Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Struggle

The Struggle is real.

That is, the struggle to not only maintain a paleo-vegan lifestyle, but to also maintain a blog about it when you're only home for a few evenings a week. The last you heard from me was opening week of Les Misérables, which has consumed my life ever since (though in the best way possible). The first few days after the show opened were occupied by catching up on sleep and cleaning up around the apartment, then before I knew it, it was back for the second weekend of performances. Between grabbing what I could while on the road, eating with the cast before and after shows, and not having any time (or money) for grocery shopping, I've not exactly been behaving...

But enough with the excuses. I've fallen off the wagon, but I'm getting back on ASAP. We close the show this weekend (I am NOT looking forward to the final bow), so next week will involve a trip to the grocery store where I can pick up the things to try some AWESOME new recipes I've found. Additionally, I started a new fitness challenge yesterday that my friend Nick shared with me: the 10,000 Squats and 2,500 Push-Ups Challenge.

10,000 squats and 2,500 push-ups over 31 days!
Next week, I also plan to restart the weight training plan I discussed in my Memorial Day post. Then, next Saturday, August 10th, is the Color Me Rad 5K that I'm running in Knoxville (followed by my LONG awaited haircut at Frank's Barbershop!). To say the least, I'm definitely reinvesting as much in my physical activity as I am in getting back on my nutritional game. I've noticed that even though I've been getting a decent amount of sleep at night, I struggle with waking up in the morning and still feel exhausted. Of course the show has something to do with that, but I have zero doubt that the less-than-healthy things I've been putting into my body are the primary culprits.

August is going to be a really awesome month, and I'll have lots more free time to work on more content for here on the blog, as well as on Facebook and Twitter. Until next time, here are some photos of the cast and I from the production courtesy of Dr. Gregg Perry:

Production head shot
"Red and Black"/"Do You Hear The People Sing"

"One Day More"
Lastly, a photo with my castmate Josh. We did Rent together back in 2010 and took the first photo backstage. We knew we needed to recreate the moment for this show as well. It's also a good look at the change in myself over the past 3 years.

Rent (2010) to Les Misérables (2013)
Much love to you all,


Thursday, July 18, 2013


Miserable. That pretty much sums up the past week or so in multiple ways, though not necessarily how you might think.

The first of which is the fact that I've had some sort of allergy/sinus/cold mess for the past several days and it has truly made me miserable in just about every sense of the word. Because of it, I have actually had some unscheduled cheat days, because sometimes when you're sick, you just need those certain comfort foods (I submit to the jury exhibit A: hot and sour soup). I've been treating and medicating just about every way I know how because of the second connotation of miserable...

Yes, friends, this Friday, July 19th, the much-anticipated production of Les Misérables that I'm involved in will officially be open. This production aims high and will raise the bar for on-stage talent, technical and scenic design, and overall experience for the audiences of our region.

If you're not familiar with the musical, the recent film starring Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway, or the original 1862 novel by Victor Hugo, here's a rough, pieced together description from a few various sources:

Set in early 19th-century France, it is the story of Jean Valjean and his quest for redemption after serving nineteen years in jail for having stolen a loaf of bread for his starving sister's child. Valjean decides to break his parole and start his life anew after a kindly bishop inspires him to, but he is relentlessly tracked down by a police inspector named Javert. Along the way, Valjean and a slew of characters are swept into a revolutionary period in France, where a group of young idealists make their last stand at a street barricade. Les Misérables tells an enthralling story of broken dreams and unrequited love, passion, sacrifice and redemption - a timeless testament to the survival of the human spirit.

Sounds pretty epic, right?? Well it definitely is. Here are some of my castmates (and possibly me) to tell you a bit more...

For anyone interested in coming to see us on stage, you can visit Encore Theatrical Company's website at for tickets.

Unfortunately that's all I really have to share with you this week. Sorry there's not much in the way of food, but I've barely been home at all and definitely haven't had time to cook, especially with the way I've been feeling. But, I'll have a few days off from the theatre next week, so hopefully I'll be back with more things to share after I've had a trip to the grocery store. Until then...

Much love to you all,


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Barbecue Sauce! ...And Expanded Social Media Presence

Happy Mid-Week!!

I'm so glad to see you all back here this week for another installment of ThePaleoVeg. This is another post that I actually started writing and intended to post on Tuesday, but time got away from me so I had to finish it today. Hence, please forgive any anachronisms.

I've continued receiving some great feedback from readers old and new about the content and layout of the blog, as well as some responses to my challenge for submission of dishes for me to attempt to paleo-veganize. I hope you're following me on Twitter (if not, find me @ThePaleoVeg right now and click "Follow"). I have, however, noticed a trend that more and more of my blog traffic is being directed from one particular source. I'd been considering expanding to this platform for a while now, so this week I decided to make the jump. You now have yet another way to keep up with everything that's going on during the week between blog posts: ThePaleoVeg is now officially <drum roll> on Facebook!

Head over to and click "Like" to stay up to date on juicy tidbits of information, leave comments, ask questions, share your own recipes and food photos, figure out where I'm going to be eating/running/etc. (considering possibly doing some meet-ups in the future), and whatever other musings and news stories that pop into my head on a daily basis. The blog itself and Twitter have been great ways to share my adventure, but Facebook seemed to be the next logical step in expanding the reach of my content to a wider array of people...and let's be real, most of us are on Facebook for way more time each day than we'd care to admit.

