An Experiment with Death

I’m reading a lot about death right now.

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Photo by Mikes Photos on Pexels.com

Not for any deep reason- I haven’t experienced any loss, I don’t have any kind of illness, I just realized how little I’ve thought about death. There are some people who could argue that I don’t really have to worry about it and that’s okay, but I realized it’s better the devil you know rather than the one you don’t. It’s a personal thing- I just want to understand, to know more, especially because death and food go together.

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Photo by Pineapple Supply Co. on Pexels.com

There are stereotypes everywhere of casseroles and comfort foods during wakes and following funerals, deciding to stop eating, and how closely food is tied to our health. Almost anywhere you turn, there’s books about how to live longer, subvert disease, all through using the “power of nutrition”. 

But what is death and why are we so scared of it?

Learning about the things we know little about is a good way to broaden horizons, become more empathetic, and live in a way that seems more intentional than just letting information come to us in ways that just passively allow us to get an understanding of someone’s moment in time- through a quick post, a photo, a tweet, or a book, but I want to get a good idea of what the Western idea of ‘death’ tends towards.

I’ll be documenting my ideas here for sure in between internship posts, share what I’m reading, as well as field any comments, recommendations, or anything of the kind that I get via email or comment or social media.

Especially if you have any recommendations about readings, ideas, podcasts, about the link between food, death, and grief. A lot of the reads I have stocked up are more about death in general (right now I’m reading Natural Causes by Barbara Ehrenreich) and would love more ideas.

I definitely want to hear from you guys about this from you guys. What was an experience with death that shaped you?

What to expect when you stop losing weight

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I ended my cut recently and it went well. I definitely look and feel faster, slimmer, and my energy levels are back up. I did it all by myself this time, calculated my own macros, and let myself be flexible. 

I was able to tailor my diet and macros towards things I liked to eat and never really felt deprived. A lot of anti-diet advocates focus on the depravity of diets and how you have to postpone all your favorite foods, but in reality as long as you account for them it’s not like you have to lock away all your favorite foods.

Discerning your priorities when it comes to nutrition is what makes a cut really difficult.

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So when you have to choose between 150 calories worth of tortilla chips, vs a big yummy sweet potato, you can opt for the tortilla chips when you’re really feeling it. It’s not moralizing the choice (that tortilla chips are “bad” and you should choose the “good” sweet potato) but rather knowing that when you’re cutting calories, and need to keep your nutrient profile relatively healthy, sometimes you do need to choose the sweet potato.

Of course, you can fill in the blank with whichever foods you prefer, I just chose sweet potato because I found it to be the most recent and relevant example to me. This comes in to play for all kinds of foods, and all kinds of choices.

There are other things I really didn’t expect when I ended my cut, which meant about a month/two weeks each of adding back in some calories bit by bit so my metabolism had time to keep up. I used Renaissance Periodization’s maintenance article to guide me as well as my own hunger cues.

Maintenance is the period of time after you lose weight- you either stay at the weight you’re at, or you give your body a break between cuts to adjust to the new size. So I’ve been upping my calories slowly these past few weeks.

Things I didn’t expect:

The mentality

Going from eating a smaller amount of food to a little bit bigger amounts every two weeks took some getting used to. As I entered my food into MyFitnessPal, all I could think of was “really? All this? And I’m still not at my goal yet?”

It was weird adding an extra serving of tofu, or beans, or whatever else it might be in order to reach a higher calorie goal.

There was a bit of guilt, too, since I advocate for a mixture of intuitive eating and watching what you eat, I felt uncomfortable talking openly about my cut. But as my friend, who’s undergoing her own IE journey, and some fellow RDs (Nutritionist Sam, doctormeetsdietitian) remind me, everyone works best doing their own damn thing.

You can be against the shame, black and white thinking, and sizeism that the diet industry pushes out every day while still personally knowing you need to log food to make sure you’re getting what you need.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but with my ADHD, if I don’t log and watch my food, I’ll be eating those dopamine-hitting foods all day err day. Chocolate, chips, (vegan) cheese, you name it, if my brain gets an extra dopamine hit from it it’ll be there.

