Category Archives: vegan

Unicycle ride from City Hall to Coney Island

I am sorry I haven’t posted in a long time. Certain life issues made regular blogging difficult. Now that these have been mostly resolved I am back to updating you on my latest athletic adventures, tips on vegan living, and occasional random stuff.

Screenshot from 2017-09-03 21:17:40

Last Friday, I completed my first ever group unicycle ride, riding 12 miles from City Hall to Coney Island for the Brooklyn portion of the NYC Unicycle Fest. This involved unicycling across the crowded Brooklyn Bridge, my first time ever unicycling across it. It was an amazing experience, and wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. Though this wasn’t a race, my training over the past several months paid off and I didn’t feel wasted at the end. It helped that we took several big breaks. Thank you Bindlestiff Family Cirkus for organizing this event and for your volunteers who made sure we went in the right direction.

This event was scheduled for 3:00 PM, and so I arrived at City Hall at 2:30, having unicycled part of the way down there along the East river from Grand Central Station. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect that day — though still technically summer, it went up to only 70 F with low humidity. It felt both strange and wonderful approaching City Hall and seeing so many unicyclists, about 47 of them, getting ready to take on Brooklyn. I’m always unicycling alone, but here was my tribe, so many different ages and ability levels and wildly different personalities. But here we are all united by our love of riding unicycles.

I brought my 29″ road unicycle for this ride, and so did a bunch of other unicyclists. I was expecting to see mostly 36″ inch unicycles considering the distance, but was surprised by all the 24″ unicycles. I made small talk with a few of the riders and before I knew it it was time to start our quest for to Coney Island. I was a little nervous at first because of how crowded it was, and kept thinking I would bump into someone or someone would bump into me. Fortunately, this didn’t happen.

So we all mounted our unicycles and started to climb the Brooklyn Bridge bike path. Since I ride on hilly terrain almost every day, this was like nothing to me, but it was challenging for some of the other riders. I was more concerned about bumping into some careless tourists than getting wiped out by the ascent. We basked in the lovely sea breeze while unicycling across the historic bridge and many tourists and pedestrians were excited by the seemingly endless parade of unicyclists. A few bicyclists on the other hand seemed annoyed.

Going across, it felt less and less like Manhattan and more and more like Brooklyn. Hello Brooklyn! I felt elated making it to the Brooklyn side without a hitch(it reminded me of the time I flawlessly joggled across many years ago), and so did the sub-group of unicyclists I was with. Once on the other side and across the street we had our first break. I talked some more with Jeff about his unicycling experiences, then had a conversation with Chris, who I ran into nearly 2 months ago up in the wilds of Yorktown in northern Westchester on the North County Trail when we were unicycling in opposite directions(he was doing his first century ride, wow!). He told me he hasn’t been riding much these days, and that he still has trouble mounting the 36″ he had with him. I admit to being a little envious of his 36″ because of how much faster it is than my 29″, but I think I would also have serious trouble mounting such a large wheel.

After waiting for the slower unicyclists to catch up, we were off. It was a little scary unicycling through the streets of downtown Brooklyn, but I soon got used to it. Since a lot of people were on vacation that weekend, the traffic isn’t as heavy as it usually is. Amazingly, I found that I could idle(staying in place on the unicycle by quickly pedaling back and forth) at some of the traffic stops. I can idle proficiently on my 24 inch unicycle but usually have trouble doing it on my 29 inch. We soon found ourselves cycling through the streets of Parkslope, an upscale area full of trendy restaurants, boutiques, cafes and lots of onlookers who were delighted by the unicycle parade. Even in New York, a large group of unicyclists cruising through the streets isn’t something you see every day.

At Grand Army Plaza(mile 4) at the northern end of Prospect Park we had our next break and first group photo at the memorial arch. I talked a little more with Chris and drank some of the juice I had with me.21314811_1594702827216762_8372208298688654356_n

After the break we rode south through Prospect Park, by far the easiest part of this journey since there were no cars or traffic lights to worry about. I even took a video during this section, it was that easy. And it seems many people in the park were taking pictures or videos of us. I easily could have juggled while riding at this point, but I didn’t bring my balls with me. Another short break at the southern end of the park, and then we were back on the streets of Brooklyn heading south toward the Atlantic ocean.

