Tag Archives: plant based diet

Crushing Cravings

crushing-cravingsI will not lie to you, dear readers, I still crave meat, dairy, and eggs from time to time. It has been two and a half weeks, and I hardly ever think about the different foods I’ve removed from my life. Hardly, ever.

Smells can be overwhelming when they sneak up on a person. If I was to walk into a Circle K that had a Dunkin’ Donuts inside, I would have already braced myself for the wave of savory smells. I would have wrinkled my nose before pushing through the glass door, and reminded myself how much I detest sausage biscuits and their abominable cousin, bacon, egg, and cheese croissants.

An unexpected odor, by contrast, can be a sneaky salesman. A surprise office party filled with pizza can become a willpower torture chamber to someone still only a few weeks into a new vegan diet. A Pokemon Go gym next to a Sonny’s BBQ can become an unexpected reminder that meat is an addiction that takes time to overcome.

Again, my friends, these cravings don’t happen very often or with any great intensity.  During the first few days I’d say there was a gentle nagging but it quickly faded to an occasional pang.

My solution for these cravings is to stuff my ever loving face. I microwave potatoes in pairs and eat them at the same time, double-fisted. I indulge in a 1.5x Rip’s Big Bowl which is enough to slow down a hungry elephant. I eat all the insanely good food that Plant Based Diet Culinary Artisan, Shannon, makes as well as any leftovers in the fridge or on other people’s plates. For reasons I won’t bore you with, I suggest not trying the “other people’s plates” tip at vegan restaurants. They are very snobby about that kind of thing, and PLEASE LET ME COME BACK AGAIN, ETHOS!

It seems that stuffing your face with produce isn’t the same as stuffing your face with unhealthy food. While I will share my exact starting weight and progress numbers starting in the near future, I can currently share that in just under 20 days, I’ve dropped 14 pounds.

Can it be challenging for a vegan noob to eat a veggie burger while standing next to grill full of the old fashioned kind? You’re damn right it can be.

Can it be worth it? You’re damn right it can be.


Veganaut Tales with Jennifer J.

veganaut-map-jenniferHere is another great story showing that vegans are not cloned in a laboratory and trained in militant PETA camps.  It is really quite the opposite.  The variety of different Veganaut Tales we’ve heard so far paints a picture of diversity.  We came from countless backgrounds to get to this healthy, compassionate, and sustainable life and I am excited to be here with all of you good people.

Jennifer’s story interested me because you can tell where her heart was from the beginning.  Even as a child she had an inkling that the rest of the world was eating and living differently than she wanted to be.  However, walking the path your heart wants you to take can be a real challenge, especially when the vast majority of the people and institutions you encounter seem to be blocking the path.

I’ll let Jennifer J. share her story, but not before thanking her profusely for sending it in to share with the community.  Take it away Jennifer:

When I was a teenager, I became a steadfast vegetarian.  I still ate dairy and eggs; after all, I was living in Wisconsin and had grown up visiting my grandparents’ small dairy farm.  After college, while I was working at a Whole Foods Market, I decided to become vegan.  I then began work as a labor organizer.  I was a junk food vegetarian turned junk food vegan, with a challenging job that required travel and irregular hours, an unsupportive fiance and few everyday cooking or meal planning skills, so my attempt lasted barely a year.  I returned to eating poultry and meat.

In 2007, I moved to Northwest Arkansas, the land of Walmart and a major poultry-producing region.  I ate more meat and processed foods, including things I had never eaten previously.  I met my husband, we got married, and he began nursing school.  I worked as a court reporter and heard the testimony of farmers fighting corporations and insurance companies, workers injured at poultry farms and factories, and people with devastating illnesses like diabetes.  The chicken trucks I drove behind haunted my dreams.  I ate Walmart meat, cheese and processed foods even as they disgusted me.

