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The Vegan Road

January 27, 2012

The Vegan Road

My new site came alive today – The Vegan Road! Take a moment to follow (if you’re on WordPress), or sign up to receive new post notifications via email. We’re on Facebook too, click “Like” and get first looks at beautiful new recipes and health & wellness tips to share with your friends!

About The Vegan Road:

The Road to Wellness Begins Here

We combine food, fitness, conscious living, and expert knowledge to provide you with a comprehensive road to wellness.

We help people interested in a plant-based diet who are concerned about their nutritional needs by providing delicious recipes and expert knowledge from an array of knowledgeable sources. Unlike other websites, The Vegan Road is a community of contributors with years of experience in a host of professional fields. We believe that by simply eating better you will look better, feel better, have more energy, be healthier, and live happier.

We believe that good food and good health should be accessible to everyone.

I made my career in the food service industry for over 15 years and then moved on to better things. I’ve never lost my love for food, only now creating and consuming great vegan food is my passion. I also photograph all the food for The Vegan Road. I am an avid marathon runner and a triathlete, and I am committed to making this world better by inspiring others to eat better food and live healthier lives.

I am super excited to share the world of great food, health and wellness with you!

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Forks Over Knives

January 4, 2012

Forks Over KnivesI love food.

I love to talk about it, I love shopping for it, I love to make it, I really love to eat it. This did not always make for a very healthy lifestyle for me, but I’ve made significant changes over the years – I got active, I lost weight, and I moved to a vegetarian diet. Today I am the healthiest I have ever been.

Since becoming a vegetarian I’ve had many discussions about the love of food, nutrition, and diet with a lot of different people. Some endurance athletes I know say they could never be vegetarians – they “need the protein”. Others say they are mostly vegetarian but could never give up their beloved dairy. Since going vegan a few months back, the discussions have shifted in tone. Most people I talk to get vegetarianism, we could all benefit from a more vegetable-rich diet, but some just don’t get why anyone would be a vegan. No meat? Fine, but no eggs? No Milk? No ooey-gooey cheese? No way. “Why should anyone be vegan?” they would ask, and I couldn’t always articulate a good answer to why I chose to be vegan. Until now.

“Forks Over Knives examines the profound claim that most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting animal-based and processed foods.” –ForksOverKnives.com

I watched Forks Over Knives recently and it has had a profound impact on my life. I see now in HD clarity why eating a plant-based diet is simply the best option for my overall health and wellness. I understand now how eliminating meat and dairy doesn’t just make me feel better, it can prevent and even reverse afflictions like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. I don’t know about you, but my idea of good health does not involve pills, stents, or bypasses.

It’s only been a few months since eliminating dairy from my diet, but I can already see and feel the positive impact it is having on me. I sleep great, I have more energy, I no longer feel sluggish or bloated. I have never felt better in my life. I’ve simply changed the way I eat and thus changed my overall health for the better – forever.

“The doctor of the future will give no medicine but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet and in the cause and prevention of disease.” –Thomas Edison

I am a marathon runner and a triathlete. I work out six-eight times per week and get all the nutrients I need (including protein) from a plant-based diet. Some world-class vegan athletes like ultra-marathoner Scott Jurek, Ironman Brendan Brazier, and Ultraman Rich Roll agree. These guys are at the top of their games and they’re doing it without eating animal-based foods.

My passion for food remains firmly intact, but now I get to create nutritious, great-tasting meals every day without worrying about the unhealthy consequences.

I love food now more than ever, and I love being vegan.

Interested in a plant-based diet? Here are some resources worth checking out:

Veganomicon – The ultimate vegan cookbook by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero

The Post Punk Kitchen – Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s awesome website

The Engine 2 Diet – Triathlete and firefighter Rip Esselstyn’s plant-strong plan for sustainable health

VegNews – The premier vegan magazine

Mango Kale Protein Smoothie

January 1, 2012

Mango Kale Protein Smoothie

As an endurance athlete and a vegan I am always looking for ways to increase my protein intake. This great-tasting and simple green smoothie provides 50 grams of protein and is rich in nutrients and anti-oxidants. Kale is one of the healthiest vegetables on the planet, and this smoothie makes for an incredible recovery drink after a long run!

