Q & A

I am very lucky to have many people who feel comfortable enough to ask me questions that they may be too embarrassed to ask otherwise.  Today, I will devote my post to addressing the most common of these questions in hopes that you will have your questions answered as well.  Of course, you can always ask questions in the comments section of this blog and I will happily share my experiences with you!
Q:  My relative has just announced that they are going Vegan, or have food sensitivities/allergies.  How the heck am I supposed to deal with family get together’s now??

A:  I understand that your initial response may be “OH GREAT!”  Going ‘gluten-free’ seems to be the current fad these days.  There is a lot of mis-information circulating out there about gluten, and not everyone who excludes gluten needs to.  It’s always just better to assume that there is a reason for what they are doing, and it’s their business only.  Let’s use me as an example.  I have the following food sensitivities:  Pineapple, Black Pepper, Rye, Yeast, Kidney Beans, and Cow’s Milk.  On top of this, I follow a vegan diet, so I am your worst nightmare!!  My family forever wants me to have meals with them, and ask me how they can accomodate me.  The simple answer?  Don’t.  I think that people who have issues like mine understand that trying to cater to me would be a recipe for disaster.  Or, my family will say, “Come over!  I will make sure that there is a salad for you!”  At which time, I remind them that I hate salad.  SO, a few things:

  1. Vegans don’t necessarily like salad.
  2. Sides may not contain meat, but may contain items that are unfriendly to your relation’s diet goals.
  3. Don’t take it personally.

I would advise to first ask that person to help you understand their diet or food issues.  I would then try to come up with strategies together to make sure that they are able to attend, and also feel like a ‘normal’ guest.  Many times, I will eat in advance, or I will offer to bring a dish that I can eat, but can also share with others.  Interestingly enough, when I do bring a dish to share, it usually ends up being a hit.  I tend to not tell anyone it’s vegan until they eat it and love it.  Not only is it fun for me, but it also gives people who may not ever be exposed to anything positive regarding veganism to come away with a good impression.


Q:  I watched the documentary “What the Health” (Or “Forks over Knives”, or “Fat, Bloated, and Nearly Dead”, or “Super Size Me”, etc…, and now I want to eat better.  Should I quit meat cold turkey (pun totally intended)?

A:  I have done both methods:  I have gone cold turkey vegan, and I have done the frog-boiling method.  The first time I tried it was cold turkey.  I did it for all the wrong reasons.  I was desperate to lose weight, and a junk-a-tarian that I know said I should get off meat and I would lose weight.  So I tried.  I ate frozen veggie burgers, vegan cheese, chips, French fries, and I failed miserably.  I didn’t really know what a vegan actually was.  I have the most basic possible definition, which was no animal flesh or products.  Did you know that gummy vitamins are not vegan?  Or that French fries are often fried in animal fats?  Or that Mexican restaurants usually make refried beans with lard and rice with chicken broth?  Not only did I not know what the hell I was doing, I wasn’t considering that it takes time for your body to adjust.  

Once I finally did lose weight and cleaned up my diet, I started to naturally eat less meat.  It just started to not digest well with me.  I would get horrendous stomach aches and (sorry…) really constipated.  One day, I just stopped.  I thought about my meat consumption and what it was doing to my digestive tract.  I didn’t like the way it tasted unless it was drenched in sauces and seasonings.  So I just stopped.  And I haven’t eaten it since.

A few years after that, I was still having stomach aches, and decided to get tested for food sensitivities.  At that time, I would eat a hard boiled egg for breakfast, cottage cheese with pepper and pineapple (I know…don’t judge…it’s good), and lots of beans every day, including my favorite, kidney beans.  So, if you remember my food sensitivity list, I was basically ONLY eating things that bothered me.  I didn’t become vegan out of compassion for animals, or anything other than I just wanted the stomach aches to stop, which they did.  Since becoming vegan, I have definitely become passionate about animals and how we as a culture treat them.  

Long story short, for me, it worked better to make small changes over long periods to maintain those changes.  Just like boiling a frog, start with Luke warm water, and slowly turn up the heat.  Side note, it’s sick that I’m advising on how to go vegan by compairing it to boiling a frog.  Oy.  


Q:  I want to go vegan, but I can never give up baked goods.  What’s the deal?

