Going Vegan While Pumping Iron

I’m not sure I really want to get into why I’m doing this – let’s just say that after 25+ years of varying levels of vegetarianism, I am going vegan in large part due to an increasing awareness of the weirdness of the dairy industry.

The other part of the truth is that I have a problem with cheese. I could write odes to that fattiest and yummiest of foods that can find its way into my every meal and snack. Give me the choice between cheese and chocolate, there’s no question which one I choose. (Although, if I’m honest, I rarely force myself to choose. I mean, why not just have both, right?)

So cutting out dairy (and fish and eggs – but those are way easier for me to deny myself) makes sense on a couple of levels. At the same time, though, I’ve got to watch what I eat so I don’t just replace the (oh so many!) missing cheese-based calories with that other crutch of mine – the CARB. Oh, chips, crackers, bread, and pasta, how I love ya! In other words, after 25+ years of winging it as an ovo-lacto-sometimes-pescatarian, I am finally admitting that I need to plan what I eat. I also have to keep in mind that I’m now up to 4 days of CrossFit every week, which requires a large amount of protein in order to help build and maintain muscle. (My trainer (and various other sources) have recommended a 50/30/20 carb/protein/fat ratio to help me burn fat while keeping my energy high.)

Vegan Nori Salad

Vegan nori salad from the Goods on Dundas St W

I’m on day six now, and it turns out it’s not much harder to become vegan in Toronto in 2016 than it was to be vegetarian in Germany in 1995. But if you’re trying to keep a high-protein, low-fat vegan diet, food prep and protein tracking will take over your every waking thought. I’m using MyFitnessPal to track my nutrition intake and what I’ve really learned is that I haven’t been getting even close to enough protein over the last 7+ months of CrossFit.

I thought I’d be able to find some online vegan diet plans for athletes that I could follow on a day-by-day basis as I got started, but so far I haven’t had any luck. (If you know of something, please point me in the right direction.) I’ve found some that speak generally to what you might eat, but no day-by-day plans yet. For instance, I found this: http://www.onegreenplanet.org/natural-health/sample-meal-plans-for-the-female-vegan-athlete/

Since there doesn’t seem to be much out there yet, I thought I might as well document what I’m doing – to keep me honest, and maybe to help someone else down the road. If you’re not into the nitty-gritty of the all the blah-blah-blah macronutrient obsession I am living with, don’t bother with the rest of this.

The Baseline

As mentioned, I am trying to eat a diet based on 50% carbs, 30% protein and 20% fat. This translates to:

  • Carbs: 200g, 800 calories
  • Protein: 140 g, 560 calories
  • Fat: 40 g, 360 calories
  • Total calories: 1720

Based on my current body weight (around 157 pounds? – I don’t have a scale anymore!), height (5’9″) and my exercise level (four times per week at CrossFit and otherwise essentially a couch potato), this should translate into weight loss of about half a pound a week.

Day One: Too much fat, way too little protein. And not enough carbs.

I made a concerted effort to eat lots of protein at each meal and still fell short by more than 50 g. I also tried to avoid fat and was still 26 g over. I was most surprised to see that I was on the low end for carbs – could have had another 43 g. I guess that explained why I was nearly comatose in the gym the next day…

Day Two: Too much fat again. Not quite enough protein. And way under on carbs.

After my breakfast protein smoothie, and lunch of a large bowl, full to the brim of tofu, broccoli, and black beans, I felt full to bursting. Thinking I was doing pretty well, I plugged my meals into MyFitnessPal, and was still 80 g shy of my protein target! So for dinner I made palak paneer and baked two full packages of tofu – and ate an entire package by myself. Have you ever tried to eat 350 g of tofu at one sitting? I felt like I was in the least fun eating contest ever invented. I was stuffed until the next morning. And I still hadn’t hit my protein target. I was 10 g shy, but 28 g of fat over my target and 95 g under on carbs.

Day Three: Almost enough protein! Way over on fat and carbs – thanks to booze and dessert.

Having learned my lesson on the previous two days, and not wanting to leave more than 50% of my protein consumption until dinner, I made two key changes: I put two scoops of protein powder into my morning smoothie; and I ate an afternoon snack of two Yves veggie dogs. I had nearly hit my protein target by dinner time – which was good, because we had friends over for dinner and I ate (cheese-free) pizza and drank beer. I also cheated and ate a piece of cake that my friend had brought for dessert. It was like manna from heaven…

First Learnings:

  • It’s way harder to cut down on fat than to cut down on carbs.
  • Eating 130 g of protein as a vegan requires a very concerted effort.
  • I’ve probably been eating about a third of the protein I need.
  • This meal planning thing is going to take a lot of time.


