Are You Still a Vegan?

IMG_7485Now, one thing to make clear, I am not going to make this into a Vegan diatribe of how you should eat. I am merely ranting here about that tired question I get asked all too frequently. (And I know others get asked much more insensitive questions regarding a number of things from race to sexuality to marital status, but this is my bug bear for today.)

“Are you still vegan. Are you still on that diet?” I get asked this frequently. I haven’t asked the askers if they are still whatever they happen to identify themselves as. One acquaintance made a religious conversion for purposes of marriage. Are you still a (fill in the blank, the mind boggles).

Just as my sexuality is not a whim, yes I am still gay, nor is my way of eating. It is not a diet. I am not depriving myself of anything. I am not on a diet. Veganism is not a diet. You can gain, lose, win, die or thrive as a vegan.

I am a vegan by choice. I made my choice ethically in order to step away from a system that convinces us we need to exploit animal products to survive and makes us dependent on them. I am so happy to be outside of that system. Now there are so many other systems that bind us: money lending, self medicating, media that is and is not social. But stepping out of this one system has been liberating. No one can make me eat what I don’t want!

And I am vegan by ethical choice (though the health benefits are far reaching), and since you can access any number of animals being treated inhumanely on the internet, I won’t spoil your appetite by showing them here.

For my money, it seems to take far too much work and strain on the planet let alone the animal I am supposed to consume, for one bad meal of rubbery chicken or stringy beef at a second rate restaurant. All that suffering so I could spit my chewed meat into a napkin and think about what I want for dessert.

I am also asked if I cheat or have cheated on my “diet”. To which I may answer “have you cheated on your principals recently?” Shoplifted, just a little? Killed someone? Lied? So, no. I don’t see the upside of abandoning my principles. It makes no sense.

So yes, I am still vegan and it is no discipline or struggle, there is a huge amount of fresh whole food to satisfy my needs and cravings. I can even have the vegan version of a Big Mac or a hotdog or ice cream if I want. Just as a carnivore wouldn’t live off of these foods and expect to feel 100%, nor would I, to those of you who think that vegans are busy gobbling up beyond meat burgers 24/7. There is processed vegan food, as there is processed animal based food. You have to do your homework in either case.

There, I hope that answers the question. I am vegan for ethical reasons, which may make you squirm as you examine your own reasons for eating what you eat. It’s easy to pretend we don’t know where our food comes from. I know my answer can be misleading since I am about health and wellness, but can’t that extend beyond my own private celestial body into the wellness and well being of the planet?

Worried About My Vegan Protein?



(photo: drinking my carbs)

Since becoming vegan I’ve continued to be invited to various dinners out and had company to my place. It happens. People take a big breath and ask you for dinner. I usually take a big breath back and quickly say “I’m vegan by the way so why don’t I bring a main dish?” I say this quickly so they don’t feel put upon that I am expecting them to make me something unpalatable like a cold brick of tofu on some raw carrot sticks.

In one instance my hostess, as she prepared dinner and I ate a goodly amount of hummus (made with chickpeas and tahini, both wonderful sources of plant based protein) that I had made, expressed concern that I wasn’t going to get enough protein with the tempeh (fermented soy/ high protein) that I had brought to accompany the vegetables she had made. I didn’t know what to say. It was my first encounter with someone (other than my mother) expressing such a thought. What I should have said was:”Oh really? Do you know what I ate earlier in the day? Have you been keeping tabs on my macros throughout the day and throughout the past twenty four hours? Do you think that even though I am a certified nutritionist that I have no idea what my body needs? Do you know how much protein per pound of body weight a person needs? Do you know the questions surrounding body building and protein requirements that continue to be discussed and put to the test? Do you know I am a nutritionist? How can you see my beautiful form in this tight fitting t-shirt and not notice my fabulous musculature?”

Anyway I didn’t say that, but I do have to say that you likely get enough protein if you eat a well balanced diet throughout the day. You don’t need to combine rice with beans at a meal, you can combine certain food that are incomplete proteins over a twenty four hour period. your body breaks these proteins down into their component amino acids and then reassembles it all for your body to use.

