Rox Does Yoga

Yoga, Wellness, and Life

Bacon Update March 5, 2014

Filed under: yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:26 pm

On Christmas day, I made an exception to my usual vegetarian practices and had some bacon. I did this last year, too, only last year I only let myself have one piece; this year I decided to have as much bacon as I wanted. Interestingly, this led to a much different bacon experience.

Last year, that one piece of bacon melted in my mouth. I remembered how much I had loved bacon before; confirmed that abstaining from bacon had not changed my perception of its flavor (yes, still delicious); and enjoyed the heck out of every last morsel. This year, without a one-piece restriction, I didn’t feel the same need to treasure every sensation. I still enjoyed the bacon, but I also had the freedom to notice the imperfections: this piece was too crispy, that piece, too fatty and chewy. I noticed how the bacon seemed greasy after it cooled. Don’t get me wrong, there were definitely a few perfect pieces that I gloried in, but overall the experience served less as a reminder of what I’m missing out on as a vegetarian and more as a confirmation that I’m on the right path.

This year I felt a little conflicted about my choice to eat bacon on Christmas. It occurred to me that, if my reason for practicing a vegetarian lifestyle is because I don’t want to participate in violence against other creatures or to fuel my body with that violence, then how could it make sense to break that practice on Christmas Day, a holiday I love, dedicated to peace and harmony and joy? My husband F told me I’m thinking too much, but even so, I feel that Christmas of all days is a day to stick by my principles. But Christmas is also a day for indulgences, and the holiday week is a good time for reflecting and renewing commitments, which certainly happened for me this year. I may or may not have bacon next Christmas, but I’m glad I did it this year.


Food Update: Life with a Garden August 1, 2013

Filed under: yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:09 pm

This summer, F and I have been enjoying, and being challenged by, the produce coming out of our garden. We have the same two raised beds we had last year, but F planted them with different things: this time around the raised beds have eggplant, mexi-bell pepper, arugula, basil, strawberries, and three kinds of tomatoes (heirloom, yellow grape, and red grape). We also have an herb bed on one side of the house and a few zucchini and corn plants scattered in the flowerbeds. This arrangement has been working out well for most of the plants. The zucchini has been gleefully happy, and the tomato plants are so huge that three cages can’t contain them. Things haven’t worked out for the arugula, and something keeps eating the strawberries before I get any (next year: fences!), but overall, the garden has done extremely well this year.

Which has brought its own challenge: what to do with all these veggies! We’ve had sauteed zucchini a few ways: mixed in with pasta, in a wrap with hummus and cheese and spinach, and as a side dish by itself. We’ve had zucchini and tomato frittata, zucchini black bean quesadillas (which were such a hit with everyone that we had it twice), zucchini bread, and zucchini muffins. Then we got creative. We had a friend over and made zucchini “crab” cakes (minus the crab) on a recommendation from one of my coworkers, and they were awesome – YB was so excited to eat hers that she burned her mouth. We had a zucchini tomato bake, and I made another loaf of bread. Twice we’ve had caprese salad, and – lest we forget the eggplant – we had an eggplant parmesan that was pretty tasty. My helpful coworker also sent me her caponata recipe, so that’s on the agenda for the next eggplant. And none of this includes all the raw veggies we’ve been munching while we cook or between meals, the leftover grated zucchini that didn’t get used in a recipe being incorporated into the rare non-garden-inspired meal, the fresh-off-the-plant tomatoes YB happily chomps when we’re outside harvesting. (She’s always trying to bite the whole zucchinis but we won’t let her; I’m pretty sure she couldn’t eat the whole thing.) F and I have each taken a load of tomatoes to our offices to share with our colleagues. And there’s still more growing.

I feel grateful for all of this wonderful bounty! It’s the perfect time of year to be a vegetarian. If you had my garden, what would you cook up?


Identity-Based Habits: The Picky Eater February 5, 2013

Filed under: reflections,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:48 pm
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I’ve been thinking a lot about that article on identity-based habits that I posted a few weeks ago. The concept just makes so much sense to me – that you’ll have trouble making significant changes in your life unless you change your self-concept and start thinking of yourself as the kind of person who can accomplish those changes. The more I think about it, the more examples I can find in my own life.

My parents tell me that as a baby, I loved to eat. I started on solids relatively early, and once I started, I’d eat anything. I sucked down baby foods that completely grossed out my parents and then opened my mouth for more. But somewhere along the way something changed. I started refusing foods and only accepting certain approved foods, like hot dogs, chicken, french fries, and mac and cheese. I became a “picky eater”. Dinnertime was often a battleground as I fussed and complained. Throughout my childhood I was notoriously picky about food, and looking back now, the pickier I was, the more I internalized that identity: no matter what my actual tastes might have been, I knew myself to be a picky eater, and I acted like one!

