From Atkins to Plants - A Family Story

Last week I received this incredible email from one of our meal plan users -- I just had to share it on the blog today:

healthy heart image

My husband, who is quite overweight, has long believed that the only way he can lose weight was on the Atkins diet. But, even if I was willing to stock the freezer with the massive amounts of eggs and meat that he said he needed, he couldn't stick to the diet. Every few days he would eat something not on his diet, declare the day shot, and binge on carbs. It was frustrating and expensive.

In June, I saw Forks Over Knives. My mother had heart disease. My father has heart disease. My brother has already had his first heart attack. I decided that I would try to ease into a plant-strong diet, but allow myself to eat meat and dairy on weekends. To my surprise, when my two youngest daughters learned what I was doing, they wanted to as well. So, I started gathering recipes and cooking plant-strong. Over time, we reduced our meat and dairy consumption to maybe one or two meals a week.

Meanwhile my husband kept insisting that Atkins was the only way that he would lose weight and continued to cook separately for himself. But, when he tasted our plant-based food, he agreed that it was good. So, that was a start.

Two weeks ago, I was working from home. I asked my husband if he would mind if I put something on Netflix to listen to while I worked, and put on Forks Over Knives. I didn't say anything about the movie to him. I didn't ask him to change his diet. But, I could see that the movie was gradually gaining his interest. He started asking me questions. And, by the time the movie was over, he said he wanted to go plant-strong as well.

He's still had a bit of meat and cheese on the weekends, but nothing like before. And, when we went to the doctor last night, he learned that he had already lost 10 pounds, and his blood pressure was WAY down. He complained bitterly to me (with a huge smile on his face) that he really hated when I was right.

As for me, I've lost about 20 pounds since June. We aren't perfect vegans yet because I don't want the kids or hubby to feel they can't have something or that I'm depriving them. But, I've learned a lot of new recipes from the meal plans and I'm finding that the cravings for meat and dairy have gone way down. Thank you for helping to make the switch easier for us.

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Exercise Excuse Busters! (You've Said It, Here's How It's Not True!)

Don't let these exercise excuses get the best of you! Get active and moving!

1 - I'm too busy. Squeeze in mini workouts, take the stairs, park at the far end of the parking lot, do stretches and arm circles while you watch TV, make a date to walk or jog instead of get dinner with a friend.

exercise excuses

2- I'm too tired. Exercise = more energy! Schedule exercise when you tend to feel the most energetic. For me, I'm an early bird.

3- Exercise is expensive! Walking is free.

4- Exercise is boring. Exercise with a friend, an ipod - try books on tape! Mix it up too. Walk, jog, run, swim, repeat. You can also get DVDs cheap online and there are great services like FitnessGlo and YogaGlo that are less than $20 a month.

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A Diet That Worked For Me (I can remember the day I became self-conscious with my body)

I can remember the day I became self-conscious with my body. I was a child, about 8 or so, and I was at a pool party in the two piece I'd convinced my mom to buy me. (She insisted I was much too young for one, but I insisted all the girls my age were wearing them and putting water balloons in their tops to look like they had boobs).

HH in the kitchen

Anyway, I was so excited to be wearing that two piece. It hardly showed my stomach at all, but I felt cool, like a teenager. I was sitting on the patio, noshing on watermelon, feeling awesome as ever when an adult at the party pointed out all my fat rolls.

Looking back at old photos, I don't think I was ever much of a chubby kid, but I wasn't slender either. I probably would have been if I was active more. My mind was active, but my body wasn't. Other kids played sports and I wrote poems and short stories. Maybe you could say I had a little pudge or baby fat.

Point is, from that day forward I became self-conscious about how I looked. I'm 30 now, and I still look down when I sit in a bikini.

I lost that "baby fat" (and the adult fat that I gained too). I'd dieted, I'd exercised but I finally lost the weight - and kept it off, when I followed a low fat, plant-based diet... but there was a part of me, that self-conscious part, that was scared I'd gain it all back. So I still went to the gym. A lot.

For a few years, I was a bit of a gym rat. I had to go 5 days a week to feel sane. Sometimes I went 7 days a week. I liked working out and being at the gym so much that I became a personal trainer.

Then something happened. I don't know what exactly, but I lost my gym mojo.

It was gradual but before long I was going so infrequently that I started to think I should cancel my gym membership -- but that scared me. If I cancelled, then I wouldn't go at all --- and what would happen to my midsection? So I kept the membership hoping it would motivated me to go back to the gym.

But then life got in the way. We moved abroad and a gym membership wasn't an option. Our condo had a tiny little gym -- two treadmills, an eliptical and some free weights, and I'd go sometimes, but not regularly. There were a few months I didn't go at all.

