new life? I keep mentally whining that my room’s too small, it’s too cold, I can’t breathe, I’m too tired, blah blah blah. I haven’t even tried yet.

The take home message? I have been kind of a wreck without practice. I keep waiting for the Mysore sessions to resume at the studio close to my house and they seem to have entirely disappeared. And I’m broke anyway, so it’s not like I could immediately buy a pass. I keep reading all of the Ashtanga blogs I follow with sighs of longing…just do it already!

 

Acid Reflux and Ayurveda: Pitta Party

15 Sep

When I was in my 30’s and drinking like a fish with a death wish, I had HORRIBLE acid reflux. My alternative doc sent me home with Mastic Gum capsules, probiotics and DGL lozenges and it worked like a charm. Behold, Pistacia lentiscus AKA the Mastic tree (thanks, wackipedia!):

I actually can’t remember the last time I had reflux, but I have many friends who struggle with this. I was curious about what Ayurveda would have to say about acid reflux, so here are some links and videos if you are interested. Of course, I am not a doctor; I’m just a very curious layperson who loves Ayurveda and who happens to do a lot of nutrition-related research for a living at my day job. I don’t advocate any particular kind of treatment, but information is always helpful. And where else will you get Ayurveda, health and heavy metal in the same blog? Freaking nowhere, man!

Dr. Partap Chauhan on acid reflux–a little more nuanced discussion of the possible combinations of problems that cause acid reflux and dosha imbalances. The first part is cheesy, but the good stuff comes starts at 1:10 :

Simple Ayurvedic home remedies for reflux–I’m a (shhh don’t tell anyone) vegan, so I can’t vouch for the milk cure. However, I bet you could just substitute almond milk for all of you Pittas out there:

John Doulliard, MD and Ayurvedic practitioner, with a few videos on acid reflux and digestive imbalances. He has some good books about Ayurveda (including co-author of The Yoga Body Diet). He also has a few DVD’s about Ayurveda for Gaiam that are simple and straightforward:

Vasant Lad has a PDF document that talks about food combining from an Ayurvedic perspective; there’s all kinds of helpful things on this page: http://www.ayurveda.com/online_resource/index.html

Your Body Is Not A Wonderland, It’s A Wasteland

9 Aug

I’ve been thinking a lot about the very Western fascination with “detox” lately and way it intersects with yoga practice. I have mixed feelings. The health food freak in me (hey, I worked for Whole Foods Market for 17 flipping years—I can’t help it!) likes the idea of organic produce, lots of water and green juices/smoothies. Then part of me is like, why not all of the time? Why do I need to “detox” just so I can “retox” at a later date? My biggest so-called-“vices” are the occasional bag of Pop Chips, vegan pizza and coffee. If I’m in a situation where other people are drinking “festively”, I have been known to drink Diet Coke. Burn me at the stake! I saw an article on Elephant Journal the other day with a pic of what happens to your innards when you drink soda that nearly made my eyes bulge out. I got this image from the blog littlebitbetter.org:

It’s obvious that eating, drinking and slathering your body with lots of toxic crap is not practicing ahimsa. Hurts you, hurts the environment, hurts other animals and humans. But the hysterical prudishness and rhetoric behind most of the “Detox” diets, websites, books and e-books just leaves me with a bad, toxic taste in my mouth. A lot of it just seems like thinly veiled anti-fat, “obesity epidemic” hatred.

And, quite frankly, some of it just doesn’t make any damn sense. There’s a lot of woo-woo BS that gets touted as nutritional fact and I am just not down with that. Just disregard my love of Ayurveda and TCM here for a minute and bear with me, OK? I recently picked up a copy of Kimberly Snyder’s The Beauty Detox Solution at the lovely Las Vegas library (our library system ROCKS!). Part of me wants to buy what she’s selling hook, line, and vegan sinker. She’s so cute and healthy looking and I like the color of her book. And the green smoothie recipe looks really good! But then I had to dig a little more and look at what she actually wants me to DO.

For Phase One of her plan (“Blossoming Beauty”), she wants me to drink hot lemon water and take some probiotics when I first wake up. WTF is the deal with all of these alternative health gurus and lemons? There are 2.4 million studies on Pub Med alone. Do any of the studies reference the miraculous alkaline power of an acidic citrus fruit? If you find this information, please email me immediately. I did find some interesting studies on Citrus species and a drug made from them for sickle cell anemia, however. Very interesting. I will have to do some more digging on this topic because it has been seriously nagging me for years.

