Thursday, February 9, 2012

Lesson Learned

Well hello my pretties! It's been so long, and I suck so hard at keeping up with my blog. Conveniently, I can blame the fact that I now have a part-time writing job blogging, so I can't do EVERYTHING. Nonetheless, here I am, because my job blogging involves real estate, and the things I want to talk about have nothing to do with real estate, unless you count the real estate that is my being.

So much going on regarding my real estate, too! Good things! Exciting things! Things I want to write home about, but the people who live at my home have to hear about it CONSTANTLY, so I'll write to you, instead!

Dear All Three of You Who Read my Blog:

Two months ago, I became a vegan. Wait, where you going? Come back! I promise I won't preach, but I will talk about it, because it's my blog.

I've been a vegetarian for several years now, and was one long ago for several years. But for the most part, throughout my life, I've been an omnivore leaning toward relying heavily on meat for proteins and dairy for flavor. That is, of course, when I was consuming food. There was a long stretch there where I guess you could say I was an airitarian? A non-atarian? A nonivore? I was starving myself to be thin blah blah blah. And I was, and I was super unhealthy. Bad bad bad. Long story short thank you Captain Obvious: Size is not the only indicator of health. Okay. Moving on.

Recently, I discovered that dairy products were causing severe heartburn and acid reflux. Thankfully, mercifully, I didn't have to systematically cut a ton of different things from my diet to figure out what was causing my daily intestinal Apocalypse. I read some stuff, so I started with not consuming dairy, and poof. Heartburn gone. Yay. Then I started reading more, and you know what happens when you read more. That's right. You learn stuff. Ugh, what a drag, learning stuff. It makes you step back and take a long, hard look at the way you do things (AGAIN) and reevaluate whether what you always thought was true all these years is actually true. I started reading this nice lady's blog right here:, and I decided to try a whole foods, plant-based diet for a while to see if could get my weight to budge. Because everything else I tried hadn't worked, so I was game for anything.

Here's where I pause for clarification: There's vegan, and then there's adopting a plant-based diet. I adopted a plant-based diet. Being a vegan means so many things: You don't use any animal products whatsoever. No meat and dairy, natch, but also no honey, casein (a dairy derivative found in many "vegan" products) or wearing wool. It's smacks of politics. People bristle when you say, "I'm a vegan." However, when you say, "I have adopted a plant-based diet," 9 times out of 10, people ask, "What's that?" And then I get to explain everything I'm about to explain here.

And here's the other thing: You can be a really sad, unhealthy vegan. There are plenty of scary, chemically-manipulated foods out there that contain things I couldn't even begin to pronounce...but they're vegan! Here's an example:

Totally vegan. But would you want to eat this....whatever it is? No. The plastic bottle it came in probably has more nutritional value. And if I don't know what it is, I'm not going to eat it.

That's kind of the goal of what I'm doing: Eating basic foods with no label on them. We're talking building meals from raw ingredients here, not opening a box and throwing it into the microwave. Luckily, my friends at Happy Herbivore have created an EPIC, RIDICULOUS array of amazing whole-foods-based recipes. Every single one I tried was delicious and satisfying.

And here's the other thing: I am a volume eater. There, I said it. I love food. I love it so much, I want to eat all of it. I am Mrs. Creosote, and I'll have the lot. Severely restricting my diet does not work for me, not since I stopped starving myself in my 20s. The flood gates opened when I got pregnant with Madeline, and they have not closed since. So I will eat three squares a day and probably a couple of snacks. So I have to work with that. Which brings me to lesson number 1:

I have to work within my limitations. There is no exception to rule number one.

If I'm a volume eater, I need to eat in a way that isn't going to make me feel deprived, or I will fail. Every. Single. Time. I discovered that eating a completely whole-foods, plant-based diet meant that I could eat SO MUCH FOOD YOU GUYS. SO MUCH FOOD. For less calories than I would eating a slice of cheese. As soon as I figured out the portion to calorie ratio, I kid you not, I cried a little. I thought, "Why didn't I figure this out before? WHY!!???? I can eat a massive pile of spinach sauteed in garlic and feel completely full and satisfied for the same amount of calories in, like, one spoonful of mayo." Yeah. Ding ding! Now you're speaking Kandy's language.

"Hold up yo," you're saying, because you're street like that. And also because you're thinking that a low fat option like sauteed spinach and garlic cannot be as satisfying as something like cheese, because cheese has fat in it, and fat makes you feel more satisfied, right? Right?? WRONG! Well, wrong for me. I can't eat a single piece of cheese. I need to eat lots of cheese (see above: Mrs. Creosote), but then I've blown it. I can, however, eat seconds of spinach, and I'm 1) not suffering from RAGING heartburn (remember? Dairy = excruciating stomach acid madness for me), and 2) sleeping soundly in the knowledge that I stuffed myself with spinach instead of bloat-inducing cheese. See the psychology behind this now? Plus, it tastes better. Which brings me to lesson #2:

Vegetables taste better to me than anything else in the world.

My mom's mind is totally blown right now. Seriously, she's probably spinning in her chair with this revelation. Kids don't like vegetables, and I was no different. But I grew out of it, sort of, especially after I became a vegetarian. But I sucked at not eating pizza and white starch and mac and cheese and things that were making me pack on the pounds. And even when I switched to a plant-based diet, I was a little scared of giving up coating and drenching my veggies in dairy products. But then an amazing thing happened: My taste buds woke the f*&% up. I started TASTING things. Like how good Brussels sprouts are with just garlic. How amazing kale tastes in soup. How good asparagus is with just black pepper and splash of soy sauce. I walk through the produce aisle now, and I drool. I drool and then impulse buy things that are purple and red and orange and green and light green and dark green especially dark green. Greens are so good. Mustard greens, collard greens. Spinach, kale. I love it all. Give me yours, if you don't like it. More for me.

