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Guilt-Producing Food Choices That Aren’t as Bad as You Think

Guilt is a strong emotion that plays a role in our everyday lives. It’s an emotional function that shows us the difference between our life and the life we want to live. It can lead to action, but too often I see guilt as a negative.

For example my clients tend to be ahead of the curve. They are thinking about their own diet and its effect on their health. They are eating a plant-based diet of predominantly whole grains, legumes, fresh fruits and vegetables. And they are motivated to make any needed dietary changes, but yet some are plagued by guilt.

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Guilt-Producing Food Choices That Aren’t As Bad as You Think

Snacking. Eating snacks throughout the day increases your metabolism and keeps you from overeating at meal time. Don’t hesitate to snack on healthy foods.

Eating any form of sweetener. Yes, on average Americans eat too many added sugars and this has deleterious health affects. But are you adding a small amount of agave or maple syrup to an otherwise plant-based whole-food meal? If so, don’t sweat it.

Eating late at night. For many people, eating at night means eating additional, unneeded calories, mindlessly snacking and just making poor nutrition choices in general. But those are different than if you have to eat late because you worked late or took extra time in preparing a great meal. Evaluate what you are eating at night and if you need it, eat and don’t feel guilty!

Eating fat. General nutrition recommendations are to eat low-fat or at least less fat. But the general population is not eating a predominantly plant-based diet. If you are, then the rules are different. Plant fats behave very differently from animal fats; they can be beneficial where animal fats are problematic. Read this fantastic interview with Dr. Walter Willett for an overview of this idea. [Note that trans-fats are technically plant-based, but I'm talking about naturally occurring plant fats. Trans-fat replicate animal fats in foods and in humans]

Eating any refined grain. Yes, we should all eat predominantly whole grains. But that pizza topped with veggies and tomato sauce? Dig in. And there’s some evidence [here's a random abstract] that compounds in whole grains interfere with nutrient absorption. This isn’t a go-ahead to get most of your calories from Chicosticks and Peanut Chews, but, as I’m saying over and over in this post, what are you eating most often? If it’s whole grains then don’t stress the occasional refined grain.

Eating processed foods. ‘Processed’ is one of those terms like ‘toxins’ or ‘cleanse’ that are so broad they have lost any real meaning- yet I hear them all of the time. So much of the food today has little resemblance to its origination and the negative health effects are well-documented. But at what point is something too processed? Fruitarians say that eating anything that kills the plant is detrimental. And I think that some textured vegetable protein products are so far from soybeans that they have lost most beneficial properties. But recently at a dinner someone tried telling me that tofu is too processed. Too processed? Check out these step-by-step instructions (with photos!) on how to make tofu at home and see that tofu maintains much of the integrity of the original bean.

Eating soy. Soy is nutritious, cheap, versatile and safe! See this exhaustive paper by superstar RD Jack Norris that cites over 130 studies.

Eating fake meats. Most of us grew up eating meat and we enjoyed the taste. Some vegetarians now abhor even the idea of meat and that’s fine; I’m not about to talk someone into eating fake meats. But for the rest of us: the occasional meat analog is quite satisfying. Should you rely on them for most meals? No, definitely not. Should you focus on whole foods like beans? Yes. Just don’t feel guilty about the times you want to dig into a nice vegan pizza topped with veggie sausage.

Some of you will read this and think about how you never do any of these and why would anyone? Congrats to you because you are definitely an exceptional person. I wouldn’t advise you to do otherwise. But for most of us the above are real-life examples of how we balance good nutrition and our desire for certain foods. My point is that the evidence in the nutrition field isn’t precise enough to say there are benefits to never doing the above. What you eat most often is what really matters. With the assumption that you are already eating a plant-based diet of predominantly whole grains, legumes, fresh fruits and vegetables. The guilt that we feel and the stress of trying to be perfect are worse for us than doing any of the above!

Can you work on feeling less guilt? I hope so! Thanks for reading and I hope this is helpful. Have a great weekend and maybe I’ll see you Sunday night at our Day in the Life screening?

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Day in the Life Kickstarter Rewards

I spent all day yesterday packing up the rewards from our Kickstarter and mailing them all over the world. It felt great to return the cheer to those who helped us out. Very excited for them to get their envelope!

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Uncertain Paths

Riding up the PCH coast at 4am. Nothing is ever clear!

I guess it’s obvious, based on my last post and this one, that I’m doing some reminiscing.  It’s too easy to forget about what we’ve done and have experienced in the past, even though this is what has made us who we are. Not only to remember the good times and get re-stoked, but to remember the hard times we have struggled through. Isn’t there some quote about hard people coming out of hard times?