I was sluggish and depressed.  My skin and hair suffered and I gained weight.  My joints ached, my blood sugar was erratic, I had sinus problems and allergies caused in part by airborne chicken dung, and I exhibited symptoms in line with hormonal imbalances, yet my doctors insisted I was fine.  I felt isolated.  I knew I was abandoning my ideals and neglecting my health.  For several years I contemplated returning to veganism, but somehow a plant-based lifestyle never seemed attainable and so I maintained the status quo.  I was stressed out and on a budget; I couldn’t buy expensive ingredients, wrap my mind around time-consuming preparations, or listen to someone shame me for my choices.

In 2011, two important things happened.  First, I found myself nursing my beloved 14-year-old pet budgie who was suffering from gout.  It became painfully clear that I was dishonoring both of us by devotedly caring for her and continuing to eat poultry.  I became vegetarian again and reduced my dairy consumption.  Second, a friend happened to send me a copy of Everyday Happy Herbivore as an early Christmas present.  Somehow that particular book resonated with me and I immediately transitioned to a plant-based diet.

In 2013, I have more energy, my previous health issues are a distant memory, and I love to cook and plan meals.  I’ve found so many wonderful, supportive resources; I know I am not alone.  I’m still on a budget, but going plant-based has actually saved me both money and time.  My husband is still an omnivore, but he publicly supports me and eats my cooking.  I still dislike many things about where I live (so many chicken trucks!), but becoming plant-based profoundly changed how I participate in and view my community.  I still stumble occasionally, I’m still constantly adjusting, and I may never be a perfect “vegan,” yet so many positive changes in my life have come from choosing to be eat plants.  This lifestyle now signifies simplicity and joy to me.  Occasionally in hindsight I am embarrassed by how how long I waited to become a Veganaut; more than anything, I’m just grateful that I did it.

So are we Jennifer! It’s never too late to start or restart this rewarding life. Looking back at our old lives might be a little awkward but it sure is easier to do when you are walking the path your heart asks you to walk.  Thanks again for telling us your Veganaut Tale!

If you’d like to share the journey you took to becoming a vegan, plant-based dieter, eco-vegan, and/or veganaut, please email your story to me at watchmelose150@gmail.com. There is no length requirement but the 400-800 range is a good ballpark range.  Ahoy!

My One Green Planet Gig

Greeting veganauts and sideline supporters~ today is the big day!  I didn’t want to spill the soy beans early and jinx anything, but I don’t have to keep it a secret any longer!

Several weeks ago I was contacted by One Green Planet.  They  invited me to contribute a weekly column to their eMag which I said yes to immediately.  Yesterday, my first article went live!  It is about the Mission to Mars and the proposed vegan menu.

If you follow the link to the article, please take a moment to use the buttons at the top to Share, Like, Favorite, Tweet, StumbleUpon, Tumblr, Email and Pin the living snot out of it.  This will move the piece higher on their table of contents so more strangers will read it.  I don’t recommend voting more than once in real elections, but in this case I encourage you to stuff the ballet box.

Here is a teaser paragraph followed by a link to the whole piece.  Thanks for reading!

We’ve hit the big time people.  Vegan’s everywhere are high-fiving each other instead of uploading Instagram pics of their Cold Quinoa Salad Surprise.  We thought nothing could be better than the news about famous vegan converts like Mike Tyson and Bill Clinton but this stellar news is light-years better for our community.

We are going into space.

In 2030, when humans begin their two-and-a-half year cruise to the red planet and back, they will be feeding…


Veganaut Triple Detente

I am a visual learner and thinker.  When I calculate days and count hours I use my fingers to keep from losing track.  If I’m trying to remember to take the pet to a vet appointment, I will sometimes tie a string to my finger so I wont forget (this is a fool proof trick if I also tie the other end of the string to the pet).  When I’m trying to compare and contrast ideas, I often rely on Venn Diagrams.

Venn diagrams are a visual thinker and organizers best friends.  After teaching a generation of elementary school students how the overlapping circles can be used as visual tools to compare and contrast, I have evolved into a Venn Diagram master.  I have a black belt in unions and intersections.

In the diagram above, the Veganaut Triple Detente is described nicely with six words and three circles… but let me take 600 more words to describe this particular concept.