A year later we moved back to the states -- to Colorado. I told myself I didn't need to go to the gym because I'd be snowboarding all the time. And I did snowboard pretty often, a few days a week. Usually for a few hours of time (but a lot of that time involved sitting on my butt on the lift), and given our unseasonably dry and warm winter, there were weeks we didn't get any snow and I didn't go at all. So in reality, I wasn't much more active than I had been.

So here I am, almost 2 years having not really exercised or stepped foot in a gym. I found a hunger to get back into the groove recently and found a gym that had all the things I liked: a variety of classes, a social aspect, new machines and elipiticals a plenty...

Part of "orientation" is meeting with a trainer who sees just how out of shape you are. I was dreading it. Even said "oh I used to be a PT, I can evaluate myself" but no one gets a pass.

I was delighted to see after 2 years, my weight/BMI was still in the low end of the healthy range for my height and my body fat percentage was also in the low end of "average." And since this post started out talking about midsection rolls, I looked down to verify -- I had no more rolls than I started.

I'd found my balance. I'd found what works for me. Even in a period of inactivity, I'd become able to keep my weight -- my health -- in check. It wasn't a vanity diet. It wasn't a diet that required me to exercise excessively. I just had to keep myself naturally active and eat right. Eat a low fat, whole foods diet.

I feel exercise is important -- it's great for the heart, but great for the body, and I'm happy to be back into it, but I'm also happy to know that if I stop exercising, all the weight won't come back on like it used to --- before I found out how amazing eating plants can be for me!

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How to Add More Dessert to the Meal Plans (Healthy, Low Cal, Low Fat Diet Desserts)

vegan black bean brownies

From a Subscriber: "Knowing I can have dessert the end of the day helps keep me on target. When I saw that a celery stick with peanut butter was a dessert, I was really disappointed. Can you formulate meal plans to include your "real" desserts?"

I'm trying to make the meal plans as filling as possible by giving you the most food possible, all within 1200 calories. Thus, 100+ calorie desserts (even Happy Herbivore's super healthy ones!) don't really make sense, but if you want a bigger dessert (and you still want to stay within the 1200 calorie range), skip the dessert and snacks provided and have a Happy Herbivore cookie], [[http://happyherbivore.com/2009/05/vegan-blackbean-brownies/|brownie, or other Happy Herbivore treat instead - just try to keep the treat under 140 calories.

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How much exercise is too much exercise?

gym weights and equipment

When I was working as a personal trainer, the question of too much exercise, or over exercising, often came up. Some of my clients hoped working out twice per day would help them reach their goals faster whether it was bulking up or slimming down. Others were training for their first triathlon, which often requires twice a day workouts and had them wondering, "Can I exercise twice per day? Once in the morning and at night? Is that safe or healthy?"

Instead of saying "yes" or "no" I would ask my clients whether they think it's best for them --and why.

For my triathlete clients, exercising twice a day often made sense for their goals. Triathlons require a lot of training time across three sports so if my client needed to bike 15 miles and swim 20 laps that day, it made more sense to break that up before and after work rather than getting up at 3 or 4 a.m. to do both back-to-back.

For everyone else, once a day was usually sufficient to reach their goals. It’s also important to keep the type of ‘workout’ in perspective, too. For example, I see no problem with a client doing bootcamp at 6 a.m. and then doing a little yoga before bed if she is feeling stressed or restless, or going for a run in the morning and then playing a game of basketball with friends that night. Technically, those are two workouts in one day, but that is healthy -- a fine example of keeping an active lifestyle.

I have always found that my exercise has a natural ebb and flow -- I have days where I am more active and days where I am less active. Most days fall somewhere in between these two points.

In closing remarks, I do applaud anyone's initiative to maintain an active lifestyle -- but if you feel compelled to exercise excessively everyday, you could be displaying Compulsive Exercise behaviors--where exercise becomes detrimental rather than healthy or helpful.

Remember for weight loss and fitness, diet is more important than exercise!

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Healthy Sweet Potato Snack

mashed sweet potato in a bowl sprinkled with pumpkin pie spice

We're always on the lookout for filling snacks that are easy to make at work -- that also hit the sweet spot!

Our new favorite is a mashed sweet potato with a sprinkling of pumpkin pie spice.

Stab the sweet potato a few times with a fork then microwave for 8 minutes or so, until it's soft and cooked through. (You can also bake the sweet potato in an oven or toaster oven for an even sweeter flavor, or steam your potato before work). Place in a bowl (careful: that spud is hot!) and mash with a fork.

Once mashed, sprinkle generously with pumpkin pie spice and enjoy!

Nutrition (per 1/2 serving): 53 calories, 0.1g fat, 12.1g carbohydrates, 1.9g dietary fiber, 3.7g sugars, 1.2g protein

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