My Great Uncle died last week. And as someone who never knew my grandfathers, he was a grandfather to me. And since he lived here in California I’ve seen him more over the previous 6 years than I have my own father. I stayed with him when I raced my first serious triathlon in 2006 and he came to the finish.  As a stubbornly independent person I never asked him to come- or even considered that he might. But he did. Even though we are blood he didn’t know much about me outside of being a traveler who shunned work and authority. But finishing that race seemed to prove to him that I could work hard at something and do well. I earned his respect. That quality- forcing people to earn your respect- is something I hold very dear. Maybe it’s the New York in me, but I don’t think there is enough of that in the world and it made me proud to earn the respect of someone I look up to.

Even in his last days he was super coherent and intellectually above most people I communicate with. He forced me to think about every word I said as I knew it could be challenged or need to be justified. Another solid trait- not letting people get away with bullshit. He also had a giant TV, the first HD one I had ever seen, and we’d watch nature shows. One time surfing came on and we talked about my cousin’s husband and their surf shop.  He told me that he had never understood ‘extreme’ sports until he saw this (and again, showed admiration and pride in his family members not only surfing but having the know-how to open a successful shop). He articulated in a way I never could how he ‘got it’ and riding a wave through an ocean appeared to be the most beautiful experience in the world.

When someone close to you dies the lesson is obvious: life is short and there’s no guarantee how long it will last. It’s all very cliche, but what would you do knowing you would die soon?  I’m a committed procrastinator so the ‘get out and do it!’ lesson is for me as much as it is for you.

My Uncle Bob’s admiration of surfing touched me.  I’d tell myself, ‘I need to try and surf some more’ but there were always things in the way. Well, those things are what is between me and living life. I’m going surfing Tuesday morning, two days after his memorial. I can’t think of anything that would be more important, or more fun.  Thank you, Uncle Bob.

Uncle Bob and I in 2007

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Take it with you

Usually when I have periods of infrequent updates it’s because I’m doing so much. For once, for good or bad, that is not the case.
My AZTR DNF (Did Not Finish) has hit me really hard. Intellectually I know that sometimes you have to quit, but two weeks later and my stokedtivity levels are still unusually low. Trying not to read into it too much or draw any strong conclusions just yet. No doubt there are many lessons here to be learned- I’m just trying to get past the self-deprecating ones. It’ll come.

Also, I owe y’all a write-up from Feel My Legs. Biggest turnout AND lowest attrition rate ever! Lots of stokedness and positive feedback. Over 90% were first-time racers. What’s that say??

Hopefully this weekend I’ll get some constructive thoughts to paper and into the internets. For now, here’s a sign in Arizona about handling your business.

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Beach cruiser at LAX

Just chillin, waiting for me to hop on and ride right out of the airport. #bikeLA indeed.

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SF food mural

Only a slice (haha) of this gigantic mural in the mission.

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Base! How low can you go? Or, why you should ride brevets.

I like to boast that I don’t really follow a training plan, but that is only partially true.  I definitely do not have one of those blogs that list numbers and charts and all sorts of info that only a tiny tiny fraction of the world understands (I’m not a part of that percentage) and won’t turn this into  one.  Even if I do buy a heart monitor.  Or a GPS. But I do (attempt to!) follow the base-build-peak plan popularized by Joe Friel.

If you are one of the people who follow my site only for vegan nutrition stuff, I apologize. But I promise this post won’t be too techy!

Now I have a few complications with the base-build-peak plan. One is that I’m incredibly bad at planning more than a few months in advance. Another is that I tend to do really long events- longer than most people’s longest base-mileage rides.  Lastly, and related to the second point, is a little race called the Furnace Creek 508.  I’ve raced solo the previous three years and since it’s in October, it really screws with my ‘peak’.  Last year I never really peaked at all and I suffered for it.  This year I am not racing the 508 and am attempting a more normal schedule.

That means lots of winter miles! One fun way to get these miles is on brevets:  self-supported, long-distance rides.  There’s no support, only a route sheet, start time and ‘controls’ where you need to get your brevet card signed and/or a receipt to prove you were there.  I wrote a little about them and qualifying for Paris-Brest-Paris last month. Since then I rode a 200k with Mike Sz in Orange County where we stopped for coffee and burritos and took 12 hours to finish, the Point Reyes 200k in SF, where I rode hard on a beautiful day and finished in under 8 hours. This past weekend I headed to San Diego to ride their club’s 300k.  My next post will be that story: experiencing all four seasons in one ride.

