Sunday, April 12, 2015

Processed Almonds - Not for me!

I'm not here to say this product is bad, but to tell you about what I experienced when I recently ate these almonds. 

I bought these Blue Diamond almonds several months ago, back before I changed my diet but I put them in a cabinet and completely forgot about them until recently. I wouldn't buy these today for two reasons: they have added sugar and they are made using oils (and whatever Corn Maltodextrin is)... two things I've since cut from my diet. 

But I found them, and while I could have given them away, I thought that it'd be "okay" because it was just this one time and in the long run what's the big deal?!

I'm very curious what they put in these products, what the food industry puts into their "processed" foods because I had planned to only eat a small handful and ate at least two or three (or more). And I couldn't stop!  I haven't eaten compulsively since before my cleanse so this was scary. What if I started eating like this more than just this once?!

I don't know if I have an addiction to sugar so I physically couldnt stop or if the oil they use has some properties in it that make it addictive or if it was the corn maltodextrin, but I don't plan to try these almonds again! I have nothing against the Blue Diamind brand, I purchased a pag of their "Whole Natural" almonds which has ONE ingredient: almonds. 

Other than maybe two or three times, I haven't had anything with added sugar or any processed foods in months! I'm very proud of this accomplishment and I'm not mad at myself for eating these almonds!   I have said it before, it's all about forgiving yourself, it's about learning what works and what doesn't. I learned something about myself that day: I cannot eat those almonds because I will turn into a compulsive eater! 

With every journey we take, with every new thing undertake, we learn things about ourselves and that's awesome! I always tell my students that making mistakes is a good thing because that's how we learn, and I whole heartedly believe this. 

Have you learned something about yourself lately? What was it?! I'd love to hear your story!

Sunday, March 15, 2015


Years ago when I revamped my blog, it included a change in name: Honestly Ani.  I may not be the best at many things, but I am honest. Some people might tell me I'm sharing too much on the Internet, but honestly, who cares? I'm an open book and always have been. Why am I making this statement? Well, because I'm going to be very honest in todays' post. I'm going to share things I don't normally talk about, not because I'm ashamed or trying to keep secrets, but because I try to be positive and optimistic and I don't like to dwell in the negative. 

When I changed my diet so drastically, I didn't do it for no reason, I was unhappy with the way I was eating, what I was eating and I was unhappy with my body. I've been battling with depression since at least high school, but if I think back, I'd guess it was since before. Everyone experiences depression differently, for me two of my worst habits were not wanting to move or do anything and eating foods I normally stay away from, foods that are "bad" for me. Anyway, to keep this preamble short, I'd been battling deep depression from about September until I finally sought out help in December. During that time I stopped going to the gym and I ate poorly. Sometimes I'd even go out of my way to make poor food decisions. After months of this, I finally had enough. There were countless days in December where I'd research on the Internet for something, anything that sounded like a food plan I wanted to try. I knew I didn't feel right, I didn't know what I wanted but I knew I wanted something else. 

Cut to, as I said before, hanging out with my brother who put on a documentary I loved but was not yet ready to listen to previously. Now I was ready. As I've said before I did reaearch in the diet (noun, not adjective or verb) and called my doctor to tell her about it and request a prescription for a blood test. I had promised to post the results o this blog but I hadn't yet... Partially because I was embaressed, partially because I forgot. 

So my doctor tested for what looks like everything but I'll highlight a couple items below, things that are normally concerns, and things that are stereotypically concerns for vegans (when I have a fluke blood test we can really compare) - the numbers in parenthesis are the normal range as listed by CLP: 

January 26, 2015 - Fasting

Glucose (65-99)

Sodium (136-145)

Calcium (8.7-10.5) 

Protein, total (6.3-8.3

Cholesterol, total (<200)

Triglycerides (<150)

HDL (>39)

HDL ratio (0.0-5.0)

LDL (<130, <100 is Optimal)

B12 (243-894)

Vitamin D (30-100)

Originally I had planned to have a blood test in 4 months, but my job had free health screenings where they just did a couple tests: blood pressure, weight/BMI, cholesterol, glucose. Check out the results...