Next on this phase, I get to eat “two or three” celery sticks and dry toast for breakfast. But only if I am hungry. Seriously? Lunch is kale salad and soup (rice crackers optional) and snack is, you guessed it, raw veggies. Yay! Dinner is more salad with oil free dressing and either fish (ewww) or a alkaline grain veggie burger. Then, this is the kicker: “LATE NIGHT: if you experience cravings, have herbal tea with stevia or more veggie sticks dipped in Sally’s Salsa or Green Bean Miso Dip.” “If” I experience cravings? It’s more like when. All I have to say is that someone would be getting HURT if that was how I had to eat every day. Cravings? Ya think? Just writing this made me hungry!

I’m sure there’s plenty in this book that is useful information. I just can’t get past the starvation part. The total caloric content of the food I listed above? 913 calories, with the optional extra carrot sticks at night. I would be diving head first into a vegan pizza followed by a bag of Uncle Eddie’s, I can see it now. So I will continue on my merry way, making my body toxic in the morning with coffee before my Ashtanga practice and eating lots of healthy vegan stuff for the rest of the day. In the meantime, I do not feel like my body is a wonderland (screw you, John Mayer) or a wasteland. It’s just my human, imperfect, and awesome body. I try to honor the temple as much as I can and treat it with gratitude, respect and love.

Plus Sized Yoga: Heavy Musings, and a Middle Finger to Spanx

7 Jun

Dear Tender Readers: Um, *lots* of cursing is about to happen.

You know what comes up if you google “Plus Sized Yoga”? Either ads for clothes or people bashing the idea of there even being such a thing as “Plus Sized Yoga”. People be hatin’ on Plus Sized Yoga.  Like, what will the fat lazy people come up with next? Now they need their own yoga classes? So they can all be fat and lazy together and then go eat Cheetos after class? As a Plus Sized yoga chick  and someone in recovery from an eating disorder (actually, I am a size 14–which makes me too fat for the skinny people and too skinny for the fat people HAHAHA as usual, joke’s on me!), I know there is a need for Plus Sized yoga everything. You need to know how to do adjustments, you need clothes that fit, you need an understanding teacher, you need props, you need to be able to RELATE.  You need dialogue.

And I discovered via the miracle of Google search that people actually search for “Do Fat Vegans Exist?”. Why yes, they do, you ass clown. Oh wait, my SKINNY Italian Greyhound is actually typing this post. No wait, he’s sleeping and being lazy as usual and maintaining his size 0 figure.

I am realizing lately that the ongoing Putting The Ahimsa Oxygen Mask On Myself First Before Trying To Save Any Other Passengers Project is becoming more and more critical. As I continue with my healthy behaviors (eating plants, eating when I am hungry, not abusing food or myself, daily Ashtanga asana practice, walking, prayer, meditation, 12 step meetings, etc.), things progress at their own very slow and organic pace. I am moving toward a body size that is healthy for me and is, in all likelihood, definitely not a size 0. Or even 8. Hell, I’m not even sure if it’s a 12. My old eating disorder voices like to crop up and tell me I am disgusting and lazy and blah blah BLAH, I should be in the gym, I need to not eat carbs, I should be fasting, I need EPHEDRA. Stat.

Then there’s the other side of the coin—people looking at me funny and saying with this worried voice, “Boy, you sure have gotten skinny”. And it makes me feel guilty, like I should apologize for having lost 82 pounds!  No, I am not obese anymore, nor do I think FOR ME that being obese is healthy. Maybe for other people it is OK for their frame and particular body, but for me it was living hell because my body couldn’t take the constant abuse. My knees, back, hips and ankles were in pain 24-7, my arches were collapsing and I couldn’t breathe. Walking 3 city blocks in New York made me feel like the Little Mermaid walking on knives when she suddenly grew legs. I was constantly exhausted and I was fucking miserable. My every waking thought centered around bingeing or purging, and I was full of shame and I was totally batshit crazy.

I still have back fat, dude. I am still overweight for my height, even if I am no longer technically morbidly obese. I don’t ever want to go back to being morbidly obese or even garden-variety obese, but I don’t want to Spanx myself into submission, either. I got more rolls than a Cuban bakery. And what is up with fucking Spanx anyway? Oh you naughty, naughty fat girl—you need a Spanxing! Let’s beat that fat into submission! It’s some sort of perverse clothing BDSM. Fuck that shit. I am not skinny by any stretch of the imagination and it’s OK. Being healthy, accepting myself on a day-to-day basis and making peace with the skin I’m in is a top priority for me more than ever. When I am in downward dog and I look down and see my stomach and thighs in their yoga pants, I really see them today. I am no longer hiding from myself in baggy clothes. I don’t turn away my gaze. Drishti has a whole different meaning when you are a plus sized yogi. My gaze guides my practice of acceptance.