A detente is an agreement made by opposing groups because it is in their best interest to do so.  I came across this concept for the first time in the Piers Anthony book, Triple Detente.  In this book Mr. Anthony included a lot less naughty bits than I’d come to appreciate in his Adept series, but as a stand alone book, I thought it was mind blowing.  Three opposing alien races strike a surprising deal that solves many of the problems that they were each facing.  If your summer reading list isn’t full and if  you aren’t opposed to sci-fi, you won’t be wasting your time with this one.

In the vegan world, there is a similar detente that needs to be solidified.  First and foremost, lets peek at the word vegan again.  It is commonly accepted that a vegan is someone who abstains from anything made from or with animals for compassionate reasons.  They go to great lengths to avoid harming or being a part of any system that harms beings weaker than themselves.  Compassion is hard to define or quantify, but vegans are truly good people who wish to live simply, so that other animals may simply live.

Environmentalists know that one of the only ways to reverse the downhill tumble we have started is to drastically reduce the amount of animals we make for food.  The amount of energy used to make a pound of meat can make around ten pounds of grains and produce.  The factory farms and the food production facilities are creating more pollution than strip mining operations.  Many environmentalist have given up meat and dairy and started focusing on their foodprint as much as their carbon footprint.  They dream of a planet covered by locavore (local-vore) communities that avoid meat and animal related foods because of the damage they do to our sickly planet.  These are truly good people who wish to live simply so that we all may simply live.

Thanks to Forks Over Knives, Engine 2, and the rest of the plant-based diet crew there has been an explosion in the number of people giving up meat, dairy and eggs.  These people know that dairy is the cigarette of our generation- something that doctors swear is good for you until there is so much proof it is killing you that they change their tune and act like they were against it from the beginning.  Plant-based dieters also know that meat, eggs, and anything else made from an animals will damage their bodies and potentially shorten their lives.  These are truly good people who wish to eat simply, so that they may simply live.

All three groups are making a huge difference in the number of animals being slaughtered and tested on.  All three groups are living differently for compassionate reasons of their own.  All three groups lead a lifestyle that benefits the other two groups.  We have triple detente.

It is time to shake hands, accept each other for our differences, and benefit from our combined strength in making changes we all want to see.  When it comes down to it, whether your compassion is global, personal or in defense of the weak, we are all truly good people- choosing to live simply so that everyone, everything, everywhere, may simply live.

The Mighty Veganaut Shield

Like any Greek hero, I am good with spears, swords, and other handheld weapons.  However, I am GREAT with a shield.  Going on the offensive in battle is important for winning, but being able to defend yourself against beheading increases the likelihood that you will still be breathing when the battle is over.

I had the opportunity to use my new veganaut shield this week and I must say, it worked like a champ.  I wasn’t planning on having to defend myself against surprise attacks, but as many of you vegans, veganauts and plant-based dieters know, carnivore attacks can come when you least expect them.

We live in a quiet little subdivision, nestled in a friendly little ‘burb just outside of Orlando.  The placement is great~ we get all the benefits of living near a fun and exciting metropolis, yet at dusk we can still sit on our front porch watching the joggers and dog walkers make their rounds while the crickets lay down the background audio track and fireflies handle the lighting.

Norman Rockwell could have spent years illustrating our neighborhood and all of its quirky characters.  He would capture the herds of children playing catch and the timeless greeting of dogs sniffing each others aromatic bits~ and probably the most colorful character of all, Carl, my rotund, red nosed neighbor who lives at the end of the culdesac.  The guy’s name is not Carl, but he constantly does and says the goofiest stuff reminding me of my favorite llama with the same name (Carl the hat wearing llama is a sociopath, view at your own risk: CLICK).

My neighbor Carl has a fast car, loves fast food, and is a goofy guy that means no harm but leaves a trail of it in his wake.  Often, when he speeds home from work we’ll migrate from our chairs on the front porch to our secluded spot on the back porch where it is safer.  Unfortunately, we don’t do this every time he speeds home so we are occasionally reminded of why we should.

During this week’s reminder, Carl lumbered over after a hard day’s work and started the verbal parlay.  It involves a running stream of consciousness on his part and as much nodding and agreeing as the rest of us can muster.  We learned long ago that arguing only provokes him.  After Carl gave us his take on idiot drivers during rush hour and the terrible lawn service he is paying for we were treated to a preview of his weekend.