1 ripe banana
1/2 cup frozen strawberries
3/4 cup frozen diced mango
3/4 cup frozen chopped kale
2 scoops soy protein powder
2 TBL light agave nectar
soy milk (enough to cover all the other ingredients)

Place all ingredients except soy milk into a blender in the order above. Add soy milk until the bananas begin to float. Blend well, drink up, and feel great!

I’m Younger Than That Now.

November 8, 2011

Today is my birthday, and one year ago on this day I wrote my first blog post and it forever changed my life.

To my surprise (read ‘utter shock’) it was “Freshly Pressed” on WordPress and that post received over 5,000 views in one day. I would like to say that I didn’t let it go to my head, but my ego was properly inflated. Of course 5,000 people read my blog post, why wouldn’t they? I’m an above-average writer with an unfurled honesty and a quick wit. It was amazing really and it felt great, but it wasn’t that short-lived notoriety that changed my life.

Our wedding day!

The day I married my partner and best friend, the love of my life.

I wrote about turning 44 and how I wasn’t feeling old at all. In fact, I felt as immature as ever! I also made a comment in that post about how I had a hard time talking to women. It was really a small thing, I was just being honest, but that little comment made a huge impact on the direction of my life.

I shared the blog post on my Facebook page and received some fun feedback including an inbox message from a beautiful woman named Kristine. Kristine and I had known each other for some time and had become interested in each other at a mutual friend’s wedding reception. I had actually asked her to go running with me a few weeks earlier (my way of asking her out on a “date”) and she promptly said “no”. So I was a little surprised by her message on Facebook that day: “Great blog, by the way….you are welcome to talk to me anytime : )”. “Whoa”, I thought, “she digs me!” One little off-handed comment on my part followed up by that brief reply from Kristine boosted my confidence ten-fold.

“Quickly, beautifully, we fell in love.”

Two weeks later we went on our first date, a cold November night out in the suburbs of Chicago, and it was truly an amazing evening for us both. To say we hit it off would be a gross understatement. It was remarkably easy! It was our first date but we were so comfortable. We both immediately felt as if we had known each other our entire lives. Quickly, beautifully, we fell in love.

After my divorce I went through a period of cynicism where I could not imagine ever being married again. But after Kristine and I found each other, I simply could not imagine life without her. We had to get married. A few months after our first date we went on an amazing adventure to the island paradise of Kauai. I proposed to her during a breath-taking sunset on the beach at Hanalei Bay and she said yes.

We were married in June, just seven months after that cold Chicago night, and now we could not be happier or more in love.

The Perfect Sunset - Hanalei Bay, Kauai

The sky alive with color over Hanalei Bay. Moments later I asked Kristine to marry me.

Kristine brings an abundance of joy and happiness into my life every day. She inspires me to want to be a better man. She challenges me to learn and to grow spiritually, and she holds me accountable. Her smile is infectious; it warms my heart every time I see it (which happens to be many, many times a day, every day…). She’s witty, she’s funny, and she’s smart. Really smart. And like me, she’s a bit of a geek; she gets Star Wars and has read all the Harry Potter books. I find this quite sexy.

So what about that first attempt at getting her to go out with me for a run, why did she say “no”? It turns out she felt like she was too slow to run with me; she was embarrassed. Since then we’ve run together numerous times; I push her to run a little faster and she makes me slow it down a bit. We love running with one another these days; we spend that time together connecting physically, mentally, and spiritually.

“It’s funny how the Universe conspires on our behalf and all we have to do is get things moving.”

One year ago today, on my 44th birthday, I wrote my first blog post and unknowingly set in motion events that would bring me together with the absolute love of my life. It’s funny how the Universe conspires on our behalf and all we have to do is get things moving.

Today I turn 45 and I’ve honestly never felt younger or more undeniably alive. I don’t always feel like I’m learning and growing, but as I reflect on this past year I can see how far I’ve come, and how much more  fulfilling my life is today. It’s just been one year, but what an amazing year it has been. I was so much older then; I’m definitely younger than that now.

King of pain.

October 3, 2011
Crossing the finish line.

My legs are hurting all over now. It’s no longer just my quads, which have been burning for the last two hours and bite more with every small downhill I encounter. My calves are stretched taut and are on the verge of seizing up, my shins feel as if they’ve been bashed with a metal rod, my hamstrings are screaming at me, and every foot-fall feels like I’m running barefoot over broken glass. The swirling mess of Gatorade, ultra-sweet carbohydrate gels, and salt tablets is taking its toll on my stomach and I am pretty sure I am going to puke.

