Monday, December 30, 2013

A Whole Lot to Do, With a Side of Resolutions

New Year rolls around and almost everyone has their resolutions in mind. Setting dates for yourself to start on a goal you have is perfectly acceptable. I tend to have resolutions at the beginning of every week. Maybe that's why resolutions and I don't get along, we're just sick of seeing each other and never accomplishing much. The good news is I have been a better vegan in the past six months than I ever have been since starting this journey. Christmas went even better than Thanksgiving. Everyone ate my baked vegan cakes, muffins, and cookies (all fat free) while proceeding to ask me for the recipe. Christmas Eve my family has lasagna every year (judge as you please) and I made my own HH Lasagna Rolls with kale and ate a side salad with my own oil-free dressing I made. For actual Christmas, I ate a tiny bit of salad. Something about seeing everyone guzzle down an absurd amount of meat and gravy made me lose my appetite...

I'm so happy with my progress of staying away from animal foods, but the next step is calling my name: staying away from unhealthy foods. I guess we all tell ourselves this at the beginning of a new year. I always give in here and there thinking, “It's Ok. I don't eat this every day”. In the scheme of things, eating french fries only when you're at a bar significantly increases in meaning when you regularly go to bars to watch football. Also, eating plant-based isn't very effective if the broccoli is always overlooked by the pasta and the bread. I believe most Americans could start a very simple vegan diet and feel significantly better by simply cutting processed foods and too much meat from their diet. Unfortunately, there's more tied to my health problems than processed foods. Once again, I find myself needing to strive for more. I'm very proud of how far I have come. At the end of 2014, I would love to feel even more pride and hopefully more energy.

My next adventure: a trial nutritarian diet. What this essentially means is only eating high micro-nutrient foods. This involves eating an absurd amount of veggies, a reasonable amount of fruit, a good measure of healthy fat, and a bit of carbs and beans on the side. Basically, eating a balanced diet with a veggie overload. All this information comes from Dr. Fuhrman. There's a long list of other things to consider such as exercise and decreasing eating frequency for this all to work. It's all very interesting and when he describes food addiction I about fall over dead from embarrassment about how some of my symptoms I attribute to poor hormone function may be my body constantly fighting a battle with addiction. As I see it, whether this would actually make me feel better and give me energy or not, this is something extremely healthy for my body. One day, my eighty year old self will thank me for fighting cancer and diabetes this early on.

Here's the plan:

For the next three months I will basically be doing a detox/replenishment of nutrients for my body.
  • Only eat at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
  • Have a large salad every day.
  • Eat lots of cooked veggies during the day as well, probably in soups because they're easy and cheap.
  • Eat fruit in the morning and at night as well as in salad to get three servings each day.
  • I'm not worried about getting the healthy fat in my diet since it will probably be getting me through the salad eating.
  • Limit carbs to about a cup a day and make sure to eat a cup of beans every day!

It sounds like a lot to consider and very difficult to maintain; however, I believe by specifically telling me you're going to eat salad and you're going to only eat three meals a day makes me really focus on my goal more. The fact that I can focus on what I eat just three times a day sounds like an amazing relief. Also, I believe I will be less inclined to go overboard on nighttime snacking if I just cut it out of my options completely. Unfortunately, this will make me very tired and sick for awhile. Luckily, I feel tired and sick all the time, so bring it on!!

I will also be taking a vitamin B12/D3 supplement along with DHA while doing this to really make sure I am getting all the nutrients I need and nothing is missing. Today I already did a bit of a test drive by only eating three meals, but because I wasn't prepared I probably only ate 900 calories :/ I'm going to have to get used to eating the sheer volume necessary to do this. The good news, I ate so much green stuff I can hardly believe it!

I have many other little health guidelines I have in mind for this, but I want to focus on the basics for now as I already have so much on my plate with work, classes, applications, and trying to maintain a social life. I really can't see myself stressing out about much more at this point. I'll keep you updated and feel free to keep me accountable, please :)

Friday, December 13, 2013

Does anyone enjoy December in the PNW?

