In Which I Wax Eloquent About Cabbage

"What a superbly featured room and what excellent boiled potatoes. It is many years since I had such an exemplary vegetable. To which of my fair cousins should I compliment the excellence of the cooking?" Mr. Collins, BBC's Pride and Prejudice
Brussels sprouts were on my grocery list this week. Since I was a child, they have been my favorite vegetable. I wanted to roast them, so fresh was imperative. As I perused the produce section of Wegmans, I found that Brussels sprouts were $2.99/lb. but plain ol' cabbage was a mere $0.79/lb. When I left the store, I was carrying two nice heads of red cabbage and not a single sprout, from Brussels or otherwise.

I discovered a while ago that I love most vegetables roasted. Cruciferous vegetables are some of my favorites. Until now, I've always coated them in oil and salt. Today, I just put a head of cabbage, sliced into eight wedges, into a 400*F oven and let it bathe in the heat for 45 minutes, with one flip for even cooking.

In the midst of the cooking, I asked my roommate if she smelled baking bread. When I took the cabbage out to flip it, I realized that my cabbage was creating that gorgeous, buttery fresh bread scent. Even before I got a taste, my mouth was watering. If it smelled that good, how could it taste anything but wonderful?

To make it a meal, I sauteed some tofu, marinated in Braggs Liquid Aminos, and threw some pomegranate on top.

Let me tell you, I was not disappointed. The cabbage was a delight. Some of the outer leaves had crisped perfectly, adding a beautiful texture. The innermost leaves were the best, sweet and savory at the same time, while retaining a bit of the crisp texture cabbage is known for.

This is what it looked like. Love the deep colors!
I was a little annoyed when I realized that eating the pomegranate and tofu in the same bite as the cabbage overpowered the flavor of this exemplary vegetable. Because of this, though it was all in one bowl, I ate each element of my meal separately.

The only reason I was able to eat the last bite without sadness was that I knew the other half of the cabbage was waiting for tomorrow's dinner and a whole other head is waiting in the crisper drawer of my fridge.

Even if you don't like cabbage, give this a chance. It's a game changer!

Three Chips

I ate three chips today. It's not the first time I've deviated from the Eat to Live recommendations in the past 11 days - I had Taco Bell last Friday, a few pieces of chocolate here and there, and scattered spoonfuls of peanut butter. Those three chips do, however, mark the first time in this journey that I’ve eaten one of my “favorite” foods and found that it wasn’t satisfying. In fact, they tasted off, almost as if the oil in them had started going rancid.

Previously, I would have wanted to eat three more chips and three more chips and three more chips… Today, I had no desire to eat another chip. In fact, I just realized that I am not hungry at all, as in there is not a single type of food that I can think of that I want to eat right now. Considering the ginormous salad and half of a watermelon* I ate for lunch, I should not be surprised, but I am.

This not being hungry thing is a new experience for me. Even when I’ve been so stuffed full of food that I knew I shouldn’t eat another bite, that feeling often didn’t translate into “I don’t *want* another bite.” More often than I would like to admit, I’ve been at that point and still managed to shove justonemore French fry/bite of pizza/piece of candy down my gullet.

In fact, because of my seemingly endless capacity for food, I’ve never quite believed people when they stopped eating because they were full. I always thought they were enacting a crazy charade perpetuated by our culture of thinness, pushing away half full plates of delicious food to keep up appearances. More often than not, when I got a doggie bag, I did so because I didn’t want to appear disgusting to my fellow diners. I would often eat the leftovers immediately upon my arrival home.

That kind of eating had very little to do with fueling my body and very much to do with comforting or, more accurately, numbing myself. After a while, even when I didn’t want the numbing effect of too much food, it had become a habit I felt like I’d never be able to break.

I’m too wary to think I’ve fully broken the habit even now. Every day, I still think about stopping at Burger King or Taco Bell on my way home from work. It will take me many more than 11 days to feel confident that my addiction to highly-processed, food-like substances has been broken. It may even take more than 6 weeks. Yet, the fact that I did not crave more chips after those first few feels like a huge step in the right direction.

*Full disclosure: It was a tiny watermelon. I could hold it in my hand. It was smaller than a cantaloupe.

I'm About to Get Effusive Up in Here

I went for a run today. I readily admit that, despite my loud, obnoxiously announced commitment to a plan, today's run was my first in nearly two weeks. The days have gone by, I can't change the choices made in the past but I can move forward.

The three miles I ran today were the best in months.

The park was beautiful and nearly empty.

It was cold outside but the weather wasn't harsh.

The sun was shining and the sky was perfectly blue.

My body was ready to go. From the minute I started I felt better than I have in weeks and that feeling continued through the end of my run.

It was a true delight to be on the trail, feeling my legs and arms move in time to my breathing. I took joy in the activity in a way I haven't since October, at least.