Here’s a round-up of some posts about yoga, body image, plus-sized yoga, veganism and eating disorders that I found to be intriguing and juicy. Some I agree with, some I don’t. It’s all about dialogue:

Danielle Olson on wanting to be a skinny Yoga teacher and the danger of the Beauty Myth within Yoga:

http://bodydivineyoga.wordpress.com/2012/01/10/im-no-skinny-minnie-yoga-teacher-but-oh-how-i-want-to-be/

Amber at Body Positive Yoga on why she quit dieting:

http://bodypositiveyoga.com/why-i-quit-dieting/

One more from Amber on modifications for Sun Salutations for plus sized bodies:

http://bodypositiveyoga.com/sun-salutation-modifications-for-plus-size-bodies/

Kasey, also a blogger for This Dish Is Veg (and a Floridian, represent!) on fat vegans and the shitty new shaming PCRM ads:

http://veggiemightee.blogspot.com/2012/03/fat-vegans-why-we-matter.html

Model Carre Otis on yoga, healing and body image:

http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-4064/Q-A-with-Carr-Otis-On-Body-Image-Healing-Yoga-Meditation-Orgasms.html

Natala Constantine, Engine 2 Team Member and Inspirational Bad Ass, on being a still-fat vegan after losing 200 pounds:

http://veganhope.com/2010/01/11/yes-im-a-fat-vegan/

Joshilyn Jackson: My Big Fat Hot Vinyasa Flow–An Open Letter to the Fat Girl I Saw at Hot Yoga in New York City:

http://www.joshilynjackson.com/ftk/?p=1675

Becky Shiles of Open Book Blog on being told You’re Too Fat For Yoga:

http://beckyshiles.blogspot.com/2007/07/too-fat-for-yoga.html

You’re never “too old” for an eating disorder–yoga helps a 70-year-old woman to recover from bulimia:

http://www2.tbo.com/lifestyles/health-4-you/2011/apr/28/yoga-helps-heal-70-year-old-womans-bulimia-ar-202998/

It Ain’t Easy Being Cheezy: Vegan Cheeses for the Engine 2 Diet

28 May

This one goes out to my lovely amiga, Marissa Cohen!

The lowdown on the E2 and most of the commercial vegan cheeses out there? They all have too much oil according to Rip. Most of them are palm-oil based and contain lots of saturated fats and are therefore not part of the Engine 2 protocol. So what’s a cheese craving E2’r to do? There’s a few things commercially available that are E2 compliant. I’ve found these here in Nevada at Whole Foods and Sunflower Market. Both are fat-free and E2 compliant. One is Food For Lover’s Vegan Queso:

The other is Nacho Mom’s Vegan Queso:

Obviously, these are both Tex-Mex style quesos that work really well in anything quasi Mexican, but they are also great on top of veggie burgers, veggie dogs, steamed veggies and chili mac. Nacho Mom’s even has a gluten-free option for those who swing that way.

And how could I have forgotten my original favorite, Road’s End Organics Chreeze?  This is a mix that you can prepare using water or a non-dairy milk if you prefer a creamier taste. It takes under 5 minutes to make. You can order this directly from the company or from http://www.veganessentials.com. There’s even a bulk, economy size available that I order from them. They also make an Alfredo style and have regular as well as gluten-free options.

There’s also some good recipes out there for making your own creamy cheese concoctions. One of my recent E2 compliant favorites comes from Happy Herbivore (go get her cookbooks NOW, so worth it). Here’s the link to her website: http://happyherbivore.com/recipe/soy-free-mac-n-cheese/

Another option, especially for pizzas and Italian dishes, are nut or seed cheeses. I have a recipe up on a previous entry (I believe it is the Faux Fish tacos) for a Mexican cashew cheese. If you change the spices, it can be used for anything Italian. You can also substitute sunflower seeds (use 1/2 cup and a few more tablespoons of water as needed to make it blend) instead of cashews for a lighter cheese. Nut and seed cheeses are more like ricotta in flavor and consistency.

I’ll admit, when I first went vegan I used a LOT of vegan cheeses. It was like my methadone, as I was a hardcore cheese junkie. I swear, it felt like I went through a detox as far as the cheeses were concerned. I used these for several months, and then I started trying the recipes as my taste buds changed and I started craving cheese less and less.

