Sunday, January 27, 2013

So what exactly does a high carb raw vegan eat?

I've received a few requests to document what we eat in a typical day. Now, for those of you who have been considering experimenting with a low fat high carb raw vegan diet, I don't want you to be turned off by the slight monotony of what we eat. I absolutely love the way we eat. I love not worrying about what we're going to make. I love not taking an hour to decide on dinner, an hour to cook it, a brief moment to devour it, and an hour cleaning up. This is actually the fourth time we've gone raw, and so I believe we've finally discovered a way of eating that is satisfying to our tastebuds, our schedule, and our wallet. This is what works for us, but it is NOT the only way to live this lifestyle.  

For breakfast, both Nick and I drink two quarts of a fruit smoothie (usually around 6 large bananas, 5 medjool dates, and 2 cups of frozen mango, pineapple, & cherries, about 1200 calories)...each.  Yes, you heard that right...2 quarts of smoothie EACH.  Ariana drinks about 14 oz of the same smoothie (usually about 1 large banana, 1-2 medjool dates, and 1/2 cup frozen fruit) for breakfast in addition to breastfeeding every 1-2 hours during the day and through the night.  As you can see from the photo below, one of us usually drinks our smoothie right out of the blender so we don't have extra quart jars to wash.  Simplicity at its finest!

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Our chunky munchkin after finishing her breakfast smoothie.

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For lunch, Nick, Ariana, and I have...the exact same thing as breakfast!  Remember, there are many ways to live the high carb raw vegan lifestyle, but after experimenting with raw recipes and complicated fruit dishes, two smoothies per day is simply the easiest way for us to get our carbohydrate calories in. 

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For dinner, we each eat our own giant salad.  A typical salad for me would consist of 1 head of romaine lettuce (a large head, not just the romaine heart that come three in a bag), 3 large zucchinis spiralized into noodles, a couple tomatoes, some celery, a few diced green onions, and whatever other veggies look tasty at the moment.  We top our salads with a blended dressing.  Mine is usually fresh herbs, the juice of one lemon, the juice of one orange, and 1/2 cup hemp seeds.  Nick's is usually 2 tablespoons of tahini mixed with the juice of one lemon.  No salt.  No oil.  We finish dinner feeling satisfied and light...not so stuffed and full that we need to lay down and sleep it off.

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Ariana enjoys a whole avocado, a medium tomato, zucchini noodles, and the juice of an orange for dinner.  She loves it!

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...So is this all we ever eat?  Just two smoothies and a big salad?  No, not always.  We snack on fruits like apples, oranges, kiwis, fresh berries, exotic bananas (mmm...ladyfingers...), and whatever other fruits appeal to us.  But our staple food, at the moment, is bananas.  Lots, and lots, and lots of bananas.  Why bananas?  Bananas are calorie-dense, high carbohydrate, rich in vitamins and minerals, delicious (when ripe!), and cheap.  We buy our bananas in bulk for around $23 for a 40 pound case.  We buy at least two cases per week on different days so we always have some bananas ripening.  Running out of ripe bananas is something we can't afford to let happen.  If we do happen to plan poorly and run out of ripe bananas (we do not eat bananas unless they are covered in brown spots), our fallback is medjool dates.

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What we use as a staple fruit changes seasonally.  In the spring, we feast on delicious mangoes.  In summer, much of our day is spent diving face-first into ginormous watermelons.  In fall, we're back to bananas and dates, and in winter, if we can find good citrus, we spend hours juicing oranges.  Sometimes we get adventurous and buy the weirdest tropical fruits we can the jackfruit we bought at our local Indian market the other day.  So amazingly delicious!

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And sometimes we do spice things up a little bit by creating an extravagant low fat high carb raw vegan gourmet dish.  It's rare because it takes a lot of work and time, and as busy parents, we'd rather spend that time with our daughter.  But every once in a while it's nice to have something a little different.  Last night, for example, we had raw vegan burritos, courtesy of Kristina Carillo-Bucaram over at Fully Raw/Rawfully Organic!  They were delicious and different...and very time consuming...just what we needed to remind ourselves that simple is usually better but change can be nice, too. :-)

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I hope you enjoyed a peek into our daily menu!  After reading this post, you are probably wondering...but why so much?  Why so much food?  Why so many calories?  Why so many carbohydrates?  WHY SO MUCH FRUIT?!  This lifestyle is definitely one of ABUNDANCE not restriction, and those are very valid questions, my friends!  Stay tuned for the answers in a future post.  For now, I'm off to dream about sapodillas and ataulfo mangoes.  Mmm...good-night.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Too much sugar! Or is it?

