3 Years Plant Strong

3yearsToday makes it 3 years plant strong after making what some was called “extreme changes” in my life. The decision to take control of my health was unlike any other challenge I had undertaken. At 42 years of age, I was feeling overweight, rundown, sore with aches and pains, constant migraine headaches. Since turning 40 I had undergone two knee surgeries and I wasn’t the same person I was 10 years ago, even 5 years ago before taking that road less traveled on my journey to health.

I have a coworker to thank for getting the ball rolling (read Live to Eat) recommending the documentary, Forks Over Knives. After viewing this documentary I was left stunned. I didn’t know what to think, everything I thought I knew about nutrition (like most Americans) was not what it was. Many of the foods I enjoy under the guise of “health” had been promoted by conglomerates like the beef and dairy industries in order to profit not to maintain health.

FOK moved me, so much so that on the day before Halloween I made the decision to get healthy and stopped consuming foods that were making me sick and fat; meat, dairy and added oils. Many thought I was crazy and didn’t understand the reasons for these changes. In fact, many didn’t really care to listen or show interest in getting healthy. I happened upon Dr. John McDougall and my life changed. It wasn’t easy at first, as I had to learn nutrition all over and forget the inaccuracy I was fed growing up about food groups and what many Americans fail at, moderation.

Removing all meat from this way of eating was an easy decision, but wasn’t done for ethical reasons. This was the first step in a long journey to health. Cooking with added oils was challenging, as the first question I asked myself, “how am I saute my veggies?” Little did I know a small amount of water or vegetable broth works wonders and provides a real food taste instead of oil laden flavor. Dairy was the third part of the equation. As it was I didn’t drink much milk and rarely ate cereal but had never had milk alternatives; soy, almond, hemp or rice. In the end cheese would be the one “food” I missed. I struggled with not eating cheese to the point I would use that fake vegan shit, which was probably more processed and worse for you than dairy cheese.

Through it all I was able to overcome some early challenges. I made a commitment to my health and started recording everything I ate. While I wasn’t counting calories I was tracking food for my benefit, in order to see trends and provide a visual record of where I started and the goal I wanted to achieve. I purchased and read The McDougall Program: 12 Days to Dynamic Health. It was these words that reinforced what I had seen on FOK. The program sounded easy and I saw no reason I couldn’t follow it and be successful.

When I started the program I weighed 219, at times I had tipped the scale above 200 pounds, but at my physical on December 27, 2011 I weighed 216 pounds and had a total cholesterol (TC) of 264 mg/dL, which had continue to rise the previous 3 years. To think it wasn’t my pants and shirts getting smaller, but me getting larger, in part due to the fact of my poor eating habits at work and home. The health problems I faced were being fed by the dairy, meat and oil I continued to include in my diet.

It was a sign of good things to come when I weighed in on the day of my physical over 20 pounds down from where I was when I started less than 30 days ago. At the start of December I weighed in at 190 pounds and my clothes were fitting. The more impressive number I swooned over, the fact I dropped 64 points in my TC! 64 points! I was shocked and amazed that doing nothing but changing the way I ate could make such a powerful statement. It was this real world experience I required that let me know I was doing the “right thing!”

Like man who had just found Jesus, I thought this was my savior. In some regard it was, if I had not made wholesale changes in my life I would continued down that destructive road to deteriorating health. As it was I had turned my health around and I was beginning to reap the rewards and feel the benefits.

Since that day in 2011 I have learned valuable information regarding nutrition. I have connected with many individuals whose health, at one time, was worse off than I was prior to beginning. I have tried many new plant based recipes that I never knew existed, found new and exciting chefs I turn to on a daily basis. People like Julie Marie Christensen who promotes a “protective diet” Chef AJ who cooks “unprocessed” Susan Voisin who’s foods are fat free and vegan and Cathy Fisher “who has straight up good food,” just to name a few. I found I can still sink my teeth into oil free, fat free pizza thanks to Mark Sutton.

Since reaching my target weight of 175 pounds that is where I have remained (+/- 3 pounds). It’s been amazing that it actually gets easier to eat and those foods you thought you would miss, you don’t . I have no problem going to a BBQ without grabbing a slab of meat, burger or dog. No longer do I favor cheese on my pizza. Potatoes have been a godsend and is a cornerstone of this way of eating. Unlike meat, potatoes satiate my hunger. I don’t need to feel guilty eating a few pounds of potatoes a night, unlike choking down that 16 oz. steak I used to desire.