I’m going to post the meal plans I’ve been using – I know I need to remind myself what’s worked for me, and maybe others will find it interesting and/or helpful too.



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An Ode to Halloween Pre- and Peri-Kids

OK, before I get started, let’s just establish that I *love* Halloween. When I was a kid, the reason for this love was clear – what kid doesn’t love dressing up in costume and getting gobs of candy? It’s been the persistence of that love that may be a little boggling for other adults.

As an adult, my love of Halloween shifted temporarily to the house party – which I probably liked even more than trick or treating as a kid. Luckily, Keith is also totally on board for awesome Halloween fun. The first Halloween Keith and I dated, we went to a Halloween party dressed as Bonnie and Clyde – after they’d been shot:


The following year, we hosted a Halloween party for my MBA class and other friends in the city. I made coffin sandwiches, a puking pumpkin, dressed up as one of the Charlie’s Angels with two other friends, and had literally one of the best nights of my life.


So now that I have kids, I get to channel all that love into making Halloween magical for them. And me. And Keith. But honestly, it’s all about me. Me me me. My favourite is when we pull of a family costume, as we did four years ago for the first time. Look at the grin on my face – I’m so elated!


Two years ago, we all went as Despicable Me 2 characters, with the kids as Minions, and Keith and me as Gru and Lucy. It wasn’t quite as easy to identify me, especially if I got separated from the rest of the family, but again: So. Much. Joy.


Last year I tried to convince the kids we should all go as characters from the Lego Movie, but only Lachlan was game. Like every other Grade 3 that year, Kieran wanted to zombie-fy his previous year’s costume, so Keith and I worked hard on the kids’ costumes, but we didn’t dress up ourselves. Keith’s work on Kieran’s costume was awesome – first, he created a brain from a cheap baseball cap and some caulking:


(Finger weg, ladies – he’s all mine!!)

Then he ripped up and blood splattered the rest of the costume – and Kieran added the finishing touches with his zombie actions. For Lachlan’s Lego Bad Cop costume, I took an old costume police helmet we had around, used duct tape as glasses on the visor, painted a mouth on yellow bristol board, and decorated duct tape on black clothing to make it look like he was wearing a uniform. Simple but effective – and the kids loved it.


So this year, with all this extra time on my hands, I had to go over the top. It was only right.

Kieran wanted to be a skeleton and Lachlan wanted to be a zombie this year. But I was gunning for another family costume again, and both boys had received Mexican wrestling masks as presents from my aunt and uncle. I figured the kids could use the masks for their costumes, and Keith and I could dress up in the sugar skull makeup typical of Day of the Dead celebrations. Kieran liked the idea of being a Mexican skeleton wrestler, but Lachlan wasn’t into being Mexican zombie wrestler. Still, I wanted to dress up, so Keith and I planned on doing the Day of the Dead theme – and Lachlan decided to be a Conehead Zombie from Plants vs Zombies.


I got the costume idea here – it was surprisingly easy! http://www.twindragonflydesigns.com/plants-vs-zombies-costume/

Kieran’s costume was another story. I decided that it was easier to paint the skeleton onto black clothing than to buy a skeleton costume. Learn from my mistake: DO. NOT. DO. THIS! It took me two days to figure out how to do this and another day to finish up once I’d figured out what to do. And there was some darkness (and possibly an F-bomb or two) at the end of day two, after my homemade freezer paper had failed (don’t ask…), the spraypainting experiment had resulted in grey shading where only black should have been, and I had had to apply four layers of paint in one small section to make the white stay…. Luckily, I listened to Keith at that point and stopped trying to make it outrageously complicated – and then it all came together. If you decide to do this (and in case this isn’t clear yet – you are a sadist if you do) create stencils, place cardboard or something inside the clothes so the paint doesn’t soak through, and hold the stencils in place with your hand while you paint carefully inside them.

The good news is, I think he’s anatomically correct… 🙂


The boots were another mission, but this was a labour of love. They are made from old ballet flats, long socks pulled over top, duct tape wrapped all around, and then cut off very carefully. I even added eyelets to prevent the laces from ripping them. I got the idea for these from here: http://sugarnspicecreations.blogspot.ca/2010/10/costume-party-musketeers-part-6.html


I also added my own twist on them by cutting up a pair of cheap flip flops and gluing on a sole using a glue gun. This was definitely worth it, as I’m not sure how they would have lasted with just duct tape after a day of wearing them at school. If I were to make these again, I would put something down the length of the sock that could be pulled out before cutting them off, because it was hard to get the scissors down. And I would figure out a way to add a tongue.

