I am not sure how many of you know that on 2014 I was diagnosed with a genetic, progressive heart disease called ARVC that has forced me to stop running, doing triathlon and nearly stop exercising all together. When I first found out I was as shocked and angry as anyone would be. I thought exercise was supposed to be good for you, and in 97-99% of the population it is. However, for me, most exercise could literally kill me.
Exercise, and specifically endurance exercise, has been a defining factor in who I am for as long as I can remember. Until 2014, everything in my life revolved around sport – the car I drove, the profession I chose, the clothes I wore and what I ate all reflected my lifestyle as an endurance athlete. When I lost the ability to run, swim, bike and get my heart rate up even a little bit, I lost it. I had no idea how to move forward when everything I had known to be true was gone.
This year, I have decided to write a blog series called “Kate’s Plate” that are not all physical therapy related but that I hope will resonate with you. I have learned so much about life and myself through my recent experiences that I want to share a little bit of the good stuff I have discovered. Much of what I have learned will be helpful to those of you who are type A: high achievers with too much on your plate. I will give you some of my new favorite recipes (I bet you didn’t know I love to cook!) that may help improve your energy throughout the day and/or make it easier to eat healthily on the go. I plan on addressing ways to manage stress though meditation, mindfulness and much more.
So let’s get started!
Since I can no longer do a lot of cardiovascular exercise, I can no longer burn as many calories. Right before I started having a lot of trouble with my heart, I was running 50 miles, swimming two to three hours and cycling four to six hours each week on average. I loved it, and I miss it every day. These days, I am allowed to do yoga (which I surprisingly love), walk and lift weights. To some, that may not seem so bad, but for an endurance junkie like myself, it has been difficult. For those of you who run to eat or truly love food like I do, you can understand how this was utterly devastating for me. Not only did I lose the ability to sweat, I thought I lost the ability to enjoy food too!
Over the past year, I have slowly been changing the way I eat and look at food. Initially, I was angry that I couldn’t eat whatever I wanted, but then I realized I could still enjoy food – in a healthier way. I am not vegan, but I am slowly moving in that direction. Vegan has always been a scary word for me because I immediately think, "oh that is too difficult and it probably won’t taste good anyway." WRONG!
The day I decided being a vegan wasn’t so bad was the day I discovered vegan chocolate. That’s right…it is chocolate that is easy to make at home, which tastes good and is packed with nutrients instead of being packed with sugar!!! This is not a joke, I swear.
This chocolate recipe that inspired me is from one of my new favorite vegan websites! The ingredients are simple, and each is packed with nutrients that have been found to improve memory and recovery, fight inflammation, boost immunity or do something else amazing. The phrase “food is medicine” definitely applies here.
Not only does it taste good but also it doesn’t take a lot of time to make. I typically make a pan of it and leave it in the freezer to break off a piece whenever I feel the need for a little sweetness. The four main ingredients in the chocolate are below, and if you click on them you will be able to read about each of their healthy benefits!
Once you have the four basic ingredients, you can add anything else you like – I typically add sliced almonds, pistachios and baked coconut flakes. My only word of caution is be careful when you close the freezer door! I made the mistake of accidentally tipping the hot pan over, and the entire inside of my freezer was covered in chocolate for several hours and perhaps still has a few spots left!
Good luck and enjoy.