I consulted with my friend Sarah, who founded the What I Vegan blog and is also active on Twitter and Facebook, and I asked her if it was difficult to juggle all of the various platforms and keep content unique. She said she enjoyed having the Facebook page to be able to share much of the content that she wouldn't necessarily put into her blog posts, which I can definitely understand. I've linked to her pages before, but here are the various ways you can find her content to read, like, and follow:


Any other bloggers out there who've been able to boost their traffic and content via an expanded social media presence?

As for what I've been up to since we last met, I've been neck deep in rehearsals for Les Misérables at Encore Theatrical Company (and loving every minute of it), and I also enjoyed a WONDERFUL 4th of July holiday! I spent the evening at my friend Frannie's house (where I also spent part of Memorial Day weekend), and y'all...there was SO much incredible food there! All of it was vegan, but there were even some great paleo options for me to have as well! I gorged myself on gazpacho salad, killed spinach (it's a Southern thing), garlicky mushrooms, and a rocking paleo-vegan potato soup (recall that I am of the potato-eating paleo-ers). We had a great night celebrating the freedoms we enjoy with wonderful friends and capped it off with sparklers and fireworks.
My sparkler, framed by the actual Johnson City fireworks
Naturally, I had to wear my red, white, and blue
Because of the aforementioned rehearsals, I've not really had much time to cook, so I've been living mostly off of hazelnut butter, mixed nuts, the last of my tomato soup from last week's blog, and grabbing salads here and there. Monday on my lunch break, though, I was struck with a wild hair (hare?) to make barbecue sauce. Bear in mind that I only have an hour for lunch, so it would have to be quick, and I also needed something to eat it with...ya know, cause most folks use their lunch breaks to actually eat. I did a quick search for paleo barbecue sauces online to get some ideas, but as you can imagine, there are about as many different styles and recipes for barbecue sauce as there are fish in the ocean. Given the region I grew up in, this should have come as no surprise. So, I just decided to do my own thing with flavors I thought would go well together. The result was a sweet, slightly tangy sauce with a spicy kick that melds the things I love most about both northeast Tennessee (sweet, smokey, tomato based) and Carolina style sauces (mustard or vinegar based).

I started with a base of tomato paste (one 6 oz can), then filled the can back up halfway with balsamic vinegar (about 3 oz). To fill the remainder of the can I used (approximately): 
1 and 1/2 tablespoons of maple syrup (the real stuff please)
1 tbsp of dijon mustard
1 tbsp of juice from a jar of pickled jalapeños
1 tbsp of sriracha
2 tsp of coconut aminos
The liquid components of my sauce
I put all of this in a small sauce pan along with the tomato paste, then began to add the spices. As far as these go, add as much or as little as you like, depending on your personal preference, and feel free to experiment with flavors:
Kosher salt
Garlic salt (or garlic powder. If using garlic salt, adjust your kosher salt accordingly)
Freshly ground black pepper
Chili powder
The spices for my sauce (garlic salt far right, kosher salt front and center)
This isn't something that needs to cook for hours on end. Just place it over low to medium-low heat for about 15 to 20 minutes to cook a bit of the raw vinegar flavor of the balsamic out and to let all of the flavors come together. You'll want to stir it every few minutes or so since the natural sugars in the tomato paste and maple syrup will begin to caramelize a bit (this is a good thing), but you don't want it to get clumpy and burn. If you do notice that your sauce starts to thicken and tighten up a bit too much, just throw in a small splash of something like vegetable stock or water to thin it back down a bit. I placed this on the back burner to keep an eye on it, then started preparing something for it to go on.
Tangy goodness in a bowl
Last weekend at The Fresh Market I picked up some awesome looking portobello mushroom caps. I'd thought of maybe using them as burgers for July 4th, but that wound up not happening. I decided to use one of these as the vehicle for my sauce.

Two of my gorgeous portobello caps
When working with any kind of mushroom that's not already been washed, take a dry or slightly damp towel and just wipe away any excess dirt that you see. Don't run your mushrooms under water to clean them! For the same reason that mushrooms are able to absorb so much flavor, they'll also absorb a lot of water and will be soggy when you cook them. For larger mushrooms like portobellos, you'll also want to cut away any tough woody stems, and perhaps even use a spoon to scrape away the gills on the underside of the cap as they can sometimes have a less than pleasing texture to some people. Once my mushroom was cleaned, I chopped it into roughly bite-sized pieces then tossed them in a pre-heated pan with a bit of minced garlic, some crushed red pepper flakes, and just enough grape seed oil to get things sizzling a bit. The smell of mushrooms sauteeing with garlic is one of my absolute favorite kitchen aromas!

