Client Profile: Jason, Week of 10/30 – 11/5

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on November 6, 2011 by Jason

The clocks are shifting back this weekend and I’m taking the opportunity to reflect on some areas where I’m struggling. When Jake and I first started working together I explained to him that I feel as though I have a pretty good foundation of knowledge about nutrition and fitness. That is to say, I understand the basics, but in the past I’ve always struggled to put things together into a concrete plan and make permanent lifestyle changes.

Working with Jake is definitely helping improve my nutrition knowledge, he’s already introduced me to some new foods and new ways of thinking about my nutrition I hadn’t considered before. Unfortunately, I’m still struggling to execute my plan and that’s my fault not Jake’s. It’s extremely frustrating sometimes. I understand what I need to do but “real life” gets in the way.

My personality tends to be that of a planner. I like to sit down and work out a plan (often with a ridiculous amount of detail) to reach my goals. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s good to have a guide to get you where you want to go, but my problem is that when things don’t go according to plan I tend to fall apart. (OMG! One tiny part of the plan didn’t work, abandon ship! We’re doomed!) Real life never goes according to plan, so I’m often in a cycle of planning and re-planning and never really get anywhere…

Goals

Traditional goal setting advice tells us to use the SMART System.

  • S - Specific – Answers the five “W” questions
    • What: What do I want to accomplish?
    • Why: Specific reasons, purpose or benefits of accomplishing the goal
    • Who: Who is involved?
    • Where: Identify a location
    • Which: Identify requirements and constraints
  • M - Measurable – Allows specific measurement of progress and success.
    • How much? How many?
    • How will I know when I’ve accomplished my goal?
  • A - Attainable – Goals must be realistic and attainable.
    • Is this possible? Too extreme?
    • How can the goal be accomplished?
  • R - Relevant – A relevant goal is one the goal-setter believes is possible and is willing to work towards.
    • Does this seem worthwhile?
  • T - Time-bound – Goals should have a time-frame so the goal-setter can commit to a deadline.
    • What can I do in 6 months? 6 weeks? Today?
If you look back at my previous posts the only goals that I’ve talked about are reaching a healthy weight, transitioning into a vegan diet, running a half marathon in January and eventually building to a full-marathon. Some of these goals have elements of SMART system, but all of them need work. I’m going to break my goals down in individual posts to avoid one enormous post, but will include my stats with this first post.

Weight Update:
Original weigh-in (9/19/11): 216.2
Week 5 weigh-in (10/29/11): 208.4 (-7.8 pounds total, +2.2 pounds from last week)

As always, thanks for reading. You can follow my progress on dailymile or @jwmfitness on twitter.

Let’s Get Weird People!

Posted in Uncategorized on November 6, 2011 by runlikehealth

Show of hands.  Who likes to be weird around here?  My hand is raised (even though you can’t see it).  Yes, in the world I live in outside of the plant-based food and endurance junkies I run with, I am a weird guy.  I embrace my weirdness.  I am the dude with the crazy green goo in a recycled glass jar that i am more than willing to pour into my system following a 2 hour bike ride.  When I open the community fridge at work, all of my crazy vegan food is ostracised to a corner of the fridge all alone while everyone else’s food is at least a foot away.  Like my foods vegan-ness may infect their food (I’m not even kidding about this).

This is a true story about eating at work once. For a short period of time, I worked with a more senior gentleman than myself, who like most older Mainers, was quite stubborn and set in his ways.  Especially in areas of nutrition.  We would usually eat dinner together just to have some company.  One night I had brought in some Vegan ravioli called Soy Boys to eat.  These things were so well disguised as to their vegan-ness, that even my coworker commented on how good they looked, and how happy he was that I was finally eating something “normal”.  So I of course asked him if he would like to try one.  His eyes lit up for a split second, but then a look of suspicion washed over his face.  Yes, he suspected that the crazy hippy (that’s me) was trying to get one over on him.  We crazy hippie vegans are crafty like that.  Always trying to slip healthy food into the mouths of unsuspecting passers-by.  I had to come clean, and admit that the filling was in fact the T word.  TOFU!  Oh the horror!  The humanity!  He coward away from the Soy Boy’s like Dracula to an organic head of  garlic.  It was priceless.  He went back to enjoying his nitrate filled bologna (in a perfect circle), nutritionally vacant Wonder bread, and yellow waxy cheese (it was dairy at one point in it’s life) sandwich.  Who is scared now.