We made our way to Ocean Parkway which takes us straight to Coney Island and has a wide bike path that’s separate from the walking path and used this for most of the rest of our southward ride.

The ethnic and religious diversity along this route was amazing. This is what makes NYC and the U.S in general such a wonderful and dynamic place. Russians, Chinese, Orthodox Jews, Muslims, Indians, Caribbean islanders and Middle Easterners were all happy to see us and very supportive of our unicycle parade. The further south we went, the more Russian it got(a lot of these Russian-speakers aren’t ethnically Russian but they speak Russian because they’re from a former Soviet republic).

We didn’t have to worry about traffic except at the cross streets, and although this wasn’t a race it sure felt like one when we would frantically try to beat the light before the traffic blocked us. I was still able to idle when I had to stop, sometimes successfully, sometimes unsuccessfully, but it started causing soreness in my upper thigh because I’m not used to idling on such a large wheel.

A few miles from completion and we could feel the sea breeze again and the sweet smell of the mighty ocean. Or was that the sweet smell of success? In my mind I was thinking how I had yet again nearly accomplished something that not too long ago I would have thought impossible. Though this wasn’t my longest ride(I unicycled for 20 miles a few months ago on a rural bike path), it was the most challenging long unicycle ride.

Finally, we made it to Coney Island in front of Nathan’s. What an incredible journey it was! I felt like I could have unicycled for another 10 miles, my legs were certainly up to it. It was such a festive atmosphere on Coney Island with all the revelers, the lights, the rides and games, the perfect place to celebrate this achievement. All in all, was very happy with my City Hall to Coney Island ride experience. I think unicycling through Brooklyn is the best way to experience it.

Like last year, I’m joggling and unicycling for Team Humane, any support is appreciated.

 

Screenshot from 2017-09-08 09-59-10

 

Advertisements

Vegan whole wheat blueberry muffins recipe

screenshot-from-2017-02-12-17-21-41

One silver lining of all the nasty weather we’ve been experiencing lately is that I have more time to bake. Everyone who knows me knows I love blueberries, so what could be better than baking my own whole grain blueberry muffins that are not only perfect for breakfast but also a great snack? The combination of blueberries and a little maple syrup makes these just sweet enough to be enjoyable by most, though probably not sweet enough to be a dessert treat. A good source of protein, fiber and so fruity and spicy, they’re a great way to start the day.

Here’s the recipe:

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds(egg replacer/thickener)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil(I used canola)
  • 1 and 1/8 cups soy milk
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon clove
  • 1 and 1/2 cups blueberries(fresh or frozen)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  1. Preheat over to 375F
  2. Combine all wet ingredients into 1 bowl and mix thoroughly, adding blueberries last(for this recipe I made a puree of about half the blueberries with my blender and the rest were whole, but this is optional).
  3. Combine dry ingredients into 1 bowl and mix
  4. Now combine all dry and wet ingredients and mix thoroughly
  5. Scoop the batter into muffin cups in muffin tray, about 3 tablespoons each, or enough to fill 1/2 to 2/3 of the muffin cups
  6. Put in oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes at 375F until muffins are golden brown or you can smoothly stick a toothpick in and out of the muffins without any difficulty
  7. Cool for 10 minutes before serving

This should be enough to make 10 large muffins. Feel free to add a little more spice if you like muffins extra spicy. To make them even tastier, you can add vanilla if you want. Similar recipes I’ve seen also include lemon or orange zest(or even orange juice or apple juice), or even apple cider vinegar, all of which I see as optional.

The batter consistency should be thick, but if you find it a little too thick and hard to work with, add a little more soy milk. If it’s too liquidy, add more flour. These came out better than expected though I think I’ll add more spice next time. Enjoy!

I’ll be joggling the Brooklyn Marathon to raise money for the Humane League

13513488_1

As I’m sure many of you already know, on November 20th I’ll be joggling the Brooklyn Marathon. It’s been a few years since I’ve last joggled the Brooklyn Marathon, and a little over a year since my last marathon, which was the one in Yonkers. This time I will be joggling as part of Team Humane to help raise money for the Humane League, one of the most effective animal rights organizations in the U.S. To contribute: Help me raise money for Team Humane League

I considered many options when it came to which animal rights group to raise money for, and went with the Humane League because they really know how to get things done.

