It all started after I watched the documentary What The Health about how big business and the corruption in government affects the health care industry and the safety of the food we eat. Basically, it’s a film promoting a plant-based vegan diet. Since I have high cholesterol (I’m taking a statin medication to help control it), and I have acid reflux (I’m taking 2 medications daily to help with that), I decided to use my body as a lab for at least 40 days and to give this plant based diet a try. As a certified meat lover, this would be a big change for me! I knew I had my annual check up (and blood work) scheduled in exactly 40 days, so my goal was to see if this new diet would change my medical stats from what they were last year. I also wanted to see if I felt better or worse and if I noticed any other changes.
I knew I was going to need to add in beans, nuts, lentils, and lots of veggies to get the necessary nutrients I would need since I would be deleting meat, fish, chicken, and dairy from my diet. I came up with 3 different breakfast ideas; a smoothie combined with almond butter toast, granola with almond milk plus a large fruit plate, coconut yogurt or chia seed pudding plus a side of fruit and nuts. Breakfast was yummy and good, and I was on my way.
Lunch proved more difficult. I was used to eating out and ordering a salad plus a piece of fish or chicken. Finding a salad with beans, lentils, nuts, and assorted veggies, is harder than you would imagine. I could get avocado toast, but then I needed a side of some lentils or beans or tofu…. hmmm. I was beginning to see that unless I cooked at home or went to a “vegan” restaurant, it was like hunting for pirate’s treasure to come upon a completely nutritious meal. Luckily in Santa Monica, vegan restaurants abound, so I began trying all sorts of places. I even had a “tempeh” bacon, lettuce, tomato, and avocado sandwich. (Tempeh is soy beans mixed with rice.) As I sat in these new spots, I looked around and said, “These are my people. I’m vegan. Oh yeah, bay-bee! Kumbayah”
Dinner was the hardest meal to work with in restaurants. Certain cuisines proved impossible. At my favorite Mexican haunt, I found that the beans and rice were both cooked with lard. It turned out that I could only have iceberg lettuce (no real nutrients), salsa, guacamole, and chips. This was far from a balanced diet. Japanese food was tough too. I could have some cooked veggies and a veggie roll, but even miso soup was out (fish broth). French food….nope. BBQ? haha. Steakhouse? Forget about it. Italian? Not unless I deluded myself into thinking pasta with tomatoes and basil, plus a green salad with more tomatoes were going to fill in the nutrition gaps.
After a week, I was feeling “lighter” and had lost a pound. We were invited to a dinner party and I realized that I was now the guest no one wants to have over to their home. My sweet girlfriend took care to prepare items that I could actually eat. What a doll. I knew it was definitely a sacrifice.
I was invited to another friend’s birthday party. It was catered. The food looked divine. Unfortunately, there were very few items that I could actually eat. I ended up have a few sliced tomatoes and a tiny cup of soup as my dinner. No surprise, another pound down.
Around this time (week 3) I started to carry vegan power bars and nuts around with me in my purse. I found that I needed to have mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks because I was STARVING much of the time. My stomach had shrunken and I couldn’t eat very much at the 3 main meals. I still had energy and felt relatively good, however, I had lost some of the joy of eating. My cravings for bread, sugar, and animal proteins had completely disappeared. Meal time became more of an “eat to live” rather than a “live to eat” philosophy.
Week 4, I was on vacation in the Bahamas for the whole week. I was on our yacht, with friends. We were fortunate to have a personal chef. It became a running joke, though, as each meal was placed on the table and the chef announced what everyone else was going to have…”Tonight you will be dining on lobster in a tomato beurre blanc sauce accompanied by a truffle oil pasta.”…..”Robin will be having a turnip steak and cauliflower.” Ugh…. My friends began to feel sorry for me. I began to get grumpier and grumpier with each meal. I had canned 3-bean salad, grilled tofu, vegan sausages (what are those???), hummus, and more hummus. I began to count down the days…. 36, 37, 38, 39….
On day 39, I went to have a facial. My facialist has known me for thirty years, She said my skin has never looked worse. Her actual words were that “You have lost your glow.” She said I was severely dehydrated. Ugh.
On day 40, I dragged my new skinny dehydrated butt to the doctor and had my blood drawn. That night I ate line caught branzino. The following evening, I devoured free range chicken breast. Animals never tasted so good before! Then my allergies got worse again. I felt more sluggish and tired. Oh no, I thought, this vegan thing might have been actually working! I returned to the vegan diet and awaited my blood test results.
My results showed that my cholesterol went from 212 (last year) to 172. The LDL (bad cholesterol) which should be lower than 100, went from 131 (last year) to 87. And my particle rate dropped from 1085 to 900. All good news. My vitamin and mineral levels looked divine, except my iron levels were dropping. In 40 days my iron stores had gone from 60 to 24. My doctor predicted that I could be anemic next year unless some changes were made. I asked, “How about a few ounces of protein each day?” Yep, that would solve it.
So, after careful consideration of both my health and my lifestyle, I concluded that I will eat about 90% plant based foods, and throw in about 10% organic lean top-of-the-line proteins. Hubby Scott is onboard for the same plan, with a divergence for him every now and then to devour a pastrami sandwich or some fried oyster concoction. Which reminds me….what am I gonna do in New Orleans for Jazzfest? I guess I’ll cross that bayou when I come to it.
It’s been 60 days since I first wrote this blog, and decided to add in 10% animal protein to my diet. What I thought would be an easy (and fun) addition, has become quite problematic! Each time I tried to eat animal protein, I would get sick (intestinally) for FOUR DAYS! I felt like a newborn baby with the most sensitive tummy in Mommy and Me group. My doctor suggested I chew a Pepto Bismol before eating the protein. This worked, and slowly, I have been able to learn to digest meat, lamb, chicken, turkey, and duck. I still cannot eat any seafood. Even a few bites of fish make me super sick…. and I used to be a huge sushi lover! I haven’t given up hope, but getting stuck by the commode for four days has been quite a bummer. Nobody tells you this when you attempt to go vegan…..so now you’ve been told.