This Plant-Based Diet Thingy

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At the end of August, 2019, we watched a documentary on YouTube that showed someone going to various places to ask questions about the meat and dairy industry. It was What the Health by Kip Anderson and Keegan Kuhn. It was matter-of-fact and it was eye opening. Growing up, I lived on farm land and I went to school near a sausage processing company. I had no rose-colored glasses about the meat industry. And it didn’t dissuade me from using and eating meat.

However, seeing the facts brought up about not really needing to worry about a lack of protein when it came to the change in diet, seeing that everyone is lacking B-12, even meat eaters, and realizing that people began feeling better once they shifted to more vegetables or to a fully plant-based diet made me want to try it. There are also social factors in this, but those are things that could have happened in any industry. Therefore, I just didn’t see the point in using those as a reason for turning to a plant based diet. Our family’s reasoning was a bit more selfish. 

The hubs – James – had injured his back somehow and for the last 6 months had been going to a physical therapist and had been getting tested to find out what was causing so much pain. His next step was to get an MRI. Both of us were borderline diabetics and overweight. I also have IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome with diverticulum present.) and was struggling with low-level high blood pressure.

I hate taking medication. HATE. And therefore, I wanted to see if this would help me out. Even if I didn’t lose weight, it would be a lifestyle change and if I could accomplish this lifestyle change, perhaps adding in more exercise would take me over the top? The point was, maybe the dietary change could make us feel better, and therefore we would want to exercise more. 

We began cold turkey. If I want to do something, I’m the type to either plan it our meticulously or charge right in. With James by my side and the kids also on the team, we plunged right in. This is not – I repeat – this is NOT what most nutritionists or healthcare officials recommend for any large dietary change. But, this is who we are. First thing we noticed was that it’s a lot cheaper than we expected – unless we wanted processed meat and dairy substitutes. You want those? You’re gonna pay for those.

Now, milk substitutes aren’t very expensive. That’s fine. I’m talking cheeses and processed meat substitutes. Those things cost more $$$ than I like. Luckily, at the time we had it to invest in trying out these new things. I was pleasantly surprised at the transition – the Gardein Products we found – even at local grocery stores – were a decent price and tasted great. Sometimes their prices were comparable to regular meat for dishes we made (and still make). It really depends on where you shop, too.

I found it was more expensive at Whole Foods, Lowes Foods, Harris Teeter, and Publix than at retailers like Walmart, Target, and Food Lion. Also, there are whole meals available, usually in the international sections of grocery stores – Indian cuisine and Asian cuisine can be found there in pouches or in plastic ware bowls – all of which can be made in microwaves.  For a lot people that’s the easiest and most cost effective thing to do. Again, this is all processed food. 

My biggest change in cooking and eating as someone trying a vegetable-based diet has been moving away from overly processed foods and actually planning out and cooking fresh vegetables in creative ways to replace those old meat-filled recipes. When I do this, I say I’m “veganizing” a recipe. I’ve found tricks and tips from online, from books, from classes, and from other chefs who have expanded into the realm of vegan cooking. This is a change. This has been the most positive part of the entire process for me. I realized that I love to cook! 

I do not love washing the dishes… but that’s why I have the kids do those in payment for me handing them a well balanced meal. 

Now that I’m more into vegetable based cooking than ever, I don’t even use the processed meat products much at all. I found that even though I have IBS, beans and lentils are my favorite go-to for protein. For every meal I add in flaxseed or I use quinoa for my “carb portion” to escalate my protein. I take multivitamins daily, making sure they have my B-12 since I now realize that this vitamin is lacking in everyone’s diet, not just mine. But I can literally just cook vegetables in various ways and eat them and be happy as a camper. 

Have I “cheated”? Here’s the thing. I wanted to see how my body would react if I introduced meats and dairy back into the scheme of things. My body HATES a lot of dairy. Some coffee creamer when I don’t have an alternative? Sure. Caseinates? Milk protein? These are the isolated whey proteins used in some foods and are responsible for the warning in your ingredients listing that says, “MAY CONTAIN SOME MILK”. I’ve had some products with this in it. Neither bother me.

A full on 2% milk latte? Yeah, I’m gonna suffer later. So, I prefer to lay off the old dairy rich stuff and keep with the veggie and nut milks and such. Besides, the alternatives have become cheaper than the dairy in many cases. The non-dairy cheeses just have to catch up, is all. And I don’t often use the cheeses anymore. Funny, that was one thing I thought I would never be able to let go of.

