60 DAYS

photoI have been a “vegan” for 60 days now.

In case you’ve missed the explanation – I put “vegan” in quotes as an indicator that I’m not living to the letter of the law. I periodically eat honey from the local farmer’s market because I support their beekeeping practices. I don’t freak out about every ingredient on ever label. I stay educated, eat mostly unprocessed foods, but I’m not throwing away my favorite running socks because they’re made with wool.

So…”vegan”.

Or, as I’ve been using more lately, “Herbivore.” That word seems to stir up less of The Crazy from either side. (BOTH sides of the vegan discussion are bad, I’ve been accosted for eating something “not actually vegan” by people who say they’re vegan, and people who are omnivores.)

So! 60 Days the Herbivore!

The best result that I think will be what keeps me here well past the 90 days is the following: A Dramatic Drop In Food Related Guilt.

Even on days where I stress-eat and binge (like yesterday, oooohhh, yesterday was ugly) I’m still doing it vegan. I ate 42 bean burritos and a large order of french fries. Did I eat way more than my caloric limit? YES. Do I hate myself for it? No where near as much.

I don’t think I realized how much guilt I felt over some of the animal-based foods I ate. I listened to a podcast once where a Raw Vegan (Couldn’t do that, my stomach would leave my body) said that he believes we all push aside the “truth” we know every time we eat a chicken nugget or a plate of nachos. Before I started this experiment? I would have said, “Nope. I know that stuff is true, but I don’t really think about it.” But now? Now that I live without pushing aside that knowledge of what I’m eating, how the animals were treated, and what it’s doing to my body? Now that I’m NOT stepping over that information in my subconscious with every bite? I now realize how prevalent it was. I don’t think I realized how much the back of my brain said, “Oh, man. We’ve seen the videos of how these dairy cows are treated, yet here we are…cheese dip and tortilla chips by the bucket load…” whenever I ate.

Because I did know all of that stuff. I have researched it and watched the documentaries. I know how crappy of lives these animals lead. I know how horribly processed the food is. I know the practices/additives we use that are illegal in other parts of the world. I know how bad it is for me. I know all of that in the back of my head, I don’t think I realized how much I had to quiet those voices before, not until I stopped.

So, the absence of a HUGE amount of food-related guilt? Best part of this experiment. I can see articles posted about health factors, and processing rituals, and animal cruelty and I can look right past them guilt-free. “Not me. Nope.”

(Sidenote: I do still experience guilt related to feeding the stuff to my family. But that’s another article for another day.)

I’ve also been pleasantly surprised by how easy it’s been. I eat the hell out of bean burritos now, WITHOUT CHEESE. That’s blasphemy! A bean burrito without cheese? WHO DOES THAT? Me, evidently. And it’s not a big deal. I really expected to miss the stuff more than I do, but I don’t. It’s strange.

The hardest part has been my digestive system. I’m very sensitive to raw or undercooked vegetables or nuts. I knew that before, but since my encounters with that stuff was periodic, I didn’t think about it too often. Now? I encounter that stuff daily. I’ve made myself sick by eating too much raw almond butter (ONE SANDWICH) and guacamole on chips one night made me want to jump off a bridge. The same issue arises: Intense abdominal pain. I’ve dealt with this for years, same triggers, but now that I’m eating vegan those triggers pop up more. And since I can sometimes get away with a little bit of the offending food, I’ll try it. And often regret it later.

Also – I have to make sure I get a variety in my diet. Too many veggies in one day, or beans, or fiber, and my stomach is UNHAPPY. I have to make sure I mix things up which is hard since I tend to cook a meal for lunch and eat the same thing for Second Lunch (I’m a Hobbit) and Dinner. I have to watch that practice to make sure I’m not getting too much of ONE thing. But again – all of that relates to my own sensitive stomach when it comes to things like fiber or raw veggies.

So, yes. I’m still sticking with it. I’ve found some great treats like Coconut Milk Ice Cream, and I get this killer tea from a local tea shop and some vegan truffles/chocolates from a local gourmet chocolatier. There are plenty of “splurge” type things I can still do which I really enjoy. And because I leaned vegetarian a lot I still can eat a lot of my favorite meals at a lot of my favorite restaurants. I even discovered vegan pizza recently and it was GOOD. No cheese but still DELICIOUS.

All in all? I’d call this a permanent change. But I think a lot of people would doubt I could stick to it so I’ll still give it the full 90 days of the “experiment.”

Oh. And I’ve lost 6lbs of the 10 I had put back on after my ultra-training season ended. That’s nice. I’m not stressing TOO much about weight loss/gain though because this is an experiment regarding a lot of other issues I have with food, no need to bring the body image issues into the mix too.