A:  Oh man, I know what you mean.  Did you know that you can make absolutely delicious cookies, cupcakes, cakes, and pies totally vegan?  It’s true!  In fact, I gained about 10 pounds once I figure that out!!  A great baking cookbook that was given to me by one of my best friends in the universe is The Joy of Vegan Baking by Coleen Patrick-Goudreau.  You can find most of the ingredients at your local grocery store, or, I have found a lot at Amazon.  Would you believe that I used a drop biscuit recipe from this cook book and crafted a vegan gravy recipe, and now we have biscuits and gravy for dinner on the regular?  I NEVER thought I would have that again!!


 
Q:  But where do you get your protein from/But are you getting enough protein ?

A:  This is by far the most asked question.  Over the years, I have answered this question differently.  Sometimes, I ask the asker if they are getting enough protein.  It’s kind of funny, actually.  I know that I need 1/2 a gram of protein per pound of body weight, so it varies as my weight varies.  Did you know that vegetables have protein?  It’s TRUE!  My advice here would be to not ask this question to a vegetarian or a vegan.  They know where to get protein from, and if it is enough or not.  Protein comes in grains, beans, veggies, quinoa, tofu, tempeh, and seitan (pronounced ‘satan’, as in “I ate Satan for lunch…hahah).  I am not sure why Omnivores are so concerned with protein intake, other than they believe that they will ‘stump the chump’ with this question.  I promise, you won’t. In fact, I think that we could all do ourselves a favor and stop listening to the meat and dairy lobbyists and educate ourselves on foods.  

Q:  Is it better to cut carbs, or go low fat, or do Mediterranean diet, or Paleo, or what?

A:  I have the definitive answer to this question!  The best diet is the one that you can stick to for the rest of your life.  You can’t cut carbs for the rest of your life.  I know I’m going to catch hell from some of you for saying that.  Carbs are converted to energy. If you cut them, you will burn stored fat, that is true, and totally sustainable in the short term.  However, our bodies adapt very quickly to all of our brilliant plans.  You will find what worked for you for a few weeks will no longer work.  The body is in a constant state of seeking equilibrium.  It will slap back with lower energy levels, headaches, nausea, and other issues.  Same with low fat.  Did you know that your body uses fat to transport hormones?  Fats are good for you!  The key to both fats and carbs are in the quality of the macro.  Cookies are carbs.  And so are vegetables.  Which do you think are better for you?  Butter is full of fats.  And so are avocados.  Which do you think supply the greater nutrient punch?  Your body will thrive on                            complex carbs and ‘good’ fats.  Keep that in mind.  Completely restricting a nutrient is never really a great strategy for long term success.  


Q: Why do vegans and vegetarians have such a superiority complex?  What makes you better than me?

A:  We don’t, and we’re not.  It’s in your head.


Next week, I will do an exercise Q & A.  Let me know if you have any questions about today’s blog, or have a question you’d like answered about exercise, and I will for my best to answer it.  Have a great week, everyone, and remember…

You’re probably not crazy!!

Omnivorous to Vegetarian to Veganish: How and WHY did I make the transition?

Last weekend, I was out to a luncheon to celebrate my oldest sister’s birthday.  My middle sister always takes personal responsibility to find places that offer vegan options, so we can all enjoy a meal together.  For those of you who have not been exposed to veganism, that is not an easy feat.  In fact, eating at restaurants is such a challenge that I usually just don’t.  My middle sister travels a lot for work, so she is always open and willing to try new things, and is open to having meatless meals occasionally.  I am very lucky to have her, honestly.

As I was looking at the menu, my mother and older sister were pointing out salads that I might be able to have.  I have learned that people in general tend to be uncomfortable with what they don’t know or understand.  I try to be gracious, and thank people for pointing out items that I can eat, but there is one simple fact…I hate salad.  I mean, I don’t HATE IT hate it, but I certainly don’t love it.  It’s boring.  Plus, have you ever really looked at the salad selection on a menu?  It’s almost like they can’t fathom a protein source without animal flesh or cheese.  


Another strange thing happens when I eat around non-vegans.  “I eat salad every day!”  “I almost never eat meat!”  “I only eat chicken anymore!”  Then, when the meal order is taken, it’s a cheeseburger and fries.  Of course,  as with any group of people who subscribe to a particular lifestyle or choice, there are always people who give everyone else a bad name.  The vegans I know aren’t chastening meat eaters for eating meat, aren’t attacking them for their choices, aren’t throwing fake blood on them and yelling ‘MEAT IS MURDER!’.  The VAST majority of us want nothing more than to live harmoniously in the world, and answer questions to demystify and normalize the choice to not consume animal products.  

