How to be a Vegetarian*

Roasted chickpeas with olive oil and salt.

I get lots of questions about transitioning to a meat-free diet. This post will not address those.

For that, you can check out:

How to Stock a Vegetarian Pantry

Complementary Protein Pairing

Sweet Tater Talks Protein

This post is about how to eat vegetables without losing all your friends in the process. This post is about how to be a vegetarian.*

  1. Don’t eat meat – I don’t care if you want to eat meat. (I really, really don’t.) But I do kind of care if you want to eat meat and still call yourself a vegetarian. You are not and you are confusing the restaurant industry about what the rest of us are willing to consume. It is because of you that when I ask for vegetarian recommendations at a restaurant that I am met with an eye roll and an offer for the fish of the day. Or the soup that “only has chicken broth in it.” I’m talking to all of you who only eat fish or only eat fish and chicken or only eat fish and chicken and that pot roast your grandmother makes and pepperoni pizza rolls when you’re drunk. Just be an omnivore. It’s ok.
  2. Eat vegetables – Seems straightforward enough, but you’d be surprised how many “vegetarians” survive on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, pizza, bagels and potato chips and wonder why this supposedly “healthy” diet has made them fatter. Just eat a goddamn vegetable.
  3. Shut up about eating vegetables – No one cares that you’re a vegetarian. No one. I know it can be a very exciting lifestyle change at first and you want everyone in the world to know how wonderful you feel and how terrible the livestock industry is and how the cow that was the burger they just ate was probably stabbed in the throat and left to bleed out on the kill floor. But they don’t want to hear it. Do you want to hear lectures about how you’re not getting enough protein as a vegetarian? About how soy will kill you? No? Then stop lecturing meat eaters about eating meat. Live and let live.
  4. Know where your vegetables come from – Big agriculture is destroying the planet as aggressively and irreparably as the livestock industry. Massive farm operations destroy the soil, waste billions of gallons of water, douse everything in carcinogenic pesticides and violate basic human rights to get the cheapest labor they can to harvest it all. It’s a mess. Eat locally when you can, support small operations and, most importantly, don’t think you’re better than the guy over there eating a Whopper because your meal didn’t have to die. If you trace that banana or that avocado or that quinoa back to its source, you’ll likely come away with blood on your hands just the same. It’s sad but true.
  5. Understand basic nutrition – There are some key nutrients that vegetarians need to keep an eye on, including: protein, iron and calcium. There are nine essential amino acids that create a complete protein. Q: Where can you find them? (A: Combine incomplete proteins in pairings such as: legume + nut, legume + grain, legume + seed.) Plant-based sources of iron aren’t readily absorbed by the body. Q: How can you enhance absorption? (A: Add citrus. Vitamin C can increase iron absorption by 20%.) Plant-based sources of calcium aren’t as bioavailable as animal dairy. Q: How can you improve calcium absorption on a vegan diet? (A: Keep an eye on your magnesium and vitamin D levels, as both are required for and enhance calcium absorption.)
  6. Eat chickpeas – This is just a rule.

*… and not be an asshole.

Eleventy Billion

Smoothie bowl obviously.

I’m so full I cannot even look at that smoothie bowl without wanting to die. I want one tomorrow morning but I have no frozen bananas. Speaking of… Here’s a weird thing to say to a man: “Hey I left my bananas in your freezer.” Even if you totally did. (I did.)

Anyway, it was a spontaneous Mexican kind of night…

Happy Tuesday.

And that’s why I’m so full. I crave tequila more than the average American. Don’t even worry about it.

Tonight I’m going to do what bloggers do best and talk about myself in a self-deprecating, waggish manner making sure to sound just interesting enough that you think “I want her life a little bit” but just off-my-rocker enough for you to think, “Yes. We will be friends” or “I am better than you.” This is the magic formula for our genre, you realize.

SO. The dear and wonderful Amanda at Pickles ‘n’ Honey has tagged me in her 11 Random Facts game giving me free reign to rant away. I don’t know if I paid attention to the rules so I’m just gonna jump in…

1. Last night I had  a dream about hot dogs. 

2. I look like this right now.

It's true.

3. I don’t take shots. I know, I know. What kind of college graduate am I? Did I learn nothing at fraternity parties? I just can’t do it. I lack the physical mechanism to take down straight liquor in shot form. Sip it on the rocks? Sure. But if someone buys me a shot I will graciously accept it and then dump it into whatever cocktail I already have on hand. Works every time.

