Listening to your body is an interesting topic Irondad brings up today for two reasons… 

Fellow Vegan Canadian - Pam Anderson

1- I stayed home from work today to nurse a sore throat.. and now I’m coming up with a billion excuses on why I shouldn’t go to my run clinic tonight. Well mostly just one actually, the sore throat – but advises this:  

“Slow down if you have above-the-neck symptoms like a scratchy throat or runny nose. It’s probably safe to workout, but you should cut back, as you don’t want to overdo it when you have a cold. Your body needs plenty of rest in order to repair itself.” 

I guess the good news is my training at this point wouldn’t qualify as ‘overdoing’ it by any stretch of the imagination.. so I think this is going to be a hard one to argue. Not going to work and infecting my co-workers was an easy one to justify, but 30 minutes of exercise probably won’t hurt. 

2 – Since I worked from home, I also watched Oprah for the first time in a loooonng time. Also interesting that the episode profiled Oprah and her staff on a 1-week vegan-diet challenge. 

I have been following a Vegan diet for almost 9 years now. I gave up meat on my first day of University in an effort to avoid the typical Freshman 15.. and in my 2nd year I went completely Vegan (no meat, fish, chicken, animal products – butter, eggs, cheese… none of it) .  Growing up on every form of meat and dairy possible (we’re Polish), I’m surprised at how easy the transition was for me. I pretty much went ‘cold turkey’ so to speak and haven’t really looked back. 

My Vegan ‘personality’ like my Ironman training is pretty relaxed (although it’s probably absurd to most to define myself as a ‘relaxed’ Vegan Ironman… ). I am not a member of PETA, I don’t carry spray paint in case I come across a fur coat, and I do (now) purchase leather shoes because I find they last (and smell) a lot better. I also shop almost entirely at normal grocery stores without issue (Safeway, IGA, local produce stands etc.) My older brother Jon, who is also a Vegan, is probably a bit more right-wing on the Vegan continuum and will often police my Vegan behaviour…to each their own. When I first became Vegan, I argued all the arguments in the Vegan bible because I didn’t know any different. Now I think it just feels right for me. I’m healthy, my iron levels are normal (low, but normal), I can eat well when I’m out at restaurants with non-Vegans without making people feel uncomfortable eating steak, I haven’t experienced any complications and I enjoy knowing more about my food than the average person. 

Fast forward 7 or so years when I started training for Ironman.  I decided that it was probably the right time to consult a professional dietician, to ensure I was getting all the nutrients I needed for training.  Removing the whole ‘vegan difference’, my dietician Christina Sutter (  evaluated and adjusted my diet to suit my training and energy needs. I was surprised at how supportive she was of the Vegan diet, and how easy it seemed to accommodate 10-15 hours of training without getting terribly complicated with diet. Probably a good idea for anyone – Vegan, Omnivore or otherwise – to check-in with a pro before embarking on an intense training schedule. She also said I should be taking a daily multi-vitamin – not just because I’m Vegan, but also because I’m a woman and apparently it’s near impossible to get enough calcium and iron as a woman in general. 

One resource I continue to go back to over the years is a North Vancouver athlete – Brendan Brazier ( Brendan is an ultra-marathon champion, an Ironman triathlete, and now is one of the most authoritative voices in the world on how to be a healthy and successful vegan endurance athlete. His line of literature (Thrive Diet), and range of products – known as Vega – is all Vegan, entirely natural, mostly raw and supports an endurance lifestyle.  Even I find some of his recipes a bit out there – but none-the-less delicious and of course SUPER healthy. You can probably find the Vega product line (mostly endurance sport nutrition products) in any Whole Foods-type store these days.. or modern nutritional stores. 

One of his most recent publications is Thrive Fitness – The Vegan-Based Training Program for Maximum Strength, Health, and Fitness ( Interesting read for Vegans and non-vegans alike. 

I am not standing on my organic vegan soapbox preaching a meatless/dairyless lifestyle.. it’s definitely not for everyone. I thought the Oprah show shed some really interesting light on the pros and cons of both the diet and lifestyle (not necessarily the same); and obviously spread the idea to an enormous international audience. What I didn’t really like about the episode was the Vegan ‘advocate’ on the show. While she did her best to promote freedom of choice, and ‘easing’ into the lifestyle slowly, I got the sense she came from the very right side of the Vegan-personality continuum which I believe is what scares most people off from Veganism in the first place.  

Why can’t you be Vegan just because it  feels good, you know so much more about your food, and it can help performance? Brendan Brazier and the Thrive-diet certainly operate from that philosophy. 

And on the theme of ‘listening to your body’ – this summer I started to integrate a little bit of fish into my diet. Nothing crazy… still no meat or dairy… but something told me I really wanted salmon and so I ate it. No biggie. The Vegan police aren’t after me (unless you count my brother). I don’t know how long this craving will last, or even being Vegan for that matter. 

So maybe now I’m Vegan-ish. 

But who cares. Eat from any diet you choose.. as long as it makes you feel good, supports your goals, and supports a healthy lifestyle overall. 

A few things you might consider if Vegan intrigues you: 

  • Do some reading.. there are tons of resources out there online. I like the Thrive Diet/Brendan Brazier approach as a triathlete.. but there are many Vegan/Raw/Organic philosophies out there.. find what works for you
  • Don’t try to be a Vegan hero overnight. One suggestion Oprah had today was Meatless Mondays – give it a try! Read up on some great, no-meat, iron-filled recipes at – it’s has both Veggie and Vegan recipes.. and offers pretty much anything you can dream of, including alternatives to your favourites. It’s all user-tested and rated.. so you can also read some great feedback on the recipes.
  • Read your labels. I guarantee you will be shocked by how much meat/dairy makes it into your diet unknowingly. Dairy, especially, is in everything (not to mention other strange ingredients that you can’t pronounce)
  • Let me know how it goes! I am not an expert, but I’d be happy to share my experiences and tips and vice-versa

Now I should probably head to my run club :) 



p.s. one of my favourite Simpson’s clips on being a Level-5 Vegan  

p.p.s. A few other favourite resources: 

REALLY simple Vegan cookbooks that I use all the time: 

Vegan food pyramid:

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