My favorite of the vegan cheeses if you can’t take it and you need to have some goddamned fake cheese? Better to eat some faux cheese than to either a. shank someone or b. go crazy and order a Pizza Hut Cheese Lovers Pizza! I give you Teese, by Chicago Soy Dairy:

They make Mozzarella (pictured), Cheddar, a Creamy Cheddar Sauce and a Creamy Nacho Sauce.  Here’s a link to their site:

http://www.chicagoveganfoods.com/teese_vegan_cheese/mozzarella_vegan_cheese/

I also like Vegcuisine’s Vegan Feta and Vegan “Blue Cheese” crumbles, both of which contain olive oil. Pretty tasty stuff and good on salads:

Everyone went crazy for Daiya when it first came out, but I feel like the shreds have a bizarre aftertaste. Almost plastick-y. Recently they came out with new sliceable vegan cheeses that can be eaten cold (!!!). I tried them at the Expo West Natural Foods trade show in March, and damn they were good! The Havarti was my favorite, and you can eat it on crackers (OMFG!). You might have a hard time finding them in stores, but they are available and could be special ordered at Whole Foods depending on what part of the country you live in:

From the blog sinfullydelicious.blogspot.com

from the blog nobacon.wordpress.com

Vegan Essentials is a great website for ordering hard to find vegan items. Not all of us get to live in California (you lucky bitches in Cali have it EASY!). I’ve been ordering from them for years, and they are a great, independently owned vegan company. They can ship things cold, too:  http://www.veganessentials.com/

Engine 2 Diet and Ayurveda

28 May

From http://www.eattasteheal.com, an Ayurvedic guidebook and cookbook for modern living

I’ve been experimenting with Ayurveda for a few weeks now as far as my diet is concerned. We are working on some new Ayurvedic products at my job and I’m doing a lot of the research for our formulator, which I am thoroughly enjoying. The more reading I do, the more I’ve realized that to a certain degree it makes sense that the Engine 2 diet would work as a food plan for me. Engine 2 in many ways is a Kapha-pacifying diet. People with a Kapha constitution are naturally slow, stable, tend to gain weight easily and are more “cold and damp”—all qualities of Earth and Water. Anything that amplifies this cold, slow, damp sludginess is going to increase Kapha, which will through Kapha types more out of whack. The things Engine 2 eliminates are classically the things I should avoid as someone with a more Kapha constitution or a Kapha imbalance (which happens when you are overweight):

  • no meat, no dairy—all plants
  • no oils, reduce or eliminate avocado and olives
  • limited nuts and seeds, raw or dry roasted only. If you have trouble losing weight, eliminate them completely
  • avoid coconut-based products because of the fat content (in Ayurveda, they are very cooling and heavy, which is a bad scene for Kapha dosha)
  • the recipes are for a lot of lightly cooked foods and some of them are quite spicy (which is good for pacifying Kapha)
  • include bitter greens like kale as much as possible, LOTS of veggies
  • does not recommend smoothies or juices because they spike your insulin and don’t fill you up
  • not many sweets except for cooked fruit dishes
  • eat actual food– no processed crap, eat when hungry until you are full
  • limit tofu and tempeh, limit fake meats
  • the meal plan itself is for 3 meals, but if you want snacks they are all dry for the most part:  baked tortilla chips, rice cakes, fruit like apples and berries.
  • no coffee, which I of course totally ignore.  I wish I had a copy of the E2 right now so I could remember why, but I’m sure it’s for the obvious slanderous reasons: raises blood pressure, can stimulate or reduce appetite too much for some people, stresses the adrenals, causes cravings for dairy and sugar for some people, dehydrating, addictive, etc.  Kapha is the only dosha who can handle coffee, but it is not recommended in most Ayurvedic texts. Whatevs, I’m drinking coffee RIGHT NOW.

I have developed this salad aversion in the last year, which makes me laugh because I used to live on salad, yogurt, iced coffee, diet soda, Amstel light beer and fruit when I lived in Florida (all of which are awful for someone who has a Kapha imbalance and is a predominantly Kapha constitution to begin with). My acupuncture physician used to yell at me about it! I do love the places where Ayurveda and TCM overlap, but that is a story for many separate posts.

Engine 2 could definitely be easily modified for all three doshas . Just some slight tweaks might make a big difference in how someone feels on the plan and how successful they are at getting back into a healthy balance for their body. None of this is medical advice, obviously. I am not a doctor and I don’t even freaking play one on TV! I actually discussed my vegan/E2 eating plan with my endocrinologist, and he is very happy with it and extremely supportive. I get regular bloodwork done, and I would suggest that to anyone who wants to be their own best health advocate.