I’m beyond excited to be part of this. There are so many incredible athletes and activists who are part of this group, I can’t help but think I am part of something big and wonderful. The Humane League’s current focus is on confronting Aramark and their abuse of chickens. To get involved, you can join their Fast Action Network, and/or you can join Team Humane.

It feels great joggling to help alleviate animal suffering. Yes, we can’t end all animal cruelty overnight, but if those of us who care all play our part we can slowly help bring an end to it. As for race specifics, I’m just aiming for under 4 hours, not aiming for a PR this time. Thank you everyone for your support and encouragement. I’m definitely looking forward to race day!

My Segment on Plant-Based by Nafsika

In case you missed my segment on Plant-Based by Nafsika: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-1NHYHNfloQ

Plant-Based by Nafsika premieres on Wednesday — I’ll be a guest on August 24th

Plant-Based-by-Nafsika-TV-series

The vegan lifestyle show we’ve all been waiting for is finally here! Called Plant-Based by Nafsika, the show is hosted by amazing vegan mogul Nafsika Antypas who will guide us on a wide-ranging tour of veganism through engaging interviews with trailblazing vegan doctors, activists, athletes, chefs, and fashion designers, among others.

Calling itself “The world’s first vegan lifestyle TV series”, Plant-Based by Nafsika aims to show the world how healthy and fun the vegan lifestyle can be. This educational and inspirational new show will premiere on Wednesday, June 27, 7:30 AM EST on the FYI network. The rumors that I was invited to be a guest are actually true! My segment, in which I discuss joggling and unicycling for fun and fitness will air on August 24th. The launch of this show, besides many other positive developments makes this an especially exciting time to be a vegan! Be sure to tune in!

Plant-based by Nafsika TV Show glimpse

 

15 Years of Being Vegan

Screenshot from 2016-06-06 16:08:28.png

It’s official! I have been a vegan for 15 years. Looking back through the mists of time, I vaguely remembered that I wasn’t sure I’d be able to function at all for a year as a vegan, let alone eventually thrive and joggle sub-4 hours marathons. It wasn’t easy at first, but after about 6 months I got used to it and there was no turning back. My going vegan doesn’t change the fact that billions of animals are still getting slaughtered every year for meat, for fur, and in labs, but it’s my own small way to not contribute to this endless horror and hopefully help move things in the right direction.

If you are interested in going vegan, here’s some resources and advice gained from being a vegan for 15 years: First, check out Vegan 101: Planning Healthy Vegan Diets so that you’re up to speed with what you need to know to be a healthy vegan. Not sure what you’re going to eat every day? Then here’s a 21-Day Vegan Meal Plan from the PCRM. Oh She Glows also has tons of vegan recipes so that you never run out of ideas. It’s an exciting time to be a vegan, with so many options out there and growing.

When people come to me for advice on being vegan, I give them advice that is practical, easy to follow, and science-based. Practicality does not mean sacrificing nutrition or flavor, it simply means making the diet and lifestyle easy to stick to for people with busy lives. Rice and beans, pasta and vegetables, oatmeal, and peanut butter(or tahini) and jelly sandwiches are what I commonly eat. I admit I sometimes overdo it with the peanut butter. Tofu is a great source of protein and very versatile.

Whenever possible, buy food in bulk to save money, cook in bulk and don’t believe the fear-mongering about microwaves. You don’t need to buy organic. You don’t need to learn the origin of every food ingredient overnight to see if it is vegan or not, so don’t stress yourself out over this. Take your time learning about these ingredients.

Take a B-12 supplement. You may also require iron, zinc, iodine, calcium, and vitamin D which you can get from some vegan supplements or enriched foods. You can get omega 3s by eating flaxseeds and walnuts. In my experience, people who fail at veganism were probably deficient in one or more of these vital nutrients. They either weren’t supplementing or they weren’t eating enough nutritious, well-balanced meals.

