a RAWky road

Food, health and fitness advice while vegan in a sad, S.A.D world.


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Post-Injury Blues

sad puppy

If you’ve never been there, then you’re lucky. I’ve got a passport filled with stamps from Sprained Ankle-ton, Tendonitis-ville, and most recently Broken Toe-town, among others. It sucks! As of late I’ve been throwing myself a pity-party, where whine and sulk are appropriately featured on the menu.

The simple fact of the matter is that physical harm and suffering associated with a serious injury can often have an impact on mental health. The emotional trauma of a sudden and severe injury can increase the risk of a person developing anxiety, such as Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression. A person’s mental health can be further affected when serious injuries result in a loss of skills (I miss running and cycling and just being active) and opportunities (I had to cancel my much-anticipated ballet course); being unable to participate in everyday activities such as work (meh… I’m lucky I currently work from home), study and socializing; worries about finances and the future.

Be that as it may, I’m trying to get myself out of this funk and I’ve devised a little post-injury do’s and don’ts list to help:

Do:

  • Laugh! It’s the best medicine.
  • Snuggle with a loved one, human or fury creature.
  • Try to exercise in whatever way you can – even if it’s just stretching.
  • Reach out to others for support and distractions.
  • Concentrate on brightening someone else’s day.
  • Use your down time to do that thing that you never have time to do… finish that book, start painting, learn a new language.
  • Write in your journal… or blog, case in point.
  • Attitude of gratitude. Make a list of all the things you are grateful for.
  • Read a little bit of an uplifting book every day – I recommend Igniting Your Life by John McCabe.
  • Make sure to hydrate and carb up.
  • Rest. You need to heal!
  • Meditate.
  • Light candles. Play soothing music. Turn your home into a healing atmosphere.

Don’t:

  • Sit around moping and feeling sorry for yourself.
  • Compare yourself to others and assume everyone else is having the best time ever.
  • Isolate and ignore emails and phone calls.
  • Sit around analyzing your life.
  • Focus only on what’s going wrong.
  • Give up on moving your body at all.
  • Enter a media coma.
  • Think about all of the things you’re missing out on.
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Me, Myself and Salt

There is a big difference between salt (aka: sodium chloride) and sodium, yet many people have never heard of such distinction.

Common salt is a mineral substance composed primarily of sodium chloride, a chemical compound belonging to the larger class of ionic salts. Salt elevates our blood pressure. Raised blood pressure (hypertension) is the major factor which causes strokes, heart failure and heart attacks.  There is also increasing evidence of a link between high salt intake and stomach cancer, osteoporosis, obesity, kidney stones, kidney disease and vascular dementia and water retention. Salt can also exacerbate the symptoms of asthma, Ménière’s disease and diabetes

eatlesssalt

On the other hand, sodium is a chemical element that the body uses to control blood pressure and blood volume. Sodium is also needed for your muscles and nerves to work properly. Our cells rely on a regulated ratio of sodium and potassium, with sodium residing outside the cells (extracellular) and potassium inside the cell (intracellular). When the sodium and potassium levels in your diet are well balanced, they work to keep a healthy amount of water inside and outside of your cells, including your blood. In addition, the electrolyte characteristics of salt and potassium permit the proper conduction of electricity you need to keep your heart beating properly.

Low sodium in the blood can lead to what is called hyponatremia.  Signs of hyponatremia are fatigue, seizures, muscle spasms, confusion and coma.  Sodium deficiency is usually caused by vomiting, diarrhea, drinking excessive fluid (especially water), and excessive sweating.  It is rarely caused by lack of sodium in the diet.

SaltEffectsSo, why do I bring this up? I was going through photos from last year and I came across a picture of the direct impact my body had after a high salt meal (damn you gourmet raw cuisine). As you can see, my right foot is swollen while my left foot remains normal. I was quite alarmed when I woke up to find my feet in this condition and research on the interwebs has led me to believe that this was a sodium toxicity inflicted edema (awesome). It was not a pleasant experience, in fact it was rather painful. I couldn’t walk very well and had to keep it elevated. I drank liters upon liters of water to try to flush the excess salt out of my system and within a couple of days I was back to normal.

