Nine miles through central London

Yesterday was my longest run in my month of marathon training.

I had to take a week off because I over did it last week, and I’ve never before moved my body nine miles in one direction without the aid of a vehicle, so I was nervous.

Luckily I had two people to run “with” yesterday. One actually with me, and one international running buddy. Jill, from The Cinquecento Project, is a fellow Mid-Westerner but lives in Italy, so she e-mailed me saying she’d coordinate to run nine miles at the same time. Really fun idea and I hope we can keep doing it! If anyone else wants to join in, let me know!

Although you’re not actually running together it’s cool to imagine you’re not alone and it also gives you more accountability because you know another person is going to be running.

My other running buddy was a friend from work. Normally I joke around and ask people if they want to run however many miles with me on the weekend and I usually get a head shake a laugh, but Hugh was crazy enough to agree to run with me. I didn’t believe it at first. I was like, “Ummm, what? Really?!?”

We met at Green Park, by Buckingham Palace, at 3 pm and did a giant loop around Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, St James’ Park, past Waterloo and back around to Embankment.
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Hello, Queen!

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I didn’t want to overdo it so we stopped after every mile and stretched and had water. And took pictures!

There was some kind of parade going on, and while we were taking pictures I stepped to the edge of the curb and noticed a bus pulling up.

Here’s the face of someone who thinks they’re going to get hit.

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We ran along the parade and into Kensington Gardens. I’d never been to this part before, but it was beautiful and full of dirt paths so we didn’t have to run on the hard pavement. I think this was a huge help for my shins as well.

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I’m such a tourist. With all the pictures we took you’d never guess we both live and work here.

All the sites we saw on this run made me think perhaps I should do a long run in every city I visit. See everything in a couple hours versus a couple days!

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We crossed the river at about mile seven, and had to walk most of the bridge because it was packed with actual tourists.

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We’d been in parks all day, but ended at Embankment so we had to stretch on a concrete slab.

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I went home, made a giant dinner that I ate as fast as I could and then iced my legs with broad beans (I’m a proud veggie lover, but broad beans = gross). I ain’t wastin’ no peas on shin icing. Peas are most definitely on my “get in muh belly” list.

Although I’m pretty sore today, I’m very happy to say I’m not having an ounce of shin pain! This makes me feel pretty confident and I’m already looking forward to next week’s 10 miles.

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A girly day out!

I feel like a real girl. I just had a leisurely breakfast with my mom at Carluccio’s in Wimbledon Village, followed by a manicure/pedicure. The morning couldn’t get any girlier.

We saw horse riders in the Village. I love it here. If I ever have enough money to be able to afford a house in London, I’d live in Wimbledon Village.

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They don’t have Main Street in England. They have High Streets!

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We had something called Bicerin. Espresso + chocolate + cream, and you mix it yourself. This is our second one in less than 24 hours. So good.

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Scrambled eggs + mushrooms on grilled bread.

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Then off for my first manicure!

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During the process the lady asked if I’d ever had one before, and I said no. So she asked what other things I do, and I didn’t know what she meant.

Her: “Oh, like facials, waxing, etc.”

Me: “Ummm …. nothing?”

Her: “Hmm. So you’re low maintenance.”

Me: “… I guess?”

I just don’t get waxing. I mean, I’d never want to have to say to someone, “Sorry! I’m between waxes.” No. How hard is it to just shave your legs and umm … other stuff, every day? Maybe it’s not quite as nice, but I’d rather be decently un-hairy every day than have half of my life spent growing out for a wax. Plus, have you ever had your bikini line waxed? That’s not something I ever wish to experience again.

Oh, and eyebrows – just pluck! Again, I see so many women walking around with wild eyebrows because they’re “growing out for a wax” and it looks so stupid! I don’t get it. If you don’t pluck or wax, that’s fine. It only becomes obvious when people have a perfectly groomed eyebrow surrounded by a few rogue hairs.

Anyway, mint nails! Does having a manicure make me a real girl now? I sound like Pinocchio.