I wasn’t always a vegan, and for the record, I call myself ‘veganish’.  I am not perfect.  I eat pizza once in a while.  I do my best, but I am by no means perfect.  Growing up, and well into adulthood, I was under the impression that you have to have meat at every meal.  I didn’t understand that ‘meat’ meant protein.  Looking back, that seems really dumb.  The fact is, we learn things and accept them as unquestionable facts as children.  For instance, I loved tuna sandwiches as a kid, but I hated fish.  I didn’t know until I was 14 years old that tuna was fish.  My parents never told me that “Tuna is fish”.  It was just, “Do you want a tuna salad sandwich?”  Needless to say, I had great empathy for Jessica Simpson with the whole “Chicken of the Sea” debacle.  It wasn’t until I decided to learn about food and what we need to eat and why that my mind started to change.  


After I lost 100+ pounds, I became very invested in understanding first, what do I need to eat and why, and second, what works best for me.  A major revelation to me during this crusade for answers is that there is nothing but conflicting information on diet.  Did you know that the low fat diet was actually due to members of the US Congress dropping dead at alarming rates from heart attacks?  During the 60’s and 70’s, eight congressmen died in office from heart attacks.  So what did they do?  According to Alison Aubrey of NPR, the government introduced dietary guidelines based off of hearings in the senate.  Scientists thought that foods high in cholesterol affected blood cholesterol, but did not know why.  Hence, the idea that fat is bad and carbs are good was introduced.  Unfortunately, as is demonstrated in the current statistics of American health, this was flawed logic.  68.8% of adults in the United States are overweight.  35.7% of those are obese.  1 in 20 are considered extremely obese.  74% of men…MEN…are overweight or obese, all according to the National Institutes of Health.  Not only that, recent statistics show that 10% of the world’s population are overweight.  

If you remember the ’90’s, you remember the Atkin’s diet.  Eat all the protein and fat you want, and restrict your vegetables and carbs.  This was a dream to many people!  I can eat bacon and eggs every day and be healthy???  Well, sorry, but no.  And then South Beach.  And then Ephedra pills, which oops, that was speed.  And then.  And then.  And then.  Make no mistake, misinformation in the diet industry is big money.  We need stop looking to companies to decide and tell us what is healthy and what is not.  “Low fat muffins”…HA!  The secret to good health has never been a secret.  It’s just not as easy as we would hope.  Eat fresh foods, eat a balance of good fats, good proteins, and  good carbs.  Good fats?  Think avocado over Big Mac.  Good carbs? Dates over muffins.  Good Proteins?  Nuts over bacon.

Anyway…how did I get from there to here.  Well, the truth is, I’m not entirely sure.  I remember one New Year’s Eve.  I was making roasted potatoes and asparagus, and Wave was marinating rib eye steaks.  I looked at him, and I said, “You know, I don’t know why we bother eating meat.  All we do is season the hell out of it so we don’t actually taste the meat, and then I don’t sh*t for days.”  We kind of looked at each other, and just decided that was our last omnivorous meal.  Believe it or not, the transition was easy.  The hardest part was the questions.  It took me a while to learn a bit of grace and patience.

A true vegetarian has no issue getting protein.  I know that the first thing you want to ask me is “Where do you get your protein”, or you may be wondering “Are you getting enough protein?”  To this, I would ask you, “Are you?”  I would like to assure you, the ominivorious, that we are ok.  In fact, did you know that vegetables have protein?  Check this out:

Vegetable-protein-chartI finally understand that your questions about protein are because you probably were raised like me.  You have to eat meat at every meal.  I challenge you to change the word ‘meat’ with protein’.  I would also ask, do YOU know how much protein you need, and are YOU getting enough?  It’s super simple.  Take your body weight…your REAL weight, not your driver’s license weight, divide by 2.  That’s the number of protein grams you need per day.  Take that number, divide by 3.  That’s how much you need at each meal.  Simple, right?  AND, now you know, you are getting protein from many sources, not just meats!  

When I switched to vegetarian, I think I saw a minor weight loss, less than 5 pounds.  I didn’t do it for animal rights or saving the planet or any other reason that I didn’t like the taste and what it did for my digestion.  Everyone has their reasons, and it’s safe to say asssuming their motives is proabably not safe.  I stayed vegetarian for a few years.  I still had stomach aches.  I felt like I was digesting food much better, but still had some issues.  Further investigation was required.

