Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Don't call it vegan (my plant-based diet experiment)

21 Days of Being Better Than You

It's been a good year for me fitness wise.  I stuck to my new year's resolution and completed the P90x program, including the diet.  In the first month I stuck to the meals religiously and lost almost 10 pounds.  The second and third months weren't quite as successful diet-wise, but I still feel good saying I completed the program.  I'll save the details of the P90x for another post, but the important thing is that I learned some important basics about diet and nutrition and added some good recipes to my arsenal.

Unfortunately, I could tell people were starting to get jealous of my new smokin' hot bod, so I decided to put a few of those pounds back on.  At least that's what I told myself.  Actually, without a laid out diet to stick to I stopped putting in the effort to plan and shop for the right kind of meals.  Throw in a couple of vacations and I reacquainted myself with about half of my lost poundage.  So when Ernie, one of my workout buddies, handed me the 21 Day Weigh Loss Kickstart by Neal D. Bernard, MD and challenged me to try 21 days of a plant-based diet, I decided it couldn't hurt to give it a try.  I need goals, and this seemed as good as any.

The philosophy behind Dr. Bernard's diet is that the fats we consume with animal products slow down our cells' ability to process the nutrients/energy that comes with our foods.  The little mailmen in our cells that deliver the nutrients from the blood stream to the nucleus have to wade through the fat, kind of like swimming through oil.  If we eliminate the fat/oils, they can process the food much quicker which will boost our metabolism which will give us more energy and help us lose weight.

Dr. Bernard is very clear that this is not a calorie counting exercise.  You should be able to eat as much as you want as long as you follow three rules:

  1. No animal products, including cheese, eggs, butter, etc.  (Basically vegan without the need to make other people feel like they're destroying the planet by eating a burger)
  2. Minimize all oils, including plant based oils like those found in nuts, olives, avocados, etc. 
  3. Stick to low glycemic index foods (i.e. minimize sugary foods and bread - even wheat bread)
I'm totally on board for #1 and reluctantly on board for #3 (I hate giving up dessert, even vegan dessert), but I know I'm going to struggle with #2.  And frankly, I'm not sure if that's a bad thing.  My cholesterol is naturally low and my family has no history of heart problems.  Is that an excuse to eat corned beef and pork rinds every night?  No.  But hopefully an olive oil dressing on my salad won't be what kills me.  I'll do my best.  I'll skip the avocado, cook with vegetable broth instead of olive oil, and not binge on peanut butter, but I'm not going to kill myself avoiding the oils.  Now if at the end of 21 days I haven't lost any weight or gained any energy, then I guess Dr. Bernard can say "I told you so."

I started my plant-based adventure on May 31st with a nice bowl of cereal, which couldn't have excited me more.  I LOVE breakfast cereal.  With the P90x diet, most breakfasts were egg whites of some kind.  They did a nice job of mixing it up with different vegetables, cheeses, and spices, but I missed cereal bad.  Unfortunately, my first plant-based meal of the program was also my first fail.  I used soy milk and had a Special K that's not super sugary, but it dawned on me when I went for another bowl later that day that I had picked the Fruit and Yogurt variety.  Doh.

Since then I've been pretty good.  I've made a couple mistakes like grabbing the regular milk from the fridge out of habit instead of the soy/almond/coconut milk or accidentally taking a bite of Adria's pasta that has the Parmesan cheese on it, but I'm sticking with it.  I won't give a play by play of the last week and a half, but here are some of the highlights and takeaways so far.


Ernie's advice for eating out was, "Eat before you go."  I wish I could do that, but that's like getting your presents in grocery bags on Christmas eve then getting up the next morning to watch everyone else unwrap theirs from under the tree.  I can't do it.  Even if I know I'm going to be unwrapping socks while everyone else gets iPods, I just want to be a part of the fun.

Cheesesteak, hold the cheese and steak

The first night of the diet, we were invited out to get cheese steaks at the Cheesesteak Shop in downtown San Jose with some friends.  I did a quick Google search to see if cheese and steak are plant based, but it turns out that's a bit of a stretch.  Instead I ordered their veggie sandwich with no cheese.  It was a good blend of sauteed peppers and onions, but there's something disappointing about having a cheese steak without any cheese or steak.  Go figure.  I'd be willing to bet their bread wasn't vegan, but I didn't check.  I figured if I asked and found out for sure I'd end up eating an $8 bowl of lettuce (none of their salads were vegan either).