Which reminds me that a well meaning hostess had foisted her hummus on me letting me know it was vegan, then described the contents, which contained yogurt !? I’ve never actually heard of a hummus recipe, vegan or not, with yogurt in it. With the thought of my coming to dinner she seemed to forget how to make a vinaigrette for a salad or cook some vegetables in olive oil, she failed to realize she was already quite planted based (except for the osso bucco she was going to serve).

Anyway you might very well starve to death before you suffer a lack of protein, if you are eating a well rounded diet, since there is protein in so much of the food, including broccoli, that we eat. So the next time someone expresses concern over the amount of protein you’re getting, you can tell them you’ve already met your requirement for the day.



For My Vegan Friends


I was at a big city gym the other day, on a pass, just because I like to work out when I am out of town and in a place bigger than here. I love to see what the other places have to offer, especially big hotels and resort gyms that have great new equipment that is deeply underused. But this place was well used and appreciated by the local population I am sure.

I was eaves dropping on two older women sharing recipes and dinner party ideas, when I heard one of them say, “how do you know if a person is a vegan,” to which she quickly gave the answer, “they’ll tell you.” So I piped up, “I’m a vegan!” as a joke. I told them. I hope they took it as a joke, although I am a vegan. Anyway I am offering some hard earned words of wisdom here to my vegan friends, but non-vegans are welcome to read on.

Recently I have been asked to couple of omnivore dinners and cocktail parties, and after the invitation is extended the host/ hostess conveys some panic as to what to serve me, and I then offer to bring something or anything, but I am reassured that no, they have it under control, after all.

I usually appear, hopeful, with a bottle of wine, and am offered a glass of wine and shown to the hors d’oeuvres in the dining room or kitchen island around which everyone is seated or standing. I scope the landscape of cheeses, meats, fried cheese and fried meat, battered cheese and meat, and some bowls of mayo, sour cream and cheesie type dips, to see a lone plate of crudites and beside it a bowl of trail mix. Who in their right mind wants trail mix with their wine? I might love it on a canoe trip under the stars, shivering and thanking the universe I haven’t been eaten by a bear. Am I to crunch my way through the evening, trying to stay sober on carrot sticks and bird seed? Did my host not say they had it under control? What temporary amnesia hit?

What I am trying to say is where is the guacamole? You just mush up some ripe avocados don’t you? Surely they’ve been to Mexico, or failing that, a Mexican restaurant? And where is the hummus? Chick peas and sesame butter (tahini) for heaven’s sake. You don’t need a recipe. You just have to live in Canada. You can even buy this stuff pre-made. (I did have a hostess put yogurt in her hummus once, for some odd reason. Panic had set it, I imagine.)

Anyway when they assure you that they have it under control, don’t believe them. Make some stuff and put it in the car. Make hummus. Make guacamole. I made a lentil and sauteed onion dip the other day, easy. I made a beet and soaked cashew dip. You can make dips out of a whole lot of stuff, artichokes and white beans and whatever is next on my list. Buy some fake cheese too, from The fauxmagerie or Nuts for Cheese both available at major supermarket chains.

Go to the party fully armed with dips, cheese, Mary’s Crackers and have a blast. If you’re worried about a main course, stash a bean salad flavoured with cilantro and red onion and a lemon vinagrette in the back seat. Dessert? A fake Daiya cheese cake–it can’t be any less healthy than a real one, and you don’t eat the damn things every day anyway or you shouldn’t. If they ask how you get your protein (you poor soul), because everyone will because everyone’s mother did, show them what you just brought, there is more than enough protein for everyone there. You won’t die in the next ten minutes, you’re muscles won’t fall off, your hair and nails and organs won’t shut down. You had wine for god sakes!

Go forth, eat, drink, be merry and don’t gamble on the words of your host or hostess that they have everything under control.

