Are You Getting Enough Vitamins?

Are you kidding me?

If you adopt a vegan-eating lifestyle, curious non-vegans will ask you two questions:

1. How do you know you’re getting enough protein?

2. Are you sure you’re getting enough vitamins and minerals?

To answer both questions to my non-vegan friends: How do you know you’re getting enough protein and how do you know you’re getting enough vitamins and minerals? Do you have some magical chart that you look at or just because you eat meat and cheese does that automatically mean you’re getting enough vitamins and minerals?

Studies have shown that the Standard American Diet (and yes the acronym spells out SAD) is too high in protein and lacking in vitamins and minerals.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s always the vegan that is the exception to the rule. Just because you eat a vegan diet doesn’t mean you’re eating a healthier diet. Replacing meat and dairy with French fries and potato chips doesn’t mean you’re eating a plant-strong diet.

I just wanted to clear the air because I get asked these questions a lot. So if you ask me these questions, I’m going to fire them right back to you.

If you’re really worried about my health, here’s some of what I eat:

1. Vegetables: kale, collard greens, Swiss chard, living pea tendrils, dandelion greens, zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, fresh herbs, broccoli, cauliflower, avocados just to name a few.

2. Fruits: bananas, mangoes, pears, apples, watermelon, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, pineapple, papaya, oranges, dates and tangerines for a few examples.

3. Nuts: raw Brazil, macadamia, and almonds are what I’m lovin’ right now!

4. Plant milks are usually coconut or almond milk.

5. Sadly the “seeds” I eat usually come in a processed form like hemp seed and chocolate protein powder (OMG is that good)–all organic from Whole Foods. It goes great in smoothies. I also put flax seed oil on my salads. I’m going to be trying some chia seeds soon once I buy my juicer. I’ve had chia seeds in some bottled vegan fruit drinks from Whole Foods and they give the drink a little character and extra texture.

So as you can see I eat no meat, dairy, eggs, cheese or fish but look at all of the awesome stuff left over! I really love fresh, all organic and simple foods. When someone asks me “Hey what’s in your food” I want to be able to say words I can pronounce and actually know what the food is.

I’m no saint though. I have my cravings like anyone else. I love chocolate especially around certain times of the month. So I’ll get an organic vegan chocolate bar from Whole Foods or even Wiseway if I’m in a pinch and need something to gnaw on.

Plant foods have complete proteins and plenty of vitamins and minerals. I don’t have a magical chart that I look at to make sure I’m getting the right amount. I just know that by eating organic, minimally processed foods that I’m doing my body a lot of good. You have to be the judge of what’s right for you and your body.

I’m guessing you don’t have a magical vitamin and protein chart either so please stop asking me if I have one. I’ve educated you on what vegans eat. I’d say we eat plenty of protein, vitamins and minerals without being overloaded.

I hope you eat what makes you feel good and satisfied and I’ll continue to do the same.



Raw Food Veganism and A Cappella Music

What on earth could these two things have to do with one another? You’ll see!

“Singing a cappella is doing so without any instruments as musical accompaniment” (per I’d never been exposed to a cappella music groups until I went to IU. There was an a cappella music group at IU Bloomington, with some seriously hot guys (sorry Pete) called Straight No Chaser. The original group wound up with a singing engagement on PBS a few years ago because someone posted a video on of them singing their version of the 12 Days of Christmas (posted below) and their fame progressed from there. There are so many songs that are redone in an a cappella style. Some songs really complement the a cappella style and some really don’t. That, however, is an individual opinion. Each singer in an a cappella group has their own function: they either are creating an instrumental sound (like a beat or melody) or they are singing the vocals. A cappella songs that are remade from their original music version sound similar to the original version and yet maintain their own distinct, unique sound.

Here’s a youtube video of them performing 12 Days of Christmas with their own special twist on it. I’ve seen this performed live and it’s hilarious and really awesome. They have such a unique sound.

So now that I’ve basically done an infomercial for Straight No Chaser, I’ll go on to what this has to do with veganism and even further into raw food veganism.