Wrappin' my veggies

The next night I had more of a chance to pick my restaurant.  A quick Yelp search on the word "vegan" brought up one of my old favorites called Rojoz Wraps.  It's an affordable little wraps place with a creative menu and some pretty good smoothies.  Turns out they've got a couple of vegan options that didn't look too bad (here's the menu:  I went with the Taj Mahal, mostly because it sounded coolest.  I was pleasantly surprised.  The potatoes, curry, and jasmine rice blended great and I honestly didn't miss the meat.  I'd order it again.  The all fruit smoothie was disappointing, though, in comparison to the ones I've had before.  Just not the same without some frozen yogurt mixed in there.

What is it good Pho?

We also went out for some pho on Day 5.  Nothing super special about it; I just wanted to write that header because I think I'm funny.


Here are a few other thoughts/learnings I've had over the last week and a half:
  • Asian food seems to be the easiest to veganize... er, veganate or whatever.  It's a lot of simple sauces with lots of vegetables and rice.  The meat isn't the main event, just more of an add in. Plus there isn't a bunch of cheese. milk, or butter mixed in. 
  • I do find myself hungrier than usual.  That leads me to more snacking than normal.  That doesn't seem to be a big problem.  I'm already at a lower weight than I was when I finished P90x.
  • I don't THINK my muscle gain is suffering from a lack of protein.  I did P90x/Insanity all week and had the energy to get through the workouts.  It's hard to tell from just a week and a half, but it seems like I'm putting on a more lean/toned muscle.  
  • I'm hungry right now.
  • I've always chosen meals by picking the meat then planning vegetables and grains around it. This diet forces me to think more broadly.  I don't think I'm going to stick with the vegan after my 21 days are over, but this will change the way I plan for meals.  Hopefully plant based meals become a 3-4 dinner a week kind of a thing going forward. 
  • I miss my BBQ.  I grilled myself dinner at least 4 days a week before starting this diet.  I looked out the window this morning and saw her sitting there lonely and unused, and had to look away before I teared up.  One of my goals for the rest of this challenge is to figure out two or three good vegetable or fruit recipes to do on the grill.
So that's it for now.  I'll try to throw together posts about vegan camping, tempeh, and a few other recipes I've tried and post them soon.  Until then, go have some tri tip or a nice piece of salmon in my honor.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

31 and Counting

I turned 31 today.  It's one of those birthdays that doesn't have any real pomp or circumstance.  Nobody ever says to you, "You're turning the BIG 3-1 this year!"  After 25 it seems those 'checkpoint' birthdays don't happen very often.  12, 16, 18, 20, 21, 25, and 30 are all checkpoint birthdays; after that it's really just every decade.  That's kind of a shame, because it feels like it's the checkpoint birthdays that really make you evaluate where you're at.

I was thinking about that this morning and realized that even though today wasn't really a checkpoint birthday, last year was.  The road to 30 is full of natural milestones.  High school, college, mission, marriage, job.  Check, check, check check, check.  At 30, I had a couple degrees, a good job, and best of all a smart, beautiful, loving wife.  Not bad.    

The 30th birthday made me wonder what was next.  All of a sudden the preset milestones disappear and it's on you to pave the path.  Things like "Advance my career", "Serve in the church, "Be a good husband", "Save for retirement", "Stay in shape", etc.,  come to mind, but none of those are very specific.

I decided I needed something to work toward... a goal.  That was when I decided to run a marathon.  Looking back on the year, the marathon is certainly the most challenging thing I accomplished.  The decision to run it kicked off a 6 month training regiment that had me running nearly every day, around Agilent, at the fitness center, on the Los Gatos Creek Trail, on the beach at 17 Mile Drive, and even in 30 degree weather in Utah on Christmas Eve.  

But thinking about the year past, the marathon wasn't the only thing I did this year.  I actually got a lot done.  
  • Ran the Bakersfield Half Marathon
  • Ran the Salt Lake Marathon
  • Went skydiving
  • Ate garlic ice cream
  • Biked over the Golden Gate Bridge
  • Went backpacking in Yosemite
  • Trained for and finished the Tough Mudder
  • Drove down Highway 1 through Big Sur
  • Did the Color Run at Candlestick Park
  • Went to a Giants game and an A's game
  • Served as the Ward Mission Leader
  • Hired and managed an intern
  • Hiked a mountain with my little brother
  • Did a flashlight tour of Alcatraz
  • Shot a legitimate 93 on a difficult golf course
  • Lost 10 pounds (w/ at least 10 to go)
  • Hung shelves on the wall for Adria
  • Wrote in my blog (today)
I feel pretty good about that list.

