Sunday, June 30, 2013

Detox days of summer??

I've wanted to do a detox for quite a while since I've become plant-based.  Starting a new job with a crazy work schedule, starting my college courses, dealing with failing health and the death of 2 cats and my mother, and planning a destination wedding got in the way, however!  Now that I'm settled in to my job, have dealt with the affairs with my mother, have completed a successful (and very awesome) wedding and honeymoon, and don't start classes again until mid fall, I'm finally planning my detox!

This is part of my "road to nutrition" journey, which is why I'm posting it on here instead of my personal blog. It feels like a natural next step in my quest for natural health, both for myself as well as being able to share my experience with others.  Some (especially non-veg people out there) may be wondering why I would need a detox, since I already have cut out animal products and rarely eat processed foods or fats.  Well, being vegan does not mean instant perfect health!  There are a lot of fake meats and cheeses, vegan cupcakes and cookies, etc. that are easy (and delicious!) to fall into.  Sure, I eat better than the vast majority of Americans, and even healthier than many vegans.  But it's not a perfectly clean diet.  I also have to take a handful of medications for different health issues, one of the main ones being a muscle relaxer and a pain medicine for migraines.  I'm also on a mild antibiotic for acne (which I was able to cut the dose in half after going vegan, but not able to stop it completely unfortunately), and my birth control pill.  All these are not "natural" for your body.  I'm also hoping by doing a natural detox I will help, or even better eliminate, the issues that make me have the need for these medications.

So, what does this detox involve?  First of all it is not some crazy radical diet or a series of popping dozens of natural herbs daily, or some sort of juice/liquid fast or colon cleanse, or anything questionable like that.  I am first and foremost eating whole foods that have detoxing properties, such as quinoa, rice,beans, lentils, kale and arugula, lemon, garlic, onion, beets, different berries, etc. (I will include my full food list below).  I will be using all detox foods and/or superfoods, as well as fresh herbs.  Absolutely no processed food of any kind, including store bought non dairy milks or tofu.  We are going to make our own almond milk (yes, Tim is going to do part of the detox with me) and homemade hummus, using garlic, lemon, lime, fresh herbs, and multiple vinegar varieties for seasonings.  I'm also going to make infused waters, which is water that has chilled with various fruits and such, such as watermelon and mint or cucumber and lime, to help increase water take and get the nutrient benefits from the fruits.  These are very tasty and make increasing your water intake much easier and varied!

Other than what I eat I am doing a few other things as well to help detox the body from both the inside and out.  First I'm going to do Dry Skin Brushing, which helps detox from the skin.  I have actually started this week to get into the practice and see how I like it (and so my body isn't overwhelmed with all these new things at once).  I am also going to practice Oil Pulling, which helps detox through your mouth/teeth (and has added benefits of healthier and whiter teeth as well!), as well as starting my day with warm lemon water, which helps hydrate the body and detox the digestive system.  These last 2 I have tried in the past but only a handful of times.  I will take some detox baths, which will include Epsom salt and fresh ginger.  These can also include essential oils, but I have a sensitivity in baths and am unable to use them.  I may sprinkle dried flowers in just to get the aromatherapy though.  I also plan to practice yoga several times and get a couple of massages to help with the detox as well.  I have a spiritual book I plan to read during the detox, and I'm going to limit my TV and Internet time as well.

The only supplement I will be taking during this will be a vegan probiotic.  The reason being that my digestive system is super sensitive and I chronically have issues with it.  Any change in behavior can get it out of whack, so I am taking them as a precaution.  I really should take them daily anyway, but I get lazy and forget.  My plan is to follow this for 7-10 days.  After that time I will determine what I choose to continue as a regular routine.  I plan to post regularly about my progress and how it is going, both for myself and for others who are interested.  I have been getting things set up and prepared, and I'm hoping to start the week after the 4th of July holiday.

