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The Surprising Final Leg of My Weight-Loss Journey


Editor's Note: To coincide with the Great American Meatout on March 20, I'm sharing my success story with a vegan diet. Please note that this story is a personal one and should not be taken as dietary advice or an endorsement from anyone other than myself. I am a writer, not a health professional. We're all an experiment of one. Do what's right for you!

Reprinted in part from "Easy Vegan Meals by SparkPeople: The No-Stress, No-Guilt Way to Reap the Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet."

In 2010, I became a vegan accidentally, unintentionally and without fanfare--all the while claiming that I could never make the leap to veganism. My excuses varied depending on the situation: it would be too costly, I loved cheese too much, I couldn't imagine interrogating every server at every restaurant for the rest of my life. I admit: I was wrong about veganism. Today, I remain happily, healthfully vegan.

It all started with a stressful break-up that left me with an odd feeling: a loss of interest in cooking. As a food editor and cookbook writer, this was very unusual!

For the first time in a very long time, I had to remind myself to eat, and when I did, most foods didn't appeal to me. I spent a couple of weeks relying heavily on healthy snacks to keep me fueled: oatmeal, carrots and hummus, bananas with almond butter, quick spinach and bean salads, etc.

Though emotionally I was a mess, physically I felt great. I was tracking my food on SparkPeople to make sure I was eating enough to sustain me, so I knew I was consuming adequate calories. I had energy, I was running and practicing yoga regularly, and I had a noticeable absence of stomach pain.

You see, I have what many call "a delicate constitution." That's a nice way of saying that my stomach is sensitive. I'm prone to all sorts of unappetizing ailments related to the GI tract. Never feed me raw broccoli. You've been warned. I'm also lactose intolerant.

Though I was eating the same amount of calories as usual, I was losing weight--and SparkPeople confirmed that I was getting enough protein, carbs, fat, etc.
I started examining my food intake more closely. What was different? I was eating really healthy foods, but I was also going out just as much as I had before.

Then I realized
Posted 3/18/2012  10:00:00 AM By: Stepfanie Romine : 42 comments   21,773 views
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10 No-Recipe Meals for Nights You Don't Feel Like Cooking


Most nights I look forward to cooking dinner. I listen to music on my iPod, perhaps enjoy a small glass of wine, and relax as I chop, sauté and braise. Other nights, when I come home starving, teach a late yoga class, or go for a long run after work, I want my meals to be no-fuss, no-muss, on the table in 20 minutes or less. (I must confess that I have a pretty sweet arrangement with my boyfriend: I cook, he cleans. I'm really good at making messes in the kitchen!) These are my top 10 go-to vegan meals. You can make them as simple or as fancy as you'd like. Use heat-and-eat rice, canned beans, and pre-chopped or frozen vegetables to save time, or gussy up these recipes (techniques, really) on nights when you're feeling creative. Add some fruit and a cup of calcium-fortified non-dairy milk (we vegans need strong bones!), and dinner is served.
Posted 3/8/2012  2:00:00 PM By: Stepfanie Romine : 25 comments   113,445 views
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The No-Stress, No-Guilt Approach to Meatless Meals


I'm thrilled to announce that SparkPeople has just published the first in a line of ebooks, "Easy Vegan Meals by SparkPeople: The No-Stress, No-Guilt Way to Reap the Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet."

As many of you know, I am editor of SparkRecipes and dailySpark, and co-author of "The SparkPeople Cookbook." I love food--writing, editing, researching, and, of course, eating it.

What you might not know about me is that I'm vegan, meaning I don't eat meat, dairy, eggs or anything else that comes from an animal. About 1% of Americans eat this way (for reference, 3% of Americans are vegetarian), but that number is growing. Due to my love of creating tasty, easy plant-based recipes, I was really excited to launch our ebook series with a vegan cookbook and guide.

Don't worry--SparkPeople isn't taking the stance that we all need to ditch meat forever. But with at least 325,000 vegetarians and vegans on our site, we know that many of our members are interested in eating less meat and more plants. This book fills a niche, and I wrote it with the SparkPeople philosophy in mind--moderation, no fad diets, and taking small steps along the way to a healthier you. 

I am passionate about sharing the vegan lifestyle with others, but I (and SparkPeople) will never pressure you or guilt you into giving up meat, cheese, or eggs forever. I'd rather have each of you take one step toward a healthier you than alienate even one reader with a "diet" that seems complicated and stressful.

Why vegan for me?
In 2010, I adopted an all-plant diet accidentally, unintentionally and without fanfare--all the while claiming that I could never be a vegan. (That's a good story--I explain in the ebook.) My excuses varied depending on the situation: it would be too costly, I loved cheese too much, I couldn't imagine interrogating every server at every restaurant for the rest of my life. I admit: I was wrong about veganism. Today, I remain happily, healthfully vegan.

I've discovered that a plant-based diet is neither restrictive nor difficult, neither expensive nor time-consuming, and I'm hoping you'll give it a try--at least for a little while. 

My body is the strongest and healthiest it has ever been. A vegan diet allows me to maintain a rigorous six-day-a-week Ashtanga yoga practice while training for half-marathons and teaching yoga.  My boyfriend, a competitive cyclist, fuels with a plant-based diet as well. We each became vegan shortly before we met (within a week of each other, it turned out!), and the early days of our relationship were spent cooking up vegan feasts in my tiny apartment kitchen. 

The motivators for a vegan diet can be pretty heavy topics, but what they all have in common is compassion and kindness: for others, for yourself, or for the earth and its animals. That's why I believe in the "no-stress, no-guilt" approach to meatless meals. 

That's also why, along with other experts and members here at SparkPeople, I wrote "Easy Vegan Meals by SparkPeople: The No-Stress, No-Guilt Way to Reap the Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet," which is available for $2.99 on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.

To celebrate this new e-book and encourage others to embrace more plant-based meals, I'm launching the 30-Day Meatless Challenge, starting March 1.

As I said, this isn't like other books on veganism. We focus solely on the positive aspects of a plant-based diet. Whether you are looking to add a few vegan recipes to your weekly meal plans, experiment with plant-based eating for a few weeks during Lent, or make it a lifelong journey, I hope you'll be inspired to embrace meatless meals at least for a little while from a healthy, whole-foods perspective using the new book.

If you want to eat plants 100% of the time and get healthy while doing it, I'm thrilled--and this is the book and the challenge for you. But remember that if you want to experiment with more meatless meals, learn how to cook for a vegan in your life, or just learn what the heck vegans eat, this book is for you, too.

Click here to buy or preview "Easy Vegan Meals by SparkPeople: The No-Stress, No-Guilt Way to Reap the Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet" on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.

Posted 2/27/2012  6:00:00 PM By: Stepfanie Romine : 101 comments   97,027 views
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