Still, there were a few things I wanted to do/accomplish this past year but didn't:
  • Build a model car (only because I don't have the time, space, or money to rebuild a real one)
  • Hike Half Dome
  • Ride the roller coasters at Six Flags Magic Mountain
  • Visit San Louis Obispo
  • Deep sea fishing
  • Mountain biking
  • Whale watching (although we did see a whale while at the beach once)
  • Surfing
  • P90X / Insanity
  • Wash my car
That looks like a good list for year 32.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Angels & VCs

Yesterday I attended a panel of a couple of Pheonix venture capitalists and one angel investor. I learned a few things and made a few observations. (Disclaimer: these are my thoughts based ona panel of THREE people; take it with a grain of salt!)

  • VCs and angels are arrogant people; you have to stroke them. When the panel was asked about some of the mistakes people make, one of their examples was how much they hate it when someone says, "That's a good question." You may as well tell them their office smells like rhino pee. Apparently VCs know when they've asked a good question, and they don't need you to tell them. Another example comes in the form of a story about a former CFO of Intel that is now a VC in Silicon Valley. When an idea presenter began his presentation by saying, "I don't know if you know anything about international finance..." the former CFO closed his book and walked out. That presenter overestimated the importance of his idea and underestimated the importance of stroking the investor’s arrogance. The VC may have walked out on a billion dollar idea, but at least he proved his point. Now all this doesn't mean that VCOs and angels aren't nice; in fact, they were very personably. I just think it would be hard to be an investor and NOT be arrogant. They hold a lot of power and reject a lot of people. The angel told us that his group has calculated the numbers and found that they fund about 5% of the ideas that they hear (and there are a LOT of ideas submitted that they never even hear). The VCs weren't as nice. They estimated that "for every 100 ideas we hear, we find 10 we like, and one we invest in." I guess those numbers are understandable when you consider the number of ideas that fail every day. If it were me, I wouldn't be throwing my money around either.

  • I also learned a few tips to making the presentation:
  • Be prepared to present without your AV (in case it doesn't work; "if you can't present it on a napkin, I don't have time to hear it")
  • Don't EVER say there is no competition (if there's no competition, there's probably no profits)
  • Don't tell the investor how much they will make and when (they'll answer that question for themselves)
  • Don't tell them you plan on buying them out at a certain time (makes them skeptical)
  • Don't be arrogant (that's their job)

  • They mentioned the three ways people get into a VC position (according to them):
  1. Get a low level position in a firm out of college (this is the LEAST likely to lead to success)
  2. Work in an industry for several years and get industry specific experience then move into VC
  3. Start a successful company or two of your own then move into VC

  • And finally, what is the best way to get your idea heard? Know someone. It’s all about who you know.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

MBA and Baseball

I have decided that the MBA program here at ASU is a lot like baseball. We students are pitchers and the professors are umpires. Every umpire has his own strike zone; some are more liberal on the corners, some like high pitches, some like low pitches. If we want to succeed, we just need to figure out each umpire's strike zone and put the ball where it needs to go. Not every good pitch we throw gets called a strike and not every bad pitch we throw gets called a ball. In the end, what we want most is consistency. If we play the game right the odds are greatly in our favor, and the outcome is ultimately in our control.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Hot and Cold

Well, the temperature is dropping here in AZ. Today's high was only 92 degrees, and it's dipping down into the 60's overnight. We got our first full month's electricity bill of $185!! To be honest, I don't think I'd mind paying it if it meant the house was cool, but that's a lot of money to keep the the temperature at a constant 80 degrees. I put in a request to have the maintenance people come take a look and figure out where all the cool air we were paying for was going, but they showed up while we were gone and left a note. All it said was, "Checked the temperature in den and bedroom. Temperature in bedroom 20 degrees higher." Have they done anything about it? No. Are they going to do anything about it? I highly doubt it. That was a month ago. I called them the next day and left a message to have them call me back and explain it. No response. I've said it before and I'll say it again, the married student housing at the U of U may have been small, but they cared about the students. I would move back there tomorrow. The married student housing here, on the other hand, may be big, but they care much more about the money than they do the students. It's just a freaking business. Maybe I was naive to think it would be anything else, but I expected more.

