Jen and Company

engine 2 challenge: success

May 30, 2011 · 3 Comments

Where exactly did May go?  Some months really fly by – especially ones that are jam packed with activities like May was for me. Races, training for races, gardening, prom (not mine), family gatherings, blogger gatherings plus a very busy work life gave me a very full month.

At the forefront of the month was the Engine 2 Challenge. Now that I’m officially finished with the challenge, I wanted to share my thoughts.

First, let’s recap what the challenge entailed. For 28 days, I …..

  • ate a plant strong diet full of delicious fruits and vegetables.
  • did not eat any animal products. No meat, fish, eggs, cheese, milk, etc.
  • limited my oils greatly. I also watched my overall fat intake.
  • cut way back on added salt.

As I mentioned in my initial post about the challenge, abstaining from animal foods was not going to be a problem. I had just finished vegan lent so I had grown accustomed to a plant based diet. I was more concerned about the oils and the salt.

The oils

Surprisingly, this wasn’t hard. My go-to salad dressing ended up being a drizzle of vinegar (balsamic, red-wine, whatever you have on hand) and a drizzle of agave nectar. I didn’t even know the oil was gone. This past week I made an oil-free balsamic dressing and it was delicious! As far as sautéing vegetables on the stove top, a little bit of olive oil spray and starting with a vegetable that gives off water (like mushrooms) did the trick. If things got a little dry, I’d add a bit of water and all was well. I didn’t miss the flavor of the oil either, which was surprising. A light hand with the oil will be something I continue, except when the popcorn cravings kick in.

The salt

This is where I found myself struggling a bit. You may remember me whining about living without salt.  Well, two things happened after that post. First, my taste buds started to adjust. I was able to detect more flavor from the actual food, not just from the salt. Secondly, I met Rip. Rip is the author of the Engine 2 book and I was fortunate enough to meet him at a gathering before the Forks over Knives premier. I told him the only thing that was taking me awhile to get used to was the lack of salt. He asked me what foods in particular I enjoyed salt on. I explained that I like a little sprinkle of salt on my salads, and to finish a dish like a stir-fry or grilled veggies. Then something miraculous happened.

He gave me permission.

He explained how he’s really trying to get people away from the sodium in all the processed food we eat. Since I eat very little of that, a few sprinkles here and there won’t be a problem. When salt can add that ‘wow’ factor on a dish, it would be sad not to add it. He gave an interesting analogy. There is the same amount of sodium in a slice of white bread as there is in a serving of potato chips. You don’t notice it’s there with the bread since the salt isn’t hitting your tongue like it is with the potato chips.  So, I’ve embraced salt as a finishing touch to dishes that benefit from a little sprinkle. I’m certainly not as liberal with it as I used to be and I pay much more attention to the sodium content in anything that is packaged. I encourage you to do the same – it was very eye opening!

Forks Over Knives

Also this month, I got to attend the local premier of Forks Over Knives. This documentary is basically the film version of the China Study. Not surprisingly, I loved it. Not only does it go through the extensive research that  a plant based diet can prevent, stop and reverse chronic disease, it also follows four real life examples of people who drastically changed their health just by changing their diet. The title of the film tells us that by choosing what we pick up with our forks, we can prevent going under the knife. I believe now more than ever that what you eat is the best medicine available to keep us healthy.  The research is right in front of us. There are more testimonials and real-life stories than I have time to read.  A plant strong diet is where it’s at. Period.

I’m not going to write much more about the film as I’d like you to see it. It’s worth 90 minutes of your time. I would also encourage you to read the China Study. I literally think about it at every meal. In a good way.

If you’d like more extensive reviews of the film, a couple of my favorite bloggers wrote great ones and I encourage you to check them out.

Daily Garnish

No Meat Athlete

Now that the challenge is over…

I’ve had so many people ask me what I’m going to do after the 28 days are over.

First, let’s look at the results. In the past month I’ve:

  • continued to have no occurrences of my IBS. (you’ll remember this was my favorite take away from vegan lent). This is huge to me. My stomach has never been this happy.
  • competed and crushed my goals in a duathlon – feeling super strong the whole time.
  • lost 3 pounds. I didn’t go into this as a way to lose weight, but shedding a few was definitely an added bonus.
  • survived a half marathon in wicked weather conditions.

I did all of that with plants. Not bad, huh?

Going forward, I will continue to eat a plant-strong diet. Heading into abundant produce season will definitely help. I don’t plan on going back to eating meat, fish, or dairy, but do plan on allowing myself some flexibility for special occasions (i.e. dinner at Travail with my nephew who is on leave from Afghanistan, Christmas, etc.).  I reserve the right to be picky about what special occasions are.

I’ve mentioned before that my day job is in the non-profit world. I specifically work in the health arena working with charities that are focused on chronic disease. I know what these diseases (heart, cancer, MS, Alzheimer’s) do to families. I want to do more to prevent that. Eating for my own health and talking about it is one way I can do more.

So, that’s my story.

What can you do?

Whole Foods in Minneapolis is doing a big push on the Engine 2 Challenge this month. You can take part! Check out their blog to read more about it. You can experience it vicariously through them or go full speed ahead.

Is that too much for you? It’s okay, I get it. Baby steps. How about committing to Meatless Monday? Maybe meat is a weekend-only treat? Whatever you can do, it adds up. Your health is one thing you can actually be proactive about.

Here are some of my favorite vegan recipes that are perfect for summer to get you started:

Orange Glazed Tempeh with Almonds

Cashew Pineapple Quinoa Stir-Fry

Black and Blue Bean Burgers (sans the cheese)

Guacamole Salad

Coconut Cranberry Pecan Balls

One-ingredient Ice Cream


So, what are you doing for your health? Please share your thoughts or ideas!

Categories: cooking · events · fitness · food for thought · health · Jen said · vegan
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3 responses so far ↓

  • Amy-Marie Lemanski // May 30, 2011 at 11:02 pm | Reply

    Jen: You are always such an inspiration to me with your clean diet and your ability to stick to it! I try to give up chocolate at Lent and never succeed. But! I am taking on a 3-week detox ‘diet’ where I will eliminate all gluten, dairy and soy. If all goes well, I well extend to 6-weeks. After all the drugs and surgeries I have been through this year, June 1 is my ‘starting clean’ date! I’m sure I’ll be calling you for recipes….

    • Jen // May 31, 2011 at 5:55 am | Reply

      You can do it and I’m happy to help! I think if you actually feel better eating a certain way, it’s easier to stick to it.

  • Laurie Jesch-Kulseth @ Relish It // May 31, 2011 at 10:08 am | Reply

    Congrats on finishing the challenge, Jen!

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