Vegan Life – 9 Lessons Learned

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” – Michael Pollan

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I love conducting experiments on myself, little challenges that add a bit of spark to the year. I know from studying nutrition, that we are our best experiments, so after examining my yearly goals, I elected to dive right into becoming a vegan. Vegan, according to the Vegan Society can be defined as, “A way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.” Which is a noble pursuit indeed.

No longer rich, frothy milk in my morning coffee, no more Swiss cheese to top by bread with tomatoes. Nope, nothing that derived from an animal (meat, dairy, honey, and/or eggs) would touch these lips for one solid week. (Laugh all you want, a week felt long enough. A 30 day experiment would have provided better insight, however, I could not withstand 30 days.)

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The first day I felt like hell, genuine, head aching, dizzy feeling hell wrapped in a blanket of much needed couch time. I quickly realized my lack of well-being stemmed from the fact that my sugar levels were far too high. I had a homemade vegan muffin for breakfast with a coffee and almond milk. For lunch I had a big bowl of mixed fruit topped with a vegan yogurt (not at all recommended) nuts, seeds and coconut flakes. I literally had to lie on the couch after lunch I felt so horrible. That night we enjoyed vegan rice bowls, couscous, beans, cilantro, tomatoes, peppers and avocado. I felt much better, though still quite wary of my experiment. Push on I told myself…this is only day 1; no time to wimp out now.

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Day two was much, much better. I ate peanut butter with apple for breakfast, finding that the insertion of some protein was key.  That night for dinner we enjoyed vegan pasta with homemade pesto, garbanzo beans, fresh tomatoes and olive oil. Delicious.

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I won’t continue to bore you with our daily menus, but I will enlighten you with some nuggets of wisdom I gained while in experimentation mode. It goes a little something like this….

Lesson 1: Prepare yourself, as hard as this pill is to swallow, not all of us will thrive on a vegan diet. There. Said it. Done.

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Lesson 2: Listen to Your Body – the reason for conducting my vegan week experiment was to determine if I would feel better by eliminating dairy products and the small amount of fish I normally consume from my diet.

I made note of how I felt, was sure to eat a whole foods based diet and after the week, I would determine if this way of eating was best for me. Truth be told, I could tell relatively early on that I was not thriving on this way of life.2016-05-03-major_026jpg

Lesson 3: Equipment Fail – Our blender broke and not having that little gadget during vegan week wasn’t all that awesome. Our blender would have been remarkably handing for creating healthy shakes (avocado, bananas, berries, flax seed, almond milk and turmeric), sauces and other treats. Urgh…note to self, have the equipment necessary to make experimentation week a success.

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Lesson 4: Processed Foods – Consuming processed vegan foods is NOT, and I repeat, NOT the way to go. It is not hard to become a junk food vegan and I opted not to take that route, but I can see how those little vegan packages can make their way into a grocery basket. Resist the temptation to purchase those overly processed, sugared, gross tasting, quasi food like substances and stick to real food. Trust me on this one.

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Lesson 5: Preparation and Food Choice – Eating a vegan diet wasn’t necessarily hard, but it did require planning and lots of trips to the grocery store to restock our produce. By planning out my meals, I felt better equipped to handle the day and who doesn’t want to handle their day with gusto? On a positive note, I did enjoy breaking out of our dinner rut with some delicious new meals. Yum to that!

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Choices… I did find my choices were very limited. I found I consumed far too much fruit and way too many nuts on my vegan week experiment, neither of which made me feel incredible and left me with a bulging gut by the end of the day. Thumbs down to that!

Lesson 6: My overall thoughts are as follows… my die-hard vegan friends are going to cringe, but at this point in my life, I don’t want to become a vegan. Sigh, cry, scream, whatever you must do, but I was not thriving physically or emotionally on this diet.

I consider myself a pescetarian (don’t you love the nutrition terms) and have been for years. I will eat fish on occasion, but mostly stick to a whole foods, and a vegetarian lifestyle that does not include meat. I enjoy milk, yogurt and cheese (I know the horror) and because life is short and those foods are delicious, I want to find balance in my own way and enjoy this journey.

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Lesson 7: Energy Meltdown…As a vegan I just didn’t feel the energy I do when I eat small amounts of animal products. I missed my morning coffee, which, honestly, is a sacred part of my morning ritual.

There are plenty of athletes that consume a vegan diet and would outperform me any day, but for my body and my workouts, I simply didn’t feel the power. I felt as if I was walking around in a fog, listless and tired all the time.  Perhaps something was missing? Was it calories? Not enough variety?  Lack of protein? Psychological? Who knows, but I was listening to my body and she was not happy.

