Monday, May 30, 2011

Do Vegans Need To Exercise?

Answer seems obvious: "yes!" But, since I am questioned about exercise often, I felt it was time to discuss.  The questions I get usually relate to being a woman and the fact that I am thin, yet a cook, making cookies and ice cream and what-not, and therefore hear something along the lines of: "how do you stay so thin... do you exercise?"

Yes, I do exercise.  Exercise is part of my life, but hasn't always been.  I wasn't involved in any particular sport as a child (apart from tennis in my teen years), so I had to find a fitness regimen that I could connect to as an adult.  Now, it's part of my regular routine.  It gives me a physical and mental boost, brings me calm later in the day, and is also a stress 'outlet' (I've been known to kick-box through a few people situations from time to time). ;)  So, most mornings (5-6 times a week) I'm doing some form of cardio, resistance training, or yoga.  It's not for a long period of time, usually 1/2 hour or so, but it works for me.  I've learned from my own personal experience that exercising much longer than that becomes enervating - for me.  That's probably because I do like to exercise most days.  So, having shorter spurts of more regular exercise suits me better than having extended periods of working out for just 2-3 days a week. Particularly at this time in my life when I'm also very active throughout the day, every day.

I think people assume that if you eat vegan, you will automatically become thin.  Not necessarily.  I do believe that if you eat a whole-foods plant-based diet, that losing excess pounds and maintaing a healthy weight is far easier than eating a standard diet.  But not a given.  You can eat vegan and not lose weight, or in fact you can gain weight.  If your diet is more about high-caloric and refined foods (and less about vegetables, beans, grains and other whole foods) the weight will hang on - particularly if you aren't very active.  Not all vegans are thin.  And, exercise cannot be overlooked.

I have been much heavier than I currently am, and also thinner.  It can be just as upsetting to have someone say you are 'too skinny', or question whether you are anorexic, as it is to be called 'fat' or 'chubby' (and I have been on the receiving end of all these descriptors).  As a child and teen, I was overweight and recall being on 'diets' as early as grade 4.  I have also been too thin.  After becoming a mom I went through a period when I had unreasonably high standards for my own achievements in work and exercise, lost more weight than I even realized at the time, and made a point to purposely regain weight to get back to my healthier self.  Right now, I am happy with my size or weight or whatever you call it.  I think I am slender, but not too thin or skinny.  I have a very small frame and am tall, so I have a lanky appearance even with some added poundage.  I exercise, feel strong, but no longer overdo the exercise as I am already very active daily with the girls and managing a household and cooking, errands, chores, etc.  That's where I lost the balance soon after having children.  I used to be far more sedentary before the kiddos, and needed more exercise to stay in shape.  Now, I'm moving far more in the day and my body simply does not need extended periods of working out at this stage in my life.  If I do too much, I'm drained.  If I do just enough, I'm energized and feel healthy.

So, what exactly do I do?  For those that want to know...  I exercise at home with some tools at my disposal.  I used to go to gyms years back, but with the three girls I find it far easier to hit "play park" these days.  (fyi, "play park" is our downstairs playroom which is also my 'gym', and as such my workouts usually begin by kicking stuffies and figurines out of the 'workout area'!)  I have dvds and recorded tv shows (over years) that give me a blend of weight-training, cardio, and also yoga and pilates workouts.  A few tools like a rebounder, step, fitness ballBOSU, light weights, weighted bar, and resistance band help out.  I had some of these pieces for years and years, though some of my workouts require no equipment at all (ex: using your body's weight for resistance and core training).  This is what I like to do.  I see people jogging in the rain and can't relate.  I admire their gusto, but I'd freeze my ass off, I tell you!  I love the combination of movement and music, and do not like a cold breeze or wind of any kind!  So, these kinds of workouts suit me, but aren't for everyone.