A little over 10 years ago I came down with anemia for a few months, even though I regularly ate high iron plant foods. An iron supplement quickly reversed this and I was back to my regular rigorous athletic activities. Keep in mind that plant iron is much more difficult to absorb than animal derived iron and that vitamin C helps you absorb more iron. Consult a doctor or dietitian before taking anything to ensure you are getting the proper dosage from a reputable source.

Last but not least, ignore the fads. Fad diets come and go, but veganism at its essence is no fad. These overly restrictive diets make it so difficult to stick with the lifestyle that they greatly increase your chances of becoming an ex-vegan, and believe me, I know a lot of ex-vegans. What fads am I referring to? I mean rawfoodism, “clean” eating, paleo-veganism, macrobiotics, gluten-free, alkaline diet, oil-free, “detox” diets, as well as countless hybrids of these pointless distractions. Also, don’t buy into the hype about “superfoods”. My 10 Things That Aren’t Necessary For Being a Healthy Vegan goes into detail about why these diets are nonsensical and potentially harmful.

If you are eating a balanced whole food vegan diet, these fad diets do nothing to improve your diet or make you healthier. By and large, these diets, which have nothing to do with veganism, are based on pseudoscience and virtually no reputable health professionals recommend them. Ignore, or better yet, laugh at the pesky food police on social media who are quick to castigate anyone for adding olive oil to food or eating processed food or nuts in moderation. The gurus who promise perfect health are best avoided.

By following the advice offered above, and embracing science and critical thinking, you shouldn’t have any major issues adjusting to a vegan lifestyle. This is really all you need to know to get started. I hope you found this information useful. If you think I left out something important, please leave a comment. If you have any questions please post something in the comments or email me, I love to help people transition to a more cruelty-free lifestyle.

 

Screenshot from 2016-06-06 16:10:13

I took this a few weeks ago during an 18 mile joggling run. The water is the Long Island Sound.

 

 

Documentary about the Vegan Joggler

Thanks to a very talented group of students from Bronxville high school for producing this short film. Although I kind of liked being this mysterious figure and this makes me a lot less of one, I’m still glad I got to share my story since a lot of people find it inspiring. I was very impressed with the finished product, especially the music. I rarely mention the horrible backstory that lead me to take up joggling because it was eons ago and now my joggling is so intertwined with my veganism that I almost forget how it all started.

If you like stories about passion and perseverance, then this is for you. All credit for the documentary goes to Ohto, John George, and Scott; I didn’t film or edit this, that was all their work. There are no special effects. I hope all you fit-freaks and even non-fit-freaks around the world find it informative and inspiring.

5 More Things That Aren’t Necessary For Being a Healthy Vegan

Screenshot from 2016-01-24 12:31:45

The long-awaited sequel is here! The post I did back in November of last year titled “10 Things That Aren’t Necessary For Being a Healthy Vegan” was so popular(a big thanks to everyone who shared it), I decided to do a followup. Many things were left out because I didn’t want the post to be too long, so I prioritized the most common things that I believe are problematic. Here are 5 more things you don’t need to be a healthy vegan:

1) Eat alkaline

This form of pseudoscience has a following both within the vegan/plant-based community and misguided health nuts among omnivores. It overlaps to a large extent with rawfoodism, though isn’t necessarily the same thing. The idea behind this diet is that most people eat diets that are too “acid-forming”, and that an acidic environment inside the body can lead to serious diseases, including cancer.

By eating an alkaline diet, you are helping to prevent this unhealthy acidic environment in your body and the diseases it causes. Some advocates go even further and claim it can be used to treat serious diseases. Basically, eating alkaline means consuming lots of fresh fruits and vegetables(since they are generally alkaline), which is excellent advice, though alkaline gurus recommend it for the wrong reasons. There is virtually no scientific basis to this type of diet. You can’t do much to alter your PH through diet, and your body works hard to make sure your PH stays within a very limited range to keep you healthy.

Some medical conditions can lead to a significant shift in PH, which can be dangerous; the medical conditions associated with a PH imbalance require urgent medical care. Assuming you have this type of problem, you cannot fix it through diet. There is no good reason whatsoever to embrace this fad diet and its idiotic restrictions.