Sorry for the month long hiatus. This Washington winter is already kicking my butt. The sun raises around seven thirty and the sun sets around three thirty.  So I get about a full work day worth of “sunlight”, which has definitely been made better by the fact that my new office receives natural light now. The cold puts me in a very clear state of hibernation. I’m usually awful at getting out of bed (I will regularly hit the snooze button for two hours), but no one wants to get out of bed when it’s freezing and dark out. My clear and annoying whining is to explain that I haven’t been on my best behavior. Exercise is cut out (also due to my back pain) and eating carbs is at an all-time high. I’d eat straight bread all winter if they let me.

I also didn’t follow all the plant based on a budget weeks. I did this mostly because I was able to be thriftier by receiving free veggies from my aunt and eating the abundance of leftovers from the first week. I also made my own meal plan when getting ready for Thanksgiving so I could eat comfortably around my family. I’m happy to say it was the first Thanksgiving I was completely vegan! I’m now excited for Christmas and all the yummy baked goods I’m already planning to make. Lately, I’ve been eating Happy Herbivore meal plan recipes.  Last night I even had a kale-tastic cooking session. I now only have kale-containing prepared meals and salads in my fridge. Hopefully all the healthy benefits of kale will help me through this winter!

Thanksgiving Dinner: Quinoa loaf, mashed potatoes, steamed green beans and lots of HH gravy!

Where I have been dropping the ball most lately is eating often. I tend to eat small low calorie meal/snacks every two to three hours to keep my energy up. I never have liked doing this. Eating that often makes people look at you funny, gets comments from your boss, and feels sometimes like a huge waste of time, but it helps a lot for people who have poor insulin control. I haven’t been eating as often because with the cold I am craving more calorie dense foods. So, I find instead of sitting down and eating a healthy snack that I don’t feel like, I skip my snack time altogether.  This obviously leads to more ravenous cravings and me just going home and eating potatoes for dinner. I’m serious.  Does anyone else have this problem in the winter? Or do you just start binge eating period?

The antithesis to this winter story is I just had my interview for the Master’s program I applied to. It is based in Texas! If I did well, I will be enjoying 40-50 degree weather this time next year. Amazing! Although, I heard in the hotter areas of the states they have a different type of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). In the hottest months residents may suffer from SAD because they stay inside more often. Pretty interesting, Huh?  Well, here’s to hoping I get to complain about 100 degree weather in six months J

Thursday, November 14, 2013

PBOAB Challenge Week 1

Plant Based On a Budget has produced a challenge for this month in which they are making FREE meal plans that will allow someone to spend $25/person a week. I am actually really excited to be doing this challenge. I might fail right off the bat because I don't think I'm going to make the 25 dollar cut. I'm still going to save so much money. I'm not incredibly irresponsible with money, but I am in need of saving up. Please check it out: This is wonderful. I struggled through most of my health issues in college and still don't make a ton of money. I still have medical bills that come in on a regular basis. It's always good to save money so you can keep up on those unexpected medical expenses.

I have not been feeling great lately. It has been incredibly difficult to find motivation to do much of anything, but I've still been able to cook the meals from the plan. I wasn't able to go through with my personal plan which was to make sure I'm eating at appropriate intervals during the day and eat some protein a bit before bed. I heard it helps your insulin control during the night. I was hoping it would just help me out of bed in the morning. That's why there are some extra ingredients on my shopping list because I was hoping to make some protein rich snacks. I never got around to it :( I still have the ingredients so I will try for next week.

I have really good things to say about this week's plan. This is similar to how I would create a meal plan when low on money: lots of soup! Soup is cheap, comforting, and filling. I've always bought in bulk, but never bought just what I needed. Only buying the cup that you need for the recipe really helps. Also, Toni did a great job in picking cheap ingredients. The broccoli may be a bit repetitive, but it's good for you and I'm glad there's more than just celery or cabbage to eat. I cheated and added cauliflower to the first soup to just mix it up. Cruciferous vegetables are great for my estrogen production. They help make good estrogen, not the breast cancer kind. That will also allow me to stay away from birth control.

