The Joys of Being Chubby

Being overweight isn’t ALL bad.

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Even being vegan and active, I would not classify myself as a “health nut”, and like many people I struggle with weight. I usually carry an extra pesky 20-30 pounds that do no good for my physical health or self-esteem. Also, like many people, I have a mostly sedentary career and a few “sitting” hobbies, like watching movies and reading. I also delicious sweet baked goods and sweet stuff.

I mitigate my diet as much as I can without feeling deprived. For example, I rarely drink soda, I gave up my sweet, sweet welcoming morning lattes, and I don’t eat candy bars or even chew sugary gum. Plus, I am moderately active, especially on the weekends. Still, that pesky 20-30 hang around like a group of jobless, loitering high school hoodlums.

I know what to do to lose the weight but I choose not to. I do not want my life consumed by conscientiously eating small amounts of tasteless food or spending hours of my week walking in place or lifting heavy things up and putting them down over and over.

I guess, for me, having a little extra weight is not all that bad. Think about this… thanks to my being fat:

I am almost never cold. Nicole is petite and she always complains how cold it is (we live in TAMPA, FL). Even when we were inside and the temperature is set to 78 degrees, for Nicole it is sweater time. For me, it’s always shorts weather! Chubby = 1. Skinny = 0.

I can survive for days without eating. I wouldn’t want to, but I could skip a few (well, several) meals if suddenly the vegan store ran out of tofu (people think that is all vegans eat). Not only that, but I would also be bigger than all the scrawny people left and I could take their food without much effort after waiting them out a week or so. Chubby = #winning!

I am more cuddly. Because Nicole is tiny, when I wrap my arms around her, I feel bigger, stronger, and more manly than I probably am, but I also have to worry about crushing her if we are laying next to each other and I roll over. On the other hand, when Nicole cuddles with me, she knows she is safe because I provide a pillowy wall to keep her from accidentally rolling off the bed. I am fat because I care about her safety. Plus, cuddling with me is like embracing a big, warm, hairy teddy bear. Who doesn’t love teddy bears? Probably fish, but they don’t cuddle so it doesn’t matter.

 

I am still going to pursue, with mild to moderate will, eliminating the pesky 20-30 extra pounds I carry but then I will have to worry about being a shivering, starving, unsafe mangy bear.

One problem at a time, I guess.

 

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Why You’re Fat

Today’s Lesson: Mmph. Can’t typef. eating.

*****

As I shoveled another forkful of Five Guys fries covered in vegan chili and Daiya cheese into my mouth and followed it with a drink of Squirt soda, which is basically carbonated sugar, I wondered why my pants felt so tight.

I really try to convince myself I am active and physically fit, but I eat a little too much. It is true, being vegan, I eat, on par, healthier food than most people. At the end of the meal, though, it is still a simple equation: Calories In versus Calories Out.

I walk every day, I ride my bicycle every few weeks, I have a Stand-Up Paddleboard now. I get exercise. I just like to follow it up with Peanut Butter and Chocolate Banana-based ice cream and chili cheese fries with soda.

It is true I sit on my butt about 13 hours a day (of the 16 I am awake) but I feel like I should be a lot thinner…almost as much as I feel like having a donut. 2 donuts.

Anyway, I realize I have 3 options here.

1. Do nothing. Just be fat and pretend like I accept myself just the way I am because I am beautiful and people have all kinds of blah-blah-blah–tell it to the mirror.

2. Do something. Sneak in exercise–like, the legitimate, calorie-burning kind, everywhere I can. Give up a little more sleep and hit the gym. Except I hate the gym, so go for a walk or jog or do push-ups or just jump in place. Anything.

3. Do something else. I know it is simple math. I love sugary foods–lattes, an occasional soda, donuts, ice cream, chips, cereal, etc. All vegan, but still loaded with sugar or cane juice or high-fructose corn syrup, or just plain sugar. I can eat less, or different, foods. Calories In must equal less than Calories Out.

Maybe I will try a little of each (I think that’s a Freudian-diet slip). I do not mind being overweight, by the way. I’m older, I’m healthy, I work a lot, I earned it. I just like the way I look and feel more when I am not so heavy.

If it makes you feel better, I did follow the chili cheese fries and soda with a salad covered in vegan Bac-O’s and Ranch dressing. Hey… I had to start somewhere.