As you know, and if you don’t know you can read all about it on my blog, I tried vegan eating for 2 weeks for a project for my blog. I called it a Very Vegan Valentine’s Day. I didn’t last the entire two weeks. I lasted one week and decided to convert because I liked it so much. With veganism, you remove all animals (beef, fish, poultry, etc.) and also animal by-products (eggs, milk, butter, etc.) and you’re left with a plant-based diet. In veganism the food can be cooked or uncooked…your choice. There are a lot of similar dishes that you make as a vegan by replacing or substituting certain ingredients in place of the meat, butter, etc.

There’s a sect of veganism called raw food veganism where you still eat vegan foods (all plant based) but you don’t cook anything over 108 degrees or so (the degrees vary in the different articles I’ve read). I’ve only been eating raw for a week and one-half so I don’t consider myself an expert, but I do have a little experience with it now to blog about it.

The first week I went raw, I ordered a week’s worth of food from Karyn’s Raw restaurant in Chicago. I figured if I was going to go raw for a while, and had no idea how to prepare the food, I’d pay a little extra and see what was out there. So on 4/1/2012 I walked out of Karyn’s Raw restaurant with a huge box of raw food. I discovered a whole new world of food. It was food that tasted similar to the vegan dishes I was used to eating but it was a little different. I was still able to have my vegan pizzas, pastas, and desserts but they were done in a whole new way: raw. Taking the animals, animal by-products and even the cooking process out of food you really are just left with food in its organic, uncooked state. However there are ways of preparing the food that make it taste similar to what you were used to eating before. Vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds really pull together to create fabulous tasting food. Raw food that is prepared (like the “breads” and desserts) taste a lot denser and are a lot more filling than cooked foods. Not everything that I tried from Karyn’s restaurant tasted similar to the dish she was trying to recreate but I’ll admit she hit pretty much dead on for most things. Again, like the a cappella music, it’s meant to be similar to what you’re used to but not exactly the same.

While eating raw vegan foods or cooked vegan foods, the plants do all the work and pull double duty in place of the meat and animal by-products to make the plants shine through and the same is true for a cappella music.  The singers pull double duty, each with their own unique part: some of the singers replace the musical instrumentation and some sing. By removing one element out of the equation other factors must be relied upon to produce a similar enough end result that people will still listen to the music or try eating the food.

If music didn’t sound good people wouldn’t listen to it. If food didn’t taste good people wouldn’t eat it. When we pull out instruments or an element like meat or even a process like cooking, it forces the music or food to stand on its own, pull together in a different way and really shine through without the extra additives. You are left with a product that is similar to what you’re used to listening to or eating, something that you can relate to what was replaced and still left with a new experience at the end of the day. And you know the best part of all of it? You can decide if it’s for you or not!

If you relate veganism or raw food veganism to eating a bunch of cold vegetables, would that appeal to you? Probably not. But if I took those foods and incorporated them into a dish and called it Hawaiian pizza, would you give it a try? You might. And even better is that you might like it. With the a cappella music, if you associate it to your sixth grade squeaky Catholic school choir concert then you may never want to listen to it, but if I post a popular song like the 12 Days of Christmas and ask you to listen to it, you might come out with a new perspective on it!

Raw food veganism isn’t for everyone and there’s always cooked veganism to try. If veganism doesn’t appeal to you, then there’s always vegetarianism or back to the diet you were most likely raised on with meat and animal by-products. The same is true with music. If a cappella music just isn’t for you, then you can always chose to add instrumental-style music back into your listening repertoire.

We all have choices. These are unique options I’m offering up to you to explore. Veganism, raw food veganism and a cappella music are on the opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of each other and also in terms of what people are used to eating and listening to for music. But they are similar to each other in that they remove one element and the final result is still similar to what you’re used to but different and unique in its own way. You just gotta give it a try!