A New Year’s Wish


Since I started my training journey and my little Movablebeast company, I have often found my self describing my clients as my angels, touchstones supporting my journey (literally in my car house to house), throughout my day. Yesterday on the train back from Toronto and an impromptu Christmas treat of seeing the Nutcracker, I reflected on the people who move through my days as a trainer. These are not only people I train, but the whole gamut of familiar gym goers, clients of other trainers, colleagues, facility owners, and those devoted to maintaining good health.

Indeed my clients have been my angels; they have sustained me throughout my years as a trainer, with their laughs, their conversation, their input and also the coffee and snacks they tend to offer (not to mention paying for my services). My clients make my days pass relatively pain free, and though I am tired at the end of a long day, I can say I am happily tired.

But it is the others as well, the ones I see day to day where I train, who support with a glance, a kind (or sarcastic) word, a joke, a bit of flattery, a well earned criticism. It seems we are all there, sustaining one another not just through wellness, but through life.

A glance, nod or wink may seem trivial at the time, but it is the stuff of support and unspoken energy, that contributes to the ease with which we return each day to do one more rep.

I’ve had clients do a spell of training with me, and because of scheduling or finances or any other variables, do not continue. Some rebook later down the road or keep their options open. But just the fact of meeting and getting to know some of these, yes, angels, I have come to realize that I am living some kind of charmed life; I am constantly exposed to a variety of wisdom, intellect and humour that has enriched my life a thousand fold. Some of us have wept together and most of us have giggled uncontrollably at some point.

If you are reading this and you are on my trek, throughout my day, or my life, then you know who you are and you should know how much I value the smiles, the recipes, the unspoken raised eyebrows, the book loans, the shoulders to cry on, the shared confidences, your boundless wisdom and mostly your friendship.

This year, two of my clients passed away, yet their impact has been far reaching and, sad as I have been, I am also baffled that I had the good fortune to ever cross paths. I am still living under the sway of conversations we had so many months ago.

My wish is that we all continue this journey and find support when and where we need it, to continue, in spite of the physical challenges which will present themselves, and the other challenges that we are all familiar with. May your road be filled with the kind of good fortune mine has been blessed with, may the community of angels sustain you throughout.

Sunday Vegan Dinner

Food is far more than sustenance for many of us living in the first world, although there are many of us as well in this “first world” who can’t afford any indulgences other than eating enough calories to stay alive. (I do have a problem when massive generalizations exclude the reality of poverty in our midst.)

Being a person with enough to eat, for most of my life, I can say that I have had my little rituals around food. Friday usually means pasta, not sure why, but it is my TGIF reward for making it through another week. And more recently Sunday dinner had become a day when I would roast an organic chicken and do up a host of roasted veggies–until I became a vegan!

It wasn’t so much the food as the ritual around making the food that caught me by surprise. We REALLY looked forward to those dinners–cranberry and chicken fat dripping down our chins, loads of butter on something, anything. Not to forget the smell of a yummy chicken roasting in the oven. We all, even the dog, were beside ourselves with anticipation.

It was a hard habit to put to rest and there was a bit of transitioning when I became a vegan. I became “one,” overnight, so no gradual indoctrination. I went cold turkey!

Anyway all this to say that Sunday dinner customs have evolved phoenix like out of the embers. Dinner is much cheaper and definitely as much fun, and very very healthy (and like in the movies, no animals were injured in the process).

I now make soup on Sundays! It’s our new yummy comfort food. This week a friend gave me a bag of beets from her garden, which I have very little experience with. too small to peel so I boiled the whole batch and then cooled them and pulled the skins away. (Poor beets.) I cooked up some miso stock with onions and then a big pot of green lentils. I whizzed the whole thing and presto, a high fibre, high protein soup that has the lovely and subtle flavour of borscht! The I whipped up a corn bread to go with it. Millions of recipes online and if you do the chemistry of substitutions it’s too easy.

So there you go, cold outside, warm and very cheap inside. Loads of nutrition, still a mess in the kitchen, not much has changed!