 

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Why We Resist Having a Better Life

Today’s Lesson: Change is supposed to be scary.

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Whether it is acknowledging we need to lose 10 pounds or being on the receiving end of a family intervention and hearing loved ones tell us we have an abuse problem, or just adopting a new strategy at work, everyone resists doing things we know we must do to effect change.

Even when changing something is clearly for the better, we run from personal growth before we embrace it.

It seems crazy, even counter-intuitive, yet smokers struggle to quit smoking, dieters rarely stick with diets, alcoholics fall off the wagon, and there is always someone in the meeting who thinks everything is a bad idea without having a better one to offer.

The surprising thing is, if you think about it, our resistance to changing our lives is totally understandable. Even with a small change like losing weight, our first and immediate reaction is to resist, as it should be. Think of how dangerous change was to a person’s life up until the last 100 years or so.

Trying to lose weight was crazy in a world where food was scarce and not eating when you had the chance might have been tantamount to you skipping your last meal. You could not be sure if your hunt would be successful today or if the fruit tree you found yesterday was going to be picked over by other animals or tribes today.

Venturing out of your cave home into new territory meant uncertainty about where or when you might next find food, shelter, or safety. Of course, staying in one place indefinitely also increased your chances of perishing. The longer you stayed in place, the more likely you were to be found by a neighboring tribe also fighting for resources and the more likely you were to leave clues of your whereabouts to other would-be predators.

Albeit reluctantly, our ancestors embraced change and eventually moved on, traveled, explored, and sought out novel experiences, but never before being overly cautious at first. Just as today, we resisted change at first but eventually accepted the necessity of change.

The next time you catch yourself reacting to doing something new or different with initial resistance (or the next time someone reacts to your suggestion of change with initial fear), remember it is normal. Just as we jump when we catch something moving in the corner of our vision and then calm down and smile when we realize it was our reflection in a mirror, it is expected that we react to change.

The important thing is, after the initial fear, to properly evaluate the potential good and bad of any change and then take appropriate action.

It is okay to fear change at first. Just be sure to remember it is a natural reaction and it is both okay to feel fear and okay to let it go.

 

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3 Ways To Live Better: Eat More Plants.

This week, there is a theme: my 5 favorite tips that have worked for me in living a better life. Maybe one will help you, too…

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Yesterday, I wrote about the importance of being active. A rock is a machine that is designed to sit. A rock has one function–not to move. It has no parts that can contract like a muscle or bend like an elbow. The human body, by comparison, is a cleverly designed machine built to move. It is meant to walk, run, crawl, lift, jump, squat, bend, twist, stretch, and more. Our bodies are dynamic and not meant to sit for long periods like rocks or trees. As with any machine, though, they wear down over time and require proper maintenance to last long and perform their essential functions well. That brings us to today’s post.

3. Eat more plants and less animal stuff. I am vegan but I am not necessarily advocating being vegan here. I’m not going to preach to you in this post. I am just telling what has worked for me. If you have ever tried to lose weight or get fit, then you know there are many diets, cleanses, and meal plans out there. You can do Atkins, Paleo, South Beach, Bulletproof, and about a thousand others. The science on all of them is almost always filled with bad information, misleading propaganda, or just plain ignorance of actual data. Unsurprisingly, almost every diet that has a catchy name also has a product for sale.

Health is not something to buy, if you ask me. It is our default setting. As a cultured, sedentary society (that embraces propaganda), however, we have strayed away from our prima facie baseline for health. One fact no legitimate scientific study has ever disputed, though, is this: eating more plants is good for you.

There are lots of reasons why and I won’t bore you with an explanation of evolution and the human body–you can look that up on your own if you want (start with finding out why we have useless organs like wisdom teeth and your appendix).

Instead, I will offer the simple, obvious logic that catching meat was not easy for our ancestors. They lived almost entirely off fruits, roots, nuts, beans, and berries… because that was what was almost always available. Chasing big, wild animals with little pointy sticks was both difficult and dangerous despite the Hollywood depictions or artist renditions of super-soldier cavemen with expertly designed spears.

Regardless of how much you might enjoy over-indulging in meat, dairy, and cheese (which is also dairy but for some reason we tend to sub-categorize one or the other), too much of a good (tasting) thing can be bad for you.