As a result, I try very hard to not consume salt. In truth, sometimes there’s no avoiding it… especially when eating at any restaurant or consuming previously prepared packaged foods. Unfortunately, we live in a time where salt is added to just about everything and consequently it deadens our taste buds’ ability to sense sweet, sour, or bitter (which is why salt users often say that food is flavorless without salt).

True, we need minerals, but we need to ingest them in the quantities and the form in which they occur in whole plant foods. Eating a variety of vegetables, especially celery and tomatoes, provides all the organic salts and other minerals our bodies need in just the right amounts and combinations we require. 

I won’t tell you what to do with your body, how much salt to consume, sodium, potassium, the works. But I do think it is important to educate yourself on what you put into you body if you are interested in preventing potentially life-threatening diseases down the line. I understand that doing your own research and investigation can be cumbersome, let alone changing your diet completely (albeit for the best), but don’t you think your life is worth it?

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salt

http://www.actiononsalt.org.uk

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/11/potassium-salt-diet-dangers_n_895124.html

http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/potassium

http://www.livestrong.com/article/525091-why-does-excessive-salt-consumption-cause-edema/

The 80/10/10 Diet – Dr. Douglas N. Graham 

 


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E. coli For The Win!

A couple of days ago we got food poisoning and it was a terrible experience… obviously.

We’ve been raw ’till 4 for a few weeks now and noticed that we were feeling worse and worse. We bloated out to the point of unbearable pain and couldn’t understand why. Out ratios were 80/10/10 or 90/5/5, yet we were so physically uncomfortable that any sort of movement catalyzed intense stabbing pain within our abdomens. We thought it was just detox, but everything changed last Thursday.

Warning: The following paragraph is not for the faint of heart. You can skip to the subsequent paragraph to spare yourself the details of my self diagnosed food poisoning.

Thursday night I had severe diarrhea combined with stomach cramps that almost convinced me to hit up the emergency room. The pain was so intense that I one point I started crying and I take pride in my high tolerance for pain. I felt as though my intestines were part of a tourniquet and with each wave of agony the tourniquet slowly completed another rotation. My diarrhea was non-stop and full of phlegm. The following day, Friday, I tried to consume lots of melons and juices to try to rehydrate, but soon enough I was battling nausea and vomiting. It was a terrible couple of days and though most of the symptoms have stopped, I’m still experiencing some stomach cramps today.

E coli

We thought it was Salmonella, I was convinced it was Salmonella because the Internet is a powerful tool and I figured it was the rice we had been eating. But now, writing this post, I’ve determined that it must have been E. coli. Last week the city of Portland issued a “Boil Water Notice” due to E. coli contamination found in three separate incidents of city water supplies. We don’t live in the county where the notice was issued, but all of our food is purchased in said county and I think it may have been washed or sprayed with contaminated water before being sold to us (super). 

E.coli bacteria. Photo by Rocky Mountain Laboratories, NIAID, NIH

So, knowing that food is the best medicine, we’ve decided to go fully raw for a bit. Hopefully we’ll heal the damage done to our digestive system these past few days and feel better. I have to admit that there came a point where I was really frightened and I contemplated seeking medical attention, but I’m stubborn and I managed to convince myself that I could get through the pain (not always a good thing and I don’t exactly recommend it).

Anyways, I wanted to give you an update on what’s been going on with me and let you know that you’ll be seeing a lot more fruit in my What I Ate Todays and Fruit Hauls. I’m excited for fully raw, but I also know that raw ’till 4 is always there for me when I want something warm or the fruit is no good. Luckily we’ve entered fruit season here in the Pacific Northwest and I’m pumped to visit the local farms and pick me some berries!


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a RAWky road

I was folding laundry today and I realized that I haven’t really given myself a proper introduction. My “About” page is swell and all, but I feel that it really doesn’t fill you in on the nitty-gritty. I want to make sure that I provide my readers with an honest representation of myself, because even though I am on a personal journey of self-improvement, I’ve loved myself and will continue to love myself every step of the way.

I don’t know where exactly to begin my story, but I do know that I don’t want to start too far back. How about I begin when I fully committed to becoming vegan?

