Day 230: Bravely Changing in Birmingham

Shannon and I will often debate the finer points of our new lifestyle.  We agree on 98% of the rules and regulations.  The 2% we don’t completely agree on are the finer points I mentioned.  When these debates begin to run out of reason and thoughtful discourse, I run the risk of losing them.  Preferring not to have that ever happen, I have developed the iron clad, argument ending line: “Yeah, well, I have a blog.”

The reason this ends the argument is because she rolls her eyes when I say it and doesn’t dignify the statement with a response.  Since our perception determines our reality, I perceive this eye rolling silence to mean that I have won the argument.  An imaginary victory is better than a real loss any day in my humble opinion.

In reality, I roll my eyes a little too.  Even as a self-deprecating joke, it can seem a little silly.  The mere fact that I was able to sign-up for a free blog at and then start yammering on like I know what I am talking about does not make me an expert, or even a novice, or even concerned about my personal hygiene.  However, followers of The Ole’ Blog know that I am just stumbling through a new lifestyle and learning by trial an error.  Sometimes I feel the errors outweigh the trials (eh hemplease note the complex and many layered humor… very subtle) but the reality is that my family is healthier across the board.

I am no expert, but in the last eight months I have not been admitted to the hospital once for diverticulitis, colitis, or other infected bowel  emergencies.  I haven’t even had a single episode of the searing abdominal pain that leads up to those expensive vacations.  I have not taken any medication for gout or suffered even the slightest twinge of my old enemy that was fond of making me crawl in supplication.  My Cane of Shame is collecting dust in the back of my closet because I haven’t needed it to help move my cumbersome bulk around on brittle gout toes and heels.  I am a much healthier non-expert because of the lifestyle change.

So with that round-about disclaimer in mind, I am excited to respond to my very first Hi Jason! letter.  It’s easy to spot below.  It is in italics, right there:

Hi Jason!

I’ve found your blog and your twitter and so appreciate you sharing your journey. I’m very new to plant based eating (read: 4 days) and would love your opinion about some things. What are your thoughts on vegan substitution products…ex. Gardein, Earth Balance, Vegenaise.  Am I still following a plant based diet if I utilize these products? Also, what about canned vegetables? As a newbie, thank you in advance for any advice you can offer. 

Birmingham, Alabama

Wow Stephanie, four days is a great start!  Congratulations on taking the plunge~ I don’t know if you found this to be true, but the hardest part for me was the first 3-4 days.  After that the meat, dairy, and egg habits and cravings subsided to occasional flair-ups instead of a constant dull roar.  This is also the time when I started noticing an increase in my energy and clarity of thought.  I never drank the deadly Red Bull but I can say that Herbivorism Gives You Wings.

I happen to have many opinions about substitution foods as well as canned vs. frozen vs. fresh foods and I am glad to share them.  Keep in mind they are only opinions but since they are mine, I put a lot of stock in them.  Substitution foods are bad and good.  Canned and frozen foods are bad and good.  I hope that clears things up.  Next time on The Ole’ Blog I will explain the existence of humanity and share a recipe for some killer artichoke humus that I stole from a friend.

Oh, I crack myself up.

Substitution foods are really bad because they are made from many ingredients and most have some chemical additives and complicated ingredient names.  They are made in a factory, shipped in plastic, and have a huge carbon footprint.  From an Engine 2, Forks Over Knives, Dr. Esselstyn, plant based diet standpoint, some of these substitution foods are OK, but most are not.  They suggest reading the labels and calculating percentages of this and that.  Frankly, if I need a calculator to know if I can eat it, I don’t want to eat it.

Canned food is really bad because of the BPAs that are somehow still allowed on our store shelves.  The vegetables are not as beneficial when stored and aged, and many are made worse with preservatives and added flavors.  Frozen food is a lot better than canned but still has the negative side effects of plastics, carbon footprint, and the loss of some fresh vegetable benefits.

When deciding what to eat, my advice is to pick up the food in question.  Look for a label.  If you find one, don’t eat it.  Single ingredient, one step out of the ground food, in a rainbow of colors is the best possible solution.  As best you can, avoid concentrations of anything.  Orange juice may be all natural, but a glass of it contains all the sugar from 8 -10 oranges without any of the fiber or many of the ancillary benefits that come from eating an orange.  Olive oil is all natural but a table spoon equals WAY more whole olives that I am capable of eating so it is best that I not use it.

When I use to cheat on a diet it involved ice cream, Oreos, McDonald’s and Waffle House.  I was an expert at the crash and burn.  However, now when I am cheating on my lifestyle (not a diet), it is with the very things you are asking about.  A Tofurky Italian Sausage with oven baked potato fries is light years better for me than a Number 3 Extra Value Meal, Super-sized with a Coke and an Crispy Chicken Sandwich that I could eat on the way to Pizza Hut.  If I have Earth Balance spread on a bagel one morning instead of a ham and cheese omelet with bacon and more cheese, then I am doing WAY better than I use to. If the choice is between a can of asparagus and a fresh steak, the can is far and away the lesser of the two evils.

When smokers quit shortening their lives with expensive coffin nails, they have patches and gums and electronic cigarettes to help them transition back to a healthy normal.  I think these ‘bad’ vegan foods are like a patch.  They are not ideal.  They are not the most healthy.  They do not fit the high standards that I have for healthy, conscious, compassionate, food choices- but they are a far, far, far, far cry better than the way I used to abuse myself and my surroundings.

Best of luck on your journey Stephanie, and always remember to make sure it is your journey.  Collect advice, keep reading blogs and articles, and find the best path to take to reach your goals.



About jasongillett

I'm Jason Gillett, 2 year VEGAN, and a 41 year old family man. My wife & I teach in a FL school. I am using a blog to chronicle our family's new life. View all posts by jasongillett

15 responses to “Day 230: Bravely Changing in Birmingham

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