Thursday, August 30, 2012

Running & Being Vegan

This week has been a little unusual with my running, mostly because I have had some heel pain :( and to be cautious took a few extra days off.  I am still hoping to finish the week with 5 days of running because the heel is feeling much better today.

Monday: Rest
Tuesday: Tempo run, 8.65 total miles with 5 @ tempo
Wednesday: Hilly recovery run, 8.8 miles
Thursday: swim 2km

I have been meaning to write a post for awhile addressing the fact that I am vegan, what I eat and why I decided to become vegan.  To be honest, I put this off for awhile because I had no pictures of the food I cook/eat and posts without pictures are boring!  Boyfriend and I cook and eat almost exclusively at home (I really enjoy it) but I keep forgetting to take pictures for the blog.  Probably because I am so hungry by the time everything is ready ;)  Anyways, I think I have enough pictures to do the post justice at this point.  Also, I might cheat and come back and add more pictures later.  Caveat: I'm not trying to 'convert' anyone.  Veganism has become an important part of my daily life and for completeness I wanted to address how it fits into my life.

The Story
I began transitioning towards veganism about two years ago in August of 2010.  I was motivated through my desire to become a better runner and knew that eating a healthier diet with lots of plants would probably improve my performance.  I listened to a lot of running podcasts (still do) and found Run Vegan Run (no longer available), which talked a lot about running and eating vegan.   I decided to cut back my meat consumption to 1 meal a day, which I knew would force me to explore more plant based foods and get creative.  At that point, I had no intention of becoming vegan, I only wanted to consume less animal products and processed foods, which I intuitively knew were unhealthy.

Creamy gazpacho
Fast forward a few weeks and I was really enjoying all the plant based meals I had swapped in.  Cooking with meat became less and less attractive to me and the plant alternatives became tastier.  I also discovered Vegetarian Food for Thought, which is a great podcast that I highly recommend.  I started listening and thinking more about foods like cheese, butter, and eggs, how I didn't really need them and how they were linked to a lot of health issues like diabetes, cancer, heart disease and dementia.  I also started thinking about the ethics behind what I ate.  I began reading a lot about nutrition and industrial agriculture, including scientific studies and personal accounts.  I watched documentaries and undercover footage at factory farms.  It was a very tumultuous period and there was a lot of information to process.  However, I really value the ability to critically assess information and make my own choices.  The information was all pointing me in one direction and I realized that I wanted to be vegan.
Chocolate crinkles from The Joy of Vegan Baking

The Hard Parts
Changing my eating and living philosophy wasn't easy at the time.  Although in retrospect I feel the choice was obvious once I had all the information, it still rocked the boat in a big way.  First of all, I was concerned about how Boyfriend would feel.  We cooked and ate most of our meals together, and he enjoyed a lot of meat-oriented dishes.  That was no longer going to be an option for me, nor something I wanted to prepare for him.  Second, I was concerned about the reaction from my parents, especially my mother because she is an excellent cook and always goes out of her way to make things that I enjoy.  I didn't want to insult her or make her think I didn't appreciate her efforts.  Finally, I was concerned about what it would be like eating out or traveling, when I couldn't pick my food out from a grocery store and prepare it all myself.

Couscous with caramelized apricots
In reality, all of these things worked themselves out.  Boyfriend accepted my decision very gracefully and realizes and respects how important being vegan is to me.  Although he is still omnivorous, he has cut back his animal product consumption and almost always eats the vegan dinners that I prepare.  If he wants animal products, he makes it himself.  Although I got a lot of jabs (in jest) from my dad about the decision, both of my parents respect my choice and accommodate it when we are together (which sadly isn't much with me in TX).  My mom sends me great vegan recipes when she finds them and made me some of the most delicious vegan food on my recent trips home.  Eating out has been easier than I thought.  I typically look at menus in advance and if nothing is vegan, I simply ask the wait staff politely to work with me, which they always do.  I don't have ridiculously high expectations, especially if I don't get to pick the restaurant, and I am often pleasantly surprised.  Sometimes, however, it is a little boring, but I never go hungry.  Traveling has been totally manageable and fun, although it does require more foresight.  Since being vegan, I have been to China and France and managed in both!  China was actually easier (the French use a lot of animal products), but I did have to have a friend write out in Mandarin that I do not eat animals.  I speak French, so I was able to explain myself, even if the French thought I was strange.

