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I interviewed Dr. Laura Gruen, an interventional cardiologist, in October 2009 shortly after she'd adopted a vegan diet. Many readers expressed an interest in following-up with Laura after she'd been a vegan for a few months. With February being Heart Health month, it seemed only fitting to follow-up with Laura now. So, without further a do...
HH: So Laura, you've been vegan for a few months now. Have you noticed any changes in your body?
I definitely noticed a difference! In the first few weeks I noticed I had way more energy and I lost about 5 pounds in the process. This weight loss and energy spike still occurred despite the fact that my work schedule allowed less time to work out.
HH: Shortly after going vegan you attended a conference that wasn't vegan-friendly. How did you deal with that?
Good question! The conference was one week after I decided to adopt a vegan diet. It was a bit difficult in that the meatless meal options were not vegan. Since all of our meals were provided/catered during the conference, I had to pick and choose carefully. I kept a stockpile of peanut butter and trail mix on hand, and ate lots of salad. I definitely didn't starve!
HH: You also recently study for and took your Board exams. Was it easy to keep your vegan diet under all that stress?
I think eating vegan actually helped. With all the stress and crazy work hours and hours spent studying, it was nice to know I was taking care of myself to the best of my ability, by fueling with healthy, nutritious foods. It helped having a plan--the plan to eat healthfully, and consistently healthy, in the setting of otherwise chaos.
HH: Do you think your new diet helped improve your concentration, stamina, etc?
I do think it helped! How can you go wrong fueling up with fruits and veggies and whole grains?
HH: You're also a marathon runner. Have you noticed any changes in your performance or recovery since going vegan?
I ran my first marathon as a vegan in October with my brother. My performance was directly correllated with how much I'd trained and the recovery was easy. I performed exactly the way I'd expected (not fast, but not back of the pack either), and it felt good to be a bit lighter as well. I will never be as fast as my brother though...he is a giant.
HH: Have you had any slipups? If so, did you notice any changes or side effects when you consumed animal products?
Yes, I have had some "exceptions". All of which occurred while either: eating out at a restaurant (oh wow, there is cheese in this) or, eating a meal someone else has catered/prepared for me (oh wow, there is cheese on that; or hmm, what is this?... a bacon bit?). I didn't notice any major changes as a consequence, except I think I tend to break out if I've had some dairy. I have noticed that not only do I not crave meat AT ALL, but it also makes me a bit queasy to see it and smell it.
HH: The holidays are a tough time for many vegans, particilarly when their family is not veg-friendly. How did your family react?
You're right, holidays are tough, especially if it is only one person who has a particular food preference. In general, my family has been very supportive, and we all try to eat healtfully. But yes, we did have a ham at christmas eve, and other fixings made with dairy and broth, etc. I refused to tell my lovely mom how to prepare her food, but I did stay away from the ham, and tried to make some side dishes that were vegan. I also baked a huge batch of your sweet potato-cranberry muffins to go along with our meal, and they were a big hit with everyone!
HH: Do you have a news years resolution?
Does "vacuum more frequently" count? I think I'm already flunking this one.
HH: Any short-term goals?
I'd like to drink more/enough water every day (when things get busy I just
forget) and I'd like to work on depending less on soy products for protein, and more on legumes. My favorite bean dish is your black bean brownies! Yum! I am also looking forward to the release of your cookbook and plan on buying a ton of copies to give out as presents! Thanks for your constant support and always helpful advice!
HH: How have your friends and co-workers responded to your new diet?
The large majority have been intrigued and supportive. I was actually surprised to find out that some of my coworkers are vegetarians, or pescatarians. We have exchanged recipes! A lot of people have been interested in learning more about being vegan and I have directed them to check out your awesome website (happyherbivore.com) ! Of course, I did also get the occasional response of: "Vegan? Why?" or "Man, I could never do that!!"
HH: Anything else you'd like to share about your vegan journey?
It's been enlightening and exciting. I feel great and love to know that I'm putting healthy foods into my body.
HH: Thanks so much, Laura! I hope to have you again for a third installment!