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Lesson 8: Learn the Lesson, Your Lesson.  As with all experiences in life, there are valuable lessons that come along with each new road we travel. I learned that I don’t need an excess amount of dairy, however, I do enjoy eating a variety of foods and of those, dairy is indeed included.

I also learned that by shaking things up a bit, I felt more alive, more engaged in my eating program and more aware of the way my body felt. Those were all helpful observations and bits of wisdom to carry into the future.

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Lesson 9: Allergies and Food Adversities – while conducting the experiment I made note how I felt (not so great). As I slowly reincorporate some dairy and fish back into my diet, it will be important to note any side effects from those foods including: bloating (had plenty of that on the vegan diet), stomach discomfort, a decrease in energy, skin reactions, and other side-effects associated with consuming dairy products.

I love the notion of conducting experiments on ourselves and with our bodies because no diet book, no nutrition guru will know us better than we already know ourselves.

Throughout our lives, our lifestyles naturally change and therefore, we often need to re-examine the way we eat, the foods we consume and the quantity of those foods that make their way into our bodies. Our habits need to be examined and often times, re-written. So I am committed to experimenting, changing things up a bit and learning valuable lessons along the way.

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Parting words…

I am aware that I may catch some serious flack for writing this piece, which may come across as anti-vegan, which it is not.  I believe that as individuals we all must choose to eat in a way that nourishes our bodies, our minds and our souls.  We all must make choices that resonate with us, knowing that food consumption and nutrition is a deeply personal matter.

I understand that consuming animals has become and continues to be a dirty, and often times, inhumane industry that must be rectified. We, as individuals can play a powerful role in demanding alternative methods besides factory farming when it comes to the choices we make.  We vote each time we purchase our food, I was educated to vote with intention.  We must also support those farmers that raise, and harvest animals with tender hands and respect.

“Food changes everything.” – Joshua Rosenthal

 

Nutrition Terms:

Whole Foods – Food that come from the earth including: fruits, vegetables, beans, grains, nut and seeds.  The less the food is processed (created in a factory) the better it will be for your health.

Organic – I define organic as those foods that have not been treated with chemicals – pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, etc.  The foods have also not been treated with sewage sludge, and should not be treated with hormones of any kind.

Webster defines organic as following: “Food produced without employment of chemically formulated fertilizers, growth stimulants, antibiotics, or pesticides.”

Tips:

If you are just starting on a journey of wanting to eat and live a healthier lifestyle, start small and celebrate little victories.  Consume more water, eat from a smaller plate, consume more fruits and vegetables, and take responsibility for your own health.  Start positive habits and stick to them.  Be consistent when it comes to eating well and taking care of your body, it is never time wasted.  Each day feed your mind, your body and your soul.

Book Recommendation:

Looking for a quick to read, easy to digest nutrition book to get you started?  I highly recommend Michael Pollan’s Food Rules.

Weekend Retreat – Hotel Waldrand

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One of the best aspects of Swiss life are the mountain houses.  Perched on mountain tops, full of rustic charm and farm flair, these mountain beauties exemplify hard work, and a honest way to make a living.  The cozy interiors, the fluffy comforters and the delicious meals all make these ideal places to retreat for a night or a few days.

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Hotel Waldrand is no exception to any of the above.  Upon arriving (after a long journey from Kiental Dorf), we quickly removed our boots and felt as though we could finally relax.  We pulled up a seat on the outdoor patio, ordered some drinks and snacks and eased into a quiet afternoon.  The children played with the innkeepers kids, while the adults spoke with little interruption.  As night feel, we made our way to the dining room, where under the soft glow of candlelight, we enjoyed an impressive, three – course meal.

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With bellies full and children utterly shattered, we made our way to our attic room.  Perfect for our family of four, we snuggled under the eaves, watched the night sky from our windows and feel into a deep slumber.

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Just as nature intended – simple, sweet and peaceful.  Swiss mountain hotels may not always be easy to get to, but boy are they worth the trek!

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Hotel Waldrand

Pochtenalp – Kiental

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In the Alps #6

The “Into the Alps” photo series are snapshots from various trips we have taken in the Alps. Although the photos are primarily in black and white, they aim to show the natural beauty of the Alps in areas which may be of interest to others. We hope you enjoy this series and that you follow us to be a part of the updates.