It’s not depriving myself of the joy of food; it’s knowing my limits. Which is part of what makes IE make sense to me.

Blooooaaaatiiiing

I already have IBS, so bloating is not a stranger in my life. But wow, adding more food makes you more bloated at the end of the day and feel just a /bit/ more full.

One of those things that I logically knew but then when I experienced it, I just went “oh, well, that’s a thing”.

Energy!!!!!

When I first felt sluggish adding in more food, that slowly gave way to more energy when I lifted and better lifting sessions. I timed it well (on accident, as most things in my life) that my cut ended just in time for my program to get heavier.

I also have had to go for easier cardio now that my energy needs to go towards big lifts, which is another weird feeling. I love a hard cardio session at the end of the week, so gliding away on the elliptical is an experience I haven’t had since my early college days.

Finishing a weight cut and moving to maintenance is, like weight loss itself, a process.

It deals a lot with listening to your body, paying attention to how you feel after you eat, and changing your routine just enough that your body can get used to the new weight.

We’ve got a ways to go yet (I probably won’t cut during the summer and jury’s still out if it’d be worth cutting during my internship), but I’m pleased with how I’m doing so far.

I’ll talk more about body image in another post but for now, don’t forget to do your homework, eat a vegetable, and smile at someone today.

See you soon!

Can my son be vegan?

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When it comes to any kind of eating pattern, there’s always a natural worry that it could be unhealthy for your son and daughter. With veganism, which is a big change from a “standard” diet for most, it’s only natural to worry if boys can be vegan. Especially with our current culture surrounding masculinity.

If you’re on the internet, even just Facebook comments, you’re probably one of many who’s seen the term “soy boy” and stopped to wonder what that meant. Here’s a helpful video in case you’ve never heard it before (just a warning, it’s rather long) .

Like other forms of toxic masculinity before it, “soy boy” is a derogatory term used to tear men down who are “feminine” by traditional standards. It refers to the nutritional content of soy being like estrogen, which is a hormone responsible for what’s deemed to be more “feminine” traits. (Breasts, high pitched voices, less body hair, etc).

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See how “soy boy” is compared to the “manly” wrestlers?

The belief here is that these men eat a lot of soy, and thus are soft, feminine, weak (yeah, it’s not a kind term towards women, either), or any other derogatory statement about femininity you can dream of.

All this turns to the question if boys can really be vegans.

And the answer is yes.

But why is it yes?

Myths of Veganism

Veganism is different from plant based. Veganism is connected to animal welfare and avoidance of any animal product, including things tested on animals.

Since it’s rooted primarily in compassion, often veganism is stereotyped as “feminine”. Rather, we tend to see men as more rough and tough rather than crying or compassionate. And vegans are stereotypically the modern equivalent of tree-huggers, with most outspoken vegans being female.

“Soy boy”

The estrogen in soy does not cause femininity, either. The soy in tofu carries a plant-based, not animal based, form of estrogen that doesn’t affect one’s body the way taking an estrogen pill would. It completes a different purpose and doesn’t affect a teen boy’s development at all.

There are plenty of male vegans who are, pardon the colloquialism, “manly”, including:

And plenty more I didn’t include. This is just a short list to show that veganism doesn’t reverse puberty.

Meat, development, and other things

Other myths that stop guys from being vegan are that meat is needed for muscles- which is, again, not true. There are the guys I mentioned above, not to mention tons of vegan bodybuilders and lifters who are strong without needed to eat any animal products.

Live Kindly also has a list of 5 reasons guys might be scared to go vegan– if your son wants to be vegan and you have hesitations, this list might help, as would looking at Happy Herbivore’s interviews of a bunch of vegan men who live a regular life!

Like diets that contain animal products, a vegan diet can be equally healthy with proper planning and experimentation of different recipes and strategies.

There’s no need to worry if your son will suffer any adverse consequences from going vegan- they’ll be just as, if not more, healthy than their meat-eating buddies.

Any questions or anything you want to add? What are your tips for a first-time vegan?