Clockwise: A bridge halfway through my run; in front of a frozen pond at the trailhead after I finished; I love the park in the winter with no leaves; completely even splits!; NEON!
And, honestly, the only thing that has changed significantly has been my diet. Over the past five days, the vast majority of the food I've eaten has been unrefined plant foods instead of the steady stream of highly refined, fat-soaked food I'd been shoving down my gullet for the last half year.

Eating more healthfully has had a direct and almost immediate impact on both my desire to run and how well I am running. It's taking some practice and experimentation to make the food as appealing as I'd like it to be but I'm getting better and discovering some tricks that have made most of my meals delicious.

If you've been thinking about cleaning up your diet, I would encourage you to make the decision and take some concrete steps to make it a reality as soon as possible. You will not regret it.

Just Give Me Some Salt. Please!

Do you ever desperately wish that you'd never opened your mouth?

I'm feeling that today.

I wish I'd never told anyone anywhere ever that I was doing this (damn fool) Dr. Fuhrmann challenge because then no one would know if I quit. Perhaps that's why I announced it loudly and frequently to my friends and blog readers - it makes it that much harder to give in to my cravings for

A cheeseburger...

Homemade or from a great burger joint, not some crappy fast food imitation.
and a burrito the size of my head...

Chipotle would be best...
and some French fries.

Yes, those look sufficiently golden and crispy.
Interestingly, none of my cravings are for sweet things. I am madly craving salty, savory, rich flavors. Clearly, fat is pretty high on the ingredient list, too.

Hopefully, this doesn't sound like complaints. This is a choice I've made and I am going to stick to it but, I have to tell you, it's pretty freaking difficult.

I just keep reminding myself that, if I still crave them, all the salty, fatty, processed foods I want to eat in large amounts RIGHT NOW will be available when I'm done with this process. There's also the chance that I won't want them as much or at all and my health will be better for it.

Maybe I'm not doing a great job of sucking it up with running but I'm doing okay with food.

Now, off to eat my lunch of rice, peas, cauliflower, and acorn squash.

Three Days In

Dinner = a salad as big as my head
I am 1/14 of the way done with my 6 week Eat to Live challenge. A friend embarked on a similar endeavor recently and told me that the third day was, by far, the most difficult. I pray to God that she's right because I am not feeling that great right now.

There's nothing going on that concerns me but I'm definitely experiencing some of the unpleasant symptoms Dr. Fuhrmann warns off in his books: growly stomach, slight headache, occasional lightheadedness, desperate cravings, grumpiness, etc.

Fuhrmann attributes these symptoms to detoxification from all the sugar, caffeine, and fat consumed in the standard American diet. In his books, this is also called "toxic hunger" because they are signals for many people to eat something sweet or salty to experience the dopamine rush these foods, apparently, cause.

I only say "apparently" because I'm trying to experience the next six weeks as a skeptic and I haven't dug into all the studies Fuhrmann cites. So, while I don't want to take everything he says at face value, I am fully committed to following the plan for the entire six weeks unless a medical reason to stop arises.

I'll admit that my commitment almost crumbled when my co-workers decided to get take-out at our favorite place today. If I hadn't already been so vocal about this challenge with them, I might have decided to "cheat," which, for me, would have amounted to needing to start over.

There is room in Fuhrmann's plan for indulgences but, if I have the food I need available, I'm not going to deviate from the recommended foods within this six week period, no matter how sorely I am tempted. There is something inside me that wants this experiment to be as untainted as possible. Should get interesting when I'm traveling for work next month.


Later: I had a delicious salad tonight and discovered the beauty of Bragg's Liquid Aminos as a substitute for sodium-laden soy sauce. I need to learn to stop eating when I'm full, though, instead of trying to continue eating because I haven't eaten the volume of food recommended. Overeating salad is so much more uncomfortable than overeating chocolate or pizza.

Six Weeks

I am starting a six-week eating challenge that begins tomorrow. The principles of the challenge can be found in Eat to Live and Eat for Health, by Dr. Joel Fuhrmann. I've been gradually making the move toward eating a diet rich in unrefined plant foods for six months or so and, after reading these books, decided to try something more radical to see how it goes.

I'll write more about the particulars of the Eat to Live plan in the next several days but for tonight, I wanted to mention what I'll be eating over the coming week.

I've been drinking smoothies for breakfast since early November. I even took my Nutribullet along on Christmas vacation to continue the practice.

