On the road to health: tough choices

It’s been a little over a week since I’ve begun my adjustment from vegetarian to my new eating habits, which includes giving up eggs, dairy, and processed foods in addition to already having given up meat over a year ago.

Patience is the key in this situation, but it’s been a challenge so far.

First, I’m surprised to report that what I thought would be hard has been easy and what I thought would be easy is much harder than I thought.

What do I mean?

Giving up eggs was, in my mind, a huge sacrifice. But over the past week, not only have I done without them, I have not craved fried eggs or omelettes. What I realized is I was using eggs as a “crutch food” (I made that up) because I’d convinced myself I needed some animal protein in my diet.

However, giving up dairy products has been extremely hard for me, and I’m starting to understand why.

Mouth feel.

When you eat food that turns your brain “on” it has “stuff” in it that let’s your body know it’s higher in calories and is more satisfying to eat.

Butter is an example of a food that creates an experience that you cannot get from olive oil or avocado. (I have not eaten nut butters yet, like cashew butter, but I can see I will be compelled to try them.)

It’s the same for me with cheese. Cheese is calorically dense, and creates a reaction in the brain and body when it’s consumed that increases satiety and is just … satisfying… to eat.

Which leads me to…

I’m freakin’ hungry.

I’m willing to concede that if I’m hungry, it’s my own fault because I could just “eat something else” but what’s happened to me over this past week is strange.

I have to THINK much, much more about whatever it is I want to eat and how I’m going to prepare it and do I have everything I need to prepare what I want, etc.

I’m not saying thinking more about what I’m putting into my body is a bad thing, but I am saying it is taking up mental energy and I will need to get to a place, reasonably soon, where I am not spending this much time thinking about what I’m going to eat and struggling with the available choices.

And I have struggled with my choices.

ThereΒ are two items I had put on my “give up” list that I’m not currently prepared to give up.

Olive Oil

Olive oil is a processed food, and adds a LOT of calories to meals (120 calories for ONE tablespoon, ouch!)

In cooking, you can give up olive oil by using a non-stick pan on a high heat burner, to brown onions and to cook veggies.

BUT, when you add olive oil sparingly, it makes it easier to cook the food more rapidly and to achieve browning, plus it adds mouth feel because it is a fat.

So for right now, I’ve mostly done without it, but in cooking I do use a little. While I am continuing my transition into this new eating lifestyle, I’m going to have it on my list of available ingredients.

Salad Dressing

Same principle as olive oil.

I’m not prepared to use lemon/lime juice, or vinegar by themselves as my salad dressing, along with other herbs and spices. I know I could, but with everything else I’m giving up I just don’t want to give up all salad dressing.

My compromise?

I found a low calorie salad dressing (35 calories per tablespoon) and I measure it out so I don’t over-use.

In case you are wondering it’s: Briannas Special Request “Lively Lemon Tarragon Dressing.” And while “canola oil” is an ingredient, it is number 8 on the list. Without oil, the number one ingredient is water and the number two is honey, so…

But there is an up-side item I have added to my diet that is a great find.

Chia Seeds

When you add Chia seeds to foods they get a great crunch, and while they look similar to poppy seeds, Chia seeds are a superfood. They have TONS of Omega 3’s in them, which make them an extremely healthy addition to salads, and yes, even a bowl of oatmeal.

Results, so far

Results so far have been good!

Sleep patterns are normal. I wake up in the morning, refreshed, without an alarm clock. (Reminder: I do not use caffiene.)

My digestive system loves me. My body is running like clockwork. With all the water I drink, and Vitamin C along with the higher amounts of fiber in my food, everything works properly.

Energy! I have more of it, which I especially notice when I go out for my daily walk, which has turned into a daily walk/jog because I have THAT much excess energy to burn. I’m doing 4-6 miles a day.

And yes, the scale loves me too. I’ve lost a few pounds, and while I’ve been attempting to get to my goal weight for a while now, with my new eating regimen, it’s becoming easier to get rid of the unwanted weight.

That’s it for now, but after only one week in, I think it’s good progress!

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16 Responses

  1. This is fantastic.

  2. I’m drinking more water since you started going all Vegan on us in cyberworld. I’m also looking for cooked vegetables at lunch time, something I never bothered doing before. I don’t eat eggs because they make my throat itch. But I can’t give up dairy and the occasional meat. I can’t do it, ya hear! πŸ™‚

    • For sure Patrick, I give you MAJOR kudos for drinking more water and eating more vegetables at lunch. Believe me, these are great changes you are making, and there’s no “thou shalt” here.

      What I mean is, what you do now is compared to what you were doing.
      – More water vs. less water = great!
      – More vegetables vs. less vegetables = great!

      If you want to eat meat sometimes, it’s fine. Just the fact that you are MINDFUL of what you’re putting in your body is the key.