Why am I Vegan?
I'm not here to preach, but this is the most common question I receive when people learn I am vegan so I want to address it here for the sake of completeness.  I ventured into veganism for health reasons, but I continue to be vegan for both health and ethical reasons.  The health benefits of a plant based diet are numerous, but more importantly to me is embracing compassion and doing my best to not contribute to the harm of other animals, be they human or non-human.

Tofu basil "ricotta" pizza from Save the Kales

The Benefits
As you can probably tell, I am pretty happy with my decision to become vegan and the benefits have been vast.  I feel my ethics are consistent with my actions and that makes my interactions with animals very rewarding, including Bailey.  I am eating healthier than ever before, consuming easily 8-10 servings of vegetables and 3-5 servings of fresh fruit a day.  Most of my carbohydrates are whole grains and I buy very little processed food.  I know that I am getting more nutrients through my vegan diet including fiber, folate, vitamin K, vitamin C, iron, calcium, and omega3 fats.  I have found so many new foods that I enjoy including tofu, tempeh, flax, soba noodles, quinoa, kale, beets, sweet potatoes, edamame, red cabbage, arugula, and chia seeds.  I am healthier than before and hardly ever get sick.  Maintaining a healthy weight is very easy now.  My blood panel results were excellent, with low cholesterol, low blood pressure and good levels of iron.  Most importantly (for this blog at least) is that my veganism has positively affected my running.  I noticed improvements in pace shortly after cutting animal products out of my diet and morning stomach/digestion issues are a thing of the past.

Some Resources
For those of you who might want to learn more, here are some of my favorite resources.
Nutrition Facts (short videos that cover the most up to date scientific findings related to nutrition)
The China Study
The Joy of Vegan Baking
The Vegan Table
Color Me Vegan
The 30 Day Vegan Challenge
Slaughterhouse by Gail Eisnitz
Mad Cowboy
Vegetarian Food for Thought
Our Hen House
Red Radio
Save the Kales!
Forks Over Knives

Veganism was a lifestyle I chose after carefully exploring a vast amount of information available to me.  It is a choice that I am very happy with, but it is important to recognize it was a choice.  I would not have responded well if someone tried to impose their views on me before I was ready for the information.  I do not want to impose my views, but encourage everyone to explore options and information for themselves, wherever it leads you.


  1. I loved reading this!
    ... especially the mom thing. On my 30th birthday, my mother spent a fortune on ingredients for my vegan cake! Totally outside of her regular gourmet Italian cooking comfort zone, and it was so appreciated! (although the party didn't turn out too well because of the ED and an annoying 'date').
    Love the China Study.
    Am liking Vegetarian Food for Thought.
    Looking forward to checking out your other resources, especially Forks Over Knives. I ignored it for so long because of my fish and honey consumption. I didn't want to be guilted out of eating it! But now that I've gone Vegan, I'll never go back; and I can therefore view it with pleasure.
    Nice to read your story, happy healthy Vegan! :D

    1. Thanks for the feedback! Moms can be so great, for Xmas she made me a special chocolate and peanut butter pie. The consistency for a vegan pie comes from silken tofu and tofu was not something she had ever used before and she was delighted to find it actually tasted good!
      Glad to hear from another person who appreciated The China Study, I am very driven by facts so I know that is why I enjoyed it. Also glad about the podcast, though it is okay if you didn't like it. At first I was on the fence, partially because I didn't want to become vegan and was looking for excuses to continue eating a standard american diet.
      I wouldn't worry about Forks Over Knives, it is >90% from a health perspective. Let me know what you think of it once you do check it out!