My normal recipe includes:
a large handful of greens (spinach, kale, mustard, collard, beet, etc.)
a banana
frozen fruit (cherries and blueberries currently)
a small handful of raw nuts
1 Tbsp ground flaxseed
a splash of vanilla extract
1 cup unsweetened soy milk

1/2 to 1 cup brown rice
1 cup roasted acorn squash
several cups cooked vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, whatever I grab from the freezer)
homemade vegan Caesar dressing for the veggies
an orange

a giant salad with:
1/2 to 1 cup lentils
fresh parsley and dill
dried cranberries
homemade vegan ranch dressing
possibly some sauteed tofu

I'm actually more worried about being able to consume this large volume of food than worried that I won't be satisfied by it. The lack of large amounts of salt, sugar, and caffeine will probably cause some grumpiness as I adjust to this different way of eating.

My motivation for this change certainly includes weight loss but only because I know from experience that when I'm carrying less weight around, I feel better both mentally and physically. I'll be rather surprised if I don't lose weight over the next six weeks and I will be weighing myself once a week on Mondays. However, a lower number on the scale will not be my sole measure of success; I will be carefully tracking the way I feel throughout this experiment, as well.

Wish me luck! ...or maybe discipline and perseverance?

Have you ever embarked on a fast or "restrictive" diet for a set period of time? Why?
Did you continue any of the changes when the set period was over? 

Quitting Can Be Good, Right?

Okay, I want you to do something for me. Close your eyes.

Oh, wait, don't do that! Stop stop stop stop stop!

Pretend you have your eyes closed. That's better. Now imagine me, all geared up for running right down to the Garmin on my wrist.

Don't I look sporty and cute?

Now, imagine me, that sporty, cute woman, throwing a tantrum. Red-faced, jumping up and down, arms flailing, screaming at the top of my lungs, "I QUIT! I QUIT! IQUITIQUITIQUITIQUITIQUIT!!!"

You can stop imagining now. Really, stop. I know it's fun but I need you attention.

Though the scenario I asked you to imagine never happened, it was exactly what was happening in my head this morning.

As I drove to the park in which I often run only to find it closed, to another part of the same park to find that there are no trails in that section, then home, with the thought of running in my neighborhood, to be met by a cold, steady rain that has lasted for the past several hours.

There are people in my life, people I respect, who will read this and be tempted to tell me to, "Suck it up." Feel welcome to do so, though I doubt the effectiveness of that tactic. In fact, I doubt the effectiveness of any tactic.

I know it's probably not true but I feel like I've tried everything to motivate myself, down to reminding myself that motivation is completely overrated, but NONE OF IT IS WORKING!

My ability to resist my own resolve is staggering. My ability to ignore all evidence that exercise is good for me, to forget how much enjoyment and personal satisfaction I've obtained from it would be quite impressive if it weren't also depressing.

Come hell or high water, I am going to run my half marathon in May. But, for today, I quit.

There Are Perks

I have a new favorite movie. I'd seen it on the library shelf over the past few months but never decided to pick it up until I saw it at Target in the $5 bin.

To me, the movie and the book are all about finding the place you fit without trying too hard to fit in. That may or may not make sense but I'm not going to expound.

Because I loved the movie, I decided to read the book. I finished it in less than 4 hours.

Stephen Chbosky wrote the entire novel as a series of letters from the main character, Charlie, to an anonymous friend. Charlie is a smart kid who has some trouble "participating" in life because of how a couple incidents in his past, one recent and one more distant, have affected him.

Fortunately, with support from his family and friends, particularly Patrick and Sam, and a stint in the psychiatric ward, he's able to work through the hard times.

If you're cool with some young adult fiction, check out this book. Also, see the movie, which, according to Rotten Tomatoes, is a certified fresh, "heartfelt and sincere adaptation that's bolstered by strong lead performances."

Have you seen any great movies or read any fantastic books lately?

Cautiously Optimistic

In the past few months, there have been several times that I thought, "Hey, I'm getting back on top of this running thing!" There have even been a couple times that I announced as much to the world. This post is not like that.

This post is a very quiet, "Maybe I've got this thing going again."

On Monday, I started the base-building phase of my half marathon training plan. So far, I've stuck to the plan. I've done four runs (three as part of the plan) over the past week, for a total of 6 miles. The buildup feels so slow and lazy but I can tell that my body really needs to ease into this. Though I would prefer to head out for a 12-mile long run tomorrow, the scheduled 3 miles will have to do.

The first three workouts, I ran 1 minute, walked 1.

Yesterday, I switched to a 2:1 interval. There was only one run interval that I had to stop early and it was because I decided to sprint to finish my first mile and needed a little extra recovery.

So, it seems like I'm getting back into the swing of things. Which is good, since I have a half marathon approaching more quickly than I am willing to believe.

I have been feeling a little sore and tight. Next week, I'm going to add 1 session of strength training and 1 of yoga to my workout regimen. The ultimate goal will be to slowly work back up to actively working out 6 days per week, preferably with some two-a-days thrown in the mix.

I'm planning on shaking some things up with the way I eat shortly, too. Stay tuned.

Are you in training for any upcoming races?
How's it going?