      At some point you’ll be sitting at a restaurant, and you could eat steak, chicken or fish… and you’ll go with fish because you know it’s healthier. OR, you may decide, you know what… that vegetarian lasagne looks delicious too, I’ll have that.

      But even if you decide to eat filet mignon, it’s also fine. I’m sure you’re not eating it everyday, PLUS now you will “take note” of how it makes you feel to eat meat, before and after.

      Awareness is the key.

      Great job!!

  3. I am also transitioning from vegetarian to vegan! The hardest foods for me to give up are going to be cottage cheese and greek yogurt. I just love both and really are not all that bad for you – so it is hard to justify losing them. That is why I am gradually adding more “vegan” days throughout the week.

    On another note, just because olive oil is higher in calories does not mean it is a bad food. It is rich in good fats that our body needs. If you truly feel like you need to substitute it for something else, try coconut oil. Also, beware of low calorie salad dressings. Oftentimes they are LOADED with artificial sweeteners and salt to make up for the lack of calories. I prefer a slightly higher calories, but all-natural option.

    • Good luck in your transition too Ani!

      After thinking about this vegetarian/vegan “thing” for a bit now, I don’t really want to categorize ANY food as “bad.” It’s all a matter of choices, and each of us has to decide what choices to make and how your body feels when you eat those foods.

      When I say that I don’t mean food allergies. I mean if I used to eat a large meat meal, the next day I would have (what I called) a “meat hangover.” My body would feel sluggish, and my digestive tract was off for days. I feel better now that I am off meat.

      And actually, I did notice a positive difference once I gave up dairy too.

      Yes, I believe mono-unsaturated fats like the kind found in avocado and olive oil are healthier for me than saturated fats, like the kind found in … uh oh, coconut oil, which is 92% saturated fat. (http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/coconut-oil-and-health).

      The choice to continue to use olive oil was one I made after cutting it out in cooking and realizing that, yes… it adds a LOT of calories to meals if I put 2 tablespoons or more into a dish (you could wind up with 250+ calories from just oil!) and so I needed to be very mindful of how much I used.

      So Ani, I agree with you… no one food is “bad.” It’s about the series of choices we make everyday that add up to what constitutes our diet, and how those choices contribute to our increasing health – or not. πŸ™‚

  4. It’s wonderful that you’re making these positive changes in your eating. My husband and I started following a plant-based diet almost two years ago, and the hardest thing for me to give up was dairy for sure! It took time to get used to not having dairy, but I don’t crave it at all anymore. Here’s a recent post I wrote about giving up dairy if you’re interested.
    http://honkifyourevegan.com/2013/10/25/how-to-kick-the-dairy-habit/
    Anyway, I just discovered your blog and am enjoying your writing. I look forward to getting to know you better. Celeste πŸ™‚

    • Thanks Celeste. It’s been a very few weeks since I’ve had any eggs or dairy, and things are going along fine so far. I’m not going to say I haven’t had a craving for some foods (strangely, I’ve had a craving for mayonnaise, a food I rarely ate before…) but I just make some other kind of food(s) and keep going. I’m sure these cravings will subside.

      More to the point, since I’m making these changes as a long term plan, I’m convinced that if I eat a slice of pizza in the future (yes, with real cheese) it’s not going to kill me. I don’t think any food is “bad” – it’s more about consistently eating the foods that will keep me healthiest.

      In the meantime, that has included NOT eating any meat, eggs, dairy products, and as much as possible eliminating processed foods … and no caffeine either.

      Last night a friend of mine who is vegetarian, but who had been a long time vegan, suggested I go gluten free to even further enhance my health. I laughed and told her NO WAY. Pretty soon all I’d be eating is a lettuce leaf a day! LOL

      In any case, thanks for dropping by… it’s all about the journey. πŸ™‚

      • I like your attitude and approach toward your diet transition Carol. You’re so relaxed about it – that’s great!!

        As far as gluten free, it’s all the rage right now, but I ain’t going there either! I did try it for a short time to see if it would help with my seasonal allergies, but I gave up on it quickly. It was just too much.

        It’s funny, but I used to love deep dish Chicago style mushroom and sausage pizza (loaded with cheese, of course!). My husband and I went out and got a pizza like that when we were only eating plant-based Monday through Friday (that’s what we did for the first few months), and I didn’t enjoy it at all. It was so heavy and greasy compared to the foods we’d become used to. What’s more, I felt sick after eating it. That’s only my experience, however; it might be different for you.

        Besides, I make some mean vegan pizzas!! Here’s some easy and delicious recipes if you’re interested:

        http://honkifyourevegan.com/2013/09/19/vegan-ratatouille-pizza/
        http://honkifyourevegan.com/2013/07/15/pesto-kale-artichoke-pizza/

        Have a lovely weekend! Celeste πŸ™‚

        • So, funny story about how your body changes in how it reacts to food.

          I went to a resto and ordered an egg burrito “hold the chorizo.” This was back when I was still eating eggs, but had been off meat for at least 9 months.

