Dairy or No Dairy?

One of the many yummy vegan desserts I made!  This is from minimalistbaker.com

One of the many yummy vegan desserts I made! This is from minimalistbaker.com

That is the question (one of many questions about food).  Some people believe (and have researched I might add) that dairy isn’t meant for human consumption.  Just read “The China Study” by Dr. Campbell and you will begin to question everything you eat.  It is tough to live that way, though.  Thinking about every piece of food you put into your mouth (and let’s not forget your kids’ mouths!).  At one point I questioned meat and I made the decision to cut it out of my diet.  Yet, there was something good to be said about consuming seafood so I kept that on the menu.  I’m not sure what my reasons were for either decision, but I guess they were good enough because meat and I have not made contact in over 17 months.  I felt good not eating meat any more so all I really wanted was just that: To feel good!

Back to the dairy.  We all know that dairy causes inflammation (there are a few foods on the list… not just dairy).  How many times did your parents tell you not to drink milk when you had a cold?  It caused all of that mucus build-up that was not fun to bring up.  Our bodies do not want inflammation.  And of course we all know that the human species is the only animal that drinks milk from another species.   Weird (but we actually do a lot of weird stuff in comparison to other animals).  In most cases, people can’t even digest dairy properly.  My husband is severely lactose intolerant so he either has to ingest a handful of lactaid pills or skip the dairy.  Babies have been known to react negatively to cow milk as well.  Then they are prescribed soy formula (which is a whole other can of beans I won’t get into here).

Needless to say, I don’t do much light reading these days.  It kind of drives my husband crazy, but I choose to be informed rather than ignorant.  Therefore, I decided to give a dairy-free diet a good try.  I did not consume (well, there were some bumps in the road I will discuss later) dairy for the entire month of August (still trying to get through today, but I am on a roll).  It was pretty easy to bring my husband on board since I already mentioned his intolerance.  The kids, on the other hand, kind of did their own thing, but they were privy to some new vegan recipes.

The most challenging part of the whole diet was the fact that I couldn’t enjoy a real pizza.  And, for some reason, all I craved was pizza.  I tried the dairy-free cheese pizza and the pizza without cheese, but it just wasn’t the same as good ol’ regular greasy, cheesy pizza.  I did find one that suited my palate okay.  It was Amy’s gluten-free, dairy-free pizza with spinach and a rice crust.

It was tougher than I expected.  I had to read bread labels, granola bar labels, cereal labels… pretty much all labels.  Surprisingly, almost all processed foods have some type of milk product.  Take a look yourself the next time you go shopping.  I went back to making my own vegan protein bars and baked goods.  Baked goods.  Yep, any time I went into a coffee shop or the bakery section of the grocery store  I just stared at the baked goods.  Hey, I think I might have lost 2 pounds this month.

I did mention some bumps in the road.  I couldn’t control everything, especially when we went out to eat.  Maybe the restaurant cooked the food in butter (even though I was the annoying customer who said no meat, no butter, no cheese please!) or I consumed something that I didn’t realize had milk in it. There was one time I think I really made a mistake.  I remember getting sushi rolls from the grocery store one day, but it took me 3 days to realize that I might have eaten rolls that contained cream cheese without even thinking about it.  Then it was back to making my own veggie rolls at home.  Goodness!  I sure did spend a lot of time in the kitchen this month!

So, what is the end result?  Ironically, this month I had a cold for about 3 weeks.  I haven’t been sick in nearly a year.  Coincidence?  Probably.  Do I feel better?  Not sure.  My husband says that it would take longer than a month to find out how a dairy-free diet affects my body.  He is probably right.  There are aspects of the diet that I have enjoyed.  Specifically eating healthier overall.  I have limited options when we go out to eat and that means that I have to spend more time making my own food.  This means I know exactly what I am putting into my mouth.  There are some new vegan recipes that we have enjoyed as a family.  My daughters love vegan mac and cheese.  They will pile it on their plates and eat seconds.  My oldest is more open to new things so I will admit that it has been a challenge for the younger two, but I have a feeling that they eat way more vegan dishes than their preschool and Kindergarten friends.  I don’t mind being “that” parent.  You know, the veganish parent.

