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Posts Tagged ‘21-day Vegan Kickstart’

The Accidental Vegan

January 28, 2010 1 comment

(cross-posted from The Bilerico Project)

Last week marked the end of the 21-Day Vegan Kickstart program that I started back on New Year’s Day. I made some resolutions to not only shed a few extra pounds but to make a concerted effort to eat more nutritious foods and learn how to become a better cook. In short, I made a resolution to make a lifestyle change.

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I am happy to report that I made it through the program without faltering once and I even managed to lose a few pounds, though I’m still aiming to lose more. It is pretty astounding just how much saturated fat and cholesterol I have cut out by removing meat, dairy and eggs from my diet. The program was certainly a challenge that I highly recommend to anyone, even if they don’t have the intention of keeping it up. You might be surprised at just how much you won’t miss the things everyone else thinks you will.

As the end date drew nearer, I started to field the question of whether I would keep up with the diet once I completed the program. The fact that I signed up to do this in the first place was a big enough surprise to folks, never mind that I actually completed it. I wasn’t too focused on the question, though, as I just wanted to keep my momentum going and make it to the end. Instead, I decided that I would just keep up with the diet until I made a decision.

Now, almost one week later I have made up my mind: I will remain committed to a vegan diet. Though, my reasons for staying vegan have less to do with the health benefits of such a diet (and, I assure you those benefits are substantial and include numerous benefits for mental health) than they do with how this diet has affected my relationship with Jim. It has actually brought us closer together.

The ways in which this vegan experiment has helped bring about this togetherness are subtle, but they have meant so much to me.

Take for example the first time we ordered in. It was more than a week into the new year before we did this. It was also one of those days when the idea of walking to the grocery store and then coming home to prepare a meal was just too much to bear. Why deal with long lines and self-checkout machines that seem intent on embarrassing you when you can just ask the internet to bring you food. Plus, Jim had had a long and stressful week at work. So, on this particular Saturday evening we decided delivery was the only way we were going to eat that night.

Forty-five minutes later we had food from our favorite Thai restaurant right on our doorstep. Jim has been a vegan for more than a year now. He was also vegetarian prior to becoming a vegan so we rarely shared each other’s food. I was certainly always welcome to try his, but my own biases toward a vegan diet usually kept me from doing so. This was always kind of sad for me since I love food and sharing meals, especially when we get to sample other dishes! Up until Jim changed his diet we always shared. Even though he was a vegetarian I could always at least have whatever cheesy goodness he would so often order. Once he went vegan, though, this practice became almost non-existent.

That changed recently. It happened almost without any thought. We both unwittingly just went for each other’s food as if this were totally commonplace for us. Both of our dishes were excellent, but it wasn’t until Jim had had a second spoonful of mine that he looked up at me and smiled and said, “I’m glad we get to do this again. It’s been so long and it’s fun.”

That moment was when I first began to realize that I was doing something more than just making strides to improve my health. Choosing to go vegan, if only for three weeks, meant that I had also taken an interest in something that means so much to Jim. If I have learned one thing from my experience supporting a partner with bipolar it is that the feeling of loneliness can be intensified so much that it can be debilitating. Me being vegan now means that at least on one front, Jim is not alone. Becoming vegan meant to Jim that I wanted to do something together with him, and sometimes that is all it takes.

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On the Menu Tonight….

January 13, 2010 2 comments

Lentil Barley Stew. (This picture is from Taste of Home. I hope mine looks this pretty!)

This recipe is courtesy of Nutrition MD. The folks at 21-Day Vegan Kickstart included it in their meal plan yesterday, but we didn’t make dinner last night so I thought I’d try it this evening.

It’s also the first time, since going vegan, that I’ve made dinner. Jim’s usually the cook of the house.

Jim says stews are hard to screw up. I hope he’s right.

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Veganism: Day 5

January 5, 2010 4 comments

So, I’ve been on my vegan diet since last Friday and I have to say so far, so good.

I mentioned last time I wrote about this that Jim’s been vegan for more than a year now so I have a bit of an advantage than I would if I were doing this on my own. Still, it’s not totally a cakewalk. My biggest challenge so far is figuring out what to do to snacks.

A big part of the diet is snacking. This helps keep up the metabolism, and it keeps me feeling full. I need to get better about snacking for this reason. Now I understand why Jim is adamant about eating regularly. We’re hungry all the time! It reminds me of the Margaret Cho bit about vegans. Check it out below. The clip is six minutes long, but the bit is right at the beginning. Though, you might find it hard to stop watching since she’s so damn funny.

Alright, so that is a little extreme. I will say that I’ve found myself being hungrier more often, but I promise I won’t attack you if I need to eat and you happen to look me in the eye. Just point me in the direction of the nearest Julia’s (they have an excellent vegan empanada that I highly recommend) or a Yes! food market and I’ll be fine.

I’ve also incorporated some exercise into my diet so hopefully within a few weeks I’ll start to notice some real changes. One thing I have noticed after only 5 days as a vegan is that I don’t feel nearly as bogged down or heavy as I did just last week. I have had nothing but vegetables and whole grains since Friday and I feel awesome. It’s pretty amazing what just five days can do.

As for what I’ve eaten, Jim decided to make this awesome delicious kale recipe on New Year’s Day. He made this one up, but it definitely needs to be on some recipe web site somewhere. I don’t have the particulars of the recipe just yet, but I’ll update this post with it. Also, look for a whole section on my favorite recipes here soon.

The kale lasted a couple of days, but ran out Monday afternoon so last night we went with a recommendation from the 21-Day Vegan Kickstart web site. I’m glad we did, too! Chili mac was one of my favorite dishes as a kid and when I saw it as an item for dinner I knew we had to have it.