By this time, my sauce was doing quite nicely, so I transferred it to a bowl for storage, but I didn't wash out the sauce pot it had been cooking in. Instead, I tossed my mushroom bites in to mingle with the sauce that had clung to the sides of the pot and added a couple tablespoons of sauce from my bowl so they could really get coated thoroughly. Once they were happily married together, it was time to serve. I didn't really make enough to warrant dirtying a whole plate, so I opted for the next logical vessel: a martini glass...that's normal, right? These would work great as an appetizer, side dish, or as a quick little snack/light lunch.
I don't always eat my lunch from a martini glass...though maybe I should?
Close-up of the barbecue mushroom magic
For Tuesday's lunch, I decided to take it a step further. I cleaned and prepped another of the portobello caps as before, only this time I left it whole. I then cooked it on both sides in a bit of garlic, oil, and chili flakes, adding a bit of salt and pepper, then sat it aside on a plate.
Freshly sauteed and seasoned portobello cap
In the same pan, with a tiny bit more oil, I placed some chopped canned artichoke hearts (about 6 or 7 pieces), allowed those to heat through a bit, then threw in a small palmful (roughly 1/3 c) of chopped walnuts. Then I put in a couple of spoonfuls of my barbecue sauce, and finally tossed in about 2 tablespoons of my raw shelled hemp seeds.
Artichoke hearts before slicing/chopping
Artichokes cooking with chopped walnuts
After the addition of the barbecue sauce and hemp seeds
Once again, if the sauce starts to thicken too much or burn, throw in a little water or vegetables stock. When this mixture was heated through, I heaped it on top of my portobello to create a lovely...well, I'm not sure what you'd call it. But it was rich and tangy and spicy and satisfying and full of protein and, most importantly, delicious!

I still have no idea what to call this, but golly it tasted good!
That about wraps things up for this week. Remember, find my Facebook page, give it a Like, and tell your friends to do the same! Until next time...

Much love to you all,


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Hi! Bye! (a quick update)

Good afternoon friends!

I've only got time (and brainpower) for a quick update today. First thing's first. I'm sure many people are wondering what happened to all 10 pounds of weight I picked back up during my cheat week. Well, I weighed myself this past Saturday morning, and saw 178, which meant that I'd actually dropped it all back off, plus an extra two pounds! I know most of this was water, and I could tell a huge difference in the way I'd felt this past week versus the week before in that I didn't feel bloated or miserable. l also went back to my spin class for the first time in about 3 weeks. There was no mistaking that I'd been absent, because it was much tougher than normal; or maybe Tyler, our instructor, just REALLY wanted us to feel it for the rest of the day. Regardless, I won't be missing class anytime soon if I can help it.

Finding time for workouts or even chores like laundry, housecleaning, or grocery shopping has become somewhat difficult lately. Since rehearsals for Les Misérables are in full swing, my schedule most weekdays goes something like:

Wake up
Shower and get ready for work
Work 8:00a-5:00p
Drive an hour to rehearsal
Rehearsal 6:30-10:00ish
Drive an hour home
Go to bed
Repeat the next day

"Meals" are interspersed where possible. That being said, I did have this past Saturday free and clear, so I Tweeted to my friend Sarah (cause that's how we roll) to ask if she'd want to meet up for a walk/lunch outing like we had been doing previously. We walked a couple of miles, then went to EarthFare in Johnson City for one of my favorite lunches on the planet which I've written about plenty of times in the past, their salad bar.
EarthFare salad bar goodness with avocado vinaigrette
After that I went and picked up a few other items that I needed from there. We also visited The Fresh Market since I had some 10% off coupons. Sarah and I always manage to get blissfully lost in that store, but fortunately, we both emerged without spending too much money. The theme of my particular purchases seemed to be snacking.

That term can have a very negative connotation in the nutrition communities, specifically when it is associated with mindless inhalation of fatty or highly sugared, artificially flavored, empty calories which are devoid of any trace of nutrients. However, for those of us that have tightly packed schedules, healthy snacks on the go can be the saving grace that ensure we are receiving the energy we need to keep moving and so that our bodies don't shut down on us. Obviously fresh fruits and vegetables are the ideal snacks, but if you just read labels, you can find some great packaged snacks that are easy to take with you and require zero preparation. Here's what I picked up:
"Snacking" doesn't have to be a bad word!
From Terra Chips: Two flavors (Spiced and BBQ) of sweet potato chips. These are some of the BEST tasting chips I've ever consumed in my life. Seriously, ever. And with only around 150 calories per serving, they are a great way to satisfy a quick salty craving without wrecking your daily calorie/carb intake.

From Manitoba Harvest: Hemp Hearts raw shelled hemp seeds. I love the flavored roasted hemp seeds made by Ziggy Marley's Hemp Rules, but I wanted something that could be a bit more versatile in the kitchen (read as "more neutrally flavored"). I saw this brand at EarthFare, and when I noticed that a 6oz package of Marley's was around $8 and I could get a whole pound of Hemp Hearts for under $15, I figured I'd give them a try. They are, like I'd hoped, very mildly flavored with only a slight hint of nuttiness, and since they're shelled and raw, then are very soft and almost have the consistency of a very fine cooked rice (more on this later). The best part: from a 3 tablespoon serving you get 10g of protein at 13g of fat (11.5 of which is poly and monounsaturated) and 3g of carbs, practically all of which is fiber. If you're not eating hemp, you need to start. Yesterday.