Tonight I made the Curry Chickpeas. So Yummy! The spices are great and I love baked chickpeas. It could have used a bit of tomato to bind it together more, so if you wanted to spend extra on the can of tomatoes, I might try it. The recipes so far are tasty, filling, and quick to make. The last one being my favorite. The recipes make very large portions. This is great if you are worried about snacking. Having a small bowl of soup for a mid day snack is a great idea. I still have some leftover pasta in the fridge at work I will probably get to tomorrow as I graze through the day. Nonetheless, next week I may try to make the snacks I was planning on doing this week and make smaller versions of the recipes. Right now I have enough food to last me through most of next week as well. Which would be great, but I want to try the new meal plan when it comes out! I will have lots of soup in the freezer :)

Whether you want to do the challenge or not, I would check out the site to get recipe ideas for nights when you don't feel like cooking. I already peaked at the family plan to get some ideas as well. Most of the recipes are made in less than thirty minutes and could be made with things you probably already have. In fact, I didn't have to buy many things from the shopping list. I already had them, saving me more money! Even so, my total at WinCo came to $35.33.
I'll leave the extra expensive items that I bought at the end so you can see how much I would have saved if I had kept on track.

Better Than Bullion Vegetable Broth $3.48
Corn Tortillas (30Ct) $1.36
Whole Wheat Elbow Pasta (Instead of the Mexican stars) $.79
Garbanzo beans $.83
Brown Rice Rotini Pasta $.99
Pumpkin Flax Granola (So Delicious! Probably not good for my blood sugar though!) $2.22
Pinto beans $.57
Pearl Barley $.30
Oats $1.02
2 Bananas $.44
Celery $.78
3 lbs of Fuji Apples (I actually eat an apple a day. They are so delicious!) $3.29
Kale $.98
3 Cucumbers (I usually eat a salad every day) $1.74
Cilantro $.58
Redleaf Lettuce $1.68

Total of needed items: $21.05
If I add what I didn't buy from the list with the prices she gives it comes to $4.78. Therefore, the price should have been $25.83.

I bought some staples I was missing and ingredients for quinoa tots ( ). I'll probably still make these this weekend!

Peanut Butter $2.82
Capers $1.59
Hot Sauce (I'm obsessed!) $2.08
½ lb Quinoa $2.27
Trail Mix $1.24
Baby Carrots $.98
Avocado $.78
Chives $1.98
Mushrooms $.54

Total of extras: $14.28

Next time I will try my best to stick to the budget. In the mean time I learned more about meal planning than I ever have by doing it on my own. I'm somehow more aware of where the cheap ingredients are. I'm hoping to learn even more this month! Thank you Toni for this great resource. I look forward to more easy recipes!

No pics this week of food so here's a picture of my baby boy: The guy that keeps me going :)

Monday, November 4, 2013

Bag of Produce Challenge

I have the most amazing and supportive family. They help me with everything I need. By moving to Spokane and being closer to them, I have benefited from some perks. Recently, my great aunt has been giving me a large bag of veggies and fruit (see pic) as she can't finish all of the things she receives every week. I love having extra fruit and veggies to snack on. This week I went a step farther and decided not to buy groceries! Don't panic, I have many things still lying around that I can use in addition to what my lovely aunt gave me. However, doing it this way is a bit more challenging. You have to use what you have. Therefore, I can't chose a recipe that looks yummy and skip off to the store with my basket for ingredients; I have to search for recipes with what I have. For most Americans, this is simple. Most recipe sites have an actual entry search for this ( for example). Not many plant based sites do this. If I can find a decent vegetarian recipe, I will modify it to my needs.

Don't mind the wine ;)

This weekend and tonight I made the following recipes:

I added balsamic vinegar at the end to this one because I always put it on my chickpeas and Brussels sprouts. Very yummy!

I omitted oil and sugar, but added agave nectar too make up for the thickness and sweetness that those two would have provided. Also surprisingly yummy to a non fennel-eater.