I also have been inspired by Ashley's Green Life, a blog I came across when I was searching for videos on the best way to do the Dry Skin Brushing technique.  An hour (and a dozen of videos and blog posts) later I was not only better prepared but was also inspired to make my own personal care products, such as deodorant and toothpaste.  Tim is trying the baking soda cleanser and apple cider vinegar conditioner hair regimen she posted, and so far he really likes it.  These not only are natural and contain no questionable ingredients, but they are super cheap and easy to make!  I will discuss our progress with that as well.  For now I will leave you with my personal list of foods and herbs I will be using during this detox period.  You'll see there are quite a few to choose from!  I'll be back to post once I am ready to begin this process.  :-)

To Make
- Hummus
- Quinoa
- Rice (black and brown)
- Almond milk

- Quinoa
- Rice (black and brown)
- Artichoke
- Asparagus
- Jicama
- Spinach
- Kale
- Arugula
- Blueberries
- Black beans
- White beans
- Strawberries
- Pomegranate
- Mango
- Beets
- Sea Vegetables
- Dandelion Greens
- Broccoli Sprouts
- Apples
- Fennel
- Asparagus
- Cabbage
- Grapefruit
- Green Tea
- Lemongrass
- Wheatgrass
- Watercress
- Sweet Potatoes
- Cranberries
- Lentils
- Cucumber
- Watermelon
- Gogi berries
- Acai

- Garlic
- Onion
- Lime
- Lemon
- Flax
- Turmeric
- Ginger
- Vinegar (all varieties)
- Parsley
- Basil
- Cilantro
- Mint

Friday, August 24, 2012

One year later...

August 19, 2011.  It is a date that will now forever be in my mind.  It was the day that I (sort of accidentally) became a vegetarian.  I started with an experiment on making a full vegan meal, and a plan to a journey to make more vegan foods/meals.  That meal turned into a full vegetarian day/week/month.  Less than 2 months later a You Tube video by Gary Yourofsky changed my path into seeing how far into veganism I could go.  I NEVER thought a year later I would have fully given up all meat, dairy, and eggs.  It never even crossed my mind that I would at one point get so frustrated I almost threw in the towel and never spoke to another vegan again, only to find in the midst of the chaos the most supportive blog/person/group that would push me to go further than I ever would imagine.  I never knew that being able to speak to this vegan cookbook author/blogger would inspire me so much that I would become giddy when we started emailing each other one on one and she asked me to moderate one of her new Facebook groups.  Feeling not only so physically healthy from adopting this new diet but emotionally and spiritually, ecstatic...on a daily basis was beyond my realm of thought.  Then, when people started reaching out to ME and telling me that I inspired them to start eating healthier, that I made it look delicious and actually POSSIBLE to them, it was beyond my wildest dreams.  My decade long dream to make a difference in the health of people started becoming a reality, one Facebook friend at a time.

One year later, I look back and can't believe how far I've come.  My diet is not the only big change that has happened in my life in the last year by a long shot.  But this change has helped to keep me grounded during all the chaos in my life in the last year.  From my mom being diagnosed with multiple eventually life ending illnesses, the struggle to move her here from 2 1/2 hours away into a permanent nursing home, from major changes in my job and (very hopefully) my career path, moving and combining 2 households and 3 senior alpha cats and thinking I was going to lose the oldest on multiple occasions and the struggles to keep her alive and healthy...and that's just the tip of the iceberg!  The one positive thing has been this diet change and the new found health and vitality I have found with it.  I want everyone to feel this good physically and spiritually, because you don't realize how amazing it is until you get to this point!

So I want to thank everyone out there who has supported me and cheered me on throughout this journey, who didn't pass judgement but asked questions and inquired about it.  Even the ones who made no changes in their life but just wanted to learn more out of curiosity.  You kept me inspired and going when others who passed judgement and pointed fingers, even unprovoked, tried to push me down.  And for those who have said they were inspired by my journey and have made healthier choices themselves because of me, you have given me more inspiration and joy than you will ever know!  One year down, many decades to go.  :-)

My vegan food-loving kitty Midnight.  He would be a vegan if I would let him!