And this is what he looked like all pulled together:


I did end up doing the Day of the Dead makeup – but Keith didn’t have it in him in the end.

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On top of everything else, we also held Lachlan’s birthday party yesterday – we had almost a dozen 6- to 9-year-old boys in our house for 3 hours, dressed in costume. But those photos will have to find their way into another post, on another day…

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Top 5 Reasons I’m Glad I Got Fired

I really don’t want to be dramatic about this, but I got laid off three weeks ago (restructuring – my whole department was wiped out). The way it happened was definitely a shock and I miss the people I worked with, but it is impossible for me not to see the bright side of this.

First of all, I am excited to be able to take some time to really figure out what I want to be when I grow up. When I finished my MBA I really thought I was going to end up working in the cultural sector or in fundraising. Instead, I job hunted in those areas for 9 months and then fell into a job in Pharma. It was a great fit on a lot of levels: it’s challenging and slightly cerebral; it requires a high level of communication abilities and involves a fair amount of presenting to groups; it’s based in science and medicine and allows me to geek out with other geeks. And the salary. Well, there’s that.

But it doesn’t help me actively change the world, or give me warm fuzzies. So now I can take some time to take stock of my existing skill set and see how I could use it to make the world a better place.

Secondly, I have definitely been ignoring the kids’ schooling. Keith has been doing a great job of picking up the slack and paying attention to what they need to succeed. Kieran is getting to a point now that he really needs us to advocate for him – I’m embarrassed that it’s taken me this long to admit that to myself. I’m telling myself that it’s hard to do when both parents are working, so I’m going to take some time to sort this out and get him set back on track.

Third: muscles. I want some. The first thing I did after getting laid off was join the CrossFit gym (ahem, box) near my house. I am going three times per week – and to all you CrossFit haters out there: Pfffzzzttt!!! I love it. I don’t care that there was Kool-Aid and I had to drink it. It is mega endorphin awesome and the other people who do it are friendly and amazing. Last weekend we went to Nuit Blanche for the very first time, because one of the people I met was an artist who was showing at Spadina House.

My fourth reason is also related to the first reason – i.e. the feeling that it isn’t enough to live in this world, that I need to leave it a little better than I found it. Back in the summer I told Keith I wanted to sponsor a family from Syria – but we couldn’t do it on our own. Then the images of the 5-year-old boy on the Turkish beach flooded our social media feeds and suddenly it was easy to mobilize my network. Before I got laid off, a friend and I hosted a meeting with more than 30 people who wanted to help – it was honestly inspirational. There are now 80 or so people who are now committed and we have enough money committed to sponsor several families of four. As you can imagine, this kind of initiative will need some leadership to get it going and make sure the many people stay interested over the next 6 months to 2 years (or more!) until the family actually arrives. Now I can do that!

Five: these words. I have spent so many years wanting to write anything for myself. But I can never find the time. I know that we only find time for things that we make time for. That’s why I want to make writing a habit now while I have a little extra time (but not like how I tell myself I’m going to make flossing a habit after every visit to the dentist…). To help that along, I want to join a writing group so I have a reason to put my thoughts down regularly.

Those are the top five reasons why being laid off is actually great. There are others, but these are the ones that will most change the way I feel about how I interact with this short life we’re given. I look forward to using this blog to hold myself accountable to these changes.

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A Case of Mistaken Identity

Two summers ago, I had a very unpleasant experience that made me realize, in a small way, how people who are wrongly accused of a serious crime must feel. Mine was a very minor incident to be fair, but it still haunts me every time I drive a car.

It all started late one summer morning – later than I wanted it to be, on a day when we were driving up to the cottage, 450+ km away. I was driving up without Keith, but with Kieran and Lachlan in the car with me. After not one but two pit stops within an hour of leaving Toronto (“But mommy, now I have to poo!”) and a 20-km detour due to an accident, we were way behind schedule. But we were finally back on the main highway, so to make up time I set the cruise control for 17 km over the speed limit – 2 km faster than my usual 15 km over. I was passing the odd car, but mostly people were passing me. Including, at one point, another blue Mazda 6 station wagon that was exactly the same make, model and year as ours – but unfortunately the kids were both asleep, so I couldn’t point it out to them.

I was slowly passing a pokey driver somewhere south of Parry Sound when suddenly a big, black SUV sped up behind me so it was right on top of my bumper. My heart went into my throat, and I sped up to 120 km/h to get out of its way – and as I did that, its lights went on. I found a spot on the shoulder and pulled over, shocked. I have never, ever, ever been pulled over for speeding before. But I felt guilty. After all, I had been driving that extra bit faster than usual. So when the officer came around to my window and asked me if I knew how fast I’d been driving, I kind of panicked and muttered something about not being sure and “driving the speed of traffic.”

