Monthly Archives: March 2012

Almost Vegan Final Results, a Birthday, and a Runner’s High

It’s been a pretty big week I guess….lots of cool things to do, talk about, and celebrate….so much so that I’ve not gotten around to posting in over a week.  So where do I start…well bare with me, this one may be a little long winded!

While most were out enjoying green beer, corn beef and cabbage on 3/17, I decided to take to the bike and met my brother for a 25 mile loop (his second…yikes!).  It was awesome to get out there, and was a nice recess from my typical running…and by Sunday 3/18 it was up and at ’em bright and early, and on the road to NYC by 6am  to watch two good friends rock NYC 1/2 Marathon.  The mini road trip with my wife Amy and good friend Wes didn’t come without some apprehension since it was the first time both Amy and I left Emma for more than an hour, but we left her in good hands (good friend and colleague Michelle) and of the 5 hours we were gone….I think Emma slept for 4.  All and all it was a great time…Emma did well….and our good friends Julie Culley (debut 1/2 marathon at 1:13:30) and Kristen Prendergast (PR at 1:24:05) tore NYC’s course to pieces.

The work week went as it typically does, busy and something scheduled on most nights…and with a dinner celebration scheduled for Tuesday (thanks again Wes for taking Julie & I out to celebrate her 1/2) and family birthday celebrations in honor of my 31st scheduled for Saturday & Sunday 3/25, I decided I’d be calling my little “Almost Vegan” experiment 10 days early on 3/20 at day 80…but not before some final biometric testing.  And while I wasn’t totally surprised by the below results…..I find it encouraging to share for anyone looking to make some relatively easy changes to their lifestyle for big time results!

Now keep in mind, my activity levels have not changed (averaging approximately 5-7 hours each week), and the only major change was my nutrition plan.  I ate “Almost Vegan” beginning the first week in January with minimal “cheats”.  I say “Almost” because I refused to give up pizza on Friday’s, milk in my coffee, and if I would have a salad that had a little feta on it, or pasta with a little parmesan I didn’t scrap it off….but I did go without meat, fish, eggs, and all other dairy (including on of my favorite snacks, Chobani Yogurt).  My typical day included:

  • oatmeal for breakfast with coffee
  • a banana at 10am
  • a salad for lunch or grilled veggie wrap
  • a smoothie and granola bar around 1 or 2pm
  • an apple and a couple handfuls of almonds in late-afternoon
  • some sort of bean-based dish for dinner
  • cereal with soy milk for dessert

My results were as follows:

January 2, 2012

  • Weight = 157.4
  • Body Fat % = 16.5%
  • Total Body Fat = 26.01 lbs
  • Total Cholesterol = 157
  • HDL (Good) Cholesterol = 37
  • LDL (Bad) Cholesterol = 108

March 20th, 2012

  • Weight = 155.2
  • Body Fat % = 15.0%
  • Total Body Fat = 23.2 lbs.
  • Total Cholesterol = 149
  • HDL (Good) Cholesterol = 39
  • LDL (Bad) Cholesterol = 98

Overall interpretation: 2.2 pounds weight lost, 3 pounds of LESS body fat, 10 point DROP in bad cholesterol.  Points requiring further exploration……why is my HDL on the low side?  It used to be closer to 60 (when my bad LDL cholesterol was higher too), which many would consider “better than ideal” for a man.  The quick research says that when you’re not consuming a lot of animal-based product and the LDL that goes with it…your body doesn’t need to produce as much HDL (good) cholesterol to manage things.

All in all, I’m pretty pleased here.  To be completely honest, I wasn’t really “needing” to make these changes…but instead did it to further reinforce to myself, and all those I coach / train that with the right actions…..anybody can get results…even someone that many may look with the “oh you’re just different…you’re just skinny….you’re just an athlete…..”, etc…….the fact is, the right things, done over and over again consistently….work!

So with some impressive health gains realized to their fullest on Tuesday….I still had much to accomplish this past week.  I still had two evening meetings, 1 volunteer coaching session at the local youth track club, two running workouts (6 x .5 mile hill repeats, and 5 x 1 mile repeats on the track) a 22 miler to get in on Saturday, two 31 year birthday celebrations to attend….a normal “day job” to complete….and a few minutes to be a good husband & Dad.  No sweat, right?

Well, it’s now Sunday…and I’ve got one more birthday party to go to, and I’ve made it through the rest…..I dragged myself through the dreaded running workouts, realizing my fitness is not what it was last year….actually enjoyed my evening meetings, had a blast at track practice, cherished the few minutes with Amy & Emma…..and put an exclamation point on Saturday with a 22 miler that brought me to tears…..WHAT!?

