I have officially concluded my period of fasting with an extension of “Fasting-Mimicking” to make up a 5-day total. So how did it go?
Surprisingly I had very little problem with hunger or even thinking much about food on day 4 and 5. I was even able to do a light workout of pull-ups, push-ups and yoga with some band work on day 5 with no particular problem of fatigue.
For my first “regular” meal I oddly just wanted a larger serving of what had become my favorite while on the plan – roasted veggies with tofu. This is essentially a pan of chopped red cabbage, carrots and vidalia (sweet) onion, seasoned with a mix of white and black pepper and roasted at 400 degrees for 40 minutes. When finished I topped them with black olives. One thing that I have always noticed and enjoyed when doing these kinds of resets and challenges – it really helps me appreciate the simple flavors of the food without really having to add much to them or alter them beyond some very basic prep. As a bonus a fairly small meal now feels quite satiating, my calorie log is only now approaching the 1200 mark which is quite low for me on a usual day. Not to fear, considering that it is 1200 calories of whole-food plants, all of my nutrient goals for the day were easily met. Tofu, spinach, kale and olives are the star players there, packing a huge nutritional punch with very little caloric burden.
I enjoyed my additional time each day when there was less need to be in the kitchen. I also did a better job actually practicing my breathing exercises and yoga, both of which I do fairly regularly but could still stand to get them into my schedule a bit more often. There is also a heightened sense of presence that always seems to take hold with me when I do any sort of fasting. It makes sense to me that so many spiritual traditions include them as a practice. I wouldn’t be able to explain the psychology of this at all, but I personally find it to be the case that I just feel a bit more awake and aware. It also never fails to impress me at just how adaptable we are.
An additional note, anyone wishing to pursue fasting in any form should get advice from an expert – which I certainly am not! Please check into some of the resources and do a little research. If in doubt, let your primary physician or chiropractor know what you are up to in case they can offer guidance or suggestions. I mention chiropractic doctors because the two best we have ever worked with were quite knowledgeable in regards to diet and nutrition, but I suspect like physicians this is a case-by-case basis. Also, while fasting and fasting-mimicking show promise for being healthy in limited, controlled ways, it certainly would not be advisable to use them for long-term or as a primary method of weight loss. Dr. Longo’s fasting-mimicking diet is only recommended for at most 5 days at a time and under rather controlled nutritional guidelines and he even cautions the reader in regards to the potential dangers of lengthy water-only fasts. Please do your due diligence before setting out on any new path and research a bit!
Just to add a few additional resources, please see Dr. Andrew Weil’s web page and his book, Eight Weeks to Optimum Health. These were the starting point for me as I tried to find my way to a healthier and happier state of being. His advice was the first to point me in the direction of occasional, seasonal fasting and even partial/limited fasting. Again I have to recommend Dr. Valter Longo’s book as well, The Longevity Diet. It is a treasure trove of information and also contains some examples of what diet was like in rural Italy for him as a child which I found interesting and delightful. Simple recipe ideas? You bet!
After deciding to go completely whole-foods plant-based vegan a little over two years ago we were a bit worried that it would be difficult to come up with proper substitutes and alterations of “classic” meals and recipes. Thanks to a few wonderful cookbooks and bloggers that I have to give a shoutout to below (see the end of the post) we made it through and at this point have even developed our own recipes based off of what they taught us.
Breakfast was one of the trickier situations. After removing all of the typical meat products in the “Standard American Diet” which are so common at breakfast time, removing eggs, butter and yogurt we were pretty much left with toast. Even in the case of toast we had to do a little searching to find bread that did not contain milk or eggs. Fortunately we were already vegetarian at the point we made this change so we had already managed to work around the breakfast meat problem. No dead animals for breakfast seemed like a win from the earliest notion, after all.