Being vegan was one of the hardest, smartest, and most fulfilling choices I have made in life (asking Nicole for our first date falls in that same category!). You do not have to go full-on vegan. I get it. It looks like a bizarre, incredibly difficult, pompous way to eat a bunch of weird stuff. Sometimes it is.

Nonetheless, there is no disputing that eating more plants, fruits, nuts, berries, beans (legumes, if you prefer), vegetables, grasses, and unprocessed foods is better for maintaining your body. Just like your lawnmower, car, or computer need regular maintenance, care, and upkeep, so does your body. Keep your machine running like a race-car by feeding it high-octane fuel instead of heavy leaded regular gasoline and taking it out for a spin each day.

 

Today’s  Lesson: Be vegan if you don’t have commitment issues. If you just can not fathom never eating another dead animal or its waste products, that’s fine. Just try to be more vegan than not. Every other night, trade your steak for an extra helping of green beans and have an apple. It won’t kill you. Actually, it might help you live longer, and definitely better. But don’t take my word for it. 

 

 

 

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Food Boobs

I’m thinking about changing my blog title from simply my name to “Sexy Celebrity Who Knows Everything You Can’t Figure Out For Yourself”. What do you think?

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If you are at all interested in the debate over healthy eating, then you have probably heard of the “Food Babe“.

She is the latest in a long line of conspiracy theorists and uninformed non-scientific critics trying to lambaste vaguely identified corporate entities.

(If you do not know where to point a finger when it comes to food, just say “Monsanto” in an accusing way and you will sound like an informed advocate on the side of would-be underdogs who believe they are defending food… because they saw some documentaries. As we know, that’s pretty much the same as becoming an actual scientist and Hollywood can always be trusted.)

The problem I have with people like Vani Hari (the “Food Babe”), Dave Asprey (“Bulletproof Coffee” and now also the “Bulletproof Diet”), and Loren Cordain (“Paleo Diet“) is they prey on fear. They exploit the ignorance of others and spread bad information to create panic for profit.

Here is the real deal. I have been vegan and studying the food debate for more than a decade and I can tell you, unequivocally, there are no good answers, no easy answers, and no shortcuts to health. Genetically Modified Food has never been proven unsafe or less nutritious in any rigorous scientific study, whether you choose to eat it or not (I choose not, usually, but not because I pretend to understand the intricacies of the science and agendas on either side of the debate). The base of corporate conspiracies falls apart at the doorstep of any company. Monsanto is comprised of normal working people, just like you and I, paid to do their jobs, just like you and I. No one I have ever met goes to work at any company with the intention of destroying the world. It is, on its face, ludicrous.

Just consider the base logic of nearly all of the anti-food / pro-fear arguments. They advocate eating like we did centuries ago. They say if we go back to eating the way we did more than a hundred years ago, then we will live longer and be healthier. The only problem is, just a hundred years ago our lifespans were shorter, our access to food was more limited, and our understanding of how food works was a hundred years behind today’s knowledge. Would you drive a hundred year old car and expect it to run better, faster, and with fewer emissions than one made today? Food has advanced and improved like nearly everything else. It is not a singular exception to society’s movement forward.

Farmers have always selected for the best food genes, cross-breeding and splicing plants to create better breeds, since the dawn of agriculture. Genetically Modified Food used to just be called “food”. We likely would find the corn our ancestors consumed virtually inedible. Through generations of selection, we now have sweet corn that can be eaten plain and is delicious!

The worst part with conspiracy celebrities like the Food Babe is, they are smart. Vani Hari understands marketing and social media. She has a degree in computer science. She may have good intentions, too, but well-meaning charlatans are still charlatans.

Again, the Food Babe has a computer science degree, not a food science degree, not a degree in nutrition, not even a Chemistry degree. She (and people like her) rely on gullible sycophants to support them, not on their earned credibility in the field they are advocating for or against. These predators are becoming increasingly easy to spot, too, and I encourage you to consider a simple fact before buying into their scare tactics… Associated with all their “miracle cures”, “breakthrough” diets, and generous sharing of information is always, inevitably, a product, service, or subscription they want you to buy.