What’s next?  I have decided that I will continue to limit the amount of dairy I consume.  However, I will be open to the occasional cheese pizza or food item on the menu that contains some dairy.  Yet, my home cooking will pretty much remain dairy free.  I enjoy finding new recipes to try out and I don’t really miss cheese on my sandwich or real butter on my bread.  Of course there is the issue of friends.  At our last dinner gathering my friend told me to bring the dessert because she had no idea how to make a dairy-free option.  It’s all okay though.  They know to bring their own meat for the grill when they come over.  Friends who are accepting of our interesting ways are the only friends we want to keep around anyway.

So, the next challenge won’t be a food challenge.  For the month of September, my oldest daughter and I will be doing core workouts every day for the entire month.  If we complete our workouts every day, then we will reward ourselves with a lunch date (vegan or not) at the end of the month.

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Happy Healthy Parents Equals Happy Healthy Kids

My 2 youngest ride in the stroller while the oldest rides a bike.  This day we did 7 miles!

My two youngest ride in the stroller while the oldest rides a bike. This day we did 7 miles!

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week.  Not only does exercise keep you strong and healthy, it also keeps you sane!  People who regularly exercise tend to feel less fatigued, stressed and depressed.  When you are happy, the people around you are happy!

So, where do you fit in within these prescribed 150 minutes?  Do you exercise less?  More? Not at all?  It is understandable that life gets in the way and people tend to put exercise lower on their list of priorities.  Yet, maybe that is the wrong way to approach exercise.  More exercise might be tough to squeeze in to a busy schedule, but ultimately you will save time on illness and depression and you will be more productive and energized!

Personally, I know what it is like to be a stay-at-home mom & a working mom.  Neither option is an easy one.  Yet, I have found a way to make exercise a priority in my life because it creates a happier, healthier mommy and it also teaches my children to value an active, healthy lifestyle.  Sure, my family and my job come before exercise, but I have learned to put other items, like chores, lower on the list.

Here are some tips on how a stay-at-home parent and a working parent can find ways to incorporate exercise into their daily lives:

  • Invest in a gym membership that offers childcare!  This is the easiest way to do it, but only if you can afford it.  The YMCA is a great place and very family-friendly.  Not only do you get time to exercise (by yourself), you also get a break from your children (and they get a break from you!).  It can be a great opportunity for your children to socialize with other human beings (besides you).
  • Find someone to “trade” exercise time with.  This ultimately would be your spouse, but other family members and friends can be a great option as well.  Let them watch your kids while you go for a run and then offer to do the same in return.
  • Invest in a jogging stroller.  You don’t need to spend more than $100-$200.  Sometimes you can even score a great deal at a yard sale or online.  Strap those puppies in (seriously they do have jogging strollers for pets) and head out the door!  It takes a few jogs for you (the extra weight) and the kid to get used to it, but then you can go when you want and where you want (well, you do have to build up to pushing that thing up hills).  Not only that, but running moms without joggers are always giving you the thumbs up and “awesome job” shout out because they are totally impressed.
  • Do your kids play at the park?  You know that you don’t always have to be on their heels, right?  They need some independence once in awhile.  What can you do instead?  Tricep dips on the bench, squats, step-ups on the stairs, walking lunges around the perimeter, etc.  I think you get the picture. The same applies for being more productive during your evening t.v. time.
  • Moms tend to enjoy playdates.  So, why not enjoy them with a friend who loves fitness?  Grab your jogging strollers and head out on a run with each other.  Afterwards stop at the park for some exercises while the kids have a ball cooing at each other (if they are babies) or playing together.
  • Working moms might not have time for jogging strollers or play dates, so early mornings, lunch breaks, evenings or weekends might be the only options.   It sounds agonizing, but waking up an hour early for a run isn’t all that bad.  It just takes consistency and dedication.  Once you have been doing it for a few weeks it becomes second nature.  As for the lunch breaks… well, we all know that no one takes lunch breaks.  But did you know that your productivity during the second half of the day will soar if you take time for a bit of exercise?  Honestly, most employers are on board with their employees exercising during lunch, but most employees don’t think to ask.  Find out what your company’s policy is.  Some employees even get some of their gym membership paid for!
  • Start off slow.  If weekends are all you can manage, then start there.  Once you physically feel and see the benefits, then you will be more motivated to find ways to fit exercise into your busy schedule.  If you only have 10 minutes, then exercise for 10 minutes!  That is a step in the right direction.

