It’s been a week now since the final weigh in, and I personally had one more step to cross, just for my piece of mind.  I went to the doctor yesterday for my physical, something that I do yearly, but in this case it had only been three months.  I have been a bit more paranoid about my health since losing both my Mother and Father, and I felt, right or wrong, that I needed a “second opinion” of my health, other than mine.

His first comment was; “How are you feeling?” 

To which I honestly replied; “Great.  Better than I have felt in years.”

“You certainly look good.  Whatever you are doing keep it up.”  He said.

After we went through my blood work and the other sundry items of my physical, I was declared healthy and I went out to my truck to head home.  It got me thinking, I really did feel better than I could remember for a long time.  I don’t spend my morning taking pills for my various ills.  I get going a bit faster right out of bed, and believe me, anyone can tell you, in the past that has definitely NOT been the case.

As I drove home I began to think of the multitude of excuses I had heard over the past three months, from various people about why they couldn’t do this, make this lifestyle change.  Quite frankly I’m sure that more than one or two of them had been spoken by me once upon a time.

Some of my favorites have been:

  • No will power.
  • I’m going to die anyway, sooner or later.
  • I could spend all that time eating healthy and be hit by a bus tomorrow.

My thoughts are, after having gone though this experience;  willpower, while being a great driver to start, will never get you though anything, it’s your conscious decision to follow through that makes things happen, if you decide, truly decide, to change your life, then willpower has little to do with it. 

Yes, we are all going to die sooner or later, but why not make it later?

I certainly cannot control whether I get hit by a bus tomorrow, and if it is my “fate” then so be it.  Having said that, I don’t believe it is my “fate” to die of a heart attack, diabetes, or anything else that I can actively control.  If I can control that aspect of my life, and live longer doing it, why wouldn’t I?

My final advice to you is; when you visit your doctor, and if you are going to change your lifestyle, this is a must, in my opinion, is remember to discuss options other than medication, and do your part before you go on that visit and do the research, it’s your health.

I can say that after this experience, now, every day, I find myself, not looking back, but looking toward the future.

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Roberta suggested that I clean out my closet. Of course there was a very reluctant part of me that didn’t, that couldn’t, get rid of the clothes. What if I gained the weight back? It had happened before, could it happen again? I didn’t realize I still had yet another mental barrier about my size and clinging onto the past because of it. I guess it’s one of those moments when you realize that if you are truly going to change then a bit of faith is required. So I jumped over this barrier and over yet another cliff. The stuff flew from the closet, and the piles rose…and rose…and rose. I hadn’t truly realized how badly I had horded my old clothes. In some ways it turned into a blessing because there were a few items that I had bought when I was losing weight the first time, that were slightly smaller that I had never wore (as I had regained the weight), but this time around a lot of it fit, and in fact a lot of it was too big! I began sorting, and piling, keep, donate, throw away, and what the heck were you thinking when you bought it in the first place! One thing that thrilled me no end, as silly as it sounds; I had a leather jacket that I bought, and fattened right out of, that once again fit. The only sad thing is that if I continue to lose weight (I would like to drop another twenty-five) that it may become too big…but in the vast realm of things maybe that’s not so bad. That weekend, Goodwill got a healthy donation; a clothing load about as big as the food-load the kids hauled off at the beginning of this voyage. And I cleared out another mental block I didn’t even realize I was suffering from.