Pancakes have always frustrated me. They tend to do well with a brand new non-stick pan but eventually begin sticking, burning or tearing and generally just make a mess after the pan has been used a few times, even with very careful use in my experience. One day I had had enough and decided just to bake them instead. The first few tries were kind of tricky, deciding the correct length of time and exactly how thick to make the batter, but over time I’ve learned how to get it exactly to our liking
The Forks Over Knives Cookbook provided us with the primary building blocks for what became Grant’s favorite “pancake” recipe. Two years of practice of making this at least 2-3 times a month we have worked it over to suit our style and the process has really opened my eyes to toying with baked goods in general as the process of adjusting and substituting in the original recipe has assisted me in creating versions of quite a few deserts, muffins and breads. I’ve really found it an enjoyable challenge to work with the limitations and try to find work-arounds and replacements as I experiment with different recipes. Lucky for me I have one of the most articulate and honest critiques one could hope for – my little boy!
Enough of the back story, let’s get to the recipe.
The ingredients are lined up and ready to get to business.
1 Cup Whole Grain Flour – we use Spelt or Buckwheat usually if available, but they cook up fine with Whole Wheat too. We like Bob’s Red Mill Spelt Flour and Arrowhead Mills Buckwheat Flour, but we aren’t afraid to try a new brand if there is a great sale at our Trader Joe’s or Sprouts stores.
1/3 Cup Oat Flour – This is just blended rolled oats if you like saving money. If you’d rather not bother just replace with an extra 1/3 Cup flour of your choice. This isn’t exactly rocket science, so they generally turn out just fine either way. I usually make this call according to what is in the pantry at the time.
2/3 Cup Plant-based milk alternative (Soy, Almond, Coconut, etc.)
2/3 Cup Water
2/3 Cup Chocolate Chips – Trader Joe’s brand is the most affordable dairy-free chips we have found. These are okay to omit or reduce if you don’t have a huge sweet tooth. Grant contends that they just don’t quite have their magic without the chocolate chips on top, though. Reduce or remove at your own risk!
Step 1: Mix the water, milk, vinegar and syrup together into a measuring cup or small bowl and set aside for at least 3-5 minutes. The vinegar will curdle the milk slightly, creating a “vegan buttermilk”.
Step 2: Combine all dry ingredients into a medium mixing bowl and whisk to combine.
Step 3: Add the Applesauce into the middle of the dry ingredients then add the “buttermilk” mixture. Mix until smooth and creamy.
Step 4: Stir in 1/2 of the chocolate chips (1/3 Cup).
Step 5: Scoop divide the batter onto the baking sheet into 12 “pancakes”.
Step 6: Bake for 16-18 minutes.
Step 7: Remove from oven and let them rest for 3-5 minutes.
Serve with Maple Syrup, berries, fruit, or nut butters… mix and match, experiment. The possibilities seem endless! Be creative and try whatever sounds tasty.
Grant plated and arranged his breakfast himself for the photo op. Congrats and thanks to my littlesous chef!
Inspiration and Thanks
As mentioned above, the Plant Powered Gamers are strongly influenced by and owe much of the initial basis for this recipe to the following:
Forks Over Knives Chocolate Pancakes Recipe (check the App Store if this is too pricey for you or just have no space for cookbooks. They have a great deal at only $5 last I checked and regularly add new recipes for free)
I love a good challenge and the results looked promising, so after reading the book and listening to a few talks he has made (Here you can find his TedX Talk) I was ready to give it a try. I have managed short fasts a few times in the past, usually using them as a sort of “reset” when I realized my diet wasn’t properly lining up with my values and plans. I am also prone to limited fasts, juice or fruit and juice only fasts during times of sickness which are thankfully quite rare. They seem to speed recovery but with an n=1 study of just myself I am giving that as my personal opinion only. There is certainly something to be said for placebo effect there and I cannot discount it. In any case it was his rather convincing evidence of the acceleration of autophagy, which is our body’s way of dealing with old, worn out or disfunctional cells. This helps both in general rejuvenation as well as cancer destruction; now really, who isn’t interested upon reading that? With a load of different inflammatory disorders in my family history, my interest was also piqued at the idea of additional decrease in inflammation (which is part of the reason us Plantpowered Gamers follow a rather strict whole-foods plant-based Vegan diet).
