It's A Wrap

    October is over and done.  The vegan challenge is over and done.  So far I’m still eating vegan.  I’m not sure why, I’m not sure what I’m doing going forward…I’m feeling very unsure.

    I had a plan in place and felt really good about it, 2 vegetarian meals a week and 2 non-vegan sweets a week.  This new plan was motivated by both my health (the vegan part) and my desires for cheese and milk chocolate (the non-vegan part).  I had planned to keep that up until I felt some reason to not keep it up.  I guess that’s still what I’m going to do, but a bunch of doubt has entered my mind as to what I should eat if I am eating for “health” and nothing else.

    There are lots of different opinions about diet, health and nutrition out there, many of them backed up by research.  I’m beginning to wonder if a strict vegan diet is truly the most healthy diet you can eat or if allowing some small bit of animal stuff into the diet from time to time might be beneficial.  Jamie is convinced that a vegan diet is the best and healthiest way to eat and I thought I was convinced as well, but I’m just not sure anymore.  I plan to read more and try to come to my own conclusion, but in the meantime I feel my bets are hedged.  If vegan is the way to be, I’m mainly eating vegan and the downside to a couple of meals a week that are non-vegan shouldn’t be a big deal.  And if it really is beneficial to get some calories from animal products, I’m doing that as well.

    I question why I don’t feel any different or better after eating vegan for 33 1/2 days and why I don’t feel supercharged by “plant power” the way that so many vegans describe their state of being.  I really don’t feel any better physically.  I have more gas and I visit the number two toilet more often; that is the extent of how I feel different.

    Psychologically I feel 100% better.  My mind is still consumed with food, but in a good way.  I’m eager to try new, chocked-full-of-nutrient recipes and I spend a lot more time cooking.  I think about what I eat to make sure that I’m eating nutrient-dense food, whereas in the past I was mainly concerned with not gaining weight.  I still wear leather, use glue and otherwise participate in animal stuff, but I’m not eating animals and that feels really good.  I feel lighter and more at peace with my food choices.

    My cholesterol has always been on the high side from the first time I had it tested at 17 until the last time it was tested a few years ago.  My HDL levels have always been great and my LDL levels are low, so it hasn’t been a big concern, but I plan to have my cholesterol checked in about a month and I’m hoping to find that it has gone down considerably.

    So I guess that’s it.  It’s a wrap as they say in show biz.  The challenge was so much fun and sparked lots of good conversation with many different people.  The challenge also brought about a real change in my perception of food and how and why I eat.  Hopefully the change will stick with me…

    Now I just need to find a new challenge.  Does anyone have any good ideas?


    Day 26 of Vegfest

    The month is close to over and with that the vegan challenge.  I’m still having a great time experimenting with vegan cuisine, but I’m a little glad that the month is drawing to a close.  Cheese and I have a date and we’ve missed each other a lot and can’t wait to hang out.  Hopefully my gut will agree.  I’m planning a little pizza party for sometime next week.

    All of that said, I do plan to keep up with the vegan thing for the most part.  I think it’s good for me and for the planet and for all my animal friends.  I like the way I eat better when I eat this way.  I like how I feel on my insides better when I eat this way; I experience far less food guilt.  Food guilt is something that I’m normally steeped in.  I can’t say that it’s all gone, food guilt and I are almost as good of friends as cheese and I, but the food guilt is much dissipated.  I think no matter how I eat, I will always feel like I’m not doing a good enough job.

    On the poundage front, I’ve now lost 7 pounds.  The weight loss is so easy and natural and that feels good.  I think in time, maybe lots of time, I will return to a weight that I am comfortable with and feel good about.  I feel relaxed and very low-key about my weight.  I think it’s because I realize that eating this way it’s hard to gain weight and much easier to lose weight and so if I just sit back and hang out, my weight will take care of itself.

    I have noticed a general slacking with other things that I do in my life that I feel are important and have a positive impact.  I’ve been a reusable bag fiend for several years and I’ve accepted several plastic and paper bags during this month because I haven’t  had enough bags with me.  In the past I would shove the extras in the shopping cart, then the car, then bring a bag out to the car when I got home to put the extras in.  I’ve found myself throwing small pieces of paper away instead of walking to the kitchen and recycling them, and feeling less guilt about plastic containers that contain pre-made vegan goodies than I would had they been regular baked goods.   It’s as if I can only be so “good” and the vegan thing requires more of my “goodness” than my other way of eating.

    I’ve been meaning to post lots of other vegan stuff this month, but it’s been a really busy month and I haven’t devoted as much time to writing as I would have liked.  I guess all of those other posts will just have to wait for next month.  See you after Halloween!

