13

Twelve Days On A SOS Free Whole Foods Plant Based Diet

SOS free = salt/oil/sugar free

Today is the last day of the eating plan experiment where I cut out all oil, added sugar (not including fresh fruit), salt, and processed foods (well, highly processed I guess, I was eating canned beans and had some tofu). I did this for twelve days, though for two weeks before that I had already gone zero oil and avoiding sugar loosely. I don’t drink alcohol, so that wasn’t in there either. The single biggest change though was the no added salt. Of course, I eat a plant based/vegan diet but not solely whole foods so since roughly the start of the month, I’ve been close to 100% wholefoods.

My plan was based on Chef AJ’s program which involves eating starches to fill up, similar to The Starch Solution by John McDougall. As well as following a whole foods plant based diet free of processed foods, Chef AJ’s program also involves eating a big (and I mean big) serve of greens (cauliflower is also acceptable) before you tuck in to your meal. And your meal is a mix of veggies, legumes and starches. Yes this means POTATOES! Without salt, butter, sour cream and all those toppings of course. I wasn’t following a paid for program or anything like that, I just read a bunch of stuff and watched a heap of Chef AJ and other videos (like High Carb Hannah) to get the idea of what to do. I ended up going with it because it was pretty much what I’d been thinking about, with going totally zero oil and eating way more whole foods. My friend is also doing the same thing and so I was inspired by her and what she was doing.

The reason I did this diet change was because I have been having tummy troubles for quite a long time (mostly full on massive bloating) and also to lose some extra weight to alleviate pressure on my feet injuries. I put on a lot of weight in five months which I couldn’t explain (more info further down). Also, I have always had high cholesterol and since dropping my oil consumption for the past nearly-two years, my cholesterol dropped significantly but was still high. Yes, vegans can still have high cholesterol! In my case, it was cutting waaaay down on oils (and omitting wherever possible) that, I believe (as does science) saw the decrease in my cholesterol. The main oils I had been consuming were olive oil (I’m Greek!) and to a lesser extent coconut oil.

The day before I started this plan, I had various blood and stool tests done to check stuff that could be related to what has been going on. Results were all good. So it was really was all about my health first and foremost, not a “I just want to lose weight” thing. I will continue to monitor my health with more blood tests in the future. Coeliac Disease was ruled out as I tested negative for the genes.

The plan was to do this for almost-two weeks before I saw a plant based dietitian. It wasn’t a prerequisite or anything for the dietitian, it was more just me trying to kickstart a diet richer in wholefoods, getting in more veg, and just getting in to the mindset of being able to deal with the restrictive six week low FODMAP supervised diet.

That plan changed however after seeing the dietitian today. We agreed that a low FODMAP diet wasn’t necessary and discussed changing my diet a little to make sure I was really covering my RDIs of things like calcium, iodine and such. I’m very happy with this plan and will implement the changes on Monday, because tomorrow is World Vegan Day 😉

Why was the low FODMAP diet considered unnecessary when I’ve been having huge bloating issues? Read on!

The Challenges

No oil was easy, no wheat was easy, no sugar (like coconut sugar or maple syrup) was easy. But you guys, the no salt was tough! Especially the first few days. The meals I made had to be salt free and despite all the flavours and seasonings, like the Mexican style red lentil chili, oh mannn was it blergh without the salt. To have these beautiful dishes full of lovely ingredients like smoked paprika and garlic. Aaaaand no salt. Urgh! But it got easier each day. Maybe because I only ate when I was hungry and not by the clock!

Another big challenge was eating the non-starchy veggies before my meals. I stopped it halfway through, though I had some veg before meals here and there. The idea here is that you start filling up on those greens (or cauliflower) then your main meal has the starchy stuff that leaves you feeling fully satiated. I quite literally had to force down bowls of veg this way and even with a little balsamic vinegar or herbs, it was still a trial. Honestly I felt like I would rather give up and just go hungry. Because I usually struggle to sit there eating plain steamed veg like that I tend to throw it in to my smoothies at breakfast so I end up with an extra two servings of veg in liquid form because I feel blergh eating them whole. But Chef AJ advises you eat your wholefoods instead of drinking them because you feel more satiated eating them whole and that if you blend, you end up eating more to feel satiated. I tried, but because I was taking so long to eat the veg, I ended up blending it with the smoothie or just having a smoothie and keeping the veg for a snack.