2) Give up all grain including bread

One of the hallmarks of disordered eating is avoiding perfectly healthy food for irrational, pseudoscientific reasons. It’s disturbing witnessing all the over the top fear-mongering on social media concerning soy foods, olive oil, cooked food, and even staples like grain and bread. Grain-free is yet another ridiculous, unnecessary restriction that greatly increases your chances of failing at veganism. It’s no coincidence that the zealots pushing this “grain is poison” madness are very often rawfoodists, though they have allies among the paleo, high meat/protein crowd.

At its most basic, the idea behind this type of dietary restriction is that grains will ruin your health because we supposedly didn’t evolve to eat them. Grains cause obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and Adam Sandler movies. As always with pseudoscience based restrictions, there is virtually no evidence for these claims, except that in a generic sense there is a grain of truth to it. Eating too much of anything can lead to health problems, not just grain. Yes, grain isn’t perfect, it contains “toxins” like phytates, but there is no such thing as a “perfect” food or a “perfect” diet. If you had to abstain from something because it contains small quantities of “toxins” and therefore falls short of perfection, you’d have to give up everything and end up starving to death.

Now while a minority of the population are better off restricting carbs or eating high-protein, this approach doesn’t appear to benefit most people. This fad is best ignored. Grain won’t harm you when consumed in reasonable amounts; whole grains are one of the cornerstones of a healthy vegan diet.

3) Focus on super foods

The most important thing you should realize about “super foods” is that this is purely a marketing term, not a special class of food recognized and recommended by reputable health professionals. That said, there’s nothing wrong with eating them, just don’t get carried away with thinking there is something magical about them.

What you really should be focusing on is eating a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. The wider the variety, the better. The criteria for deciding what is a “super food” is usually pretty arbitrary and changes with time and what is fashionable at the moment. Since antioxidants are all the rage right now, “super foods” very often have a high antioxidant content. All too often, the evidence showing some unique medicinal effect for a certain “super food” is weak or preliminary, but that doesn’t stop health guru authors, supplement pushers, and retailers from hyping them. Again, “super foods” can be part of a healthy diet, but there’s no good reason to consume them in supplement form.

Ignore the hype and just eat several servings of fruits and vegetables every day – darker, more colorful ones are generally more nutritious.

4) Go macrobiotic

The popularity of the macrobatic diet waxes and wanes. Right now, this Japanese type diet doesn’t seem all that popular, but all it would take to make it popular again is a major celebrity endorsement. Macrobiotics isn’t a vegan or vegetarian diet(it usually includes fish) but it comes close, so it is easy enough to make it vegan.

For the most part, a macrobiotic diet is pretty healthy(though it can be salty), at least when you compare it to the way most Americans eat. It emphasizes fruits and vegetables, legumes(especially soy), and whole grains. So what’s the problem?

The problem is that macrobiotics is an overly restrictive diet based on pseudoscience. Although it gets a lot of things right, it does so for the wrong reasons. An important feature of macrobiotics are these arcane, complicated food combining rules, the purpose of which is to properly balance the “yin and yang” elements of food to help you achieve optimum health. For example, perfectly healthful members of the nightshade family like potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplant are excluded from this diet because they are considered too “yin”. It really should go without saying that there is no scientific basis to “yin” or “yang”; you could be missing out on a lot of nutritious foods if you follow these nonsensical rules.

There really is nothing macrobiotics can add to an already healthy plant-based diet except unnecessary restrictions, so there’s no good reason to embrace macrobiotics.

5) Go paleo

Finally, the diet that combines the best of both worlds, with incredible health benefits reflecting this best of both worlds approach. However, does it live up to the hype?

The paleo diet, which mimics the way our caveman ancestors ate is thought by proponents to be the ideal human diet since we evolved to eat this way. Or at least that is what paleos want you to believe. In essence, the paleo diet is really just the latest iteration of high protein dieting; it’s more or less a successor to the Atkins diet.

The central idea to paleo is that if you want to be optimally healthy, eat like a caveman. That’s because cavemen ate the way nature intended us to eat, we “evolved” to eat a paleo diet. Since cavemen didn’t eat processed foods, the paleo diet excludes processed foods like refined sugars, oils, etc. This is generally a good idea, though some people get a little too carried away with this. Paleos also typically eat lots of fruits and vegetables, and don’t consume dairy, so it should be easy for vegans to go paleo, right? Only if you ignore the fact that paleos typically eat a lot of meat and generally forgo grain and legumes, and that the diet is followed purely for health reasons.