Carl explained that his weekend would involve a Bar-B-Que at a co-workers house which he lovingly described in detail for five minutes.  Then, with the theatrics worthy of a Broadway production being performed by 4th graders, he stopped himself and said, “Oh, but what am I thinking going on and on like this, you can’t eat any of this good food that I’m talking about… being a vegan is so limiting, I don’t know how you can live like that.”

Did you guys just get really pissed too?  I know it is hard for me to hear people say that, but even more challenging when it is dripping with malice disguised as concern.  My knee jerk reaction when we reach a conversation point like this is to yell, “Hey Carl, that kid is letting his Australian Sheppard poop on your front lawn!!”  This combines three of Carl’s main dislikes: kids, dogs, and foreign sounding things.  This usually distracts him long enough for us to run inside and hide until he wanders off.

The BBQ comments were not my issue with Carl, though.  As a grill master, I still enjoy talking shop with carnivores.  I find it funny that even though I’ve only been living the vegan lifestyle for nine months, people still act as if I’ve been doing it my whole life.  They seem amazed that I can discuss the finer points of how to smoke a whole turkey while slow cooking a rack of ribs without actually eating them.

The part of Carl’s comments that make me want to grill him the most is the bit about the vegan diet being so limiting.  People that think we eat only sprouts and iceberg lettuce are simply repeating the ignorant tripe that they see on sitcoms that pander to the lowest common denominator.  The reality is that in my old life I ate the same 10 things over and over and over again.  The quantity was always more important than the quality.  Now with this new life, I still feel like I am on a vacation in a foreign country, eating and trying many new kinds of food.  There is more variety in my plant-based life than there ever was eating the Standard American Diet.

Try telling that to Carl.  You can’t.  He wont believe you and he will need a good hour before he is done explaining why.  I learned from my mistake long before.  You can’t fight pig-headed ignorance with knowledge or reason.  This is not a time for spears and swords- it’s a time for a shield.

“Actually Carl,” I said in my least confrontational tone. “I am not a vegan, I am a veganaut.  We aren’t as strict as vegans.”

The effect was more than I ever could have hoped for!  He gaped at me with his mouth half open, processing what I’d said and trying desperately to recall something about veganauts that could be used against me.  When he came up blank, he found himself at an impasse.  Unsure how to proceed, he stepped forward, clapped me on the shoulder and said, “Good on you, I always thought that vegan thing was a little crazy,” before turning and walking home.

Fist pump, victory dance.  I am living no differently than I did for the last nine months.  I am not eating cheeseburgers or pork rinds.  I am not grilling chicken or scooping ice cream.  I’m not even eating honey or buying leather belts.  The only thing that is different is my label.  Vegan is how I try to live but veganaut is how I describe myself in a world where vegan is associated with red paint throwing PETA activists.  I don’t dislike or even disagree with the PETA people, I just don’t want to be lumped in with their extremist group just because I don’t eat meat or dairy.  My veganaut shield protected me from ignorance and a contrived negative public opinion.

In the near future, I will tell you how the shield can also be a handy weapon.  Until next time, keep your spears pointy, your shields held high, and never forget to move to the back yard when Carl gets home.

Day 203: Cinco de Mayo

Today marks an exciting anniversary.  I have not been vegan for a year, but I have been losing weight for a year.

I’ve covered this in detail earlier in the ole’ blog but to recap, after several years of up and down weight loss with Atkins and weight gain with SAD, my family moved to another city.  The months following the move were a stressful and exciting period, both conditions that call for a lot of terrible food.  Before this, my weight was behaving the way we all want the stock market to work- some sporadic minor losses followed by steady gains.  After the move, if my weight had been the stock market there would have been a lot of millionaires running around and popping bottles of champagne.  I topped the scale at a shocking 336 pounds.