Shockingly, the Food Babe has a book (and a second one on the way) that she wants you to buy, so she can keep working from home and paying for travel and the costs of maintaining fame and celebrity by finding an ever-increasing (and ever-profitable) audience to fund new panic-invoking articles, interviews, media events, and “research”. The Food Babe relies on two essential things to make a living: her boobs and your fear (she was not given the moniker “Food Babe” by her audience–she gave it to herself).

Actually learning the science of food, studying peer-reviewed literature, and talking to actual scientists who are actually informed does not help her pocketbook or her agenda. Talking to Good Morning America, staying in the news, and finding a way to reach Oprah’s audience does.

It saddens and frustrates me when people, trying to make good decisions, are held captive by sensational marketers, fear-mongering, and exploitation of their own ignorance. No one has the time to study every facet of food production, food science, or even to learn how to discern the hype from the known facts. Sadly, it is at our own peril if we do not start making the time to learn how to think and make decisions on more than a recommendation from a celebrity.

Today’s lesson: Marketers are too good at manipulation now and, for better or worse, your brain is the main tool you have to navigate ethics, morality, and Reality. Do not rely on blogs (not even mine), television, social media, or celebrities to do your thinking or live your life for you. Raise your sleeves and get to work finding out how to think skeptically, how to trace information to its sources, or just how to understand the basics of living a logical life. Be in the driver’s seat of your life. Don’t let these idiots get behind the wheel.

 

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10 Food Lessons I Learned From My Cat

I learn a lot of lessons from my one-eyed cat, Rainee, about life, patience, and being a good person. This is not really one of them.

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I am a little overweight but my cat is looking rather svelte. I have been carefully observing her eating habits to see if there is something I can learn and adapt to my diet. Here are the 10 most powerful food lessons I have learned from my (quite spoiled) domesticated, house cat:

 

  1. Never prepare your own food. Someone will eventually do it for you. 
  2. If the person preparing your food is not moving fast enough, yell at them. Dancing will sometimes help as well. 
  3. Never trust whoever prepared your food. When they set a bowl in front of you, sniff whatever is in it, and just walk away. See if they seem alarmingly interested in you eating it. It could be poison this time. You never know.
  4. Every three days, barf up everything you have eaten. Barf on random furniture or on the floor at least 3 times, in 3 different places, as loudly and productive-sounding as possible. Also, three o’clock in the morning is the best time for barfing.
  5. If you see a glass of water no one is drinking from at the moment, go ahead and test it for cooties by dipping your hand into it and then lick your palm. If it seems legit, proceed to try and fit your whole head into the glass. It is best to drink it that way.
  6. To make meal time fun, push about half your food out of the bowl and just leave it wherever. This is not wasteful. The people that put it there can give it to starving cats in Africa if they want. They just don’t want to. 
  7. If there is no tuna in it, then it is not food of any kind and not meant for consumption. Make someone put tuna in it or wait until they bring you tuna.
  8. But randomly hate tuna. Tuna doesn’t own you.
  9. Eat lint and tinsel whenever you can find it. Especially if someone looks like they might want to take it from you. They probably want that sweet lint for themselves. They can get their own lint. You eat that lint as fast as you can.
  10. Never eat lint. It’s gross. Tinsel is still awesome, though. Lint is pretty good, too.

 

Today’s lesson: Consider the source. (Also, dancing will sometimes help.)

 

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How to Listen to Your Body

How do you know if you should eat one more bite of that pie or push yourself for one more rep with the barbells?

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Many of us struggle with knowing when too much is too much, whether it is with our eating habits, exercise habits, or even sexual habits. I think for many of us it is easy to go wrong because we are completely out of tune with our body.

Think about it. How often do you check in with your body each day? How often are you bombarded with media, food, and marketing each day telling you what is good or bad for your body?

As soon as you open your eyes in the morning, you see the brand name on your phone or alarm clock. You know you are supposed to start your day tired and have a cup of coffee to get going because your whole life there have been commercials telling you so. You choose a healthy sounding cereal because the box says it has “9 essential vitamins and minerals!”. You can rest assured it is health food because the name on the box contains “Wheat” or “Flax” or “Bran” or “Healthy”. It probably also has more sugar than you need in a week but forget about that because there is a famous athlete on the box and he sure seems happy! If a famous athlete would eat it, then it must be good, right? The milk you choose must be healthy because there are pictures of happy cows on it and the box says it is fortified with calcium and vitamin D. You have no idea if you are deficient in either of these, but that’s okay because Happy Farm milk has you covered.

