The Vegetarian Challenge

1255128_organic_cabbage_plantI have to do something to take my health into my own hands. I don’t feel well, most days. And yes, before you go much further, you should know that I am living with a terminal illness and some pretty serious health problems. I realize just changing my diet isn’t going to cure me from CTEPH and since my congestive heart failure isn’t diet-related, it’s not going to make that go away either. I’m not looking for a miracle fix or cure to my illnesses, necessarily, but if one were to come along, I surely wouldn’t refuse it.

That all said, I’m tired of feeling bad. While diet alone is not likely going to make me 100% tip-top, anything I can do for my body that will improve my quality of life is that much the better. If I can even feel somewhat better, it could make a huge difference in the time I have left, in the life I live, whether that’s 100 years or two… so I’m challenging myself to find the right diet plan for myself to feel the healthiest, and losing some weight wouldn’t hurt anything either.

JUICING IS FOR THE BIRDS

For the past month, my bestie and I have been trying to do a juicing diet. I did a three-day juice fast, and I gotta tell you–it was sheer torture. I grew in just two or three juices, to hate the taste of the juice, to cringe each time it was time to have another one, and I craved solid food so badly. But I thought, you know, it’s only three days. I can do anything for three days. And when I’ve been really sick, I’ve gone that long without eating anything before, so it won’t kill me.

It didn’t kill me, but I sure whined a lot. And when the three days was over, my bestie felt fantastic and was all ready to go for five more days and I thought I was going to strangle her. She felt fantastic, and I felt like shit. But I lost weight, fast.

That’s when I read about ‘food types’. My bestie is a carbohydrate type, and they do best when you completely eliminate bad carbs from the diet and replace them with the healthy veggie and fruit carbs. That’s what this juice fast did for her. But I am apparently a protein type, and for protein types, we need healthy fats, and this diet was giving me none. Literally, none. I felt tired, irritable, cranky, bitchy, achy, weak, and a bunch of other negative words. It was, in a word, unpleasant. I’m so glad I learned about the protein type, or else I’d have thought I was a failure at this diet thing that was supposed to be sooo good for me!

WE DON’T GET ENOUGH VEGGIES

I decided a juice fast wasn’t for me, but I did want to add more vegetables and fruits into my diet. I liked the juices themselves, at least some of them, but not ALL by themselves. So once I started adding some fat into the diet, some nuts, seeds, olive oil, avocado, etc, I started feeling so much better, and then I felt the same type of boost and energy and nutrition that my bestie had felt. I just needed good fats. So many people hear that word ‘fat’ and think ‘bad’. But fat is absolutely essential for brain development, children have to have it to grow, and the right kinds of fat are critical for life! Fat doesn’t make us fat–it’s a bad name to give it, but there it is!

We’ve kept the smoothies and juices in our diet, along with portion controlled, healthy, natural and organic as possible whole as possible foods, eat only grass-fed beef and free range chicken and eggs.

But…

TOO MUCH MEAT!

I’ve also found we get lazy. First, we eat too much meat. It’s the staple. It’s always the focus on the plate. The veggies are an afterthought to complement the meat, not something we focus on. There are creative ways to cook veggies and fruits and make dishes with whole grains without using meat as the flavor agent, the go-to main course. Also, we simply just eat too much of it. The meals can get boring too, and honestly, so can cooking.

I know that being a vegetarian is not something I can do long-term. I love meat. I can’t deny it. I’d love to be a vegetarian. I know where my meat comes from, I do, and ethically, I want so badly to be able to give it up. But I won’t. I’ve tried, and I won’t. So I do the next best thing I can, and that’s choose local farms in the Houston area who raise animals responsibly, let them be animals, butcher as humanely as possible, and sell fresh, grass-fed, quality meats. I also buy responsibly raised and maintained milk, eggs, and other animal products. It’s my compromise I can live with.

But still, as I said, we eat too much meat, and we have gotten a bit lazy with the veggies. Plus, I want to sort of completely detox and get all the bad stuff out of my system for a while, lose some weight, feel better, etc.

ETHIOPIAN VEGETARIAN CUISINE

247532_10152843478005226_1080196824_nWe went to an Ethiopian restaurant a while back that had vegetarian dishes with so much flavor and spice and texture that I didn’t even realize we had eaten vegetarian until after the meal was over and I thought about it. Look at this platter from our meal that night. This is a soaked salad, lentils, chickpeas, greens, cabbage, spices, sauces, it’s just amazing. It was all served on Teff bread, which I have no intention of even trying to make, it is so difficult. But I intend to order a few dozen and freeze them so we can use them at home. That’s how good they were. They are a spongy gluten-free healthful grain that makes a slightly sweet and slightly sour spongy tortilla type pancake. The pancake absorbs the moisture and flavors from the food, but it doesn’t really get mushy or soggy. It’s the best part to eat after the meal is over.

Just look at the colors and spices and flavors that are represented here. I think I can do this on a nightly meal, with some whole grains, whole veggies and beans/lentils. I’m at least going to give it a try!

 

NOT JUST ABOUT ME, THOUGH

I read some blogs about sustainability, healthy eating, environmental impacts, etc, and someone on the blog was challenging folks to try to go vegetarian for just 30 days and see how you feel, how it works. I read another guy’s blog who went vegetarian for a month too, and how he felt about it. As I was reading, I thought, I can do this. I mean, this is this fairly typical guy, who eats meat, and he went vegan. I’m not even going to go completely vegan–and I love veggies–so I can do this! I should really thank him on his blog for writing it, because it was something that helped me realize I could probably try this and see how it goes.

I can take this challenge, and do just that: see how it goes. I don’t have to commit to anything and I can handle almost anything for a month, right? Plus, meat is a huge budget killer for our family grocery budget, and it’s not necessary for life sustaining nutrition, so why not try a vegetarian month?

I figured multiple good things could come out of it:

1) I’d probably lose some weight, and with my health issues and the fluid retention and mobility reduction and all the time in the hospital, I’ve gained weight–I’d like to lose some of that.

2) I’d be eating wholly organic, non-processed, healthy whole foods–that has to be good for you, right?

3) Not having meat as the go-to dish for the main course, it requires me to put a little bit more thought into making a satisfactory meal for myself and my family in which we do not miss the fact there’s no meat on the plate. This will be difficult, I think, because it’s so easy to fall back on meat for bulk and flavor in the meal, and now I will have to really think about the main course and making it protein/fat healthy and savory like a meat dish might be.

4) I think focusing more on knowing what we are eating and thinking more about how we eat our food is a good thing, and being vegetarian, even for just a month, will force me to think more about what I’m eating instead of just buying, ordering, cooking whatever we have on hand. I don’t think this is a bad thing at all–I think we all should think more about what we put into our bodies.

5) I think even with buying organic produce, we’ll see a reduction in our overall grocery budget when we’re not relying on meat as the main course for three meals per day.

6) Who knows? Maybe I’ll feel better…

THE CHALLENGES

1) A lot of the vegetarian dishes I’m seeing are raw salad type dishes or are cold salad type dishes. I want hot, spicy, savory food. The few things I’m finding that are hot foods are either pre-packaged ‘vegan/vegetarian substitute’ foods or they are mushy things. Grains cooked mushy, beans cooked mushy, veggies cooked mushy. So I’m wanting some foods that have texture and flavor and spice and are made to serve warm. That will be a challenge for me.

2) I am cutting out all soy products from my diet, with a very rare exceptions (like organic edamame) and the number one ‘protein/meat’ replacement and dairy replacement for vegetarians seems to be soy. With all the Monsanto GM stuff and with the estrogenic effect of soy, I simply cannot take soy into my diet as an option on a regular basis. So it will be challenging to find alternatives that are not soy based, so I can limit the amount of soy. No sense replacing one bad habit (meat) with another (soy).

3) Making things everyone in the family will eat–we’ll see. My son wouldn’t eat the fish and mussels I made last night and used his own money to order a pizza. How much worse will it be when there’s no hamburger, steak, chicken, pork or other meat on the plate? We’ll see.

4) Keeping enough fresh produce in the house that doesn’t spoil for a big family without having to go to the grocery store every other day or so. Our local good grocery store with the organic options is nearly a 40-minute drive from us. We have to fill in between times with the HEB down the street, and while they have some fantastic products and organic options, theirs are limited. So I’ll need to plan carefully.

5) What else can you think of? I’m sure there are many ways to fail at this if I want to fail–but I’m going into it hoping to succeed.

So that’s it. 30 days, vegetarian challenge. Some ground rules I’ve already decided upfront: We will not eat pork, red meat/beef, chicken or any derivative thereof in meat form. We will, however, use a limited amount of eggs, raw milk, and cheese/milk products made from raw milk, as part of our protein items, but they will be from humanely kept and raised animals from a locally sourced farm and they will be raw and healthful. We might also consider fish during this no-meat/vegetarian challenge. I will not use it as my go-to, but if I’m starting to crave a ‘meat’ as a main course, I might try a fish dish (we have some salmon and swordfish in the freezer) to see if it gives me the ‘meat’ fix I want.

Also included in this challenge is that I will not consume any artificial sweeteners either, so no diet sodas (we have a Sodastream, so I’ll make fizzy juices), and for sweetening we have organic agave nectar and locally sourced organic raw honey (which is sooooo divine it’s a sin–ha!) We are eliminating anything that is not organic or might possibly be GMO, etc. The goal is to detox, eat healthy, and learn to appreciate and pay attention to the food we put in our bodies this month, and hopefully start a habit. A good habit.

Other than that, I’ll be sharing my recipes that I use for the dishes I make. I’ll be taking pictures and sharing them. If you want to go along with me, let’s do this. Think you can? I’m sort of really looking forward to it! Today is Sunday, my prep day, and we are going to start tomorrow morning, Monday, and go until August. This will also leave us dining out for my son’s birthday, so it’ll be interesting how we manage that as well (though the boy can have whatever he wants for his 19th birthday! He wants Dave & Busters–I tell ya, he’ll never grow up!)

I’ll be whining here when I’m craving steak, so bear with me!

Love you all. Happy eating and good health, love, happiness and laughter to you all. Wish me luck!

Love and stuff,

Michy

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PS: Food can be medicine or poison, sustain you or kill. You choose which it’s going to do based on how you eat. Choose wisely.

 

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2 comments to The Vegetarian Challenge

  • Buffy  says:

    It’s an adventure in eating! We can do this!

    • Cristobal  says:

      No! I’ve been a vegan for two years and I have tons of energy. Here are some tips:1. Make sure you don’t eat too many carbs if you’re fleeing hungry. Opt for vegetables or fruits or nuts or something more filling. Or else you’ll find yourself fleeing hungry.2. Know what vegetables are really good for you in terms of vitamins. For example, kale has tons of calcium, so you don’t even need milk. You could also get soy milk with calcium. Things like that are super easy to find using google.3. Get your protein! I don’t know if you cook your own meals but if you do, using recipes with tofu is a good choice. If you don’t want to do that or don’t like the taste of tofu, get some nuts like almonds and snack on them (but not too much!).-Those are my biggest tips but send me a message if you have any other questions! Good luck =)

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