Another huge challenge was social media. I love food, I love going out to eat, I love the tastes and textures and details in food photography, especially of places I’ve been wanting to try. So looking at photos on social media of food and such was hard! And so many places do vegan degustations and special events this time of year and I will have to sit a lot of them out. Other places are switching over menus to spring/summer and I missed out on going out to eat a favourite from the autumn/winter menus. Oh the drama!

The blog has been another bummer. I feel that because a lot of what I blog about involves food or places to eat that I then share in the vegan community and elsewhere, that the blog may kinda go nowhere if I’m not including that content.

 

The Good Stuff

Serious bloating has long been a problem for me, more so this year. It was pretty common for my stomach to just blow up to the point where I couldn’t wear my jeans as they were just too painful. On this plan, I didn’t experience any bloating apart from eating a meal with salt (more info further down, leading to why the FODMAP diet wasn’t necessary after all… I’m getting to it, promise).

I LOVE meal prepping. This simply means preparing a meal that will last you days, so you don’t have to fuss around making something every day. I’ve been doing meal prepping now roughly for years but this time I was very disciplined about it so that I was never caught without a ready made meal. For me, this is a big component of eating healthier (as is meal planning beforehand). I have always found that I eat more wholefoods when I meal plan and prepare in advance. Meal prep is also fantastic when you are feeling totally crap and can’t be bothered, or a last minute or stressful situation comes up. You just go to the fridge or freezer and whammo your food is ready! The downside (if it bothers you) is eating the same thing for four or five days in a row.

 

Weight Loss

I don’t know if I’ve lost weight on the scales because I don’t own a set (horrid things), I was last weighed a month or so ago at my doctor’s clinic and I see her again in mid January. But I can say my new jeggings (which I’ve only just bought due to my long refusal to wear anything with such a cringey name and now I think jeggings RULE) had to keep being hoisted up when I was talking down the street.

 

The What-The-Hell-Has-Been-Going-On-With-My-Guts Part

Now, another big reason why I have switched my diet is because since April or May (until end of September), I put on 5kg (11lbs) and 4.5cm around the waist and about 4cm around the biggest part of my tummy pouch. This freaked me the hell out because I had stopped exercising in April because I had intense pain in both feet (injuries made worse by doing daily HIIT/impact work). Because I wasn’t exercising I was extra mindful of my meals and where I did have a meal out or something considered a ‘cheat’ meal, I was careful with my other meals in the week. So when I weighed in five kilograms heavier at my doctor’s clinic and no longer able to wear my comfiest jeans, I spoke to her about getting tests for this and that because there’s no way in hell I ate to the tune of 4.5cm fat gain and 5kg weight gain in five or so months! Fortunately all the tests we could do came back with mostly good results.

So in my first week of the SOS free eating, I watched this High Carb Hannah video where she was SOS free for thirty days. Like me, she was already a high carb low fat vegan with no oil (I was low to no oil) and no added sugar. After thirty days of no salt, which was the only thing she really changed in her diet, she lost 8lbs (3.6kg), four inches off her waist, an inch off her arms and inches off her tummy. She was already quite lean to begin with. So that got me thinking, could my rapid weight gain somehow be salt related?

Another interesting video (in a series of videos on the subject) was The Salt Experiment by Cayley. Cayley, I believe, eats (or ate) a similar diet to me with lots of whole foods, plant based, no oil and so on though she was also salt free. She conducted an experiment where for seven days she consumed the US daily average of sodium. Her results were stunning, in that she completely blew up, felt awful and sluggish with exercise as well as gaining 11lbs (about 5kg) in that week, plus recording larger tape measurements.

Well, on the morning of the eighth day of my SOS free (remember, the single most biggest change I made was no salt) I measured myself and my waist and thickest part of my tummy are down 2cm each, with a little bit off the hips as well. I was stunned. Weight loss for me has always been painfully slow even after many weeks of good eating and exercise and then poooffff it goes nowhere despite having lots of body fat left to lose.

I couldn’t help but wonder, as Carrie Bradshaw would say, if I was seeing this salt-bloat relationship in myself. I’ve never, ever lost 2cm in a week and during my salt free week, I had zero bloating. It was very, very odd.

 

So What Happened When I Ate Salt On Day 6 Of SOS Free?

