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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Summer Salads

I can remember going to a salad bar and thinking, "Salads, healthy. I am safe." That idea was long before I even gave thought to becoming "plant strong." Truth was, I would pick greens and veggies (many prepared in oil), then douse them in a heavy animal based salad dressing. In fact, I had a system.

First, I would go to the salad bar and eat greens, and only greens. Covered in dressing. Then, my next trip would be for "protein," and this mainly so I could get my "money's worth" at the salad bar. In my head, I thought I was eating healthy, because after all, I was at a salad bar. I also paid attention to the little jars filled with sunflower seeds, croutons, raisins, etc. Thankfully, the spoons were small and so it cut down on portion size. But, I wondered why I couldn't lose weight? The salad bar was more like a trough.

Today, my trips to salad bars are fast and quick. At Whole Foods Market, you can eat a bounty of really delicious products, thanks to the ease of "Health Starts Here." Last night, I knew that I didn't want to cook dinner, so I hit the salad bar at WFM and loaded up with kale, heirloom beans, corn salsa. That was my dinner and it was SO good. Filling and delicious. Two years ago I wouldn't have even eaten that, especially because there is a silent rule that Friday is pizza night.

Being Plant Strong gets easier and easier every day. It really is like being on a journey, or maybe studying a foreign language (the more you practice, the more proficient you become). The further you are from your journey's beginning, the harder you realize it would be to "go back." It all has to do with being patient with yourself. Never, never, ever think that you are on a "diet." That will screw up your mind, because when you are on a diet, there is magical "done bell" you think you need to touch with the diet is "over." When you are plant strong, the journey is never over. Never.

One funny thing. Someone suggested to me that I should be plant strong six days a week, and on the seventh day, "go all out and eat whatever you want." I do eat whatever I want, and all of it is plant strong and delicious. No need to go back and visit the "other side."

Back to the salads. The dressings are the killer. Loaded with oil and salt. Even sugar. Sometimes I miss oil and salt, especially on a salad. I recently stumbled upon a really good salad dressing recipe in the Forks Over Knives companion book. I am going to post the basic, and then tell you what my Italian palate did to it.

Be a detective at salad bars. Ask to see an ingredient list. Or better yet, make your own dressing and take it with you when you eat out.

Here's my new favorite dressing, but be warned, that you should use it sparingly, This is really delicious and super creamy.

Favorite Easy Salad Dressing (by Brian Wendel)

Raw Nuts of your choice (cashews, walnuts, almonds, etc.)
Orange Juice (freshly squeezed is best)

1. Calibrate amounts based on how much dressing you will be serving and the desired creaminess.

2. Blend orange juice, a small amount of raw nuts, and a few slices of tomato together. Serve over your favorite salad.

Char's Additions

I prefer a dressing with a little more kick, so I added ONE garlic cloves and a quarter of an onion. I used 1/4 cup cashews, 1/4 cup oj, and 1/2 tomato. If you want a thinner dressing, add more juice.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Passing On Your Left...

It was 95 degrees out today. I am not a fan of heat, humidity, sweating, and pounding sun. Yet, I found myself motivated to hit the Betzwood Trail for a good, flat, fast workout.

The Betzwood Trail is located in Valley Forge, and what I love most about it is the beautiful canopy that protects the sizzling sun from making it even hotter. Today, I was jamming with Earth, Wind, and Fire and Stevie Wonder and we were having fun. The path was loaded with all sorts of people from the serious cyclist (the ones who yell, PASSING ON YOUR LEFT) to leisurely strollers who can't tell the difference between your right and their left. In my head, I am streaming like a gazelle, but the reality is that I am only walking a 14 minute mile. But, I am still moving along at a clip.

Things race through my mind when I walk. Like, today I was wondering how I escaped being the morbidly obese woman who shops at Lane Bryant wearing pastel pink with matching sandals. Or, how I darted the bullet from heart disease and diabetes. As the gentle breeze on the trail made the leaves twist, I thought about the morbidly obese woman who I had seen earlier in the day on the electric scooter at Target. Her basket with filled with crap. And, I thought to myself, "Face it Charlene, you were an Oreo away from that scooter had you not turned to plants and turned away from the evil trifecta."