Today I weigh in at a much more reasonable, although still unacceptable, 261 pounds.  The weight loss is easily tracked using old photos and and my ever-changing wardrobe.  It is also evident in my ability to move around.  Getting out of a chair used to involve a shameful amount of effort.  Walking up a flight of stairs to tuck the kids in at night became so difficult, I’d find ways to do my tucking from the ground floor by blowing kisses or via text message.

Walking through a crowd was humiliating too.  The normal personal space that people create when milling around was only half of what I needed to slip between them.  This meant I got to say excuse me to hundreds of people for being larger than normal and needing them to move because of that.  I was already a little bit of a socially awkward penguin before I’d super sized myself.  Being a socially awkward walrus was MUCH more painful.

Obviously, in 70-80 pounds, I will be very pleased with my size, shape, and health.  However, after a year of pushing through cravings, desires, and a very manipulative inner voice, I am pleased with my progress.  It is a huge relief to be able to run up and down the steps in my house, practically hop out of chairs with seemingly no effort, and gracefully (by comparison) navigate crowds of people.  I am also enjoying the new clothes and the kilojoules of extra energy pumping through my body now.

I enjoy backpacking and used to do it a lot more when I was younger/smaller. I would start week-long treks with a pack weighing close to 50 pounds.  It was a huge weight to struggle into each morning and at the end of each day of hiking, taking it off felt like the weight of the entire world was lifted from my shoulders.  I could float around the campsite enjoying that sensation of relief for hours.

I can’t imagine shouldering THREE of those backpacks worth of fat, and yet I was on that depressing hike for a long time.  Sure, last Cinco de Mayo, I wanted to take all three backpacks off at once and enjoy the instant relief that I felt at the end of a day of hiking.  Since I couldn’t do that, I started the slow but sure process of taking the three backpacks off one pound at a time.  I have more than one and a half of them off so far, and the anticipation of slipping out from under the rest tastes much better than the deadly Standard American Diet or its demented cousin, the Atkins diet.  I’ll be prancing around the campsite in no time!

Day 202: May the Fourth Be With You

Happy Star Wars Day everyone!  Every May 4th, nerds across America celebrate this great holiday by saying “May the 4th be with you” to each other, and in some extreme cases, posting it on their Facebook pages.  This outpouring of enthusiasm still pales in comparison to what I think a proper national celebration should be for this society-changing epic saga.

In my humble opinion, May the 4th should be a day that practically everyone has off from school, work, and responsibility in general.  One notable exception will be the movie theaters that should be showing reel after reel of the movies to the general public, free of charge.  After a few years it would become fashionable to tip the employees ridiculous amounts on these days since they would be society’s heroes.  Costumes, street performances, flash mobs, and large friendly gatherings would punctuate the day as we celebrated the Star Wars Universe.

Too much?  Can’t picture it?  Not a fan?  I’m afraid I am in the minority on this one, but maybe with some general education on the subject this could take off and I’ll never have to work another May 4th again.

George Lucas created this empire over a span of almost four decades with six movies, countless books, multiple TV series, and more video games than even MY son can play.  George wove a tapestry of good versus evil on a loom made out of colorful planets and bizarre alien species.  Then he Bedazzled  the tapestry with storms of blaster fire and gripping light saber battles.

Throughout the timeline, characters may come and go, but the Force is always present.  It is a tangible force that many characters can harness in the Star Wars Universe.  Some use it to aid others and protect them from harm- the Jedi.  Others use the Force for personal power and control of others- the Sith.  In both cases, I am a gigantic nerd.

The Jedi Knights are the good guys.  They are very powerful, and like all good guys, they live by a code.  One of the many precepts of the code is to Honor Life.  It does not say to honor sentient life, or intelligent life, or fluffy bunny life… just life.  I can’t say that the Jedi are 100% vegan, but their beliefs are in line with compassion, caring, and a selflessness that we would all like to see in more people.

When Jedi part ways and offer their customary valediction, “May the force be with you,” they are wishing each other enough of the Force to do good and maintain balance in the universe.  It is a wish that I have for all of us- enough power to right the wrongs and defend the innocent.  Star Wars fan or not, you have to admit, that’s a pretty good message.

Here is a Star Wars video I think we can all enjoy, and of course, may the Force be with you, always.