As always, do your homework, eat a vegetable, and make sure to smile at someone today. See you soon!

 

5 things vegans should pay attention to

5 things vegans should pay attention to

My mom calls me a “nerd” a lot. It’s because if you get me started on nutrition, theatre, or my dogs it’s hard to shut me up. Hence why I started blogging about it…to save my poor mom from all my ranting.

Today we get to chat about something equally nerdy and important…nutrients!

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Yaaaay! 

How often have you heard: “I need more protein”, “Where do you get your protein?”, “I heard carbs are bad…” (etc) in general conversation?

Now picture a dinner party and how many of your friends (who don’t have a condition like hypertension) are saying: “My potassium intake is INTENSE” or “My selenium is rather low today. Anyone have any brazil nuts?”

Yeah…not heard a lot. If you’re vegan, you’re a little bit more aware of these micros than someone on a standard American diet (aptly abbreviated to SAD). And if you’re not, don’t worry, you’re not going to die.

There are some micronutrients that you, or the vegan in your life, should be paying attention to regardless of diet.

What’s a micronutrient?

Like a macronutrient, a micronutrient is something our body uses to stay healthy just on a smaller scale. For example, sodium (which is part of NaCl- sodium chloride, table salt) helps our muscles, heart, and nerves fire when we need them to.

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Which ones are the ones vegans need to pay attention to? There’s a lot of micronutrients.

Here are what I consider to be the top 5 micronutrients you should be focusing on:

  • Iron (+Vitamin C) (yes, technically 2 in one…you’ll see)
  • Vitamin D
  • Calcium
  • B12
  • Zinc

Iron

Iron is used for a few things in the body:

  • Oxygen transport
  • Keeping blood cells healthy.

If you are an individual who menstruates, you may already be aware that iron is needed more during menstruation since you’re losing a bit of blood.

It also helps in handy little things like energy production, DNA synthesis, and acts like an antioxidant in the body (https://veganhealth.org/iron-part-1/#functions-iron) .

Vitamin C is tagged on there because it helps increase your adsorption of iron. Simply put, it acts like a magnet: it scoops up more iron for your body than your body would get if you didn’t add any vitamin C.

Including vitamin C in an iron-rich meal can look as simple as enjoying an orange after eating some lentil salad (you can even include some spinach, another source of iron).

I’m bad at recipes and cooking (working on it!) so here’s an article on iron sources from No Meat Athlete.

Vitamin D

Necessary for bone health and calcium absorption. If you drink dairy milk, you might have noticed there are dairy products that include vitamin D and it’s because of the link between vitamin D and calcium.

Often, during the sunny months, humans can get vitamin D from the sun. However, during colder months, getting vitamin D can be a challenge (unless you’re one of those people who can wear shorts when it’s freezing…if you’re this person, you scare me with your strength).

There are vegan/vegetarian sources of vitamin D like algae, and vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) supplements.

Calcium

Not exclusive to dairy, calcium can be found in numerous sources like spinach, tofu set in a calcium solution, sesame seeds, and fortified plant milks. You don’t have to have dairy products to get calcium, so vegans rejoice!

Much like Vitamin C + Iron, Calcium + Vitamin D is a dream team of micronutrients. Calcium is needed for bone health (something you might remember from health class) but is also needed for a healthy nervous system.

B12

Even non-vegans need to pay attention to their B12 intake. B12 is not naturally from animal products as some might claim, but rather is found in soil bacteria that we used to get by not washing our produce before we ate it.

By the way…please wash your produce. You can get B12 without eating dirt.

The book Vegan for Life by Jack Norris and Ginny Messina, two vegan RDs, explains that the best way to supplement B12 is with a sublingual supplement.

If you are a vegan, you cannot skip your B12. B12 is necessary for healthy brain function and a B12 deficiency is no laughing matter.

But don’t let that scare you- B12 is easy to come by with these supplements.

If you or your teen want to go vegan, having a varied diet is key to getting these micronutrients in and making sure you’re getting what you need for your lifestyle. Just like paleo, the Mediterranean diet, keto, whatever eating fad crosses your mind, veganism just needs a little bit of time to plan for variety!