Vegetables and grains now make up my core meals, it’s not all salad, all the time. I would end up being very hungry if it were. My body now thrives on carbohydrates (goes against everything the Paleo crowd promotes) daily. I have learned how to scrutinize labels for ingredients I don’t want to eat. No longer do I (try) eat foods with additives in them. It’s amazing what the FDA approves to be used in food, my body is better for it as I won’t trust the government when it comes to how I eat.

While I would love to say a plant based diet is for everyone, sadly it is not. There are many who will swear how they eat is “healthy” or “clean” and they know how to eat in moderation. That’s great! Enjoy your food and all the best as it relates to your weight and health. While I do promote a plant based lifestyle, it’s not exclusive or better than any other diet, I just know how my body has healed itself and thrived in the past 3 years. The journey has been amazing. I look forward to improving my life as I get older.

Protective Diet



It’s been 2 years and 3 months since my “radical” decision to exclude meat, dairy and added oil in my diet. The results have been nothing short of amazing since that time. Over that time period I have documented the changes, not only in my weight, losing 44 pounds but being able to maintain that healthy weight. Blood tests confirm the plant based diet I fuel my body with has indeed made me healthier since making the decision to change. Is this enough? For many this is a precarious step up a steep slope, one which might see individuals stumble and fall repeatedly.

In previous writings, I have cited “change is difficult” and I was no different when I decided to take control of my health and change how I viewed food and what I chose to eat. At times, changing to a plant-based lifestyle wasn’t easy. With an entire frozen section dedicated to “mock meats” and soy products that seemingly replace meat (regardless of being “free range” of “grass fed”), my health and weight would have continued to struggle. The reality these foods are no better for your health being highly processed, yet “meat free” (Read Fat Vegans).

I still have not used meat, dairy and oil in my cooking since changing to a plant based lifestyle and have no regrets. Nor do I feel I am sacrificing when it comes to my daily eats. But can I do more? Should I do more? The human body is amazing and resilient, why wouldn’t I want to fuel it with good food?

“If you look at any risk factor for cardiovascular disease – the standard risk factors like high cholesterol, diabetes, hypertension, smoking, sedentary lifestyle, aging – all of these have been associated with loss of nitric oxide in the endothelium (the linings of blood vessels), a condition known as endothelial dysfunction” (source).

“It is the typical western diet of processed oils, dairy, and meat which destroys the lifejacket of our blood vessels known as our endothelial cells. This cell layer is a one cell thick lining of all of our blood vessels. Endothelial cells manufacture a magical protective molecule of gas called nitric oxide, which protects our blood vessels. It keeps our blood flowing smoothly, it is the strongest dilator (widener), of our blood vessels, it inhibits the formation of blockages (plaques), and t inhibits inflammation” (source).

Health problems are no longer an issue, I no longer rely on the industrial medical complex or big pharma. At 44 I am the healthiest I have ever been, but there is still work to do, adventures to go on, challenges to face and goals to achieve.

I examine my way of eating and ask, where can I improve without sacrificing? That is where Julie Marie Christensen and Protective Diet come in. I found her web site last year and started reviewing her recipes and what she promoted. “Julie specializes in eliminating obesity and food addictions with her innovative, original, oil, sugar, nut and additive free recipes along with PD-Ed.”

Many recipes I used, prior to finding Julie’s site were chocked full of nuts and sugars (not processed white sugar), neither of which help to promote a healthy diet, especially if your goal was weight loss. Chef AJ, chef, culinary instructor, professional speaker, and author promoted her book, Unprocessed, which told of her journey and provided pages of recipes to “heal the body.” Through her I learned of Chef Ramses Bravo and picked up his “SOS free” book, Bravo! Some time after these discoveries I came across PD. “SOS” stands for sugar, oil and salt free as it relates to how I want to cook all my meals.

One resolution I set forth for 2014 was to use PD-ed, Julie’s weekly live classroom broadcasts along with her recipes to decrease the dependency on sugars and nuts while enhancing my health with further education and information regarding nutrition. While progress is being made, I am still too dependent on ingredients that contain sugar. For example, Blue Diamond Almond Breeze, their nut milks come in a variety of flavors, some sweetened, others not. Since giving up dairy, I will usually buy the vanilla flavored Almond Breeze (since my wife and son love it), the downside it contains ‘evaporated cane sugar’ as the second ingredient and a serving size contains 13g of sugar. By way of comparison the unsweetened vanilla has 0 grams of sugar. I was only fooling myself drinking the vanilla flavored almond milk.

Paying closer attention to labels is only a start, buying products and ingredients that are good for you is a challenge, but can be accomplished. Just take a look at the ingredients Julie promotes. In order to lose dependency on sugars and nuts, we must “reprogram our taste buds by removing all forms of sugar and addictive foods” says Julie Marie. This can be accomplished in a little as 30 days. In the big picture, 30 days is nothing. Much like Dr. McDougall’s “12 Days to Dynamic Health” as his book, The McDougall Program promotes. Change takes time, even in 2 weeks you could potentially see and more importantly feel the changes.

While I haven’t been 100% true (yet) to what Julie promotes, especially when it comes to some of the ingredients I am still in the learning mode. I am always find different ingredients that I don’t want to ingest or should not be in my food. PD gives me excellent array of recipes to choose from along with an excellent support group.

The one problem I foresee is similar to what my wife experiences. While she hasn’t transitioned over to a plant-based way of eating, many of the recipes I make end up either too spicy (using too many spices or combination of) or too bland. She isn’t the only one to comment on this. Many who haven’t reprogrammed their taste buds will have similar opinions. Doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy the dish, but when many expect a dish loaded with fat, sugar and salt sometimes PD compliant recipes come up short.

Give it 30 days. You won’t know if you don’t try. Instead of ingesting those things that make the human body sick; fat, sugar and salt, you have the option to have plant-based foods that are high in flavor and more importantly good for you.

Happy Plantsgiving!

ABC#00841This is my third Thanksgiving being powered by plants and so far, the most fun I have had and dinner hasn’t even been served. I have been planning a menu for the past few week, knowing that if I left it to my mother-in-law and wife, it would be a traditional type dinner, one in which I would pass on most of the food that was prepared. That says nothing about how good the food is, as we have spent many Thanksgiving at the in laws house and she is an amazing cook.

Since changing my way of eating, choosing to be plant powered, I hadn’t looked forward to many of the foods served during Thanksgiving. In the past I got by on stuffing (which probably wasn’t oil free) or mashed potatoes (which weren’t dairy free). Thankfully there was corn, how can you screw that up? Oh that’s right, slather it in butter. This year I wanted my meal to be different and if others who were invited to dinner wanted to sample my offerings, great!

It was great to see plant powered chefs like Chef AJ, Dreena Burton, Julie Marie Christensen and Susan Voisin offering up their suggestions of what to serve. I had a long list of foods, which I know I had to cut down if I wanted to put together a small, yet bountiful meal. I knew what I wanted to eat; lentil loaf, stuffing and either green beans or creamed corn. I nearly changed my main dish to a quinoa and red lentil cutlet, after making this dish on Monday, but felt a lentil loaf had a much deeper flavor and went better with the side dishes I wanted to serve.

I was reading about the different lentil loaf recipes, some with nuts, others with apples and raisins or sweet potatoes. I decided to use Dreena’s No-fu Love Loaf, a loaf I have prepared before and thoroughly enjoy. It goes together fairly quickly after softening up the lentils and bulgur wheat. It’s a heart loaf that is loaded with flavor and even better the next day. Cold!

I am so very happy to have found Protective Diet, run by Julie Marie Christensen. It’s described as “The Oil, Sugar & Nut Free Plant based Plan,” all of which can limit our success when we are trying to get healthy or lose weight. Her Stuff Yourself Stuffing is outstanding. Made without the butter and unnecessary sodium found in many recipes. This is the third time I have made this stuffing and the prior two times I have eaten the entire pan. It’s the combination of spices that make this dish so good.

I had also hoped to use the Green Bean Casserole recipe from Protective Diet, but I failed to register for her PD-ed and missed out on using it. That meant I was back on the Internet looking for other options, which led me back to Susan Voisin and her Vegan Green Bean Casserole. What I didn’t like about the recipe was the use of French’s Fried Onion, even at 3 oz, it’s still unnecessary fat, not to mention processed. Yet, with that one exception I still decided to use this recipe. I did omit the vegan margarine and didn’t use any added sodium. Looking forward to this!