I believe that what is considered normal in our society is in desperate need of reform.  Normal should be beautifully grown and prepared plant-based foods. High fiber, high nutrition, low calories instead of the other way around.  It is my sincere hope that someday we will look at all of the processed and fast foods as being weird.  Our nation as a whole needs that.  But in the meantime, let’s get weird with some kale!

Client Profile: Jason, Week of 10/23 – 10/29

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on November 1, 2011 by Jason

I had an amazing week. The main change I made this week nutritionally was to swap out the rice in my “beans & rice” dish I eat for lunch for buckwheat. Buckwheat has a slightly better nutritional profile for my goals and it cooks faster than rice too.

This week I struggled a little with calories in vs. calories burned.  I’ve started my formal training plan for the half-marathon and I’m upping both the frequency and intensity of my runs and I’ve started doing speedwork. Tuesday was a fartlek workout which was a blast and then I put in another fairly fast/intense workout on Wednesday at a sustained pace (basically a tempo run I guess).

By the time I did a slower recovery run on Thursday I was starting to feel the wear and tear. I was never sore, just tired and worn down. I was surprised to see that I’d lost six pounds (from 209 down to 203) from the start of the week until Thursday. While I’m all about losing the weight that seems a bit too fast for me and was probably a factor in why I was starting to feel bad. I purposely ate a little heavier on Thursday night and Friday (rest day) to try and get some calories back into my body and allow it to recover. I gained a few pounds back but I wasn’t upset about it.

Saturday was my 10k race. While I’m fairly comfortable doing the distance, I’ve never completed a 10k race so I wasn’t sure what to expect. To make things even more interesting we had our first snow storm of the season on Saturday morning. It wasn’t too bad as we were just on the edge of the storm that went up the coast. By the start of the race things had warmed up to the mid to upper-30s and there was only an occasional light rain and no snow on the roads/path.

The 10k was a double of the 5k out and back course. The course was mostly flat with some strange parts where it felt like you were going uphill when you were actually going downhill and vice-versa. The event was related to the work I do so I got to see several colleagues and former co-workers. The double out and back was a cool format because all of my friends are also faster than me so I got to see them multiple times on the path as we passed.  On a loop course I would have seen them at the start and never again.

I’m not sure how the planets aligned to make it happen, but I finished in 65:33 (10:22 pace) according to my Garmin. This was about 10 minutes faster than what I was estimating would be a “solid” time for me so I was shocked at my performance. I’m still waiting for them to post the official results online but I don’t think I’ll be more than a few seconds off. Apparently the timer’s software crashed during the race and they had to redo everything at the end. Several of my friends placed (my buddy’s wife won the women’s 5k) and so we waited around for about an hour in the cold before they gave out the medals.

I’m thrilled to have this performance this early in my training. It leaves me wondering if I should alter my half-marathon goal time. I was planning to shoot for a 2:30 half and now I think I can do better than that…possibly much better, as I still have 11 weeks of training to go. I don’t want to go overboard or anything (to be clear, I’m thinking more like 2:20 not 2:00), but it’s definitely going to be in the back of my mind moving forward. If I can drop another 20-30 pounds by the race things could get really interesting…

For next week my main goal is to try to eat a few more calories during the week to have enough energy to get through my heavy running days and not have the (minor) crash that I did this week. Jake wants me to try going gluten-free (or at least cutting back on the gluten as much as possible) and I’m willing to try doing that, but before we go there I’m going to eat up the last of my whole wheat pasta and some other food I have in my cupboards. So this week will be somewhat of a clean-up week to get rid of some of the food that (while still healthy)  isn’t quite where I want to be nutritionally anymore.

Weight Update:
Original weigh-in (9/19/11): 216.2
Week 5 weigh-in (10/29/11): 206.2 (-10 pounds total, down 3.4 from last week)

As always, thanks for reading. You can follow my progress on dailymile or @jwmfitness on twitter.

Client Profile: Jason, Week of 10/16 – 10/22

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on October 24, 2011 by Jason

This week was mix of great achievements along with some major slip-ups. Let’s talk about the good stuff first.

The good

I tried buckwheat for the first time this week and loved it. This is part of my effort to try other whole grains. Compared to brown rice buckwheat has more fiber and protein per serving. It cooks faster too. This week I just made it with plain water and threw in some frozen peas and carrots at the end. It was a great side dish with BBQ tofu and some greens. Next week I think I’ll try using it as a substitute for rice in my normal beans and rice (now beans and buckwheat I guess) dish that I take to work.

My core program is coming along nicely. Planks are still my nemesis, but I’m starting to get the better of them. This week I increased my planks from 3 sets of 10 seconds to 3 sets of 15 seconds. I also made improvements in my leg lifts and windshield wipers too and I’ve started throwing in some split squats and push-ups to make my strength training more well-rounded.