Brevets are randonneuring rides; each club usually does a series: 200k, 300k, 400k and 600k, all of which are approved by the national randonneuring group and are qualifications for the big one: 1200k.  Sound insane? It’s not. The routes are great, the time limits are healthy and the riders and organizers are often very inclusive.  I highly recommend you get out and ride one: official USA Randonneur calendar here or a California brevets schedule I made: http://tinyurl.com/CAbrevets2011.

My approach for training is that it is much more than cardiovascular and muscular fitness. If that’s all it was, then I’d say stay home and ride your trainer for hours every day. But most people don’t quit events because they don’t have the fitness, they quit because they didn’t prepare mentally or something unexpected happened and they were unprepared. How do you know how much water to drink? You need to get out there and get dehydrated. And bonk. And yes, be miserable. On brevets there’s no aid stations to count down to. Only yourself and your ability to find food and water out in the world.  When you become dependent on yourself, you’ll be more prepared for any event you have planned in the future.

That 200k in SF? It was awesome. First off, I met the legendary ultra-runner Ann Trason (<–read this interview!), and was star struck. Yes, she was riding it. And it was a perfect day for cycling: favorable winds, sun all day and sleeves and vest temperatures. Nice to know I could concentrate and comfortably put out 125 miles in under 8 hours.  Last weekend’s 300k? The opposite. It’s going to get its own post because it was a wake-up call about all that can happen when on your bike all day…

Note that Spring is only 3.5 weeks away! I hope all of you, no matter what your interests are, are out there getting ready to do what you do. Remember, Demand the Impossible!

What I’m looking at today:

- Banksy is in LA and killing it.

-My friend Dan Koeppel wrote about Andrew Skurka circling Alaska, 4679 miles, by foot, raft and skis in National Geographic.

-A journalist called the Union-busting Wisconsin Governor and pretended to be David Koch to see what he had to say. I love a political prank!

-I also love quotes and here’s a collection on Vegan Activist.

-How to make kale chips!

And since I referenced Public Enemy in the title, I’ll end with them:

 

 

 

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Cycles

I've been in SF many times this year, but these last few days have
made me feel closer to it. Less of a visitor and more of a….part-
time resident? No, that's not it. Nowhere ever totally feels like home
for me, but the more time I spend in California all of it feels like
my home. Fuck a stupid north/south CA divide (everyone already knows
Northern CA is overrated), this whole place is my home.
On this trip I rode Paradise Loop, some roads from the Rough Riders
Rally and all around the city. I ate Chicago-style pizza and at a
vegan Mexican place. Visited a Buddhist monestary/farm where we swam
in a pond and played kickball. A sweet life it is.

Tomorrow I head south by bike with Jeff to LA, 450 miles in 3 days.
We're camping, but traveling very light- I've only a big seatbag and a
hydration pack. Laptop I needed here for work but didn't arrange to
mail? Check. Chocolate covered espresso beans? Check. Ready to start
teaching again Monday? Not quite.

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Adventure is contagious

My British friend Aidan, who was on my crew for the Norseman triathlon, sent me this email recently:

In a couple of weeks, Emily and I are setting off for New Zealand.
We’ve got a few weeks of touring around before she swims The Cook
Strait (weather permitting, somewhere between 20-26 February). It’s
going to be a good adventure, and on the way back we’re scheduled to
have a week in LA.

‘before she swims the Cook Strait’

Hard to wrap my mind around that. Emily has a blog where she discusses this with more detail. Honestly, I prefer reading the lead-up to the wrap-up. You feel the nervousness and excitement as someone attempts to write what they are feeling and are up against. Before my biggest events I always have a part of my brain that wants to fully retreat. ‘What the fuck are you doing? You can’t handle this! You’re in over your head!’. And then my ego has to step up and answer. My writing before events is a combination of these and can go either way depending on my mood when I sit down to type.

I’m so excited for her and trying to imagine swimming for that long. I searched for more info and came across www.cookstraitswim.org.nz. Here’s my favorite part of the FAQ:

What is the most difficult part of the swim?
Getting across Cook Strait and finishing

Good to know.

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Slingshot Dakota

I draw so much energy from seeing people I care about do what they
love. Good friends Slingshot Dakota Thursday night at The Smell.

I hope you do too! That’s one of the main drives for me to write this blog: the motivation factor of shared energy and good stories. And with that I’m off for this evening’s adventures, on the third bike of the day (!).

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