Thursday, December 31, 2009

Vegetarianism in the news

It seems vegetarianism has been in the news a lot lately. Or possibly I'm just more aware of it now. Either way, it' great, and encouraging. This morning, I heard a great piece by the BBC World Service called "Animal & Us." I highly recommend listening to the podcast. The science behind human's cravings and need for (or lack thereof) of meat products is fascinating. I would continue to describe it, but they do a much better job on the BBC website (see below). I look forward to part 2 next week

It was 28 years ago that the documentary maker Victor Schonfeld produced The Animals Film about the way humans exploit other species. He returns to the subject in a two-part documentary to give a very personal view on what, if anything, has changed since then.

In the first programme he looks at the use of animals for food and turns to experts in fields such as psychology, history, language and neurology to find out why humans seem so attracted to eating meat.

Next week, he focuses on the scientific establishment's attachment to using animals, and considers the future. Might social justice for other species actually benefit humans?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Today's Eats

2 slices multi-grain toast with earth balance buttery spread

berry medley (blueberries, strawberries, blackberries)

sauteed green beans, yellow beans and broccoli
brown rice

yellow beet and red onion salad from Whole Foods on top of baby spinach

snack in the car driving home from work:

my awesome guacamole with chips
chopped onion and tomato
refried beans
brown rice
1 tortilla

Monday, December 28, 2009

Report: Slippin'

I've slipped a few times, and it's only fair I report them. Here they are, in no particular order:
  • I at 2 mini reese's peanut butter cups that have been staring at me from my kitchen shelf for months. They probably have some remnant of evaporated milk in them.
  • I sampled a milk chocolate candy at Trader Joe's 
  • I drank wine that turned out to be vegan, but I didn't check before I drank it.
  • I ate refried beans in a veggie burrito that probably had lard in it. 
  • I bought bread today that has honey in it.
The bread: I tried to find some vegan bread, but it all expired within a day or two, which doesn't work well for a guy living alone. I let the poor little bees down, I suppose. Well, sorry fellas. I put my needs first. I'll do better next time.

The chocolates: Both times I knew the chocolates weren't vegan. I slipped.

The wine: I didn't even think about it since other things were on my mind.

The beans. I knew it at the time but didn't care. No excuses.

I still have been doing fantastic at sticking to the new diet, and the slip-ups are very few and far between. I can only imagine they will continue to erode as I become more comfortable and aware. Reflecting on it, I realize my slip ups required the same carelessness as eating meat and dairy. I buried the truth to satisfy myself in the moment. Some may see the above slip-ups as minor, and others major, but to me they are a reminder of how far I've come, and how far I have left to go. They are neither major nor minor, but just are.

Monday, December 21, 2009


I was at Target, and I stopped by the shoe section to check out what cheap kicks were available. I picked up a pair of loafers. The tag seemed to brag that they were 100% leather. Not for me. I was sure the running shoes would be synthetic. Nope. Leather uppers. It's not going to be difficult to purchase animal-free shoes from now on, but I was just struck that every single pair on the shelf was made with leather. According to my calculations, that's like, a kajillion shoes made of leather worldwide. The same cows I won't eat are being made into shoes. Damn.

Standing there in Target, alone in the shoe aisle, I thought about the scene at the end of Fast Food Nation where the cows are processed and there hides are peeled of their bodies by a machine that looks like a giant rotisserie. That clip has always disturbed me since I saw it a couple years ago. I remember I stopped eating red meat after that movie, but slowly ate some here and there after a few months. One image never left me that disturbed me to the core from that movie. It wasn't bloody or gory. It didn't involve torcher or killing or piles of shit. It was a shot of a cow standing in a shiny, tiny, metal room. It was so unnatural. Here was a large, majestic animal, contrasting the flat metal background. It just wasn't right. I'm sure that image has always been in the back of my mind. I still have flashes of it when I least suspect it. Like, when I'm in the shoe aisle at Target.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


My brother-in-law is going to think I stole the idea for this post from his blog, but it's pure coincidence. Today, a friend at work was asking me if wine and beer were vegan. I knew that some of it wasn't, because animal by-products were used in some filtration systems.  

Many beers and wines are refined using a product called isinglass, which comes from fish, or may be filtered with bone char.

However, I hadn't actually researched it enough to find out if the alcohol (mainly beer) I consume is vegan. Probably because I was afraid of the answer. Well, that ain't cool. I just got home, and I just looked it up. Boo-yah! A lot of beer, wine and hard liquors are vegan! And there's even this handy website with a mega-convenient search function for reference: Barnivore.