May 2nd, 2012 was the day I stepped out into the light and I knew my life would never be the same again. Now, I’ll leave the full story on how and why I came to this decision for another time as it is lengthy and I’m sure this post will be long enough. I was 5’4, 140 lbs and very unhappy with the way that I looked. I battled acne everyday and everyday the acne won. I would pack on the makeup to the point were I looked unnatural and reapply every few hours just to make myself feel presentable. I have a long history of issues with acne, best left for another time. My hair was beginning to thin and it was freaking me out. I remember that my clothes were feeling tighter on me and my feet were always swollen. I pooped on a weekly basis and it was often a struggle. I lived a sedentary life, glued to an office chair in a windowless room for 8 hours a day and rarely performed any physical activities. I was moody, dramatic, impulsive and detached.

I still remember my last sad, S.A.D. meal, it was vegetable pizza and while consuming it I had no idea that the following day I would swap to a completely cruelty-free, vegan lifestyle.

I tossed everything in the fridge and cupboard that wasn’t vegan and started fresh. I was doing this for me, for my health and I wasn’t going back. I recall the first month we ate mostly smoothies, salads, grains, beans and grilled or stir fried vegetables. I tried to stay away from gluten (mostly because it was the trendy thing to do), salt and processed foods. I was restricting my calories, but I wasn’t counting them. I winged it and thought I was doing a stellar job because I slowly started to see a change in my waistline.

I had so much more energy! We would go for long walks and we’d go to the park and play frisbee. I know, not the most vigorous exercise, but it was a start and I was beginning to feel really good. It was exciting times! We bought our Vitamix, we began exploring local farms (nothing was in season yet) and we were experimenting with the many vegan restaurants in town. It was during this period that we discovered FreeLee and Durianrider and raw vegan seed was planted.

I first became high-carb, low-fat, raw vegan on June 12th, 2012 and we immediately dove into a 12 day banana island. If you don’t know what this means, it’s quite simple, I consumed only water and bananas for 12 days straight. This may sound extreme to many, but I was consuming plenty of calories (about 3000 – 3500 per day) and it truly opened my eyes to just how amazing I could feel on a clean, raw vegan diet. I never felt as alive as a did during those 12 days, all my senses were heightened and I felt as though I had discovered a miracle. Why didn’t everyone know about this? How could I get the message to more people? I was hooked and I loved every second of every moment I lived.

After banana island we were strict 801010 raw vegans. We took down massive banana smoothies for breakfast, a huge mono meal for lunch and gigantic salads for dinner. On average I consumed about 3ooo calories a day, we “went to bed like Buddha and were waking up like Gandhi.” Our energy skyrocketed, so we bought bikes. We began to lose weight, fast. At first it was water weight (about 5 lbs the first week) from eliminating salt from our diet, but then it was fat and lots of it. We weren’t even exercising that often, maybe an hour-long bike ride once or twice a week and at a medium pace. I was losing weight and beginning to see my body’s true shape, an image I thought I lost my first year in the U.S.

By the end of August I was down to 118 lbs and spiraling into a calorie obsessed whole. I thought I could cheat the system. I was convinced that by cutting my calories down to about 1600 per day I would reach my goal faster and be victorious. Looking back, all I really wanted was a slender figure, I wasn’t committed to becoming the healthiest version of myself. I was beginning to plateaux, so I restricted even more and soon enough I was starving and craving everything!

We broke on September 3rd, 2012. We gorged at lunch at a Middle Eastern restaurant and later gorged again at a Thai restaurant for dinner. We ate dinner (enough for 4-5 adults) every night for 5 days in a row at that Thai restaurant. For the following 3 months we ate out almost everyday and I began to put back on all of the weight that I lost. By December I was 130 lbs and, though not pleased about the number on the scale, I didn’t want to return to my raw vegan diet because the weather was getting really cold and most of the produce was shit at this point. I had an all or nothing mentality and consequently, I fell off the wagon and felt like a complete failure.

The next year was a roller coaster ride. I had made so many attempts to be fully raw, or even just incorporating an 801010 vegan diet but I would fail over and over again. It was quite disheartening, but I managed to maintain a weight of 130 lbs because I was active. I ran 15 – 20 miles a week but then I’d get injured, I healed for a couple of months (I’d ride my bike instead) and then repeated the cycle. This was also quite disheartening, but I knew things would get better, I always know things will get better. We always knew what we needed to do to get back on track, but we kept making excuses and they were catching up to us.

