Thursday, January 27, 2011

Now Vegan- and Loving It!

A few weeks ago, I finally made the decision to return to veganism.  I pretty much always knew I'd make the switch back eventually; just like with my weight loss, it was a matter of being ready to commit to and accept a healthy lifestyle.

Now it seems that veganism is becoming all the rage.  I've been reading about 'power vegans'-  Yikes! who would have thought there would be talk of power vegans!   Yup- hamburger inhaling Bill Clinton has joined the vegan club, as have Steve Wynn, Mort Zuckerman, and - Mike Tyson!  (Hmm.. I'm not sure how I feel about being a member of their club...)

Bestselling books are pushing veganism.   Little did I know when I picked up "Skinny Bitch" that the authors' agenda was to push a vegan diet.  There I was, laughing my head off for the first half of the book, when all of sudden-  Bam! -  the book turned into a serious manifesto of why veganism is the only sane diet to follow.

I've got another best seller, "The China Study," sitting at my elbow.  I haven't started reading it yet, but with endorsements by two authors (Dean Ornish, and John Robbins) whose books, years ago, originally led me to become a vegan, I'm pretty sure I'll find it a good read.

It was neither the desire to be a member of a power club, nor the need to be trendy, that led me to return to veganism.   As I wrote in my previous post, my return seemed like a natural extension of my decision to lead a healthy lifestyle.   At first I thought I'd eat vegan 2 or 3 days a week, but at the end of the second week I realized that I hadn't eaten any dairy or eggs, and I hadn't even noticed.   What I did notice was I was sleeping better and feeling more energetic.  I'd have been foolish not to make the switch.

Now, three weeks later, people are commenting on the rosy glow in my cheeks, I'm noticing the bounce in my step, and the weight keeps rolling off.   I'm eight months into my diet, and it looks like I'll lose 10 pounds this month.   Pretty darn good, especially since I've been eating about a grocery bag full of food each day:  a quart of strawberries, 2 or 3 persimmons, several peppers, bread, apples, a bowl or two of soup...

I'm not a fanatic- you won't find me freaking out if something I eat turns out to have a touch of egg or dairy.  But I'm really enjoying my new appreciation for how good fresh fruits and vegetables taste (I absolutely crave them), and I'm amazed at how great I feel. 

A year ago, I never would have believed that I would voluntarily give up eating my beloved hard, sharp cheese and deep, dark chocolate.  Now, I openly and honestly say that not only do I not miss them, but I can easily imagine living the rest of my life without eating them again.

(Note: Vegans do eat chocolate.  I've eliminated it from my diet for weight loss and other reasons.)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Year, New Me!

I've lost so much weight that I don't recognize myself in the mirror!

Wow- what a way to start the new year!

Seven months ago, something clicked, and I started focusing on a healthy lifestyle.  I cut out sugar, most additives, excess fat, and began to move around- not enough to say I was exercising, but a heck of a lot more than I was doing.

I'm not going to say I don't deserve a big pat on the back, but the truth is,  making this lifestyle change hasn't been that difficult.  My craving for sugar disappeared fairy quickly, and the weight has been all but rolling off.

Some stats:

Start date:    June 1, 2010
Starting weight:  242 lbs              Present weight:  158 lbs        Goal weight:     120 lbs
Starting size:      22-24W  (3X)     Present size:   ~ 10  (S-M)     Goal size:      4-6  (XS-S)

As to what exactly I'm doing to take off the weight: 

- I keep a daily log of what I eat, and what/how I exercise. 

- I limit my fat intake to 10% of my daily diet.

- Basically, my diet consists of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, with a touch of low fat dairy.

{I've been a vegetarian for 30 years, with occasional bouts of veganism, and I'm starting to feel a strong pull back toward veganism; I've started 'eating vegan' 3 days a week, and when I look to the future, I have a feeling it will be only rarely that I'll be choosing non-vegan foods.}

 - I'm not being fanatical about exercise- only about 1/2 hour a day, with a mix of walking and some light weight training; I do the weight work at home, and the walking is done mainly around my neighborhood (although I really enjoy finding new places to walk).

- I've been focusing more and more on the 'time after'-  my life once I've reached my goal weight.   My food and exercise choices are done with easy lifetime maintenance in mind, which is why I'm limiting my exercise time.   My thinking is that 1/2 hour of daily exercise will pretty much be always easy to do; more than that might become a chore.   I also eat out a few times a month- I order carefully, but I do make sure to order foods that I'll enjoy and consider a treat.

- I smile a lot :-)

- I weigh myself everyday, but I accept the weight that I am.  I don't freak out about not having lost weight; I know that if I'm eating 'right' the weight will come off.  

- I go through my closets at least twice a month.   There's nothing like baggy pants for encouragement!

- I have a wonderful network of supporting, encouranging, and loving friends and close ones- starting with my husband, Stu, whose enthusiasm for the new me is infectious!

- I start every day with gratitude and with a slap on the ass, telling myself that at my age I should be smart enough to know how to get my act together.