4. I don’t wash my face. Contrary to what’s going on in the picture above, I lack a dedicated “beauty regimen.” In fact, most nights I go to bed with makeup on my face. Ruh roh…

5. I secretly want “to fashion blog.” As a verb, yes, not a noun like “I want a fashion blog.” No, I already have a blog. I want to fashion blog. Look, I’m not going to apologize for taking pictures of myself. If Cher taught me anything in Clueless it’s that you cannot trust a mirror to tell you what you really look like. So I get dressed and take pictures.

 

 

6. I take a Flintstone’s vitamin every day. 

I want to eat the whole jar.

7. I want to get my brother to do yoga. My goal after completing this teacher training is to get my older brother into one of my classes. I cannot even verbalize how impossible a challenge this will be. When it comes to making this practice relevant to people who think it’s totally weird, he is my Everest.

8. I applied for graduation this week. Finally. Yes. I’m still not done and my graduation won’t be until August because I have one lone class hanging over my head for May-mester BUT… there is a light at the end of this long, boring, expensive tunnel. I cried when I printed the application out.

Yesssss.

9. I never drink water. This is terrible especially if you understand the extent to which I do not drink water. I’m talking like maybe maybe two glasses a day. Four on days I practice hot yoga. It’s ridiculous. Not drinking our abundant, safe, free source of water makes me feel like a real asshole since so many people have no water at all. I’m working on it. I thought about bribing myself to drink by donating a dime to the water charity of my choice for every cup I drink in a year. Eight glasses a day times 365 days is like just under $300 for the year. I could do that.

10. I want a kayak. Or a canoe or small paddle boat. Just some sort of sea vessel that I can take out to the middle of a lake and just sit there.

11. I don’t want a cell phone. I’m think I’m going to lock mine in my glove compartment for 30 days (so it’s there in case I crash, duh) and see what happens. I have a wager in the works. I’ve been saying I’m going to do this for well over a year and every time I do people tell me I can’t. I don’t like to be told I can’t do things. Not like, “Hey that’s illegal you can’t do it” because I’m a rule follower and I don’t mind following rules. More like “Hey you can’t do that because you just can’t pull it off.” This does not sit will with me. I want to see how it impacts my life–How do I make plans? Who is still willing to reach out to me? Who am I willing to reach out to? What is easier? What’s harder? Etc.

That’s it. Thanks, Amanda! I’m supposed to tag 11 more people but I’m just too lazy. So everyone do it now. Weeeeee.

 

12 Blogger Bad Habits

Irrelevant yellow photo.

I’ve been wanting to write this rant for quite some time and since I’m safe and sound in a peaceful ashram on an island in the Bahamas, I figure now is an ideal time to share it.

Let me preface this by saying: Hate on, haters. You were thinking it, too; I just said it. Also, much like racist jokes and sexist jokes and homophobic jokes and all that mess, this is only ok for me to say because I am a blogger bad habit. My whole life is one big blogger bad habit list and, as such, I get to call all the rest of you out because I do many of these things myself. (But never #6. Ever.) It’s fine.

Without further adieu…

12 Blogger Bad Habits to Break in 2012

  1. Apologizing for not posting for 24 hours. I hate to break it to you but no one is waiting around with bated breath to hear you rant on about your oatmeal. Life, as they say, goes on. Even when we don’t post.
  2. Passive aggressively attacking readers on Twitter. “Ohmygawd, some commenters are so stupid when they as things like (insert perfectly reasonable question).” Guess what? Your readers probably follow you on Twitter, too. Now you look like a big ol’ bitch. But a big ol’ passive bitch, and that’s even worse.
  3. Calling your significant other anything but his/her given name. I’m serious with this. Just stop it.
  4. Posting shitty, irrelevant photos. See above.
  5. Talking about your traffic. Ever. Especially if you are living off your blog, this is basically like discussing your salary. Tacky.
  6. Using emoticons. This is the writer’s equivalent of putting a bumper sticker on a Bentley. Or iron-on patches on a couture dress. If your message is strong, your style natural and your tone clear, people will get exactly what it is you’re trying to say without the need for a winky face. Promise.
  7. Instagramming everything on Earth. I realize the hip fade makes your skin look flawless and your pumpkin spice latte look like a damn work of fine art, but please just take it down one notch.
  8. Passive aggressively bitching about people stealing your recipes. Every recipe is stolen, my friend. You probably stole the one you “wrote” and don’t even realize it. There are only so many ways to make a cookie. At some point, every recipe is an adaptation of something that came before it. Ask your great-grandma. She’s probably sick of the whole world getting credit for her goods. Besides, you can’t even copyright ingredients, only instructions. So write a compelling narrative on how to bake your cookie and then (and only then) can you complain if someone jacks it.
  9.  Calling yourself a writer. I’m sorry but… you’re just probably not. Eep. I said it. I’m ok with joggers calling themselves runners, but I’m not ok with casual gym goers calling themselves athletes. Do you see the difference? Someone who enjoys cooking is a cook, not a chef. Following? I’m ok with you calling yourself a blogger or even a freelancer or saying that you write as a verb, but you are not a writer. It’s a fine, blurry line, I realize. Respect it.
  10. Retweeting compliments. I totally do this. It is sad and pitiful.
  11. Acting like you didn’t just Google that. Stop spouting information like you knew it before Google told you two seconds ago. Cite your shit… even (or especially) if it’s Wikipedia.
  12. Thinking you’re famous. Just don’t.
What am I missing?