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At this point a couple hours had passed so I had to top up with a salad from Paul. I definitely could have done without the goat’s cheese, but otherwise a great salad.

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I have a small confession to make. I’ve been craving … hot tea lately. Yesterday at Borough Market I had a chai, and today I chose a hot peppermint tea over a mocha. It’s really soothing on my sore throat (don’t know where it came from!) and it tastes so good.

Could I be a tea drinker now??

We’re off to see the last performance of the play, The King’s Speech, in Leicester Square. I hope it’s good!

Guilty pleasure foods.

My mom is flying from the Great State of Ohio to visit me here in London in two weeks!

I’m taking her to Rome for three days. Last year we spent three days in Venice and it was beautiful.

Food-wise, this got me thinking one thing:

My mom is going to bring me Cheetos!!!!

I know. This does not in any way go with my healthy eating/animal welfare views. But I can’t resist Cheetos. I love everything about the Cheeto eating experience, including how your fingers get an orange layer so thick you have to scrape it off with your tooth.

One time my Canadian friend brought a bag back from his trip home, and I ate more than half of it sitting at my desk. That, along with half a bag of Oh Henry! pieces, had me feeling so sick I almost had to leave work because I honestly didn’t think I could make the commute home without puking.

In my brain I know Cheetos are disgusting, and this got me thinking about what other non-whole foods I adore.

One of the worst things I’m scared to admit I love is from Burger King. I actually hate BK.

But a simple egg + cheese Croissan’Wich and those soggy little french toast sticks? Bring ’em on!

Delightfully dippable? It’s almost like the marketing people asked me for a description of these little heaven sticks!

McDonald’s fries. I have these probably once a week. I get them in Waterloo station and munch them on the train all the way home. I know the other commuters are jealous.

When I was searching for a picture of McDonald’s fries, I found this and it disturbed me:

Mexican pizzas from Taco Bell.  I love these so much I’ve been thinking about trying to create a “healthy” veggie version at home. Side note: I got really angry when they took away the green onions and never brought them back.

Of course I’m of the belief that eating these kinds of food in moderation is totally fine, and as I’ve said before I think the problem with our society is more with how much and how often people eat these types of foods. I call them guilty pleasures simply because if I eat these kinds of things more than on the rare occasion I definitely feel sick!

What are your guilty pleasure foods?

Sun in the City (and healthy broccoli cheese soup!)

Here’s how it goes. I work in the basement of a building (editors don’t need natural light to survive), so the first half of the day I’m fine. Then I go to lunch and realize it’s gorgeous outside. I come back to work and I sit there all afternoon knowing what I’m missing.

See, some people say working in a basement is crap. I like to think of it as half a blessing, because while all the sales people are sitting upstairs looking out the window all day and knowing they are trapped in a freezing office, I’m sitting downstairs in total ignorance so I have to endure the knowledge that I’m missing sunny weather for only half the day.

Ha! Take that, sales people, with your stupid floor-to-ceiling windows.

I took a walk on my lunch break around the South Bank yesterday since it was so nice. Well … it was sunny and fairly warm. Good enough for me!

Hello, city flowers.

OXO tower in the background.

I went back to the office and turned on my space heater. 😦

When I got home I made a chunky broccoli “cheese” soup.

Roughly, this is what I used:

1/2 bag frozen broccoli
Vegetable stock cube
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1/2 cup shredded vegan cheddar
1 chopped red onion
1 clove garlic
water
salt

I cooked the broccoli in a big pan with maybe half a cup of water. I added a bit more later, but not too much because I don’t like runny soup. I lightly sautéed the onion and garlic while this was cooking, then added everything to the pan to cook together a bit longer. Add it to the food processor and you’re done. It’s such a simple, quick recipe that packs a ton of flavor and is super healthy as it’s mostly broccoli.

As you know I’m not big on processed foods, however, last week I decided to try some dairy-free cheeses. I figured if they were decent I could use them occasionally. The cheese I used in my spinach dip didn’t make much of a difference and I won’t use it again. This brand, Sheese, was really great in this soup!