To me, there’s always been something very oxymoronic about this “paleo-vegan” phenomenon. After all, a great way to describe the paleo diet is “wholefoodism for meat-lovers”. People who think paleo and vegan are compatible or combine well are usually clueless hipsters obsessed with all things trendy. I struggle to think of two things more antithetical than veganism and paleoism.

A lot of half-truths, distortions and pseudoscience underpin the paleo philosophy, but I’m mainly concerned here with how paleo-veganism is often promoted as an improved version of veganism by paleo-vegan adherents. In a lot of ways, it’s certainly healthier than the way most Americans eat, but does it offer anything to vegans?

As far as I can tell, it doesn’t offer anything to vegans except unnecessary restrictions which puts them on a slippery slope to disordered eating. Like I said before, a small percentage of the population may benefit from minimizing grain and carbs, and eating more high protein foods, but one need not go paleo to accomplish this. If you eat a whole food vegan diet, embracing paleo is largely redundant, since you’re already excluding dairy, and eating lots of fruits and vegetables. Science doesn’t suggest that paleo-vegans are healthier than regular vegans, or that this is the best diet.

In my opinion, just ignore this fad or anyone who fancies themselves as a reborn caveman. We already knew that eating fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole foods was good for us, and that dairy isn’t necessary, well before paleo came along.

  ********

These are just 5 more things that may screw up your vegan diet, on top of the 10 from the previous post. I could have easily added several more to this list, but it starts getting repetitive. I write these lists because I am troubled by all the bad health advice that encourages disordered eating being spread on the blogosphere and social media. I run into ex-vegans all the time and I usually find they embraced a type of extreme diet based on lots of terrible advice and/or unnecessary restrictions like those on this list. Vegans shouldn’t be made to feel guilty by fellow vegans for not following some “perfect” version of a vegan diet, when there is no good reason to follow this “perfect” diet. I want veganism to be as practical and evidence-based as possible, not difficult and esoteric.

Pseudoscience and misinformation does nothing to help vegans improve their health, or for that matter, in case you’ve forgotten, live an ethical lifestyle that does not exploit animals, which is all that veganism is supposed to be about.

Related articles:

Is the “alkaline diet” legit? Does meat cause cancer because it’s acidic?

There’s no such thing as a superfood. It’s nonsense.

 More Trouble for Antioxidants

Stop Confusing Veganism with Clean Eating (and Pass Me That Vegan Donut…)

10 Things That Aren’t Necessary For Being a Healthy Vegan

Screenshot from 2015-11-28 17:07:50

If you are totally new to veganism, please read “The Plant Plate” first. This vegan eating guide by RD Ginny Messina will tell you all that is necessary for being a healthy vegan. That guide basically shows how I eat.

 

If there’s one thing the media can be counted on to do with regularity, it is bashing veganism by conflating it with eating disorders. Every time an ex-vegan blogger or celebrity shares their story about why they stopped being vegan, usually with horror stories about how sick they became, the media and many people jump at the chance to portray veganism as an extreme, unhealthy diet that will ruin your health.

It almost always seems the “vegan” in question was mainly motivated by health fanaticism, and had an eating disorder. Besides this, they were usually a devoted follower of one or more quack gurus who advocate a variety of unnecessary restrictions and practices that have nothing to do with veganism. The only things these restrictions do is make it harder to follow a vegan diet than it should be. They do not make it healthier.

Unfortunately, overly restrictive eating has become a little too common these days in the vegan/plant-based community due to the many gurus who advocate some or all of what is on the list below. It’s time to set the record straight about what really constitutes a healthy vegan diet/lifestyle. However, instead of “here’s what you need to do to be a healthy vegan” kind of post with health tips virtually everyone already knows, I thought I would do it from the other direction. So in the interest of making a vegan diet as easy, practical, healthful, and science-based as possible, here are 10 things that aren’t necessary for being a healthy vegan:

1) Eat only organic

Contrary to what you may have heard, organic isn’t necessarily healthier. Yet many vegans are very committed to eating mostly or nothing but organic due to the belief that conventional foods are laden with disease-causing pesticides and toxins.