I feel I’m starting to see some improvements in my running from my core workouts. I want to start doing speedwork as part of my routine and on Tuesday I ran a 5k “time trial” just to see what would happen. My PR in the 5k is 35:10 last year. On Tuesday I finished in 35:45 according to the garmin, but I took about a quarter mile walk break in the middle, so if I had maintained my pace a little better (so I didn’t have to walk) then I’m certain I would have finished very close to my PR, maybe even below it. What’s really great is that I didn’t feel tired or sore and even went out and ran again on Wednesday.

…and then the bad.

To make a long story short, I made a bunch of bad decisions in the second half of the week. We had conferences on Thursday and Friday and I ate the vendor provided lunches. Had to work extra to catch up on my regular work from the time missed from the conferences and consequently missed my workouts on Thursday and Friday…and Saturday. Saturday I just felt lethargic and didn’t have a lot of motivation to get out the door. I believe this was due to my poor nutrition on Thursday and Friday.

So I’m shaking that off today (I’m writing this on Sunday) and will be heading out for a long run at the local park a little later this morning when it warms up a bit. I’ve decided that I just need to start being the weird guy that brings his own lunch even when there’s a pile of tasty food being provided by a vendor. Weird = healthy and I want to be healthy which means really committing to what I believe in and being the weird guy.

12 weeks to go!

I’m now 12 weeks of training away from my second half-marathon. I’m getting excited to “officially” start training for the race. Last year when I was training for my first half-marathon I built my own plan which was very basic. I was running 3 days a week doing about 3 miles on the weekdays and gradually increasing my long run distance on the weekends to a max of around 10-11 miles. Occasionally I’d spend some time on the exercise bike on my off days, but it was rare.

This year I want to take my running to a higher level. That’s why I hired Jake to help me with nutrition side of things. I know that having a strong nutritional foundation is going to make a difference in how I train and (despite the bad decisions this past week) I’m seeing big improvements in how I feel and the strength that I feel when I’m running.

I’ve looked around at the various half-marathon plans online and decided to use the Beginner Half Marathon Program from CoolRunning.com. At the moment, my goal is to follow the plan exactly as written (plus continue my core training 3-4 days a week). I’m obviously still struggling with fitting all the pieces of nutrition and fitness together and believe that following a formal plan will help me stay on target and avoid temptations.

I admit I’m nervous about increasing my running to five days a week, but feel I’ve done enough over the last couple months to at least consider using this plan. In fact, I selected this plan specifically because it has a great build-up of mileage over the 12 weeks. I want to use this opportunity to build a solid base so that when I’m finished with the half-marathon in January I’ll be in a great position to start training for the full marathon in May. This plan also includes speedwork one day a week which I’m looking forward to trying. When I was running “fast” on Tuesday this past week it felt amazing and I want to make that a regular part of my routine. I can’t wait to get started.

Weight Update:
Original weigh-in (9/19/11): 216.2
Week 4 weigh-in (10/22/11): 209.6 (-6.6 pounds total, but gained 2.4 from last week) :-(

As always, thanks for reading. You can follow my progress here on dailymile or @jwmfitness on twitter.  Leave me a comment!

Don’t Be Afraid To Improvise

Posted in Uncategorized on October 19, 2011 by runlikehealth

I had a sublime muffin experience last weekend.  Sounds good right?  It was!  In this weeks post, I’d like to demonstrate how easy it is to veganize (is that a word? it is now) a recipe.  I was reading through the latest issue of Runner’s World magazine and stumbled upon a recipe for sweet potato muffins.  They looked so good, but they had milk, eggs and in them.

I have wondered for some time now why it is that these animal products HAVE to be included in baking recipes.  When my wife and I first went plant-based, we had a tremendous craving for pancakes one morning.  We were completely unprepared with a vegan recipe of course.  So we improvised and just eliminated the egg from a regular pancake recipe, and swapped the cow’s milk for a non dairy version.  Voila, vegan pancakes hot off of the griddle.  We were both amazed at how well they came out. Is it some kind of baking dogma that dictates these ingredients must be used?  I think maybe.

I decided to try my hand at baking alchemy yet again with these muffins.  Here is what I did.  The original recipe was as follows:

Sweet Potato Muffins
2 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour (preferably pastry flour)
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup melted unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup pureed or mashed cooked sweet potato
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup buttermilk

And here is my updated plant-based version.  I had some pumpkin puree on hand so I decided to use that instead of the sweet potato. The sweet potato would make for a super nutrient dense snack though.  Perfect for pre workout.