These are just a few ways that you can incorporate exercise into your busy schedule.  Just think about all of the benefits and how you are impacting your children!  They will see how you value exercise and that will be imprinted on them forever.  If all parents led an active, healthy lifestyle then the childhood obesity rate would not be as high as it is today!

Up the Mountain and Over the Pass We Go!

The calm finish line before the storm...

The calm finish line before the storm…

The Trailer Trash gang was our secret competition.  It was really only because we knew everyone on that team (they are part of our running club).  I’m sure it had nothing to do with the fact that our teammate’s husband was on that team.  They thought they were so cool with the beer cans hanging off the doors, the string of white lights around the roof and the half-naked blow-up doll strapped to the back.  Sometimes we would also make fun of other teams just so we could feel better.  “You Got Chicked” was annoying just because they were so fast and then there was the tye-dye gang (not quite sure what the theme was there).  I really didn’t understand the girls AND guys wearing the tutus because half of the time we would see them running with the tutu in their hand.

But we had to focus on getting our own asses over the pass (that is the tagline for the Wild West Relay so excuse my language… I can’t even wear my very expensive technical shirts to the YMCA or at home).  The morning hours came much too quickly.  I was lucky if I even passed out in the back seat of the van for 2 hours.  It is kind of hard to sleep like a roly poly, especially when seat belts are sticking into your side.

Not only that, but some drama had played out in the other van while our van was attempting to rest.   Something about someone getting sick and delirious.  I don’t want to go into much detail, but I will mention that our van was assigned with picking up the slack.  What’s one extra leg right?   One of our teammates had a very short leg on this segment, but that soon changed.  He was given an additional leg to add to the 2.4 miles making it a total of around 8 miles.  Then another teammate volunteered to take one of the most treacherous uphill battles of the course.  We had it all under control.

The wee morning hours were a tad on the chilly side, but of course that all changed by the time it was my turn to run again.  And the drama that we were faced with earlier only seemed to intensify.  As I was waiting to start my leg, we were approached by the highway patrol.  They informed us that a section of the next leg (the one after mine… the one our sweet teammate volunteered to take for the other van) was going to be shut down for an hour.  Runners would be able to get through, but not vans.  He informed us that this shut down would happen in one hour and 5 minutes.  That means that I had to run my 6.7 miles in that amount of time if we were to make it through before the road closed.  But wait, I couldn’t even leave yet.  Our teammate hadn’t finished her leg yet.

The clock was ticking and we were watching the road.  After a few minutes passed, we came to the decision that the van would just have to wait until the road re-opened which meant that our other teammate would have to wait for it on the other side.  That meant that there was no rush for me to finish my leg.  Our teammate arrived a few minutes later and I was off.

A nice drop for the first half mile and then it was all uphill from there.  At least it was a relatively nice uphill because it wasn’t too steep and it stayed steady for those 6 miles.  It was my third leg in 25 hours or so, but I was feeling great.  So great, in fact, that I wondered if I was going to keel over before I reached mile 3.  I thought it was stupid to run so hard in the beginning, but I always think that.  I guess I really haven’t learned a thing after all these years of running.  But you know what?  I have developed some type of mental toughness.  I can push in the beginning and somehow keep pushing all the way to the end.  And that is just what I did.  I kept pushing.  I glided past 4 other runners and continued up the hill with ease.  I talked myself through each section until I finally saw the sign: “One mile left.”  I still had three-quarters of a mile left when I saw the end of my leg where my teammates were waiting.  I had to keep pushing because I didn’t want to look bad in front of them.  I trudged up that last hill to high-five my teammate.

