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.

Straight Up Food. Damn Good!

It will be 9 months at the end of July since I changed the way I eat. Along with losing weight, getting healthier and reeducating myself on nutrition, I have found many great recipes and received wonderful information from others who fancy this lifestyle. The difficulty for me came in the kitchen. Thankfully I know my way around a kitchen and cook most every meal for the family. The problem, as I have discussed in the past I initially tried too hard to “McDougalize” all my meals by finding replacements for the meat and dairy, while omitting oil.

I was trying to fit this diet into the bad habits I was trying to break. Using soy products and other replacement or “natural” or “fat free” products wasn’t the answer. Keeping the cooking simple was. As I wrote a few days ago in Food Blogging there is an endless list of recipes available to how I have decided to eat. While I have only touched on a few there are many that I do want to attempt.

The past two nights I have tasted success using Cathy Fisher’s Straight Up Food site, twice to my wife’s satisfaction! Her blog “represents the recipes created and demonstrated at True North Health Center and at the McDougall Program, both in-patient nutrition facilities in Santa Rosa, which advocate better health through a low-fat, plant-based diet” (source). While not the only author/chef I have used recipes from, it’s comforting to see the relationship with Dr. McDougall.

On Friday, after a falafel discussion at work, I decided to give this smashed chickpea sandwich a try. It was a good sandwich, one I am sure I will make again. It had me looking further for more chickpea recipes and I happened upon Tu-no Salad Wraps.Vegan tu-no salad in corn tortillas Looking at the recipe I knew I had all the ingredients on hand, but best of all it was quick and easy and required no oven or even a microwave on a hot, summer night.

Using chickpeas as the basis of this “salad” you add celery, red onion, basil, parsley and avocado. The dressing started with cashews with lemon juice (Thanks to Eileen for fresh Meyer lemons), rice vinegar, mustard and garlic powder. I put the ingredients in my Silver Bullet and whirled it up. Once I had pulsed the chickpeas mixture I slowly added the dressing. I didn’t use it all, but probably could have. It reminded me of tuna salad! It had a wonderful flavor. One of the best recipes I have made since changing to this way of eating. I served this on a bed of romaine lettuce in a freshly pressed corn tortilla.

The best part of this meal, my wife. She was raving about this tu-no salad. I had not seen her talk so highly of a meal since she discovered potato enchiladas! She ate 2 for dinner and had more for lunch the next day. Thankfully I got home from work and was able to lick the bowl clean. I will be making a double batch of this salad, to be used as a dish for pita chips on the 4th of July.

Veggie burger with baked french fries. More easy good vegan cooking.Prior to downloading Cathy’s tu-no salad recipe, I had printed copies of her veggie burgers and salt free ketchup with baked french fries with intentions to make them on Saturday, but was short on ingredients. Yesterday I made sure I bought the missing ingredients and started to cook. The 60 minute boil time on the pearl barley provided me enough time to mix up the kidney bean/rolled oats with spices. During the cook time I cut 5 potatoes into matchstick fries and prepped them on a cooking sheet. I also whipped up a batch of tri-colored couscous salad, which is a staple in my diet.

I combined in the pearl barley with the kidney bean and rolled oats before pulsing half the mixture in the food processor. I didn’t have a yellow onion, so I substituted 1/2 cup of dried, chopped onion, which probably left me a bit short of liquid, so I added some extra water while pulsing. Once the entire mixture was puled I started forming patties (using 1/3 measuring cup). In the end I finished with 7 patties. I baked them for about 8-10 per side and served.

I had used many different burger recipes, including those from the newly released DVD by Jeff Novick, Fast Food: Vol 2. – Burgers & Fries. Yet I found myself eating off all of them. This was the first burger recipe that brought a smile to my wife’s face. Maybe it was the accompanying french fries, but it was a satisfying meal for her. This after struggling for a few months trying to find more recipes that she enjoys to eat. Thanks to Straight Up Food I have two new recipes that will become more frequent at the dinner table.