Yeah, it’s true…I admit it…I’m a bit of a mush….but I finally got a little runner’s high at about mile 19 yesterday….what’s this you ask?  Well, it’s different for everyone, but picture this…..I’m running on a wooded trail next to a beautiful gorge…it’s about 60 degrees and sunny in late March, I’m thinking about all the good things in my life…my wife & kid…my family…my friends…my work….I’m thinking about  how fortunate I am to live in an area with such beautiful landscape, and am reflecting on all the blessings I have as I get ready to enter my 32nd year in this world….and I’m all by myself….or am I?  Then I hear it….the song that just touches your soul and makes you realize, you’re not alone at all, he’s out there…..the lump in my throat starts to tighten, and as I begin to get emotional.  I look to the sky in thanks, catching the most impressive rays of sun peering through the clouds.  It was an incredible moment…one I hope to soon replicate….a perfect way to celebrate the end of my last long run….and the beginning of a new birth year.

So I hope you’ll take a moment…maybe re-read the above paragraph, and then click on the below link…..listening with your eyes closed….maybe thinking about my moment…or even better, thinking about yours.  Life could always be busier, tougher, more hectic, and in the rare opportunities I stop to look around….I realize I’m pretty lucky to have what I do…and it’s good to be me.  I hope you feel the same.

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Looking Forward to Losing Focus

Interesting conversation during a staff meeting yesterday….I’ll spare you the details (our group tends to talk….a lot….and there’s a handful of us who probably enjoying hearing themselves more so than others…myself included)….but the gist was this…..We’re not health-focused robots….it’s ok to be “normal” now and again (if that’s what you call it)…and understand that if healthy habits are on a spectrum with one end being optimal (regular exercise, perfect nutrition, plenty of sleep, etc.), and the other being train-wreck (no exercise, high stress, a diet high in refined, fried and fatty foods, tobacco use, etc.)…most of us move somewhere along the spectrum from day to day and it’s totally normal….as long as we stay as close to optimal most of the time….we maintain our personal integrity and authenticity as health and fitness professionals and continue to walk the walk….

It was an interesting discussion, with some great points, and one I could certainly relate to, because in full disclosure, I’m ready to ease up and slide a little….

If you’ve been reading along, you  know that since the turn of the year I’ve been conducting a little self experiment and eating “almost vegan”, and have been training for the upcoming Boston Marathon.  You also know that my life now includes an additional mouth to feed, and some of my goals focus on getting home on time for family dinner every night (not something I’ve done well with in the past)….and since I’m getting home at a reasonable hour and eating before 7pm (dinner used to be 8:00p or later), I’ve being doing pretty well at getting about 7.5 hours or more sleep per night.  And all in all, (although I won’t totally know until next week when I test my lipid profile..i.e. cholesterol, triglycerides, blood sugar)….I think my health is at or near an all-time high.  Not to brag, but I’ve lost body fat, increased lean muscle mass, and last weekend ran 20 miles averaging a 7:30 / mile pace without a ton of effort.  The fact is….staying focused and implementing as many optimal healthy habits as possible has helped me achieve some decent results thus far…..shocking, I know!

BUT – I’m ready to take a little break…from at least of the healthy habits…my mind is ready to lose a little focus, and I’m sure my body (achy foot from running) wouldn’t mind a little recovery as well.  And so, I’ve made the decision that next week, after 80 of the originally set out 90 days, and in celebration of the start of my 31st year (gulp) and two dinner celebrations scheduled….I’m going to lose a little focus, and call the “Almost Vegan” experiment 10 days early.  It’s been a good run, and I’m ready……but here’s the rub….

Just because I’m done with this experiment (for now), doesn’t mean I’m:

1) Going train-wreck style and letting myself slide in all facets

2) Not going to head back back closer to optimal again in the future.

The key in all of this is to understand that losing a little focus is a totally normal part of the journey.  In the transtheoretical model of “Readiness” this is called “Relapse”….it’s regular, normal, and NOT PERMANENT.

So if you’re going through something similar…don’t be afraid to lose a little focus now and again….as long as you stay true to yourself…your goals…and regain focus when the time is right, you’ll find yourself at or pretty close to where you want to be.

Enjoy your weekend!

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Nutritional Comfort Zone

March being National Nutrition month and all…I thought I’d stick with a recent theme I’ve been covering.  Last week I blogged about my physical results after going 60 days “Almost Vegan” – but what I haven’t yet discussed is how this little experiment is effecting me mentally.  It’s funny how our society is so ingrained in the “meat & potatoes” lifestyle that when you tell people you’re going vegan they look at you like you just said, “yeah, I think I’m going to go without oxygen for a while”… if one could not LIVE with out meat, dairy, or animal based products.  It’s pretty funny actually……it’s almost like people would get seriously offended when you tell them that…as if in some way it actually effected them.

At first, I felt a little uncomfortable with the response of some folks, and as a result, started to feel a little uncomfortable telling others…thankfully over the years I’ve developed this uncanny ability to minimize my concern with other’s thoughts of me when doing something I believe in…(some have mistaken this for arrogance, I call it focus)….and so I moved on with my experiment.