The next thing I know my teammates were shouting “Get in the van!  We still have time!  Get in the van right now!”  I was delirious, but somehow managed to run over to the van and jump in like some kind of secret agent.  I was confused at first until they told me that I had finished the run before the road was scheduled to close.  They had a look of shock on their faces like it was totally unbelievable that I could run so fast.  Honestly, I was shocked too.  That was by far my best leg of the race.

We drove up and over the pass and through the construction and I realized that I had much empathy for  our teammate who was currently running.  Not only did she have to deal with the steep incline, but she had to run through a harrowing construction zone.  When we arrived at the next exchange I was finally able to get out for a proper cool down and to do some stretching.  We waited for our teammate to round the corner of the steep hill.  We were hallucinating most times because we assumed every runner was her.  Eventually it WAS her and we were done!  Our van had done its job for the relay!  Now it was time to head to the finish line and wait for our other teammates so all 12 of us could cross the finish line together.

Oh, but we had some time to kill.  We decided that it would be best for us to head to town and grab a cooked meal.  Yes, that was the best plan we had all day.  As we ate our most delicious meal ever, the clouds started to roll in.  By the time we arrived at the finish line it started sprinkling.  As the minutes ticked by and our final teammate was due to arrive, the weather turned treacherous.  Tents were flying across the field and the finish line tipped over.  The rain started pouring just as we spotted our teammate.  We all ran as fast as we could to get across the finish line.  No one was watching because they were all huddled under the tent.  Oh well, at least we can say that our finish was truly climatic.  We grabbed our treats and ran to the van.  The dreaded van that we would have to sit in for another 3 hours in order to get home.

Best. Experience. Ever.  Yes, I will probably do it again.

Dark Roads, Creepy Sounds & More Porta Potties

The Exchange: The runner coming in is super excited, while the runner heading out is dreading what lies ahead...

The Exchange: The runner coming in is super excited, while the runner heading out is dreading what lies ahead…

By the time we headed out on our second set of legs, I was tired of porta potties.   It seemed like I always had to wait in line and for what?  To pee in a nasty, smelly hole.  Then I had to run out and slather myself in hand sanitizer.  I try to avoid porta potties at races at all costs.  Not only can I run 26.2 miles without stopping at a porta potty, but it also appears that I can make it through 70.3 miles without using one.  However, I was unable to hold my pee for 30 hours.  The worst is when I am at the park with my girls and my middle child has to go to the bathroom really bad.  I would rather have her pee her pants on the speedy drive or walk back home.

Enough about those dang porta potties!  We were off on our next mission.  To run as fast as we could before the darkness rolled in.  Well, I already knew I was screwed because I was sixth in line.  It was going to be pitch black before I ran my leg.  I was kind of jealous of the person who ran at dusk and then at dawn.  But then again, that is when the wild animals like to roam free (well, I know it is a bad time to go swimming because sharks love to hunt at dusk and dawn).

However, I was definitely NOT jealous of the hills that my teammates had to run.  Switchbacks and pure elevation gain were the theme of the runs leading up to my leg.  Even driving on the road was insane because the van was up and down and all over the road.  I almost thought that the runner would catch up to us before we made it to the exchange because we were driving so slow.  I kept expecting my back to give out while riding in the van… not during a run.

Sure, it was pitch black at 11:00 PM when it was my turn to get out of the van.  However, it appeared that the terrain was being kind to me because I only had one mile of steep climbing followed by some mellow inclines.  My teammates pushed me out the van and told me to get on my merry way.  They said something like “you are okay, right?” and then they took off into the darkness.  I was left with my headlamp and flashing red light with not a soul in front of me nor behind me.  Where did all of those runners go??