Do I have it all figured out now?  No.  I don't think so.  I read books like Brendan Brazier's "Thrive", and think I could probably do much more.  But then, I also come back to my reality of being a mom of three and writing cookbooks and know that I'm doing what works at this time in my life.  I also know my body would benefit from even more stretching and mind and spirit from more meditative practice.  I see updates on fb from Melissa West and sense I would benefit from more focused, guided yoga - and yes, definitely some Thai massage (hook me up, Melissa)!  Indeed, regular meditation and yoga might be the better stress release than kick-boxing the heck out of my "situations".  :)

For now, I'm enjoying my exercise and respecting my limits.  I think exercise will always be part of my life.  Just as how eating vegan is part of my life rather than a 'diet'.  I've exercised for as long as I can remember.  While it started out as a weight-loss measure in my teens, now it is part of lifestyle maintenance.  If that makes sense.  Exercise is part of healthy living, and vegans are no exception to this rule as most of us live more sedentary lives than our bodies would like.

I have no idea if this is at all interesting or useful to you as a reader out there.  I haven't shared this part of my life much, but have been asked the question enough times that I decided to talk about it.  Maybe you've also wanted to ask, or maybe it makes no difference to you.  Guess I'll soon find out!  And, I'll be back to talking food, recipes, and the new cookbook soon enough.  Go shake it already.

25 comments:

VegWhoHatesTofu said...

I really enjoyed reading this. I'm in a similar place right now being busy with two kids, running errands and housework. I often feel like I should be doing longer workouts, or training for a marathon like some of our neighbors seem to be doing, running for miles every morning! But doing about 30 minutes of yoga or aerobic exercise each day seems to suit me right now as well. And that's okay, I just need to be content with what works for my lifestyle right now. Thanks for posting this :)

Audrey said...

I enjoyed reading this, too! It sounds like you have a very balanced, healthy approach. It's always refreshing to hear how exercise can be so doable...even for those of us that don't live in ideal weather conditions.

Dreena said...

vegwhohatestofu, I think we have a lot of pressure to excel in so many areas as moms and women. It's a lot to take on sometimes, and easy to feel we aren't doing or accomplishing enough. Thank you for your comment, I think we all can use more 'just being content' and give ourselves credit for everything we *are* doing.

Thank you Audrey. Like most, balance seems elusive at times, and I have often been very out of balance. Trying to learn along the way and be more gentle when I need it. Thanks for your note.

Farrah said...

Thanks for this post. I too am taller with a small frame so look a bit lanky. I workout every other day and do thirty minutes of cardio, and 20 minutes of weight training. This is what feels balanced to me, and where my body feels best! Thanks for this post, because people have asked me if I work out, and since going vegan eight months ago people ask me if I am still ABLE to work out since I no longer eat meat... the funniest question.

Becky said...

Thank you for this post, Dreena! I admit I am one of those who silently wondered how it is possible that you are constantly creating these amazing desserts, yet you are so slim. My husband and I always laugh when people claim that when you go vegan, the weight "falls off," because that was not the case for either of us. Both of us are tall (I'm 5'10" and he's 6'4"), so we both look basically slim, even though we have a little extra padding.

I laughed when you wrote that you begin your workouts by pushing toys out of the way -- it is a challenge to exercise with kiddos underfoot! Many yoga poses have been compromised by the toddler climbing on top of me!

mel. said...

Thanks for sharing! I always love reading about people's daily lives and what they consist of, even though I'm somewhat reluctant to that on my own blog, so I know how you feel. I completely agree with everything you say. I have been vegan for just a few months now and I haven't lost any weight, which I'm okay with bc that wasn't my motivation for becoming vegan. That being said, I certainly wouldn't be opposed to dropping a few lbs! I like your 30 minute approach. I think Ill have to give that a try!

mel.
thefuelonline.blogspot.com

Jesse @ Happy Go Lucky Vegan said...

What a great reminder that healthy eating doesn't mean exercise is no longer necessary! Thanks for sharing your exercise routine (I so want to try that BOSU - it looks like it could be great core training!).

Rachel said...

I enjoyed reading this as well. I used to run until my bad knees got the better of me. I gave up running for rollerblading, which I enjoy much more than I ever did running. Still, sometimes I feel like I'm not doing enough when I see people out jogging or heading off to the gym.

Yet I walk to work, do yoga and lift weights at home and rollerblade frequently. Thanks for affirming the need to give yourself credit for doing what works best for you!

Quintessence Challis said...

I enjoyed this immensely - thanks so much for sharing with your honesty and warmth, Dreena!

Superfood Guy said...

I can understand being overwhelmed, sounds like you have a lot going on. I personally have made a similar choice of late shifting my hours in the day a few earlier rather than later and making that my exercise time. Morning exercise is amazing as it makes the rest of the day that much more productive.

rachel said...

