Friday, October 5, 2012

A New Chapter

This blog is no longer “the healthy undergrad” because I graduated from Tufts University back in May. Since then I was homeless for a couple of months bouncing around between Washington D.C., Dallas, Boston, Vail, and my new city of residence: Asheville, NC.

My move to Asheville as a post-grad was decided before I even obtained a job here, but the job solidified the move. I am an AmeriCorps VISTA working for the city school district as a volunteer and outreach coordinator at the city schools preschool. Additionally, after two weeks on that job I was asked to temporarily take on the job of volunteer coordinator at one of the elementary schools as well because their new hire dropped out. That temporary addition started over two months ago and I still work half time at the preschool and half time at the elementary school although that should finally end in the middle of November. This additional work of course didn’t result in any pay raise since I get paid a stipend, not a salary or even an hourly wage. All I have been getting is the benefit of added and varied experiences working in these two positions.

With all the moving and the job fluctuations alone I have stayed busy, but I have also been training and racing! I started off my triathlon season with a 3rd place finish in my age group at the local Asheville sprint triathlon back in July. In August I ventured to Charlotte for an Amica 19.7 Spring series race (I did their Boston and Newport, RI races last year) and bested both of my previous times in that series. Also In August I placed first in my age group in a sprint race at Lake Lure, outside of Asheville. September held the race I was working towards, my first Olympic distance race at Lake Junalaska called the King of the Smokies Triathlon (the run was over 7 miles so it was really an Olympic distance + race.) Although the field of women in the international distance was small, I unbelievably placed first overall in the women’s race in my first ever at that distance!  To finish September I raced in the inaugural Cherokee Harvest Half Marathon in Cherokee, NC and bested my previous half marathon time even with my training cut two weeks short due to foot pain, (my longest training run in the run up to it was under 9 miles.) And next week I have my last triathlon of the season, the Olympic distance Rev3Tri in Anderson, SC.

The only way I have been able to participate in these races is with the financial help of my parents who supported two of the pricier entry fees. As you can guess, I don’t make much money at all – in fact, I am on food benefits since my stipend covers just a little over twice my monthly rent. Even still I have been able to train and race and feed myself enough to cover that training.

Now that I’ve come to the nutrition part of my life I’ll mention that since the day I moved to Asheville nearly three months ago, I have had a fully plant-based and mostly vegan diet. The only reason I say mostly is because I have not been super particular about honey in the occasional processed products I’ve eaten and if I have accidentally bought or been served at someone’s home an item with traces of dairy or egg in it then I have not been wasteful and thrown it away. But the basis of my diet is plants: beans, nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruit and whole grains. Before I would occasionally have eggs, and often have cheese (to the detriment of my digestive system.) Now I have not had any digestive issues, I have fueled myself through all the aforementioned races, I feel healthier, my mood is elevated and I crave certain whole food plant based foods – I have honestly had no cheese cravings.

I’m not advocating that everyone adopt a fully plant based diet immediately, but I am advocating taking elements of a plant based diet because you’ll discover new foods you love and might start craving kale chips more than potato chips. I experiment with making a different type of dip/hummus every week – my favorites so far are black bean walnut hummus and sundried tomato hummus. I make my own salsa for my fiesta kale salad. I even bought a nut milk straining bag and make my own almond milk and coconut milk. Oh yeah and did I mention I’m on food stamps? Through the farmer’s market (which accept food benefits by giving tokens for a swipe of your EBT card) and the bulk section of the grocery store, I have been able to easily eat and cook in a very nutritional whole food way. What about eating out at restaurants? I am very lucky that Asheville is a super veg-friendly town, but most restaurants can make accommodations and ethnic food restaurants are usually your best bet (veggie burritos with guacamole instead of cheese are still delicious and vegan!)

My life has gone through a lot of changes in the past few months, some harder than others (being vegan by the way hasn’t been one of the hard changes!) I have always been focused on paths, goals, the next thing, and I still am, but I am also very happy to wake up in the morning, take a look out the window at the Blue Ridge Mountains surrounding me and be content with where I am right now. For at least the next 10 months I will be racing, training and eating right here in Asheville and I couldn’t be more happy to have the beginnings of my journey into the post-grad world in this place. This blog will now follow me into life as a healthy post-grad.

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