These are the top five nutrients I believe people need to pay attention to. What are your top five? Let me know!

And remember: Do your homework, eat a vegetable, and make sure to smile at someone today. Bye!

 

Teen athletes need more protein

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I wasn’t a school athlete. I was one of those ‘too cool for school (sports)’ theatre kids who never really understood the hype of a home football game, or lacrosse game if your town is anything like mine.

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Yeah, I’m not kidding, we have a lacrosse team. And before you ask, I have no idea what lacrosse really is except tall sticks with nets on top that’s KIND of like Quidditch but there are no broomsticks involved. I did like running, but I wasn’t on cross country, and I didn’t start lifting until my senior year of high school.

So it might not be a surprise when I say that my knowledge of sports nutrition comes more from an angle as an adult who’s trying to fuel her workouts, who looked into the difference between teen athlete nutrition and adult athlete nutrition. What do we know already?

  • Teens are growing rapidly in a way like when they were babies, which burns calories
  • Moving around burns calories
  • Teens like to eat (as they should, food is awesome)

So what does this mean?

Teen athletes need a lot of calories, especially…(drum roll please) PROTEIN!

Yes, protein, the magical macronutrient we’ve covered in the past. Let’s look more in depth on how to fuel your teen athlete:

how much protein does my teen need?

Eatright.org currently recommends .5-.8g/kg of your teen’s bodyweight. Since they exercise more than teens who are just sedentary, try to aim more for .8-1g/kg body weight.

Teen athletes are still growing, so we want to make sure they’re not just getting enough protein for their sport but for their growth as well! Protein doesn’t just help build muscles, but it makes red blood cells, white blood cells, and is used for hormones (which we know teens have a lot of!) and enzymes.

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Protein helps us enjoy a lot of the good things in life! 

Lots of people tell us that the US is protein-obsessed and takes in too much. Is that true?

Yes and no. So, yes, there is an idea that we eat way too much protein which can have negative health effects like kidney strain. But what we need to look at is the quantity and quality of the protein you’re getting.

In a vegan diet, protein is coming from soy meat products, tofu, seitan, tempeh, beans, lentils, nuts.

In a standard American diet (not Mediterranean or DASH focused), protein sources are often large servings of red meat, processed meat, or restaurant style portions of animal products. Not just meat, but cheese or dairy.

If your teen is vegan and paying attention to their protein, they’ll have no issues getting their protein amounts in daily. If your teen is not vegan, it’s better to get their protein from sources like chicken, fish, eggs, nut butters, and dairy rather than red meat.

Another source of worry when it comes to protein intake is supplements.

While teens  can use protein shakes for various reasons- building muscle (“bulking”), losing weight (“cutting”), 1 scoop of vegan protein powder can offer about 20g of protein.

So while these can be really helpful when it comes to athletes, it still should be treated like other protein sources- rather than something on it’s own. Most protein powders, especially vegan powders, are safe for consumption. One place I like to go is truenutition.com and make a custom blend of soy, rice, hemp, pumpkin protein. Chocolate flavor of course!

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Mine rarely looks this good…

Fueling your athlete’s practices and games are important not just for performance but for growth  and muscle repair.

Notice how eatright’s source mentions around 3,000 calories? Don’t let that number scare you. Remember, calories are not morality currency where the more you take in, the less humane you are. They’re just the way your body takes in energy to use for the things you love to do.

And it’s important you let your teen know their appetite is normal.

If your teen is an athlete, you do want to make sure these calories are full of fruits, veggies, complex carbs, and our friend protein.

So let’s say your teen is 160lb. How much protein do they need?

160/2.2= 72kg. If they’re an athlete, let’s say they’re aiming for .9g, so:

72/.9= 80 grams of protein a day at least.

There has been a new study in sports science where they upped the protein requirement for muscle building, which I’ll write more about soon, but wanted to share it here for my fellow study nerds!

What do you think? Share some of your favorite after-practice snacks below!