If I Can Make Muffins…

Okay so the picture is the muffins before they baked. As you can see from previous posts I have no qualms about eating carbohydrates. Almost every weekend I make a batch of muffins which are more or less gone by Monday morning. My muffins are healthy and tasty and cheap to make.

But the point is that I am advocating whole food for your engine. You don’t need a diet if you are eating good whole food. If you are eating a diet of cookies and ice cream before you go to bed, then you likely know the outcome or are pretending not to know the outcome.

When I make my muffins I don’t use a recipe but I make sure that the dry ingredients kind of override the wet ones by about hmm, well two cups of dry to one and half liquid. So, I use my whole spelt flour, or oat flour or combination, add some baking soda and baking powder and a bit of salt — that’s it for dry unless you want to throw in some hemp flour, quinoa flour, the possibilities are absolutely endless!

For wet I use any kind of milk type thing, soy, almond, cow if you want. I add some oil and sometimes apple sauce and maybe a handful of frozen berries that I have thawed.

I mix it all together and then into a preheated oven at 350 for 20-30 minutes and voila!

So anyway, muffins are carbs, yes and carbs are fuel. Healthy whole grains are great for your gut health, fibre? Hello. Protein, yes and healthy fat from the oil you used. You will never find me promoting a “diet” per se. If you are on some kind of deprivation way of eating with lots of unrecognizable stuff going into your cake hole, mystery drinks and health bars that plug you up, I would recommend getting some whole foods in there too–a banana instead of a three musketeers? An apple instead of a kit-kat or Mars Bar.

Food is good. Good food is great!

Vanity thy name is…

So here I am in a photo, of me, that I took. An innocent selfie, but I do have to turn the camera phone thing around to make sure I got it just right, camera overhead so the sagging bits seem firm…

Anyway it’s Monday and I am counting on all of you to drag your asses out of that cozy bed and dive into your day. In a few hours you’ll be saying, what was all the fuss about?

To be honest my weekdays and weekends are so different that there is definitely a changing of gears usually happening around now as I write this. The weekdays are spent with clients talking about everything from exercise technique to the latest political disaster to the definitive Mexican bean casserole recipe. My weekdays are far more solitary, and, I believe rejuvenating, so that I have the energy to go back into the world. I eat lots, try to sleep well and get outdoors.

I can’t offer any wisdom for a Monday morning other than to say you are not alone. I am looking forward to that first cuppa’. And I am visualizing that first press or pull or push that I’ll do when I get to the gym. When I have the luxury of time I try to visualize the order of my workout, as well as the look and feel. I carry this into the gym with me to use between sets, when I am resting–a little mini closed eyes visualization of how my next set will go, will feel.

There will be time enough for talk, when I am with my clients, checking form and giving a wee bit of motivation, but for my own workout, it is focus time, on me, the guy in the picture!

It’s All About the Tweak



I am a big believer in tweaking rather than radically changing things up (although I did move to Japan on short notice and dropped everything to spend three months in Spain, and quit university to become a dancer).

At this stage of the game when we are inundated by stuff telling us how to live our lives moment by moment, from the time we put down our phone to the time we rise, and those most crucial waking hours, we are flooded with shoulds!

No one asked us about our life. We all seem to fit into a mold that is capable of forsaking our comfortable if not completely healthy morning routine to meditate, exercise, journal have a cold shower, discuss something in depth with a wise person, go for a walk to ponder the universe and then make a multi-ingredient smoothie to sip while still avoiding our emails and news feed.

Some of my clients take five minutes to dash from bed to mascara to lip gloss to the car!

I had a routine that got scrunched the busier I got. My routine had originally allowed for plenty of time for coffee and chat with my partner, meditation, work on my novel, some working out on a cross-trainer and then that cold shower.

This all lasted for a bit until my schedule filled up and I had to be out the door by 8:30. (I understand many of you have days that start way earlier.) Anyway the dog walk got shoved to the end of the routine, news feed took over and we still had our coffee together since it has been an ongoing tradition for about 18 years now.