    Veg Party!

    Okay, not really, but today is day 19 of the 30 day vegan challenge and I’m proud to report that both Jamie and I are still going strong.  My stomach issues haven’t abated, which I find frustrating, and those cheesy, cheese thoughts are still creeping in, but I’m feeling good.  I’ve lost 6 pounds and still feel psychologically lighter than I did before.  I haven’t noticed any other physical changes beyond the weight loss and the constant hunger and bloated cycle I seem to spin through, but once again the challenge is still proving challenging and fun.

    The grocery store and I have become really good friends.  I seem to visit it three or four times a week, and even with that frequency I always feel like I’m missing something.  I think a big part of this is learning how much and what to buy when I’m at the store and the other part is it takes some time to stock up a vegan kitchen.

    When the month is over Jamie and I plan to do a comparison of what our family spends on average per week to eat vegan versus what we spend on our regular diet to feed ourselves.  I feel pretty certain that we are spending more now and I also feel that if we were on a tight budget, we could eat vegan for way less than we are spending now.  It will be curious to look at the numbers and see what they have to say.

    So far the best thing I’ve eaten this month wasn’t good for me, but it was good and that is Mama Peas Dough Balls.  They remind me a lot of the peanut butter cookies that have a Hersey’s Kiss in the middle.  I’ve tried a mushroom (I still don’t like them, but I’m going to try them at least 10 more times before I really make up my mind.  I’m growing.), eaten lots of brown rice, black beans, tomatoes, hummus, pita bread, granola bars, english muffins, Triscuits and fruit and veggie smoothies.  That list seems much better than my old list and the only similarity is the granola bars.  The worst thing I’ve eaten was the mushroom, but like I said I haven’t given up on them.

    If nothing else these last few weeks have gotten me out of my comfort zone and into trying different things than I would normally eat.  For someone like me who would be happy to eat the same thing each day for weeks on end this is a big step in the right direction.

    If you would like to check out my other vegan posts, follow the links below!

    I’m Going Vegan

    It’s All Vegan In Here

    Day 12 Of The Veg


    Day 12 Of The Veg!

    Here’s how I’m feeling on day 12…For the most part, all is well.  I have begun to mourn the loss of certain foods, like cheese, but for the most part it hasn’t been a big deal.

    Eating out is much less fun than before and a much bigger hassle than eating at home.  My tummy is still experiencing some adjusting pains due to the new diet, but I’m hoping that it all settles down in there in the next few days.

    I can’t say that I feel more energetic or less or any happier or less happy or anything like that.  I do feel like I’m eating much healthier and that pleases me and I’m happy that my current eating doesn’t involve any animals, but that’s about it.  The almost euphoria of the new that I felt at day 5 has faded, but I’m still enjoying the experiment.

    I’ve lost 3 pounds, which is nice, but I’m also hungry a lot of the time.  I find it difficult to be full.  Either I eat and I’m hungry shortly afterward or I eat and then I feel really bloated and gross.  Once again, I’m hoping these issues work themselves out in the near future.  I also wonder if maybe “full” feels different eating this way than it did when I ate lots of cheese and other such things?

    Sometimes I can’t wait for the experiment to be over so I can have pizza or cheese bread or some other cheese thing and other times I think I might extend the experiment another month or two to really give it a fair shake.  It is an interesting thing to try and now that I’m doing it I’m surprised that I’ve never tried it before.  It’s not as hard as I thought it would be in terms of sticking to it and the unforeseen benefit of not feeling consumed by food is very nice.  Stay tuned for the next update…

    PS:  If you missed the other posts about this topic and you’d like to catch up, visit this link and this link to get all of the details.

    It's All Vegan In Here

    Welcome to day five of my and Jamie’s vegan challenge!  So far, so good.

    I’ve known a lot of vegans and vegetarians over the years and for a long time I’ve had some moral qualms about my eating meat, but never once until just a few weeks ago had I considered giving up all animal products for any length of time.  Everything that I love in food life has something to do with an animal product.  After reading Eating Animals (an amazing book) about a month ago, the idea to at least give an animal free diet a try was born.

    I have no expectations for this challenge other than wanting to complete it.  I am curious to see if I lose weight, if I feel “better” either psychologically or physically, if I discover anything new about myself, and what I think and feel like after the month is up.  So far the process has been much more transformative than I would have imagined.  It seems stepping outside of myself food-wise is uncharted territory and it’s sort of re-framing some part of how I see the world…like maybe food isn’t everything or food can be something, but it doesn’t have to be everything.  I’m having trouble articulating the idea and it might be old news to the rest of you, but it’s new news to me and I’m interested to see if the idea develops and resonates into the future.

    So far there have been no earth-shatteringly great meals and a lot of trying to figure out what to eat, but I haven’t felt deprived and I haven’t found myself craving anything.  As of now, it seems possible to eat this way long-term, but it’s only day 5.  I’m enjoying the challenge more and having fewer issues than I thought, but I’m aware that these feelings may change at anytime and tomorrow a chips-n-cheese or cheeseburger dragon might erupt from my being.  But for now, all is well on the vegan front.

    I'm Going Vegan

    Don’t get too excited everyone. It’s not happening right this minute and it’s not happening forever, but I’ve decided to try a 30 vegan challenge. Eating vegan seems hard to me on many levels, but I love a good challenge, so why not?

    It’s the next step in my trying to eat better for myself, the planet, and the animals raised for food. I’ve decided to take the month of October and give it a try. There are no summer BBQs to worry about, no State Fair, Thanksgiving or Christmas. It seems like a good time to dive in and see what the water is like.

    I plan to blog about the experience during October and include recipes that have worked for me and the family. Jamie’s decided to jump on the vegan bandwagon with me so that I won’t be lonely. Even if you have no interest in eating vegan long-term, why not give it a try for a month? Join Jamie and I on the vegan bandwagon! Doing things together usually makes them more fun…

    I’m using the remaining two weeks of September to gather recipes and psych myself up.  If you have any good vegan recipes, please pass them on.  I know I’m going to need all the help I can get!

    Mill Valley Kitchen

    The latest in a long line of new restaurants to hit the Minneapolis dining scene is Mill Valley Kitchen on the corner of Excelsior and France Avenue in St. Louis Park.  They’ve been open just over a month and I’ve tried the place out twice.  It’s a very nice restaurant and there are three things that I really appreciate about the place:  they list the calories and nutritional breakdown of their menu items including designations for vegan and gluten-free, they use local/sustainable ingredients in most of their food, and contrary to most restaurants, when you look around the room everyone seems to have nutritious, “real” food on their plates.

    This is not a place for people who like large portions and the feeling of getting good value for their money.  I think you do get very good value for your buck here, but it’s more in the way of eating nutrient dense food that tastes good in the right sized portion than in the traditional there is a crap-load of food on my plate and it only cost me $9.95.

    They have a kid menu and I was impressed with the food they serve the kiddies.  The mac and cheese was homemade and yummy.  The chicken fingers were real, moist pieces of chicken breast, panko-breaded and baked.  The real test is the kids and they both chowed down.  Kid’s meals are served with edamame and fruit; what’s not to love.

    Prices are reasonable with most menu items around $10 and most entrees between $15-$20.  This is a place where you can enjoy your meal and feel good about enjoying your meal.  Both times I left pleasantly full, enjoyed my food, and didn’t feel guilty about indulging with either portion size or food selection.

    Speaking of indulging, dessert is another nice twist, with desserts served in a shot glass.  Perfect for an individual and at $2.50, not a big ding on the pocket book.  I found service both times to be warm, knowledgeable, attentive, and not over-bearing.

    My only complaint about this place isn’t really fair, but it’s my complaint so I’m going to lodge it.  The place is just too perfect.  Everything is pretty and safe and nice and all of the people are the same way; it’s missing an edge.  It feels very suburban, which isn’t inherently bad, but it’s not a place I could fall in love with.  So, I’m very much in like with the Mill Valley Kitchen and I’ll be back, but until things aren’t so pretty and perfect I won’t be able to give it my heart.

    Smaller Than A Large Vegetarian

    Welcome to installment 2 of my Let’s-Eat-Better-Plan. Installment 1 was the first step, admitting the problem.  With step 2 I want to start work on the solution.  I’ve been thinking about how I want to eat and how I want to feed my family, and I feel a general philosophy beginning to form.  I’ve read a few books on vegetarian and vegan lifestyles and about the respective nutrition of both.  I’ve read many books about general nutrition, animal welfare, farming, and the well-being of this planet we all share.  My reading has left me to conclude that in a perfect world I would be vegan.  Alas, this is not a perfect world and it’s not a choice I’m willing to make.

    Vegetarianism would be a much easier switch to make and maintain, but if I’m honest with myself, it’s not a change that I’m willing to make either, at least not at this point.  For me the main focus of this new eating philosophy will be limiting dairy and eggs, and severely limiting meat.  My secondary focus will be to rid our house of over-processed food, reduce the amount of refined grain and sugar that we consume, and increase the variety of whole grains, veggies, fruit and beans.  No one food or food group will be off limits, but I want most of what enters our house to be whole food with its nutrients intact.