Plant the Seeds and Let Them Grown. Just Don’t Eat Them…

When I was a child my mother would always tell me “You know, we’re short [both of us are 5 feet tall] so we really have to watch what we eat or we’ll pack the weight on. And it only gets worse the older you get.” I remember the first time my mother ever telling me this. I was 10. I didn’t realize it at the time, but she was planting the seeds for a lifetime battle with food. She planted the seeds when I was a child and it came to fruition that I shouldn’t eat them as I got a little older…about 8 years older than I was at the time.

When I was 18, I left for college. I went to Indiana University at Bloomington in 1999 and graduated from there in 2003. My freshman year was the hardest year I had down there. I wasn’t accustomed to living on my own and definitely not without my mother who, at the time, was my life-force and best friend. I found myself alone in a whole new world with kids my own age whom, I’ll admit, I thought were socially pretty stupid. These kids were foreign to me: they drank, they partied, they had sex in the dorm room next door to me and they acted nothing like I was brought up to act. I didn’t get drunk, go to a party or have sex until after I graduated college. I finally found a niche when I was down there. I joined the ballroom dance club down there and started competing, had a dance partner and finally made a few friends with some like-minded people. However, that first year all I really had at school was me to look out for. I would come home to my unair-conditioned dorm on the third floor of my cinder block single-room cell. My freshman year felt out of control. So I looked for something that I could control. Looking back, I know now that I was looking for something to control when everything was out of control so I turned to diet and exercise: things I could control.

I got tired of being lonely so I started dancing a lot. I had done some balllroom dance in high school during my senior year so I when I got to college I immediately joined the club. All my mom had ever let me try during grammar and part of high school was ballet and a little bit of ballroom dance. I never got to do hip hop or jazz or other styles of dance, so I immediately signed myself up for those as well. I also started walking 5 miles a day around the track at the gym and started lifting weights for the first time. I never gained the freshman 15! I lost close to 20 pounds in less than two months. I did this in part through exercise but also through diet. I pretty much stopped eating and believe me I was starving. I’d eat a doughnut and orange juice for breakfast, a small cup of soup and a light salad for lunch and would often skip dinner. I would go back to my dorm room and do my homework and then just lay on my bed and sob on the phone to my mother or grandmother about how much I missed them and how I wanted to come back home.

From the time my mom dropped me off at school in August and  came to visit me in October, I had dropped from a size 10 to a size 2. None of my clothes fit. I remember having to strap my pants on with a belt and couldn’t understand why I had lost so much weight. I remember how proud my mother was of how I looked. In her eyes, I looked great.

The worst day I had at school was on a Sunday: I stayed in my room and cried all day. Not eating was a way to internalize the pain I felt from being so lonely and so homesick. I didn’t realize it at the time because I didn’t know what it was, but I know now that I was depressed. My world felt out of control and the only thing I could control was my body: what I did to it and the foods I put in it. The weird thing was it felt good to have control over something. Deliberately not eating made me feel good. It was my way of showing people how unhappy I was. By getting so skinny, I hoped someone would reach out and say, “Hey, is everything ok?” I wanted someone to notice the pain I was feeling on the inside.

My grandmother knew something was wrong and that I was depressed, but my parents didn’t. Either that or maybe they did know I was suffering with depression and just chose not to acknowledge it. They don’t believe depression exists which is why they are miserable in my eyes today. My mother is just like I used to be: she doesn’t hardly eat anything and she takes pride in that. She’s tiny and believe me she loves it when people point that out to her.

So when I returned home for the summer I had a decision to make: I could go back for another year at Bloomington or just stay home and attend school locally. Truthfully I never wanted to be in school. I wanted to dance and teach. But not getting a college degree and dancing full time the rest of my life wasn’t an option with my parents. So after a miserable summer of being with them, I decided I wanted to go back to Bloomington. The next three years of my life down there were really awesome! I’ve made some great friendships and had some amazing experiences while I was there. When I graduated, I moved back home and from there down-spiraled back to my old ways. I graduated at age 21 and finally ended the battle with my weight at Christmas-time of 2011.