Finally, I needed a dessert. Not a big fan of baking, but I have started to bake more. I was considering some Pumpkin Pie Squares from Cathy Stewart’s Straight Up Food, as these went over very well the first time I made them. I wanted to skip out on pies, since my MIL was going to make a few. I did however stumble across Pumpkin Pie Bites from the Fat Free Vegan Kitchen. I read through the recipe and it looked a bit more involved than I wanted, but a look in the pantry revealed I had all the ingredients. This was the only dish I cooked last night and I thought 45 minutes was a long time in the oven. The crust seemed to be a bit too chewy, but that could have been because it was just out of the oven and was still cooling. Hopefully these had a chance to set up better overnight.

I don’t expect many of the guests we have invited to try my food. It will be out and available to everyone and I know my aunt will partake. She is bringing vegan tamales. Guess she was worried about what I was cooking. LOL! No matter what happens I am going to have a happy plant-strong Thanksgiving, as I have much to be thankful for. Happy Plantsgiving!

Chef AJ’s House Dressing

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup tamari (or low sodium soy sauce)
6 tablespoons lemon (or lime juice)
1 tablespoon maple syrup (or date syrup)

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth.

Serving Size: 32 (1 tablespoon servings)

Nutritional Facts:
Calories: 22.9
Total Fat: 1.1 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 143.6 mg
Potassium: 56.1 mg
Total Carbs: 2.1 g
Protein: 1.6 g

Notes: What a great tasting salad dressing without the fat from oil! It’s quick and simple to make, which is the best news. I haven’t eaten this much salad in months, but thanks to this dressing I might start eating more. The ingredients in parenthesis were not used. Thanks to Chef AJ for another good receipe.

Source: Chef AJ

Gluten Free Challenge

30 Day Gluten Free ChallengeOne of the best parts of changing my diet has been learning a vast amount of information about nutrition. It didn’t take long for me to learn that what I was taught in school was not necessarily correct. Learning the basic food groups and the food pyramid early in life, I didn’t really call anything into question. Times change, so did how we eat over the years. Now I feel I have a much stronger grasp of nutrition, but like with life, I am always learning. Yesterday in Stop the Struggle, Lani Muelrath cites 4 steps to get going with your workout, but these steps I feel also apply to eating. Over the next 30 days I will take on a Gluten Free Challenge.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat (including kamut and spelt), barley, rye, malts and triticale. It is used as a food additive in the form of a flavoring, stabilizing or thickening agent, often as “dextrin” (Wikipedia).” While I don’t have an intolerance to gluten or celiac disease, it has been reported that maintaining a gluten free diet can make you feel better. “Growing awareness of gluten sensitivity has led some people who struggle with gut problems but have tested negative for celiac disease to take matters into their own hands and try a gluten-free diet, even though it’s an extremely difficult diet to follow (CNN).

While it might be challenging, I don’t see this 30 day challenge being difficult. Instead of looking at what I cannot eat, I look at all the other grain options I have; corn, potato, rice, tapioca, amaranth, arrowroot, millet, montina, lupin, quinoa, sorghum (jowar), taro, teff, chia seed, and yam! Fact is, outside of baking my own wheat bread, I am probably close to a gluten free lifestyle now. As Chef AJ told me, “Many items have hidden gluten like soy sauce but you can use raw coconut aminos or miso for a salty flavor.”

I can see many readers shaking there heads and asking “why?” Isn’t it enough that I have given up meat, dairy and all oils, but to toss in gluten now. Some must think I am a glutton for punishment. Truth be told, if I happen to have more energy and feel healthier, why not? It’s only a 30 day period and I see it as another goal on my road to health. Along the way, I hope to learn more about gluten, as it relates to nutrition and cook some new recipes. “In fact, experts now believe that celiac disease represents just one extreme of a broad spectrum of gluten intolerance that includes millions of people… celiac disease affects about 1 percent of the U.S. population, experts estimate that as many as 10 percent have a related and poorly understood condition known as non-celiac gluten intolerance (NCGI), or gluten sensitivity (CNN).”

In the words of Friedrich Nietzsche, the German philosopher: “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” Hopefully I will have “strong” report at the end of this 30 day challenge.