Just two more miles and I’ll see the finish line. I’ll hear the crowd and I’ll know it’s almost over. I just have to keep it together for two more miles. 18 more minutes – give or take. No cramping, no puking, no passing out. “Embrace the pain”, I tell myself. “Pick up your feet, Patrick.” “Keep moving forward”, “you got this.” I repeat these phrases over and over. It’s about now that I ask myself the question that every runner asks themselves at some point during every tough run: Why do I do this? Why do I continually punish myself with this excruciating pain and endure so much misery?

This is how I felt around mile 24 of the 2011 Flying Pig Marathon here in Cincinnati. I ran my best marathon, a 3:48, and on a very tough course, but I was seriously hurting that day. Since then I’ve been thinking a lot about why I keep doing this to myself. It’s hard, it hurts, I’m sore for days afterward, but I keep doing it. Why?

Every runner has their reasons for wanting to finish their first marathon – it’s something to check off their bucket list or it’s to prove to themselves and the world that they could accomplish something big. But how about we repeat offenders? Why do we keep going back for more? Ask 10 runners and you’ll get 12 different answers to that question, and most say it’s because we are either crazy or stupid. While there may be a lot of truth to that, for me there’s something more.

“I’m never going to run this again.”
–Grete Waitz, after winning her first of nine New York City marathons

I ran my first marathon because I wanted the world to know that things were changing for me. I had just been through a lot – cancer, divorce, weight loss, and I was ready to begin anew. That first race was painful but something extraordinary happened when I crossed the finish line. I felt alive! I had just accomplished something monumental, and I was suddenly overcome with elation. For perhaps the first time in my life I really felt like I was part of something big. The seed was firmly planted. At that moment I knew I wanted more and I’ve been addicted to that feeling ever since.

In the five years since I started running marathons something else unexpected has happened: running has become intrinsic in my life; it’s a huge part of who I am today. I love the constant training. I love getting up early for long runs on cold, dark Saturday mornings and seeing the sun rise over the Ohio River. I love “massage night” with my amazing wife (she’s a five-time marathoner) after those long runs. I love carb-loading before a race. I love the way my body looks and feels when I’m actively engaged in regular exercise. I love being in that meditative zone while running, it discharges stress and empties my mind.

After the 2011 Flying Pig Marathon

My beautiful wife Kristine and me after the Flying Pig - all smiles and feeling good again.

Running the marathon can induce a great deal of pain, but the intense, overwhelming joy and sense of accomplishment that washes over me as I cross the finish line makes it worth every painful step of every agonizing mile. In addition to that amazing feeling at the finish line, running continues to positively transform me physically, mentally, and spiritually. I’m a better person today because of running.

I’m addicted. I love the marathon, and I’m going back for more this Sunday when I line up for the Chicago Marathon where 45,000 runners will take to the streets. For some it will be their first marathon, for others their 50th, but I have a feeling we’ll all ask ourselves “why” at some point during the race. I also know that most of us will have to dig deep to make it through those last few miles, and we’ll repeat our mantras to help us make it through, “embrace the pain”, “keep moving forward”, “you got this”. And then the finish line will come into view and that magical feeling will return once again.

Wake up.

April 9, 2011
KK & P Union Terminal

Today I am filled with gratitude and love...

Today I celebrate the anniversary of my waking up.  Four years ago on this day, I decided that I’d had enough.  Enough of the drinking.  Enough of the hangovers.  Enough of the sickness and depression.  I’d done enough drinking for 10 lifetimes and I was wasting enough of the one life I had to live.  I had heard it was never too late to start over, but starting over scared the crap out of me.  “Really?”, I thought.  “I’m 40 years old and I’m really going to quit drinking now?”  I had been drinking quite steadily from the age of 15; I suddenly realized that my 25-year beer-run was finally over.  Never drink again?  Ever?  I was seriously filled with fear.

We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot.  —Eleanor Roosevelt

To allay my fears and begin the walk toward a happy life, I had to come to grips with two very simple ideas. The first was that I didn’t have to stop drinking forever.  I learned in fact that I didn’t have to stop drinking for a year, or a month, or even a week.  All I had to do was not drink *today*.  OK, I thought, I can do that.  The second idea I had to fully wrap my arms around was that I didn’t have to go through this alone.  I was never one for asking others for help, but somehow I found my way into a fellowship of like-minded individuals – people with whom I shared a common problem.  There I found the common solution.  I never looked back.  The drink problem has since been removed from my life.