So how have I faired so far?
Well, I am writing this on day 3 of the fast. I actually managed two full days of water only (as well as herbal teas and a bit of lemon juice). On day 3 I brought back in a very restricted “Fasting Mimicking” dietary plan which so far has included Tofu, lots of leafy greens, olives, peanuts, tahini and a bit of broccoli. I will note that I was starting to get pretty fatigued near the end of day 2 which is largely why I shifted a day earlier than planned to the “FMD” plan. I originally wanted to do 3 full days of water only fasting followed by two fasting-mimicking days, mostly just to see how I handled it. It seems from the research he presents that 5 days of FMD gives essentially the same benefits of a full fast, so next time around I will probably just do 5 days of FMD instead and save myself the discomfort. I will note, however, that day one of the fast didn’t bother me at all so I may well stick with one day of water only. It is actually kind of cool to see how the body can react and adjust so readily to such a drastic change. I do wonder if my previous experience at fasting helped in this though, and I really have no way of knowing. It seems that one gets “better” or at least more capable of dealing with most things diet and exercise related, so I do wonder if fasting is something that one gets “better” at with practice. It will be interesting to see. In any case, I will probably make another update on day 5, so wish me luck!
Loaded with interesting information and research. Check it out!
Niko is one of the furry family members of the Plantpowered Gamers and he is a Maine Coon. Maine Coon is basically code which means he is a cat that thinks he is a dog. He is a bit too big for a house cat but insists on being treated as some sort of luxury cat-dog hybrid. He is amusingly vocal and regularly “coos” to us when he is feeling playful. His majesty can often be found watching the birds and chipmunks play outside “his” window in the front of our house in the morning which has led to some amusing comments from our neighbors who were concerned that we had taken in a pet bobcat or mountain lion.
His Majesty observes his subjects from atop the royal library (bookshelf).
Maine Coons are peculiar and get bored with typical cat and dog games pretty quickly. It is hard to keep Niko amused by any given toy or game for more than two or three minutes. His massive paws also make it kind of hard to play with him when he successfully catches the toy, as you probably aren’t getting that toy back until he is ready for you to get it. That excessively strong frame is really a sight to behold when he is being obstinate and doesn’t want to be “fooled with”. Those big paws can pretty well peel the carpet from the floor if one of us tries to pick him up when he doesn’t want to be bothered. It is amusing how casually he grips the floor, increasing his already substantial 20 lbs (9kg) to really “impossible to pick up without replacing the flooring and sustaining grievous back injury ”.
Oh, you think you would like to pick all of this up? My paws may beg to differ!
Niko is pretty affectionate with Suzy and loves to catch her when she is lounging so that he can get his belly and armpits rubbed. This probably sounds weird but he will occasionally allow a bit of physical contact if the petting is done just right. He tends to want to simply be near us or beside us, though, and really never does the “lap cat”-thing. I suppose he has decided that if we get an entire cushion on the couch he should have his own and there is no need for sharing. He is a treasure and truly a family member, never wanting to be left out of whatever is going on in another part of the house and usually finding us within a few minutes of us leaving the area that he was recently lounging.
Just hangin’ out at the stairway to see who might pass by to entertain him.
Niko is a huge “fraidy-cat”, which is all the more exaggerated when his size is taken into account. He rarely comes out to see company and if service folks are working in the house one wouldn’t even know we had a cat if it were up to him. He can disappear like a true ninja kitty! Think “Beverly Hills Ninja” or perhaps Kung-Fu Panda for a nice visual of what a hiding 20 lbs cat looks like… Surprisingly cats just have a knack for being hard to detect. I know some of that is their pattern but they can hold so shockingly still sometimes.
Niko does his “Yin-Yang” pose in the little cat bed that he originally fit in as a kitten and younger cat. As one can see he tends to “spill” after he gets really good and comfy.