    Finally, I don’t want anyone of us becoming so consumed with eating “right” that we lose sight of the big picture.  We can still have cake, candy, cheeseburgers, pizza and stuff like that now and then.  It’s more about reforming the everyday than limiting the once in a while.  Judging by the lot of us, I don’t foresee this being a problem, but sometimes funny things happen.

    That’s the gist of what I’m thinking, now it’s time to put the plan into action.  Stay tuned for the next installment…



    Larger Than A Banana-Shaped Candy

    I distinctly remember my grade school lunches.  Mom would give me money to buy hot lunch, I would pocket the money, and choose cash over food.  In middle school I switched to a private school and along with the regular hot lunch, they also served an àla carte style lunch.  What started as a pretzel and string cheese a day, quickly morphed into a 2 or 3 pretzel a day lunch, where I brought my own money to supplement the money my mom gave me.

    Turns out it wasn’t the cash I wanted so much as the ability to eat what I wanted.  Once the opportunity to eat something I really liked arrived and I didn’t have a mom around to monitor my actions, I jumped on it and quickly did so to excess.

    Mazie is a child much like I was.  She will forgo a meal without a second thought if she deems it not to her liking, and she will eat like a large adult male if there is something that she loves up for grabs.

    I’d really like to keep her from trekking down my same food path as I don’t think it’s a very good one, but figuring out how to transform her into a person that likes lots of stuff and knows how to stop eating when she’s full, seems a daunting task.

    My latest plan involves candy.  I know, I know, it doesn’t sound good, but so far it’s working and the trade-off seems worth it.  I have high hopes that in a year or two she might genuinely like more foods and if not, well at least she’ll have better nutrition in the meantime.

    I think a lot of the battle with kids like Mazie who are really picky, but don’t have a true food aversion, is getting them to eat stuff that they don’t like more than once.  It’s been shown that if a person eats a food they don’t like, many times after eating that food 10-15 times they will either develop a taste for it or at least find it okay.  Since I can’t open Mazie’s mouth and shove the food in, and simple tactics that might work with less picky children don’t work with her, I’m sticking with the candy.

    She got a bottle of assorted fruit-shaped candy for her birthday.  Each piece of candy is small and the candy is reserved only for ’earning for eating’.  When a meal is served I tell her how many bites of something (usually 3 or 4) she doesn’t like she needs to eat to earn a piece of candy.  Once she earns a piece of candy she gets it right then and there.  There is no candy offered for foods that I know she doesn’t have a problem eating.

    A couple of nights ago she had a child-sized portion of salad and ate it all.  The salad wasn’t just some lettuce thrown into a bowl; it was chock-full of nutritious stuff.  This type of thing has never happened before.  The best we’ve done up to this point is getting her to eat a bite or two of something she doesn’t like.  Now she is eating 10-20 decent sized bites of stuff she wouldn’t have touched before.

    It’s made dinner fun instead of something she dreads, and watching her eat things willingly, without complaint, is a magical thing for me.  You can call me a bad mother and I won’t even mind.  I’ll be watching my six-year-old eat salad.

    Smaller Than A Grass-Fed Cow

    I’ve thought a lot about what I put in my mouth over the last 20 years, but all of that thinking hasn’t resulted in much change.  I’ve read a few books over the years that have altered certain aspects of my eating, but I still eat the same basic diet that I’ve been eating since I was a kid.

    I’m picky, don’t care much for fruit and veggies, and have a general love of dairy and white flour.  Add to that my near sugar addiction that started when I was pregnant with Mazie, and the result is an unhealthy diet.

    I’m also overweight.  Not scary, life threatening overweight, more the annoying 10-20 pounds overweight that is a constant monkey on my back.  Part of my I’m forty now and I’m ready to take charge of my life plan is to get a handle on what I put in my mouth both for the sake of my health and waist line, and also for the sake of everyone else.  The better I eat, the better off the planet is.  Be the change you want to see in the world and all of that.

    I have certain things going for me.  I like water and exercise.  I’ve read a crap-load of books on nutrition and food, and I know what I should be doing.  I am fortunate to have access to local farms and farmer’s markets, co-ops and neighborhood grocery stores, and the means to pay for the true cost of food when it is sold without subsidy and grown in a responsible manner.

    I’m starting a journey and making it public so that I have more incentive to stick it out.  I want to change how and what I eat and why I eat and I don’t want my primary motivation to be those 10-20 pounds.  Instead I want to focus on how I should be eating and hope that the excess weight leaves in it’s own good time.  So, here goes…