So here I am, going along, eating tons of veggies and legumes and beans (protein!!!) and some whole grains (more protein! but just some whole grains, and high quality ones like quinoa; my diet is primarily vegetables)...and a very funny thing happens: I stopped having low-blood sugar crashes. Which leads me to lesson #3:

I am a volume eater, but I'm starting to need less food now, and I don't have a melt-down if I go five hours without something to eat.

People. This is major.

Two months into my plant-based diet, and I've stopped weeping and acting like a giant baby if I go a few hours without eating. The food I eat now is so slow-burning, I'm feeling it for much, MUCH longer than I used to feel that cheese morphing into a flaming brick in my stomach. Granted, if I did what I did yesterday, I start getting touchy: I didn't finish my lunch (feeling a little blue and didn't have much of an appetite), and I took a long yoga class, then ran some errands, and I didn't get to eat until much later than normal. So by then, I'd probably gone a good 8 hours between meals, and the crankiness was starting to settle in. But this is unusual for me, and it's also the beauty of this: I have the option of eating more food, but I find myself satisfied quicker, and I don't have low-blood sugar crashes anymore. Which means less headaches, less crankiness, less grabbing disgusting food items out of desperation. Disgusting, expensive processed food items. Which brings me to lesson #4, the final lesson for today:

A whole foods, plant-based diet is insanely cheap.

WHAAAAAAT? Yep. Sorry to burst your bubble. Junk food is more expensive. You know what else is expensive? Meat. Unless you're out there hunting it yourself (you know who you are!), meat is pricy. And cheap, factory farmed torture meat is gross and evil and please don't put that crap into your body. Raw, plant-based ingredients, however, are as cheap as it gets. Here's the example I use: One of my favorite, easy go-to meals is sweet potatoes, dark red kidney beans and Brussels sprouts (or kale, or spinach, or whatever I have around) sauteed with garlic. Super easy, really healthy, very filling...and it costs about .80 a bowl. A substantial bowl. Make it organic, and you're looking at about $1 a bowl. Get it from my local farmer's market, and it's probably around .50 a bowl. How much is a 99-cent cheeseburger from McDonald's? That's a trick question. It's actually, like, a dollar and some change with tax. And how long will one single McDonald's cheeseburger hold you over? Just the cheeseburger, no fries. Five minutes? An hour, if we're being generous? Okay, let's make it a Quarter-Pounder. Just that, no sides. How long now? Two hours before you're hungry again (probably for another Quarter Pounder). Please, The World and Everyone In It, please stop telling people that eating healthy, whole foods is expensive. It's a big, fat, gross lie to keep you big, fat, and gross. In disgusting, evil CAFOs, they like to keep the herd big, fat and gross. You know why? So they'll be docile and palatable. Do you want to be docile and palatable like a sad, overstuffed, doomed pig kept in a cage not even big enough for it to turn around in? Yeah. Me, neither. I'm not thin, but I'm not a doomed pig either, and some might argue I'm hardly palatable. Which brings me to the Bonus Lesson of the day (sorry, I guess I had one more in me).

Health is not about size. It's about health.

Remember this one? I said it earlier. Oh, this was so hard for me to learn. So, so hard. So hard, in fact, that I have to relearn it every day, sometimes multiple times a day. My size is my size. It just is. My body is my body, and it's the only one I have. It's also strong, extremely flexible these days (thanks, tons of yoga!), and an amazing machine. It is not, however, what anyone would consider thin. It's curvy and zaftig. It just is. It has also been through the ringer. Remember when I was talking before about starving myself throughout my 20s? Heh. True story, being malnourished for many years damages your natural metabolic processes. Shocking! It also turns out that if you spend decades abusing your body and your metabolism, you can expect to clock some serious time, years perhaps, fixing the damage you've done. You've taught it to hang onto every calorie you consume, because your body doesn't know when you're going to plunge it into starvation again. It's called survival, people, and that's the way we're wired for times of famine.

My weight went up when I started my plant-based diet. I was profoundly confused and discouraged. I wanted to quit, to grab a bowl of ice cream and dig in. As most of you witnessed, I struggled HARD with trying to lose weight in 2011. I worked my ass off every day exercising, trying to eat right (and failing because I didn't see results and gave up), and I didn't lose a pound. But I didn't want to give up this time. This time, I wanted it to work, because I was loving how I was feeling on my new, plant-based diet, how my skin cleared up, how my hair started getting shinier and thicker, and I couldn't accept another failure in my life. So I did something drastic: I threw out my scales. Got up one morning, went to stand on them in the bathroom, but instead, I tossed them right into the recycling bin. And I haven't looked back. My body is my body. My weight doesn't matter. It will never matter again.

What does matter is that I am satisfied. I am fulfilled. Fulfilled enough to take a hammer and smash to bits the things in my life that hold me back and make me feel weak. Which is what I'm doing now. Some of you know what that means for my career, and if you don't know, I'll tell you in private, not on this very public blog.

A lot of people say that adopting a plant-based diet is drastic. I say taking pills everyday for the rest of your life or having a massive, expensive surgical procedure to fix issues that can be treated with lifestyle change is drastic. We cannot keep pretending that our health and what we consume is somehow mysteriously, magically not inextricably entwined. That's what got us all into this mess to begin with, pretending what we eat makes no difference. It makes lots of difference. It makes all the difference. If you eat garbage, you become garbage. It's just exactly that simple.

Oh, and I wasn't going to say anything, because it's not the point, but I had to tighten my belt today one notch. One very awesome, completely mind-blowing, but super unimportant and ultimately inconsequential notch.