He laughed. The laugh of someone who knows someone is trying to pull the wool over his eyes. “There’s no way you were driving with traffic,” he said, or something to that effect. And then he revealed he had clocked me at 151 km/h.


Some context: I am the woman who, the one time I drove a car on the Autobahn in Germany, so annoyed my friend who I was following by driving too slowly, that he made me park at a car pool lot and drove me the rest of the way. I am the woman who panics if the needle starts to drift past 120 km/h as I’m passing someone. I may not drive the speed limit, but who does? And I really don’t enjoy driving fast.

Also, 50 km/h over the speed limit is the threshold where the police are allowed to give you a $10,000 fine and impound your car on the spot. And that is what the officer informed me at the time. I was so shocked, I couldn’t respond. I knew he couldn’t be right, but what could I say? I know that the radar evidence is always seen as inviolate and I wouldn’t convince him otherwise. I stammered out something about there being no way I was driving that fast and used the kids as evidence of my not doing something that stupid. I’m not sure if that hurt or helped my cause, but in any case he knocked the ticket down to 149 km/h and allowed me continue on my journey.

I got back on the highway, slowly, and called Keith in a total panic. I didn’t know what to think – was it possible I’d driven that quickly without noticing? If so, could I be sure I wouldn’t do something that dumb again? But Keith was definitive: there was no way I had driven that fast and we would fight it. It made me feel so relieved to know that he believed me, even if he wasn’t in the car with me when it had happened.

It wasn’t until later that night that I figured out what had happened. After the kids were in bed, I was trying to make sense of it all as I relayed the events to my sister and her partner, who once upon a time wanted to be an RCMP officer. Suddenly, that blue Mazda 6 appeared in my mind – the one that passed us like we were standing still about 10 minutes before I was pulled over. Obviously this was a case of mistaken identity! Knowing how the mix-up happened at least made me feel a little better about the incident and it gave me hope that I would be able to clear things up.

Over the next several months, I hired a paralegal to handle things – one of those EXCOPPER-like places. I told him the story, and he explained that I could never win by pleading not guilty because speeding is considered to be an absolute liability offence. That means that if I was driving over the speed limit at all that it didn’t matter how much over I was, I was guilty – and then they would base the conviction on the best evidence they had, which was their radar. So my best bet was to plead guilty and hope they dropped the speeding ticket down further from 149 km/h. The paralegal filed on my behalf and attended court on the day of my hearing and I ended up with a fine for 29 km/h over the limit. In his eyes, this was a win: the infraction went from a major one to a minor one, and the demerit points went from 4 to 3. And I’m sure it helped on my insurance too.

But here’s the thing, and the thing that haunts me every single day that I drive my car: I was only driving 17 km/h over the speed limit. What’s more, somewhere out there is a police officer who believes he caught a reckless mother who was driving at breakneck speed with her two young children in the car. Every day I wish I could relive that moment when he asked me how fast I was driving so I could look him in the eye and tell him that I was on cruise control and was driving exactly 117 km/h – and that I wasn’t terribly proud of it. Then, when he told me that his radar showed that I had been driving 151 km/h I would remember the identical car that had passed me earlier – and I would ask him if he was sure he had pulled over the right person. And for one moment I might see that flicker of doubt in his eyes as he questioned his sureness, his cockiness.

I know it’s not exactly the same as being falsely accused of murder or robbery or something truly heinous, but it is unsettling nevertheless to have pled guilty to something that you know was a case of mistaken identity. And it makes me wonder – if it can happen to me for something small, who’s to say it won’t happen for something big?

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Do Toilets Toil?

On the heels of my more serious post about parenting, I wanted to share a family story that was on my old blog, before Blogware ate it. Almost anyone who knows us knows this one already, but I really want to put it back in writing.

When Kieran was just over 3 years old, Lachlan was 9 months old and had just figured out how to move and get into Kieran’s stuff. Until that point Kieran had been remarkably good with his little brother, but this new mobility was straining the relationship and Kieran could go off on him at times.

One evening, as I was preparing dinner in the kitchen, I had my back to Kieran and Lachlan, who were playing together quite happily. Kieran had several trucks out and was making construction noises and driving around as Lachlan mostly watched, in awe. Then suddenly, Kieran starts saying, very loudly to Lachlan:

“I’m going to f&%k you up! I’m going to f&%k you up!”