As I sped along the trail doing speed intervals, I thought about another lady at Target. I couldn't help but to become part of her conversation. She was holding up boxes of candy for her maybe two year old. She was asking him what he wanted, the M&M's or the Good&Plenty? He wanted a toy. She then held up Mike and Ike's and Peanut M&M's. He still wanted the toy. And slowly, I turned to say, "Maybe you need to take his lead. He's letting you know that the toy is a far better choice than the candy." I was ready to run for the hills, but she turned and said, "You know, I think you are right." Now if I only had the same courage to talk to the other lady in the scooter with all of her candy and cookies.

I realize that we do what we know. The candy and cookies lady probably only knows cookies and candy best. Target isn't known for its veggie selections, but they are taking a step in the right direction in providing fresh vegetables. In my head, I was wishing for a remote control device so I could steer scooter lady to the veggie aisle.

As my workout was coming to an end, I was feeling victorious. Feeling victorious not because I had walked 4.6 miles in just under an hour (alright, I really was), but I was feeling victorious that I wasn't in a scooter, wearing a pink top, stuffing candy and cookies into my cart. But rather, I ate some fresh fruit, drank some water, stretched my hamstrings out, and hopped into my car for my next destintation...where I bought some leafy greens and some fresh fruit. My reusable bag was filled with a bounty of summer freshness, and I was still feeling victorious.

These plants...they give me great joy.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Turn the "Beet" Around...

It's hard to know where you stand and what you do. Best foot forward isn't always the case. But, putting one foot in front of the other is the best way I know to continue to move forward.

I am on this journey of wellness and sometimes, it feels rather lonely. It's easy to become isolated from your "before" world because if food was the mainstay in friendships, that crowd feels awkward hanging out with you. My plant-strong world is dynamic, and just that, strong, but it is a world where I sometimes feel far away from others.

So, today, I got a request to "hey, send me a before picture of you." I fished around, and let's face it, you are not exactly camera friendly when you weigh nearly 300 pounds. I was always that person who was hiding behind a plant, or the tallest person in the room. But, a few years ago, a local running store did a story about me. I have a ten year history as a marathon walker, and my picture sits in their store. Not just a picture, but rather a portrait. In this black and white photo, I am wearing a 3X fleece top. And, I remember thinking that the fleece top was probably a miscut, and that it was really like an XL, or better yet, a large. I mean, I couldn't possibly be that big. But, pictures don't lie.

I sent the picture to my friend who needed it for a lecture. Then, I sent him a picture from today (snapped in the bathroom)...and was in shock when the pictures were back-to-back. I had NO idea how far I had come. I have no idea how I got to today, but it is a good place to be. Truth be told, I actually had tears in my eyes. Who knew that plants could change my life so much. Who knew that I could even stay on this journey? I have a black belt in dieting...and was stellar at a diet. I could lose a truck load of weight in record time, then, double gain what I had lost, and then some. That was my life pattern.

My plant strong adventure is a daily must. People always say, "Don't you want a piece of cheese?" On a diet, you'd say, "Yea, hand me a piece." On this plant strong journey, the thought wouldn't even cross my mind. In fact, I find cheese revolting.

I am very proud of this journey. It is like a marathon. I pace myself, I take in the scenery. I've learned to not take the inventory of others. Look, if Jane Doe wants to blow out her arteries with a cheesesteak, it's on her. I have nothing to do with her choices, or anyone else's. I only have to look at my own food selections, my exercise, my relationships, etc.

My heart is filled with gratitude for where I am today. And for where I will be tomorrow. Yesterday isn't that important to me.

I owe deep gratitude to many. And that list is way too long. But, if you taught me how to read a food label, understand the pillars of being plant strong, encouraged me to use a pressure cooker, or know the importance of fair trade...then, you know who you are.

No recipes today. No thought for the day. Just love and gratitude. That's all. Just pure love and gratitude.