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Sickly Herbivore

Aah, spring.  For those of us in the Ohio Valley know that means lots of sneezing, coughing, and watery bloodshot eyes!  This year, however, I experienced worse than the usual annoying allergy symptoms...

A couple of weekends ago I felt the start of a sinus infection.  I was down most of the weekend, not completely, but enough to keep me at home and not able to do much of the cleaning and other various chores.  But it hit on Friday, so I figured I had the whole weekend to get better.  Unfortunately that was not the case.  I got to work Monday with a heavy feeling in my chest and short of breath.  I sounded like Darth Vader breathing!  One of our doctors listened to my lungs and said they sounded fine, that it was just the start of bronchitis.  I never had bronchitis before, so I had no idea how miserable it was.  And mine was a very mild case!  I went home at lunch and rested for the rest of the day.  I made myself a smoothie with lots of vitamin and nutrient packed fruits and vegetables:  banana and blueberries with some spinach and/or dandelion greens (don't remember exactly what I had on hand at the time), mixed with some cocoa powder.  Some may be saying "Ew, greens!", but you mix them with fruits and some chocolate and you can't taste them a bit!  And trust me, I can't stand the taste of raw greens, especially in a smoothie!

I was feeling much better the next day and was able to go back to work, although I was still not at full capacity by any means.  By Thursday I just had a little residual congestion left over, so I was ready to have a productive weekend again!  After lunch I started feeling a little nauseous.  I didn't think anything about it at first.  I figured I had eaten something that had dairy in it that I didn't realize.  But as the afternoon went on it got worse. By the end of the day I was stuck in the bathroom for 30 minutes, just knowing I was going to throw up at any moment.  I finally (somehow) made it to my desk and called my supervisor in her office, and told her I had to lay down in our bone density room. Thank goodness it was my day I get to leave early, and the doctors were done earlier than usual.  I was able to shut down the department, clock out, and somehow made the drive home.  Thank goodness I only live a few blocks away from work!  I took a phenergan (an anti nausea/vomiting medicine I keep on hand for when I have full blown migraines) the second I walked in the door.  Then I collapsed on the couch waiting for the pill to kick in, or to die.  It was so bad I didn't care which one came first!  About 3 hours later Tim got home and came to check on me.  I hadn't moved since I got home.  It was great fun!  He brought me some crackers and ginger ale per my request.  I finally started feeling a little better then, but the major body aches and fever had started up.  Later that night I made a smoothie with mango, banana, and some fresh ginger to help with the nausea.  By the next day I was still feeling rough, but with some meds I was able to eat some.

So, why am I discussing this on my blog about my journey to eating a plant based diet?  Because eating this healthy made it possible for me to recover from both of these bad illnesses much faster than I would have had this happened a year ago!  How many people do you know that recovers from bronchitis in just a day or two?  And, when I have a stomach virus it usually takes me almost a week to feel back to normal.  I was fully recovered in just a few days.  AND, this was with both illnesses hitting me almost at the same time. I'm sure that part of the reason I got the stomach virus was because my immune system was in overload from recovering from the bronchitis (plus i'm very susceptible to stomach bugs).   The good news is that since I follow a plant based diet I already had the foods you aren't supposed to eat with a stomach virus cut out of my diet!  By late Saturday/early Sunday I was almost back to normal. But, I figure that I have gotten all of my ailments out of the way at once, so hopefully I will be good at least until the fall allergy season!  ;-)

Saturday, March 3, 2012

6 month Veggieversary

So with all the chaos of my mom being sick and in a nursing home 2 1/2 hours away, I completely lost track of my 6 month mark of giving up meat!  For some reason I was thinking it was in March, not February.  Vegifail!  I could have thrown myself a plant-based parade, or made a giant vegan tier cake, but instead I was either cleaning the house or cooking for the week, or just being a complete lazy ass and sitting in the chair watching TV or reading.  Ok, so the likelihood of the parade or cake was slim to none.  But, I really did want to record the day and reflect my journey over the last 6 months.  I guess better 13 days late than never!