And then something interesting happened.  Everything gradually got better.

My life today is nothing like it was four years ago.  I was lonely then, today I find myself surrounded by great friends, people I can count on and who truly care about me.  Back then I was out of shape and sick all the time, today I’m training for my first 1/2 Ironman Triathlon and I’m the fittest I’ve ever been.  Toward the end of my drinking I thought I would never know what a healthy, happy relationship looked like.  Today I am engaged to the most beautiful and most amazing woman I have ever known.  Kristine’s love and support means the world to me and I am truly blessed to have her in my life.  Back in those days I didn’t feel like I had much to live for, now I approach every day with excitement, curiosity, and delight.

I was miserable back then, but right now you’ll find me brimming with happiness, joy, and love.  I am this way today because I keep doing those things that were suggested of me; I take things one day at a time and I ask for help.  Funny thing, this life just keeps getting better and better, so it seems the best is yet to come.  I am wide awake now, and I can hardly wait for what’s next!

On this day of celebration I wish to extend a heart-felt “Thank You” to my friends and family and to all of you who have helped me along the way.  I simply could not have done it without you.  I sincerely love you all.

Let go.

March 11, 2011

Sometimes I get to feeling slightly less than my confident self.  One of my character defects is that I gravitate to the notion that I am never good enough, that I can’t quite measure up to others’ perception of me.  And when I get to thinking this way, the smallest thing can get me feeling really insecure about myself.  It can be anything really: a bad run, a biting remark, someone’s disapproval.  I wrap myself around this negativity and just can’t let go of it.  A friend said to me recently, “It’s like you’re carrying around a bag of shit in your pocket and every now and then you take it out and smell it.  You have to get rid of that shit, you have to let it go!”  While not the most eloquent illustration, it does accurately define what I do at times with feelings of unworthiness or insecurity.

Raging River

“Negativity is an invisible parasite. It needs a host to feed off, and the host is the ego.” Deepak Chopra

I’ve come to realize that these feelings almost always stem from my fragile ego.  But I am learning that my ego and my essence are not one in the same.  They are separate entities that I can either nurture or neglect.  At my core I am a deeply-connected and loving being, capable of immeasurable power and potential.  Nurturing my ego stifles the growth of my essence, it keeps me from realizing my pure potential.  In contrast, if I cultivate my true essence by engaging in selfless acts of loving-kindness, my ego is subverted and I move closer to the Spirit of the Universe that lies within and connects all living things.

I want to suppress my self-centered ego and foster my loving nature; I want to let go, but I don’t always know how.

I’m all about action, so if I need to do steps 1-2-3 to clear my head of this nonsense, then I’ll do them.  Funny thing though, when I ask people about what action I can take to let go of this negative stuff, I get a lot of shoulder shrugs, but I really want to get to the root of letting go.  I want an answer to the simple question “How do I let go?”

“Some of us think holding on makes us strong, but sometimes it is letting go.” Herman Hesse

I had a dream the other night.  I was standing chest-deep in the middle of a powerful river.  I was facing up river, the current was pushing against me incessantly, but I was determined to stand my ground.  I held my arms out in front of me, using my hands in an attempt to stop the fast-moving water.  I leaned harder into the deluge, I stretched out my arms, but my struggle was futile.  Where is all this water coming from?  I stood there for a while, helpless, finally choosing to give up.  I relaxed my body, I let the water flow freely around me, (which is what it was doing anyway!)  I turned around, I could now see that all this water was going somewhere, and it no longer mattered where it had come from.  I wondered where this powerful river leads?  Where can it take me?  I wanted to know.  I picked up my feet and began floating along swiftly with the current.  Suddenly I felt at peace, tranquil, and free.

This vision was quite compelling.  I could actually feel myself letting go, and it felt amazing.  I try to summon this vision when I’m faced with situations that are out of my control.  I have to remember that it is contrary to my nature to struggle against everything and everyone around me. I have to keep in mind that this moment is as it should be, because the whole universe is as it should be.  I have to practice acceptance.  I have to relax my body, turn around, pick up my feet, and let the current take me where it will.  And when I do this, when I can simply let go, I am suddenly aware of just how beautiful and amazing everything is right here and right now.