Eventually little things began to change my eating habits. At my part-time restaurant job in high school, I noticed that the Caesar salad and the zucchini marinara on the menu looked pretty good. I tried them, liked them, and began to eat them regularly. In college the limits of the cafeteria forced me to try new things so I wouldn’t have to subsist on a tasty but boring diet of froot loops and cheese sandwiches. During my senior year, the dining hall began a “pasta kitchen” line that offered two interesting dishes per meal and introduced me to the idea that pine nuts and spinach could go in my pasta, not just red sauce and meatballs, and the meals I tried that year were a major inspiration to my later cooking experiments.

Most importantly, I listened to my friends, people I liked and trusted who were surprised at the range of things I wouldn’t eat. Especially when I got to grad school and had to cook for myself, I knew I had a lot to learn. Christina taught me about garlic, chicken, and biscuits, among other things; Danielle and Sarah each taught me about guacamole; Dylan taught me about mushrooms, onions, and garlic, and how good they were all cooked together in olive oil; and much later, Fritz taught me the wide variety of things that can go in a burrito. By the time Fritz and I got engaged, I was ordering the octopus at fancy restaurants and sighing over my delicious Brussel sprouts.

As I tried and learned to cook new things, my concept of myself slowly changed. I was no longer a picky eater. Somehow I’d become a “foodie”: I’d grown to love cooking and trying new foods. And then I became a vegetarian, something a younger me (who refused anything green) could never have envisioned. When I think back to the 12-year-old me, or even the 18-year-old me, she would have been appalled. And that’s all rooted in self-concept: if I still identified myself as a picky eater, I would have missed out on so much deliciousness, so many enjoyable food experiences, and so many good times cooking and eating with friends. My self-identity only changed gradually over time based on what I learned and how that knowledge caused me to grow.

This is one reason why I think it’s so important to keep an open mind and never stop learning and growing. There’s so much in the world to experience that I don’t want to miss. And it’s why the idea of purposely, purposefully, changing one’s own self-identity is so compelling to me. If gradual, unintentional identity changes can have such effect, then what more can we do if we thoughtfully set out to change how we view ourselves? What new things will we be capable of? What distant dreams can we make into reality by becoming the person who can achieve them?


Another perspective on quinoa January 31, 2013

Filed under: yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 8:28 pm
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Last week I got all worked up about that quinoa article. It really upset me to think that my eating habits were in some small way causing problems for the farmers who grow my food. Now an article on tells me not to worry: It’s OK to Eat Quinoa. Writer Ari LeVaux describes why the problem isn’t as simple as the article in the Guardian made it out to be, and why higher prices are actually a good thing for most quinoa growers.

Being incredibly busy as I am, the temptation for me is to heave a sigh of relief and file this issue away under “resolved”. After all, there are plenty of sources that tell you why a particular food is good for you and also a plethora of sources warning you never to eat that food. Meat, edamame, wheat, and dairy products are all examples of foods that have fervent defenders and equally fervent opponents. If you listened to everybody who told you not to eat a certain food, you’d never eat anything. So after reading the Guardian article, I didn’t have any plans to eliminate quinoa from my diet, and I still don’t. But this Slate article has reminded me that there are not just two sides to any story but many, and that global issues are rarely simple enough to be discussed in black and white, yes and no terms. My takeaway, I think, is to buy fair trade, and to remember that the food I eat – not just quinoa but all the food – was harvested or squeezed or gathered or or processed by someone’s hands somewhere, and it probably passed through a lot of other pairs of hands to get to me. It’d be a good idea to keep a sense of that, to keep things in perspective, and to remember to teach my daughter that food doesn’t just appear on shelves by magic.


Food Update: The High Price of Quinoa January 22, 2013

Filed under: reflections,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:32 pm
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This is really disturbing: Can Vegans Stomach the Unpalatable Truth About Quinoa?

As a vegetarian, one of my guiding principles has been ahimsa, or nonviolence. It began to seem more and more wrong to me to fuel my body on another creature’s pain and death, so I eliminated all beef, pork, and poultry from my diet (although I still eat fish, eggs, and dairy products, first because I believe that it’s healthiest to make these sorts of drastic changes gradually, and then also because I got pregnant and didn’t want to lose the protein and other nutrients when my body most needed them). Not eating meat, I’ve naturally been exploring other foods like beans, chickpeas, couscous, and quinoa. Granted, I don’t buy quinoa often because it tends to be pricey, but I’ve loved it when I’ve eaten it. And through all of my vegetarian journey, I’ve been proud of myself for  identifying and sticking with a change I wanted to make to my behavior based on what I believed was right.