From Justin's: Justin's Chocolate Hazelnut Butter. Their website says it best - "Do you eat cake frosting for breakfast? I didn't think so. Neither do I. Yet some chocolate hazelnut butters have more sugar than cake frosting. Really. You can check. I'll wait...see." It's the truth. One of the most popular chocolate hazelnut spreads on the planet, Nutella, has 3 times the sugar of Justin's! A 2 tablespoon serving of Justin's contains 180 calories, 7g of sugar, and 4g of protein. Compare that to an equal serving size of Nutella which contains 200 calories, 21g of sugar, and only 2g of protein. Not to mention, Nutella is neither paleo nor vegan as it contains dairy (skim milk and whey), soy lecithin, and artificial vanilla flavor. Justin's is kosher, gluten free, dairy free, vegan, and GMO free. I think the choice is clear the next time you're in that aisle of the store. However, if this is not convincing enough, from my personal perspective, Justin's Chocolate Hazelnut Butter tastes exactly like the icing on a chocolate glazed Krispy Kreme doughnut. Boom. (And no, I am not a compensated endorser for Justin's; it just tastes that freakin amazing)

Lastly, from The Fresh Market I grabbed a couple containers of roasted, salted pumpkin seeds as well as a snack mix that contained only sunflower seeds, almonds, raisins, and cashews. Both items contain great sources of protein, and can be easily tossed in my bag to take with me to the theatre for a snack during rehearsal, or to grab a handful of in the brief time I spend at my apartment.

Since cooking an actual meal for myself each night would mean that I'd have to cut into my sleep time, and since food from most restaurants is expensive and monotonous when/if I can find anything on the menu that I can have, I knew I needed to once again make something that I could cook once, but enjoy for several days. So on Sunday night, I dug into the cabinets, got out the crock pot, and embarked on another soup adventure. This week's feature: tomato.

A while back I'd purchased several cans of whole tomatoes and a can of herbed diced tomatoes with the intentions of possibly making either pasta sauce or soup. I put 4 cans of whole tomatoes (with liquid) plus one can of the herbed diced tomatoes (I think it was basil and oregano or something like that. Just see what your store has) into the crock pot.

After that, I added one roasted red pepper (from a jar) and a heaping fork-full of jarred pickled jalapeños.

Then came the herbs and spices. I used kosher salt, black pepper, cumin, chili powder, curry powder, crushed red pepper flakes, dried basil, and dried oregano. I also tossed in some minced garlic, about 1/4 cup of white wine, about 3/4 cup of vegetable stock, a few dashes of coconut aminos, about 1 1/2 tsp of Sriracha (remember, I like things hot), and about 1 tsp of dijon mustard.

I set my crock pot on high, poured a glass of wine, then relaxed on my couch for a bit until everything started to get nice and bubbly. Then I got out my immersion blender and pureed everything until it was nice and smooth. Even the whole tomatoes blended up perfectly.

I poured some out into a mug and topped it with a teaspoon each of my raw shelled hemp seeds and my roasted pumpkin seeds to add a crunchy element and to round out the dish with some protein.
This is what rainy night comfort looks like
In other blog news, ThePaleoVeg has now received over 1,000 pageviews worldwide (and no, I don't count my own) and I'll hopefully be submitting some posts for possible inclusion in the weekly Paleo Rodeo from Modern Paleo over at Since joining their Paleo Bloggers groups, I've received some great comments and interest in the sustainability of a paleo-vegan lifestyle. So if anyone from that group is reading this as their first post here today, welcome, and I'd love to hear your feedback either in the comments here or on Twitter @ThePaleoVeg.

That's all I can think of to post today, but I look forward to seeing everyone back here next week!

Much love to you all,


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

So, What Now?: The "Advice" of Others. Also, Cheat Week.

Hello friends!

At long last, the time has come and gone. My first show of the summer, Urinetown: The Musical closed after a great run, and my initial 9 week paleo vegan experiment came to an end just over a week ago. In that time frame, I saw a more drastic change in my appearance and physical well-being than I can ever remember. Remember a few weeks ago when I said that I'd finally hit 185 lbs, which was the lowest I thought I could ever possibly be? Well, last weekend when I stepped on the scale for my final weigh-in of the experiment, I was a bit surprised. The number read 180, which meant a total loss of 20 lbs over the past 2+ months! I'm extremely happy with where I'm at now, and I know that there's still work left to do. However, some seem to disagree.