I’m sad to say that a small amount of this vegan cheddar made the soup taste very much like the broccoli cheese soup I am used to getting back in the US. The reason I’m sad to say this is because I used to use a small amount of REAL cheddar to make this soup, and while it was great, it didn’t taste like American broccoli cheese soup. This makes me wonder what kind of “cheese” they are using at all these chain restaurants!

You can tell this soup is mostly broccoli:

I love chunky soups, so I put it in the food processor just long enough to break up the chunks.

I adore this soup. Can you tell? It’s one of my favorite things to make, and it’s by far my favorite soup.

Mmmm …

The vegetarian question

This might be the most personal and serious post I’ll ever write, but it’s something that’s been on my mind for months. This is the story of how I went from eating cheap, factory farmed meat to having what I’d say is a 90% vegan, whole foods diet.

Yesterday in the kitchen at work I was reheating my coconut black bean orzo when a guy I don’t even know asked if I was a vegetarian.

As I’ve slowly cut out animal products from my cooking I’ve been getting more and more questions.

A question like this from someone I don’t know threw me back a bit because it made me realize that to most people it’s weird to see a meal with no meat, but to me it’s not weird anymore. It’s completely normal. Having meat in something I’ve cooked is not even a consideration anymore – it simply doesn’t enter my mind. A few months ago I’d have to think hard about what kinds of meatless meals were realistic options, and it was difficult.

Thanks in huge part to food blogs, I’ve started cooking with so many different types of food and I’ve learned enough to make endless amounts of meals for myself. Sure, I still use recipes every now and then, but I don’t need to.

Questioning where my food comes from is another thing that happened from reading food blogs. I was introduced to Michael Pollan‘s book, In Defense of Food, and it changed my life.

I couldn’t believe I’d never even thought about what happened to my food before it arrived at the grocery store. How had I never bothered to look at the disturbingly long list of unpronounceable ingredients and question if they were actually healthful?

I’ve always loved food, and so does my family. We’ll travel literally hours to eat at a restaurant we’ve heard about, and there’s always a food show playing on TV. It never occurred to me to question where that food came from either. All I knew was that it was good.

Although In Defense of Food isn’t about animal welfare, it got me interested in factory farming as well. I started reading a lot of articles online and other books relating to farming and animal welfare.

When you first start learning about the horrors of factory farming, it’s so terrible that you automatically assume it’s some made-up story by a hippie tree-hugging liberal. But once you keep researching it, and actually think about the logistics of producing meat for literally hundreds of millions of people’s multiple meals a day, you start to understand that it isn’t possible to provide these animals with the humane treatment no one would argue they deserve.

This is in addition to the quality and health of the meat. These animals are kept in such horrid conditions that they’re often routinely fed antibiotics to keep them from getting sick and dying. They are pumped full of growth hormones and who knows what else so that they will grow at a sickening and unnatural pace. What goes into these animals ultimately goes into you.

(photo by Karen)

After a while I just couldn’t justify eating meat. I stopped buying it completely, and started opting for vegetarian meals where possible when eating out. In the back of my mind I felt it was wrong to continue to eat dairy and eggs as well, but it was difficult to switch completely. Eventually I couldn’t escape the fact that as far as I can tell, animals raised for dairy production have deeply unhealthy, tortured lives as well, only they aren’t slaughtered to be eaten.

I know there’s the argument that animals are killed during the farming of vegetables, so what’s the point? My point is that I want to do as much as I can to reduce animal suffering. No one is perfect, but I think if more people made an effort to have a reduced meat or meatless lifestyle, things would be a whole lot better. I think we’d be a healthier, fitter nation, and I think it would go a long way in reducing needless animal suffering.

(photo by Karen)

A lot of people also have an odd obsession with protein. How will you get enough protein?? I eat  tons of beans, nuts and foods like quinoa, which is a complete protein.

I honestly have never felt better since I started eating this way. I used to have horrible stomach cramps every day, and I finally figured out it was because of all the processed, greasy foods and dairy I was eating. Once I switched to oat milk, stopped eating cheese and fried foods, I felt great.