I trudged ahead moving quickly because the adrenaline (caused by fear) started to kick in.  I heard sounds coming from all directions, but I refused to shine my light into the surrounding hills for fear that some beady eyes might be glaring back.  Next thing I know I hear music.  It was getting closer coming up from behind.  I looked back and saw a white light bobbing up and down.  It got closer and the music got louder.  It was some dude wearing tye-dye pants and a long sleeve tye-dye shirt with his classic rock music blaring.  I said “nice outfit” as he quickly passed me.  As he took off out of sight I thought about how smart it would have been to bring along some blaring music.  Darn it.  I was alone in the dark once again.

As I came up the steep hill I saw flashing red lights in front of me.  They got closer as I huffed and puffed up the hill.  Yep, it was two runners.  I passed them, but then wondered if I should slow my pace to stay near them.  Nope, that wasn’t an option for me.  I kept going and once again I was alone.  There is only one mile marker during these legs.  It is the one that tells you that there is only one more mile left.  I fell in love with those signs.  When I saw that sign on this leg I wanted to hug it, but I figured that might be a bit awkward.  I kept going and finally saw a very large group of people next to a bar.  There were so many people (I didn’t quite understand why) that I had trouble finding my teammate.  Finally I was spotted and I was very relieved to offer a high-five.

Now it was time for our van to rest while the other van took over.  I wondered if I would even be able to snooze because of the adrenaline pumping through my system.  We drove over to the high school and parked the van.  A few of us slept in the van, while a couple of runners slept inside the high school.  Let’s just say I was thankful to have claimed the back seat of the van.   But hey, I was the oldest person in our van so I should have some special benefits, right? However, I was lucky if I even got 2 hours of sleep, but at least it was something!

Let’s just end this post with some things NOT to say to a runner as you drive past them in your van (because if you do, then the runner may find you later and punch your lights out!):

“You are almost there!” (especially when you tell them this at mile 2.5 of a 6-mile leg)

“It’s all downhill from here!”  (as you are going down a hill only to find 2 more miles of uphill)

Too be continued…

Porta Potties, Bumpy Roads & Lots O’ Hills

Image200 miles of uphill battles, dusty roads, oncoming traffic, nasty porta potties, roaming cows & horses, stinky teammates, greasy hair, peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, bumpy roads, honks & shouts, high fives, sleepless hours & baby wipes.  That’s pretty much what you get if you decide to do a relay.  Fun stuff.  Really.

It started like any other day.  Well, more like my Mondays when I have to get up at 4:30 AM except this time I had to get up at 4:00 AM.  I took a shower, but I wasn’t sure why I was even bothering.  I guess I just wanted to smell good for a few hours.  We packed ourselves into the van and headed north to Fort Collins.  I only knew one person on my team of 12, but that would soon change…

Our team was split into two groups.  Six of us in each van.  The six of us would be together for the next 30 hours… living in that van.  If you want to get to know someone, then spend 30 hours with them in a van.  The name of our awesome team: Kicking Assphalt!  Our van was soon decorated with stick figures of 6 people running through the mountains and a window dedicated to “road kill” (the # of people passed).  

 Our first runner was off!  The first few hours seemed like any other day of running a race.  You got out and did your best (which for most people means pushing yourself as hard as you can).  We each took our turn as the day started getting hotter and the elevation started getting higher.  My run was relatively uneventful with the exception of the dust in my mouth and the bull that gave me an evil eye as I ran past his calves (please note that there was NO fence separating me and this bull).  I looked ahead and I looked back, but there was no one around to save me from a charging bull.  I kept going and hoped for the best.  Then I met a cow down the road who also gave me the evil eye and started moo’ing at me.  It didn’t take long for all of the other cows in the field started moo’ing.  I was getting a tad nervous so I tried to run faster up the hill.  