A lot has happened and changed in the last 6 months, and more than just my diet and health!  When I (pseudo accidentally) stopped eating meat I was just going to take it 1 day at a time, no commitment, no stopping point planned.  I had no idea how much things would change and evolve in my life.  I didn't see it as this mega phenomenal thing that I was doing.  I just saw it as a small change in my diet that would have a positive impact on my health and animals.  Oh how wrong I was!

My first step was to learn as much as I could about the vegetarian lifestyle.  So, I joined a vegetarian/vegan forum.  I was shocked when I was judged and/or chastised for not being "vegetarian", then "vegan", enough.  When I expressed that I thought it was wrong to judge those who ate meat I was told to "come back when you've been vegetarian longer and have more experience".  When I started leaning more towards a vegan diet it was basically implied that this attitude wasn't "vegan enough".  I was heart broken.  They were not only attacking me, but other fellow vegans.  On top of this, Tim (my boyfriend) was getting a lot of criticizing and hostility from his friends for his decision.  I was so frustrated that no matter which way I turned I was getting no support from anyone!

That forum brought me some very positive points as well though.  And that's where things started to snowball into something I had never expected.  The first was introducing me to a video of a lecture by Gary Yourofsky.  This video convinced me that I needed to try to adopt a vegan diet as much as I possibly could.  That's when I accomplished things I never thought I could, such as not only cutting out dairy ice cream but stop craving it all together!  With this I had more energy, I wasn't dragging the first few hours of work, my almost constant nausea was all but eliminated, and I no longer worried about if my food choice for lunch or dinner was unhealthy.  The best part of all I felt positive and good about myself and what I was doing every single day.  I was constantly doing something great for my health, and even more selfless I was not harming a single animal in any food choices I made.  You have no idea how great that feels until you experience it for yourself!

The second thing this forum brought me was to the Happy Herbivore website and blog.  There I found people with the same frustrations of being made to feel "not vegan enough" by some of their peers.  But more importantly, I found both simple information about eating a healthy vegan diet as well as simple, easy, and delicious recipes.  This is a must for someone starting out a vegan/plant-based diet.  This evolved in me not only finding support from peers, but finding more resources, websites, physicians, programs, etc. that supported this diet and lifestyle.  I was also able to chat with some of the "plant based superstars", such as people from the documentary Vegucated and the Engine 2 Diet website, and the Happy Herbivore, Lindsay Nixson herself.  Then, I had the chance to have a private cooking lesson with Lindsay!  It was so informative, and it felt great to communicate with someone who not only had been a vegan for years (the first person I actually got to speak to that lived the lifestyle), but also was well known all over the country for her cookbooks.

I then decided that I wanted my blog to try to reach others out there, and possibly be a starting point for me to accomplish bigger and better things.  I want to help people not only be healthy and be at a healthy weight (which has been a passion of mine for years), but also see that eating a diet with no meat, dairy, or eggs could be delicious, fulfilling, and easy.  I want people to not feel pressured to be all or nothing with their diet, but to make small steps on the road to healthier living.  I started posting on other blogs of interest with a link to my blog.  One day I get a notice from Twitter that a local vegetarian group retweeted a link to one of my blog posts, saying "this is some good stuff".  Wow, what a compliment!  Then, after being more confident in speaking out in a public forum, a few witty remarks on a couple Tweets from The Bloggess, she started following my Twitter posts.  I was so excited!  One of my new favorite literary people in the world thought I was witty, or at least amusing enough to follow.  I see her as a literary version of myself in a way, and her relationship with her husband and their conversations remind me very much of myself and Tim's communication, lol.

Happy Herbivore cookbooks, which I highly recommend to both people who are looking to lean towards a plant based diet, and to people just wanting to eat healthier and bring more delicious vegetable and whole grain dishes into their diet.  And that is what I hope to do, inspire people to make even small changes to make themselves and their families healthier.