Meditating on Meditation

I tried meditation (again) yesterday.

I had one of those STUPID incidents in my life where I should have just LET IT GO. Nothing I could do to make it NOT have happened, nothing I could do to resolve it after it HAD happened, but I wanted to talk about it to everyone. CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS HAPPENED? Let’s hash it out a million times even though it does nothing but stress me out more.

STOP THINKING ABOUT IT. MOVE ON. LET IT GO.

But, of course, I couldn’t.

It reminded me of this time I had a REALLY rude run-in with someone at Target. I mean, this lady threw her hand up to shoosh me WHILE she was on the phone talking about how I had just cut her off (with my cart), rolled her eyes at me and turned around. AND I WAS TRYING TO APOLOGIZE. It was INSANE. And I think about that moment constantly. But I talk about it rarely because I hate myself for holding on to it. I should have let it go. I gave her even MORE power over me by holding on to it. I give her power now but I need it as an example so, you know, I’m talking about it.

ANYWAY. So, yesterday I tried to let it go. I really did. And it didn’t happen. So, I thought, let’s meditate.

I’ve tried meditating a million times in my life. It seems like – on paper – it would be something I would get into. I’m spiritual. I’m thoughtful. I enjoy zen-like moments on swims and runs. (Not on the bike yet. I still hate the bike.) But my brain just will NOT shut off for me to meditate. I’ve bought books, listened to podcasts, read articles and still…no real success.

But I thought I’d try again yesterday.

I decided to go to my front yard and do it because the weather was divine. I tried to center myself on my breathing. On the wind. On the amazingly Spring-like day in July in Alabama. Yet still, I could not stop thinking about my angst over the earlier event.

No matter how hard I tried, it would pop into my head and then I would find myself FOCUSING on it. Thinking about it EVEN MORE.

BAH.

Do you meditate? Have you found any books or podcasts that have helped center you? I really think it would be useful in my life but MAN I have a hard time with it.

Running On Plants

So! I did my longest run yet this weekend, although the heat had me walking a lot of the last few miles as I was finishing it up around 1pm. I did 15 miles and – other than the heat – I felt good.

And it got me thinking…I’ve not talked about how I’m fueling now as a vegan.

It also got me thinking…Why do cold showers get a bad wrap? They’re FANTASTIC.

But back to the vegan thing…

My main source of non-food running fuel (I prefer real food if I can do that, but it’s not always ideal) for last ultra season was the Running Gummy. Ever brand has their own, I didn’t mind the “Fruit Smoothie” flavor from Honey Stinger or the “Watermelon” flavor from Gu. But – as many of you know – gelatin is animal derived so that’s out. I knew that from day 01. What I didn’t know, was that there are several other ingredients that can be animal derived. As a matter-of-fact, Gu seems to catch people off guard because initially it appears vegan, but if you look at the addendum/comments in this write-up and this one you’ll see that bigger writers than I are quick to get corrected on this.

The point? It’s hard to tell.

And while I hate the word “vegan” for that reason “YOU CAN’T HAVE THAT, IT’S NOT VEGAN!” (This comes from BOTH sides, by the way, from vegans and omnivores) – I do try to stay vegan if I can and if it doesn’t go against any other ethical consumer issues I have. (Example: I buy locally made honey because A) it supports my local economy and B) It supports my local honey bees)) BUT! With running fuel, I’m flexible and have no ethical issues SO! I’m trying to stay vegan if I can.

This is the one I decided on: Strawberry Cliff Gel. It’s 90% organic, the ingredients aren’t scary synthetic, and I found several sources confirming it is vegan friendly.

THAT SAID. If you find a good sale on bulk, you’re still looking at about $1 each. And if you buy it by walking in a brick-and-mortar store, like I usually do, you’re looking closer to $1.75 each.

SO! If I need that super-portability (so tiny!) or if I need that caffeine boost, that’s what I use. But for that general, “Energy after 3 miles” type of need I’ve been carrying baby food with me! I’ve bought those squeeze apple-sauce type packets (in the applesauce section at Target) 4 for $2 – which is cheaper than the gels – and I’ve been running with those. They’re portable enough to fit in my hydration pack, don’t require chewing (like real food often does), but they give me a 60 calorie boost. Not as much as a 100 calorie boost from gels, but it’s a good trade-off for the feeling of eating real food and also for the cost.