Finally, I modified a recipe with butter, heavy cream, and oil! Oh My! I'm sure the original recipe is delicious, but I just wanted a nice soup for lunches and a way to get rid of the eight chile peppers I had in that bag. In no way am I an experienced chef, but I try to make things work for me. So please, no criticism. I just want to give an example of how easy it is to go from an unhealthy to a healthy recipe.

My version:


½ cup roasted chiles, skins and seeds removed (see directions in original)
2 cups of corn (I used frozen)
1 small onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons Lemon Pepper Mrs. Dash
3 cups vegetable broth
1 cup non-dairy milk
2 red potatoes
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 teaspoons cilantro


  1. Place onion, corn, and garlic in pot with a bit of water or broth at the bottom. Cook until onions are translucent.
  2. Add vegetable broth and potatoes, bring to a boil.
  3. Add non-dairy milk and cook on medium until potatoes are soft.
  4. Add Mrs. Dash and chiles. Cook for five minutes.
  5. Add lime juice and cilantro.
  6. Blend all chowder except for half a cup.
  7. Mix back together and enjoy!

This makes about six cups of soup. So four servings for me :) With a dishwasher, this is not labor intensive after you're finished. I would add more corn if you want to offset the heat.

This is a great start to my next challenge. I agreed with Toni from PlantBasedOnABudget that I would join the one month challenge where it should only cost $25 dollars per person. This is wonderful because I need to save up for Christmas presents and most importantly, online classes. So look for my budget post and I'll let you know how the first week goes. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


I had an amazing weekend which may be why I have been feeling awful this week so far. It may just be a bit of seasonal affective disorder, but it is just composed of the usual inability to get out of bed or to stay motivated for more than five minutes at a time followed by intense need of carbs. I've been working on this post about practicality, because I do feel like this all the time and I try to find things that work around it.

For anyone who has had health issues or possibly wanted to just lose weight, you end up doing search upon search to find the diet or remedy that will make you feel better. To an extent, I believe you can narrow down to some options based on scientific data. However, nutrition research is always being refined and no one magic food or specific diet has been found. I narrowed it down to plant-based eating because it makes the most sense scientifically, environmentally, and personally. If you can find something that works for you, do it. 

Practicality can involve a variety of elements. The main ones for me are:

1) Affordability
2) Time
3) Realizability based on character and willpower

The first is pretty important for any twenty-something in college, or right after when your career is still starting/non-existent. I realize that's a very subjective demographic, but as a young person I'm allowed to be a little self-involved. With the limited amount of money I do have, I spend money on health books quite often to find any kind of information and hope I can. It was recently pointed out to me that I should just go to the library... My poor judgment aside, I was very excited to read a new book that seemed to have the right title, described most of my symptoms, and claimed to be able to fix everything with diet. The diet is mostly plant-based with some animal protein, but is very supplement-centric. The author's website will even let you take a test that leads you to the supplements you should order from him. Research shows that they're not always a great idea. The exception being actual deficiencies. I'm sick enough that I would consider it though, but there's no way I can afford four hundred dollars worth of pills that I would probably forget to take anyways. If I'm still sick in five years and desperate, I'll take it more seriously. 

Time is an issue for all of us. When I had two jobs working twelve hour days half the time, I had no time or energy to prepare healthy meals. This is about the time I gave up plant-based eating and ate whatever was convenient. I still ate probably plant-based half the time because I'm used to it, but I did gain weight and I may have felt a bit worse. It's hard to tell. I did make a choice and decided to cut down to one job. This didn't necessarily lead to a healthy lifestyle, but it helped me make better decisions. The point is, if you work full time, have kids or dogs to take care of, don't pick a lifestyle change that would require you to cook every night. It will fail. I have troubles when I just have to cook one night of the week. I like to have my weekends to do all of it ahead of time. I am completely drained by the end of a weekday.