March 11, 2015 - Non-fasting

Glucose (fasting 70-99; non-fasting <140)

Cholesterol, total (<200)


HDL ratio

My non-fasting glucose is under where it should be if I were fasting! It wasn't high before, but still. But the really big news is that my total cholesterol fell 93 points!!! This felt unreal. I couldn't believe. I didn't trust it. But how can they test my blood and tell me a number that isn't actually true?? It had to be true. 

I went to the NY Veg Food Fest on Saturday (in my way there now!) and saw a lot of interesting people talk about plant-based nutrition. One person in particular caught my attention, Dr. Michelle McMacken. I spoke with her afterward because I had all these questions and no one to ask! I told her how I'd been plant-based for 7 weeks and about my blood test and the new one last week. I asked her if it was normal for the cholesterol to drop so quickly, and mentioned that my HDL also dropped. She told me yes, it's totally normal for it to drop so much and she told me not to worried about my HDL. She talked about how HDL is only a problem if you're a carnivore, people on plant-based diets don't need to worry about that. 

Que more dancing and singing and jumping over the moon! Who knew I'd be so healthy and loving every minute of it! 

She, and the other speakers, had so much great information which I will post I. A subsequent blog entry ... But alas, I must be on my way because it's about time to get off the train. 

Have you made some progress recently that's keeping you motivated or maybe you're struggling with something? Let me know! I'd love to eat and help if I can!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Struggles with Eating Enough

Who knew that eating enough calories would be something with which I would struggle?  I've been trying to track my calories for the last 3 weeks or so and while I can't always count the exact calories in my foods, I do guess a bit. I use the MyFitnessPal phone application to track my weight and calorie intake. I search for what I'm eating and sometimes there is something similar in the database that I log. Would I rather be exact? Yes, but I am fine with approximations since I'm not in fear of over eating in calories.

I started my journey on January 26th with a 10 day cleanse. During that time I lost 10.6 pounds, but I figured that I would gain most of that weight back once I started eating again, well I thought I would (again, let me state that I wasn't trying to lose weight with my cleanse!). My friend Michele pointed out I wouldn't gain much since I was going to be eating a whole food plant-based diet and she was right, I actually only gained a pound back.  It has been 6 weeks since I started this journey with the clanse and I've lost an amazing 22.2 pounds thus far. It's actually shocking. I didn't realize I was losing so much until I told a friend about a week ago how much I'd lost and she was so excited for me. It made me realize wow... okay, that's kinda big.

Losing so much weight so fast wasn't my goal, but its actually pretty heady. Especially if you have food issues.  I find myself in battle with myself at time, the restrictive part of my brain wants to see how long I can go without eating, how much weight can I lose? I have to constantly remind myself that I'm not eating in this manner to lose weight, I'm eating in this manner to be the healthiest version of myself! Weightloss just happens to be a sideffect!

Anyway, I've been trying to count my calories as best as I can to enure that I am eating enough calories and honestly, I am never eating enough calories!  I average 1,100 calories most days and on good days up to 1,300-1,400 calories. I really shouldn't be eating less than 1,600 calories (or so I thought) so I decided to talk to Kasia about this and possibly my doctor if I can get to her. I wish I could go to see Dr. Fuhrman, it would be awesome since he's a proponent of this way of eating. Kasia first said that yes, I am losing weight too fast, but upon some thinking, she didn't think 1,200 was dangerously low. She stated most doctors will okay 1,200 calorie diets for people trying to lose weight, and since I am not at my ideal weight, I was fine.

I will keep trying my best to keep eating! I haven't had anything processed or filled with unnatural [added] sugars since I started (other than the occational evoo - I can't control foods I don't cook!) and I feel great! I feel like I can do this forever... I've actually gotten to a point where the smell or sight of meats grosses me out (honestly, that happened quick for me, like I said previously, I flipped the switch in my brain when I made the desicion to do this).

Although I'm still not eating enough, I'm not beating myself up about it, I'm not eating crap to build the calories when I get to the end of the day, I just go on and tell myself hopefully I'll do better the next day. If you don't meet your goals after actually trying, you can't beat yourself up over it... just plan to try again the next day. If you're having the opposite problem as me, and you slip one day or one meal and eat too much or the 'wrong' foods, just vow to do better at the next meal and the next day. Don't just give up!

What have you been struggling with lately?

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Tofu Scramble Recipe

One of my favorite things to make for breakfast is a tofu scramble. It's a great meal because theres so many veggies and its delicious! The other reason why this is so good is that you can use any vegetables you want to make it.

