The hazards of loose definitions: the dirty truth about being a low-maintenance vegan

Posted on November 11, 2012

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I am about to embark on two journeys of health for my upcoming year, the year of Forty.  And I plan on blogging it to death; before-and-after lovers get ready. I have been looking forward to turning forty ever since Madonna and Oil of Olay made it look so amazing. I have to face the facts, however, that I can no longer get away with sloppy habits of my youth, thinking that I’ll tighten up some day before it starts to matter.  Earth to Brittany. It’s all adding up now.  So I have decided that in the year I am forty, I will run a full marathon, and I will eat a strict vegan diet.

Wait, I’m already vegan, and I just ran two half marathons this past year, doesn’t that add up to one full marathon?  Here is where I get into the dangers of loose definitions.  Let’s tackle this idea of “vegan” first.  I despise the word. VEGAN. Sounds pretty high maintenance. Does not sound like an enjoyable personality trait. The Birkenstocks do not fit. (Though, technically, they did fit pretty well my freshman year of college.)

So I have adopted some new terminology.  There is a term coined by my favorite nutrition superheros; T.Colin Campbell, PhD, Dr. Caldewell Essylstein Jr.,and his son, Rip Essylstein; the authors of the China Study, The Engine 2 Diet, and creators of Forks Over Knives. (Please look into these if you have any interest whatsoever in nutrition, one of them is a movie!) They use the word “plant-centric” to describe their diet. Nice!  Not exclusive, not offensive, not too scary. So now I am “plant-centric, plant-strong, eating a plant-based diet.” I can live with that.

I then took it a step further and began to call myself “low maintenance vegan.”  “What does that mean?” You might ask. I mean that I eat perfectly vegan at home where I can control my food, and rarely eat out.  But I have a “when in Rome” policy.  I won’t make any difficulty out and about. I’ll make the wisest choices I can, striving to never order off menu.  I’m flexible, I’m easy. If my husband smokes turkey legs for company on a special occasion, it’s okay if I try it.  I won’t turn down your great Aunt’s famous chicken salad at your wedding shower when she serves it to me. When we are moving and living in boxes, fine, I’ll eat pizza, I’m not going on a wild goose chase to eat perfectly twenty-four-seven.

How slippery the slope of loose definitions.  ‘When in Rome’ slid into ‘looking at some real estate,’ and from there it was just a hop skip and a jump to moving next to the Vatican. I still walk around telling people (myself) that I am ‘mostly vegan’, ‘pretty much vegan’, ‘this new plant-centric type of low-maintenance vegan.’ Guess what self? You’re not vegan at all anymore, and I’m pretty sure you have the ten pounds to prove it!

Now, for the “I am a runner” portion of this personal intervention.  Yes, I am actually a runner. I am capable of breaking into a run. I DID run two half marathons in the last twelve months.  Some of you runners may have experienced a lag between big races.  There is a sense of completion, and one may tend to get a little lazy post-race.  My last half marathon was in March.  So although I am technically running regularly, when analyzing my Runkeeper history, I was SHOCKED to find out that I was only averaging about one run a week.  This started slowly.  After my last half, I felt like with part-time school and full-time Mom duty, I was doing great to run less often, but with more mileage. The 10k was the new 5k, if I ran twice a week, it was a six miler and an eight or ten miler. Of course, those miles started to shrink.   Iwould tell myself I wasn’t even planning to run that day, so getting in a quick three was better than nothing, practically extra credit.  Fast forward to the beginning of November and I have been running around 4-6 miles a week.  On a good week.

And now I have added ten pounds to my frame, since I am such a hardcore vegan runner. (It’s not that big of a deal, I still look fine, but everyone has their personal standard.)  Not to worry. One of the reasons I let it get so loose is my all or nothing personality.  I knew I was about to start training for my marathon at the end of November, and I knew I was going to pull a high maintenance vegan turnaround at the new year on my birthday (January 3rd, I love getting to have a two day grace period every year to tackle my new year, new me challenges!) So I allowed myself to slide down that slippery slope of loose definitions with as much vigor as I hit that swirly waterslide at the pool all summer.

I did this same avoidance of careful diet and exercise with both of my pregnancies (over 200 lbs both times) and I fell back into step after the reckless fun was over.  I only have a few days left, as my training picks up on Nov 26th.  I am starting to get my feet wet, I ran a hilly four and a half today and had oatmeal for breakfast and made a carrot juice with greens for a snack. I might have something meaty and smoked for dinner, since we’ve been invited to a friend’s for dinner and it’s on the menu, but I might not eat a whole portion.  I do however want to eat lobster before the new year, and you better believe it will have butter. On the other hand, I am quite looking forward to never eating cheese again.

I will be blogging about this “year of forty” challenge and will be starting with some harsh reality photos and stats.  I hope you’ll join me, at least vicariously.  I love nothing in the world more than social experiments and experiments on myself. I could make a career out of it.

How many of you have this same all or nothing personality?  If not, what personality traits do you have that have impeded or added challenges to your fitness goals? Are any of you into New Year’s or birthday resolutions?  have you ‘reinvented’ any terminology to suit your needs (desires?)  What is it that gives you pause to reel it back in after a digression period?  I hope you ponder these and other questions while out there on the trail, getting that moment of peace with just your breath and the outdoors and the pounding of your feet.

Happy Running!

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