Last weekend we went shopping. Not for food, although we did wind up doing some of that, but for new clothes. One thing I hadn’t mentioned to this point was the loss of inches around the body. Losing the weight is great, and it’s great for your health, but losing the inches is great for the ego! It took my loving sidekick (and my children to an extent) however, to point out exactly how many inches I had lost. I wasn’t tracking that specifically, and really was semi-ignorant of the fact. I guess the big thing that made me notice, before having it forcefully pointed out, was that I had to add a hole to the belt I was wearing because I could no longer draw it in tight enough. We were walking through the local chain department store, when my wife started to needle me about buying some new pants. Of course I replied that I didn’t need to buy new pants, but she wouldn’t let it go, and I finally conceded (yes there is a pattern there; I can be rather hard headed). So we went over to the men’s clothing department and she reached down, grabbed a pair of pants and said for me to try them on. I thought she was crazy! The pants she threw at me were two sizes smaller than what I had been wearing and a size smaller than what I had wore when I had lost a good deal of weight before. I went, I tried, they fit, I bought, two pair. The size thing still really didn’t sink in, but I had some new pants. Finally, though my wife said one afternoon as I was putting away my laundry; “Hold those pants up.” I looked at her rather dumbly for a moment, and then complied. HOLY @*&#^! I couldn’t believe the difference! I hadn’t stopped to look at how big my pants had gotten, I just pulled them up and cinched up my belt and wore them anyway. It was very obvious, that she was right and that a change was in order. That weekend we proceeded to the local department store and began working our way through the clothing racks. In truth both of us were amazed at some of clothing we could fit into. So we bought and went home. That was just the beginning.

Well, officially as of last Wednesday, May 20, the study group was done.  Roberta and I went in for our final weigh in and measurements.  By the scale in the gym, I officially lost thirty three pounds in the course of this little adventure.  It turns out that I gained well over what I lost, not in pounds but in knowledge.

When I started I had serious doubts that I would (a) stick with it and (b) would stay with it when it was all over.  Now, I’m not so sure.  I realize I have a ways to go, to be where I want to be in both my life and my health, and that this journey, while coming to an end in some ways, has begun in others.

The first night we started this diet, this lifestyle change, we went out for pizza, a treat for ourselves before we started and it was going to be our treat when this projected ended.  I was surprised at what happened next.

We did our final weight in, like I said on Wednesday, we went in for our final blood work on Friday, and made plans to go out to our favorite pizza place that evening.  I went home that morning, after fasting since the night before, because of the blood work, and had my usual breakfast shake.  Lunch time rolled around and I had an organic peanut butter and berry jelly sandwich for lunch, on whole wheat bread.

I went to work, not much thinking of dinner, another nice side effect of a high fiber diet, is that the munchies, don’t tend to sneak up on you in the afternoons anymore. As dinner time rolled around, my desire for pizza began to drop, and frankly I was confused, and truly at this writing I still am a bit.

It wasn’t that I had worked so hard to lose the weight; really this is probably the easiest I have EVER lost this kind of weight, short of being physically sick.  I just couldn’t convince myself that I really wanted to inject the things I had learned that I didn’t really need to survive, and quite literally didn’t miss any more, back into my diet.

The more I thought about it the thought of going out for a greasy pizza, just did no longer appeal to me…and believe me I love me some pizza!

Fortunately my loving and ever resourceful wife had just been in Las Vegas shopping, there are some things you just cannot find in the Arizona Desert, and had brought back a vegetarian substitute for pepperoni and Italian sausage.

I called my wife as she was headed home from work, and told her the bad news, that I didn’t want to go out for pizza.  She was more upset, I believe that she thought she was going to have to cook, more than the going for pizza.  I readily agreed, that she didn’t have to cook, that I would take care of dinner.

I put together a whole wheat pizza crust; some of my home made marinara sauce, the pseudo Italian sausage, pepperoni and a vegetarian cheese substitute and placed it in the oven.  In about twenty minutes I had the best pizza that I had ever had in my life, and didn’t feel one iota guilty about eating all of it either!

That’s the one thing that I have been unable to convince people, when you are eating right, you can eat your fill, and don’t have to worry about how much and portion control.  Believe it or not, if you put the right things in your body, it knows what it needs and when to stop.

 

A recent discovery made me think about what has transpired over the last few months. It hasn’t been all about the weight loss, as I’m sure you’ve learned by now, but also other changes, some that crop up when you least expect it.

Case in point; last Friday Roberta and I had gone to the local market. We divide up our shopping by what we need verses who has the best price, as well as who has the better products, which makes for a few hours of grocery shopping a week, but usually it proves to be well worth it in the end. Anyway we were at the market where we typically buy our produce, now mind you it’s not like I’m not in that store every week, as I was saying; we were shopping for produce when I noticed a smell that actually made me hungry; it was the smell of peaches.