Niko seems to have concluded that our dog, Cricket, is “his” dog and regularly lays upon him, cuddles next to him and sniffs him when he has been out of doors. Feeding time is the most peculiar as Niko “head-butts” Cricket which provokes Cricket to come let us know that the cat is hungry and should be fed. This can persist for quite some time and Niko is not easily distracted from his goal once begun. Poor Cricket! Often his majesty gets his way purely because we cannot bear to see him pester Cricket so ruthlessly!
Niko has claimed Cricket’s (our dog’s) bed.. as well as his bone, apparently.
“So yeah.. I stand upright. You people stand, so why shouldn’t I? I may just use this toilet if it suits me, but why would I when I have my own that is cleaned for me regularly. Now, move along my loyal subjects, his majesty needs his privacy.”
The Plant Powered Gamers have been hiking at Oak Mountain State Park in Alabama for about a year and a half now, but just last week we finally managed the trek up to “King’s Chair”. I won’t bother trying to describe it beyond “breathtaking” as the view from there and the nice clear breeze was really welcoming and we took a nice long break before descending. Cricket rather enjoyed himself too, but then he always does when it comes to hiking. No one ever warned us that Australian Shepherds were related to mountain goats! This pup can jump rocks like he was built for platforming.
Suzy stands atop the lookout spot victoriously, having overcome countless mosquitos and spider webs over her long journey to the summit.
The path is so abundantly overrun with green! It really invigorated us as we ascended the challenging trail.
A quick clip Suzy shot from King’s Chair, showing off the amazing view. Amusingly, Cricket can be heard “huffin’ and puffin'” in the background alongside the singing songbirds. He was tuckered out!
Oak Mountain State Park is currently our “go to” hiking destination. We are fortunate to live fairly close by and there are short hikes for those days that we are just trying to squeeze in a bit of outdoor time. The hiking trails are color-coded and very well marked so that one really need not worry over becoming badly lost. With a trailhead at either the north or south entrances the park can really feel like a different experience according to which path we take. The trails branch and connect in multiple places too, which allows one to craft a path of suitable difficulty and also edit it according to what sites are desired. There are quite a few interesting areas that we have managed to make our way to. We will thoroughly enjoy snapping some photos as we pass them and share them but certainly our hope is to encourage others to get out and see these wonders for themselves. If you are too far from our little paradise then check and see what is around you! There might be a surprise closer than you think as there are so many beautiful parks scattered all over the U.S. We are actually considering taking a train trip and making stops to see some of the different ones around the country one of these days. If you know of a great place near you please leave us a comment! It would be fantastic to have recommendations from locals.
Baked sweet potatoes – probably everyone has had them and yet I am always shocked at how underwhelmed most people are by them. The aluminum-foil method should just disappear, though, as I think it is largely to blame for this. Let me introduce to you the amazing hybrid steam-bake method!
First, you will need a baking dish with a lid that can handle 400 degrees Farenheit in the oven (that is 200 degrees Celcius). Warm up the oven and wash those ‘taters thoroughly. You don’t want to be eating dirt and whatever else might have been in the ground when they were harvested. Being a root veggie, sweet potatoes can be pretty dirty fellas’. Put just enough water in the bottom of the baking dish to cover it to about 1/4″. For my little dish that is about 1/2 cup but you can work that out after a few attempts for the dish available. After the oven is warmed up simply cover the potatoes and bake for 60 minutes. After that time has passed flip off the oven but leave the potatoes and covered dish in the oven. I usually let them sit for another 30-60 minutes at least, but I have forgotten a time or two and left them in for several hours. No harm, they didn’t mind. You’ll find the water at the bottom has become a pretty amazing “syrup” that I often use in oatmeal or if I am having sweet potatoes over rice then it mixes nicely in the rice. Super simple – I love these kinds of methods and/or recipes that are hard to “mess up”.
So give it a try and get rid of the aluminum foil. There is some research suggesting that it may be bad for your nervous system anyway, so it may be advisable to not use it in direct contact with anything you’re cooking until more data is available and a more final opinion is made.