Now, according to this article, the farming of quinoa is seriously damaging the people in Bolivia, making it hard for them to afford a food that’s traditionally been a staple of their diet and pushing them towards unhealthy mass-produced imported foods. Since I began my vegetarian journey on the principle of ahimsa, I find this really upsetting. The West’s hunger for this new exotic food is obviously doing violence to these people. There are a number of non-profits who work in urban communities in the US that don’t have access to healthy fresh foods, and I believe in that mission, so it seems two-faced to support an industry that deprives people in another part of the world of healthy fresh food.

I’m not going to say that, based on this one article (which is pretty subjective, honestly), I’m never going to eat quinoa again. I think if you take to heart every story you see in the news about food, you’ll end up living on water and cardboard. But I do hope to do some more research on this issue, and to think more about it. Since becoming a vegetarian I’ve leaned towards locally grown or US-grown foods anyway, so if I try to continue following that path, I’ll eliminate much of the problem (and that goes for asparagus too, which now I’m also concerned about). But because vegetarianism began for me as a moral choice rather than a health choice, I owe it to myself to examine my assumptions about the food I eat and the impact my food has in the world, regardless of whether it’s an animal product.


Food Update January 8, 2013

Filed under: checking in,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:45 pm

On Christmas Day, I ate meat for the first time in a year and a half. (We’re not counting that chicken salad sandwich that I thought was egg salad – that was an accident, and I threw it out as soon as I realized – we’re talking about intentional meat consumption only). I had a slice of bacon, just one. It smelled so good and, I figured, nothing you eat really counts on Christmas anyway. My mom was standing next to me nattering about something, and I turned to her and said, “I can’t talk about that right now. I’m eating bacon for the first time in over a year. You need to give me a minute.” And I shut my eyes and savored it. I was sad to discover that bacon still tastes as good as I remembered. I’d been theorizing that after such a prolonged period without meat, my body would have adjusted and meat would taste funny to me now, but nope. It was freakin’ fantastic.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a vegetarian. (Or, rather, a lacto-ovo-pescatarian, for you purists.) I have no plans to go back to eating meat any time soon: I still believe in my reasons for not eating meat, and I still like my veg lifestyle. That hasn’t changed. But I think one should check in on things now and then, and also I really wanted some bacon. Damn.

In other news, one challenging thing at my new job has been the sheer availability of junk food. Anybody who gets a gift basket from a vendor puts it in the kitchen. Any food left over after a meeting gets put in the kitchen. People are dropping off leftover cookies and holiday candy. It’s been crazy for over a month now. I have never had willpower where junk is concerned, even less so where free food is concerned, and ever since I got pregnant I haven’t felt much need to because I needed the extra calories. And now I’m breastfeeding: I’m back down not just to my pre-baby weight but to my college weight, and my pre-baby pants are all too big. So the problem is not that I’m eating tons of snacks all day – I need the snacks, my body has plenty of use for the calories – but I do worry about the sodium, sugars, caffeine, and carbs, plus just the effect of dumping so much crap into my system. And the bad habits I’m forming. Hopefully the worst of the freebies are over and I can buy some fruit to try and fill the hole where cookies and truffles and caramel popcorn have been going. (The plus is that I have a place to drop off all the unwanted junk food from my house, which I did yesterday.)

Also a plus, F and I had lunch at a vegan cafe over the holidays! Everything was excellent, especially my falafel wrap, which was the best I think I’ve ever had. Thumbs up to Vge Cafe in Bryn Mawr; we’re looking forward to visiting again.


Veg Link: Five Religious Approaches to Thinking about Meat Eating August 23, 2012

Filed under: reflections,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 5:12 pm
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Ever since that terrific radio program with Matthew Sanford a few months ago, I’ve been following NPR’s On Being series on Facebook. Earlier this week they posted this piece on the ethics of eating meat: Five Religious Approaches to Thinking About Meat Eating.

Because I became a vegetarian for ethical reasons, and because I do a lot of thinking about the intersections of Christianity and Eastern religious practice, I found the five approaches described here very interesting. I hadn’t realized that most religious traditions begin with a vegan worldview. I also found the discussion of compassion to be compelling, since ahimsa, or nonviolence, was at the heart of my conversion to a vegetarian diet. However, all of the approaches given here may come in handy in future conversations about why being a vegetarian is right for me.


Vegetarian Update: More Protein Needed May 2, 2012

Filed under: yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 12:39 pm

Last week one of our homework assignments for my birth class was to keep track of everything I eat, how many grams of protein I eat, and how much water I drink. It was a really informative assignment because I’ve wondered for a while if I’m getting enough protein.