- I look for articles, books, and films that will be inspiring.   I recently read 'Skinny Bitch' and loved it; 'Eat Pray Love' is a favorite, and the film 'Super Size Me' had me nodding (and shaking) my head.

- I meditate.  Not as often as I'd like to (but that's one of my New Year's resolutions).

- I always look forward.  (I'm already perusing eBay for size 8 and size 6 pants!)

And that's all there is to it!  

There have been some weird bumps along the road (my heart threw me a couple of loops over the summer, but I'm dealing with it), but all in all, it's been pretty easy.   The weight loss has slowed down, but I knew that would happen, so it's not an issue.  With the arrival of the new year, I've renewed my committment to taking- and keeping- the weight off, and am looking forward to new ways of toning and smiling at my body.  

I'm amazed at the increase in my stamina.. Heck- I'm thrilled that I can see my toes!

Writing this post is my public 'coming out'.  I'm actually not sure what's prompted me to go public with my 'before' stats, but if it helps or inspires anyone, then I'm glad I went public.

I guess some 'before; pics are due, so here you go, along with my wishes for a happy, healthy, and content year, filled with hopes and dreams realized and fulfilled, and at least an inkling of glee every day.

Nov, 2009:

Dec 2010:

Thursday, July 22, 2010

If Religion, Then..... Why?

Church of All Nations

On Tuesday, while we were fasting for Tisha B'Av, Stu and I went to the Mount of Olives.

Getting there from our home was an interesting experience.  It only took about half an hour, but in that short time we drove thru new Jerusalem, and via the religious neighborhoods of Mea Shearim and Bar Ilan, crossed into Arab East Jerusalem near the area of the Temple Mount.  Driving onward, we followed the walls of the Old City to the Mount of Olives, where we found parking across from a long row of tourist buses that lined the approach to the Church of All Nations.

The area was filled with tourists from around the world.  We saw groups and independent travelers from places as widespread as Korea and Italy.  Most were focusing their sights on the church and its surroundings (which includes the Garden of Gethsemane), but while we lingered a bit, the focus of our visit was across the road.

Directly across the street from the Church of All Nations lies the Jewish cemetery at the Mount of Olives.  With its view of the Old City walls and of modern Jerusalem beyond them, you would expect that tourists to the area would be eager to take at least a few moments to explore the cemetery and its view.

But we didn't notice any tour guides pointing out the view to their groups, and almost no one turned around or crossed the road to take photos. 

Sounds odd, doesn't it?

The explanation might lie in the reason for our visit:  to see and walk among the thousands of old and ancient Jewish graves which were destroyed during the years of Jordanian occupation before Israel gained control of the area in the 1967 war.

The contrast from one side of the street to the other is quite remarkable- and uncomfortable.

On one side are two very elaborately decorated churches- the richly painted Church of All Nations, and the gold plated onion domes of the Russian Orthodox Church above it.

On the other side of the road, facing the walls of the Old City (and the view of the golden Dome of the Rock peeking above them), are tens of thousands of graves, many of which still lay in ruins, their tombstones smashed, the earth around them strewn with debris.

Over 40 years ago, shortly after the '67 war, I visited the area for the first time, and although I was only 11 years old, the sadness of that visit is still burned in my mind.

Although Israel had only regained control of the area a few months before, valient efforts were being made to restore the cemetery.  I'll never forget the sight of dozens of people wandering through the destruction, trying to locate the graves of loved ones.  It seemed like an impossible task- how could they hope to locate anything amidst those piles of rubble?

The destruction was so intense, that 40 years later the restoration is still not complete.  In 19 years of occupation, the Jordanians had worked hard to destroy the cemetery, desecrating and uprooting graves dating from biblical times to our modern era. 

Part of the goal of the restoration work was to reopen the cemetery to new burials as soon as possible- an ironic testament to the endurance of the Jewish people.

Walking among that destruction, trying to decipher the faded lettering on cracked tombstones, I found myself overwhelmed with the feelings of frustration and confusion that often haunt me when I travel around Israel.

Those feelings were particularly disturbing that day:

How could it be, at a place that is deeply holy to so many people, that we were immersed in the evidence of the deliberate desecration of one one religion, while within clear sight of the golden domes of two others?

How could it be, that visitors who came from all over the world to glory in the beginnings of their own religion, not turn around and reflect upon another?

Since the inception of this blog, I've avoided writing about these reflections.  It's so much easier, and of course more pleasant, to enjoy each day without having to think of all the whys of the world.

But Tisha B'Av, of all days, is the time for exactly those questions.  Not just for Jews- for everyone.  And maybe now that I've finally started talking about them, I'll find the strength and determination to return to those reflections regularly. 

In the meantime, I have a feeling that each time I put on the sandals I wore that day,  the fine grains of sand from the cemetery still clinging to the crevices and soles will strengthen my identity with the thousands of years of Jewish struggle and fortitude in this region- linking me to my past in a reminder of how, after a lifetime of longing, I emigrated to Israel.. but at the same time, continuing to raise a deep turbulance within me as new dimensions of whys continue to fight their way to the surface.