Which leads me back to realistic expectations of willpower. If you know that cheese is going to be “impossible” to stop eating for you, work into it. Even though I didn't realize it, I slowly transitioned to plant-based, not because I meant to, but because my body didn't respond well to the immediate change and I ended up eating gross things. People don't realize that most days it's a miracle I get out of bed, probably just in the hopes I will see other people that will stimulate me enough to wake up. Even my dog gets the short end of the stick sometimes when I can't work up more than five or ten minutes of play time when I get home. Nonetheless, I always have these enormous goals. Lists upon lists are in my bedside table waiting for me to accomplish them. I'm trying to learn to focus on one thing at a time. This week I'm focusing on oil pulling. Yes, very weird, but not difficult by any means so I'm going for it. The craziest part is I already managed to skip it yesterday because my morning routine had run a bit late, me being in bed the entire morning and all.

I guess my rant is really trying to say: Pick what works or what is most likely to work, or you will just end up being upset that you didn't pull through. Also, when something fails, just keep trying. I've been making goal lists for four years and I don't see myself stopping. Just because I'm not the person I want to be doesn't mean I'm going to give up. I vaguely remember a time when I could do it all and excel. I'm there somewhere, my body just has to catch up with my will to eventually be a bad-ass. Also, being plant-based is probably the easiest and cheapest way to be healthy, so consider it! It works for a ton of people. 

Here's the food I made this weekend. From Happy Herbivore meal plans. Usually I make my own meal plans, but some of hers seem so delicious, I buy them :)

Friday, October 18, 2013

What Plant Powered Means To Me (Right Now)

When I say plant powered, I mean a whole foods, plant-based lifestyle. I was hoping that changing my diet would help me feel better. I’m still not sure if it will help me, but I do really love eating this way. There's no harm in avoiding diabetes, heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer's. I don't know if you noticed, but it's the new craze. Everyone that saw Forks Over Knives (Watch it!) threw out their meat, dairy, and processed foods that very day. At least I assume they did. I didn't do that. I set a starting date for myself. The two weeks leading up to that date I gained about ten pounds eating everything I knew I would stop eating soon enough. I ate pizza, steak, blocks of cheese, and my favorite, hot wings. Not the smartest idea, considering our bodies become addicted to that junk. So my logic was, shoot as much heroin as possible before going to rehab. Genius. Oh, and by the way, that starting date was two years ago.

The title to this entry would imply that I'm keeping plant-powered on the hook: “I just can't be with you... right now”. Our relationship is very different from me hanging out with another lifestyle and keeping plant-based as my back-up. Our relationship is closer to an engagement. An engagement with huge psychological issues, because, here's the deal: I still like to sneak around with other foods. I don't have cold feet or anything. I'm hugely committed to this, but sometimes my body still wants what is bad for me. So after a long and stressful day at work, I don't want to snuggle with my dependable bowl of broccoli; I want something greasy and sugary to make me feel guilty and forget my day. Similarly, if I get tipsy, I may drunk dial an old booty call, throwing all control to the wind. Yeah, I'm looking at you Munchy'z.

The point is, I've had slip after slip. Strangely enough I still lost weight over the times I was at least mostly eating plant-based. I had a general splitting of ways once, when I started getting free food at a very physically demanding job. June 15th of this year I set out to start over, but with no splurges. I've done pretty well in four months. I had fish three times (my grandpa caught and cooked trout two times and I ate ceviche with my best friend on her birthday). I had some Bailey's one morning while watching the Seahawks. My intestines immediately regretted that since I'm quite lactose intolerant now. I also recently ate a snack brought back from China by a co-worker. I found out afterward that it had egg in it. 

My huge problem now is I still don't always eat healthy. Living in Spokane is almost worse because I have access to more vegan food now. Vegan restaurants still pile on the EVOO, which is refined fat in a bottle. I eat junk food, but it is vegan. I'd say my biggest issues are “healthy” chips and eating out. I try not to buy baked chips, but they sneak into my groceries sometimes, usually with the intention of sharing with others. I still am largely addicted to french fries. Overall, anything with fat and carbs in it are what I crave every day when I get home from work and every night when I get late night munchies. This all makes perfect sense:

1)                  My body is addicted to the fat.
2)                  My body craves the carbohydrates because my metabolism is out of whack.
3)                  Any time I'm low on energy or stressed out, I eat carbs possibly with added oil.