Do as I Do.

I measured this.

Lots of people ask me to help them lose weight. My friends ask me. People in my family ask me. My coworkers ask me. Big Rick at Earth Fare asks me. Strangers at the coffee shop who inquire what I’m studying ask me as soon as they hear it’s nutrition related.

Weight loss is really just the tip of the iceberg of dietetics. But no one really cares that I’m being educated to administer tube feedings and reverse diabetes and prevent heart failure. To save lives and stuff. Which is great because I don’t really care either.

That’s not true. It’s not that I don’t care about those things and see value in those skills, but my place is simply not in clinical practice and I’m ok with this. My place is in prevention, of this I am quite certain. I’m about keeping people out of hospitals all together, not caring for them in their last months, weeks or hours. It’s a little bit selfish, I realize, but I’m just not cut out for it. Not in my head (I just can’t get my mind around most of these concepts and procedures) but, more importantly, not in my heart (I’m simply not strong enough to watch people die). If you work in any field of clinical care, thank god for you.

So it would seem that weight loss (and, more importantly, prevention of excessive weight gain) is totally my bag. But here’s the thing… for a concept that (to me, anyway) seems really, really easy, it’s actually really, really hard to execute successfully. It’s really hard to get people to change their habits. It’s really hard to get your message across clearly. It’s really hard to account for and accommodate different cultural beliefs, taste preferences and religious restrictions. It’s really hard to go head-to-head with Big Food (who, in case you haven’t noticed, are in this to make money and do not have your best interests in mind–this includes “health” food companies!). It’s really hard to break down a lifetime of misinformation from the media. It’s really hard to tell a single mom working two jobs to just “cook more.” It’s really hard to ask someone without a car or a grocery store within walking distance to stop eating at the fast food joint down the street. It’s really hard to navigate psychological motivators behind eating (or not eating). It’s really hard to enact change, to really make a difference. It’s just really hard. The ol’ “eat less, exercise more” mantra is great in theory but simply doesn’t fly in practice.

But here’s the thing… I’m up for it. I’m so very up for it. I just need a little practice.

I recently gave a friend of mine some pointers on losing weight and it occurred to me that it’s a little twisted for me to demand that she do as I say while I’m over here doing as I do. Don’t get me wrong, I consider myself to be an exceptionally healthy person. (Yes, exceptionally.) Sure, sometimes I don’t sleep enough. I never drink enough water. Once every month or so I get outrageously drunk. I make cupcakes at midnight. Nevertheless, I’ve never smoked, I don’t eat fast food, I exercise daily, I eat more produce in a month than most people will eat all year. I’ve got the health thing down.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t translate when you’re trying to help someone else. Sure, I lost 25 pounds a few years ago, but I did so as a result of a dramatic shift in lifestyle and not with the explicit intention of losing weight. I never counted calories or kept a food journal or measured out little 1/4 cups of nuts.

That’s what sent me down this thought process. I knew it would come around sooner or later…

I told my friend she needs to be measuring out a 1/4 cup of the trail mix she’s been eating because she’s probably eating a lot more than that. (She kept a 3-day food journal for me to evaluate.) And she totally does need to, but that’s not the point. It occurred to me that I don’t eat (or live) the way I’m going to be asking people to eat. I don’t measure out 1/4 cups of nuts because I can eyeball it. I don’t count out 16 crackers because I can eyeball it. I don’t weigh x ounces of anything because who the hell weighs things before they eat them? (People do.)