With best of intentions I could not shift my ass out of coffee time into get ready for work and walk the dog time. Dog got ripped off and I was invariable just-on-time for my first client of the day.

I did a little self reflection and came to realize novel writing-cold shower-cross trainer-meditating time had become check the weather network and then get completely distracted down the internet rabbit-hole-until-coffee time.

I tweaked. My dog needs his walk; I signed that contract when he came to live with us. He slammed it down on the floor and made me leave my paw print. Now I get up early and we are out for our leisurely walky-joggy thing by six thirty. This covers dog, exercise, meditation, happy thoughts, lungs full of fresh air and time enough to arrive home for coffee, treats and no guilty mad dash out the door.

I’m hoping I can somehow inspire you to tweak if you are in a rut right now. The answer might be less complicated than you think!

Fabulize your Food


I am so excited. I bought this groovy pan from Canadian Tire for half off and it has been SO USEFUL! My friends down the road had us over for a dinner party and they had the neatest grill marks on their food, vegetables and tofu (they are vegans). I think they have the Cadillac version of the pan since I balked at the price when I found theirs. But mine is a charm:

  • nothing sticks to it
  • everything cooks evenly
  • everything gets groovy grill marks on it
  • it looks like I have been labouring over a hot barbecue

I am totally recommending this gizmo for your kitchen. You can start having guests over again and offering things like grilled red peppers (an excellent source of vitamin c), grilled asparagus (fun to see how quickly it makes your pee smell, and a powerhouse of vitamins, minerals AND protein), and if you’re a vegetarian you can get nifty grill marks on your tofu that you have gently sautéed in sesame oil, or sprinkled with some smoked paprika powder.

You will amaze yourself! No more scraping burned whatever off of your grandma’s old iron frying pan the next morning because you had to soak it overnight in nitro glycerine to revive it.

Above all it is an excellent way to start integrating some fresh veggies back into your diet, with little heartache, no disasters, minimal time commitment and a whole lot of   yummy flavour from the natural sweet taste of grilled veggies.

Trust me, if I can do it anyone can!

Happy New Year! (On the Exercise Calendar)

blog1Notice how I am wearing a slinky stringer top and how fabulous I look. It’s probably because I am trying to hide my mid-rift that seemed to have expanded (and contracted) from time to time over the summer. I am human!

Summer can be a big challenge. You want to traipse around half naked, divest yourself of cumbersome clothing, doff your duds at the beach and not give a damn who notices. In fact it might even be nice to turn a few heads.

Unfortunately pie (which I make) and beer (which I love) are my two biggest summer enemies! In moderation they can be friends. I was of the thinking that, because of my active lifestyle I could eat and drink to my heart’s content on the weekends, to make up for a week of healthy smoothies, greens at every meal and thoughtfully prepared dinners.

Not so. Pie is good but there is the law of diminishing returns when a slice of pie becomes a half a pie and on and on and the weekend eating begins Friday evening and ends on Sunday night!

I believe in pie and beer, but it is moderation that is key. Beer, is great after some long hours spent in the garden, and pie is fantastic on a hot summer night with the warm breeze wafting through the house as you watch an old Doris Day or James Bond rerun. “Honey, would you like another piece of pie?”

To be honest, pie and beer aren’t that cruel; we have September to make amends, to make a new start, and to actually make a difference!

September is one of the busiest times in the world of fitness as we get re-calibrated to start new jobs, new studies and new directions. One of the easiest and most rewarding commitments we can make, that lets us have control, is the commitment towards wellness.

While getting to a gym may be all but impossible to add to a list of things like the prevailing work ethic, rush hour traffic and the cost of living, having your wellness come to you is an option. A realistic goal for September might be to lose 10 pounds by thanksgiving. And why not!

Right now the fields are being harvested with the freshest of produce. You can make pumpkin pie your pie in the sky reward by Thanksgiving for eating a healthy whole foods diet, while exercising on your own, at home. It is that simple! Just check out the online training page and see if a community of like minded folks (the 40-60 year old crowd) is your thing.