I was just talking to my husband tonight about this very subject. I used to spend hours in the gym, but after having a baby there is just not enough time in the day. Sometimes I talk myself into believing that chasing a toddler around all day is exercise enough. But, I know I need to eventually find some time to consistently exercise. I miss it, but at the same time I'm too exhausted to get started again. I enjoyed reading your post. Thanks!

tweal said...

Great post Dreena! I'm always curious about other people's exercise regimens and finding out what works for them. I enjoy jogging but not in the rain or snow - I guess you could say I'm a fair-weather jogger. I tried going to the gym for a few years and it 'worked' but I never enjoyed it. So boring to be inside on a machine! Now I prefer to go outside for exercise; walks, hikes, bike rides, and now that it's summer, swimming! I do yoga from time to time but I can't seem to get into it - I keep trying though because I know it's good for me! I just wish I enjoyed it more.

Lindsay (Happy Herbivore) said...

I love this post--and I always recommend Thrive Fitness to people--but my favorite "workout" which can be done at home and without any special equipment or weights, is in the Engine2Diet book

Sara (The Veggie Eco-Life) said...

It was really intresting to read this :) I think one should exercise as long as it feels good. For some people that's a lot, for some it's no exercising at all...

LaShanna said...

Great post! You said a LOT of what I have been thinking and feeling. Thanks

Nourish said...

Great post! It's true that you can still be vegan and out of shape if you are eating the wrong, processed foods!

Nothing I like better than being vegan is being a vegan athelete training for a marathon and doing yoga!

3birdsmama said...

Thanks for this Dreena. I was going to send you a msg this week to mention / ask about this exact topic! I have been following a non-strict vegan diet for nearly four months and I actually seem to be gaining weight... I have considered that I stopped nursing my baby about 5 months ago and have noticed that our new way of eating has also translated in a "license to eat"! I have never been one to weigh myself or think much about my size or weight but I guess I thought that I would automatically become leaner as a result of cutting out meat and dairy. Not the case for me. I will need to become more mindful of my fibre and veggies and curb my appetite for your delicious baked goods I think! I appreciate knowing the details of your exercise, since eating well, getting exercise and finding peace in my mind are all part of my plan for personal well-being. Thanks you for making my food changes so easy - if it were only so simple for the exercise and peaceful mind! ha! Thanks for the encouragement / inspiration to kick aside the kids toys and put on the exercise ball video. :)

Abbie said...

Exercise is so delicious! It makes me feel invigorated! Isn't that one of the pros of being vegan? To feel alive and like your body is functioning well off the fuel we're giving it? I've found that being vegan has really allowed me to not only have the energy to complete a really tough workout, but has given me the motivation to work my body to its limits and feel charged!

Taylor said...

Great article. I agree that it is so important to find a fitness regimen that works for you as an individual and that can be maintained with your lifestyle. Not everyone can run 6 miles a day - but even 20 minutes of exercise a day is better than nothing!!

Tapioca said...

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Please visit www.tapiocasoul.com for more great vegan recipes!

Angela said...

Thank you for sharing this part of your life! It sounds like you have a healthy and balanced approach to exercise, just like your diet.
I tend to get in the same exercise routine and stick with it for a while, but lately I've been changing it up with hot yoga and strength and I'm loving the variety...it keeps things fun.
Can't wait for you cookbook!

Morgs said...

I am a new vegan and I have an easier time with eating healthy than I have with exercise. I have never liked exercising even though I know it's important. I definitely need to be able to do it at home (cost-wise) and hearing that you only do a half hour a day is so encouraging!

michele said...

Some people think being a vegetarian means you do not have to work out to stay thin. Not the case, of course!!

Anonymous said...

These posters are so great. Thanks for sharing the link.. I did not know what folks were talking about with "keep calm" - I am out of the loop.

sarah said...

When I was vegan, I added pounds like crazy. People have different bodies, and they will have different reactions to an extreme lifestyle change. Besides, it always irks me when people glom on to veganism as a "get thin quick" scheme, because if they are already having this kind of disordered thinking towards food, they are waaaay more likely to turn their veganism into an eating disorder instead of thoughtful, plant-based eating.