This photo was taken just below the Alpine Observatory and Hotel at the top of Gornergrat, high above the town of Zermatt.  The cogwheel train will bring you up to the top of the 3,100m peak for commanding views of the Matterhorn and the Monte Rosa Glacier.  For more photos of the area, visit our other post…

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Little Footprints

We have been hiking with our children since they were in the womb. We were captivated by Switzerland’s natural beauty the moment we arrived in this tiny country and the thought of abandoning the trails once I became pregnant wasn’t possible. So, we kept on hiking.

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Our children hiked with us while in my belly, and continued to hike once they were born. I would simply strap them into the trusted Ergo baby carrier and away we would go. Up and down rolling hills or the Alps, stopping to nurse them or give their tiny legs a good stretch. The fresh air, the miles of gentle rocking allowed them to peacefully sleep while tucked in close to my chest and I was able to continue and expand my love of the mountains.

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As they grew, we would take them on short hikes, allowing them to discover the wonders on the trails for themselves. Whenever they grew tired, we would lift them up, strap them into either the carrier or our all terrain B.O.B. stroller and away we would go.

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Hiking with our children, though not always without complaint, has always been one of our favorite pastimes. When the weather is dry, we do our best to find a local trail to spend our Sundays as a family. We explore new areas, capture each season in all of its glory and share our love of the natural world with our children.

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I interviewed our son asking him all about hiking from his eight – year – old perspective. Enjoy the interview and remember that nature is too incredible not to share with your children!

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Name:

Noah – Age Eight

Melinda (MTS) – How long have you been hiking?

Noah  (NS) -I don’t know, maybe eight years? Yes, eight years.

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(MTS) What is your favorite thing about hiking?

(NS) -My favorite thing about hiking is seeing the nature.

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(MTS) Do you ever get tired when you are hiking? What do you do when you get tired?

(NS) Umm…sometimes. I stop, or walk slower.

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(MTS) Where is your favorite place to hike?

(NS) I like hiking everywhere. I like hiking places that have playgrounds.

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(MTS) Why is nature so amazing?

(NS) Because you can learn a lot from nature. You can learn how animals live; you can discover things like fossils and you can find something you have never seen before.

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(MTS) What tips do you have for other children hiking with their families or with their friends?

(NS) Bring lots of snacks, water, and wear good shoes. Build a campfire and grill sausages, Schlangenbrot and marshmallows. Kids can also cut or carve with their Swiss Army Knives.

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(MTS) Where do you hope to hike this year?

(NS) I would love to see a new place in Switzerland.

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(MTS) How can children help protect nature?

(NS) By introducing them to nature, by picking – up trash, tell others not to litter,

recycling, grow a garden, and when you brush your teeth turn off the water.

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MTS – What is your favorite book?

(NS) – The Animal Encyclopedia by Bright Sparks.

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MTS – What is one thing your parents remind you of each time you hike? Why is it so important?

(NS) – They always tell me not to kick or throw stones because it could hit someone on the trail and injure them.

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(MTS) Do you have safety advice for other children?

(NS) – Stay on the trail so you don’t get lost.

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So, there you have it, sound advice from an eight – year – old.  Time to hit the trails!

Women Who Hike – June 17

Women Who Hike is an inspired group of women all gathering with one common goal – to get outside!  We hike in and around Basel Land and together we have a great time, share stories, overcome obstacles and are inspired by nature.

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Why? I created this group after seeing first hand the healing benefits of nature. Nothing lifts my mood better than spending quality time outdoors with some awesome ladies!

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Saturday, June 17 – Let’s Hike Before the Summer Holiday

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Where: Meet Basel SBB 8:55 under the big departure board on June 17!

The train to Zwingen departs SBB at 9:06 and will take 21 minutes to get to Zwingen.  We will leave on the 9:06 train, so please be on time.

Please purchase tickets when you arrive at the station, or use your UABO.

Meeting Time:  8:55 – SBB

Hike:  Zwingen – Ettingen

Time:  3 + hours

Description:

We will walk uphill the first part of the hike and then walk down to Ettingen where we can take the tram back to Basel or your respective location.

Special notes, this is not a car friendly hike.  We start in one location and will finish at another location, your car will get lonely, so leave her at home.

Also, since the hike is long, it is not recommended to bring children.  We all love kiddos, but please leave yours at home.

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Do bring snacks, water, smiles, sun hat, sunscreen, and wear good shoes.

RSVP just so we know to wait for you at the train station before we leave.

Please know this hike is open to everyone, if you are reading this and would like to come, please do!

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