These guys are ready to be covered and warmed up!
Armored up to protect from scorching. Specialized glass containment unit engaged!
So it may be a little hard to see with the sunshine blasting into my kitchen window, but this couple is just bursting with moisture, sweetness and flavor! The bit of water keeps them from drying out and as a bonus, sweet potato syrup is left to experiment with or just pour over the potato after you split it.
One of the first Arcade games that I ever played that truly captured my imagination was titled “Jungle Hunt”. It is pretty similar to the likely more popular Pitfall which is often referred to as one of the best titles on the Atari 2600. It wasn’t just some little guy avoiding ghosts and eating pellets and it wasn’t a wonky spaceship with poor steering trying to stop an alien invasion. This game took the player on a literal adventure through the digital jungle, swinging and jumping from vines, swimming in a crocodile filled river, jumping over and ducking boulders and even avoiding the spears of angry natives. Of course this was all to save “the girl” who had been abducted and was about to become soup. Sure it may be a simple twist on a cliche’ but hey, this was the 80s and I suppose we have to give ourselves some credit for progress in game design over the last 30 years or so.
Jungle Hunt; Atari 2600 – Adventure Gaming history in the making.
Pitfall; Atari 2600 – Jump snakes, barrels and scorpions! Stand on crocodile heads! Swing on Vines!
If ever a game brought back that sense of unexpected adventure in a truly deadly package, I would have to nominate Spelunky. It really has the same flavor as Pitfall and Jungle Hunt to me, with unexpected adventure, treasure and surprises at every turn.
The little explorer is in luck today, gold bars lay just inside the entryway. Surely luck is on his side today!
The player chooses one of the characters to use, though as far as I can tell there is no difference beyond appearance. There are several unlockable characters as well which gives one the fun challenge of rescuing fellow adventurers that appear to have fallen prey to the mines. The player must run, jump and whip their way through the obstacles, very “Indiana Jones” style but with likely far less success. There is even a “damsel” to rescue, though checking the options menu it is actually possible to save a ugly-cute pug dog instead which I find awesome and hilarious. He even makes funny whining sounds when you get close! Rescuing the “damsel” gives a bonus health at the end of each level, so it is quite worthwhile in a game that can be pretty cruel at times. That bonus health can provide a nice pad that keeps one from having to restart completely.
I generally buy ALL THE BOMBS!!! They are actually multi-purpose tools that have al kinds of benefits if one stays well stocked. Great for “bustin'” booby-traps, diggin’ out treasure and even killing the occasional bus-sized frog.
As the player progresses through the level there is loads of treasure to collect. The game begins with a few bombs in the inventory which can be used not only to access areas that have been blocked off but also to dig treasure out of the walls, floor or ceiling. A shopkeeper inhabits many areas as well and he can sell everything from extra bombs, guns, machetes, spins of a weird prize wheel and a time or two I have even found a “kissing shop” that let you pay $8000 for a lick from the pug.. or I suppose a kiss from the lady. It’s a bonus health either way, one just likely contains fewer germs. Dogs have really great oral hygiene after all.
Damsel in distress? I’ll pass, gimme puggy-lovins! Truly “explorer’s best friend”.
Steer clear of this cheapskate. The ghost appears if you linger too long in a level and he “one-hits” like nobody’s business. He kind of works like a timer that you can run from, but still ensures that the level cannot be picked clean as there is simply not enough time.
Of course being a “rogue-like” the stages are randomly generated and every play-through is somewhat different. The levels to progress in the same pattern, though, with the first being the Mines, the next the Jungle, followed by Ice Caves and so on. There are “events” of sorts that come up occasionally that add a twist to the level. There is an event that displays “I can’t see a thing” as the level begins and light is very limited. The player starts with a torch nearby and can use it to light sconces throughout the level. There are also a few fireflies that float around to help some but these can be very challenging as it makes it hard to tell what traps might be lurking just beyond the sight-range. There is one that loads the level with snakes, another that loads with spiders and even one that tells that the dead are restless and zombies lurk about. These are fun, but again, can be pretty challenging in a game that is already pretty ruthless at times. Oh and don’t anger the shopkeeper. They will pursue your demise for the rest of that play-through and they like to hide close to exits with shotguns…
“I can’t see a thing!” – In Spelunky, these words generally mean “Josh isn’t making it through this area; Game Over”. My success rate on dark zones is around 10% at the moment!