This is just the first few minutes of your day. How much is the rest of your day manipulated by tradition, media, flashing signs, billboards, and bad habits? How does the world screaming at you all the time affect your ability to listen to your own needs?

This is not only about food. Think of the last time your father or grandfather threw out his back because he was trying to lift more than his body was willing to allow. Think of your exercise fanatic friend who tore her hamstring by not listening to her body telling her how much of a stretch is too much. And, yes, think of the American struggle with sugar and obesity because we have a hard time discerning when (or what) to stop eating.

Sometimes we make bad decisions because we have no idea what our body wants or needs. We are not trained to listen to ourselves. We seem to be trained more and more to listen to anything but our own bodies and minds.

Always being on the right side of listening to my body is definitely not a skill I would say I have mastered yet, but I am becoming better at listening to my self. Here is what works for me (most of the time):

     1. Meditation. Quiet solitude to hear my thoughts or turn down the volume of the world is an essential part of my week. I try to meditate daily. Just 10 minutes of silent breathing, I find, centers my emotions, helps me think better, and gives me a small boost of energy!

     2. Stopping at “satisfaction” instead of “excess”. This is a work in progress for me, especially around food. I grew up, like many Americans my age, being taught to “clean my plate” and warned there are “starving children in Africa” so I should eat everything I am served. With restaurant food portions (and prices) out of control, that becomes an increasingly difficult challenge. When there is not enough food to box up and take home but enough to make me feel like I am wasting money by leaving it, I would normally tend to just eat what is left. Now, I am trying to stop when my belly is satisfied instead of stuffing myself. Sure, food is delicious and I want to enjoy it but the penalty for leaving some on my plate is far less damaging to my wallet than it is to my health.

     3. Being “consciously wasteful”. It has taken me a long time to be okay with leaving food on my plate, but now it is almost a game when I am at a restaurant. I know the food portions are far above what my body needs so I try to eat enough to be sure I am satisfied and box up enough for a second meal. If there is not enough for a second meal, then I am okay letting it go to waste. It goes against everything I was taught as a kid, but It is a lot better to throw a little food out than to live with diabetes or low self-esteem. Also, leaving a little food behind is a great way for me to practice self-discipline. When my stomach says it has had enough (there are no more pangs of hunger), then I know it is time to stop and everything else is simply excess.

Of course, I apply the same principles beyond food. Stopping at satisfaction when I exercise makes it more enjoyable and I am likely to return for more. Being “consciously wasteful” by giving away or throwing out anything I have not used, noticed, or missed in the last year helps me live a cleaner, more spacious life (in less space!) and frees me up to enjoy more time doing other things.

It all centers around the same principle: staying in touch with my body. My body feels the clutter and depression when my apartment is untidy or filled with trinkets that no longer serve a purpose. My mind feels both the physical and emotional weight when I do not like the belly I see in the mirror. My feet ache not from being on them too much, but from not taking care of them when I am, by not stretching them and exercising them properly, which brings us back to exercise. The circle continues and at the core is meditation, a simple moment of breathing and not thinking about anything other than breathing for at least a few minutes a day.

Today’s lesson: When I listen to my body, I hear less noise in the world and more of what is actually important around me.

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The 5-Ingredient Meal

Use this trick to simplify your at-home meals…

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I enjoy thinking of new ways to embrace minimalism and live a simpler yet more robust life. Something Nicole and I have been trying lately and having some success with is 5-Ingredient meals.

I like to cook but I do not have much patience for the prep work and clean-up. Because I like eating more than I like cooking, I tend to favor eating out and skipping all the leg work of making a meal. I think eating out is a great way to add more diversity to your diet (unless you eat the same meal at the same place every time) but the food is highly processed, usually over-salted for flavor, and often cheap high-carbs and starches to fill you up at less cost and more profit to the restaurant.

In other words, it is good to prepare your own meals more often than not. Since I practice being minimalist and look for ways to simplify, Nicole and I have added a simple rule to our cooking. Our meals can have no more than 5 ingredients (spices not included, but also no more than 5 spices). To clarify, each dish has no more than 5 ingredients and each meal has no more than 5 components (including drinks).

