Yes, I do have a Diet. No, I am not Dieting.

To steal an opening from 82% of my public speaking students: Webster’s Dictionary (or Wikipedia) defines diet as “food and drink regularly provided or consumed.”  So, this means that however you eat, whatever your patterns are, that is your diet.  If you mostly eat orange food from a box/bag/carton/jar (kraft mac n’ cheese, cheetos, oj, cheese whiz, queso dip, doritos) then you have an orange diet.  If you primarily eat fruits and vegetables in their natural form, then you have a raw food diet.  If you do not eat any animal products, you have a vegan diet, and so on.

But, that’s not how we tend to think about “diet,” as a quick check of Google indicates.  When we think about or talk about diet, we tend to be focusing on the issue of weight loss.   I don’t know how this became the default definition of the word diet, but it seems to be.  If I tell people that I am on a raw food diet, the first response I get is, “Why? You don’t need to lose any weight.”  Now, whether I do or do not need to lose any weight is neither here nor there.  Why is the assumption that my eating plan is designed to promote weight loss?  I’m sure, somehow, this has to do with our increasing girth in much of the western world, combined with an obsession with slimness.

Regardless of how the situation arose, I think it is problematic that all of our attention to “diet” tends to revolve around weight loss.  When we focus on diet/dieting as a weight loss tool, our awareness is automatically drawn to what we cannot have.  So, when someone undertakes a low carb diet to lose weight, the focus is on eliminating carbs (bread, fruit, pasta, etc.) from the diet, not on what is eaten (vegetables, proteins, dairy).  This isn’t a very efficient way to change behavior for the better.

Put a small child in a room with a desk or a dresser and make a big deal of telling him/her not to open the drawer and then stand quietly outside and see how long it takes for the drawer to be opened.  Go ahead, I’ll wait.  Chances are decent that the drawer will be opened.  Why?  Well, some psychologists/philosophers/sociologists/etc., like Gregory Bateson, would tell us that humans think in terms of what we are “not” doing, and that, in fact, the only way to think about not doing something is to imagine doing it.  So, when you tell that small child not to open the drawer, you leave him or her imagining what might happen if the drawer is opened and the desire to do so just increases.

It’s much the same with “dieting.”  As soon as you are told, or tell yourself, that you cannot have XYZ food, you spend a lot of time in your day thinking about not having that food, and thereby thinking about having it.  So, a low calorie diet becomes a day spent thinking, “I won’t eat a cookie.  I won’t eat a cookie.  I won’t eat a cookie… cookie… cookie… cookie,” and eventually, there you are with your hand in the cookie jar.  And then once you’ve already “messed up” your “diet” for the day by breaking the rule about what not to eat, you might as well go ahead and have 3 cookies, or 5, or 10.fruitveg

It’s much more useful to think about what we will/should eat.  Instead of thinking, “I can’t have a nacho plate for lunch,” you think “I’m going to make a huge salad with field greens, walnuts, cranberries, apples, and a raspberry vinaigrette for lunch.  Mmmmm.”  Now the focus shifts to what you are going to eat and how good and good for you it is going to be.  It’s a much healthier and happier way to approach food.  We are humans and we need to eat for survival (duh), but moreover, food tastes good to us (I don’t know if it works this way for cows, but I’m pretty sure it does for dogs).   It’s much nicer to think about all of the good (and good for us) things we can have instead of thinking about what we can’t have.

If we, as a culture, could adopt a view of diet that focused more on building a delicious and nutritious eating plan, and less on labeling some food as “bad” and some as “good” and then eliminating items based on their “badness,” we would be happier with ourselves and our meals.  And, who knows, we might just lose a few pounds  ; )

Vitamin B12 Deficiency in the Vegan/Raw Diet

There are many vitamins and minerals that we hear about in the media, from medical professionals, and from our parents/family growing up.  We mostly understand that we require some calcium, vitamin D, vitamin C, and iron.  We understand that we need protein (though there are very interesting debates about how much).  However, many of us have no clue about the B vitamins.  Vitamin B12 can be a particular issue for those on a vegan diet who do not consume fortified food/drink (like soymilk).  Thus, raw vegans may be more inclined to a B12 deficiency.