This smell hit me like a ton of bricks, it’s not like I haven’t ever smelled a peach, but this was different, almost I would have to say more, aromatic. It made me think not only how much more sensitive my sense of smell has become, but my sense of taste as well.

Recently, our middle child, Laura was married. We had a large festivity afterwards as is customary; a year ago when we made these plans the choices for dinner was chicken and prime rib, with nary a vegan plate in sight. As the time for the reception approached, and my lovely wife and I jumped onto this particular trek, it became necessary to find ourselves an alternative. I will say that the venue was very accommodating, and they produced a vegan plate for the Misses and me. This vegan plate consisted of a nice mix of vegetables, carrots, green beans, spaghetti squash, and for the main course, something grilled. We were assured that it was Vegan, and I, incorrectly assumed it was tofu, but I was game and took a hearty bite. Actually it was quite good, and turned out to be a grilled Portobello mushroom.

I HATE mushrooms, or so I thought.

In the brain, both yours and mine, the brain partners the senses of smell as well as the information gathered from the sensors on your tongue, and the result is what you taste. An acquired taste is defined as “an appreciation of a food…that is unlikely to be enjoyed by a person who has not had substantial exposure to it…” Of course the only exposure I had to mushrooms was previously on a pizza. I didn’t like the look, and I certainly didn’t like the taste. By the same definition as noted “acquiring a taste involves consuming a food…in the hope of learning to enjoy it…” I hadn’t been exposed to Portobello mushrooms before; I certainly hadn’t been eating them to “acquire” a taste for them either, yet here I was eating and more importantly, enjoying what I was eating.

So what changed?

I suspect the way that I have learned to perceive food. When we were younger, for the most part we figured if it was “good” for you, it likely tasted “bad”. Personally, I think how we view food and consequently how we consume it is purely a training exercise of your mind. You have to unlearn the habits you have, and relearn what you need to be healthier. So next time you say to yourself, or someone else, “I don’t like that”, think to yourself, is that true, or is that a reflex?

Open your mind to new possibilities; you never know what you might learn about what you really like.

A friend of mine was recently diagnosed with diabetes.  He also has taken an interest in my little Vegan voyage that I’m on.  One thing he told me was that his doctor told him to switch to olive oil.  Now, as I am sure you know by now, if you have my entries up to this point, the group we are with has excluded oils from our diet.

One thing he said was that he felt like he couldn’t get along without oil.

First, it is amazing what you can get along without when you have to, but what about giving something up when you don’t?  Also, it got me to thinking that is getting rid of all oil really best for you, and what about the “health benefits” touted about using olive oil?

So once again, off to do research!

The olive oil issue is about as convoluted as anything that the so called experts can make it.  For instance; eggs.  A few years ago, eggs were bad for you, and then they weren’t.  It makes one wonder what drives this dietary flip-flop.

Now the big thing that brought the olive oil to everyone’s attention is the “Mediterranean diet”. 

In the mid-1990’s Dr. Walter Willett presented the diet as follows; the diet, in addition to physical activity, is abundant in plant foods, fresh fruit, olive oil, dairy products primarily consisting of cheese and yogurt, fish and poultry (consumed in low to moderate amounts), zero to four eggs (weekly), low to moderate amounts of red wine, with red meat eaten in low amounts. 

The traditional Mediterranean diet runs as much as 40% of calories coming from fat.  Despite this, it was reported that there is a low incidence of heart disease and higher life expectancy rates.  This has been attributed to olive oil being a monosaturated fatty acid without the same cholesterol raising effect that saturated fats have. 

My question of course is how much of this benefit is from the oil and how much is from the large quantity of nuts, fruits and vegetables?  The research that I have been through is about as clear as flying through cloud on a foggy night, and arguments can be found on both sides of the “for the good for you/bad for you” coin.  Consistently, however, the doctors and nutritionists that I read suggested that when choosing between fat sources, that olive oil is a healthier choice but that most doctors advocate lowering your fat intake calories period, and that you would get the most benefit by using olive oil as a substitute for saturated fats, rather than adding it on top of your current diet.

So where does that leave us.  Well, let me point out some nutritional facts for you:

The Food and Drug Administration suggests a serving of TWO tablespoons per day.  The calories from ONE tablespoon of olive oil are one hundred and twenty.  The calories from fat in one tablespoon of olive oil are 100 percent.  The total fat from one tablespoon of olive oil is 15 grams which is 20% of your recommended daily value for a 2000 calorie diet.  Now granted there is NO cholesterol in that tablespoon, and no sodium.

But is NO fat good for you either?  Some argue that a diet that is too low in fat may lower you good cholesterol (HDL) and cause damage to your arteries.  Arguments against this can be shown in rural China where the typical diet is heavy with complex carbohydrates (rice and green veggies), while being very light in meat with usually no dairy products.     

My best advice is this; where you need to use an oil, extra virgin olive oil is your best choice.  Extra virgin, is as close to the actual plant, with less processing, than the other grades, and you are more likely to get what benefit you can from this type of olive oil.  Where ever you don’t need oil, by all means, don’t use it.  In fact we have found that in the course of our cooking, that you really don’t need to use it at all.  I think you will find your health a lot better in the long run.

In the beginning of this little project I mentioned that we cleaned out our refrigerator, pantry and freezers and went shopping.  What I didn’t mention was the initial investment in the new lifestyle.  Granted you don’t necessarily have to invest in everything we did (and are still doing) to get the benefit from this diet, but of your doing the cooking, etcetera, it sure makes it a lot easier!

Anyway, like I said before, we cleaned out, I think all we had left in the house was a few spices and salad.  Shopping was an adventure, and the first weekend it cost us around $300 to replace what we had given to the kids, with something we could actually eat within the parameter of the diet. 

The next investment came on Saturday, when we went shopping for new appliances.  One thing that was on the need list was a coffee grinder for flax seed.  Flax seeds contain high levels of lignans and Omega -3 fatty acids, without the eggs.  It also works as a great egg substitute in most recipes.  Unfortunately flax seed meal (flax seed ground up) does not store well and will usually become rancid rather quickly, whereas the seeds themselves have a long shelf life, therefore a coffee grinder is a must, to grind the meal fresh.

The other thing that my wife had actually been pestering me for was a juicer, now she had been after one for a while, and the diet gave her a bit more justification for getting one.  So while we were shopping we decided a food processor would be a good investment, and boy was it!  So we went home, unpacked the new goodies and started looking at recipes to make so we could EAT.  Once we researched a few online places we discovered that while most recipes available online were devoid of animal products, almost all, with very, very few exceptions had OIL. 

Debating on how to proceed, we wound up back at the grocery store, three more times that weekend, picking up this and that. 

The first official weekend of the diet wound up costing us around $800, and I was feeling pretty disillusioned.  I made the commitment, and I decided I would see the ninety days through regardless.

We began cooking, and, I think, getting rather clever about how to cook without the oils and the processed (canned mostly) stuff.

As the diet has progress, I began to notice that the waste we had produced using conventional cooking means had tapered way off.  Where I had been taking out the trash, daily during the course of the week (more if we had company for dinner), I began taking out the trash every two or three days.  No longer producing empty boxes and cans had dropped the amount of waste cooking produced.  Also as I stated last week, t-paper consumption dropped off drastically too.

Our food bill began to drop as well.  Where we were inclined to buy canned or boxed items on sale, and store them, figuring that we would use it sooner or later.  Buying fresh eliminated that, and surprisingly we hadn’t realized that this “bad habit” had been jacking up our food bill by $50-$75 a week. 

It wasn’t that we wouldn’t use those products eventually, but weekly something was always on “sale”.  Where we thought we were being smart shoppers we were in all actually spending money weekly that we didn’t need to.  So while the initial investment seemed high, in the long run, the waste of money took a rather sharp drop, not to mention the added benefit of what we aren’t producing for the landfill.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We all do it, no one talks about it, it’s a basic human function, heck it’s a basic function of any living organism, the elimination of waste products from the system. Now how you refer to it may be as simple as a “poo-poo” or a “doo-doo” (depending on your age and up bringing) or as complex as “taking the Browns to the Super Bowl”. Regardless of how you feel about it-
…it still happens.
Anyway there is a reason for bring up this subject; fiber and your diet.
Fiber, specifically dietary fiber (or roughage/ruffage) is a substance in fruits and vegatables (and some other foods) that are difficult for your system to digest and therefore help the passage of food through the system, in other words, fiber makes it easier for you to “drop the kids off at the pool”.
Believe it or not, this particular item has been of a huge benefit to me. Since my late teens I have had infrequent problems both in the stomach and restroom. I have been on TONS of different medications, some which worked for a while, some not so well.
A few years ago I got food poisoning, a rather severe case as a matter of fact, I went to several doctors and finally wound up with a medical procedure that I REALLY didn’t enjoy (in fact my wife still claims that I said certain things in the recovery room, that I have no recollection of), the upshot of which was that there was likely damage to the hairs that line the intestines and keep things functioning, moving, normally, and that it would take two to five years before I would heal, in the meantime I was pretty well regulated to medication and not taking long trips without a bunch of “rest stops” along the way.
Along comes this diet, which as you will recall I was reluctant to take the challenge, and after a few weeks I begin to notice a change in my “habit”. Minor at first, but as the diet has progressed, my problem as dissipated, a coincidence? Possibly. I don’t think so. I think that if the “specialist” I had seen, suggested this to me then, I might have spent the last few years a bit happier.
Sadly, most of us adults on the standard American diet, only consume between twelve and eighteen grams of fiber a day, when the recommended twenty to thirty-five grams, is generally ignored.
Research has shown that intake of fiber through foods like fresh fruit, berries, vegetables, whole grains, seeds and nuts, are known to reduce risks on diseases such as diabetes, high blood cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, and gastrointestinal inflictions. Evidence also exists that show fiber also helps in the absorption of calcium into the body’s system.
So my question is, why doesn’t anyone make a bigger statement about this? Come on, live longer, and reduce the chances of some major worldwide diseases, and in some research, even cancer. Are we so hung up on fast food that we can’t see the forest for the trees? I don’t know the answer, but I can tell you this, I am going to do my best to make sure that people start to listen and learn, and hopefully live a bit longer too.
In my own case, while I may not always be the King in my castle, I’m glad I no longer have to spend so much time on “The Throne”. And that my friends is something to sing about!

When you start the Vegan Trek, sooner or later it’s bound to happen. You see someone you haven’t seen in a while, either at the grocery store or the mall, or wherever, and then comes the question;

“Wow you look great, what are you doing?”

Usually you will respond with some pride; “I’m on a diet and I’ve lost (X number) pounds.”

“Really? What kind of diet?” They will ask, either with genuine or feigned interest.

“Vegan,” you say with a smile.

Then you get the look, and sooner or later you WILL get it.

The look like a third eye appeared in your forehead or antenna just sprang from the top of your head. A look that says; “So you are one of THEM.”

Why?

Well I think it has a lot to do with the way Vegan’s are portrayed in the media. They are usually seen as a hippie –a VW driving-tye dyed shirt wearin’-tree huggin’-PETA lovin’ weirdo. Which if you ARE any of those, there’s nothing wrong with that either. It seems, however that Vegan’s are seen as being on the left side of someone who saw an UFO or a redneck who had their trailer torn up by a tornado. Never do I think you will find that they are portrayed as someone who just wants to live a bit longer and enjoy being here.

Even popular comedians give you the impression that they would rather die young or leave behind a body that was well used as oppose to suffering with not being able to eat cake or beef jerky.