I've made this a couple times since I've gone plant-based and I've made it with different veggies every time.

Think about what vegetables you want to add; I start with chopped onion, saute in water, then slowly add vegetables little by little starting with the ones that take longer to cook to showerer to cook. If you use mushrooms, add them in after the onion becuase mushrooms release water as you cook them.

If you're going whole food plant-based like me, or just watching your intake of oils nad fats, you just add a little water as it evaporates.

I normally add the chopped tofu last, unless I'm adding leafy greens like I did here with spinach and kale. I added the leafy greens last as they only need a minute to wilt just a little and turn a bright green!

Once I've added the tofu, I add my seasoning: salt, pepper, other spices...

Tell me this doesn't look delicious!

My mother thinks I'm crazy for cutting out even oils from my diet. "But oil is good for you!" If you're following the plan that the doctors all talk about in the documentary Forks over Knives, also known as a Whole Food Plabt-Based Diet, then that means no processed foods. Oils, all oils, are technically processed, whether you think they're 'healthy' or not.

If you try it, let me know what you think!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

What is a Plant-Based Diet Anyway?

I've had some questions lately about what it means to be on a plant-based diet. For ease, I just tell people I'm eating a Vegan diet, but that's not entirely true.

While it's true that I'm not eating any animal products, I'm also not eating processed foods. I really have made a huge change in my diet: absolutely no animal products, no refined sugar (really, no sugar... I've cut it all out), and no processed food.

What does that mean? It means that if I want pizza, I will be having cheeseless pizza. I know, I know, you're thinking, "But they make vegan cheese, you can eat that! It's vegan!" Yes, you're right, it is vegan... but how much processing did they have to go through to make that cheese?  Personally, even when I've given up meat for lent (its a religious thing...) in the passed, I never ate foods that tasted like meat products: No fakon, no tofurkey, no fake cold cuts... It's just not something I've ever been interested in because it might make me want the real thing, plus if I'm giving it up, why would I want to taste it.

In the past I've considered going Vegetarian and Vegan, but never thought I could or would. I've said that I've watched the movie Forks Over Knives before, but for whatever reason I wasn't ready... this time I was ready. I like what it says about the human diet; I like the results the couple of people on the documentary had; I like the studies they quoted; I liked the doctors they spoke with. It all made sense to me.

So, what else is different between being Vegan or being Plant-Based? Well, besides the food, vegans are vegans because of ethics and tend to be very passionate about animals and animal rights. They won't wear anything animal related or tested on animals: clothing or cosmetics. There's nothing wrong with that and, unless they're a crazy PETA advocate, I respect vegans for their decisions. While I've chosen to stop eating all animal products for purely health reason, I don't begrudge animal eaters.

A lot of people have told me, "I could never do that, I love chicken," "Life without cheese, I don't think so!" "Wait, you don't eat bacon anymore?" Will this be easy? No. My mother and I were invited to her neighbors for dinner last night and Mom was making a fruit plate, to which she added a stick of Cracker Barrel Extra Sharpe Cheese. I took it in my hands and looked at her, "This used to be my favorite brand and cheese!" to which she flatly responded, "Well, now you can't eat it." I know I can't eat it, but a SMALL part of me was jealous of them at dinner. Which, by the way was duck, the salad had cheese in it... but she made a side of beans and didn't put cream in the soup that was for me, and even her baked potatoes, she saved two halves with no butter for me. I had some beautiful fruit for dessert, and I was happy!

I didn't feel deprived. If you're going to do something like this, or really whatever you do that is new and different, you have to have your heart in it. It has to be a decision you make consciously and then you can do it. Kasia said to me last night, "Well you can have cheese once a week, there's nothing wrong with that." But I told her I don't feel deprived, I don't actually want it (She's so cute, she gave me a big hug and said she's so proud of me). I'm in this whole heartedly and I can't currently imagine going back to eating meat and dairy. That being said, its not even been a month just yet, so its still early, but I'm happy!  So if you're thinking This is too hard, maybe you're not ready! Or even better, Dr. Esselstyn said it best, "Some people thing the 'plant based whole foods diet' is extreme. Half a million a year will have their chests opened up and a vein taken from their leg and sewn into their coronary artery. Some people would call that extreme." 

