It has been two years to the day since I took meat, dairy and added salt, sugar and fat out of my diet. (For the one-year anniversary update, click here) I wanted to be in it for the long haul because I believed it was healthy, but I honestly wasn’t sure how far I would get. Turns out, I’ve had no problem maintaining veganism, or rather, the avoidance of meat and dairy, but I have begun to have a problem staying true to the “whole-foods” part of my lifestyle.
Adapting my lifestyle to a plant-based diet required ingenuity and dedication. Everything had to change and there was little in the way of educational support in the mainstream sources I was used to relying on. It required determination as well; socially speaking, I was nervous moving forward. Would people ostracize me or assume I was part of some commune cult? (Mm, not most people…) Overall, though, my fears were unfounded. This lifestyle, once over the “what-to-eat-hurdle,” has been highly sustainable and straightforward. It is actually a fairly common lifestyle and the numbers of plant-based eaters is climbing so quickly that restaurants and grocers everywhere are beginning to offer acceptable options for this uprising of customers. I run into like-minded people on a regular basis, and if people around me aren’t plant eaters, they’re likely eschewing corn syrup, gluten, or processed foods in general (or all of the aforementioned). People across America are now eating for their health, and not for their taste buds. I’m definitely in good company.
My journey, though, has taken some backslides. I have learned a lot and want to report back to you, my valued reader, what I have learned after two years of whole-foods, plant-based eating. I think I should start by explaining why I have a stomach ache right now.
Today is October 1st; Count Day. The day the government uses the attendance at every school to determine the funding each school will get for the year. That means if Little Timmy is absent, the school will not get paid to facilitate Little Timmy’s education and funds from other students (all in a collective “pot” anyway) will need to be spread thinner to cover the exclusion. It’s so important that most schools will actually beg students to come to school sick just to get the funding they deserve. It’s SO important that schools bribe children. With donuts. (at least ours does) Two of my kids attend a bribery-by-donut charter school and one is home schooled. That means that we had to have our own count day at home so my homeschooler wouldn’t feel left out. That meant…
I had to buy six donuts because we found this new donut shop (Amy’s Donuts) that has rave reviews (well deserved!) and that my son has apparently seen from the overpass every time we have passed it for the last two years and has filed it away to ask me to take him there as soon as an occasion arose. And far be it for me to go to such a creative donut shop and not get some amazing creations to share with the family later!
You can see why I wanted to buy enough to share: I had to try them all! Once home, I picked out the glazed donut with pumpkin pie smeared all over the top and promptly ate it. And now I have a terrible stomach ache. (I have to say, though, it was delicious.)
It’s funny to me that I even CONSIDERED buying donuts for the family when I have been in the throes of overhauling what our diet has become. A couple of weeks ago I finally began to associate my tiredness, headaches and leg cramps with the decline of my nutritional intake. I realized that there was a direct correlation between the processed foods and poor carb choices and these symptoms. I looked at our monthly menu and verified that I had, in fact, began to eat more like a traditional vegan and less like someone trying to cut out added fats, sugars, salts and processed foods altogether. (To clarify; a vegan is typically someone who avoids animal products but does not necessarily pay attention to the overall nutritional value of the foods they do ingest)
Let’s look at my menu for the previous month:
Out of 31 meals (34 slots, but two were blank and one said “leftovers”) the following patterns are present:
Nine meals were planned around regular wheat pasta. Seven included the highly processed vegan “meats” that are abundantly available in stores but still high in fat and sodium. Two revolved around an entire bag of store-bought tortilla chips. I fried hash browns in oil to go with green chili one night. We had fried okra once as well as several rounds of store-bought sweet potato tots, which are fat-heavy so they can be baked crispy.
Here’s what gets me the most, though: ELEVEN of thirty-one included hamburger buns, hot dog buns, flatbread, tortillas, or pizza crust. Those are carbs that I feel are unnecessary to have at that rate, partly because of the meals I ingest for breakfast and lunch. Let’s say there are 90 meals in a month: 30 breakfasts, 30 lunches, and 30 dinners. Every breakfast I eat has morphed from All-Bran cereal with fruit and coconut milk to pancakes or toast. Every lunch I eat has morphed from hummus, veggies, and a salad to a soy sauce-soaked tempeh sandwich on two slices of bread. That means out of 90 meals, 71 include bread items. That’s too high. Carbs are GOOD. But they should more often be in the form of healthy, unprocessed grains and beans. My diet, and my family’s, has turned bread-heavy.
All of those monthly menu statistics are what caused me to realize that the change in how I felt coincided with the change in how raw and veggie-laden my meals were. Taking out the abundance of raw veggies and unprocessed grains had taken away my antioxidants and healthy carb fuels. I don’t like feeling sluggish. I don’t like having headaches. So last week I re-watched the film that started it all: Forks Over Knives. It was a great reminder that processed foods are denser in calories because of how the ingredients are dehydrated, powdered, and concentrated. How our stomachs don’t know we’ve had enough calories because part of our digestive warning system depends on the stomach being stretched until it’s filled, and when you put calorie-dense foods in your stomach until it’s filled, you are far exceeding your body’s caloric needs. This would explain why I had gained 8 pounds over the last two months as my diet had slowly digressed. After watching the movie, I was convinced that I needed to overhaul my diet again. I know what to do this time and don’t have to worry about where to look for recipes! I just have to clear my house out again. This time, instead of clearing out meat and dairy, I have to get rid of the sodas, tortilla chips, crackers, pre-packaged foods, and vegan “meats.” To further prove my point- I have just finished a week of eating whole foods with very few processed carbs and I already lost the 8 pounds I had gained. Pretty amazing.
So take heart, dear reader, and know that the battle for our health is something we all fight with every day. I guess the key is paying enough attention to know when a once-in-a-while indulgence has become a staple. And having self control when passing awesome donut shops.
Tags: anniversary, bread, carbs, donuts, energy, menu, sluggish, tired, two years, weight