Since a lot of our cooking centers on Mediterranean and Asian food, we have made one notable exception: we count garlic and onion as one ingredient! If they are both chopped fresh, sometimes we will count them separately. We play it pretty loose with those two.

Here is an example of what a simple meal looks like for us…

Tofu Scramble:
1. Smashed tofu (I love squeezing the water out of it with my bare hands and then crumbling it into the pan)
2. Spinach
3. Mushrooms
4. Onion and Garlic
5. Fresh tomatoes (right at the end)

Seasonings: Turmeric (to make the tofu yellow), Cumin, Salt, Pepper, Nutritional Yeast

Salad:
1. Spinach
2. Tomatoes
3. Cucumber
4. Chick Peas
5. Onion

Seasoning / Dressing: Olive oil, Mint, Salt, Pepper, Lemon juice

Normally, a salad and tofu scramble would have about 10 more items added between them, more spices, and definitely longer cooking time and preparation. The funny thing is, since we have started this little experiment, I have found limiting ingredients has actually expanded flavors. Now I notice the individual constituents of each meal and can savor each bite, identifying each flavor within it.

Today’s lesson: Eating can be super simple and simply delicious! Set limits on ingredients, focus on flavor, and enjoy more time eating and less time chopping, washing, soaking, and waiting…

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Today’s Lesson: Sleep And Lose Weight! [141011]

“I’m just tired of these lingering 15 pounds,” I said, “But by the time I get home, I am exhausted and there is still a ton of work to do.”

Nicole thought about it and said, “Get more sleep.”

“What? To lose weight?” I asked. She is pretty clever. She pointed out three things I had not given thought.

 

  1. Most people are sleep-deprived (including me). I sleep 5 or 6 hours each night, but sleep is not the same as rest. I wake up probably a dozen times throughout the night which means I am not completing the sleep cycles my body demands. Stupid, inefficient body.
  2. When we are not getting enough rest, our bodies want more fuel. If your body is not able to do its job while you sleep (repairing, healing, and rebooting), then it will look for the resources to do its work elsewhere, which means it will ask for more food to provide more energy so it can do what it would normally do while you sleep.
  3. If you are sleeping, then you are not eating. I actually added this one, but it is obvious, right? If I get 8 hours of sleep instead of 6, then there are 2 fewer hours where I am likely to snack, munch, drink, or otherwise stuff my face. 

 

Personally, I think this is the best diet plan I have ever heard! I probably will not follow through as recommended (sometimes my brain just refuses to shut down) but I will commit to going to bed earlier and trying not to spend so much time during a day sitting instead of moving around.

Nonetheless, more rest is probably a good prescription for all of us. Let’s take the Sleep Diet challenge!

 

 


 

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Today’s Lesson: Veganomics [140923]

I looked at the scale and could barely believe my eyes. I lost 53 lbs the year I made the switch from vegetarian to vegan. At first, I thought it was great but then I started to worry. I didn’t know if, or when, the weight loss would stop and, frankly, it was getting expensive to keep buying new clothes.

 

The weight loss did stop, though, after about a year. I think it was only because it took me that long to find vegan junk food. There are a lot of myths around veganism and probably as many reasons for choosing a vegan lifestyle (meaning you do not consume or wear anything that is, or comes from, another animal) but weight loss was never part of my reason for “embracing the ‘V”.

 

Over dinner, I explained to a friend that many people choose to go vegan for better health but are surprised to find we vegans can be just as fat on a vegan diet as meat and dairy centric people can be on their diet. The vegan diet is still healthier in many ways but if you are looking to lose weight, forget all the diet advice and media hype out there.

 

There is only one sure way I know of to drop pounds and it is virtually foolproof. Here it is: eat less, move more.

 

The more you move, the more fuel you burn. To become lean, you simply must burn more fuel than you take in.

 

Being vegan is great and I have enjoyed many benefits like needing less sleep, having greater concentration and more energy, almost never being sick, and generally feeling about 10 years younger than my age. Those are all fine reasons to choose veganism, too, but if you are doing it in the hopes of becoming thinner, I would just advise you to go for a walk instead!

 

Great food, though. So much great vegan food. Just thinking about it makes me think I need to go for a walk, too…

 


 


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