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It’s OK if your teen wants to be vegan

Teens can be vegan

Veganism, the diet (eating-kind, not weight loss kind) that excludes all animal products has been on the rise since 2014. According to Live Kindly’s recap of Veganism in the past year, there are huge increases in demands for animal-product free foods.

One quick search on YouTube for veganism shows recent uploads of what I eat in a day, suggestion videos, ‘why I went vegan’ videos, and vegan vlogs.

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Click here to be taken to the newest ‘vegan’ youtube uploads!

Why the increase? I think that in the digital age, where information can be transferred quicker than we can blink, we’re seeing a lot of other vegans blogging, vlogging, podcasting, and just tweeting about their ideas and beliefs. As with all discussions, people are seeing other’s point of view and changing.

We also see more vegan celebrities and athletes paving the way and spreading the message of the benefits of eating a plant-heavy diet.

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I personally went vegan because of Beagle Freedom Project, a nonprofit that rescues animals from animal testing. After a while I realized that if I’m against animals being tested on, why do I eat them?

Of course, there are people against animal testing but might feel differently about eating them. And that’s okay!

But what if your teen wants to be vegan?

The common definition of veganism, the one I shared earlier, can be a red flag. It focuses on the exclusion of things rather than the inclusion- so let’s change our focus!

What do we add when someone goes vegan?

Since vegans don’t eat cheese, meat, milk, or eggs, they include more legumes, beans, plant milks, whole grains and other forms of protein like nuts, seeds, and tofu.

Veganism can be focused on junk food (there’s a whole list of accidentally vegan junk food), but ultimately a balanced vegan diet includes lots of colors of fruits, vegetables, and protein sources.

It’s totally okay if your teen wants to be vegan

Puberty and adolescence is the time where teens are going to experiment with their independence, which can look like a bunch of different things: eating more fast food than normal, not wanting to go to religious services with you, cutting their hair/growing it out, and going vegan.

There are a lot of different ways you can support your teen if they decide they want to go plant-based. I wrote an article for Athlegan on how to transition to a vegan diet that will be helpful for you to read. I break down a typical transition into four steps.

  1. Decide the reason
  2. Accept that mistakes happen
  3. Start small
  4. Find Vegan friends

Ask your teen why they want to be vegan. If it’s because they saw videos of factory farms, or because they just don’t like meat, then you have a way to discuss with them about their meal options.

Have them help cook dinner and decide their lunches. This is a big shift if you and your family normally eat animal products- especially if your teen is using this as an excuse to be extra picky. Help your teen figure out what they like and don’t like by having them pick out recipes with you.

Even if it’s just a new spin on beans and rice, your teen getting a say in recipes and learning to cook them not only helps you but helps them learn an important skill: cooking!

One of the things that I wish I had learned before I left for school was different cooking skills. I could do the basics and even now I’m not too bad, but I wish I would have had a couple handful of recipes before I went away for college.

Vegan diets can be extremely healthy. Vegan Health.org goes over some things to keep track of for your teen, and here are some things to consider:

  • Vegan diets emphasize a lot of fruits and vegetables
  • The main protein sources are whole foods: beans, legumes, etc
    • They’re high in fiber which help keep you regular
    • They’re extremely versatile when it comes to dishes (look at my Pinterest for inspo!)
  • For burgers, hot dogs, and chicken nuggets, there are meat substitutes you can buy for cookouts with your teen (yes, I know it’s March, but I’m just optimistic for those warmer days!)

Other tips and tricks are available through One Green Planet’s article on Feeding Vegan Teens.

Some key takeaways from that article are:

Eat or drink something high in Vitamin C to help your body absorb iron (this can look like a glass of calcium fortified orange juice and some cereal, or oatmeal).

Remember: A vegan diet isn’t a deprivation diet. You can be extremely healthy on a vegan diet. You can even veganize some of your teens favorite recipes, like pizza, smoothies, and desserts.

We’ll go into how to spot if your teen’s veganism is covering an eating disorder in a later post!

Are you vegan? Why, or why not? Let me know and join the #centerstageensemble by telling me your reason on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook!