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:
- Vegans don’t necessarily like salad.
- Sides may not contain meat, but may contain items that are unfriendly to your relation’s diet goals.
- 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.
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!!
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.
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!!