In this road to nutrition I also found the path to my next step; getting my Bachelor's degree. Through research I found an online program through the University of Bridgeport for a degree in Social Sciences.  This will give me the ability to also take courses in psychology and nutrition, so that I can look into a career in a field in the area I've been interested in for so long, helping people become healthier.  I may even continue on with a Masters in Nutrition program that they offer, if I decide to be that bold and daring later on down the road!

So that is the jest of my journey so far in a nutshell.  I can't believe all of this has happened in just 6 months, and I can't wait to see what the next 6 months, or even 6 years, have to offer.  This lifestyle is definitely here to stay for me.  As for my current "status", I am about 95% Vegan, with the only exceptions being having local honey on occasion or bread at a restaurant that may have a small amount of dairy in it.  Considering I started by being "accidentally vegetarian" I think that's a pretty damn good place to be!  :-)

Friday, February 24, 2012

The complexity of "health": Why I don't consider myself a health nut by eating plant-based

Even though I'm only 5 months into this new eating lifestyle, I can say I have already experienced a wide variety of reactions and comments from every end of the spectrum!  Going in to becoming plant-based I expected the skeptics and hard core meat eaters to throw some questions and negativity my way.  What I DIDN'T expect was the the judgement of fellow "Vegans" or other health enthusiasts.  I'm sure the meat eaters out there are thinking "But you gave up animal products.  Why in the world would would others doing the same thing for the same reasons give you grief??".  I had the exact same reaction.  But, parents can probably relate to this, as when you have your first child you are bombarded with opinions and ridicule from other mommies and daddies for not being a "good enough" parent.  Parents out there are nodding their heads I'm sure!  Of course, that comment is coming from the parents I know, as I do not have any children yet.

Let me see if I can try to explain the turmoil so you can understand it.  Let's say you decide to give up red meat, because of the reports on how bad it is for your health.  Well, what about the other meats?  They have been linked to diabetes, every cancer in the book, not to mention heart disease, obesity...the list goes on.  Plus the hormones we are ingesting!  OK, so I'll give up all meat.  But wait, seafood is a meat too (anything that is the flesh of a living thing is meat, for all you Catholics who beg to differ ;-), and they suffer when killed to be eaten as well.  It has the same effects as any other meat does. Not to mention what it does to our ecosystem!  So we'll give that up too.  But what about eggs and dairy?  It has just the same carcinogenic effects that meat does.  Not to mention it's link to asthma and seasonal allergies, and our bodies can't digest it properly.  Plus it has blood and puss from the factory farms practices.  And the dairy cattle and chickens are even more abused and neglected as the meat factory farms!  And don't even think about the organic and free-range versions of these products.  Those still are factory-style farms and many are treated similar if not exactly like the regular factory farms.  Plus, it still has negative effects on your health.  So fine, let's go Vegan!

But wait, what about those leather shoes you're wearing!  Vegans don't use animal products in any way!  And don't think about that honey either.  Tens of bees are killed every time the honey is extracted from the hives.  So we'll throw out all our leather, wool, and honey too.  Hold on, those jelly beans and sprinkles are coated with the secretions of a certain species of beetle to make them shiny!  You have to cut all that out too.  Whew, OK, we got that all cleared up.  But wait, did you really just eat some cotton candy at the ballpark last night?!?  You know that much of the refined sugar we eat is processed using bone char.  Yep, that means an animal product.  How dare you!  Good, you won't do that again I'm sure.  Now wait, those processed veggie burgers and hot dogs have soy and other GMO products in them.  Do you know what that can do to your body??  Not to mention the birth defects if you have a baby!  No, only homemade veggie burgers for you!  No, you can't go out to eat.  What if that bread has a spot of dairy in it?  No, you can't chance it.  You better clear your dining out schedule.