I didn’t realize it back then but my mother has been picking at my weight since I was 10 years old. By telling me that I would need to watch my weight as an adult, what she was really telling her normal-weight daughter was that she was too fat. Those thoughts and that conversation have resonated with me over the years. My mother made me paranoid about my weight. Until Christmas 2011, she would pick at me. She would make comments about how thick I was looking when I ran Chicago marathon. Or when I was lifting weights in college and my arms bulked up she told me she thought I was taking steroids, which I wasn’t…I just tend to bulk up when I lift weights. When I was trail running, she thought it made the muscles in my legs look to big and told me I shouldn’t wear skinny jeans and that there was no way I’d ever fit in them anyways. There was a breaking point with my mother when she insulted me for the last time and I thought I needed to change my ways. So I pulled myself away from her. I haven’t seen her since Christmas for this reason and a few others too. It’s been one of the healthiest things I could’ve done for myself.

I pulled myself out of a toxic environment and now have a healthier perspective on diet and exercise to boot. I look at it now as fuel and entertainment. Food is fuel. Exercise is now training which is my entertainment. It’s what I like to do for fun. Eating vegan and now eating raw vegan only has taken how I view food to a whole new level. Training for things like marathons and triathlons gives me something to do while I get over the heartbreak I had when I gave up dancing. I’ll return to dance when I’m ready. I have to return to it. It’s what I’m naturally good at and it’s a shame to waste something you’re really good at and deep-down love the most. When I’m ready, I’ll go back. In the meantime, marathons and triathlons are filling the void.

I’m done repeating the exercise-bulimic and anorexic eating patterns. It took me a long time to get here but I realize now that those patterns are how I deal with grief. I know what triggers the patterns to start and know what I can do to prevent them from happening.

Be careful what you tell a child. You can plant a seed in someone’s mind at any age. It just seems to resonate more with a child because they are less judgmental than an adult and more open to trusting and hearing what you have to say. What my mother said to her 10 year old daughter that day led to lots of years of paranoia about weight and food. It’s a battle that will never be truly conquered but can at least be recognized and dealt with. I can easily say that day my mother planted seeds in my mind and they grew over time and her message was in the end: don’t eat the seeds I’ve given you. She meant it literally and in the end she was figuratively right: I never should’ve eaten the seeds she planted because she was wrong.


Save the Pit Bulls?

I love rescuing dogs. I think Pete would turn me over to a shelter if I tried to rescue anymore. I wish I could rescue more but sometimes practicality gets in the way of wishes. I have rescued three dogs and I have one dog that I bought a the dreaded pet store. There are a lot of rescues out there, some are breed specific and some not. Here’s my story that goes along with the title of this blog. It all plays out. You’ll see.

The first dog I rescued was from a rescue called Petite Paws Rescue Angels and his name is Mr. Biggs and Pete and I got him when he was three years old. He’s now eight years old. Mr. Biggs is a small, Maltese mix.

The second dog I purchased was when Pete and I broke up. All I can say is this: don’t go into a pet store when you’re drunk and lonely because $1,000.00 later you’ll walk out with a really cute companion and not a clue what to do with a brand new puppy. When you take your pet store puppy to the vet for their first check up you quickly realize the mistake you’ve made because they look at you like, “Really? Are you a puppy mill supporter?” No I’m not, but I needed companionship and that was how I got Kasey, a cocker spaniel/poodle mix, who is almost 2 years old. I made a mistake in supporting puppy mills and paid way too much for the dog, but she’s mine and I still love her the same as I do all of my other dogs.

