September 15, 2012
Sincere apologies for the silence as of late. My lifestyle has gone through quite a bit of change over the last couple weeks, and I wanted to get settled in first before I wrote about it. First things first, three weeks of weigh-ins:
An up up and down few weeks while my body compensated for those two huge losses in a row. The trend was somewhat expected, given that time of the month and a drastic change in my diet. If you follow me on Twitter or even Instagram, you already know that I’ve gone vegan-ish. I still cringe when I use that word, because being a true vegan is so much more than not eating animal products. They not only eliminate meat and animal by-products from their diet, but they also apply the animal-free philosophy to other aspects of their life e.g., no leather, wool, etc. So I prefer to use the term “plant-based,” or “dietary vegan/strict vegetarian.”
My reasoning for going plant-based is three-fold. 1) 30% health and longevity reasons, 2) 30% environment, carbon footprint, animal-loving, hippie tree-hugger reasons, and 3) 40% personal challenge. You may have heard of the film Forks Over Knives, a documentary that shows how a whole-food, plant-based diet has been proven to prevent and reverse chronic health conditions and disease. Thanks to the wonderful, and free Amazon Prime unlimited streaming video library, I was able to watch it (as well as Fat Sick & Nearly Dead) a few weeks ago.
I don’t want to say that a movie changed my life, because that just seems so new-agey and lame, but it was certainly a factor. And I really, really don’t want to be a preachy vegan that feels the need to make everyone else feel bad about their flesh-eating ways. When I made the decision to go plant-based, I told myself that if I really wanted a piece of bacon, or some sushi, I would have it. I knew that if I was too strict on myself, I would fail. It is similar to my glazed doughnut method (telling myself that I will eat a doughnut later, but continuing to put it off until I eventually forget about it). I figure that 99% vegan is better than 0% vegan.
How do you get your protein?
Lots of ways! I won’t go into the scientific details about protein requirements and nutritional values because there are far more qualified experts out there, but I assure you, I get enough protein. I will be honest though; at first I was nervous that I was not going to meet my 80-100g threshold without my usual chicken, fish, yogurt and cheese. After reading a few books, a lot of plant-based blogs, and watching those documentaries, I’ve learned that plants and legumes provide plenty of protein and that I don’t really need as much as I thought I did.
That’s not to say that I didn’t load up on protein powders though. By the recommendation of the lovely, lean, green eating, vegan athlete Dacia, I logged onto Vitacost and and bought several variations of Vega protein. A few meal-replacement smoothie powders, pre-workout energizer drink, and a recovery drink. So far I’ve only had the meal-replacers a couple times, but I have been using the pre- and post-workout drinks every time I work out. In short, they have helped tremendously. I will be posting a review after I’ve used all of the products for closer to a month.
Because plants (nor animals, naturally anyway–animals get it from bacteria they consume and is in turn passed onto us when we eat them.) do not produce the vital micronutrient, vitamin B12, I take a daily vegan supplement by Deva that I got from, where else, but Amazon. (Science Break: What Every Vegan Should Know about Vitamin B12)
I could never do it.
Again, I’m not going to preach and force a lifestyle on you, but I assure you–if I can do it, you can do it. Since I started eating healthy, I almost completely eliminated red meat from my diet, which was not hard at all. Eventually I really cut down on the chicken and pork as well, and started eating more white fish. Because it was cheaper (where I shop, anyway) and less calories, I stopped drinking cow’s milk months ago and only use variations of almond/coconut/soy milk whether for cooking or drinking. Removing meat and dairy from my diet was much easier than I thought it would be.
Except cheese. Oh, cheese. I am/was your quintessential cheese addict. (Science Break: Yes, cheese is addictive.) My friends and family would joke that I only eat pasta so I can bury it under a mountain of cheese. I could eat salads all day long…as long as it had cheese on it. A plate full of roasted vegetables? Yum! …as long as it had cheese on it. Cheese has been harder to give up than meat, but only by a small amount. Really and truly, I am 99% over my cheese addiction.
Meat, eggs, milk, cheese- these are the easiest animal products to identify and to stay away from, but there are a bunch of lesser known animal-derived foods and chemicals in everyday food that I have to look out for. My first couple times shopping post-veganish, I spent quite a lot of time examining nutrition labels. Not studying calories, but the ingredients list. On a plant-based diet, those are all that matter; the calories work themselves out on their own. I’ll get the hang of it soon, I hope. But for now I’ll be that idiot blocking the aisles comparing two cans of beans for ages.
So all you eat are vegetables and fruits? BOOO-RING.
Veggies and fruits are the staples, sure, but I also eat a lot of nuts, beans, some grains, and the occasional tofu. Okay, so it still sounds really boring, but I’ve scoured the web for vegan recipes and have grown quite a collection. I’ve made a few of the dishes already, and even my non-vegan friends who have braved a taste say they are wonderful. My palate has changed quite a bit; the oddest thing about it all is that when I have cravings, I eat nuts. Or maybe another banana. Or the entire bag of carrots. Bingeing is still bingeing, but at least it’s not what I used to binge on.
Some of the recipes I’ve tried (all were big hits and will be repeated):
Some that I’ve earmarked for the future:
I have changed some of the recipes around to make them a little more waistline friendly (vegan doesn’t always equal healthy) by using tofu spaghetti and replacing oil with vegetable stock or eliminating it altogether. Oh yeah, almost forgot, I’ve significantly cut back on oil as well. And I bought some tempeh and will probably try some vegan cheese, but for the most part I won’t be eating a lot of meat and dairy replacements, if any at all. The whole point was to stay away from processed foods, whether I’m an omnivore or not.
Once I find the time, I’ll post some of the quick and easy meals/recipes I’ve come up with on my own or by adapting vegetarian recipes I’ve found.
How do you feel, and how long will this experiment last?
Since I’d already been eating healthy for a while now, I can’t say I’ve noticed a significant difference in my energy levels or how I feel internally. My annual physical is in a couple weeks, so along with all my other lifestyle changes, I’m hoping to earn stellar grades.
As for how long I can maintain this way of eating? One can never tell. I’m taking it one day at a time. I’m not letting food consume my every waking thought. I’m not letting food dictate my mood. If I view food as a source of nutrition and fuel, rather than something that makes me happy or sad, it should be fairly easy to keep this up. I’m eating to live, not living to eat.