I've actually had some people, friends and family alike, tell me that they think I've lost TOO much weight, and that on stage at the show, I looked too skinny. First of all, the costuming I wore for the show was much bigger and baggier than the clothing that I wear day-to-day, so that would explain why the clothes appeared to swallow me on stage. But I got to thinking about the bigger issue at hand. Is this something common that people go through who are trying to improve their well-being through weight loss and healthier eating? It's sort of an odd psychological one-two punch. First people tell you "you look so good!" but then immediately follow it with "you don't need to lose any more". To be honest, it can be quite frustrating (borderline infuriating) when everyone else in the world seems to think that they know what's best for you better than you know yourself. I actually did a bit of research to see how common this phenomenon was. One blogger, Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, took on this exact topic in a posting from a few years ago on his blog Weighty Matters (he's got some great content). He discusses how this phenomenon occurs in relation to starting weight. In his experience, similar comments begin at around a 15-20% weight loss. This is obviously affected by starting weight, but he states that "as an anecdotal rule, if your starting weight is less than 250lbs and you lose more than 20% of your starting weight, somebody will tell you to stop. They'll often even do so despite the fact that you may still want to lose more weight and may still have a significant amount of medical risk associated with your weight. Sometimes they'll even come right out and say you look bad." I've been receiving these comments, and I've actually only lost about 10% of my starting weight in this experiment. Granted, if we look back to my heaviest point in 2008, I've lost about 25-30% of my weight then, so people who've known me longer and remember me that way may see it as being more drastic. He attributes this to two theories of why it happens. The first, which he acknowledges is generally unlikely in most cases, is jealousy. The second, which he feels may be more likely a culprit, is the fact that people subconsciously associate dramatic weight loss with serious illnesses. It may be "hardwired" in us, as he puts it, from an evolutionary standpoint to recognize it as such, or it may simply bring to mind memories of seeing a loved one wasting away in their final days. Regardless, there's not really much research out there on this topic, but I agree with Dr. Freedhoff that this would be a fascinating topic of study. I think it would also be interesting to see how regional geography affects people's perception of how much weight loss is too much, particularly in regions like the American South where obesity is more commonplace.

Another site,, takes a decidedly more cynical (albeit fairly realistic) view of The 8 People Who Will Ruin Your Attempt to Lose Weight. They describe some of the "well-meaning monsters" that many people encounter when trying to lose weight. Among them are those who've seen some TV episode or infomercial and suddenly become experts on the science of weight loss without fully understanding what it is they've seen and heard. Also included are individuals who are a bit too supportive about body image and try to tell us that whatever weight we're at, even if it is slightly above where we should be, is perfectly healthy, even when we know it's a problem that needs to be addressed. The article also takes on people who undermine and demean our diet and fitness routines, and even people who don't intend to sabotage our plans, like family members who want us to join them in meals but are not (and will not be) following our same eating strategy. There's also a mention of zombies at the end of the list, but you can ignore that one; this is a list from Cracked, after all.

As for my personal view on this, my response to people telling me that I should stop losing weight depends entirely on my relationship with them and the tone of their comment. Those who've said it to me in a tone that I interpreted as condescending, or as though I didn't know/understand what I was doing, were met with a response to the tune of "I know what's best for me and I'll decide for myself what I'm going to do". The same goes for people who've tried to tell me how I should start eating going forward, as though I've not put any thought into my plans (more on this subject in a bit). On the other hand, with those who've made the comments more respectfully, casually, or even jokingly, I've been able to just brush it off, and remind them that I still have some personal goals I've yet to meet, and they seem to understand and leave it alone.

My weight and height at the end of the experiment equaled out to a BMI (body mass index) of 23.1, which falls in the healthy weight range of 18.5-24.99. When I started, I was at 25.7, classified as overweight (25.0-29.99). After I graduated from college, I was classified as obese since my BMI was definitely over 30. Granted, BMI is not always the best gauge for a healthy weight since there are a number of other factors at play besides just height and weight, but it can give a ballpark figure of what a healthy weight for each individual could be. The bottom territory for "healthy weight" for a 6'2" male is 144 lbs. No one needs to worry about me ever dropping that low, because I just don't believe my physical structure would even allow that to be a possibility. BMI does not account for more muscle mass or larger bone structure. It can actually be significantly skewed when individuals possess a high level of muscle mass but a low percentage of body fat. The weight source (fat vs. muscle) is not differentiated in the BMI equation. Similarly, that's why the number on the scale isn't always the best indicator of how each person is progressing in terms of their own individual goals. You should also look at inches lost, the way your clothes fit, your energy levels, etc. The ultimate indicator (in my personal opinion) is how you feel inside, and how happy you are with what you see in the mirror. This can also be reflected in other ways. Take the awesome caricature drawing made by Ryan Gray, one of my Urinetown castmates, of all of the characters and crew from the show. My character is the one pictured in the lower center with his fist in the air.
AMAZING artwork by Ryan Gray
This may sound kind of silly to some people, but to be drawn on the page as a "skinnier" person was actually somewhat of an affirming moment for me. It showed me that the changes I've made and felt are real and are being noticed by others. It just made me feel good about me. Sometimes the little things, whether it be a compliment or some other action, can be just what someone needs to see or hear to let them know they're on the way to meeting their goals.

That's what it really all comes down to: personal goals. I've talked at length in previous posts about personal goals that I've set for myself and met, but I'm by no means "finished". Everyone who's ever struggled physically or mentally with their weight or appearance has an idea in their head of what they'd like to be. My progress over the course of this experiment has shown me that perhaps I even underestimated myself in what I could achieve. The worst thing you could do for someone who is working toward their own personal goals is to tell them to stop because of what YOU think they should look like. You're not on their journey. You can't read their mind. You don't know how they see themselves. You don't know how they feel. Your responsibility to them as a friend or family member is to be supportive, and for me, comments like "how much longer are you going to keep this up?" or "you don't need to lose any more weight" and "why don't you just start eating what you want?" don't feel helpful or supportive. "Eating what I want" is what got me to the place where I was at the start of this mess.