So, after a long week and a long day at work, I'm going to enjoy the taste of the rockies. Guilt-free.

Monday, December 14, 2009


I love Larabars. They don't have any crap in them. One of my favorites has 2 ingredients: cashews and dates. Or the one below: peanuts, dates, salt. Most of them have 2-4 ingredients, and none of them are chemicals. I stay away from most processed foods, but these are guilt-free for me.

Today's Eats

Probably not the best menu, but this is what I ate today, and it's pretty typical of what I eat on a daily basis.

2 slices multi-grain toast with earth balance buttery spread
soy yogurt with fruit

pistachio and date bar (larabar)

large mixed green salad with spinach, beets and various seeds
brown rice

apple with crunchy peanut butter

another apple

brown rice
black beans

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Putting it on

I wasn't sure at first if the energy increase I was feeling after going vegan was temporary or not. Well, over a month in, it's still there. And awesome. Any concerns I had over feeling fatigued or malnourished are gone. I'm surprised at how great it feels. I was hoping to be at the same energy level I was at before going vegan, but it's really increased dramatically. I didn't expect it. And being into fitness as much as I am already, going vegan is one of the best things I've done to increase my athletic abilities.

I was used to being sore for a day or two after a hard training session. I didn't mind it at all. But now, I've noticed I barely get sore at all. And if I do, I recover much quicker. I have very little body fat, and I'm now trying to gain muscle mass. I've lost about 3 lbs. since going vegan (expected), but I started a steady weight training program a couple weeks ago to start adding weight. It's not going to be easy, but I'm determined. My goal is to put on 12-15 lbs. of weight in the next 12-18 months.

I'm confident after much research that my vegan diet is going to help by body thrive, recover, build, and achieve my goal. If my faster recovery and increased energy is any indication, I may even exceed it.

And on a completely unrelated note, I love this t-shirt graphic. It made me laugh by myself out loud. (lbmol?)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

It doesn't faze me

Now that it's been a month since going vegan, a lot of the people close to me seem somewhat surprised or encouraged that I feel so great. A few people have even told me they are going to eat less meat, which is a great thing. But, some well-intentioned people still attempt to challenge my vegan values through various arguments ranging from environmental to economical to ethical.

It doesn't faze me. I haven't stepped into this blindly. I already know for a fact that I can be fully nourished through a vegan diet. Actually, it's healthier than an omnivorous one. I know I don't want to support the torture of animals (99% of meat is factory farmed in the U.S.). And I know the environmental impact is devastating. The thing is, I'm not a walking encyclopedia. I don't neccesarily have an adequate retort to every argument. And I don't need one. These 3 basic core values will not waver. Explain away. Tell me how bad soy is. Tell me about ethical farms. Tell me how I need supplements. Tell me humans were meant to eat meat. It's like trying to convince me to cut off my own arm. It's not happening, no matter what.

I have no explanation of why I suddenly changed, other than I woke up. 4 weeks later, I'm more awake than ever. I still tell people I've never felt better, and it's still true.

And I want to give a shout out to some organizations who have my back, yo.

Show some love for the American Heart Association:
Most vegetarian diets are low in or devoid of animal products. They’re also usually lower than nonvegetarian diets in total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol. Many studies have shown that vegetarians seem to have a lower risk of obesity, coronary heart disease (which causes heart attack), high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus and some forms of cancer. AHA

Take me out, Mayo Clinic:
No matter what your age or situation, a well-planned vegetarian diet can meet your nutritional needs. Even children and teenagers can do well on a plant-based diet, as can older people, and pregnant or breast-feeding women. Mayo Clinic

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

That became this

It's been nearly a month and I have yet to use an actual recipe to prepare any of my food. I have an awesome new cookbook, Vegan Yum Yum, that will be what I reference when I do get around to it. But for now, I'm improvising. I know basically what I need to be eating, which is a wide variety of veggies, fruits, grains, legumes, seeds, and nuts. It's working so far. Today, I prepped what looked to be a ridiculous amount of kale, spinach, broccoli, green beans, onion and garlic. Nope. I'm still amazed at just how many veggies I can eat in a sitting, and throughout the day. Here's what my chopped veggies looked like. They filled up my cutting board.