I actually haven’t used a gel in weeks, I did my run Saturday entirely on applesauce packets. My energy level stayed FINE the entire 15 miles. It was just the heat that nearly killed me. The brand I’ve found actually has several flavors with the applesauce: peach, pear, berry, mango…so I’ve got a variety. I’m not sure how appetizing they’ll seem if I’m cold, but for now I love them. I look forward to my baby food breaks on my run.

So! That’s how my fueling has changed since I’ve been trying the vegan thing. I know you’ve been losing sleep over this.

And THIS is how I RE-fuel as a vegan.

And THIS is how I RE-fuel as a vegan.

I Did Not Put This Book Down Until It Was Done.

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I picked up this book at 8pm the other night, got sick and couldn’t sleep, and finished it around midnight. IT WAS THAT GOOD. If I hadn’t been sick I might have put it down to sleep a bit, but I’m certain I would have not started my day the next day until it was done.

Now, you have to have a tolerance for a kinda-angsty teen girl narrator, which I have no problem with. But! A guy friend found it irritating and I didn’t recommend this to my husband for that very reason. If it had been told from the point of view of a teen boy, (I’m thinking like in The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian) then it would probably be more relatable because it would be experiences he might be more familiar with. Now, I read the Sherman Alexie book and I’m a girl, so obviously genders can read other perspectives, but I just know my husband’s tolerance and I think he wouldn’t be able to get past the teen girl voice telling the story.

BUT IT IS SO GOOD.

Also? Did I already recommend The Storied Life Of A.J. Fikry? I think I did already. At least I know I did in other places like Twitter or Facebook, but just in case I didn’t document it here…READ IT! It’s great. It seems like it’s going places and it doesn’t, which I loved. You feel like you’re seeing predictable plot development paths but that’s not where the book goes and I truly appreciated that. It’s a GREAT book club book.

I also finally got around to reading The Cuckoo’s Calling after my friend told me I’d like it. I had been worried that I’d be disappointed since it’s not Harry Potter, but I really enjoyed it. It took me a little while to get into it, but once I did I was pulled in hook, line, and sinker. I even bought The Silkworm because there’s 8 people in line for it at the library and I couldn’t wait that long to read it.

Next on my list: Landline and then The Land Of Stories (Book 3). What are you reading?

Back On The Road Again

(Preface: This entry is SO LONG and SO RAMBLY. OH MY GOD. I AM SO SORRY.)

I used to pray the rosary. A LOT. Like, it was my Go To thing when I needed anything: comfort, strength or ease of guilt – I would pray the rosary. It was my favorite Catholic ritual (that and the Stations of the Cross, loved going to that) and many Lents I made it my “promise” to say the rosary every day during the 40 days leading to Easter.

I guess you could say that praying the rosary was my jam.

The thing I would meditate the most on – while praying the rosary – was usually: How can I be a better person? When I was young I would think about how I should stay away from the little white lies. As I got older I thought about how I should probably not be thinking those thoughts I was thinking. And then, towards the end of my stretch with the church, I meditated on how I was losing my Faith.

(Funny! Because I did lose it! HA! DO YOU GET IT?)

(Not at all funny.)

I haven’t prayed the rosary in – decades maybe? I don’t know. It’s been awhile. But lately I’ve been thinking about it a lot because I find myself doing a lot of self-reflection/meditation on the rosary topics of yesteryear: How can I be a better person?

I think I had reached a good point in my life where I was feeling like I had grown into a good person. I have done a lot of shitting on people in my life, so it feels good to be at that point where I can look at myself and think, “Yay! We’ve not been evil in a long time! Go us!” The overall feeling of the last few years has been: Kim Is Finally A Good Person.

But the last couple of weeks? I’ve been feeling that falter. I’ve been having a crisis of Faith again, but this time in myself.

I found myself recently experiencing some bitterness and jealousy of the good things that were happening to other people. It wasn’t long-lasting and it didn’t flavor much of my behavior, but feelings those feelings? Those negative feelings of bitterness and jealousy over something that was adding good into the world? Upset me. Good people make the world a better place. If good things happen to good people? I should be celebrating that…not be jealous.

Funny sidenote: When good things happen to bad people? I never feel jealous. And it’s because I know that I am still better off because I am a good person. I have a lot of Faith in the power of being good for someone who worships at no alter, don’t I?

Anyway! Bitterness! Jealousy! I was feeling it!

And man, I was hating myself for it. And it gave me horrible pangs of self-doubt and self-hatred and I went from tiny flares of bitterness and jealous to HUGE FLAMES of disappointment in self and I found myself falling down the pit of I AM SUCH AN AWFUL PERSON, WHY DO PEOPLE EVEN TALK TO ME? faster than I could say, “Downward Spiral.”