DISCLAIMER: Let me be perfectly clear. My comments in the previous paragraph pertain to those individuals who are attempting to lose weight or change their appearance through approaches like a healthy, balanced diet and regular, moderate exercise. This does not apply to those individuals who are doing so through unhealthy, extreme means or those who may be suffering from an eating disorder. If you suspect that a loved one may be suffering from such a condition, it is important to talk with them in a loving, non-confrontational way, and consult with a professional, if need be, to get them the help they need.

Now that that's out of the way, let's talk about what happened last week for the first full week after my experiment was over. I had been pondering for some time what I was going to do at the conclusion of my 9 weeks, and after considering some different options, I decided to give myself one full cheat week. That is, an entire week with zero, none, absolutely no restrictions whatsoever on what I could eat. This would give me the chance to indulge on those foods that I'd been craving for weeks but couldn't have, and a way to let loose and actually be able to fully enjoy a meal without worrying what was in it. Not only did I lift my paleo restrictions, but I also lifted my vegan/vegetarian restrictions as well, so I was able to satisfy some cravings that I'd had for well over a year since being a regular meat eater.

The very first thing I ate after the official end of the experiment was a fresco style bean burrito from Taco Bell just after midnight on Sunday (or Monday technically I guess) while I was still hanging out with friends from the show after we'd finished striking (disassembling) the set. Not especially adventurous, but I figured this was a pretty safe option for my first venture back into an unrestricted world of food. But on Monday, a weird thing happened. I was trying to think of something to eat for lunch, but my brain was still so wrapped in my previous way of thinking that I think the only thing I ate were maybe some tater tots from Sonic or something like that, which weren't really breaking any of my old rules. Tuesday, however, was a day that I'd been waiting on for quite some time. It was my day to finally eat Chinese food for the first time in over two months. I met my mother and my friend Jessica at my favorite Chinese restaurant of all, Shanghai in downtown Bristol. I was reminded of why it was my favorite when we sat down, and even after having not been there in over 9 weeks (remember my last meal before starting the experiment was from there) the waitress still remembered exactly what I ordered, Szechuan style tofu and hot and sour soup. I was in food heaven, and it only continued from there. Instead of just telling you about all I ate during cheat week, here are some photo highlights of the culinary debauchery:

Magical Mystery Tour pizza from Mellow Mushroom
Before and after of my pork bbq platter from Ridgewood Barbecue
Vanilla and cheesecake yogurt w/ oreos, strawberries, white chocolate chips, and cookie dough from Sweet Frog in Bristol. No shame.
The masterpiece known as the grilled tofu sandwich from Mid City Grill
Breakfast with a view: Pal's gravy biscuit eaten at South Holston Lake
One azado and chorizo and one lengua taco from Tacos El Pariente in Johnson City
Regular old oatmeal drizzled with real maple syrup and some cinnamon
So, I ate at Shanghai twice last week. But seriously, all this for just $10!
Finally, pollo a la parrilla with rice, beans, and one of my biggest cravings, chips and salsa at Casa Mexicana in Bristol
As you can tell, I left no craving or desire unsatisfied. Did I pay a price for it? Oh you bet I did. I guess I had become so accustomed to eating smaller meals that after nearly every one of these endeavors I felt nothing short of miserable simply because of the quantity and nature of the food I'd consumed. Also, my number on the scale shot back up over the week. Literally, the number was 10 pounds heavier than the prior week! This can most likely be attributed, however, to the fact that I'd gone from super low carb intake to ingesting bread, tortillas, rice, chips, gravy, etc. all in one week. This was bound to result in some mega water retention, which is typically associated with diets higher in carbohydrates (this could be a topic for a future blog post). The only reason I'm not completely freaking out about the weight gain is that I know it will drop back off after a few days. That brings me to this point. What happens how?

After indulging myself last week, I decided to pick back up on the same paleo vegan dietary regimen that my experiment was based on, effective yesterday. Like I said before, I don't know what my next goal is going to be in terms of weight or appearance, because I don't know what my limits are yet. In fact, I plan on stretching it out even further than the initial experiment. My new goal date is going to be Sunday, September 29th, the day after the Cabernet Cabaret fundraising event, and the day before my mother's <age omitted> birthday. That's 14 weeks. That being said, I will allow myself to incorporate a paleo cheat day, at most, one day a month that I'll reserve for special occasions (my dad's <age also omitted> birthday in July, for example), but I will be sticking to the vegan side of things even on those cheat days. I also plan on recommitting myself to the fitness aspect of my plan as well. I've missed spin class for two weeks in a row now, and I HATE it. I can definitely tell my energy levels have dropped since I've been missing that and other workouts.

What all this means is that you don't have to worry about ThePaleoVeg going anywhere! I'll still be here each week with updates on what's going on in my life, what I'm eating, and most importantly, a continuation of where I'm at on my personal journey toward becoming a better, healthier me. So, until next week...

Much love to you all,


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Home Stretch

Hi guys and gals!

Well, I've entered into the home stretch. Not only is this the week that my first show of the summer opens, but it's also the final week of my planned experiment period. I made it through the insanity of this past weekend, and I've just got to push through a couple more nights of rehearsal before we open and the stress of preparation is replaced by the excitement of sharing what we've worked on with an audience!