I don’t want to get into the habit of using too many meat substitutes (this one calls for soy crumbles), but it’s cold here in Washington and it sounded like the perfect remedy for the blustering cold weather outside.

Be sure to use whole grain pastas and, if possible, organic vegetables. Jim decided to use canola oil instead of boiling the vegetables. This will bump up the caloric intake some, but canola is a good cooking oil to use. Just go easy on it.

I was totally on board with this decision. Boiling the vegetables would have resulted in a rather bland dish. We want people to eat healthier, right?! Being vegan does not mean you have to sacrifice taste. The vegetables and the soy crumbles go really well with the pasta and I’m sure you’ll love it.

It makes a fair amount so you might have some leftovers for the next day, but since when are leftovers a bad thing!

If you’re also trying out this 21-day Vegan Kickstart then congrats to you! You’ve almost one week down and only 16 days to go.

Happy vegan eating!

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Kickstart to Veganism

December 24, 2009 1 comment

I’m not usually in the habit of making New Year’s resolutions. I’ve found that I don’t often keep them and I hate disappointing myself. Plus, I’ve never liked feeling pressured to do it. I try to make resolutions when I feel the need, not just once a year.

I’ve decided to take a different approach this year. My partner is responsible for this. Last year, Jim decided to try being vegan for one month. He wanted to lose weight, of course, but he was more interested in eating better and healthier foods. So, he cut out dairy products and eggs. He had already been a vegetarian for most of the year so this was next most logical step for him. Jim’s not much of an exercise freak and after much research was convinced that the best way for him to shed pounds was through changing his diet. His “green” sensibilities were also appeased as going vegan substantially reduces one’s carbon footprint.

January 1, 2009 arrived and he started his vegan experiment.

I was thoroughly impressed with his resolve from the beginning. It took some getting used to for me and I slipped up pretty often in the beginning when I suggested things for dinner or for dining out. But, I wanted to support him and I shaped up. One month came and went and he decided it wasn’t as hard as he thought it would be. He figured he’d keep it up for as long as he could.

Twelve months later, Jim’s vegan experiment has turned into a complete lifestyle change and he has lost almost 25 lbs in the process! I’m convinced that he’ll keep this up as long as he wants to, which I hope is for a long time because I’ve decided to try it out myself this coming year.

The first step for me was to admit that I need to lose some weight. This was not easy to do as I have some crazy notion that admitting to myself that I need to lose weight is admitting failure and weakness. I’ve worked through that, though, and I’m alright with the idea now.

The next step was to figure out how to do that. I’ve done exercise before and this year, Jim plans to incorporate more exercise into his routine so I’ll have that support. I need something more and Jim has inspired me to try out his method. It is at least a proven method and I’ve become more involved with cooking vegan so I know I won’t be eating bad food. On the contrary, some of the best food I’ve ever had has been vegan and I’m consistently amazed at just how good vegan food is. You’d be surprised at just how much is vegan and that being vegan doesn’t necessarily equate healthy. We’ve also been observing “meatless Mondays” for the past few months so it may be not too much of a stretch for me. Hopefully.

I suspect that maybe it’s been Jim’s goal to get me on board. He’s always sending me articles about veganism and it’s often the topic of discussion at our house. He’s even succeeded at getting his mom to experiment with it. She makes peanut butter fudge every year and sends it to him now that he doesn’t live in Missouri anymore. This year she was intent on keeping up the tradition and had Jim help her find a way to make it vegan. This from a woman who grew up in a household where a pound of bacon is cooked every morning! (Btw, if you want some really cool vegan recipes, check out vegweb.com.)

What finally convinced me that this was what I wanted to do was an article Jim emailed to me this week. Neal Barnard of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, gives tips on how to stick to the most common New Year’s resolution out there: losing weight. First on his list is going vegan.

1. Use the V-word. Abundant research has shown that the more vegetarian meals people eat, the easier time they have maintaining a healthy weight. And the most powerful meals are vegan. In May, researchers at Loma Linda University published results of a study of nearly 61,000 Americans. Vegans were the thinnest, meat-eaters were the heaviest, and fish-eaters and ovo-lacto-vegetarians were between the two. People who switch to a vegan diet typically lose about a pound a week–and this prescription for weight loss doesn’t require portion control or calorie-counting. A meatless diet also helps reduce the risk of heart disease, type two diabetes, and some cancers.

This isn’t the first time Jim has sent me an article like this, but it was the last tip that really got me interested. Barnard’s group is starting a campaign to promote healthier eating and is urging folks to try veganism for just three weeks. The campaign, dubbed 21-Day Vegan Kickstart, “provides recipes, nutrition advice, and an interactive support network to help participants transition to a sustainable, healthful diet in 2010.”

I just signed up today. It seems easy enough and if I find that it’s just not for me, at least I’ll be able to apply what I’ve learned to make sure I eat as healthy as possible. Plus, I also signed up to receive a phone call from celebrities. I have no idea what that means. Alicia Silverstone is the spokesperson, so maybe she’ll phone me during the three-week period to give me some encouragement. Who knows, but I figure it can’t hurt.

And, in case anyone reading this is on the fence, especially after reading a NYTimes piece this week blasting vegans for killing living things, know this: Of course plants are alive, but our bodies are naturally programmed and evolutionarily designed to eat plants and vegetables, not meat, especially the meat of other mammals. Beyond that, the argument that we shouldn’t eat plants because they’re living things is on its face a patently ridiculous argument. Who knew that’s all it took to get published in the Times?!

I’ll be writing about it in the coming new year, of course, and I’ll be providing recipes, too. Wish me luck!

What are your resolutions for the new year?

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