Kapha types:

  • totally eliminate seeds and nuts. If you want to eat one or the other, go for seeds in very limited quantities.
  • emphasize rigorous physical exercise, like Ashtanga (yeah!), hiking, running, cross-training, boot camp: you know the drill. Ironically, all of the Biggest Loser workouts are perfect for Kapha doshas or people with a Kapha imbalance. For Pitta and Vatas, they would be a nightmare. The Pittas are the ones on Biggest Loser who are always competitive and fighting and angry, and the Vatas are the ones having meltdowns every five minutes and always talking to the camera. The Kaphas are looking half asleep, depressed and trying to hide/mother everyone, but have the best endurance and can lift heavy things.
  • no sweets except for fruits. I feel your pain.
  • ditch the cold food completely, except in really hot weather.
  • try non-fat soy milk instead of almond or rice, unless you are hypothyroid like me. Unsweetened almond milk works well for us Hashimoto/hypo types. Poor thyroid challenged Kaphas!
  • stay away from soy or almond yogurt
  • stick to the more Kapha-pacifying, astringent  fruits: apples, pears, berries. Avoid melons, tropical fruit and citrus.
  • three meals a day is great for Kapha. Don’t snack continuously—it sludges up the works for us Kapha types.
  • hot teas and hot water with lemon between meals helps Kapha.
  • do not give in to the urge to eat tofu and tempeh like they are going out of style (ooooh I hate this part!). Lean toward tempeh or steamed edamame, but other cooked beans are better for Kaphas.
  • avoid or eliminate wheat (hate this part too). Ezekiel bread or non-wheat breads or no bread at all would be a better choice.

Pitta types:

  • avoid the vinegar-based E2 salad dressings: way too sour for Pitta. Stick to creamier nut or seed based dressings in moderation
  • Pittas can eat more nuts and seeds than Kapha dosha (lucky bitches!) due to their increased digestive “fire”, but don’t get too crazy
  • Pitta needs sweetness to balance out hotness and sourness, so eat sweet fruits and avoid the sour ones like grapefruit or any unripe fruits
  • avocado is A-OK for Pitta dosha
  • stay away from hot spices, like cayenne, black pepper, chili peppers. Avoid spicy Mexican food like the plague
  • eat regular meals and snacks to stay calm, cool and balanced
  • chill out on the hot beverages
  • avoid too many tomato based sauces in the E2 recipes–that will definitely irritate Pitta.
  • do cooling exercises, like swimming. Winter sports are awesome for Pitta. Ski and snowboard away, Pittas. Bikram yoga is possibly the worst thing ever for Pittas. You will want to die and stab someone all at the same time. Avoid at all costs!

For Vata types:

  • out of all three doshas, Vatas need the most fat. Make sure to eat adequate amounts of nuts, seeds avocados.
  • Vata is also a cool dosha like Kapha, but it is cool as well as dry. Try to take it easy on salads or even eliminate completely, as they are hard to digest for Vatas. Stick to lightly cooked or warm foods. “Creamy” soups (use those cashews!) are great for Vatas.
  • Vata dosha types make the WORST raw foodists ever—it aggravates Vata severely.
  • Avoid sprouts, cabbage and any veggies that causes gas attacks. Vatas are gassy by nature in the first place, as they are the “air” dominant dosha. Most beans will make Vata really gassy, so they get the green light on tofu and mung dahl which should be easier for you to digest. If  Vata doshas want to eat beans (which they will, as this is a vegan plan!), soak them for a minimum of eight hours and cook them thoroughly with kombu or sorrel to help reduce gas.
  • Sweet foods in moderation are helpful for reducing Vata. Cooked fruit and grain desserts make Vatas happy!
  • “Milks” pacify Vatas, so be happy with all of the nut, seed and grain milks. Try not to drink them ice cold. Warm, decaf rooibos chais with some agave or brown rice syrup would be excellent for Vatas.
  • Vatas need the most soothing exercise regimen of all of the doshas. Vatas are excellent dancers and natural yogis, but should avoid anything too strenuous or over-stimulating. Tai Chi is great for Vatas.

My friends who have had challenges with Engine 2 are all either Pitta-dominant or Vata-dominiant as far as their constitutions, but still have weight to lose. My Pitta-dominant friend has instinctively started including some more cooling foods. She’s *obsessed* with vegetable juices, especially the really cooling ones, and has been eating more salads. She naturally started reducing her coffee (which way aggravates Pitta dosha) and when she drinks it she usually has it iced with almond milk and agave.  She is figuring out how to make it work for her without even knowing about Ayurvedic principles!

Since I’ve been on a diet or had an active eating disorder for most of my freaking adult life, I am hardwired to eat “diet” foods, some of which are downright awful for Kaphas or anyone with an active Pitta subtype. Instinctively, I have developed this salad aversion in the last year. This  makes me laugh because I used to live on salad, cold tofu, yogurt, iced coffee, diet soda, amstel light beer and tropical fruit when I lived in Florida (all of which are awful for someone who has is a predominantly Kapha constitution with a Pitta subtype). My acupuncture physician used to yell at me about it! I do love the places where Ayurveda and TCM overlap, but that is a story for many separate posts.

 

What’s Your Dosha, Baby?