And after 2 minutes in the wok, that became this:

I used a small amount of canola oil in cooking, and a splash of Braggs and sesame oil at the last second for flavor. Lastly, I sprinkled some sunflower seeds and almond slivers to get whatever nutrients you're supposed to get from seeds. And I took a swig of fresh OJ to help digest all the iron from the dark greens. It was really good, and filled me up, for now. I'll have another snack before the night is over (I'm looking at you, avocado). And I'm going to prep this same meal to eat at lunch tomorrow, because it's fast, easy and tasty.

Monday, December 7, 2009


After nearly a month with no meat and almost no dairy, I've noticed some changes. Mostly for the better. By no means am I guaranteeing that these are a direct result of my diet. Many factors are surely at play, including my stress being lifted as a result of living more in accordance with my values and snapping out of my denial. However, I have seen similar benefits attributed to veganism in my research.
  • I feel lighter. Mentally and physically. My body itself feels like it's easier to carry around.
  • I eat much more often than before. Before, snacks were nice but easily skipped. Now, I pretty much plan what I'm eating next as soon as I'm done eating. So, I end up eating 5-6 times a day, with 1 or 2 of those portions being pretty large. This is a healthier way to eat.
  • I wake up earlier and more refreshed. This was already occurring when I quit having coffee in the morning, but it's more pronounced now. And with the exception of one Red Bull that made me feel like I was on crack, I haven't had any caffeine since I went vegan.
  • My skin has broken out on my face. This isn't really a good one. But, it's getting better. I think this is my body detoxing.
  • My eczema is almost gone. (I've had chronic eczema since I can remember on my arm. Too much information?)
  • I'm generally happier and have more energy. This may have to do with my metabolism. Whatever it is, it's nice. I'm more likely to stay positive in stressful situations. Also, I'm more motivated to go the gym. This was never a problem before, but I make even more time for it now.
  • I recover more quickly from workouts. It's much more difficult for me to even feel sore. And, if I do, I recover within a day, whereas it could take a few in the past. I attribute this to my body having more of the nutrients it needs to better repair itself. Interestingly, all the animal protein I had constantly relied on for recovery was not as effective as plant foods are.
  • I'm thirsty a lot. I drink a lot of water, which is really good to do anyway. I only really drink water and juice occasionally, but I just drink more of it now.
  • I don't miss meat. I don't want it, I don't crave it, I don't like it. I can hardly imagine a situation where I would eat it. It would have to be life or death.
I'm sure that the benefits will continue to grow as time goes on. Or, maybe not. I'm happy with these as they are. And even if things start to not feel so good, I would simply see a doctor and be more diligent about my eating. There's not a chance I'm going back to being omnivorous. Nope.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Veggie meatballs, etc.

I've found some new foods that are really helpful when I need a quick fix. The veggie stir fry with brown rice and/or beans is good, but I needed some more variety.

In a pinch, a veggie salad bowl from Chipotle is fresh, filling, high in protein, and fairly healthy (rice, black beans, green peppers, onions, corn, pico de gallo, and guacamole). I grab one if I'm tied up at work sometimes.

Also, I'm drinking coconut water as a sports drink (Although I never drank sports drink before). It's high in electrolytes and potassium, and I love the taste. There are no additives, just 100% coconut water from Brazil. The one pictured below is ONE brand, but I found a cheaper brand for 99 cents (Harvest Bay). I had one today after my 2 1/2 hour workout, and it was mega-refreshing.

This next one I was very weary of because I haven't met too many fake meats that I've gotten along with. Taste-wise. Veggie meatballs (Nates brand). But I have to admit, these suckers surprised me! Really tasty! And spaghetti sausage is so random in texture and flavor that I'm not even sure I could tell the difference. This is great, because I ate noodles with fresh sauce and chicken a lot in the past, and I wasn't to excited about just having the sauce. Now, It's a complete meal. Perfect for post-workout, lunch or dinner.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Stress test

I have to balance my exercise routines, work and eating schedules in order to minimize the stress in my life and stay energized. When even somewhat minor changes happen in any of those three categories, I tend to get irritable, stressed and impatient. I'm especially sensitive to lack of food, as anyone who's lived with me can vouch for. So, I do all I can to avoid those situations. Before I was eating vegan, I had many "go-to" items to satisfy my panicked needs for protein, or quick meals. I would drink milk, make a quick quesadilla, or eat a cold chicken breast out of the fridge just to calm down. Then I would figure out what I was really going to eat.