On Day 6, I was clearing out the freezer because I needed to make space. I found a meal I’d made before I started SOS free, which I knew was no oil. I figured that will be fine to eat. While it was heating I was all oh crap, I forgot about the salt. I decided to eat it anyway and instantly it tasted so salty, even though I don’t salt my food much anyway. My mindset went a bit strange too, even though I was all wowww this tastes salty, I began to want more salty food by the end of it.

By the time I had finished dinner, my stomach was blown up so much it went rock hard. I hadn’t had any bloating for six days. The difference was startling and I also felt slightly queasy. The ingredients in my dinner were things I’d been eating that week anyway, without the added salt.

Because of this seemingly salt-related bloating thing plus my own short elimination diet experiments during the year, where I cut out soy, mushrooms and wheat for quite a while then reintroduced them without any bloating or noticeable change, the dietitian and I agreed that it would be okay for me to continue on being SOS free at home, though having a meal out now and then isn’t a big deal because we have to enjoy life’s pleasures! Fine with me! So the low FODMAP diet wasn’t considered necessary, because when I had initially arranged my appointment I firmly believed I had a food or some foods which were causing me to blow up (and I blow up by the end of the meal or when I’ve finished, not hours later). So overall it appeared that we didn’t need to go the low FODMAP route, but I am hoping to do a thirty day experiment in the future, or at least 14 days salt free, then see what happens. Pictures and measurements will be taken!

 

Will I Stay SOS Free?

For when I cook for myself, yes most likely. I’ll do some research in to vegetable sources of sodium but when I say salt free I mean the stuff you add to your food. Sure, I’m still getting used to the bland taste of food when there’s no salt, but given how badly I bloated with just one salted meal and how I dropped about 4.5cm in a week on my waist and stomach areas, I want to continue to see what happens next. I feel fine, don’t feel crappy and I’m happy to use myself as an experiment to see if my rapid weight gain can be reversed.

But I’ll still go out to eat now and then. Being vegan in Melbourne is just too damn exciting to miss out on the pleasures of new dishes or menus or all-vegan places opening up! I love the experience of going out to eat and trying new things and can’t imagine cutting that out of my life.

I’ll also continue to get regular blood tests and monitoring with my doctor, to make sure all is well. I don’t want to say my problems are all because of salt, just because I bloated and because some YouTubers had the same thing happen. It’s something I’m going to look in to as I have some other concerns as well like low/dropping iron (which was present long before I went vegan) despite supplements, ditto for Vitamin D. All other results are fine. But I think it’s interesting enough for me, especially dropping 2cm off my tummy and waist in a week (which I know isn’t fat so I’m not suggesting this as weight loss tips or anything!), that I will conduct a future experiment. Because I’m also a huge geek and a sucker for before-after photos.

 

What I Ate (all salt free/oil free/added sugar free)

Chef AJ’s Red Lentil Chilli:red lentil chili Chef AJ

A kale veg salad made with a brown rice-lentil blend and Chef AJ’s Yummy Sauce for a dressing:kale rice salad

Breakfasts were either smoothies or porridge like this. I usually use oat milk in a carton for my porridge but they contain oil and salt, so I just used water. I have always haaated the idea of porridge made with water, but I mooshed some banana and it was fine:fruit porridge

Salads of something green and non-starchy before the main meal component:bsprouts salad

A kidney bean and veg curry based on a recipe from the Vegan Richa cookbook (I added all the veg and of course omitted the salt and oil):

kidney bean curry

Chef AJ’s split pea soup. This had smoked tofu which was another unintentional salty misstep. I didn’t realise the smoked tofu had salt but it really didn’t change the dish much at all. It’s two small serves (for me!) of smoked tofu spread over six large serves of soup:

split pea soup

So that’s my little SOS free experiment! I had assumed that the beans would make me blow up, but there was nothing.

I’m certainly not diagnosing myself with anything or claiming that going SOS free (or salt free) will be the magical weight loss miracle or anything rubbishy like that. All I’m putting out here is my own short experience, though you must understand that for me to be bloat free is really quite a wonder, given my very frequent mega bloats. I’m talking so bloated after a restaurant meal (before I’ve even paid the bill) that I could barely get in the car. And to then have salt in one meal without having meant to, and massively blow up and now discovering similar stories… well it’s something I really want to explore further and I have the go ahead from my doctor and dietitian. I’ll be sure to update in the future though I need to work up the guts (bwahaha) to stick some photos online!

 

Has anything like this ever happened to you, or someone you know, where it really seemed to boil down to added salt in foods? Or was it some other Weird Thing nobody would have thought of?

