Resolutions – Finding a new focus – A Year dedicated to a Plant-Based diet


Being Vegan

My top 10 outcomes after one year


On January 1, 2012 I made a typical New Years Resolution – to exercise more and loose weight.  I also decided that I would run a Marathon (although this was pretty far fetched for me!) Like many people do when setting specific goals, I immersed myself in literature, magazines, movies and podcasts – not only for motivation, but to truly understand the science behind nutrition, fitness and health.  During this year, I adopted a vegetarian diet that included fish and dairy. I moderately exercised and I lost weight (about 20 pounds). In October 2012, I ran the Toronto Waterfront Marathon at a time of 4:26. At the time, I didn’t know that this was only the tip of the iceberg of reaching my potential.


vegan runner

On January 1, 2013, I decided (along with my husband Brad) to try a Vegan diet. This decision came after reading books (to name a few) by Brendan Brazier (Thrive), Scott Jurek (Eat and Run), Christopher McDougall (Born to Run), Rich Roll (Finding Ultra), all which make clear connections between fitness, running and plant-based diets. I stopped focusing on weight loss and decided to become mindful of my food consumption and exercise. No more processed foods, no more refined sugars, no more saturated or trans fats and oils, no more dairy, cheese, eggs or any animal products including fish. I would decrease salt and sugar intake by 90% and I would begin a new exercise regime that included cycling and swimming. Over the following 12 months, I ran three more marathons and a road race. Both Brad and I would improve our marathon times by more than 25 minutes both achieving personal bests. I also lost 20 more pounds.

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There is no doubt that the overall benefits to my health decisions out weight the drawbacks by a million to one. I am  healthier, happier and stronger in every way possible.

The hardest part about becoming a vegan was trying to explain it to other people. In some ways, we became social outcasts with friends, colleagues and even our families.  Our awareness of how much our culture revolves around food became heightened. It was often quite stressful trying to respect the decisions of others knowing the harmful effects – the consequences. (like smoking).  It has been difficult trying to share our new knowledge, experience and understanding of this lifestyle with others without seeming like we are preaching or appearing “above” others in some way. This was/is not our intention.

The science and research is clear: Plant-based, low sodium and low sugar diets will not only enhance one’s daily life, but will increase our lifespan and can not only prevent diseases (including cancer), but can reverse diseases that relate to high blood pressure and cholesterol. Diets that are consistently low in processed foods and high in whole foods can enhance brain function, ability to learn, clarity, happiness and physical fitness not to mention energy levels. This comes not only from research and stories from others but from my own changes which have given me a completely new way of looking at life and a deepened understanding of health and fitness. I strive to model these choices to my own children and to my students. I am convinced more than ever before that Fitness and Nutrition Literacy is the most important learning skill and fluency that we can model and teach our children.

We tell our story at:


#10 Clarity in Thinking about Health Literacy

Deeper understanding and mindfulness of impact that nutrition and fitness has in one’s quality of life. By fully and completely accepting the real and undeniable truth that fitness and nutrition will and can impact every area in life, I have changed how I approach my role as a friend, partner, parent and teacher.

I am sharp and clear about my choices and I stay true to my decisions – those that are based on outcomes, results and research. Together, with Brad, we have changed our thinking about Veganism as ominous or daunting or even as ‘hippy food’, and instead as a focused and mindful lifestyle choice. This has brought us certainty, confidence and the ability to strive for and endure more. No longer are we pressured and lured by a sensation of taste or social pressure, but instead but what we know will impact our well-being and future.

#9 Sound Sleep

With this type of diet, rarely (almost never) do I struggle to sleep (like I once did).  There is less caffeine and sugar in my diet.  There is an level of excitement and satisfaction after getting such sound sleep and the result is beautiful –  clarity and focus and ability to work harder and more efficient each day.