And then of course there’s the stress associated with not having the right things available to eat at the right time (aka when I was hungry).  This has definitely proved a challenge at times, and although I’m very fortunate to work in a facility M-F that has a cafe brimming with vegan options – I’ve handled the stress in two specific ways….maybe you could try these in your life:

  1. Plan ahead – I find this to be a huge stumbling point for folks…we get so wrapped up in what we’re doing, we don’t take the time to think ahead and prepare ourselves.  Now, I’m not much of a brown bag lunch type guy, but I’ve found a few things consistently happen.  First, when I get hungry…I eat…..Second….when I’m hungry and there are less than ideal food choices around, I eat National Nutrition Month - Get Your Plate in Shapethose….Third…when I’m hungry and I’ve got wholesome and vegan options I eat those.  It’s amazing the effect our surrounding environment can have on our eating habits, so I do my best to quickly throw a banana, an apple, a granola bar, and a clementine in my bag everyday.  They travel well, aren’t messy and take next to zero effort to pack.  Could you do something like this?
  2. Just let it go – sometimes I fail in #1 above just like everyone else, and I show up at an event or function where there aren’t any vegan options.  I don’t let this drive me nuts….I (on most occasions, but not all) do my best to eat sensibly, and choose the best of the options present, even if not vegan…hence the “Almost Vegan” approach.  I find that if I stay sensible, and don’t beat myself up for not adhering 100% to my experiment, I’m able to bring my A-game again next time and don’t feel like the experiment is so restricting that it’s not sustainable.  ****CAUTION HERE**** This can be a very slippery slope for folks….it’s important to first “know thyself”….determine if you’re being sensible and eating what’s there is just an exception….or if you’re instead justifying in your head that it’s ok to eat crap every time you leave the house.  If you’re someone who struggles to get back on the saddle and stay there for a while this might not be the best strategy for you.

****a little anecdote for the “Almost Vegan” life….a few weeks back I was mostly away from home after losing someone in the family.  With grieving often comes your typical “comfort food”….and after eating “Almost Vegan” for nearly 60 days, and then eating almost exclusively non-vegan for a day and a half (probably typical for many)….I felt anything but comfortable.  I had indigestion, was fatigued, and nauseous….I walked away with eyes wide open, albeit arteries likely a little more closed****

At the end of the day – sometimes we have to get out of Nutritional Comfort Zone to try something new….we owe it to ourselves to give it a real shot and see how it goes….it’s the only way we can continue to develop into more health-conscious people and learn more about ourselves, what works and what doesn’t.  Sometimes it takes a little experiment….and in my opinion, if we can learn one thing from our efforts…it’s been worth it.  I’ve learned a ton!

Happy National Nutrition Month!

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Almost Vegan – Day 60 Results

Well, I’m 60 days into this “Almost Vegan” thing, and I need to take a moment to say thanks to those that read this blog.  Many of you commented, sent me email, voicemail, etc. that you were inspired to take positive action for your health after reading my first “Almost Vegan” post….I hope you’re all finding success in your efforts and am happy to offer advice / lend a hand as I can…don’t hesitate to ask.  But, I have to admit…while going “almost vegan” has not been bad, and I think totally doable,  I’m about ready go back to what some my consider a bit more normal.

**(For those that didn’t read my initial “Almost Vegan” blog and are interested in knowing WHY anyone would do this….CLICK HERE)**

Now that said, it’s probably important to point out that “normal” for me includes an animal protein-based meal only about 1x / day on most (but not all) days of the week.  So that means either eggs for breakfast OR a turkey sandwich for lunch OR chicken for dinner….and beef….although I LOVE a good steak….is a rare (medium rare actually) treat probably no more than 1x / month.  But for the last 60 days, I’ve been eating “Almost Vegan” as somewhat of a personal health experiment…..and with the exception of Super Bowl Sunday and this past Wednesday-Monday (mostly away from home after a death in the family)….I’ve been doing pretty good – but realize that I owe a great deal of my success to a couple things:

  1. My Wife and her willingness to experiment with foods, deal with my neediness, and constantly look for different ways to ensure things that are good for me, taste good too
  2. My colleagues and access to our company’s FUEL GOOD CAFE – I eat at least 2 meals a day here (usually oatmeal for breakfast, a salad for lunch, and a vegan muffin for snack)

So now for my results:

Weight – gain 1.5 pounds

Body Fat – decrease .5%

Trunk / Midsection Fat – decrease .5%

Average Exercise – 4.8 hours / week

So what does this mean….well….I’m likely consuming more calories than I’m burning (I’ll discuss this in more detail next week), but what I’m burning is more primarily fat (specifically around the mid-section) and I’m increasing my lean muscle mass….all good things!  So how am I doing this….well, last week I discussed how I’m BURNING MORE FAT, and clearly I’m getting enough protein while still being “Almost Vegan” if my weight has gone up but my fat down…i.e. increase in lean muscle mass (unless of course my brain grew…doubtful :))

30 more “Almost Vegan” days to go, and I’ll then check my blood lipid profile (cholesterol, triglycerides, blood sugar).  Hope you’re all moving forward in your health & fitness goals as we enter the last month of quarter 1!  Enjoy your weekend!




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