          Unfortunately, the resto did not hold the chorizo, and I took ONE BITE and by the time I realized the meat was in there, I had swallowed it. I got very upset, and the manager came over and apologized and I told him it was the first time I’d eaten any pork products in nearly a year due to this mistake. He apologized and comped my meal, and I said, okay, no worries and they re-made the dish without meat, and I ate it.

          When I got home within the hour I got very sick to my stomach and was running in and out of the bathroom for a few hours.

          Even I was shocked at how much bodily distress that one bite caused me – and I didn’t even WANT it.

          So, I also think of what happened when I get strange cravings.

          Like you said, you “think” you want a food, or your body seems to crave it… but I really bet if you ate it, the 10 minutes of “pleasure” you’d get during the consumption will not make up for the many hours of unhappiness your body will put you through afterwards.

          And what I just said is exactly why I don’t bother drinking caffeine anymore either. Sure, I was addicted to diet soda for years, and I was punished every morning by feeling fuzzy headed, groggy and irritable. Now I have none of those effects. I wake up without an alarm clock and get right up.

          So… yeah, our choices do make a difference. When we pay attention to our bodies and treat them well, they take care of us. When we “cheat” the body lets us know right away what it thought of the idea. πŸ™‚

  5. Wow – that’s a lot of distress over one bite of food!!! What a terrible experience!! πŸ™‚

    • Yeah, it was pretty bad. I never went back to that place, although no surprise there.

      Today I had the bright idea to buy some “Veganaise” which is supposed to be vegan mayonnaise, since I’ve been having the worst cravings for mayo and the cravings continue, unabated.

      I can report that I find vegannaise completely and utterly DISGUSTING. I took a little bit and put it on my finger (a privilege I paid $6 bucks for, which was the smallest container available at my local organic market) and immediately knew I’d never use the rest of that garbage.

      Oh well.

      I may have to cheat at some point and actually eat mayonnaise. But for right now, the veganaise was so gross, it actually put me off my craving.

      I put horseradish spread on my sandwich instead, and it was a much better choice.

      My eating adventues continue……………

  6. It’s so funny that you have this craving for mayo. I’ve never been much of a mayo person, but then you said you hadn’t been before either. You probably know these mayo replacers already, but just incase here’s what I put on sammies: hummus, smashed avocado, pesto (I make an oil free version) and/or finely chopped olives.

    Here’s a recipe for a pesto pizza that includes my oil-free walnut pesto recipe. It’s SO good and really good for you!
    http://honkifyourevegan.com/2013/07/15/pesto-kale-artichoke-pizza/

    I also make sammies with garbanzo bean tuna salad. Here’s a recipe: http://honkifyourevegan.com/2013/03/19/sweet-no-tuna-salad/

    Anyway, I’m sure you’re cravings will pass, but even if they don’t a little mayo once in a while won’t kill you!

    You’re doing great girlfriend – keep it up! Celeste πŸ™‚

    • So, after the veganaise “incident” I went to the grocery store and … yes, I bought a tiny jar of mayonnaise.

      Then I dutifully brought it home, and stuck it in my refrigerator without opening it. It’s in there right now, unopened.

      What’s fascinating to me (but only because of this ridiculous craving) is the FIRST ingredient in Hellmann’s Mayonaise is …

      Anybody?

      CANOLA OIL.

      Yep, canola oil.

      And you know what the number one ingredient in Hellmann’s OLIVE OIL Mayonnaise is?

      CANOLA OIL!!

      (Olive Oil is the second ingredient for the “Olive Oil” mayo.)

      I thought, when I read that… oh, Hellmann’s, that is really tricky of you to do that.

      But I didn’t go for any newfangled “olive oil” mayo, I went for the “classic” (canola oil mayo is apparently the classic.)

      Go figure.

      Funny things happen when you look at the list of ingredients.

      But in the meantime – the jar is, as of right now, unopened.

      • I wonder how long that jar will stay unopened? Who knows, maybe just buying the jar and knowing it’s there will be enough to ward off the cravings. By the way, this mayo conversation reminded me that I in an interview I heard Wynonna Judd share that mayonnaise is her favorite food. This stuck out in my brain because it seemed odd to me, especially since I don’t care for the stuff. πŸ™‚

        • Still unopened. For now. πŸ™‚

          But… since I am not eating processed food (including processed vegan food) and I’m not a fan of soy products (GMO, plant estrogens, etc.) I am finding it a challenge to get my daily protein requirements met, which is about 46 grams of protein a day needed for an adult woman.

          So… I am considering re-introducing egg whites into my diet. I say “considering” because I’m about 2.5 weeks into this new eating plan and I’d like to wait until I have more conclusive proof about the protein issue.

          I’ve been logging my daily caloric intake on FitDay to monitor myself, and I see that my carbs are trending high and protein falls either a little, or a lot short depending on which day.

          The jury is still out on the new plan….

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