The humble rock.. in this game it is handy to keep one as a pet. They are great for triggering traps and throwing and googlies that lie out of reach. I named mine Steve. Steve fell in a hole later. I’ll never forget him.
Even though the game is pretty tough it manages to rarely frustrate me. Restarting is nicely streamlined so that I can be right back in the adventure within moments which really reminds me of Pitfall and Jungle Hunt which basically restarted within a button click of losing. The game gives a journal entry telling how the player “died” though part of the story is that the adventurers in the mines find themselves again at the beginning of the mine when something… goes badly for them. Kind of a fun explanation for the endless “lives” one is likely to exhaust in tackling the challenges before them. Some of the entries can be a little snarky but most are just amusing and hey, a click of the button closes it and gets you back into the game!
What’s this? A Spider the size of a golf cart? I’m sure it won’t be so bad, this is world 1 after all! Don’t be fooled, this stinker can really ruin a day quickly.
There is a Daily Challenge each day in which the player can try once per day to do their best at the level of the day. Only one try is allowed and it ranks everyone that tries on a fairly active leaderboard. So far my best is making it into the 300s and I wouldn’t say I was terrible at the game exactly so I certainly think there is some long-term play value there. It is fun in that it gives one a sense of playing in a community rather than it being a completely solitary experience.
Not all traps are this obvious, but only rarely do they keep me from “going for it”. This may explain why I have yet to actually complete the game.
Games like Spelunky are certainly not for everyone though. Grant is actually turned off by the ease of losing and finds it frustrating. Certainly a bad jump can quickly end the adventure and occasionally the enemies will “ping-pong” you into oblivion. While this sort of bad luck can be a pain I will take it in stride if as a trade off I get a non-stagnant level layout, refreshing itself each time with new treasures and dangers to discover with each attempt. Grant does occasionally find it amusing watch my exploits though, so it may have some merit in watching the disaster that is likely to unfold when watching a friend play. It’s all pretty light-hearted with about as much violence as a Looney-Tunes or Tom & Jerry cartoon, though it does have some “blood” animation. It is pretty tame but I find it odd that there wasn’t an option to turn that off.
Don’t let the cute alien and his UFO fool you.. those things are quite explosive when they crash and often “ping-pong” you into a long fall below.
Bonus Content: Grant and I have actually played Spelunky on one of his streams for his YouTube Channel. Check it out if you want to see a bit of gameplay footage with a little “Gameroom Banter” between us. Give him a follow or a like, it totally makes his day when someone takes interest in the games he enjoys!
Fun: 9/10 Angry Old Shopkeepers: Loads of fun with quick game-play and only occasional irritating bits of bad luck.. well okay, maybe every game ends in a bit of bad luck but it’s still fun! Hey, when I am almost to the 4th level and a UFO ricochets me into a laser-shooting mammoth which then bounces me into a bottomless pit.. well.. it makes for a good story.
Replayability: 9/10 Shiny Gemstones: It is a rogue-like, after all, and that is one of the hallmarks of one well done, which Spelunky certainly is.
Value: 10/10 Whiney Pugs: The game regularly goes on sale, being fairly old now. Mine actually came in a Humble Bundle and likely cost less than $5 even though it was the main game I was buying the bundle for. It is awesome when one finds a few bonuses that are fun in the mix though. For its normal price of $15 I think it is perfectly on par with similar games that have similar value in terms of time played before boredom would set in, but with older games just stick it in the Wishlist and grab it for half of that. Besides, Summer Sale is almost here!