How I get out of this cycle, I haven't quite figured out yet. I’m fully aware of what I’m doing when I make that late night chocolate mug cake, but I'm taking one step at a time. It obviously took me awhile to get to this point (plant-based with some crap on the side). Don’t get me wrong, I eat healthier than most people, but I have to be even healthier than that to feel better. Every time I fall off the wagon, I get right back on. For example, I've never had a time where I ate a bunch of junk the previous night and woke up to continue my streak by just having doughnuts. I start all over again by eating oatmeal, making a green smoothie, and packing a salad for lunch. It's about progress and I think I will easily get to a point where I can get home from work and be happy with my sweet potato and tahini kale. Eventually, I will be fully married to a plant-based lifestyle and it won't have to worry about my wandering eyes.

Here’s the plant powered football snacks I made last weekend:
Deviled tomatoes Yum! 
Spicy hummus, healthy black bean dip, home baked chips and crackers
Nachos with normal greasy tortilla chips but with homemade cashew cheese
Pumpkin Pie Dip! Kid approved!

I’m not really a great photographer. Sorry for the iphone quality!

Friday, October 11, 2013

What PCOS Means To Me: A Necessary Intro

I'm Danielle,

I have been thinking about starting a blog for awhile now. I wanted to do the real thing with a .com (is that even possible anymore?) and make it special before starting anything. I refrained, because I have difficulties finishing things I start. I guess that's part of my story. This will probably only be read by a few loved ones, and that's fine. I hope I can document my journey somewhere other than my dusty journal.

I could go into detail about what Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is, but any Google search can cover the basics. The crazy part is that one in ten women have PCOS. I believe the high occurrence is related to obesity and diet in the U.S. Nonetheless, that topic will have to wait for another day. PCOS is not limited to obese women. There is such a thing as thin PCOS and there are some people that are genetically prone. That is where I come in. I have a family history of women having ovary problems and diabetes. Only recently in my family tree was my mother diagnosed with PCOS, which led to my diagnosis.

I have not found much support for the problems I experience with this disease. Maybe because my symptoms are more trivial?? To explain, I guess I do have to tell you some of the symptoms most people complain about and seek help for: balding, unwanted hair growth (chest and face), mood swings, and the big one... infertility. I'm lucky enough to not experience those first three and am not currently worried about the last one. Many women struggle with their weight which is making all these symptoms worse. I'm not overweight, and never have been.

In other words, I have not found anyone that I can relate to regarding this condition.

You will often hear me say, “My body hates me”. It's honestly the easiest way I can explain it. My hormones are so out of whack, that I feel nauseous at the drop of a dime, have a general brain fog most of the day, get hypoglycemic if I eat the wrong thing, and acne that I never had in high school. I saved the worst for last: constant fatigue. When this first occurred I chalked it up to college stress. All these things started occurring my sophomore year and steadily worsened by my junior and senior year. How I received my degree still baffles me.

Have I complained enough yet? I'll save you from my medical journey involving doctor after doctor dismissing the young student. Long story short, most medical tests don't show much of anything for me. I even had all my essential screenings done yesterday at a health fair. One lady actually told me, “Keep doing what you're doing!”. What could I do, but politely smile through the light headed feeling and heart racing I was experiencing? I was just trying to figure out what I had done wrong already that day, perhaps nothing.

The point: it's difficult for doctors to help me when there's not a physiological basis for treatment. They have tried. I've taken Metformin (a drug to control insulin release), special types of birth control, progesterone cream, and even herbal supplements. I still feel sick but my brain fog is now sometimes limited to afternoons and evenings. I'm still fatigued from the moment I wake up in the morning which is why I'm writing and possibly why it is taking me so long to feel better. It's hard to make changes in your life with no energy to do so. I'm always amazed by people that fight through their health issues. I'm sorry to say that hasn't been me yet.

Because I've been working on this for awhile, I realize nothing is as simple as taking a magic pill or getting on a treadmill. Healing is a journey. So far mine has seemed long and non-productive. There's no other option but to march on. My hope is to reach the big pot of healthy gold at the end of the rainbow. If I'm lucky, maybe I can share with you how I get there.