Whew, OK we're eating a perfect, healthy diet now, no processed foods, no animals being harmed.  But wait a minute...aren't you heating your food up in plastic bowls?!  Most plastic containers have BPAs in them!  Talk about cancer and metabolic risks!  No, we need to find all BPA free plastics.  Throw that crap away.  And don't forget all your kid's toys, they probably have BPA as well.  Well crap, canned food is often lined with BPA, so you better get to the health food store and find some BPA free canned goods.  Hold on, did you just put your groceries in a PLASTIC bag?  Hell no!  You are killing the environment!  Not to mention clogging up our landfills.  That crap doesn't denigrate for thousands of years!  Not to mention it kills the fish in the oceans.  No, take your own cloth bags to the grocery please.  They hold more anyway.  Wait, did you actually just DRIVE to the grocery?  It's less than a mile away!  You are wasting our oil resources, not to mention killing the ozone and children with asthma with the pollution you are creating.  Plus you need the exercise you damn couch potato.  What kind of example are you setting for your kids?  Wait, speaking of kids, what about your furry ones?  Aren't you feeding Fido regular dog food?  It has MEAT in it!  Not to mention it is processed crap.  Dogs are much healthier with a plant-based whole foods diet.  So make sure to make an extra plate of your dinner for him.  Throw out that processed animal killing crap, jeez...

Do you see the problem here?  Where do you start?  And where does it end?!?  The reality is, it doesn't.  No matter what you do you will get negative feedback from someone.  You can never do enough for some people, plain and simple.  So as you can see, although I eat a plant-based diet with very little processed foods, and use my reusable shopping bags as often as I can, and have started replacing my old plastic containers and bottles with BPA free ones, in some people's eyes I'm STILL not doing enough.  Personally, I believe that anything we put in our bodies is of the up most importance, to our health, to the health of our current and future children, as well as passing the good habits to others.  Healthy food is the best medicine out there, to both help current health conditions as well as prevent new ones.  And not eating animals (or their products due to factory farms) is the best thing you can do for other living creatures and the environment, not to mention to get the attention to the food industry that we demand healthier, safer, and more humane practices.

But no one should feel overwhelmed.  All you have to do is do your research and take one small step at a time.  The next time you are at the grocery browse through the health food section.  Pick up a non dairy milk, a whole grain like quinoa or bulgar, or meat substitute to try out.  Or better yet, find some recipes online and make your own!  My favorite resource is The Happy Herbivore website, which has both a blog as well as TONS of super delicious and healthy recipes.  And while you're there, pick up a couple of reusable shopping bags.  If you aren't too concerned about the landfills, keep in mind that the bags hold a lot more groceries and are much easier to carry than plastic or paper ones.  Then go home and try your hand at a meat and dairy free meal loaded with tons of vegetables and whole grains.  Try a new meal every week.  Next time you're at a restaurant try the veggie burger (Red Robin can replace any of their burger creations with a veggie burger.  Just as delicious!), or grill your own at your next barbecue.  The longer you try these new things the more you'll realize what a variety there is out there even cutting out those 5 most popular precious meats we have grown up with.

You don't have to go whole hog (pun intended) and never eat meat or dairy again.  But I will tell you that even though my intention was to MAYBE become a vegetarian and POSSIBLY replace SOME of my dairy products with non dairy ones, it took me less than a weekend to cut out all meat, and within just a few months I also cut out dairy and eggs and never looked back.  And this is coming from a cheese and milk loving ice cream freak!  But if that isn't your style after dipping your toe in a few meatless meals then no problem, just do what feels right for you.  But I promise that you will not only feel better health wise (even if you aren't suffering from any health issues at all), but you will also feel good about yourself for just doing something good for yourself and other living creatures.

The new Vegan isn't a tree hugging hippie Nazi type.  It's someone who has a passion for themselves, for animals, AND for other human beings as well.  They don't judge others for eating a shrimp or drinking a milkshake.  They applaud you for what ever amount of effort you can make.  It's about compassion, for all others, but especially for yourself.  And it's the last one that I am reaching out to now.  :-)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Meat-free living in the real world...

Living in your controlled every day life it is easy to follow a diet and lifestyle that may be controversial to some, or not the most popular way of living.  If we have a Drug Rep. bring in hamburgers and cheese curds from Culver's for lunch, for example, I just dig in to my stash of back up lunch items, or run home and grab something quick.