Have you ever made a big change in your life where people have thought you're crazy or that you're being extreme? What was it?

Till next time!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Mexican Inspired Salad

I have a quick and easy dish I’ll likely be making on the regular for lunch and anytime I need a quick and easy meal.  It’s a Mexican inspired quinoa salad. I took two recipes and mashed them together to create my own, which means you can make changes to it as well, add what you like, and omit what you don’t!

I used a can of beans this time, but in the future I’d likely use dry beans, they’re fresher and have less “crap” in them! I also use frozen edamame and corn, you can use fresh. I don’t particularly like canned vegetables if I can help it.


Half a green bell pepper, chopped
Half a red bell pepper, chopped
Half a small onion, chopped
Can of beans, I used kidney
1 cup corn, I used frozen
1 cup edamame, frozen
About 1 ½ cups Quinoa or some other grain you’d rather use

Mix all the ingredients except the avocado, kale and salsa together. You can now put it in the fridge and it will last several days. When you’re going to serve, put a bed of kale in your dish, or in my case, container for work, put the salad over the kale, top with some avocado and a spoonful of salsa (I used whole foods brand bean and corn salsa. I don’t mix it together in case of anything getting soggy.

I love this dish! If you try it, let me know what you think!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail!

Drinking my favorite: Carrot, Apple, Ginger
I’m really enjoying this journey so far. I feel like I’m learning about myself besides learning about food.  This last week started off bumpily. I’ve mentioned before that we’ve had some snow days up here and being stuck home all day is really tough when you’re not able to eat food. 

I spoke with Kasia, my nutritionist, and she basically told me to stop being crazy: I didn’t have to completely abstain from solids to be detoxing. I knew this already, I just wanted to try, and I wanted to see if I could challenge myself in that way. I made it a week but on day 8, I had about a cup or two of watermelon with dinner.  Kasia informed me that watermelon is excellent for detoxing and I shouldn’t feel bad about it.

An important part of a new diet is planning. I spent sometime this last week planning my meals for the upcoming week. One of my favorite mantras is:

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail!

I say it to myself when I do fail to plan, or if I get lazy about it. It reminds me that if I want to eat well, I need to plan for it. Since I’m only just starting a plant-based diet for the first time, I really need to make sure I plan if I want to be successful and stay within my desired dietary restrictions.

I have a great planner I bought at the beginning of the school ear, but soon realized I don’t need to put any notes in the “daily” section so when I need I needed to plan meals out for the week… what better place!

I set aside some time and opened my laptop to find some recipes I want to create!  It is important to know your limitations, your likes and dislikes, your strengths and weaknesses and to know what you can handle before starting something new.  These are all things I’ve thought about before I started meal planning.

I’m Armenian and very proud and involved in my heritage and food and everything. Unfortunately for me, there are a lot of Armenian dairy foods that I love!  That being said, since Armenia was the first Christian nation, a lot of what we are about centers around our religion… Why am I telling you this? During Lent it is customary to “give up” something, but traditionally, Armenians gave up all animal products, essentially becoming vegans. There are so many Vegan friendly dishes that there’s actually a cookbook dedicated to it which we own, see where I’m going with this?

When you’re starting something new, make sure you incorporate things you know and things you will learn so you don’t get bored. I love all the vegan favorites so I know I can happily stay vegan and while I may miss cheese boreg, I can still eat vospov kuta!  I know that I will eventually get bored with just the Armenian recipes so I have researched and found (pinned!) a lot of recipes I would like to try.  I have planned a “salad” dish for my lunches and three to four dishes for dinners over the week depending on if we finish the leftovers sooner or later.

I’ve loved the way I feel drinking juice, so I’m planning on continuing with that, for breakfast, and maybe juices too.

Breakfast: Juice, piece of fruit

Lunch: Mexican themed Quinoa Salad (I’ll post my ‘recipe’ tomorrow)

Dinner: Mujadara, Leek stew, FOK Shepherds Pie, and maybe Cassoulet or Eetch

Snacks: Fruit, veggies, Juice, FOK Banana Blueberry Bars

The “FOK” recipes are recipes I found on the Forks Over Knives website or books.

I then went through to see what ingredients I needed for each recipe and made a shopping list.

From there I’ll be preparing some of the pieces to these meals tonight for the week. So far I feel great and I don’t feel deprived! I know why I’m doing this and I’m in it to win it!