I started off my Friday morning with a fun, energizing spin class as usual, although the normal instructor took the day off (I'm looking at you, Tyler). That night's Les Mis rehearsal was great as well. Afterward, my castmate/carpool partner Seth and I grabbed a quick dinner at Ruby Tuesday across the highway from where rehearsal was held. I got the garden bar and a side of spaghetti squash, which I had no idea was even an option there! Saturday morning I got up early to drive to Johnson City to pick up my number for the Blue Plum 5K, though I actually got there a bit too early, so I had a LOT of time to kill before the gun. The race went pretty well. The sun came out but it wasn't too hot, although some knee pain slowed me down a bit near the end of the course (I've had to deal with knee pain when running since I was a teenager). Afterward, I met my friend Austin for what we'd planned to be lunch at EarthFare, but we got there a bit too early for there to be anything out on the bar just yet. So, I got a container of sesame kale and we both got smoothies. Before I left, I picked up some more sunflower butter, almond butter, and something I'd been wanting to try for a while: hemp seeds. Hemp seeds are a great, complete protein source, along with being packed full of other nutrients and the ideal 3:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. The brand I got were Ziggy Marley's Hemp Rules. They're certified organic, and they came in two flavors: Sea Salt & Pepper and Caribbean Crunch.
And no, the significance of the brand name is not lost on me...
After our trip to EarthFare we decided to visit the farmer's market in historic Jonesborough, TN. We got there sometime between 10:30 and 11:00, a bit late by farmer's market standards, but we still found some great things. Austin picked up some local free range eggs, and I got some shiitake mushrooms and a big bunch of kale. I had hoped to get some rainbow lacinato kale because lacinato varieties are great for making kale chips with since they're flatter than their curly relatives. But, they were already sold out of their lacinatos, so I tried another flat kale that they had. I didn't catch the name, but based on how it looks, I think it's most likely something similar to Portuguese or "tronchuda beira" kale. I made chips out of it last night and they were amazing! They had a great flavor, so I'll definitely be back to pick up more of this and other kale varieties to give them a try in the future.
Jonesborough Farmer's Market, photo courtesy of Austin Abshire
Kale and shiitake mushrooms from the farmer's market
Later in the day on Saturday, I had a grant writing meeting with some of the folks from Glasgow Theatre Company at Starbucks here in Bristol. I decided to give a new drink a try that Audrey, one of my Urinetown castmates, who happens to work at Starbucks AND is a paleo vegetarian herself, had recommended. I got an iced venti green tea, no water, add strawberry juice, unsweetened. It tasted incredible, it was refreshing, and it was much cheaper than many of the other drinks I used to get. It may become my new regular beverage option!
Perfect on a sunny afternoon
On Sunday morning I woke up and wanted to eat something really good since I knew I'd have a long day ahead of me loading our set into the theatre followed by rehearsal that night. That's when I decided to try another recipe/idea that had been floating around in my head for a while. I'd heard of using things like chopped walnuts to make ground "meat" before, and I even bought a bag of them the last time I went grocery shopping (however long ago that's been), but I'd never used them. Even though the walnuts were already chopped, I put them in my food processor to break them down a bit more so that they more closely resembled the size and texture of ground meat. I then threw in some cumin, curry powder, chili powder, and a few dashes of coconut aminos to give it the richness and flavor of meat.
The "meat" making process. Click to enlarge.
After that was done, I sliced up some Brussels sprouts, red onion, and some of my farmer's market shiitakes and sauteed those along with some garlic and diced jalapeño. Once the vegetables had cooked through, I tossed in my walnut "meat" mixture, tossed some hemp seeds on top for crunch, and had a SUPER hardy, nutritious, protein-packed brunch that gave me enough energy to make it through the day. I've still got some more walnuts, so I may even recreate the meat mixture, make some tomato sauce, and throw it together with some spaghetti squash for a homemade paleo vegan version of spaghetti with meat sauce this week!
The remaining ingredients and the final, delicious product. Click to enlarge.

As the final days of the experiment are approaching, I'm still trying to figure out what my next step is going to be. I'm definitely not going to abandon it in its entirety. I know that much. I guess we'll just have to see what happens!

Once again, if you're in the area and would like to come see Urinetown this weekend, call the Paramount box office at (423) 274-8920 or click here to buy them online.
Some of the cast at last night's rehearsal
 Much love to you all,


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

My Crazy Life on the Stage

Hello, everyone!

Going to be honest with you. I. Am. Exhausted.

We're just about a week out from the opening of Urinetown, rehearsals for Les Mis are picking up, work has been crazier than usual, and I've been trying to make time for workouts as often as possible (though I've been giving preference to sleep on those days when I feel my knuckles dragging the pavement).
Cycle studio to myself last Wednesday night. My shoes love the blacklight.
Plus, I have a 5K for the Blue Plum Festival in Johnson City, working on and prepping the Urinetown set for transport to the Paramount, a grant writing meeting for Glasgow Theatre Company, and a birthday celebration for one of my best friends, ALL on this coming Saturday. Then on Sunday we load in at the theatre and begin tech week (a.k.a. hell week) in preparation for opening next Thursday. Although, on Sunday night (assuming we're finished with rehearsal), I'll hopefully be watching an event on TV that always reminds me about how much I love all of this extra craziness I invite into my life, The Tony Awards.

