Saturday, February 21, 2009

Just because a food is vegan doesn't mean that it's healthy

Case in point: Everything in the vegan snack section at Whole Foods. What a dream! Vegan blueberry donut holes! Vegan lemon vanilla cookie bites! Are you kidding me? It was my savior last week to satisfy my cravings (for whatever reason, last week I wanted to cheat really, really bad). Somehow I don't feel bad gorging on Soy Dream or a bagel with Tofutti, but honestly, is it really any healthier for me than the dairy version? I wonder how many chemicals and flavorings they need to add in to make it taste like the food that it's imitating? I wonder what the nutrient comparison is?

Moral of the story, reread Amanda's post about "In Defense of Food" and keep in mind that processed food, vegan or not, still packs in empty calories and a lot of chemicals and additives. I think next time I do a detox I'll focus more on "Not eating anything my Grandmother wouldn't recognize as food" rather than just replacing my normal diet with the soy version of it. Being a vegan doesn't mean that you're necessarily healthier. For years I was an unhealthy vegetarian and it's just as easy to be an unhealthy vegan. This week I think I need a vegan junk food detox...

But as my Dad would say, "Everything in moderation". A soy creamsicle every now and then won't undermine the healthy eating habits that I have in place 90% of the time.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

missed opportunity? found perspective

i cant help but feel like ive missed out on a great opportunity this month. i would have loved to participate in february's "no substances" theme. i would have enjoyed doing this alongside people i have nothing but love for. at times, i probably could have used your support. i think simply knowing that other people are going through the same sacrifice, or situation, is an incredible feeling in itself. strength in numbers - a great byproduct of this site and a characteristic that i hope will attract other users.

the problem i had with this months task was that i really needed to take a step back and dedicate some time to committing myself to doing this. and there's a lot going on now!, much to keep track of!, and holy yikes!, like many, i have a few different buckets of what i consider substances (coffee and cigarettes in their own respective bucket, for example)...and it's a bit 'bump-in-the-rug-esque,' no? what i mean is that should you quit the smokes, you turn to another vice, and say, drink more coffee...that kind of a thing. and let's be honest, something like quitting smoking is it's own freakin aint easy.

[congratulations to me for having so many vices...yay! but identifying that alone is a positive in itself, i suppose.]

to some extent, my experience with this month's task was lackluster at best. and that's unfortunate. but that comes from a perspective of completely 'straight-edgin' out. im not sure that goal is attainable at this juncture. and while that is a shame, because a year or two ago, these dependencies were not even in existence, it's where i am, and in a way, those vices have helped define who i am.
timeline-wise? i feel i have a little way to go before i can go through the exercise of de-vicing 100%.

for the month of january, i tried going the 'pescetarian' route, and it worked well...i did it. i missed bacon and pepperoni pizza. what?! i like bacon! so in feb, ate bacon. this month, in efforts to keep many projects on track, and keep focus, i cut back on some vices, while rewarding myself occasionally with other vices (what little chemists we've all become-ill speak more to that in another post). so, did make a conscious effort to cut back on a lot, and i did. so all was not lost.

i think the idea of eliminating everything was a bit much for my brain to handle. on various occasions, after thinking about it for some time, i would think myself into a box each mind would enter into some sort of circular logic, and then short itself out.

lastly, it's necessary to give you guys a lot of credit. we all have incredibly busy schedules and lifestyles. to keep jugglin all your balls and not drop one is tough enough. but when you throw something like this in the mix, it's quite a challenge...and a worthwhile one, at that. way to be determined. props.

i edited some of the content out of this post about my opinions of eating animals and on substances in general. perhaps ill save that for another post later this month. thanks for giving me the opportunity to post to this blog. v

Friday, February 13, 2009

Long Story Short

I feel like I have some catching up to do as the technologically-challenged late comer to the 12 months of lent, so, in a nutshell...

I've come to think of 2008 as the year things fell apart.  It started off slowly, in manageable chunks at first, but as the year went on it seemed to build inertia, delivering an onslaught of shitty situations.  By October I was beginning to think I was making it all up in some sort of delusional personality disorder, fearing my job would think I was lying that I needed yet another day off to attend a wake or funeral.  By the holidays it had finally caught up with me, and I was slightly unraveled, ten pounds thinner and lacking the inspiration to get out of bed most days.  And I wasn't the only one, it seemed that almost everyone I knew could agree that 2008 had been an extraordinarily bad year.  Maybe it was a bad alignment of the stars, or maybe the universe was trying to do us a favor and compile all the bad events of the next few years into one year...I don't know, and I don't care.

When New Year's rolled around, I was shocked when I felt a strange sense of hope emerging.  I realized I had to put my foot down.  The way I saw it, 2009 had nowhere to go but up, even if it continued to throw misfortune my way, I was going to control what I could control, and make the most of that.  So I decided to make a few necessary life changes, like to stop letting selfish boys into my life (my new year's resolution was to kick my douche-bag habit), stop having certain expectations that only lead to disappointment, stop letting myself get overwhelmed and dig myself out of the hole I had fallen into, and finally, to stop talking about going back to school and actually do it.


Back in November when Danne brought up the idea of doing something different every month, I thought it sounded like a great idea, but at the start of 2009, it seemed like a necessity.  Writing everyday in January was probably the best thing I could have done to start off the year.  Did i actually write everyday?  Well, no, but even on the days I didn't write, I found myself reflecting on what I would have written about, and it turned out to be a very reflective month for me, and set a good tone for the year.  Detox February has been a dream so far.  A challenge, but something I'm glad to have done.  Since I'm already vegan i decided to nix caffeine as well, since the first thing I do every morning is turn my kettle on for a cup of tea.  I've never thought I was addicted to caffeine because I've never turned to it to wake myself up, or cure the jitters, I thought I just drank it because I liked it, and yet, I've been suffering mild headaches almost every afternoon, and craving cups of black tea.  Two affects I had not anticipated at all.  Cutting the booze has also been a great experience for me, because it's something I've never done since I started drinking a few years ago.  Like some kind of sign from the universe, at  the end of January a friend from school ended up in a bad situation that made him think about getting help for his drinking problem, and if that wasn't an inspiration to abstain from alcohol for a month, I don't know what else could be.  Like Danne and Amanda have said, when did I start drinking out of habit?  In high school and even my first year of college I was terrified to drink or experiment with any drugs due to my own family's history of substance abuse on both sides.  I started drinking cautiously when I was in college, and am relieved to discover that I have been blessed to have not inherited that tendency, but it is something I keep at the back of my mind always, and this detox has been a good practice for self reflection around this issue.  This month has been a challenge worth taking for sure!

So- January and February have been a huge hit so far...and now I'm looking forward to learning how to crotchet in March!! 

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Yesterday I had to cheat...

Tim and I hadn't gone grocery shopping so I had to find vegan breakfast in Fort Point before work. Usually Flour (my favourite place to eat, ever) has vegan muffins but yesterday I was out of luck. I had to resort to eating at the Metro (for those of you who haven't eaten there, it's basically a glorified convenience store with less than mediocre food). I searched around for anything that didn't contain high fructose corn syrup or dairy and came up empty handed. I had to give in and eat an english muffin with jam, both of which contained high fructose corn syrup and tasted unusually sweet. F.

Other than that though, everything has been going well, really awesome actually. I love being a vegan. I'm losing weight (3lbs so far! haha), eating so healthy, cooking more, and not impulse eating. Not drinking is amazing too. I'm being productive, creative, saving money, and having solid times with friends that I remember the next day. A+.

I'm also beginning my preparations for next month which I'm really pumped about. I've enlisted my friend Cristiam as my rock climbing mentor and I'm doing push ups and hanging from anything I can find.

How's everyone else doing? Any new participants?

This is a doozy

February is great so far. I'm not totally in the mood to reflect on it yet, but I will say that I truly love vegan baking and sober, meaningful, intellectual conversations with friends. And disguises.

I finally finished In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. It's rather fitting that I finished it during February. I have healthier eating habits than many Americans (especially this month), but this book makes me want to improve my diet further. This is what I've learned:

"A food is more than the sum of its nutrients, a diet is more than the sum of its foods, and a food culture is more than the sum of its menus."

Eat local, organic produce. Industrial fertilizers grossly simplify the biochemistry of soil. Chemically simplified soil produces chemically simplified plants. Crops grow faster, absorbing fewer nutrients. Deficiencies in micronutrients can cause damage to DNA which may lead to cancer.

Regarding diabetes: "Apparently it is easier, or at least a lot more profitable, to change a disease of civilization into a lifestyle than it is to change the way that civilization eats."

More leaves, fewer seeds. There is no diversity in our diet. We eat corn, wheat, and soy--seeds high in omega-6's which need to be balanced by leafy vegetables’ omega-3's. Livestock are cheaply fed seeds instead of grass, so industrial meat, eggs, and dairy are high in omega-6's. We consume 1/3 the omega-3's the Japanese do and have 4x the deaths from heart disease. Strong correlations were found between low levels of omega-3's and high rates of depression, suicide, and homicide. Some research implicates omega-3 deficiency in learning disabilities such as ADD. [When buying dairy/eggs, look for the word "pastured." When buying meat, look for "grass finished" or "100% grass fed."]

Rules to follow:
Don't eat anything your great great grandmother wouldn't recognize as food.
Don't eat anything incapable of rotting.
Avoid food products with ingredients that are unfamiliar, unpronounceable, more than 5 in number, or that include high-fructose corn syrup.
Avoid food products that make any sort of health claim.
Eat mostly plants, especially leaves.
Eat like an omnivore. [The more diversity in your diet, the more nutritional bases you cover.]
Eat wild foods when you can. [2 of the most nutritious plants are weeds; wild game has less saturated fat and more omega-3's.]
Have a glass of wine with dinner.
Pay more, eat less.
Eat meals (not snacks), eat at a table, and try not to eat alone.
Consult your gut. [Pay attention to your body so you know when you're full.]
Eat slowly. [Eat less and take longer doing it; savor your food.]
Cook, and if possible plant a garden.

"As the scale increases, diversity declines; and as diversity declines, so does health; as health declines, the dependence on drugs and chemicals necessarily increases." Wendell Berry


There you have it, a condensed version of [the second half of] In Defense of Food. If any of these rules need clarification, or if you have questions, I’m pretty much an expert now, so go ahead and ask. I am devoting the remainder of February, and basically the rest of my life, to these guidelines. I can't wait to start hunting wild game.