I feel like I’m still not where I want to be in terms of diet, but I’m getting there and doing what I can for now. I’m not perfect, and I don’t expect anyone else to be either. This is why I don’t like labels and as of right now will not call myself anything. I don’t like telling people yes, I’m vegetarian. Or yes, I’m vegan. I have exceptions, and I have gray areas. Maybe in the future I won’t, but I do for now.

As of right now my diet stands at this:

– Vegan cooking at home with whole foods. I buy very few processed foods and I don’t eat things like white sugar (refined sugar is white because often animal bone char is used in its production). I make all my dinners, and almost always pack my breakfast and lunch for work the next day.

– While eating out, I take the vegan option first. If there isn’t one, the vegetarian option will do. If there’s no vegetarian option then I’ll make a decision about eating meat.

– If a friend or family is cooking a meal for me and there’s meat, I’ll eat it. This is the most difficult one for me because as strongly as I feel about health and welfare issues, I also think so highly about the importance of eating meals with people. All of our major holidays are based on coming together as a family or friends and eating together. If a friend goes out of her/his way to prepare a meal for me, I’m going to eat it. The following paragraph, taken from the food blog, Eat the Love, sums up this feeling:

A macrobiotic vegan friend of mine (the man doesn’t even drink tap water) once told me that despite the fact that he doesn’t eat meat, doesn’t eat processed wheat, doesn’t eat refined sugar, he would go home to his grandma’s home in Tennessee once a year for the holidays and she would make meatloaf and fried chicken and collard greens with bacon and buttermilk biscuits from lard and sweet potato pie and pecan pie and red velvet cake. And throughout the entire trip, he would eat everything placed in front of him. I asked him why he would do that, why he didn’t tell his grandma that he would prefer a tofu scramble over chicken and waffles. And he responded back to me “because when you eat the food that someone makes for you, you are eating their love. You are eating the love.” Not everyone has the luxury to eat whatever is placed in front of them (due to allergies, health reasons, religious or moral reason) but that doesn’t mean they should be left out of the love.

I don’t feel at all like my diet is restricted or that I won’t still be able to appreciate food as much as I did before. In fact, I think I appreciate it more than ever and I can’t wait to keep discovering new things to eat and new places to try.

Race Recap: Stroke Association (UK) Mother’s Day 5K

In April last year I knew I’d be back in the US in the fall visiting my parents so I signed up for the Air Force Marathon 10K and 5K. I’d never moved myself 6 miles at one time without the help of some sort of vehicle, so I figured it would be a good goal and motivator to get fit!

I completed the 10K, just barely (The 5K I ran with my mom so I didn’t count my time). It was difficult, and I still don’t know how I managed to run almost all of the 10K on what can be regarded only as a pathetic level of training (maaaybe two runs a week, jogging lightly around the neighborhood).

I was averaging 11-12 minute miles, and before my race I really thought it wasn’t possible for me to go any faster. I had so much fun running the 10K (despite the pain!)  that I knew I wanted to do it again at some point and really take it seriously.

Since December I’ve been running a whole lot more and focusing specifically on my speed. I’ve gone from not thinking under 11 minutes was possible to being able to run a mile in 8 and a half minutes.

I figured I was ready to try another 5K, so I signed up for the Stroke Association’s Resolution 5K race at Clapham Common (South West London).

I couldn’t take my camera, so you’ll have to rely on the beauty of my words to capture the spirit of the race, but for your benefit I’ve thrown in an awkward self-portrait of me at home, post-race.

By the way, I know there’s much controversy over wearing race shirts on race day, but they made us. Seriously. They sent several e-mails saying to show up in your race shirt, but if you were like me and didn’t receive the shirt, they gave it to you on the day and told you to wear it. Everyone was wearing this shirt.

The race was 15K, 10K and 5K, so I was all the way in the back. My guess is there were a couple hundred people in the race – good amount.