10 May

I have always been fascinated by Ayurveda.  Mind you, I am an Ayurvedic novice and I am just dipping my crooked toes into the deep ocean that is Ayurveda. The supplements company I work for as an R&D assistant uses some Ayurvedic herbs in our product line, but our formulator is primarily a tonic herbalist and is very into TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine). Our previous formulator used to work for Deepak Chopra at the Chopra Center and was a wealth of knowledge about Ayurveda. He always told me I had a “Kapha body and a Pitta Mind”.  This makes a whole lot more sense to me after reading some of the books I’ve been reading lately.

Yes, my first book review is for an actual book about (gasp) romantic relationships. I didn’t realize that when I reserved it at the library, but I was willing to keep an open mind and read it anyway. I got a good chuckle out of the title,  “What’s Your Dosha, Baby?”, but this book has a surprisingly excellent and straightforward dosha quiz. “Doshas” in Ayurveda are both a constitutional “type” as well as energies in the body that can become imbalanced (or can be kept in balance, but I wouldn’t know anything about that now, would I?). You can take the quiz for free on her website: http://www.whatsyourdosha.com/books/. There’s also some free downloadable information on tips/diet info for your dosha, too. Her quiz distinguishes between what dosha you are physically and what your tendencies are mentally.

I always thought of myself as a hardcore Kapha type, but it turns out that it’s not that simple. As an aside, Ashtanga is supposed to be a great practice for Kapha body types (surprise!).  I do have a lot of  physical Kapha traits (wavy hair, big eyes, full lips, oily skin, lots of stamina, slow to get up in the morning even with 6 cups of coffee, need lots of intense exercise) and some classic physical Kapha problems (hypothyroidism, asthma, PCOS, sinus problems/allergies, can eat like a vegan lumberjack when upset) but many of these imbalances have resolved since moving to the desert and changing my diet radically. What I definitely do have is a Pitta mind: quick, organized, incisive, somewhat controlling, intellectual, critical, passionate and frequently pissed off. As much as I try to dismiss my hot-headedness, oh, it is there and it is not going anywhere. And, as I work more on my yoga practice and eat a low-fat, plant-based diet with lots of greens and cooked foods, things are changing and I have to make some adjustments.

I am edging more out of the Kapha swamp sludge I was in when I lived in Florida and more into a one-woman Las Vegas Pitta Party. No wonder Bikram yoga makes me want to kill people now! It’s hot, damp and encourages competition and criticism for me. My recent dislike of all things sour and vinegary makes much more sense now. Every time I eat lots of salads with any of the fat-free E2 and McDougall style dressings that have a lot of vinegar or citrus, I get cracks in the corner of my mouth and my whole mouth gets inflamed. Well, no more of that shit! My instinctive move to lots of lightly cooked green veggies makes much more sense now. Follow your instincts and eat what feels right to you, no matter what the diet and exercise gurus out there are saying. I truly believe that there’s no “one-size-fits-all” protocol.

I also find that I feel better eating different things during the summer than I do during the winter. Being mindful of the season and of where you live can be very helpful. Dehydrated flax crackers were great when I was in Florida, but in Las Vegas where it’s like 7% humidity? Hell to the no! You can always make little adjustments to make your food work with you instead of against you. This is a constant process, and can be very subtle. Get help if you need it—there are tons of resources available, whether it’s seeing a nutritionist or exploring some new books or websites on your own. Don’t be afraid to experiment and adjust!

Just Because I Can’t Do It Today Doesn’t Mean I’m Not Going Be Able To Do It Someday

8 May

 

 

I saw this video on Andrea Leber’s blog (http://andrealeber.com/) and I just had to share it again. Selfishly,  I also want to be able to easily find it so that I can watch it over and over when I am feeling discouraged. This video brought tears to my eyes. I so related to the opening scenes where he’s using the chair and the bricks and falling down repeatedly. I am still in shock that I am doing 10 Sun Salutations a day and not using a chair. When I first started doing yoga again in 2010, I could only do Sun Salutations with the help of a chair and I was gritting my teeth and cursing and crying.  Arthur Boorman is a total bad ass! Please share this with your friends, especially those who are struggling.

There Is No Try, There Is Only Do

6 May

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The first week of May is already coming to a close and I am still plugging away at Ashtanga. I realized that I only lifted weights twice in the month of April. This week I went to the gym once for some cardio and that’s it. Very, very strange. My body is definitely changing. People keep saying that I look taller, which is odd. My smallest pants are looser. The lovely Indian lady who threads my eyebrows grabbed my face yesterday and said, “Your face so skinny! Losing so much weight! What you doing?”. We ended up having a whole yoga and vegetarian food conversation. Stuff is moving around and I am having weird surges of emotion on the mat. I am surprised, pleased, freaked out and sore as f@%k. Metta meditation seems to not only be happening after practice, but is also happening all day long. I find myself spontaneously “metta-ing” at people in my office, people in traffic, animals…it’s odd. I am also more accepting of the fact that I am still grieving and I’m feeling more connected with the anger and other uncomfortable emotions that I have roiling around inside of me. I don’t get this whole yoga thing at all, and it’s OK. Thanks to Ashtanga, I’m a neophyte and I like being a Yoga Newcomer all over again.