Much to my relief I made it to the highway without getting charged.  I reached the crossing guard and had to stop.  I looked back and saw an old man runner (okay, maybe he wasn’t that old) running towards me.  The competitiveness in me suddenly surfaced and I jetted across the highway as soon as I was given the green light (by the crossing guard).  Of course I was faced with another freakin’ hill and my strength was weakening.  Then I heard his voice behind me: “Take me home” he said.  That made me visualize some scary movie, but I became more annoyed than scared.  I was so annoyed in fact that I started sprinting to the exchange (my finish point where I tag the next runner).  I crossed the road without waiting for the crossing guard to give me the okay (well, I had actually misinterpreted his waving flag as the okay… but I said “sorry” and he was cool with it).  I sprinted as fast as I could and high fived my teammate before that old man could even make it across the parking lot.  That’s what you get dude!  

Since I was runner #6, our van was inactive for the next few hours while the other half of our team was out on the course.  I was relieved to see that our exchange point had a church that was offering food and its bathrooms.  Real bathrooms!  I was able to wipe down with paper towels and baby wipes, change into clean clothes and sit inside an air conditioned building to eat my lunch.  We were living in luxury (for about an hour).  Then we decided that we should head to the next exchange point where we will meet the other van in a few hours.  It was a church, but we were not invited inside.  I grabbed my sleeping bag and tried to take a snooze on the grass, but that didn’t really work out.  

The next thing I knew it was time to head out onto the course again!  

To be continued…

The August Challenge!

The perfect fuel for my relay!  Vegan banana protein bars!

The perfect fuel for my relay! Vegan banana protein bars!

Where have I been?  Not on my blog obviously.  It has been a busy summer of travelling around and I enjoyed every minute of it.  However, I am very thankful to be home and hopefully I will be able to get back into my regular workout routine (and blogging of course!).

Yes, I am in training mode.  I can’t go too long without training for something.  Goals are important.  Without goals I would be lost.  Without goals I would get lazy and sit on the couch all day.  August is a busy month for accomplishing goals.  Tomorrow I set sail on the goal of completing my first relay… 200 miles through the mountains.  I think I will spend about 19 miles with my feet actually hitting the pavement (or dirt) while the rest of the 181 miles will be spent in a van.  The more I think about it, the less fun it sounds.  Oh well, at I will be able to check “relay” off my bucket list.

Since my friend talked me into spending 2 days living out of a van (sleeping bags, too many peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, porta potties, stinky socks, etc.), I decided to talk her into doing a triathlon.  She hesitated for a bit, but eventually agreed.  Not sure if she is happy with her decision, but she isn’t the type to give up.  So, that sprint triathlon is scheduled for this month.  Not only did I talk my friend into doing a triathlon, but I also managed to talk my 9-year old daughter into doing one.  Score!  I was elated, but then I was curious about her motive so I asked her if SHE really wanted to do it and wasn’t doing it because momma wanted her to do it.  When she said that SHE wanted to do it, then I was able to jump for joy and take her for a ride on her bike.

But that’s not all.  My biggest August challenge is focused on my diet.  I have decided to go dairy free for the whole month of August.  And no, I am not following a vegan diet.  I will call this Heidi’s feel good diet.  I just want to find out if I will feel better without dairy.  Dairy is known to cause inflammation so maybe I can hone my body down a bit and create more energy (since I am lacking in that department). I am not trying to lose weight.  I am not trying to follow a fad.  I am just trying to feel better.  My diet will still include seafood and eggs (I am only a tad crazy… not that crazy).

Going dairy free is much harder than it appears.  I already have some tools of the trade because my husband is lactose intolerant.  However, after reading a few labels at the grocery store last night I realized that some kind of dairy (milk, whey, casein, etc.) is in almost everything!  Even in most bread!  I won’t go overboard, but there are a few vegan options I am willing to try.  However, if someone cooks the potatoes in butter I won’t have a fit.  We shall see how I feel at the end of August.  I will probably be craving a pizza with extra cheese.

Good luck to me (and to my family who has to put up with me)!