I decided to get tested for food allergies and sensitivities.  So, what is the difference?  A food allergy can kill you.  A food sensitivity, though very unpleasant, will not kill you.  It will cause indigestion, stomach aches, IBS, constipation, diarrhea, fatigue, irritability, and possibly acne.  But not deadly.  Turns out, I’m sensitive to casein (cow’s milk protein) and eggs.  So, basically, if I want to not have the afore mentioned symptoms, I need to avoid them.  By avoiding them, I become a vegan.  Now, before I am corrected, I understand that a true blue vegan wears vegan clothes, carries vegan bags, wears vegan shoes, and of course avoids leather and furs.  I would say that I 95% fall into this naturally. But I don’t know that every thing I own is animal friendly.  I do my best, and I think that is good enough.  There is no vegan tribal council.  I won’t be brought up on vegan charges.  

Vegan-means-sucking-less
I often hear, “I think I could be a vegetarian, but I love cheese!  I can’t give it up!”  Well, that’s ok!!  I think that this world could be a better place if we all just accept who we are and what we are willing to do, and stop judging everyone else.  Maybe you want to try vegetarianism for one day a week and see how it feels.  Maybe you learn that even going vegetarian helps our environment.  Mass meat production contributes more greenhouse gasses that either transportation or industry, according to Scientific American.  For some people, their concern for our environment is enough to make small changes to their diet.  Most of us accept that climate change is real and is happening, but don’t know how they can contribute. This is a major way to help.  Meatless Monday.  What do you have to lose?

Some people tie their masculinity or toughness to meat eating.  Why?  What does eating meat have to do with any of that?  You are not more or less of a man or a tough person.  There are many successful vegan athletes and body builders who compete with omnivorous athletes and body builders.  We are foolish if we think that how we get our protein determines our fortitude.  I also want to address the idea that becoming vegan will give you a running PR, or an advantage over a carnivorous competitor.  I would give a word of caution.  You can be a junkatarian or a vegetarian.  The quality of food will help you, but will not overcome the quality of your own training and commitment to your sport.  Will it make you drop weight?  Maybe.  It depends on the quality of your food choices.  When it comes down to it, Fritos are probably vegan and Dorritos and nachos are vegan.  Does this give you a competitive advantage?  Um…no.  Does it make you lose a TON of weight?  Maybe.  It depends on what you currently eat.  If you consume fast food and garbage now, then consume only nuts, seeds, beans, vegggies, fruits, of course you are going to drop weight.  But if you are a pretty clean eater now, you won’t see much of a change.

Make no mistake, vegan can be hard if you rely on packaged foods.  The best way to go vegan is to stick to vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, and real foods.  The more you can control the inputs, the easier it is.  There are milk and eggs in almost all convenience foods.  The internet is a great tool.  Research vegan meals.  The variety of foods I eat now as a vegan are far greater than I ever ate as a carnivore.  Why?  Because the fear of eating salad only for the rest of my life forced me to try new things.  Who knew that you could make a nut meat that mimics the taste and texture of ground beef for tacos?  Or that there are vegan baking cookbooks?  Or even full on vegan cookbooks?  You’d be surprised!


To the naysayers who continue to say that long term veganism is not healthy for you.  I say, maybe try it.  Maybe, before you poison people against a choice, understand that there are entire populations who are vegan and vegetarian around the world that are far healthier than our American meat and cheese culture.  Open your mind. Try something new.  It certainly will not kill you.  It may make you feel better.  You may find that meats and cheeses never agreed with you in the first place.  You may realize that you always felt like hot garbage juice but never recognized it before.  You have absolutely nothing to lose by trying it.  I would encourage you to find a trusted vegan or vegetarian and get some advice.  Ask for recipes.  Ask for restaurants where your can try a meal.  Or, ask me!  As always, I am available to you.  You can contact me through the ‘Contact’ form here, you can DM me on Instagram.  I am here for you!  This doesn’t have to be scary, or cause anxiety.  Your vegan and vegetarian friends want nothing but for you to find peace in your diet, and within yourself.  We are not judging you…well MOST of us are not judging you.  

You may feel that even considering this is lunacy, but I assure you…You are probably NOT crazy!!