That’s where I’ve been recently: Feeling strong negative feelings towards good people, and then strong negative feelings towards myself for those strong negative feelings towards good people.

I’M HAVING ALL THE FUNZ!

It had gotten so bad that I didn’t even pay attention to two really wonderful compliments I got this week. One, a friend shared an article about raising Kind children and commented how she thought of me because I was doing a lot of what the article mentioned.

COULD THERE BE A GREATER COMPLIMENT? No!

Actually, yes. It came later.

I was discussing on Facebook how frustrated I get that Atheists get such a bad wrap just because of a few assholes and how that would be like me judging all Christians based on Westb0r0. (Misspelled intentionally. I don’t even want their organization showing up on my blog.) And then a friend mentioned the interesting note that he thought I was very much like Jesus for being an Atheist.

Now, THAT, my friends. Is the best compliment ever. We talk a lot about Jesus’ teachings in this house, even though we attach no religion to it other than, “What a good guy!” So that meant a lot to me.

For about two seconds. And then I was back to hating myself for hating the joy in other people’s lives. And I was back to feeling guilty for feeling bitter. I started worrying that I was becoming a Bad Person and I found myself eating all of the foods in all of the land.

It’s just been a negative couple of weeks. I even found myself very bitter towards a certain spouse of mine for forgetting my birthday (I don’t care about gifts! I just wanted someone to mow the grass for me for one week!) and not helping me prep our house for Family Dinner. And then – while I know that practically those are very good reasons to be bitter – I do not support bitterness at all. It manifests into ugliness and there are ways to deal with that so that they don’t turn you mean. And I usually deal with those things better. And I wasn’t. I was soaking in the bitterness from having to mow the lawn or vacuum on my birthday, I was feeling bitter over the success of others, I was turning into someone I hated and I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to be friends with me.

Can everyone say: DOWNWARD SPIRAL!

And then I got sick last night. Again. I have this INCREDIBLE sensitivity to raw vegetables/legumes/some fruits. It’s not entirely consistent because it depends on their ripeness but sometimes things like bananas or fresh almond butter or edamame make me SICK. Like, severe abdominal pains for hours, sick. And last night was one of those nights. (DAMN YOU EDAMAME!) I was soaking in a hot tub, crouching in the fetal position (it helps!) and just wallowing until it passed. When it started fading I pulled open my phone and started just poking around social media to distract myself. And BAM! I had the most wonderful, kindest, most beautiful message on my phone from a friend. Basically telling me I’m a good person.

And y’all? It tore me up.

I just need to get out of my own head. I need to remind myself how I made it this far in my journey towards Awesomeness. By taking baby steps. By not expecting perfection, but celebrating progress. By recognizing when something needed to be changed…and working towards changing it instead of wallowing in guilt over that thing that I am hating about myself. These are the things I do to stay on the road towards BETTER instead of setting up a permanent camp in the town of Good Enough. Good Enough is a large town that has a lot of access points, it’s very easy to stop trying because, eh, I’m fine as I am. I should celebrate those moments where I see concrete evidence of work I need to do because that means I’m still on the road to BETTER instead of just being satisfied with Good Enough.

And, oh Lord, there is plenty to keep me on that road. And normally I just work on those things and leave the guilt and the shame on the side of the road somewhere. But I got sucked into that spiral and I couldn’t get out and you can’t travel forward when your circling one point of shame and guilt over and over and over again.

So, yes. I have areas I need to improve on. I always will. And standing around thinking about those things instead of working towards improving them does NO good for NO one.

And I’m grateful for my friend taking the time to send me that lovely message to yank me out of that spiral downward and put me back on the road forward. My goal is never perfection. My goal is simply to always be on the road towards BETTER. To never stop in Good Enough, and to never get sucked into a shame or guilt spiral. So, I’m back on the road again. Thankfully. I’m recognizing the errors I’ve made and the bitterness I felt and I’m looking at ways to deal with that so I can see the success of the good people in my life and celebrate it because good things happening to good people makes the world a BETTER place.

Here’s to avoiding spirals of guilt and shame, here’s to traveling towards BETTER instead of settling for Good Enough, and here’s to always spreading joy by telling people the things they might need to hear.

Okay. I’m ready to roll again. Let’s get this party started.

Oh! And this beautiful thing happened! That's how bad my shame spiral was, I didn't even give this the celebration it deserved.

Oh! And this beautiful thing happened! That’s how bad my shame spiral was, I didn’t even give this the celebration it deserved.