Pumpkin Muffins
2 1/2 cups oat flour
3/4 brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon each of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup melted Earth Balance Buttery Spread
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup pureed pumpkin
1/4 cup of applesauce
1/2 cup non-dairy milk

I preheated my oven too 375 and ended up cooking them for slightly longer than the original recipe called for.  I had them in the oven for 30 minutes, but I think this may be different depending on the oven.  Check them often after the 20 minute mark with a toothpick.

I was super impressed yet again at how my little experiment turned out.  The major changes I made were swapping the wheat flour for oat flour, the butter for vegan buttery spread, the white sugar for brown sugar, the egg for 1/4 cup of applesauce and the buttermilk for nondairy milk.  I used oat flour in an attempt to eliminate the gluten from the recipe, as wheat gluten is a known inflammatory agent.  I don’t believe that by doing this I made them completely gluten-free.  I suspect that the flour is processed in a place that also processes wheat.  This means that there is probably trace amounts of gluten from cross contamination.  To make them gluten-free, I would use either chickpea flour or, Bob’s Red Mill makes a gluten-free baking flour mix.  The applesauce for egg is also interesting I think.  I wanted to use something that had roughly the same consistency as a beaten egg.  I know the applesauce did nothing to hold them together like the egg would, but it added substance and moisture.

The end result was wonderful.  They were quite tasty, and they even passed the kid test.  They gobbled them right up. The consistency was like any other muffin.  I don’t think anyone would even know the difference if they were not told that they were vegan.  I ate one the other day before a double swim/run session, and it was the perfect amount of fuel to carry me through.  Don’t be afraid to improvise and try new things.  You may be pleasantly surprised at the results.

Client Profile: Jason, Week of 10/9 – 10/15

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on October 16, 2011 by Jason

Jake and I had our second nutrition coaching session on 10/8. Now that I’ve started to add dark leafy greens into my regular diet we’re shifting our focus to grains. One of my regular meals is a simple rice and beans recipe using brown rice. Occasionally I’ll make a veggie stir-fry and use quinoa instead of rice, but I don’t eat a lot of other grains besides whole wheat pasta. Jake encouraged me to try a wider variety of grains and focus on whole grains as well.

So this week I started to put that plan into action by making some modifications to one of my favorite recipes. I  lightly steamed about 8 cups of broccoli (dark leafy greens), prepared 1 cup of quinoa (1 c dry, 2 c water, boil for about 10 mins then remove from heat and let sit for about 15 mins) and used Isa Chandra’s “Eazy Breezy Cheezy Sauce” to mix it all together. You can find the sauce recipe here at the bottom of the page. The end result was a fantastically cheesy, casserole-like side dish that I found very filling and kept well in the fridge for several days. I ate this with some Buffalo Tempeh (from Isa Chandra’s book Appetite for Reduction, can you tell I have an obsession with her stuff? I can’t seem to find a recipe for it online, but it’s basically tempeh marinated in Frank’s Red Hot with some garlic and oregano). Amazing!

This coming week I’m going to expand things even further by trying out buckwheat. Never had it before and not sure exactly what I’m going to do with it yet, but I’m thinking of steaming some veggies and cooking the buckwheat in veggie broth and then using that as a side with some BBQ tofu. We’ll see what happens.

On the fitness side of things I had a breakthrough this week. I decided to switch my workouts to the evening as I want to continue to run outside for as long as I can before winter. In the past I’ve struggled to exercise in the evenings after work. My mental energy and motivation would be drained by the end of the day and all I’d want to do was go home and sit in front of the television. One of the things I’ve noticed about my improving my nutrition is that my motivation is improving as well. I find myself getting up and doing things that I would have procrastinated over in the past. I felt it was time to make the switch and start working out in the evenings.

In my last weekly update I spoke about running too fast during my run/walk cycles and my desire to slow down and find a more comfortable pace. That’s something I worked on this week and I’m extremely happy with the results. I did two runs after work this week that were around four miles each and will be going out for a six mile long run later today. I’m still run/walking, but I dropped my run pace down to about 12:45 – 13:15 and I find I can hold that pace almost indefinitely. Now it’s actually my legs that start to get tired rather than my heart/lungs and I figure that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

The local high school track team uses the same running trail I do during the week and they have 400m intervals marked out along the trail in spray chalk. For the most part I was doing 1200m runs with some 1600′s mixed in this week (I’d then take a 200-400m walk break). Although my legs legs start to fatigue at the end of my run cycles I recover very quickly during my walks. Further, my legs have not been sore at all the next day which suggests this is a good run distance for me right now and I can probably even start to increase it.