 

16

Evolved Generation and Supercharger Menu Launch

Supercharger Endurance Meal

Tonight I attended the partnership launch of Supercharger and Evolved Generation’s new menu specials. This is great stuff for Melbourne, not just for vegans of course but for everyone!

The four new meals have been specially formulated by a dietitian and let me tell you folks, they all look fabulous. For those of you familiar with Supercharger’s ordering system, the new meals are on a separate menu page titled ‘Complete Meals Ready 2 Go’. So instead of the regular menu where you tick boxes for your order, you just ask for the complete meal you’re after, by name. Take your pic from the following four meals: Lightness, Immunity, Endurance or Strength. Each menu is broken down in to Super Base, Super Smash, Super Raw, Super Ferment, Super Protein, Super Simmer, Super Sauce– so your meal will include something that falls in to each of those Super categories. Trust me, it’s awesome.

** Update October 1st 2015: the prices listed below have increased slightly from what is written below **

Here’s what you get!

Lightness ($12.80)

Base of mashed butternut pumpkin with black sesame seeds and fresh spinach; green peas with avocado, lime, coconut oil and mint; shredded beetroot, carrot, radish, ginger and apple cider vinegar; red cabbage and caraway kraut; braised assorted mushrooms in ginger broth; chickpea chole in cinnamon curry; tahini sauce made with coconut water.

Immunity ($12.80)

Base of mashed butternut pumpkin and quinoa; French lentil salad, red peppers, red onion and celery; kale, red cabbage, shredded green apple with tahini sauce; daikon garlic; tempeh lightly caramelised in tamari broth; mild eggplant, tomato, ginger and lime leaf; fresh tomato and chilli salsa with red onion and coriander.

Endurance ($12.80)

Base of steamed white basmati rice and mashed potato with mustard seeds; sweet potato with tamari, roasted pepitas and parsley; 10 Sec broccoli with sweet tamari and ginger dressing; cauliflower and black sesame; fresh tofu simmered in tom yum broth; carrot and green bean khadi with coconut, turmeric and lentils; tahini sauce made with coconut water.

Strength ($12.80)

Base of steamed brown rice and quinoa; cauliflower, black turtle beans, turmeric and curry leaves; 10 sec broccoli with sweet tamari and ginger dressing; carrot and cumin seeds; tempeh lightly caramelised in tamari broth; dahl ka deewana; coconut yoghurt raita with cucumber.

 

Another thing I like about the new menu is that the pages are printed with nutrition facts, based on the ingredients in each meal. For instance, under the Endurance meal, one nutrition fact reads “packed with carbs to replace glycogen stores and fuel your day”.

I really love it when restaurants put a lot of thought in to their menu and this is why Supercharger gets my vote– not only are both the regular and new meals very well thought out, there’s also the added consideration of giving you both an incredibly nutritious and tasty meal. This is food designed with your health and well being in mind and a lot of thinking has been done for you. This is evident when you look at the menu both on the page, and in your bowls!

I couldn’t wait to get my hands on one of the new partnership meals and I went for the Endurance, pictured above. Everything was full of flavour, the cauliflower and broccoli were just right and all I can say is that I’m already planning on going back to get it again. I ate it about four hours ago and I’m still full.

Paul from Supercharger told us a little of the history with getting Supercharger up and running. He mentioned being a little hesitant and questioning whether it would work. I think it has worked fantastically, whenever I’ve visited I’ve been queuing up with quite a few other people and I see people sitting down with their Supercharger meals. I know non-vegans who go there, or people who want a break from their usual lunch time fare (burgers and so on) and opt for Supercharger because they want a nutritious meal. And they tell me they keep returning!

The team members from Evolved Generation also got up to chat a little about their experience with plant based/vegan living. I always enjoy hearing stories like these, especially where plant based fitness is concerned because we have vegans breaking records and busting silly myths about athletic performance on plant based diets. So these stories and personal accounts need to be out there! There were also giveaways (unfortunately my winning streak with raffles appears to have come to an end!) and the opportunity to chat with everyone from Evolved Generation.

Congratulations to both Supercharger and Evolved Generation!