First let me say that my training has been almost exclusively on a treadmill since I’ve been working on my speed, so I wasn’t sure how fast it would seem to run outside.

As soon as I crossed the start line I could tell right away that my natural pace was MUCH faster than what I was used to running only a few months ago. I was passing so many people that I thought I was overdoing it, but it felt like a speed I could maintain so I kept going.

It was very odd to pass people because normally I’m the one jumping out of the way for the cool kids.

I was fine until around the 15 minute mark when I knew I had to take a short break. I walked for about 40 seconds, then picked back up at my same pace. It’s weird how walking for a minute helps so much!

After the 3K mark I got a lot more hopeful because I could tell if I kept my pace I was on track to make it under 30 minutes, which was my goal.

So I kept running. And running. It was getting a bit difficult to maintain my pace again, so I walked for 30 seconds. I started losing motivation because the 4K sign STILL hadn’t appeared. Eventually I realized I somehow missed it or they didn’t post it, and I was almost done with the race.

This upset me a bit, because I feel like I could have pushed it a lot harder for longer had I realized I was actually almost done rather than not even to the 4K mark.

In the end I pushed it and still managed to finish in 29:04, which was a full 7 minutes faster than my 5K in October (also at Clapham Common).

At the finish line we were given this little blue 5K medal, a snack bar and a bottle of water.

This is my third race, and the only one where I didn’t get a goody bag, but I was glad! I got a shirt, medal, snack and water for this race – and that’s all I ever wanted. I hate those big “goody” bags filled with crap and paper I don’t want.

Overall I really like this course because it’s nice and flat, but the only problem is that at times the running area is a bit narrow and you get slowed down by all the people. There were three or four times when I had to slow down a lot because there was no where for me to pass people.

Post-race I’m scarfing down a vegan spinach wrap that I got from Whole Foods in Clapham Junction (I’m definitely going to try to replicate this – yum!) and washing it down with some Vita Coco coconut water with pineapple. Healthy pina colada!

This might possibly be the worst, most unappetizing picture to ever appear on a food blog, but I assure you it was great!

I can’t wait for my next race. I’m going to keep training because cutting so much time in a few months has really motivated me to keep going!

Time for me to rest up and get started on the third book in The Hunger Games …

Get in my mailbox!

I said I was going to stop buying books since I’m living in England and will eventually have to get rid of them.

Then I ordered THREE this week. Two food/nutrition and one fun read.

1) Skinny Bitch Book of Vegan Swaps, which comes out tomorrow. I haven’t read the first Skinny Bitch book, but I’m going to swap books with Manuela since she owns the other. I’m not generally a reader of Healthy Tipping Point, but I loved reading Caitlin’s book reviews and her review on this book in particular inspired me to buy it immediately:

“It’s packed – and I do mean packed – with recommendations for every single type of food imaginable, which I think would be really helpful for a new vegan or just someone who was trying to make healthier choices at the grocery store.”

2) Book three in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay. Can’t wait to get my hands on this just in time for the movie’s release March 23.

3) The China Study. I feel like I keep hearing about this book, yet everyone I ask hasn’t heard about it. Has anyone read this or have an opinion about it? I did a bit of research and it seemed to be along the lines of my thinking, so I went ahead and ordered it.

If you have any other food/health book recommendations, let me know!

If you’re thirsty, it’s too late!

I read an article in The Atlantic today about a study that says even mild dehydration can affect your mood and ability to think.

This made me think of my teachers so long ago in elementary school who told us if we’re thirsty then it’s too late – we’re dehydrated! Something about the “too late!” always made me scared, like, “I better not let that happen!”

If you click on the article for no other reason, at least look at it for the creepiest picture ever taken of a woman staring at a glass of water.

Physical activity is for the gym.

I’ll run a couple miles, pride myself on being an active person, yet come home and still do this:

So funny because it’s so true. As I’m stretching across the room trying to reach something I always realize how ridiculous it is but always keep on trying. Somehow if you don’t leave the bed or chair it seems like less work.

Saw this on Pinterest, btw!