The scientific evidence however doesn’t consistently show that organic is healthier. Organic foods also have pesticide residue on them, both natural and synthetic. The amount of pesticide residue is generally minuscule, and much of that can be washed off before consumption. The only thing going organic is almost certain to do is make your vegan diet/lifestyle more expensive.

As far as organic being better for the environment, that is controversial and beyond the scope of this post.

2) Go gluten-free

If you don’t have celiac disease or wheat allergy you don’t need to give up wheat or gluten-containing foods. Strangely, some vegans who don’t have celiac disease adhere to this as if gluten was a form of meat. They could be missing out on a lot of nutritious foods by going gluten-free. To make matters worse, gluten-free products are often more expensive than their gluten-containing counterparts. Save your money and ignore this fad.

3) Detox

On second thought, you actually do need to detox. Fortunately, if your liver and kidneys are functioning properly, this is being done for you automatically. As far as “detoxing” through diet goes, this ritual often seems to be the common denominator of those who become “vegan” as a result of being health-obsessed. All-too-often, I stumble upon a vegan health blog that recommends a juice fasting regimen and/or worthless supplements to help the body “detoxify”. This is pseudo-scientific garbage. It’s a great idea for most people to eat or even drink more fruits and vegetables, but they won’t help you remove “toxins”. If you believe you’ve been poisoned, skip the juice bar and seek medical help.

4) Give up soy

This is very similar to going gluten-free in which a perfectly healthy food is demonized for no good reason. Unless you have a soy allergy, there’s no good reason to avoid soy foods. The idea that eating soy foods will give men feminine traits is hooey. If you don’t have thyroid issues, it’s very unlikely that soy in moderation will interfere with your thyroid.

5) Eliminate processed food 100%

I don’t believe that eating healthy should mean completely abstaining from processed foods. Of course, “processed food” isn’t easy to define, but foods that contain a lot of sodium, added sugars, or other additives is a good approximation. Eating a mostly whole food diet is a good idea, but I don’t think that should mean you can’t occasionally eat processed food like meat analogues for convenience. Studies don’t show that eating some processed foods will ruin your health if your diet is healthy otherwise.

6) Spirulina supplements

This type of supplement, which is derived from cyanobacteria(blue-green algae), is largely marketed toward athletes, vegan and non-vegan alike as an “energy booster” or “recovery” aid. It also supposedly has a plethora of other amazing health benefits that the “ambassadors” who push these magic pills on social media will be quick to inform you of. And it’s all nothing but hot air. I often call it “The Pond Scum Scam”.

While it is true that spirulina is nutritionally dense, and that NASA has done some research on it, there’s nothing unique to it that you can’t get from other plant foods for a lot less money. There’s also the potential for contamination and vitamin B12 analogue issues with this type of supplement, not to mention the unpleasant “fishy” taste some users complain about. Even though I’ve never tried them, the pseudo-science used in the promotion of these expensive supplements always left a bad taste in my mouth. Ignore the hype and just eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, and eat trail mix or an energy bar after a vigorous workout.

7) Go 100% raw

I’ve already covered rawfoodism in “My Position on Rawfoodism“, but it deserves to be mentioned here because many of the “vegans” with eating disorders who fail at “veganism” were actually rawfoodists. It just really bothers me how much rawfoodism is intertwined with veganism these days.

As a former rawfoodist, I believe rawfoodism has little to do with health and is more about attaining some bizarre, quasi-spiritual level of “purity”. It’s difficult to find a justification for this kind of diet that isn’t based on some form of pseudo-science or the naturalistic fallacy. It’s even more difficult, in my experience, to stick to this diet. People who are drawn to this diet are often extreme perfectionists.

I keep hoping this dangerous fad will go away, but for some reason it continues to linger on as a thorn in the side of the vegan movement.

8) Give up all oil including olive oil

Already covered this here, but this also shows no sign of going away in spite of the potential for this to alienate the many millions of Mediterraneans, Hispanics and millions of others who love their olive oil. Besides this, fat helps you feel full and also helps you absorb fat-soluble nutrients. The tiny number of doctors and researchers who advocate this approach all seem to live in this bubble that is impervious to the latest scientific research which contradicts them. In moderation, fats like olive oil are healthful, and won’t ruin the health of vegans who eat a healthy diet.