Have you made any changes for your healthy recently? What are they?

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Day 7 - FAQ

It’s been a week of juicing. So, how is it going? Depends on the day!

The most common questions I get asked are:

Aren’t you hungry? I’d be hungry, I couldn’t do it! Well, duuuuh! I’m not eating… I’m only drinking. So yes, I am hungry! Well, sometimes more than others. I’ve gotten used to that hungry feeling. It’s opened my eyes a little bit: It’s okay to be hungry; I don’t have to eat every 5 minutes. It’s not easy to go from someone who feeds her feelings to someone who doesn’t eat. At. All.

Is it unbearable? No. It’s teaching me that I am stronger than I think I am. Being at home for long periods of time (snow days) is harder.

Why are you doing this? Are you losing a lot of weight? Well, I have a few reasons. I’m trying to reboot and cleanse my body of any toxins and crap I’ve been ingesting the last month or two. I also figured I can reboot my brain from what it thinks it wants and the foods I’m addicted to.  I thought this would be a nice transition to going fully plant-based. And no, I’m not doing this to lose weight, while people do use a reboot like this to jumpstart a weight loss it’s not my goal. If you do it for 30 days or more you will likely lose enough weight that it may not come back when you start eating normal again. I am, however, realistic. I know that there is a good chance I will gain everything I lose when I eat normal again. To date, I’ve lost about 10 pounds in the last 7 days.

I mentioned in previous posts about the documentary Fat, Sick, & Nearly Dead and I heard a lot in there that I liked. If you read the John Cross’ blog (the creator of the documentary) on why you should reboot, he says,

The goal is to help you break a cycle of an unhealthy lifestyle and simply enhance the quality of your diet by increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables.

He also says you’ll lose weight, flatten your belly, your skin glows, you think clearer, you start to naturally release disease, and you become all around happier. (check out this link for more bonuses with explainations from another source.)

My take on the above: Yes, I’ve lost quite a bit of weight, about a pound a day. Other than the occasional zit (at my age??) I have good skin. I have ADHD, so I can’t imagine ever thinking clearly. I have no diseases. I’m always happy… but I will say that every morning I go to work with a juice I am more chipper than usual. I’m bubbly, bouncy; I just want to bounce off the walls! It’s great. Unless you’re around me and not a morning person… then you just think I’m too much!

How long are you doing this for, you crazy person?! 10 Days! Before I started, I thought to myself I will do 10, but I’d like to do 21 days if I can, but I’ve decided 10 days is just fine. After 10 days (Wednesday) I will add some vegetables into my diet, possibly in the form of a salad, for two or three days at dinner time. My reasoning to this is two fold: 1) Whenever you do a cleanse, you have to slowly reintroduce food back into your diet in order to not get sick, 2) I won’t have time during the week to plan meals and I need to make sure I have time to plan in order to be successful.

If you’re planning a cleanse/detox/reboot, you have to make sure you do your research and think realistically about what you can and will do. You can do a reboot and still eat some fruits and vegetables. I know myself, I don’t like to do things half way and when I put something in my mind, I do it.  That being said, while making my juices last night I cut a small, nickel sized piece of cucumber and slowly savored it. I didn’t feel guilty about it either.

I don’t mind when people have questions, my juices have started a lot of conversations at work, which is fun. My students’ most common question: “Are you drinking peanut butter?” No guys… its just carrots! Orange and green makes peanut buttery colors!

I had some obstacles this week. I went to a girls night at my friend Lisas’ and there was a great spread of food including dips, cheese, man n cheese, cheese, cannoli’s and cheese. Did I mention there was cheese? I brought with me my juice and seltzer so I wouldn’t go hungry! I smelled the foods, which does make me sort of want it but I love food, so smelling was enough - but I didn’t eat anything! It felt like a triumph!

I have one little trick that has helped me throughout this last week: drinking seltzer water. I’ve become obsessed with the Polar Ruby Red Grapefruit seltzer, it is so refreshing and delicious! I’m not sure if it’s all in my head or not, but I think the bubbles fill me in some way. I do drink a lot of tap water, but I supplement with seltzer when I’m feeling hungry sooner than I’m ready for a “meal.”

Are you considering juicing? Have you been a juicer for years? What advice do you have? Leave a comment below!