OK, some context: This was long before the story of Lachlan calling me out on my potty mouth, and Kieran had not so much as said the word “stupid” yet. To have him suddenly ramp up to not only using the ‘f’ word, but using it idiomatically and in context was extremely shocking.

Appalled, I whipped around from chopping vegetables, ready to read Kieran the riot act and nip this language in the bud. But when I turned around, I saw Kieran with the forks of his toy forklift under one of Lachlan’s legs, trying to “fork him up.” And why not? In his world, sailboats sailed, dumptrucks dumped, so why wouldn’t forklifts fork?

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On Directing Happiness

Keith and I have recently finished attending parenting discussions at the kids’ school. They were a series of 2-hour lectures about childhood development focused mainly on infancy to age 12 or so. The woman teaching them was this amazing social worker who works with troubled kids and their families. Although she had miles of professional credentials that easily established her bona fides, she said her true measure of success was that all three of her grown children are still speaking to her. A goal I’m sure we can all relate to.

She had some amazing insights into childhood development and excellent, practical advice that I hope I will be able to apply. But one of the things that really stood out and has really made me think hard related to how we raise our kids in North America. In order to highlight this, the speaker went around the group, asking each of us what we wanted for our children. All of our answers were variations on a theme of wanting our kids to be happy. That has always seemed like a great goal from my point of view – I want our kids to grow up feeling loved and happy, with a strong sense of belonging. Sound familiar? I’m sure most of us feel this is a no-brainer.

The speaker, on the other hand, was very skeptical of this. She explained that a global survey of parents in several countries revealed very telling regional differences. In North America, most parents had similar answers to ours. But as soon as you left Canada and the U.S., the answers were very different. Some of the responses that resonated most strongly with me came from parents who said they wanted their children to be good and productive. It wasn’t that those parents  begrudge their children happiness – they are just prioritizing an ethical contribution to society. These parents have a strong recognition that being productive within the social group you belong to and contributing to its improvement (i.e., being good), will provide you with a sense of belonging and well-being that couldn’t help but result in a lasting kind of happiness.

So if those parents, like us, ultimately just want their kids to be happy too, what’s the big deal? Well, the big deal is that they are not afraid to be clear about what they think is the best path to achieving happiness. They also recognize that the path they dictate requires hard work and perseverance. They aren’t interested in giving kids everything they want in the belief that this will make their children happy. They want their kids to work hard, be good, and build their own sense of happiness and belonging so that it is always available to them, even if they don’t get that Xbox they wanted for their birthday. In other words, they know that happiness is the outcome, not the process.

Now, I’m not saying that every person who says “I just want my kid(s) to be happy” believes that indulging their child’s every whim is the road to happiness. I know that because I’m one of those people who has said that, and my kids will be the first to tell you that I [insert whiny 6-yr-old voice here] never let them get anything they want.  [OK, whiny voice over now.] What I am saying is that we all have a responsibility to help our kids define how to achieve happiness. It doesn’t have to be “being good and productive.” But it does need to flow out of your own set of values. The difficulty, of course, as my mother-in-law very astutely pointed out, is determining what it is that makes you happy. So if you haven’t done that work yet, and you don’t know what the answer to your own happiness is, then it’s time to do that – for your own kids’ sake.

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Why does mommy have a potty mouth?

When Lachlan was just over 3 years old, Keith took him to a public bathroom at the zoo to have a poo. He’s a chatty guy, and you can gain some interesting insights while waiting for his bowels to empty. On this day he loudly asked Keith: “Daddy, why does mommy say f*%@?” Keith could hear the other men in the bathroom laughing at this outburst but he didn’t have an answer to our little potty mouth.

Let me just say here that until Lachlan did this, I would have *sworn* that I do not swear around my kids. This was one of those “little pitchers have big ears” episodes that made me realize again how much kids hear when you think they can’t.

So when Keith came out and asked me about what to do, I was pretty sheepish. But I am a post-modern mommy and I do not parent in a vacuum, so I had read much advice about this eventuality and recalled that the best thing to do was to ignore it. After all, the calm, rational advice tells you, if you freak out, your child will know exactly how to push your buttons the next time they’re looking for a way to act out.

Keith agreed that this made the most sense, and we continued our zoo visit thinking that was the end of it. Until we got into the car and Lachlan started saying f*%@ like it was a mantra to get him closer to his god. Over and over. Louder and louder. Before Keith and I could even regroup, 5-year-old Kieran was joining in – and it became clear that our enlightened approach was f*%@-ed. I don’t remember exactly what I did to get them to stop, but it was not rational and it was loud.

Posted in Lachlan, Parenting is hard | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments