Thursday, January 5, 2012

So what do you eat?

Yesterday one of our patients at work offered to bring in meatball subs at lunch time for the nurses (we obviously have amazing patients!).  I politely declined explaining that I don’t eat meat.  “Well how about a delicious five-cheese sandwich?” … “I don’t eat cheese either, or any dairy”.  The look on their face said it all, but then the question came… “So what do you eat?”  They were completely dumbfounded.  And they weren’t the only one asking this question recently.

I thought I’d address the “V” word tonight.

I’ve discovered “vegan” has a certain connotation that comes with it, and it’s not a good one.  People tend to think that vegans are crazy, animal loving extremists.  And while I might be an animal lover and a little crazy at times, my reasons for eating a plant-based diet are not crazy or extreme.

Let’s go back to where it all began.  Last September while browsing Netflix I came across a documentary called “Forks Over Knives” (which I will refer to as FOK from now on).  Previously I had tried watching “Food, Inc.” but 30 minutes in I became fearful that I might stop eating meat if I continued to watch it, so I stopped.  Ignorance is bliss, right?  (And I LOVED my bacon!)  The description of FOK was somewhat benign:

“Focusing on the research of two food scientists, this earnest documentary reveals that despite broad advances in medical technology, the popularity of modern processed foods has lead to epidemic rates of obesity, diabetes and other diseases.”

At the time I was looking for a little motivation to eat “healthier” and lose some weight, so I gave it a try.  My mind was BLOWN!  Maybe it’s that I see and treat patients with chronic diseases everyday, or the fact that my aunt was dying of stage-four malignant melanoma at the time, but I was ready to make a HUGE change.

That night I gave up meat.  I was determined to become more educated about nutrition and the enormous roll it plays in our health.  You would think that after going to nursing school that one would already realize this, but it’s just the sad reality with medical education in Western medicine.  It is not emphasized at all.

I was about to get on my soapbox, but I’ll step back down and spare you my rant on our healthcare system.  Please feel free to discover it for yourself.  If you’re curious about nutrition’s influence on your health, check out FOK on Netflix streaming.  FOK website:

So what do I eat (or what should I eat)?

-Whole grains
-Nuts and Seeds
-Water and tea

What do I avoid (mostly)?

            -meat (always)
            -fish (apparently people don’t consider this meat?)
            -eggs (occasionally I’ll partake, but rarely and in small quantities)
            -all dairy products (I’ll eat if it’s baked in bread or cakes, etc)
            -pop (except when drinking whisky)

What do I still need to work on with my nutrition?

            -eating less sugar and processed food
            -eating less non-whole (is that a word?) grains
            -getting up and making a better, more nutritious breakfast (I am not a morning-person)

I am not a perfect vegan, nor will I ever be.  I’ve realized that I just can’t avoid EVERY animal product out there.  It’s too stressful trying to find bread that doesn’t have milk or eggs in it, and too expensive for that matter.  Sometimes it’s just not worth the battle or hassle over the small, not-so-significant things.  I just remember that as long as I am mostly sticking to the above plan, I am doing great!

What improvements have I noticed?

First and foremost I have had ONE, just one, migraine since September.  This is a really big deal for me.  I would usually get 3 or 4 bad migraines a month, meaning I would be in bed as soon as I got home from work.  Not fun for me, and not fun for my husband who would be left to take care of me.

Along with migraines I would get a lot of muscle pain and body aches especially in my shoulders and back.  These are gone.

My “stomach” problems have greatly improved.  Okay, I’m going to reveal to the world that I formerly had IBS, go ahead and Google it if you must.  I have not had any “stomach attacks” since going vegan.  I did mention in a previous post about having severe abdominal pain for two nights.  I think this was related to the cheese and greasiness of the pizza I had as well as my sluggish gallbladder.  Since that weekend in December I have avoided cheese and avoided abdominal pain.

I have lost around 10 pounds.  The weight comes off, and it comes off easily.  I have been really bad about exercising, but I’m still losing weight without feeling like I’m even trying (go ahead and hate me).  It is SO freeing not counting calories, grams of fat, points, whatever, and just being able to eat.  I’m not starving by any means, in fact, I feel satisfied most of the day without huge hunger swings.  I had been up and down with my weight since going to college, and it’s crazy what a difference 10 pounds does for your self-image.  I didn’t go vegan for the weight loss, it was just a nice side effect.

I have more energy.  I don’t feel sluggish in the afternoon or at night and I feel like I can accomplish more after coming home from work.  I just have a better mood and outlook overall.

Don’t get me wrong, going vegetarian/vegan is a big adjustment, and a big learning process.  I feel like I had to re-learn how to approach cooking, and meal-planning has become way more important.  But the benefits have been completely worth the effort and sacrifice for me.

A lot of people ask about my husband.  He is not vegan or vegetarian, but he has greatly increased his vegetable intake over the past few months!  He eats whatever I cook for dinner (always vegetarian) but will eat meat if we go out.  I am so proud of my formerly salad-hating hubby.  I think the route he has taken is a lot more manageable for most.  I don’t expect most of my friends and family to jump on the vegan-wagon with me, I just hope they can start making small changes for better health!

I have to mention and thank my brother, a long-time vegetarian/vegan.  He has been a great source of support, information and inspiration for me these past months.  He also helped “break-in” my parents so it wasn’t a shock to them at all.  Thanks, Dan, much love to you!

So now you know my “mostly-vegan” back-story.  I am quite the novice still, but learning more and more everyday.  There are so many resources and books out there, a wealth of information that I’m pining to get my hands on.  I’ll keep all of you posted, sharing more recipes and tricks as I come across them and discover more about this lifestyle.  Wishing you all health and wellness in this New Year!

(To your health!)

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