9) Buying a Vitamix

The purchase of a Vitamix is often thought of as an important milestone in many a vegan’s journey. I don’t have one, or any blender for that matter, and neither do many other vegans I know, but some vegans can’t live without it.

Unlike other things on this list, there’s nothing wrong with purchasing a Vitamix or blender to make smoothies or prepare meals, it’s just that I don’t see it as being absolutely necessary. It’s great if you have one, but it’s also great if you don’t have one. I can just as easily eat my vegetables in salads, soups, sauces and pasta dishes without one.

10) Eat “clean”

“Clean eating” can loosely be thought of as combining most of what is on the list above. It can sort of be thought of as an umbrella term for eating organic, all-natural, whole food, and additive-free, often with a good helping of raw foods. Note that I didn’t say “animal food free” – “clean-eating” in essence has nothing to do with veganism or eating 100% plant-based for that matter. Granted, some health vegans may think of their diet as the ultimate “clean” diet because to them animal foods are totally “unclean”, but this ignores the fact that most “clean eaters” are not vegan.

“Clean eating” overlaps to a large degree with rawfoodism, and has similar motivations in that it’s based on an obsession with purity.”Clean eating” is also interrelated with detox pseudo-science, since if you should fail to adhere to your strict “clean eating” regimen for even one meal, all you gotta do is “detox” to reverse all the supposed negative health effects the toxic food caused. Since so many different, and mutually contradictory dietary approaches are embracing the “clean eating” trend, it can’t be rigorously or universally defined. Indeed, except to the extent that it implies a health or purity obsession, or an embrace of pseudo-science, “clean eating” is almost meaningless.

Besides all this, “clean eating” smacks of dietary elitism, and the sooner we get rid of this annoying term, the better.

*****

These are just a few of the things vegans don’t have to do to be healthy. I could have listed many more, but I didn’t want to go on forever. I chose to list these not just because of how common they are but also because of how they increase the chances of failing at veganism. To the people who continue to advocate things on this list: Please stop making veganism more complicated than it has to be!

If you think I missed any big ones, feel free to mention them in the comments.

Followup to this post: 5 More Things That Aren’t Necessary For Being a Healthy Vegan

Related posts:

Vegan Diets and Orthorexia: How Should Activists Respond?

The Clean Eating Delusion

Why Your Detox Is Bullsh*t 

It’s seitan, not satan: Why ‘clean eating’ and other unnecessary restrictions harm veganism and individuals

Yonkers Marathon Race Report

At the Yonkers marathon

At the Yonkers marathon

What can one say about the Yonkers marathon that hasn’t already been said? It has been described over the years as a “beast of a marathon”, or even a “monster” because of its seemingly never-ending hills. This old marathon is still considered one of the nation’s most challenging. And this year the beast got the better of me.

I won’t bore you with endless details, so instead here are the stats:

Finishing time: 4:10:03(my slowest marathon ever) compared to 3:40 last year

Rank: 109 out of 220 finishers

I was 33 out of 53 in the 30 to 39 age group

Screenshot from 2015-10-23 21:32:00

The good news is that I didn’t drop the balls once(2 years in a row no drops!). In fact I’ve been using the same Gballz beanbags since my first marathon. So why was I so slow this year? I think the rerouting of the marathon route made it even hillier, and I may have started out a little too fast. By the time I got to this hill at mile 23 I could barely move and I felt like I injured my right knee, and so I had to walk for a little while after. Still, I PRed some shorter distances and got tremendous crowd support. It was great going through east Yonkers for a change, unlike the other 2 times I did this race when it was a double loop around west Yonkers.

As far as I can tell my training was adequate, though maybe I should have done some more long runs. Although I’m a little disappointed with my performance, this was a valuable learning experience. I believe I’m already a better runner/joggler because of this experience.

Thank you city of Yonkers and a big thanks to everyone who cheered me on as I passed.

If you ran the Yonkers marathon, I would love hearing from you in the comments.