So Monday marked one full week of being 100% high carbohydrate low fat raw vegan.  Yay!  I'd do a little celebration dance, but I'm currently drinking 8 bananas, 5 medjool dates, and 2 cups of frozen mangoes and pineapples.  Do you know what that looks like?  I'll tell you what that looks like.  It looks like a blender completely full of yellow smoothie.  I mean, all the way full.  There was about 1/2 an inch of empty space in the top of the blender.  This equals a little over 2 quarts.  That is my breakfast.  How many calories were in my breakfast?  About 1300.  How long does it take me to drink my breakfast?  About an hour.  Wait...doesn't that smoothie contain too many carbs?

Ah, carbohydrates. Let's talk about carbs, shall we?  As the mother of a one-year-old (OMG, how can she be one year old already?!), I do not have the time to go over the differences between complex carbs and simple carbs, how the body and specifically the brain depend on carbohydrates for fuel, or how, during times of insufficient carbohydrate intake, the body can convert stored fat into glucose for use as fuel (a process called "gluconeogenesis"), producing toxic byproducts called "ketones" in the process.  No, that's not what is important right now.  You can read all of the above in the nutrition section of any good, basic anatomy & physiology textbook (and indeed, I recommend you do so).  What I want to talk about right now is my own personal experience with a low-carb lifestyle versus a high-carb lifestyle.

My beautiful mother, like most American women, has made an effort to take care of her body for as long as I can remember.  I can remember doing step-aerobics with her when I was a little girl, eating some of her cabbage soup when she and my grandmother did the cabbage soup diet together, joining our local Curves gym together, and cutting out bread, pasta, and potatoes with her when she started the Atkins diet.  I have never been one of those lucky people who could eat whatever I wanted while never gaining a single pound.  I've struggled with my weight since puberty, and my yearly school photos show a steady increase in weight all the way through middle and high school.  The few times I managed to lose weight were during major life upheavals that led to severe calorie-restricting due to stress.

As you can see from the photos below, I have been struggling with my weight for a long time now.  Before finding a high carbohydrate low fat diet, I simply couldn't understand why dieting and exercise wasn't working for me.  Sure, I could restrict calories and lose weight, but I could never keep it off.  As soon as I stopped restricting calories, the weight piled right back on.  And I could never restrict calories for longer than a few months because I would get lethargic and depressed.

1998 (14 years old)

When my mom went on the Atkins diet back in 2000, I saw her lose substantial amounts of weight, and so I tried it with her.  However, I was not a big meat eater, and so though I lost a little bit of weight, it was mainly due to calorie restriction, and after a while (of essentially starving myself on salads, canned green beans, and a little bit of cheese and milk), the cravings for carbohydrates became so unbearable, I binged hard and gained the weight back plus more.  My mom, however, has an admirable amount of willpower, and she maintained an Atkins diet for a couple years.  She maintained her weight loss, but started exhibiting strange symptoms: she was exhausted and weak, couldn't sleep, experienced periods of nausea, and had a strange sweet/fruit smell to her breath (signs of ketoacidosis).  Eventually, she couldn't stand feeling so sick all the time, and reintroduced the occasional higher-carbohydrate food, but the fear of starches has stuck with her to this day.  She now maintains her weight by daily exercise, eating small amounts of low-fat meat, and eating large portions of fresh fruits and leafy greens.

2002 (17 years old)

In October of 2003, I went vegetarian for moral reasons and have not touched meat since.  However, during those early years, I was the only vegetarian I knew, and I had no idea what to eat.  I basically lived off of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cheese pizza, spaghetti marinara, macaroni and cheese, and mashed potatoes with lots of butter and sour cream.  I loved salad and ate it a couple times a week, but was smothering my lettuce in olive oil and vinegar dressings.  I basically ate a high fat, high carbohydrate diet devoid of anything fresh.  I didn't grow up in a fruit-eating household, so I almost never ate fruit.  Eating this way, my weight skyrocketed to the highest it has ever been and pretty much stayed that way until February of 2008 when I lost a large amount of weight due to extreme stress.

2003 (19 years old)

2004 (20 years old)

2006 (22 years old)

2008 (25 years old, after losing about 20lbs due to stress/calorie restriction)

The very next year, however, after adopting a high fat low(er) carb traditional foods diet (rich in organic grass-fed butter, organic grass-fed milk, raw organic cheese, yogurt, nuts/seeds, fermented foods such as kimchi and sauerkraut, salads, and an abundance of cooked greens and grains, no potatoes, hardly any fruit), my weight steadily went up again.  I was so, so frustrated!  And I was craving sugar like crazy!

2009 (26 years old)


Then one day in early 2011, I watched a video called "Food Matters" in my nutrition class in midwifery school.  In the documentary, there was some crazy guy named David Wolfe (I don't agree with his nutritional recommendations, but I do thank him for introducing me to my current lifestyle) who only ate raw foods.  Whoa!  What a concept!  And one that made enormous amounts of sense to me.  So, as what normally happens when I become interested in a new concept, I dove in head-first and researched like crazy.

I discovered a whole new world of alternative living.  My first intro to raw food was the "gourmet raw food" lifestyle that most raw foodists live.  There I found elaborate recipes based on nuts and seeds such as raw vegan tacos, raw vegan cheesecakes, raw vegan pizzas, even raw vegan burgers and fries!  Whoa!  And I found Ka Sundance, a raw foodist who, along with his wife Katie, were raising their four children on a raw vegan diet.  I was so very hooked.

Then, in April of 2011, Nick and I went on a 30-day raw vegan challenge.  I compiled recipes and made weekly meal-plans and grocery lists.  We loved every minute of it and started shedding weight immediately.  However, this gourmet raw way of living still seemed unnatural, as we were smothering our dishes with tamari (a form of soy sauce), eating a lot of cacao (raw chocolate), and using copious amounts of agave nectar and maple syrup to sweeten our desserts.  I couldn't help but think...if raw veganism is the most "natural" way to eat, then why do I still need all these condiments?  And that's when I discovered the 80-10-10 Diet, aka Low Fat/High Carb Raw Veganism.

The 80-10-10 Diet was unlike anything I'd ever heard of.  Not only did it advocate consuming a diet made up of 80% of calories from carbohydrates (oh my...yummy!), but it also proposed that we get those calories from fruit.  From fruit?  Really?  Isn't fruit just a snack or a dessert food?  Dr. Douglas Graham thinks not, and indeed, he believes that fruit is the perfect human food.  So like our closest relatives, the bonobos and chimpanzees, Nick and I began eating a diet completely full of the most delicious food on earth...FRUIT!  And after only a week, we both felt better, physically and mentally, than we had ever felt in our entire lives.  More energy, clarity of mind, strength, stamina, happiness and joy!  Who would ever believe that all these positive things could come from simply eating nothing but fruit and raw leafy greens?  We are most definitely believers now!

2011 (after going raw vegan!)

And most of you know...I became pregnant!  You can read all about that journey in previous posts.  For now, I will stick to the nutritional side of my pregnancy.  In my first trimester, after only a month and a half of being raw vegan, I had morning sickness that was not bad enough to cause vomiting, but was definitely bad enough to cause major food aversions.  I couldn't eat anything except fresh pineapple and plain boiled potatoes for the first trimester.  Every once in a while I could stomach some citrus or bread, but it was rare.  And so Nick and I decided to stop eating 100% raw throughout my pregnancy until my food aversions went away.  We knew that we were vegan for life, however, and so I consumed a cooked vegan diet throughout my pregnancy and felt pretty good except for some restless leg and acid reflux (which I've had all my life since childhood).  Eating as much food as I wanted, I gained 35 pounds during my pregnancy and had almost no swelling even in the very last days of pregnancy.

2012 (39 weeks pregnant; I weighed one pound less here than I did at my heaviest back in 2004 not pregnant)

About 6 weeks after the birth of my daughter, I went 100% low fat high carb raw vegan again.  I felt absolutely incredible!  I lost all the baby weight plus more in about 3 months and my energy levels were good (though not as good as they could have been...turns out I was anemic from heavy blood loss postpartum, but I did not find out until later, and I have since remedied this via supplementation).  Nick also went raw with me again, and lost another 10 pounds.