Why is this important? B12 is a vitamin that the body requires (like folic acid) to make red blood cells.  I’m sure that I don’t need to explain that red blood cells are pretty important to our oxygenation and thus our overall health and wellness.

In a typical Westernized diet, people generally absorb sufficient quantities of B12 by eating meat, eggs, and dairy products.  Those who consume a vegan diet, or those who eat a very limited variety of foods (which can be more common in older adults), may find it very difficult to consume adequate B12.  Additionally, some medical conditions (including Crohn’s disease) and medications (including popular stomach acid reducers) may make it hard for the body to absorb enough B12 through diet.

Often, people are unaware that they have a B12 deficiency unless/until it becomes severe.  Symptoms can include fatigue, bleeding gums, weight loss, dizziness.  Persistent B12 deficiency can even lead to nerve damage and the associated physical and mental symptoms.

If you suspect that you have a B12 problem, your physician can test for anemia and B12 levels.  However, even if you don’t think testing is needed, it’s probably a good idea to think about how much B12 you are consuming and whether you need to supplement your dietary levels.  For those on a vegan, but not raw, diet, soy milk and other processed vegan foods may be fortified with B12.  For individuals on a raw diet, B12 (or full spectrum B) vitamins are readily available in most pharmacies, GNC stores, or online.

If you would like more information about the role of B12 in the body and supplementation, check out:

American Family Physician article on B12 deficiency

The Vegetarian Society B12 information sheet

Vegan shoes – WTF?

Crocs Beach

Looks nice with a pencil skirt? Noooo

I’m sure it’s me, because I haven’t heard anyone else complaining about it recently, but what is the problem with shoe manufacturers that they don’t want to branch out into non-animal materials.  Sure, there are a few companies that do, but they tend to be the granola clunky shoes (like earth shoes) or beach shoes (like crocs and flip flops).  Once you start adding other needs to the shoe shopping, the choices become fewer and fewer.  Currently, I’m trying to find dress shoes with a little bit of a heel for work, vegan, size 8, without a pointy toe.  HAHAHAHA.

Don’t get me wrong, there are certainly stores that specialize in vegan footwear, but the selection is limited and the prices are high.  And, importantly, they are all mail order or online unless you happen to be very lucky and be near one (it seems that being in NYC or on the west coast helps out there).  While I’m willing to buy almost anything online, from tea to pajamas, I have a hard time with dress shoes.  I’ve been bitten one too many times shelling out the cash for a pair of dress shoes that arrives and is uncomfortable or just unwearable (and then I don’t return for a variety of reasons that would require a whole separate post to sort out).

So, off to the stores I go, where the sales clerks in the shoe section will inevitably look at me as if I have sprouted a second head when I ask if they have any vegan dress shoes.  After a few seconds of silence, I’ll explain that I mean non-leather and with no leather trim or other animal derived parts.  There will be more silence and then they will lead me to the one pair of extremely shiny patent leather Mary Janes that they have in the store and say “I think this is the only thing we would have.”  And, I’ll leave despondent.  It’s enough to make me really want to go shopping.   And, enough to make me wonder, what is our obsession with cloaking our feet in the skin of another mammal.  I mean, think about it.  Eeeew.  Whose bright idea was that?  And, maybe it made sense at some point, but so did smoking our meat, not having a refrigerator, and making heat with a fire.  Times change and we evolve.  Maybe it’s time to stop walking in dead cow.

Anyway, if you don’t mind shopping online for shoes, I suggest the following shops for your vegan/vegetarian shoe shopping pleasure!

MooShoes – http://www.mooshoes.com/

Pangea – The Vegan Store – http://www.veganstore.com/

Alternative Outfitters – http://www.alternativeoutfitters.com/

Vegan Chic – http://www.veganchic.com/

Regazzi Vegan – http://ragazzivegan.com/index.php

Yours in bare feet,

LBA