The funny thing to me is that I have in my time eaten; squirrel, rattlesnake, quail, deer, elk, and assorted other creatures, so why is it so difficult for us as a group to go from being a meat eater to a veggie eater? Everyone acts as though I am giving up all these great things, and after reading some of those labels I’ve come to the conclusion that some of those things aren’t all that great. I think that we are taught what we like and dislike, and I think that I have been fortunate that I was raised trying such “exotic” items as I listed above. Has it been an easy transition? In simple terms NO, and I do still crave some of those things that I have given up, but I can say that I am remarkably surprised at some of the things I have been able to come up with as substitutes for those things I do miss. If you had told me two months ago that I would be happily putting rice milk on my morning cereal I would have likely gave you the same look as noted above.

In our lives we have to put up with a lot of prejudices and misconceptions, but I guess that my best advice to you, should you decide to travel this road, is don’t give up and don’t give in to those people who would mark you as a “weirdo” and remember the goal here is a longer and happier life, and no one ever got truly happy from eating a piece of cake.

I usually wait a few days before I write down my thoughts on a certain subject, but this one I had to start while the pain and nausea were still fresh in my head.   Now let me say before I get very far into this little experience, EXERCISE IS IMPORTANT, and I certainly wouldn’t recommend bypassing this factor when you start a new lifestyle, because when you are losing weight you can lose muscle mass, and that’s not a good thing.  Granted it’s easier to whine and b*tch, but that doesn’t make it any less true.  If you’re going to diet, get off you’re a** and exercise too! I will now climb down off my soapbox and continue…

First of all I’m no wuss, or at least I don’t think I am.  I played high school football back when you had a “hell week” that if you weren’t “tossing your cookies” by the first twenty minutes of practice, the coach didn’t figure he was pushing you hard enough.  Typically, by the end of a three (or so) hour, 100 degree, practice (twice a day), most of the team was hanging onto the chain link fence for dear life as they puked up everything but their cleats.  Those practices went from 8 Am to 11Pm, and then you were back at 6Pm and running until 10Pm.  The first week WAS hell and after that you figured everything else was down hill.

I realize that high school is now 25 years in the past (though sometimes it doesn’t seem like it), and most days I don’t feel like the 40+ year old person that I am, but that’s one of God or Mother Nature’s (depending on who you’d like to blame) nastier tricks, and by the way, you are likely not as YOUNG as you feel either!

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, Roberta and I had been walking a mile three to five nights a week, and in the past week I started walking a mile and a quarter (with the dog) in the afternoons, so I went in feeling pretty confident that I could handle what was to come.  WRONG!

Anyway, I wandered into the health club for my first session with a trainer, after beginning this nifty little voyage, feeling reasonably sure I could hold my own against a girl that is minimally more than half my size (and probably smaller still).  Now don’t get me wrong, she is a great person, but after the first ten minutes I was thinking “hell week” all over again, and that was just the “warm up”!

If you think getting rid of all that “great” food you had was tough, wait until someone hands you an exercise program (and despite the sore muscles and upset stomach, I highly recommend that if you choose this path, you get a professional to do just that).

So she began to put me through my paces (such as they were), and I began to discover muscles that had been laying dormant for way too long.    I’m not looking to get a super-man physique or look like the Hulk (sans green skin), but I would like to me able to hold my own in a good breeze without just my body weight holding me down.

We moved from machine to machine, exercise to exercise, with her watching to make sure I didn’t (a) pass out or (b) throw up.  With a little nudging and guidance, I managed to get through the first session.  After an hour and a half, I was sore, a bit lightheaded, sick to my stomach, but you know, I’m pretty sure in the end, I will be a much better person for it, in more ways than one.

Today (Sunday) I completed my third session, and I felt much better doing it.  Surprisingly energy is finally coming back to me, and I spent a few hours working on our mountain bikes, with the intention of getting them back out of mothballs and doing a bit of pedaling around the neighborhood to vary our at home exercising.  It’s amazing to me how much more motivated I feel and how much more exhausted (but in a good way). 

I realize I have a long road ahead of me, but each milestone passed makes the journey seem less of a hindrance and more of a great happenstance.