2012 (my daughter was about 4 months old here)

Unfortunately, due to finances (or lack thereof), we could not afford to continue eating 100% raw, and so we switched to a high carbohydrate low fat cooked vegan diet, aka "The McDougall Diet".  I was very worried that starting to eat cooked again would lead to weight gain (because carbs=evil was still somewhere in the back of my mind), even though I had done a modest amount of research on the very subject and read studies that showed that the only way people were able to gain weight on a low fat high carbohydrate diet was to be massively overfed (some 3500 calories over their caloric output), and even then the subjects in the study spontaneously burned more calories during the 9 days of over-feeding, so the researchers had to keep increasing calories to maintain an over-feeding state.  And when the weight gained (4.6 kg) was analyzed, most of it was muscle growth and water weight (Glycogen storage capacity and de novo lipogenesis during massive carbohydrate overfeeding in man).

But then the months went by and I ate, and ate, and ate.  I ate a lot because I'm a breastfeeding mother and I was hungry!  We ate the food that we could afford, which was mainly rice and beans, pasta, rolled oats, and vegetables.  We were able to afford some fruits, mostly bananas, and we sometimes splurged and made our own bread.  Our friends and family would shake their heads in disbelief when they saw the size of our carbohydrate portions (like large dinner plates full of spaghetti!), and they couldn't believe it when we didn't gain weight.  But the fact of the matter was, we didn't.  Not one pound between the two of us.  We ate more food (in regards to volume) at one meal than some people eat in a day, and still we did not gain weight.  The proof is in the (fat-free vegan) pudding.

But, after having experienced eating a high carbohydrate (high fruit) raw vegan diet, eating all the pasta I wanted simply paled in comparison.  I knew that once we were more financially stable, we would switch back to 100% raw.  So on January 7th, we did just that.  And on January 12th, we celebrated our daughter's first birthday raw vegan style, complete with raw vegan raspberry pie for Ariana, who absolutely loved it.

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We have already experienced amazing changes.  Further weight loss (another 5 pounds for each of us), energy-levels increasing, skin clearing, and better digestion.  I'm so excited to be continuing this journey.  Nick and I have decided that as long as we only see benefits, we will continue living this lifestyle.  I'm not usually the biggest fan of labels, because I believe that words have power, and labels can be used in either a positive or negative manner.  But I have to admit, it feels good to be a raw foodist again.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

LFRV, HCRV, HCCV...wait, what's with all the abbreviations??

Whew!  What a wild couple of years it's been!  So much has happened in the past two years.  So many changes...some good, some not so good.  And a few were so incredibly life-changing that they led me to start writing in this blog again...and so here I am.

April 4, 2011
Nick (my boyfriend of about one and a half years at the time) and I decide to take a 30-day Raw Vegan Challenge.  I had already been lacto-ovo vegetarian since October of 2003 and had dabbled in raw foods that first year of being vegetarian.  Nick was not vegetarian, had no intentions of going vegetarian, but was spontaneous and up for an adventure.  So I created this blog to document our journey and we stopped cooking the next day!  The challenge was life-altering.  Nick shed 30 pounds and healed his chronic severe stomach issues.  I lost 15 pounds and felt years of brain-fog float out of my life forever.  After the 30 days were over, we decided to stay vegan for life and stay on the raw food path for the time being.

Before Going Raw Vegan


After 30 Days of Raw Vegan


May 4, 2011
I blame the raw food.  To this day, I seriously blame the raw food.  On May 4th, after having charted my cycles for many years, I had my first ever "Hmm...shouldn't my period be here by now?" and bought a pregnancy test that day.  It was positive.  I was pregnant.  I was pregnant!!  Trying to convey the tsunami-like emotions crashing through my brain that day would take a whole other blog post, so I'll just say that my sweet girl was very, very wanted and very, very early.  I still had another year left of midwifery school, and gosh darn it, I had just finally started getting my body into the shape I had always wanted it to be!  But underneath the doubts, fear, and apprehension, there was so, so much joy.  I was going to have a baby with the most kind-hearted, amazing man I had ever met.  I was going to be a mother.

