What to Expect When You’re Expecting…to Transition Between Vegan and Non-Vegan

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There’s me, folks, wearing my amazing sunhat and posing with my husband in Florida traffic. This is pre-sun, and also hours before the topic at hand: our vacation from the Buffalo winter that was also a vacation from our vegan lifestyle. The reasons? 1) We were traveling with a friendly carnivore, 2) We are still foodies, so we wanted to sample foods from the area, and 3) Since we’re not entirely ethical vegans or even 100% vegan, the lifestyle change was partially an experiment (mostly for Jonmark), not easy, and admittedly not always super fun given our many passions for food. So, we tried it a week away.

It began with Aunt Donna’s dinner: sausage and vegetable soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, great comforts after traveling through snow and wind to North Carolina. Normally, my body revolts against sausage of any kind, the mere smell or subtle taste on the tongue sending me into a blurry state of headache and salivation as my mouth reacts with tingling pain to the oral memory of nitrates. But this soup…mmm. And then I was suddenly a little kid treated to her favorite sandwich, legs swinging as I cheerfully and heartily partook in copious amounts of cheese for the first time in about 8 weeks. The apple pie with goat’s milk cheddar…that was when I knew we were past the point of no return as that first bite snapped, crunched, and slid down the tofuhole (piehole is too literal).

I was even dedicated at Subway the next day in one more attempt at salvation, but to no avail. Monday I horked down lox with toasts, capers, onions, sour cream (!), and the cherry on top of my fishy metaphorical sundae: hard-boiled eggs. Eggs may be a more recent love of mine, but damned if it’s not hard to give them up. I ate them with delight, in addition to some kettle corn during the girls’ night showing of Dirty Dancing later that evening. Ignoring the cheese and fish that normally comprise our diet, my other indulgences included a bacon cheeseburger from Sonic, a chicken enchilada at an authentic Mexican place we checked out, an ice cream sundae at Baskin Robbins, a few small sausages and meat pastries at a fun Middle Eastern restaurant in West Palm, quiches and berry crisp at Aunt Donna’s (oh her house!), and a mixed cold cut (aka turkey) sub from Subway today. And of course, various aeolis, dipping sauces, milk chocolates, and processed foods along the way. That’s a long list right here, kids.

I can speak for both my husband and I when I say that the transition back to meat-eating wreaked havoc on our bodies. I am absolutely certain when I say that the combination of putrid odors, gummed-up bowels, and organ-pressing gases that we experienced are enough to deter me from ever returning to a fully carnivorous diet again. Ever.

I wrote some of these words to you from Sandra, my best friend’s Elantra, as we made our return journey from Florida. My husband had recently released from the depths of himself a smell so repulsive that, as he locked the windows and cranked the heat, the fog cooked and morphed into an almost liquid state of human excrement that hung dense in the air and clung desperately to our nasal mucus. If you can imagine the smell of Frito corn chips and the swampy, rotting carcasses of former road kill, that is the best estimation I can make.

And now that we’re back to “normal”? Hungry and mildly craving a meaty sandwich, but feeling better, more regular, and less sluggish. So folks, from two people who experienced it firsthand, this is what to expect when you’re expecting to transition between between vegan and non-vegan.

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My New Kitchen Addition

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My new 3 qt. casserole dish from Le Creuset was not only a coincidental find, but a great steal! We happened by a billboard for the Le Creuset outlet on the way home in South Carolina, and boy am I glad we stopped. Outlet prices are not only cheaper, but their sales make the stock even more worthwhile if you’re on a budget but love expensive cookware. We got this beautiful ombré-style dish for $50 in Cerise to match our kitchen. It’s lightweight enough to easily pull out of the oven, but its construction will last longer than our lifetime. I can’t wait to make some vegan mac n’ cheez or a nice veggie casserole in it!

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Surprisingly Delicious Lunch

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Wheat bread, vegan Boca “chicken” patty, fresh spinach, cucumber slices, peanut butter, hot sauce, and vegan mayonnaise. Awesome vegan sandwich!