# 8 Positive and stronger Mental Health

My 20’s and 30’s were filled with ups and downs of depression and anxiety. I attribute this to the normal woes of growing up (adult worries, having children, financial struggles, job changes, hormonal). But still, I struggled with self-esteem issues and confidence and worried about pleasing others more than myself.  Adapting a plant-based diet at 40 has dramatically improved my emotional and mental well-being.

I feel happy and content most of the time. I am rarely impacted by hormonal changes and my ability to recognize and manage stress, and balance my life is strong. I believe that educating others about how food and nutrition can impact ones mental health should be a priority.

Screen Shot 2013-12-30 at 7.31.14 PM#7 Cravings and Food Repertoire

At first, I had cravings. I craved cheese, fish, and of course, chocolate – some of my favourite foods and the most difficulty to give up.  After one year in, my cravings did not go away-  they changed. Now I crave foods that are rich in Chlorophyll – kale, artichoke, cucumber, melon, green onions, and green (ginger) smoothies.

My repertoire of all food has grown exponentially.  I eat more kinds of vegetables and legumes – cooked and prepared in more ways then ever before. I have gained tastes for foods that I didn’t know I had.  I enjoy Mexican, Mediterranean and Asian flavours the most and I have found a true love for pizza, panini’s, and pastas – all without the oils, the salt, and the cheese and yet, delicious.

#6 Stronger nails, skin, hair and eyes

I learned a long time ago, that healthy skin and hair is a great determinant of health. It is the last place that the good (or bad) nutrients show themselves.   Since being a Vegan, those calcium spots have disappeared. My skin is clear. My nails are longer, thicker and stronger and with the exception of a few undesirable grey’s, my hair is shiny, smooth, full and grows rapidly. It almost seems magical. No need for expensive creams here.

#5 Overall Health – No bloating, stomach issues, or heartburn – ever

Since being a dedicated vegan,  I have not had a single stomach ache,  heart burn, or nausia (unless I have accidently come in contact with dairy, meats or shell fish). Even when I leave a meal with that “too full” sort of feeling (yes, I still get there), I recover quickly and rarely feel that ‘tired’ feeling that I once experienced after that big meal.

Even with small bouts of illness (common cold, chest infection), I recover fast. Oddly fast. My body and mind is strong and filled with nutrients that provide immunity and vitamins that help not only prevent illness but speed recovery.

#4 Migraine Headaches

My only prescribed medication was for migraine headaches, which have completely disappeared after adopting a plant-based diet.

#3 Weight Loss

While this wasn’t my main focus for 2013, during the last year, I lost 20 more pounds and yet I eat more often and more food then ever before…and I never ever skip breakfast…ever.

#2 Recovery and Repair

My body’s ability to repair itself is another benefit. Prior to living on a solely plant based diet, I endured injury after injury.  While these injuries where minor ones, they still required recovery time, breaks and physical therapy. But, in the last year, my diet caused my body to endure more and last longer resulting in no injuries and allowed me to push myself to new limits. My body’s recovery speed has completely baffled me. After my last two marathons, I was ready and eager to run again after only a couple of days, unlike in the past where I might feel sluggish or tired and required days (or weeks) to recover. I fully attribute this change to my plant-based diet in which is constantly oxygenating and detoxifying my blood and that which is rich in enzymes and high in amino acids and has natural anti-inflammatory agents.

#1 Physical endurance and fitness

I was not expecting to be as physically strong as I have been in the last year, as a Vegan. This was not an outcome that I predicted that would be so explicit and strong. Prior to 2013, I had never run more than 5km’s at one time. I assumed that my journey toward health and fitness would take more time. But in one year, after a complete change in diet, I have run four Marathons and one 30km road race, all without injury and with fast recovery times. It almost seems like magic.

What is next?

2014 :

Continue to focus on nutrition and fitness and continue to educate others about the power that food can (or can’t) have on personal well-being, including in teaching and learning environments. This means a fully plant-based diet. Continue to blog at:

Continue to incorporate this lifestyle into my own philosophy of education, both as a teacher, leader and parent.