Two weeks later...
I got a horrible gum infection at the site of my bottom right wisdom tooth.  Many years ago, when my chipmunk-faced classmates were returning to school after having their wisdom teeth extracted, I sent out a desperate plea-like prayer to the universe that I would have plenty of room for all four of my wisdom teeth.  I was terrified of dentists (along with bees, aliens, and the apocalypse), and would rather suffer crooked teeth than face an extraction.  So imagine my delight when all four of my wisdom teeth grew in when I was in my early 20's!  Fast forward to the middle of May 2011, and I was singing a different tune.  The infection came out of nowhere.  It was most likely due to pregnancy hormones softening my gums and my lack of flossing (oops).  I couldn't chew food and completely lost my appetite.  I took strong echinacea tincture, padded my tooth and gum with fresh plantain poultices, and tried to rest.  It got worse and worse.  I tried to drink raw soups with lots of garlic and lemon.  I lost about 5 pounds in one week.  The pain was so severe.  I eventually resorted to antibiotics and the infection cleared within days.

When I was able to chew again, I had severe food aversions to pretty much everything except pineapple and plain boiled potatoes.  I cried the first time I ate a potato.  I had desperately wanted to continue on my raw foods path while pregnant, but it just wasn't happening.  The thought of raw foods, even previously cherished fruits, was absolutely sickening.  We started cooking.  Throughout my pregnancy, I ate a diet of whole grains, vegetables, some legumes, and fruits.  We were new to vegan cooking and used lots of olive oil.  I gained 35 pounds during my pregnancy...not too bad, but I had low energy, hip pain, and restless leg syndrome.  Looking back, I should have supplemented because I simply was not getting enough fresh foods, including green leafy veggies.  Other than the mild discomforts, though, it was an amazing pregnancy.  Hearing my baby's heartbeat with my fetoscope and feeling her movement inside my body were simply indescribable experiences.

June 25, 2012
I married the love of my life!  We had a beautiful outdoor ceremony on Vilano Beach in St. Augustine, Florida and a vegetarian reception at my mother- and father-in-law's house.  Nick and I feasted on baked vegan eggplant, spaghetti marinara, salad, and a delicious vegan carrot cake.  It was a wonderful day! We flew to Costa Rica for our honeymoon the very next morning.


January 12, 2012
I birthed my baby girl on my bed at home!  See the blog post below this one for Ariana's birth story!


March 2012
Ariana started showing signs of colic in the middle of the night, so I immediately cut all cooked foods and allergy-inducing foods out of my diet.  I went 100% low fat high carb raw vegan (80-10-10 style), and her symptoms disappeared overnight.  Nick joined me about 2 weeks later, and together we were HCRV/LFRV for about 4 months.  We started including low fat cooked vegan foods into our diets when finances wouldn't allow us to continue 100% raw.  We both felt the effects of cooked foods (digestive imbalances, mood swings, low energy, skin breakouts) after so many months of eating raw and vowed that once finances were more stable, we'd go back for good.  


August 25, 2012
I graduated from The Florida School of Traditional Midwifery.  After three intense years of schooling, I was finally done...with the academic portion, anyway.  I still had/have some clinicals to do (4 births left!!), and will take my NARM Written Examination on February 20th in Orlando, Florida.


And this leads us to...

January 6, 2013, aka, TODAY!!
Today, my friends, is our last day of eating cooked food!  We are using up whatever is left in our cupboards and fridge (potatoes, collards, sweet potatoes, a little bit of brown rice, and some soy milk) and preparing for our first day back to 100% high carb low fat raw vegan TOMORROW!!!  Can you tell I'm excited?  I wish I could explain how amazing I feel when eating this way.  The clarity of mind is incredible, I shed water weight immediately (we do not use table salt), my skin clears up, my energy levels go through the roof, I have more patience, I sleep more soundly.  The benefits are too numerous to document them all here so I will save that for a future blog post.

Anyway, we have almost a full case of ripe bananas, and I'll be making some low fat raw vegan pie tarts tonight to get us ready for tomorrow.  Tomorrow evening is also grocery day, so we'll be picking up some citrus, greens, pineapple, fresh herbs, and a few bags of frozen fruits.  We'll also be ordering a case of fresh dates from Shields Date Garden.  Yum!!

So what's this blog going to be about, you ask?  My answer to you experiment!  An experiment to determine how on earth I can manage to combine raw food and nutrition with midwifery, homebirth, and parenting with a little bit of gardening and yoga thrown in the mix.  I'll scatter some raw vegan food porn in there as well, along with some beautiful pictures of my family and the beautiful Florida beaches.  Click know you want to.