Supercharger

Supercharger: https://www.facebook.com/SuperchargerWholefood

Evolved Generation: http://www.evolvedgeneration.com/  (I previously chatted with Luke Tan here)

Lucy Taylor – Bloom Nutritionist and Dietitian: http://www.bloomnutritionist.com/

 

8

Evolved Generation: Chatting With Luke Tan

Evolved Generation

[Image above from http://www.evolvedgeneration.com/about/]

When you’re vegan, you will get the “where do you get your protein” question at least once. You may also have to deal with comments along the lines of “vegans are all weaklings who can’t gain muscle mass”. Unfortunately the latter (and untrue!) statement is quite common in fitness circles and I have certainly been exposed to it myself. You can imagine how frustrating this can be, seeing as the statement is completely false!

Since becoming vegan around April 2012, I have been very interested in vegan body building and vegan athletes in general. These individuals are proving again and again that vegans are indeed a force to be reckoned with. They certainly have no problem packing on muscle and performing incredibly well and taking home numerous trophies!

When I attended World Vegan Day earlier this month, I was very much looking forward to seeing Evolved Generation’s presentation. Founded by Luke Tan, Evolved Generation is “a brand that aims to inspire a culture of fit, driven and conscious individuals”. The Evolved Generation team members presented their top three tips for health, wellness and fitness.

Luke Tan Evolved Generation

[Image above from http://www.evolvedgeneration.com/trainers/luke-tan/]

It is clear when talking to the Evolved Generation team members that they are indeed driven and conscious individuals (and fit of course!). I have been following some of them on social media, keeping up with their achievements and through those achievements I was inspired to get back in to training and make some manageable changes to my life.

Luke Tan is an internationally certified plant-based nutrition and strength coach. He has competed and placed in state body building tournaments and he also coaches plant-based athletes and fitness models for competition.I contacted Luke to chat to him for my blog, but also to discuss my own situation with him. I needed advice on getting back in to training (encompassing the actual training but nutrition as well). Over the years (since about 2001 when I first began weight training) I’ve read so many conflicting articles and pieces of advice that I felt overwhelmed and just blergh! I had knowledge but wasn’t really doing anything about it, or I’d end up confused when trying to map out a program for myself.

One thing that struck me instantly about Luke is his passion for helping people, more specifically, to help people be the very best version of themselves. A person’s emotional wellbeing is a big part of Luke’s approach. There’s none of this “here do these one-size-fits-all exercises three times a week and get back to me in a week NEXT PLEASE”, which is what I’ve dealt with in the past in various trainers here and overseas. When I look for someone for my own medical or non-medical purposes, or some kind of therapist for my children, I will go with those who I feel have personal, firsthand experience with the issues their clients need help with. Someone who has basically experienced a situation and therefore brings empathy and compassion in to their dealings with other people.

Through the A.W.A.K.E. method (please click on the link to read more about it) Luke helps clients with making healthier changes to their lifestyle, all the while making mental health a priority. Luke spoke to me about training and retraining ourselves and undoing a lot of prior learning, especially where negativity about ourselves is concerned. This rang true for me, both with personal life stuff and training!

Luke and I chatted about training and I asked his advice on what I should do with my own goals. He gave me some great training and nutrition tips but most of all, Luke gave me some valuable tips on beginning on the path of being the best version of yourself. I’ve taken his advice and have started on a health and fitness journey that’s leading me towards the goals I have set for myself. I’m pumped, feeling good and loving that I am doing this as a vegan.

Luke Tan Evolved Generation

[Image above from http://www.evolvedgeneration.com/trainers/luke-tan/]

I would very happily work with Luke in the future for my own health and fitness goals and as such I have no hesitation in recommending you contact him for your own training needs!

I was very happy to learn that Luke is releasing a book in 2015. As well as writing about his background, Luke also educates and empowers people, particularly against the misinformation that is out there about plant based fitness and lifestyles, and he encourages people to begin making global positive change by rethinking what is on their plate.

Please check out Evolved Generation’s website at
http://www.evolvedgeneration.com/

In more exciting news (and more of “Melbourne is awesome for vegans!”) Evolved Generation have just announced a partnership with Supercharger Wholefood! I know I have quite a few readers who are fans of Supercharger! Luke gave me some details and I think it’s fantastic and nothing I’ve seen before– this merging of plant-based nutrition and menu offerings for your fitness needs.

Evolved Generation and Supercharger are holding an event on January 29th, 2015 at Supercharger (third floor Myer Emporium building in the city). There will be presentations by the Evolved Generation team, drink demo and tastings, details of the menu specials and more. Hope to see you there! Keep an eye on Evolved Generation’s Facebook page for more info: http://www.facebook.com/evolvedgeneration