I’ve been reading a lot of other yoga blogs lately. I came across an interesting post the other day that was critiquing the “Hallmark Card” positivity of some of my fellow bloggers as well as the tendency to blog about how hard it is to get on the mat and actually practice. It seems there’s a whole school of Hamlet Hallmark Yoga Bloggers that I am utterly unaware of—talking lots about yoga but not doing it. There’s a whole lot of doing going on in my world. Sometimes it’s pathetic, sad, klutzy, lurching “doing” but I’m doing, dammit. Sometimes it sounds like there’s a herd of stampeding elephants in my yoga room, but luckily no one is watching.

As far as Hallmark-isms, I am probably the last person to be espousing any sort of forced positivity. If I’m positive, happy, or blissed out on any given day, I fucking take that shit and run with it. And if I am not, then I’m not. This week is the 15 year anniversary of my abuela’s death and the one year anniversary of my Dad’s death.  I’ve been crying a lot lately and wanting to put my fist through a wall and that’s how it is sometimes. To deny this is futile. I’m human. People who want me to sugar coat my grief and anger are not people I need to hang with, period. That doesn’t mean I am going to actually put my fist through a wall anytime soon, but sometimes the most appropriate outlet for my emotions is the yoga mat. I ran from this when I started doing yoga years ago. I will never forget the day that I first had a full-on meltdown on my yoga mat. I had just finished a class with my first “hatha yoga” teacher, Michelle, back in Florida. We were in child’s pose and all of a sudden I was sobbing hysterically, my skin was crawling and I started hyperventilating. I had to get up and leave the room. I was scared to practice again after that! That was the tipping point for me where yoga stopped feeling blissful and started feeling scary. My practice started getting patchy after that, and the meltdowns started happening more and more on the mat. The only time they didn’t happen was in Bikram class, so I started exclusively doing Bikram until I got into my bike accident and stopped doing anything at all.   

The one thing I am NOT doing right now is going to take an actual led Ashtanga class. I am scared shitless, and keep telling myself all kinds of stories about how hard and humiliating and awful it will be. WTF, man? There are some challenges here, but the most serious challenge is between my ears. Fear and Loathing in my cranium, for reals, son. Yeah, so there are only a few led classes in town and they all seem to be at times when I am at work. I could use my Bikram two month pass (*shudder*) or try another style, but I am utterly uninterested in that. I am instead considering changing my work schedule so that I can attend the one class I found that is a “Short Forms” class. Shit is getting serious when I start thinking about changing my work schedule!

 

Ooops I Did It Again: My Top 10 Plant-Based Mistakes

2 May

“He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would suffice”.–Albert Einstein

I have a lot of friends right now who are struggling with plant-based eating and trying to transition to a healthier lifestyle. Sisters and brothers, I feel your pain! I f’d up so many times on this path that I can’t even keep track any more. Do not give up on yourself! The rewards are worth all of the struggle. If I knew then what I know now, it would have been a far more struggle-free path for me. So here’s the top 10 mistakes I made along the way. I started this journey in 1994 and was not successfully vegan until 2010. If I can do it, anyone can.

1. Diet Mentality

Plant-based, healthy eating is not a diet. Veganism is a compassionate lifestyle, not a diet, and it extends to all areas of my life. When I start restricting my food and getting all crazy, the next thing I know I am skipping down the primrose path to hell, AKA the binge/starve and binge/purge cycle. I take the “Skinny” right out of “Skinny Bitch” really quick—go straight to Bitch, do not get out of jail free, do not collect $200. I need to eat well-balanced, adequate meals at reasonable intervals or I start making bad choices and I end up hurting myself. Just as I have compassion for the suffering of animals, I need to have compassion for myself. Dieting is not compassionate, period (no matter what the “Skinny Bitch” acolytes tell you).

2. Not Planning/Not Cooking For Myself

If I expect healthy vegan food to fall out of the sky and into my mouth, I am going to be sorely disappointed and I’m probably going to screw up. I go grocery shopping, I carry snacks in case of emergencies, and I plan my meals. ‘Nuff said. Get a cookbook, get in the kitchen and don’t be afraid to make mistakes! I use the Happy Herbivore, the Forks Over Knives companion book and of course Engine 2 and they are all lifesavers.