The third dog I rescued was a beautiful black Australian shepherd mix named Tattle. I rescued her from an organization called Lakeshore Paws. I saw her picture posted on Facebook, showed up the next day at an adoption event and brought her home. Tattle was with us for three weeks. She was such a good girl. She was a puppy when we got her and a puppy when she passed away. She was bitten in the hips and shaken to death by a pit bull that got loose. We found out later that the pit bull had been rescued and “rehabilitated”. It had some cage aggression issues and clearly was a violent dog with the intent to attack. When I took Tattle outside to go to the bathroom, the dog came running over to the yard, grabbed her and started shaking viciously. I can’t even express what it’s like to stand there and watch your dog get shaken nearly to death by another animal that wouldn’t let go. Thankfully, a neighbor came out and told me to go get something to hit the pit bull with to get it to release the grip it had. I went inside and got an umbrella and ran back and bopped the pit bull in the head twice. A few seconds later, I was holding my shrieking dog trying to figure out what to do; meanwhile my neighbor pointed out that I had been bitten by the pit bull in the process and asked if I wanted an ambulance called. Panicked and not knowing what to do, I held my puppy in my arms and drove from Portage to Purdue North Central where they have a good 24 hour emergency vet clinic. I wound up dropping the puppy off to see what they could do for her and meanwhile went to the ER so I could receive some medical attention.  The pit bull survived, even though it had attacked another dog earlier that week. Animal control wasn’t able to put the pit bull down because they didn’t have enough evidence to prove that this was a vicious dog. The pit bull is no longer allowed in our neighborhood but resides somewhere else and may very likely do the same thing to another dog or person. We wound up deciding to have Tattle put to sleep. She lived three short weeks with us and we’ll never forget her. She had a severed spine, broken rib, no use of her back legs and her hips were severed at the spine. As a growing puppy, the doctors told us, even if she survived the surgery, she would have a very poor quality of life. This was such a hard decision to make, but we did what we felt was best for Tattle. I wouldn’t want to see any animal have to suffer. It was hard enough having to watch her suffer that night.

Lakeshore Paws generously offered Pete and I another dog because they felt so bad about what happened. I was immediately went on Facebook to watch for a new group of puppies to come into their rescue. My running buddy and Pete knew what I didn’t realize at the time but do know now: I was looking to replace what I had lost. Instead of waiting and mourning her loss, I wanted to adopt another puppy.  Within 6 weeks of the attack, we had a new puppy named Bonnie who is thankfully still with us today. She will be one year old in June!

I have a scar on my left inner forearm from the pit bull bite. It’s concealed to most people because it’s on the inner arm. I look at that scar every day and am reminded of what happened. The funny thing about scars is that when they are wounds they are the fragile and when they heal they are the toughest part of the skin. I still mourn the loss of Tattle and wish I could bring her back. In an odd way, I justify what happened in my mind by telling myself that Bonnie got a chance at life because of Tattle’s passing. She got rescued and got a chance to live with a good family.

I believe in dog rescues. I’ve rescued three dogs from two dog rescues. I raised money for Paws Chicago when I ran the Chicago marathon in 2011. I even believe in pit bull rescues despite what happened to me and Tattle. Do I think the dog that attacked my puppy should’ve been put down? Yes I do. I think that is an aggressive dog that will most likely do the same thing to another animal.

I see a lot of people that are very defensive of the pit bull breed and will make postings on Facebook about how they are subjected to scrutiny because they are segregated as being this vicious breed. Pit bull rescue groups and pit bull owners give off this notion that this specific breed of dog is very gentle and domicile.  While I’m fully aware that not all pit bulls are dangerous, and do believe non-aggressive dogs should be saved, that doesn’t mean you’ll catch me posting “Save The Pit Bulls”  on my Facebook page, with the exception of this blog post title. Once an animal is vicious, it’s very hard to rehabilitate it so it can go back into a “normal” environment.

People have very strong feelings on whether the pit bull breed should be rescued or not. I hope that people reading this that do support pit bulls will read it from a perspective of someone who has been attacked and suffered the loss of a dog because of an aggressive dog. I have a scar on my arm to remind me of what happened and, yes, it does make me a little less sensitive to saving a really aggressive animal. It’s not specifically pit bulls that I’m against rehabilitating.  I do believe that, when brought up from puppyhood correctly, any dog can be gentle and sweet. Owners have to do their part otherwise what happened to me will happen to someone else.

The owners of the pit bull that attacked Tattle had a rehabilitated pit bull. Clearly, a good job was not done on the rehabilitation process. It’s a tough question to answer: once you have rehabilitated an aggressive animal, will they still be aggressive? In my case the answer was yes.

Tattle, I love you and miss you. And she got the name Tattle because she had barely any tail….like Tattle Tail!