Running up to a mile is as long or longer than I was doing last year. I’m slower than I was at my peak last year, but I’m thrilled can go this far and feel great the whole time. Last year running was a chore, this week it was so much fun I can’t even explain it, and it’s only mid-October! I still have a full training cycle before my half-marathon! WOO-HOO!!

Weight Update:
Original weigh-in (9/19/11): 216.2
Week 3 weigh-in (10/15/11): 207.2 (-9 pounds)

As always, thanks for reading. You can follow my progress here on dailymile or @jwmfitness on twitter. Got any buckwheat recipes? Leave me a comment!

Creating Utopia, Plant-Based Alternatives

Posted in Uncategorized on October 12, 2011 by runlikehealth

We don’t live in a perfect world.  In a perfect world, the soil we grow foods in would not be stripped of its nutrients by industry.  In a perfect world we would not have to genetically modify foods for a higher yield.  We would instead learn to work in symbiosis with the Earth’s ecology to grow fruits and vegetables and raise healthy animals for consumption. In a perfect world, food would be produced in small batches locally making the small farmer much more relevent in today’s society.  It would be like small batch micro brewed beers.  Super high quality foods raised and grown in small batches all over the country.  Now that’s an idea I think we can all get behind.

Take away my feelings about animal rights (this is a personal philosophy and not something I would ever force on another person) and I will tell you that animal foods are loaded with nutrition that is easily assimilated by the body.  The only problem is that the animal food industry has become more about the bottom line, and less about a healthy and safe product for consumption.  I’ll be the first to admit that the big plant food industry has some of the same problems, but I feel like quality control in plant foods is much more manageable. It’s much easier to grow your own kale than it is to raise your own cow for milk and slaughter.  The only way to guarantee the quality of our animal foods is to raise them ourselves.  This is a fairly utopian idea, and one that is not realistic in today’s society.  So what are we left with?  Locally grown, organic produce in small batches.  Micro grown veggies!

What I would like to do in this post is list some important vitamins and nutrients that are common in animal foods, and give plant-based alternatives to get these nutrients.

B-12

The queen mother of all nutrients.  Where is the B-12 coming from in a plant-based diet.  Keep one thing in mind first.  B-12 is actually manufactured by the body. This is why B-12 is abundant in animal flesh.  Animals are not given B-12 so that they have B-12 in them when we consume them.  A healthy body ecology system (the micro flora in the intestine) should manufacture your very own B-12.  Some sources of B-12 in plant-based foods are chlorella, miso and nutritional yeast.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is very important.  It helps the body resist infection, as well as maintains red and white blood cells.  Plant based sources for vitamin A are: dark leafy greens, carrots, squash, pumpkin, mango and cantaloupe.

Vitamin D

D allows the body to absorb calcium much more efficiently. It is also an immune system booster.  Plant based sources are: nutritional yeast and exposure to the sun.

Vitamin K

Plays a big role in helping blood to clot. It also provides the heart the nutrients it needs for proper function. Plant based sources for vitamin K are: dark leafy greens and pine nuts.

Omega 3

Very important nutrient for a healthy cardiovascular system.  If there were only one thing you did for your health, this is it: lower your Omega 6 intake (vegetable and processed oils) and increase your Omega 3 intake. It will protect your heart. Some plant-based sources of Omega 3 are:  Flax seed and flax-seed oil, and Chia seed. One tablespoon of Chia seed will provide 150% of the recommended daily intake of Omega 3.

Vitamin E

A very powerful antioxidant.  Promotes cardiovascular health by helping to maintain a proper ration between good and bad cholesterol in the body.  Plant based sources of vitamin E are: flaxseed oil, pumpkin seed oil, hemp oil, nuts and avocado.

Calcium

Another big one.  Cows are not fed milk to get calcium.  Cows get calcium through the foods they eat, most importantly the grass they eat.  Humans do not need to consume dairy products to get calcium.  In fact, the body has trouble processing dairy products because they are so heavily processed and pasteurized in today’s society.  Some plant-based calcium sources include: Nuts, seeds, dark leafy greens.

At this point in time, the idea of having a clean supply of grass-fed, organically raised animal products is a very utopian idea.  That world just does not exist anymore for wide-spread consumption.  I wish it were not that way.  As long as “Big Agriculture” is in bed with United States lawmakers, that world has little chance of ever returning.  Contact your congressman or congresswoman and ask them to start providing tax dollars to local farmers to grow clean organically raised food instead of giving more money to multi national corporations to produce more “Fraken-food”.

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