3. Not Asking For Help/No Support System

It takes a vegan village to keep my ass out of trouble. I got myself a vegan mentor, I surround myself with positive, vegan buddies and I go to a 12 step support group for people with food issues. Invaluable.

4. Trying To Negotiate With Binge/Trigger Foods

This might not apply to you, but it certainly applies to me. Unfortunately, it applies to many foods that are 100% vegan. I find refined sugars, fried food/anything excessively greasy, crunchy shit in a bag and any kind of dairy product to be totally way too exciting for me to handle.  I asked for help *see #3) and picked up a whole bunch of tools for my food addiction toolbox. I think sometimes people dramatically underestimate the addictive power of certain foods.  I’ve got to quote the lovely Victoria Moran here: “If there was a stalker set on harming you, you’d notify the police and do everything in your power to protect yourself. Understand that any food you haven’t been able to eat reasonably since you cut teeth is as threatening to you as that stalker. The safest path to tread with a binge food is one that leads away from it. In other words, don’t eat it–not because I said so, but because you’d rather not socialize with a dietary hit man.”

5. Listening To Haters/Not Trusting My Intuition

I had to experiment a lot on this path to figure out which foods made me feel good and which foods made me feel like crap. Everyone’s got an opinion. I thank them for sharing, smile, and ignore whatever commentary is coming my way about protein, plants feeling pain, man being designed to eat meat, God giving us dominion over animals, don’t you want just one doughnut you’ve been so good, milking cows doesn’t hurt them, my actions being meaningless because animals are going to be killed anyway, blah blah blah. People have their own paths to walk, and I am not out to convert anyone nor do I need to justify the way I eat or live today.

6. Perfectionism

I had to realize that I am human, and mistakes are going to happen. I prefer to look at them as “experiments”…sometimes experiments go awry, but I always learn something along the way. Sometimes, especially at restaurants, I’ve accidentally eaten food that had animal products, added oil or sugar. Despite my every effort to make sure my meal did not include these things, I found out later that they did and it’s OK and usually I stay away from that place or food in the future. It’s not about my personal purity; it’s about trying to cause the least harm to animals, other people and myself.

7. Making Things Way Too Complicated/Getting Fixated On Unimportant Details

I need to eat my veggies, do my yoga, meditate, take an occasional B12 and my Vitamin D, take my medications as prescribed and move around as much as I can. Everything else is a bonus. Trying to do complicated, extreme eating plans, calculating every calorie and micronutrient I eat, crazy workouts or other excessively complicated nitpicky crap is unnecessary and just makes my head spin.

8. Eating Things I Hate Because They Are “Healthy”

Life is too short to eat ugly food and it is too short to eat food that tastes like gritty hippie crap that someone cooked in a can over a bonfire at Burning Man. I have options. This is not the 90’s, people.

9. Trying To Transition Too Fast

I could not go from Sonic jalapeno poppers, frozen yogurt, cheetos, Frappucinos, veggie burgers, fries, frozen vegetarian pizzas and the occasional salad to kale/millet/aduki beans/gomasio/sauerkraut. That approach did  NOT work for me. I needed to wean myself onto some comfortable vegan alternatives, like Amy’s vegan pizzas, Tings, soy lattes, baked fries made at home, and So Delicious agave-sweetned coconut ice cream. I started adding more and more veggies to every meal and eating fresh fruit for dessert. Then eventually I weaned myself off of the vegan “methadone” and started experimenting with beans, whole grains and lots of new greens. Most of my meals now are whole foods based and very simple, but I couldn’t do that when I first started; my taste buds had to adjust. There’s a reason it’s called transitioning into a vegan diet, not leaping or lurching.

10. Unreasonable Expectations

I thought that eating mostly vegan would fix everything for me. And by “Everything”, I meant my obesity, all of my other health problems and my problems with food. And then when I lost a total of eight pounds in the first year, was still asthmatic and still had PCOS, I was pissed!  Where was my miracle cure, dammit? My energy levels were still sucky, I was still fat and I just didn’t feel right. First of all, I had to go all the way and really eat vegan and stop screwing around with dairy even just a “little”. Second of all, I had to do a whole bunch of other things (see 2, 3, 4, 6 and 9) before I started to see improvements. This did not happen overnight, and it takes as much time as it needs to. I can’t rush my body, but I can do everything within my power to help myself. Finally, I had to realize that just eating vegan for me is not enough, especially with weight loss. I had to really learn what “healthy” meant for me and do it! Healthy means balanced meals, lots of vegetables and not much crappy junk food, period.  I also had to stand up for myself with my doctor and demand answers for certain health problems and not just blame them on being vegan (or not vegan enough). I take my medications and do everything within my power to contribute to my overall healthiness. I do not fight myself. And it works—as long as I stay out of my own way!

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