I didn’t eat a lot of red meat, pork, or chicken in my diet before I tried this long-running experiment. So I have had absolutely no desire to go backward where those are concerned. Bacon smells great! But I just don’t want it.  I have had sushi! My system can take sushi made with raw fish, shellfish, and regularly cooked fish in limited amounts. So, I suppose this is what people call “pescatarian diet”?

I know some people subscribe to this kind of diet because fish are seen as heart healthy. I’ve not found my health to be helped or hindered by it. I just know that the only times I even have fish or shellfish has been on special occasions. So, maybe 4 times since August of 2019. And I’ve found sushi without meat to be good, too. 

The results? It’s been wild! James no longer has the pain in his back. I no longer have as many aches and pains. The only IBS issue that I’ve had since beginning was one small diverticulitis flare and increased gas if I eat too many potatoes (by the way, potatoes are a starchy carb and therefore are not exactly friendly for your health, so those need to be limited, anyway). The dosage for the meds for blood pressure have been cut in half and I plan on leaving those behind completely as soon as I get into a regular daily exercise plan.

I have to say that I did switch from Sucralose (Splenda) to stevia based sweetener for my coffee. That also might play a role. I am no longer borderline diabetic and neither is the hubs. We’ve both dropped some weight, but nothing to write about. Of course, we need to get up off our asses more for that to happen in a dramatic fashion!  We both have more energy. All-in-all these are positive outcomes. Our decision has been to not only continue this trend, but to open businesses surrounding this trend.

Another good result from trying this diet has been that I know a lot more about nutrition and food than I ever did before. This diet has taken me out of my comfort zone when it comes to experimentation as well. I have become fastidious about my research into my personal health as well as what I am putting into my body. I know what makes salts of various kinds different from one another. I know which oils to use with what foods.

I understand the basics of making my own dressings and being confident when I serve other people. I’m no expert. No. I never will be an expert at what I do. I will always be learning something new, finding a more favorable combination, or seeing someone do things that I hadn’t thought of. I will still make mistakes. I will not chop the onion how you want me to chop it! I will continue to cry my tears! 

Sorry… went a little too far. I felt that ID4 moment hit me and I kept speeding into it. Anyway, the battle in my head was real. And speaking of battles, I’ve actually found myself in the middle of one.

I’ve found myself at odds with both meat-eaters and vegan people. Why? Because, like any niche in society, some people can’t just let others thrive. I’ve had people become immediately defensive when I tell them I’m trying a vegan diet or that I prefer plant-based products and food. They assume I’m about to begin preaching to them about it. No. That is one thing I will never do to another person, is proselytize about anything. I was raised around people that couldn’t open their mouths without preaching something to me. I will not do that to others.

Just because I do not condemn meat-eaters does not mean I hate animals. And just because I do not eat meat like most people in this country, does not mean I’m going to spit on you for eating meat. I also appreciate you asking what I eat before you feed me, or at least let me know if I should bring something to your dinner party if there are limits to the amount of veggies on the menu. That’s just being polite.

But you know what’s NOT polite? Coming at me with a pile of brisket on a plate, knowing I won’t eat it. That’s just as disrespectful as someone trying to tell you what to eat and tell you you’re a horrible person for eating meat. So stop this battle between people who eat meat and people who don’t. It’s dumb. Use common sense and just don’t be an asshole. 

 I did this to better my health. Not because of anything else. I know that there are major issues that concern the environment that go along with the over-use of resources for raising food animals. That livestock creates an enormous amount of greenhouse gases that could be lessened if there was not so much demand for them.

In North Carolina in particular (also where I live) there has been a long standing struggle between livestock farmers and local residents, many of whom are people of color, concerning the waste products of livestock being kept near residential areas. 

The conditions surrounding these types of places can be horrid – not just for the animals but for the people who have to live around the facilities. So, by utilizing more vegetables rather than meat that comes from places like this, the theory is that you are helping with these issues. I’m not sure if that’s the case, but if me changing my diet helps out, so be it. It’s a bonus!

These are the things I can state as fact about my Vegetable-Based Diet Thingy – I changed my diet and my health has gotten much better. In turn, I wound up changing my life for the better. I recommend people try this. I do not think badly of you, should you not try it or should you not stick with it once you’ve tried it. It’s not for everyone.

Even if you just take this advice and some of my recipes and the recipes that are out there to add more vegetable matter and high protein carbs to your diet instead of only sticking to the status quo? That in and of itself could help you halt, put off, or avoid a looming health problem. In my opinion, it was worth the shot.

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