We got married last December and leading up to the wedding we both experienced high levels of stress caused entirely by my family. I’m not going to get into the pain we were put through because it still hurts, but we no longer talk with them and I suppose time heals all wounds. Once the whole thing was over and everyone had left, our spirits were broken and we spent months bingeing on “comfort” foods and alcohol (I hate booze, but it lulled me into a daze, which I felt I needed to suppress the sadness). I tried running because running has alway calmed me and slapped a smile on my face, but I developed planter fasciitis and had to stop. I made excuses everyday to not exercise and to comfort myself with fatty foods. Needless to say we put on even more weight and soon enough we weren’t fitting into our clothes.

So here we are now. I decided to quit fucking around and get my shit together. It’s been a few weeks now and we’ve adopted a raw ’till 4 diet that you can see in my “What I Ate Today” posts. I’m trying to get more calories in, but I’ve settled comfortably in the 2000 – 2500 range and plan to increase it with time. I’m still very bloated and I feel I may not be digesting the rice and potato bowls too well, but I really enjoy having warm foods at night. I think I need to experiment a bit with what foods work well for me right now in order to deflate. I don’t own a scale, so I have no idea if I’ve lost any weight, but that’s just a number to me and I’m more interested in improving my overall health and fitness at the moment. I’m also not as active as I’d like to be, but I am working on it and I know in time I’ll be putting in the mileage because nothing makes me happier (with the exception of my husband) than running. I’ve dusted off my bike in anticipation of the drier summer days of the Pacific Northwest and I invested in a few workout dvds to do at home.

It’s rather intimidating for me to post this because it’s such an intimate portrait of the past couple of years of my life. I just wanted to show that I’m not perfect and that life isn’t perfect. We all struggle in life with various things, but we need to always love and respect ourselves. Being healthy is the most valuable thing you can give yourself and it’s a choice. I made some bad choices, but I know the right ones and I’m choosing a better life, for me and for my husband.


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Acidic Fruits and How They Affect My Body

IMG_1235

I recently received an email from a reader and found their questions quite interesting, as I had never really thought about it until now, so I wanted to take my time and answer it as best I can and figured I’d also post this on my blog incase anyone else was curious. I want to remind everyone that I am not a doctor, nor a dietician, so be sure to do your own research before trying anything new.

I am really curious how you are able to ingest such high levels of acid first thing in the morning? Do you have stomach cramps, or have you been doing this so long that now you have no issues whatsoever?

Acid fruits are the most detoxifying fruits and excellent foods. What I did know is that they should be avoided when you have the flu because the body could overreact detoxifying and make you even sicker.

A person’s stomach is usually empty in the morning when he or she wakes up. I always try to drink a liter of water first thing in the morning to rehydrate; perhaps this helps to dilute the acid I ingest for breakfast.

I have never noticed an issue with eating acidic fruits, whether in the morning or any other time of day. I did a bit of research on it and I found conflicting arguments supporting avoiding acid fruits both in the am and in the pm by numerous websites for various reasons. The one thing that most of them had in common is that it all really depends on each individuals own body sensitivities and preferences.

Some people may have problems with these fruits because of their acid content. The acid though is a healthy and organic nutritional element (for instance: ascorbic acid is vitamin c, found especially in citrus fruits and vegetables).

I had quite the tropical upbringing so there is a possibility that this could contribute to my current digestion, but at the same time that was so long ago and all of the cells in my body have regenerated since then.

I also read that sometimes one type of fruit from this acidic category can irritate a particular part of the body. This can be due to an allergic reaction caused by cow milk. There is a good chance that after staying away from dairy this reaction disappears. It’s been several years since I’ve had dairy and maybe this is allowing me to digest these fruits easier.

There is a lot of research supporting acidic fruits as digestive aids, which could be a contributing factor as to why I don’t experience any tummy aches.

I feel that it is okay to eat a fair amount of citrus, pineapple and other acid fruits as long as they are ripe, which usually isn’t the case unless you live where they are grown. I know that my husbands’ tongue gets sensitive when he has too much unripe pineapple. Regardless, I don’t think it would be wise to eat these fruits at every meal as the body needs a variety of vitamins and minerals from an array of fruits and vegetables.

Also, rinse your mouth with water every time you eat acid fruits to rinse off acidity. Otherwise, it could contribute to enamel erosion overtime.