Food Fears

Food has been on my mind more than usual lately. Dieting inevitably places food on your mind in a number of ways: should I be eating this? How many calories? How much fat? How much salt? Did I get enough fiber today? Enough protein? Am I going to go over my calorie count for the day? I must lose some weight and eat less. I musn’t have more than a piece of that chocolate from the box. I should really exercise today to burn off some of these calories. I am really craving some junk food. I love Ben & Jerry’s. I love cheese. I love pasta. Oh, how I miss pasta terribly…

There he is, all healthy and studly 🙂

And then, probably the most unexpected and earth-shattering news to come to me throughout my life, came: my father had a massive heart attack. For those of you who know my father, he is the epitome of good health and fitness. Even at the age of 51, he is more active than most young adults my own age, including myself. My father moves in almost all my memories of him. A former karate instructor, my father and I donned our white gis every Saturday, and he supervised as I threw forceful punches and roundhouse kicks at the large mirror in our dojo. I used to sit in our freezing cold unfinished basement as a young girl and watch my father lift weights as rock blared in the background, the clatter of weights and the deep grunts from my father’s straining chest punctuating the blast from the stereo. My father hunts every year, and I even joined him on a turkey exploit myself when I was in second grade. In fact, he helped another man younger than himself get out of the woods safely when he was gasping and panting, overworked and overtired; he may have, in fact, helped to save that man’s life. And each spring my father gets out on the boat or down to the water’s edge to fly fish, sometimes putting on his incredibly heavy rubber waders and venturing into sub-50 degree water. I wish I hadn’t missed our special father-daughter outing to North country this past spring.

So, to hear that this strong, smart man had suffered a blow like this one was nothing short of dumbfounding. Not shocking is how quickly he is recovering; this man truly is strong. But, it’s weird and scary to think that one of the culprits here could be none other than our friend: food. Our family does not exactly have the best genetic profile for heart health, and this ugly truth has indeed reared its head even in the face of overall physical health. Prone to high cholesterol and high blood pressure, what’s next? My father will have to drastically change his diet, and it has become clear that, someday, I probably will, too.

We may have cut out high fructose corn syrup, but that may be part of the reason for such high sodium levels in our foods

To conclude: my father will spend the next few months on a journey of steady and strong recovery, but will inevitably be bored out of his mind in spite of the rehab and therapy he will have to conquer. But none of us want to let him make this journey alone. So, for a while at least, I will be posting my own health status as daily-ly as I can (I’m still a busy girl) and attempting to confront head-on the challenges of low fat, cholesterol, and sodium diets. For ease of access, I will include images of my “full nutrition report” from www.sparkpeople.com and my exercise for the day.

My daily report!

It is clear to Jonmark and I that we can no longer eat our sandwiches the way we have been. Next week, I’ll be making lunch meat myself, just like my mother often did for us as children! This will cut back on a lot of sodium intake. And those pepperoncinis I love so much for their spice and flavor? Sorry, little no-calorie additions! You’ve officially lost my interest in such large quantities. Also, I’m not sure why my cottage cheese has so much frickin’ salt in it, but ew. Cholesterol and fat today seem to be good – but maybe for tomorrow I will research the limitations of someone who is on a heart-friendly diet and try to remain within those instead.

I burned 212 calories doing my “Hips, Buns, and Thighs” Hip Hop Abs workout. I also did a LOT of heavy cleaning (moving boxes of Christmas stuff up and down the stairs; washing, hauling, and hanging laundry; sweeping and vacuuming) so I combined it into what I estimate was a total of 30 minutes of this “heavy cleaning” (though it took over 2 hours to accomplish) and logged that into my report for a total of another 159 calories burned. Either way, I rounded out my workout by completing some sun salutations for a nice stretch 🙂 I wonder if we can get my dad to do some yoga!!

Carrying some extra pounds while contemplating an omnivorous diet at the zoo with Michael Pollan 🙂

This picture of me from May is comparable to how I was feeling about a month ago, before my diet had really gotten into full swing. Now, I’m feeling great! And much healthier; it just doesn’t make sense to carry around your baggage, whether it be stress, regret, guilt, or even some extra weight.