But these are things that I will most certainly instruct people to do when helping them to lose weight. What I’m realizing is that what seems so obvious to me is not obvious to everyone. It’s obvious to me because I live and breathe this stuff every second of every day. If I’m not studying it, being testing on it or sitting in a lecture about it, I’m doing it in my own life.

So the moral of this whole story is that I’d like to get Sweet Tater back on track with more practical health advice, how-to videos, recipes and all that good stuff I started with two-and-a-half years ago so that it can serve someone other than myself and my need for constant attention.

The oversharing and ranting and cats and general shenanigans are here to stay, don’t you worry. I just want this blog to go back to its roots and be a resource (as well as a source for shameless lifecasting) because I just realized I have a whole lot of helpful things to share.

Since I was thinking about what it would feel like to actually measure and track everything I eat, I did that tonight. My dinner above is:

  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups steamed kale
  • 1/4 cup raw cashews and almonds
  • 1/3 package of tempeh cooked in 1 tablespoon peanut sauce
  • 1 tablespoon liquid aminos
  • 2 teaspoons nutritional yeast
  • sprinkle of paprika
  • 1 slice low-fat sharp cheddar cheese

580 calories, 36 g protein, 30 g fat

Questions:

  1. Do you want to see what I’m eating and why? I don’t really want this to become a food diary but I’d go there for a couple weeks if people want to see it.
  2. Do you want more solid nutrition information in the form of food news, recipes, videos and evidence-based research?
  3. Are you just here for Caturday?

Birthday Brunch

German pancake, mimosa, orange, coffee.

[Hold on to your butts...] I had this epiphany today.

I was thinking about yoga and how it has not felt the same to me for the last six months or so. And I don’t mean physically. Physically, I feel stronger and more open and more “advanced,” if you will (which, if you are a yogi you most certainly will not because that’s not what it’s about blah blah blah). And I suppose I don’t mean mentally either. Because mentally, I feel cleared and calm and controlled (on the mat, mind you; only on the mat).

It should seem that my practice would be on fire right now so I was having a hard time figuring out why yoga just doesn’t feel like it used to. Why it doesn’t shake me to the ground and leave me crying on my mat in savasana like it used to. Why it doesn’t build me up and make me feel invincible like it used to. And then I realized this:

Yoga used to be my retreat. I’d go to class, not know the teacher, not talk to anyone, and just practice. It was my alone time. My escape time. Despite documenting my every move on the world wide web, I am surprisingly introverted, quiet and private (if you can believe it).

Now that I feel settled and connected and at home in Charlotte (and because it’s, uh, kinda my job), my yoga has become more of a social outing than a private practice. And that’s great. That’s really, really great. I wouldn’t change it for anything. But I think this means that I now have to identify something else that is “mine” or at least find a way to make certain yoga classes feel that way. Because I really need that escape.

BUT… speaking of feeling settled and connected and at home in Charlotte, I freaking love my friends. Today we celebrated my friend Val’s birthday with mimosas and German pancakes and chihuahuas over at Rachael’s house. (Jessie was there, too!)

I brought mimosas

Rachael made a German pancake

Tia is a chihuahua

It was a rather delightful way to kick off a Sunday workday. I’ve always said the best way to shake up a work rut routine is to do something in the morning with friends. When I was little my mom would occasionally surprise us on a school day with a trip to McDonald’s  or cinnamon rolls for breakfast. I know, I know… McDonald’s. But it was just so thrilling for us even as kids to get out of our routines first thing in the morning. It sets the tone for the entire day.

The same is true for adults. Just don’t go to McDonald’s, please. Go to a yoga class, grab coffee, make brunch. Get up as early as is necessary to make it happen. It’ll brighten the rest of the day.

So here I am preaching social outings on workday mornings and solo hermit-like yoga retreats all in the same post. It would appear I have accomplished nothing in sorting out my life on the blog. What else is new? This is what happens when I post at 2am.

The point is (I guess?) that it’s important to take time for yourself so that you’re recharged and available for when your friends want to spend time with you. And you absolutely should be recharged and available so you can give them all you’ve got because, if your case is anything like mine, they’re very likely all you’ve got.

Let's do this every day.