However, the last few weeks have been filled with unplanned, last minute trips to Owensboro, which is about 2 1/2 hours away.  My mom has been in a nursing home there since right after Christmas, and now she is in ICU with double pneumonia.  She has been on a ventilator for 6 days, with hopes she will be off of it today.  This has required several trips back and forth, without knowing how long I would be there or when I would have a chance to take a break and eat.  Like all long trips I packed the car with several snack options.  But the car being parked several blocks away, and the ICU not allowing food or drink in the rooms, that only helped during actual travel there and back.  So when there was 30 minutes free there was only one option to grab some lunch....You guessed it, the hospital cafeteria.

Working in several large hospitals over the last 11 or so years, I know what few options can be available in a hospital.  So when Tim came back from perusing the options and told me there were several to be had, I was pleased.  Not only did they have several options for us, but the items available were marked with a V for vegetarian.  There were baked regular and sweet potatoes, hummus with pretzels, veggie burger with all the fixings available, and a salad bar which also had a few pre-made vegetarian salads.  The pineapple and sweet potato salad with raisins was my favorite.  Then of course the usual choices of french fries, onion rings, etc.

Tim's selection in the hospital cafeteria: His version of nachos, with pinto beans, olives, 
salad greens, and a bunch of other stuff I can't remember, lol.

Now a very strict, anal retentive vegan may have not been exactly happy with some of these options.  The pre made salad items could have possibly had butter or honey in them, and the fries and veggie burger were cooked in the same oil/grill as meat items.  But eating plant based is different for everyone.  Although I do not eat animal products nor keep any in my house, if I am out to dinner and bread or pasta might be made with a trace of milk or butter I will still eat it.  As Kathy Freston says in her book Veganist, if something has 10% or less of dairy or eggs in it you don't have to stress about it.  Obviously if there are other options available that absolutely do not have animal products in it I will choose that instead.  But for me it is not worth stressing over every little detail when I am out with friends, or in this case worrying about when my mom may get off the ventilator or wake up alone, I am not going to be that anal about it.  Eating that small amount from time to time does not affect how great my body feels not having any animal products.

Just like anyone trying to eat healthier, when "life" hits sometimes it's difficult to stick with it.  When you are making a conscious and moral decision, however, it makes it easier to make the right choices.  Especially when you don't have the cravings like you do in a "diet" where you are restricting yourself from addictive foods like sugar and dairy.  The one thing I have been shocked by is the fact that I no longer crave or miss ice cream.  Yes, I have non dairy options available that are delicious and satisfying.  But like any book that discusses becoming vegan will tell you, once you detox from animal products, especially dairy, you no longer crave it.  Yes, I still have cravings for something sweet or savory, but it's nothing like before where I could eat ice cream sitting in the middle of a blizzard (which has happened numerous times!).  I have a piece of the pumpkin-chocolate bars I made that week, or some fruit dipped in chocolate sauce, and I'm happy and satisfied.  And the big difference is that I don't feel stuffed, weighed down, or guilty afterwards.  I had something absolutely delicious that was also good for me, so I feel awesome both physically and mentally!  I have yet to feel hungry or deprived in the 5+ months since I gave up animal products.

As I have stated before, I'm now excited to plan my next meal or snack, because there is so much variety now.  I also crave healthy foods like vegetables over fried or sweet and fatty foods.  If you would have told me a year ago that I would be craving and loving vegetables of all kinds I would have told you that you were absolutely insane.  But your body and tastes adapt to this new and healthy eating, and that's how I know that it is good for my body.  You will never find any bad side effects or cravings with this way of eating, unlike restrictive "diets" such as Adkins or low-fat (and usually highly processed) diets.  And the funny thing is, before I thought I felt healthy and great and had lots of energy.  Now looking back that was nothing compared to how great I feel now!  And all that is from just changing my diet to a plant based one.  :-)

Friday, January 27, 2012

My feelings on eating meat.