The Tonys are awards that are given to honor the highest achievements in the American theatre community, specifically, the Broadway community. It's a night that showcases the wide array of talented artists who ply their craft both on and off stage for the entertainment of millions of audience members every year. Now, most amateur performers like myself will likely never find ourselves on a Broadway stage, but that doesn't mean we can't experience some of that thrill and magic in our own communities, which is why I devote so much of my free time to live theatre.

I did some drama related activities like Odyssey of the Mind in elementary school (anyone remember that program?), but didn't really do my first actual show until my junior year of high school when the drama club performed Little Shop of Horrors. I had a few friends who were doing it, and I thought it would be something fun to do, even though I'd never been in a show before. I wound up being cast as the voice of Audrey II, the carnivorous plant with a plot to take over the world. The plant itself was a massive puppet, so I actually stayed up in the light booth with a microphone to deliver my lines and to sing. I'd also never really sung before, but this experience motivated me to audition for and join my school's advanced choral group for my senior year. I've been singing ever since.

I was in multiple vocal ensembles all throughout my time at Clemson, and would do shows with the local theatre over the summers when I was back in Bristol, as I'd mentioned before. My first job after college was actually a marketing position with that theatre organization, but I quickly learned that nothing would kill my enthusiasm for the theatre quite like working on the business side of it day in and day out (at least in the case of that particular organization). So, I changed jobs in July of 2009, and it was quite some time before I did any theatre again. My first show back "on the boards" was with Jonesborough Repertory Theatre in February of 2010, and it doesn't feel like I've stopped since. In fact, instead of talking about all of the shows I've done, here's a snippet of my resumé, including the two productions I'm currently involved with:

Click to enlarge.
As you can see (if you're familiar with any of the titles), I've done quite a variety of shows ranging from classics like "Oklahoma" and "Cabaret", to intimate, modern pieces like "The Last Five Years", to raunchy, puppet comedy like "Avenue Q", to sweeping, epic pieces like "Les Misérables", and so many more. I've learned and grown from each and every one of these experiences, and I'm always excited to see what project is coming up next. You may notice that all of the shows listed are musicals. That's right; I've never done a straight play before. But, hopefully that might change very soon!

Now, I'd seen touring companies of professional shows, but believe it or not, I'd actually never seen a show on Broadway or even been to New York before March of last year. However, I wound up going to New York 3 separate times in 2012, the second of which was a road trip when several of us went up to attend an open audition ("cattle call") for the national tour of a particular show. That trip was quite the adventure and a whole other story in and of itself. Regardless, I saw a total of 10 Broadway and Off Broadway shows last year!
My Playbill collection from last year. All amazing shows!
In addition to performing, I'm also a company member for the Glasgow Theatre Company, a wonderful organization based here in the Tri-Cities area known for bringing new, innovative works to the area that haven't been previously performed in this region. We also organize a big fundraising event every fall, the Cabernet Cabaret, which raises money for our scholarship fund from which we award scholarships to new high school graduates who are pursuing an education in the performing arts. I'll be assistant music directing the event this year, and I cannot WAIT for everyone to see what all we've got planned!

While it would be a dream come true to make a living in the theatre, I still have to pay my bills, which requires that I make time for it outside of my regular job. This leaves little time for pleasantries like sitting down to regular meals. That's why I've been focusing a lot recently on things I can make quickly, and things that I can prepare once and eat on for several days.

For example, one day I cooked a whole spaghetti squash in the microwave, shredded it, and put it all in a big bowl in the fridge. Then I could pull out single serving amounts and make a quick sauce to put on top of it for a super fast lunch or dinner.
In a tomato sauce with mushrooms, broccoli, and balsamic onions.
I also took some time this past Sunday morning to make a big pot of roasted red pepper soup. I'd been planning this for a while, and the rainy morning seemed as good a time as any to make it. I started by sauteing some celery, carrots, onion, garlic, jalapeño, and some herbs. I added in the red peppers that I'd roasted in the oven then seeded and peeled along with some diced red skinned fingerling potatoes. Finally, I added some vegetable stock and a little bit of white wine. Once that had cooked for a bit, I used one of my favorite kitchen appliances, my immersion blender, and pureed the whole thing in the pot. OMG it was delicious! It goes great with a side of something like my slaw that I made in my Memorial Day post, or some sliced cucumber and jalapeño that I threw in a jar of leftover pickle juice for a day or two to make my own little quick refrigerator pickles.

The construction phases. Click to enlarge.
Blending and the finished product. Click to enlarge.

With my nutty Asian slaw and some quick fridge pickles.
Then of course there's always the option of taking whatever vegetables you can find in the fridge, putting them all in a pan, sauteing them together, seasoning them well, and slicing some fresh cucumber.
Sauteed veggie medley with almonds, cucumbers, and a sprinkle of chili powder.
If you take a little bit of time one or two days a week to prep, you can have at least a week's worth of meals at hand that can be put together in under 30 minutes!

Well, I'm getting ready to head out and prepare for tonight's rehearsal. I'd LOVE LOVE LOVE to see some of you at Urinetown next Thurs-Sun, June 13-16. In case you're not familiar with it, it's a HILARIOUS musical comedy that I'd rate about a PG-13. More information on the show poster below!

Much love to you all,