In contrast to the temperature, things have been heating up at school. The classes have been getting more demanding and now the pressure has really turned on to start networking with companies to find internships for the summer. Last Thursday night they had a Company Networking Night where I was able to meet representatives from IBM, Avnet, Amazon, Target, Petsmart, Cox, Dial, and Intel. Some of the companies were very receptive to my background and MBA focus (marketing). Amazon will be recruiting at ASU in December for a marketing internship for which I think I am really qualified. That certainly doesn't mean I'll get it, but I'm looking forward to the opportunity to try. Then this week I attended information sessions put on by Dell and Intel. I won't bore you with the details, but I had some very good conversations with representatives from both companies that were very uplifting. Most companies I talk to seem to be impressed with the technical background and Mandarin skills. My fear, however, is that they act impressed and interested to my face, but when it comes to putting their money where their mouth is, it will be a bit different story. Oh well, it only takes one, right?

Adria is doing well, too. When I got home on Wednesday she was still in her underwear and hadn't showered. She claims she was on the computer looking for jobs all day, but the bon bons and slippers next to the couch are a bit puzzling ;) Seriously, though, she is still working hard to find the right job at the right place that is best for our family. The job that she had planned on starting as of the last post called her up a week after settling on a salary and rescinded her offer. She's received several offers since then that she has turned down because they just don't feel right, but it is very hard to keep doing so. Our fear is that we'll wait forever for that perfect job, but eventually we'll run completely out of options. Anyway, we're very confident that the Lord has great blessings in store for us, and we'll keep praying for His guidance. Part of me wonders what I'll do when she does get a job. She does EVERYTHING around here. Cooking cleaning, laundry, lunches. My only job is to clean up the occasional dead cockroach. I can't imagine having to do all that for myself and still being able to get everything done for school. She is so supportive and I wouldn't/couldn't be here without her.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Phoenix in September (part 1)

Hi everyone!

Thank you to those of you who have been reading the posts. Sorry the last one was so long. It's been a good week for me and Adria and we thought we'd share a few highlights.

It's starting to be monsoon season around here. Last Sunday night the thunder and lightning came rolling in and it lasted for over an hour. It also poured rain for about a half hour. Adria and I just stepped onto our porch and let the rain blow on us while we watched some of the coolest bolts of lightning we've ever seen. Then in happened again Thursday night and all morning Saturday. Certainly a nice break from our usual 105F.

On Wednesday Adria got an email from the Arizona Children's Association to offer her a job. When we came down in July she interviewed for an opening there and had been asked to come for a second interview the week we moved here, but on our way here they called her to tell her they'd gone on a hiring freeze and wouldn't be able to see her. Adria was very disappointed because she really liked what they do, but they told her they'd keep her at the top of their list for when things changed. Well, it turns out one of their specialist is leaving the Association and they needed to fill her position. Apparently as soon as the director found out about the opening she sent Adria the email with the offer! We tried to finagle a little more money out of them, but on Friday Adria accepted the offer and she'll be starting this week! It's about time she started fulfilling her sugar momma role around here.

On Thursday night one of the 2nd year MBAs invited us to their house to watch the Utah vs Utah St game. They have Direct TV, so they've got the Mountain (curse word). All of the wives left to go shopping and invited Adria to go too, but she decided to stay and watch the game :) At least for a little while. Eventually she caught up with them and did a little shopping. I really enjoyed the game. Cain has a lot of work to do, but I'd say he's even a step ahead of where Johnson was when he took over. Let's just hope we don't have to suffer through another 2005.

As for school, it was a pretty rough week. I've been keeping my head above water, but we got our first paper's back in our Strategy class and the results were dismal. Our first reaction was to be angry. We really think the professor lumped our paper with some others and then didn't look at it very subjectively, but I guess that's a danger when there are so many other groups. It was comforting to know that we weren't the only group that got hammered, but we definitely don't want it to happen again. We've scheduled a meeting with him this week in hopes that we can understand what he's looking for and figure where there is room for improvement.

Anyhoo, that's about it for now. I think I might start blogging daily quick words of wisdom relating to my classes. If you're not interested, just skip over those. If you are, feel free to comment and we'll discuss!

Peace out!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

First Week of B-school

Hi Everyone!

It's Saturday morning. I made it through the first week of the ASU MBA. I had good moments and bad moments, but overall I'm determined to do better next week. Now, mostly for my mom's sake since she's probably the only one that really cares :), I thought maybe I'd run you through what will be a typical week for me. Maybe along the way I'll throw in a few specific experiences, but I'll try to keep it short.

Monday through Thursday:

5:10am - Alarm goes off.

5:11am - Stub my toe on something, turn off my alarm and go back to bed.

5:15am - Wake up to the second alarm and get on my knees and thank God for another new day.

5:20am - Go in our 400 degree bathroom and take a shower using ONLY the cold water (which isn't really cold).