I have discussed why I decided to start eating a vegan diet on my blog, but I have concentrated on the health and nutritional aspects of my decision.  I don't really discuss my ethical views on the subject much.  The main reason is probably because it is the most controversial aspect of veganism.  The other reason is that it is a very personal thing for me.  I have been an animal lover as long as I can remember.  When I was a kid, probably around 7 or 8, I remember my mom letting us take in a cat that had gotten part of his paw cut off somehow.  We didn't have much money and couldn't afford to take him to the vet, but my mom called a vet and got suggestions on how we could care for his wound.  I remember the cat would sleep with me at night.  I felt so special that he chose me to sleep with!  After a couple of weeks he started getting diarrhea and going to the bathroom on the carpet.  My mom decided we could no longer care for him and let him back outside.  I remember crying that night because I missed him so much.  The same thing happened when we had to give away our first dog because the apartment we moved into didn't allow pets.  Part of this could have been because we didn't have pets much when I was growing up until I was in high school.  The other reason could have been that I was dealing with my parent's divorce during my first animal experiences, and separation of any kind was difficult for me.  Whatever the reason, I have been a huge animal lover ever since.

I dabbled with vegetarianism since my first year in college because of my love for animals.  I was young and thin, and although I was into working out and eating relatively healthy I wasn't that concerned with the long term effects of what I was eating.  I cut out red meat for almost a year.  Although I started eating things like hamburgers again eventually I was never able to stomach things like steak again.  My system just couldn't handle it anymore after the hiatus of red meat for a year.  That should have been my first clue that maybe meat was not necessarily healthy for you.  I never went fully vegetarian, because basically I was super picky back then.  I couldn't stand most cooked vegetables, especially the popular ones like broccoli and cauliflower (I still can't stand either to this day actually).  I just thought I could never like vegetables enough to go vegetarian.

Fast forward to today.  As I started rolling into my 30s I started trying new cuisines and vegetables cooked in other ways than the normal mushy, cheesy way you find most often in the south.  To my surprise (and I'm sure my family's as well) I really liked these new things I was trying!  I finally decided after reading a couple of books to try becoming vegetarian.  Then, to my surprise, I started trying non dairy alternatives and actually liking them.  I have to say that the start of my interest in to this new diet was for the health benefits.  But the animal rights was always in the back of my mind, which is really the main reason I decided to go fully vegan.  I watched a lecture on You Tube by Gary Yourofsky that showed what these animals had to go through, especially in the dairy industry, and that was my final motivation.

So, what is my actual stance on eating meat?  How do I feel about others eating meat around me?  This is what gets me in trouble with both the meat eating and vegan communities.  Why?  Because one side is fully insistent that we should, have to, and need to eat meat.  The other side says eating meat, or even being around it, is 100% wrong, and if you don't shun those who do or aren't judgmental of them then you aren't a "true" vegan.  The truth is that I don't necessarily feel that eating meat is wrong.  I feel that cutting meat and dairy out of your diet is MUCH healthier, and will eliminate any risk of health issues such as diabetes, heart disease, and high cholesterol.  But, eating meat has been a part of our culture for centuries.  The problem is the factory farms that produce our meat and dairy.  Even the free range farms aren't much better.  Not only are the animals tortured in too many ways to count, but the practices make the meat very unhealthy for us.  It's not the pig or cow being raised on a 100 acre farm in SD, living it's life to roam free and producing some milk for your family, until it's time to slaughter the animal, then you use every single part of the animal and spread out the meat for months to feed your family.  That's how it was back in the days of Laura Ingalls Wilder (that's actually an exact story of how they raised one of their pigs in the first book of her Little House on the Prairie series).  If that was the case I would have no problem with people eating meat and dairy at all.  The main problem is that people aren't educated on these practices and what actually goes on in the factory farms.  And, the people that have the opportunity to learn turn around and run away with their fingers in their ears, because they if they see and know then they will have to rethink everything they grew up with and have been taught for decades.  Most people just don't want to know.