I will continue to run. I look forward to the Barcelona Marathon in March and (possibly?) the  New York  Marathon in October. I hope to improve my PB by at least 12 minutes, which will give me a Boston Qualifying time. 

Cross-train to improve swimming and cycling and endeavor to complete a Triathlon (half Ironman) by the end of the year (dare I say).


My Working Memory Deficit (and why I plead to educators to find other ways)

IMG_0136It is logical to conclude that many educators and leaders lead and teach like they were once led and taught. Why not? They were  good at it. They are the one’s that succeeded – the ones that were just fine learning through rigid assessments, text based assignments, memory driven tasks, criterion based and teacher directed/controlled learning with siloed subjects and curriculum. It is perhaps why we continue to hold on, so dearly, to these methods and pedagogies, even in a world where information and knowledge resources are at an abundance and in a variety of mediums.


In 2007, I read a post by Scott Mcleod called “What do students need to Memorize”. What resonated me the most was his observation (and perhaps prediction) that the kinds of skills that employers are looking for in years to come, might not be those that were once seen as essential in the industrial age . In fact, Scott’s post gave me a strong sense of solace because I always struggled with the methods and pedagogies used during my own education, as he puts it, “those needed by workers in the industrial age factory line economy”. In many ways, I was forced to adapt to a method of learning that was counter to my learning needs and as a result I became really good at finding accommodations, alternatives and tricks that would one day not only put me ahead, but to help me truly understand those learners that do not ‘fit’ within the confines of academia.

Working memory and processing deficits were barriers for me as a learner, and sometimes they still are. I remember, like it was yesterday, spending hours trying to memorize vocabulary tests only to get half the words correct – every time. Math wasn’t as much of a problem, until I was forced to memorize formulas. That hurt. I never understood why they wouldn’t just give me the formula and let me apply it to something useful. It is why I struggled to read at the same level and pace as my peers, or why I audio recorded every one of the lectures during my post secondary education and graduate studies. To pass my psychology courses, I used to pin “fact sheets” to the walls in every room of our house until the names of certain functions or theories were embedded in my brain. And during my grad studies, it is why I read my text books and journal articles to both my children when they were just infants. It is why I struggled to complete memory fill-in-the-blank type tests and why I hated history, but loved Geography. It is why, as a teacher, I advocated so strongly for a more liberal ‘hand-held’ device policy back in 2002, when my place of employment banned them from all classrooms – my palm pilot offered a dictionary and thesaurus at my finger tips and I learned how to search for facts, words, information on a whim.

No matter how many tests or quizzes I got, no teacher in the world could “cure” or “teach” me to have a better working memory. Think of it as wearing glasses. No matter how many strategies or lectures or videos or lessons you got without the glasses, you still cannot see clearly unless the glasses are on, right? Interestingly, other than at school, I cannot think of a single day that I was discouraged to use any of my self-made accommodations that helped me with memory and spelling. In fact, I learned to think quickly, find information fast, problem solve, and work with others – these were the essential skills that I needed to survive. According to Scott, I might seem quite prepared for the 21st Century! And my lack of quick recall and need for accommodation did not put me at a disadvantage in the real world – only at school.

Now, almost 2014, we continue to have debates around the usefulness of spelling tests or open book math tests. We continue to test kids on their understanding of our courses and place a certain ‘blame’ on them when their grades don’t meet our standard. We continue to teach students in an unnatural environment – that we ourselves could not succeed in given the same circumstances: No internet, no computer/tech devices and constant evaluation. We continue to see classroom technology as “assistive” rather than universal. We continue to confuse memorization with knowledge and knowledge with intelligence.

I implore you to travel back to 2007 and re-read Scott’s post about Memorization. Ask yourself why, 7 years later, we continue to argue this point.  Even better, take a look at the comments and discussion that ensued. Are we ready to accept some of these ideas and thoughts? Are we ready to separate the concepts memory and understanding?