5:55am - After getting all businessy, we head out to wait for my bus. I say "we" because Adria has been getting up with me, walking me to the bus stop and going to fitness classes that start at 6:10! I'm really proud of her, and she's having a lot of fun. This week she did a kick boxing class, a spin class (cycling), and a weight class (which she says she's never doing again, but I'll try to get her there).

6:05am - On the bus and off to school. I'm trying to use this time to review material for the days classes. I usually watch the sun rise from the bus. Once it comes up, there's no stopping that heat; it's 90 degrees almost immediately and it just gets hotter all day.

7:00am - Arrive at school and head to the Graduate Suite to study some more before class and shoot the breeze with some classmates.

The Graduate Suite is a card accessed section of the business building that is just for the graduate students. There's a lounge area, a quiet study room, a small kitchen, a classroom, the IT support center, and about 10 group conference rooms with big 40+" flat panel monitors on the wall. It's a cool area, but it can get crowded sometimes.

8:00 to 9:50am - Class starts. This is showtime. Monday and Wednesday I start the day with Strategic Theory and Tuesday and Thursday it's Organizational Behavior. These are the more "abstract" classes, but I think that's one thing that sets this program apart, the focus on managerial styles and company focus. These are the classes that require strict attention and heavy participation. Pretty much the entire class period is a group discussion led by the professor. Our comments are graded by another student (selected at random at the beginning of the class), and the sum of the points for each day is factored into our final grade. No pressure.

10:10am to 12pm - Let's call this the "drowsy hour" (or two hours). The second classes of the day are the more scientific courses. Mon and Wed we have Statistics and Tuesday and Thursday is Accounting. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy these subjects - or in the case of Accounting, at least understand its importance - but at this point I've been up since 5:15 and been nothing but focused. I live in constant fear of the "head-bob" during Accounting. Fortunately that's the only class of the week that doesn't have any sort of grade for class participation.

12pm to 3pm - By noon, I'm definitely ready for lunch. I'll usually either eat with a team member (they put us in teams of 4), or just sit down next to some other classmates in the lounge. I've made quite a few friends, but I'm REALLY struggling to remember names. Especially the international students names. It's one thing to try to remember Josh, Nate, Mike, etc, but for some of these international students I have to learn to bend my tongue in new ways! Just a sample of a couple of the names: Pongowtham, Nachiket, Guarav, Vineet, Praveen, Dipti, Nikhil (fortunately, he just lets people call him Nik). On the first day of Strategy, the professor had such a hard time with Nachiket that Nachiket just gave up and took his little name plate and shortened it to Nac. These are ALL great people, but it just makes the name thing that much harder. Actually, to make things worse, they all remember MY name. I hope "dude" isn't offensive in Indian, because that's what I've been calling all of them.

Anyway, after eating I try to find a place to study/sleep. It's not easy finding a place to dose off. The quiet study room is the obvious choice (it's a little cooler and it really is dead quiet), but there are times that the space is limited so they've actually put signs up that say you can't sleep in there. I've broken that rule once already. I'm going to start trying to use this time to go to the gym.

3:00 to 5pm - This is when our team gets together to review, prepare, and discuss. My teammates are great. Nate Bernosky is a former school teacher and college basketball player. Mike Stein's background is mostly in sales. And the aforementioned Pongowtham (Gowtham for short) comes from an engineering background, most recently at Honeywell. We get along well. I think at the moment our only hitch is just figuring out the group dynamic that will help us use our time most effectively.

5:15pm - If we finish our group stuff in time, this is the earliest shuttle I can catch. On Monday I didn't catch the shuttle until 6pm, but every other day I got on this one.

6:10pm - Home. The rest of the night is a struggle to stay focused. I did a pretty good job on Monday, but by Tuesday night I already felt like I needed a vacation. Adria certainly wants some attention and I'm more than happy to give it to her. Monday night she made my mom's chicken enchiladas. They were GREAT!! I ate the leftovers for dinner the next two nights. Tuesday Adria went out with the other MBA wives to go shopping, get frozen yogurt, and watch a movie. I was glad she did. I think she feels a little out of place with the group, but it's beneficial for her and me.

10:30pm - Bed time. It's a long day, and it gets longer and longer as the week goes on.

Friday I slept in until 7:15am and caught the 8am shuttle to campus. I met with the group from about 10am to 2pm. Then I went to the rec center and worked out and caught the 5:15pm shuttle home to spend some time with my poor lonely wife. When I told her I was going to be on campus all day Friday even though there were no classes, I couldn't tell if she wanted to cry or hit me. She was happy when I got home.

Now it's Saturday and I have nothing but reading ahead of me. Maybe I can do some of it by the pool.