First, I was happy about the things I’m doing right. Turns out that Arnold’s whole grain breads have tons of protein, so go us for spending a little more on the all-natural rather than the generic store brand wheat. I was also delighted to find that a Philly soft pretzel is also packed with protein – half a regular salted pretzel has 7 grams of protein! And of course if I’m buying one I always eat the whole thing. This made me feel a lot better about one of my favorite guilty splurges. Overall it was no problem to get the 70-80 grams of protein per day that’s recommended for pregnant women. And I typically drink 70-80 ounces of water per day: I have an 18 oz. Klean Kanteen that I just always carry in my purse all the time, and when I actually kept track of how often I completely drain and refill it, it turns out that I drink the whole bottle at least three, usually four times a day. Good stuff.

Of course we had to make some diet improvements too. We had switched from dairy milk completely to almond milk, but it turns out that cow milk naturally has more protein, so milk’s coming back to my cereal bowl and we’ll be a double-milk household again. No big deal. Almond milk’s great for cereal, but dairy’s fine too, and I like dairy milk better than almond milk in my Earl Grey anyway.

I’d already been eating one hard-boiled egg with lunch every day. The nutritional guidelines they gave us in class suggest that pregnant women should have two eggs a day. That’s an easy fix – we’re already boiling the eggs, we’ll just boil more and I’ll have one with breakfast and one with lunch. We made this change immediately at the beginning of the week and it resulted in me being able to hit the target 70-80 grams of protein pretty easily. And once we were keeping track and looked at the protein I eat in a normal breakfast with cereal and a smoothie, breakfast clearly stood out as the lowest protein meal of my day. I definitely need to up my intake there anyway, so it’s a natural fit. But this child is really going to love eggs.


Vegetarianism in the News March 9, 2012

Filed under: yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:02 pm
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Today just a couple of quick links about vegetarianism and meat. The title of the second article, for me, pretty much succinctly answers the question posed in the title of the first article.

We’re eating less meat. Why?

70 Percent of Ground Beef at Supermarkets Contains ‘Pink Slime’

The two articles don’t actually have anything to do with each other – the NYT opinion piece on eating less meat is from January, and I just saw the pink slime news item today. As Bittman states, we’re eating less meat because meat’s expensive and because we want to be healthier. But man oh man, was I glad to be eating healthier already when I read about that pink slime.


Vegetarianism and Pregnancy February 16, 2012

Filed under: reflections — R. H. Ward @ 1:38 pm

I haven’t done a vegetarian update in a while, and some of you may be wondering how I’m doing with being vegetarian (or pescatarian, more accurately) while I’m pregnant. The quick answer is, so far so good – my midwifes (midwives?) have all been supportive, my appetite is good and overall I feel good.

The biggest issue has been making sure I get enough of certain nutrients. I need lots of protein, so I’ve been eating a hard-boiled egg with lunch every day. I was worried about iron being a problem, even before my pregnancy, so for a while I was taking extra iron supplements in addition to my prenatal vitamins. My iron levels were great, but it resulted in clogging up my system pretty badly, so I had to stop the extra supplements. Now I’m just making sure to eat plenty of leafy greens to keep my iron up – the iron from greens seems easier to digest. We put spinach in just about everything, and Trader Joe’s has a southern greens blend that I love sauteed up with onions. We also eat salads once or twice a week, and we’ll often top a salad with a vegetarian chick’n patty or burger, which helps with the protein count too.

One of my new favorites is almond butter. Trader Joe’s has one that includes omega 3’s and flax seed oil, and while it has a little less protein than peanut butter, it also has less fat and sodium and more of pretty much everything else. And I think it tastes better than peanut butter too. We whipped through our first jar of almond butter in less than five days.

At this point in my pregnancy, the baby needs a lot of omega 3’s and calcium, so I picked up some extra supplements of those. The Viactiv-style chocolate calcium chews are tasty and easy to eat during the day. For omega 3, we got a bottle of kids’ gummy vitamins – they were cheaper than the grownup version and included more grams of omega 3’s, and they taste like candy. On our vacation last week we also ate tons of fish, with almost every meal, so hopefully baby is getting plenty of material to work with.

I have been having some trouble with beans. My system seems more prone to digestive issues now that there’s less room in there for digesting, and I was getting gas so bad that my belly would be visibly larger a full day post-beans. One of my pregnant friends suggested the obvious – and Beano seems to be helping. Sometimes I’m amazed at my ability to have a problem’s solution in my house, stored right in the dining room even, and not think of it.

No crazy cravings yet. My thought on cravings is this: if I am desperate for a hot dog (or some meat loaf, or whatever) and can’t stop thinking about it such that it’s obviously a hormonal thing, I’m not going to deprive myself of that thing. I don’t plan to start eating meat again, but I’m willing to be flexible depending on what my body wants, and that includes onion-flavored jello or whatever. Honestly, I think onion jello would be less gross to me than meat at this point, but if my body’s craving it and it’s generally accepted to be food, I’ll eat it. Overall, though, I’ve been really happy with my decision to continue not eating meat and keep up healthy eating habits even while my body has extra nutrition needs.