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Stress Feeding and Stress Starving

Stressed is Desserts

I absolutely hate to admit it, but I am an emotional eater. I know that when I want to celebrate anything the first thought in my mind is to go out with my husband and dine like royalty. Usually it’s a high-fat cooked meal that could feed an army, yet we manage just fine to devour it all and seldom need a to-go box. Portland has so many incredible options for vegans. For Thai food nothing beats Pad Thai Kitchen, for the greatest pizzas ever made head over to Sizzle Pie (the Buffalo 666 and the Vegan Angel of Doom are amazing!), if you want to satisfy your sweet tooth there is no better place than Petunia’s Pies (bonus: it’s all gluten free, if that’s what you’re in to). These are just a few selections, but the list goes on and on in Rip City. If you don’t mind a wee drive, places like Bend, Eugene and Salem dish up some delightful, orgasm inducing vegan options as well and don’t even get me started on Seattle.

Sometimes a celebratory reason isn’t what compels us to go out. Sometimes it’s a bad day or week and we’re convinced that a little bit or a lot-a bit of comfort food will make us feel better. For my husband alcohol has always been his go-to to drown his troubles, but for me it’s been food. I’ve never been too keen on booze, though I could never deny that I’ve had my fair share. Frankly, most of the time I just think it tastes like shit! Food doesn’t taste like shit to me.

Despite the reasons for binging on foods that have always made us feel dreadful (if not immediately afterwards, then the next day) we still manage to have a “treat yourself” mentality all too often.

treat yo self

This year has tested my emotional strengths like no year before and my eating habits have suffered as a result. Sometimes I’m so upset that I go on lengthy binges of gut bomb inducing foods available within a 20 mile radius of my home. I know from past experiences that I tend to either punish or reward myself when I’m feeling blue and currently I’ve elected the stick instead of the carrot. This isn’t to say that I’ve currently given up eating all together. Simply put, I’ve totally lost my appetite and I desperately want it back! I currently feel better on an empty stomach, as if I can cope with stressors better do to the fact that my body isn’t expending energy on digestion. I could go days without food, but I know better than that and I’m trying to get my calories in regardless of how much of a chore it feels like.

Just like how eating myself sick can feel comforting, starving my anxiety can be just as comforting.  I would just like to say right now that neither of these methods are a good idea, but as I mentioned before, I am an emotional eater. I believe that this is all the evidence I need to self-diagnose myself with an eating disorder and I’m determined to change.

What should I do? The answer involves discipline, which makes it easier said than done: sugar, water, sleep. By this I mean eat a high-carb, low-fat, vegan diet; drink plenty of liquids to keep the body hydrated and be sure to maintain a regular and healthy sleeping pattern of at least 8 hours of sleep every night. Following these steps ensures that our bodies are healthy enough to cope with the toxins created in our body during times of stress and/or negative thinking. Toxins in the body are major causes of disease including cancer.  When something stresses us, our body turns from a natural state of alkaline pH to acidic.  When our body becomes acidic, cancer cells can grow. Stress suppresses our immune system and makes us weaker and more susceptible to infections, germs, bacteria and viruses. When our immune system is weak, we cannot naturally defend against these invaders.  We get sick and often develop cancer and other debilitating diseases (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that up to 90% of all illness and disease is due to stress). The adrenal glands crank out hormones like adrenaline that drive up blood pressure. With chronic stress, those hormones stay at dangerously high levels. 

“You could carry your burdens lightly or with great effort. You could worry about tomorrow or not. You could imagine horrible fates or garland-filled tomorrows. None of it mattered as long as you moved, as long as you did something. Asking why was fine, but it wasn’t action. Nothing brought the rewards of moving, of running.” – Scott Jurek

As my body should be able to handle itself with plenty of sugar, water and sleep, it’s important to find a way to eradicate the negative emotions from my mind. I figure the best way to do this is also easier said than done: exercise. Exercise increases your overall health and your sense of well-being, which puts more pep in your step every day. But exercise also has some direct stress-busting benefits. It increases endorphins, your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters and it’s meditation in motion, which inevitably improves your mood. 

In conclusion, I know that I have an emotional attachment to food. One that has accompanied me through the good times and the bad. During those bad times I have either stress eaten or stress starved, neither of which are a healthy method of resolution. I know the solution is to eat, hydrate, sleep and be active so that’s what I’m going to try to do. It’s so fucking simple!