This week I've put in a lot of extra hours at work, both morning and evening, which has cut into the time I would usually spend prepping, planning and cooking my new veggie meals. This also has cut down on my exercise routine a bit. So nearly every lunch and dinner I've been somewhat panicked because I had no food prepped, and no ideas. And my patience is thin. And it's no longer an option for me to get a quick 99 cent chicken sandwich at Wendy's on my way home from work, which I used to do often. Or to get a turkey sandwich from the sandwich guy at work. Or a fatburger. The list goes on.

Overall, I did pretty well under the circumstances. I didn't eat as many home cooked, new, fresh veggie meals as I would have liked, but I certainly didn't turn to any meat or dairy products as an escape. I had pita bread with hummus and olives one night. I went to Chipotle two days this week for lunch and got the veggie bowl with double black beans. That's actually a great meal, and healthy. I had Pad Thai takeout. Last night I had planned to get a veggie burger out with a friend after work, so that was OK. But one night all I ate was a veggie tamale and a can of PBR. No bueno.

So I've missed a few snacks here and there, and fruits, and a couple meals have been lighter than I would normally like. But then again, other meals I ate what seemed to be a ridiculous amount of food to make up for it. I've noticed my mood is not optimal, and I'm not feeling as fantastic as I was the previous 2 weeks where I was really on top of the cooking. I know what I have to do, which is plan ahead and cook more, but sometimes that just doesn't pan out.

I'm satisfied with my reaction to stresses this week, but I'd like to do better in the future, or at least have a few more tools to do so. I had some close calls where I really was upset for no other reason than lack of food and exercise. This weekend I'm heading to a huge farmer's market in Hollywood with a friend to stock up on veggies and fruit, and hopefully some new things I haven't tried yet. I want to put plants and nuts and seeds and fruits and roots and legumes of every shape and color and flavor in my body to ensure I'm getting all the nutrients I need. I want to avoid supplements unless I really have to take them. And I'm going to relax and release this stress as much as possible. I have the weekend off, but next week looks like more of the same long hours. But, I'm determined to do even better next week.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

My protein plan

A lot of people ask me what I'm going to do about protein, especially those who know I'm athletic. A lot of them stress protein shake supplements and multi-vitamins as being essential for vegetarians. I appreciate the concern, but through my research I've found that protein, vitamins and minerals are all easily attained in vegan diets. I had the exact same concerns as I was preparing to make the shift to being meat and dairy free, so I read up. What I found was that not only was it possible, but in fact vegetarian and veagn diets are healthier. And vegetarians, on average, live longer than omnivores. Protein is found in plant foods in high amounts, and is generally easier to absorb than meat protein. And, I was ingesting way to much protein before anyway, so now I'm more where I should be.

Here are a couple of online resources if you're interested. I like these because they give sample diets. This first one breaks down protein needs intricately. The second is more of an overview:
Protein in the vegan diet
Vegetarian nutrition

I'm also very interested in reading Thrive Fitness, by Brendan Brazier, an Ironman  triathlete who's a vegan. I'm interested in his intake and suggestions. Who knows, it might suck. But I don't think so, I checked out one of his earlier books at Borders last weekend and it was pretty interesting.

But, for now, my plan is as follows: Incorporate foods I know are high in protein as often as possible into my regular diet. And it's working so far. I've done cardio for hours on end, lifted weights and recovered, etc. If anything has changed it's that I have more energy. Maybe things will change, but for now I feel I'm getting adequate nutrition. I'll get a physical and bloodwork in a few months just to be sure. Here's my plan:
  • Eat 2 pieces of whole grain toast for breakfast (12 grams protein), or high protein cereal with unsweetened almond, rice or soy milk
  • A few servings of any kind of beans daily (a lot, depending on the bean). I usually make burritos with beans, or bean dip for chips, or add them to salads.
  • Vegan energy bars made mostly with nuts—high in protein.
  • Brown rice or white rice with my veggies and beans for maximum nutrient absorption
  • Soy yogurt here and there (6-8 grams protein)
  • Sprinkle various weird seeds on salads and stir fried veggies for minerals like iron, and some protein (sunflower, pine nuts, almond slivers, and these little green ones)
  • 2-3 servings tofu every other day or so with veggies and brown rice
  • Lentils on days I don't have beans. They have more protein than almost any other food.
  • As many different colored veggies and fruits as possible. Some veggies have a surprising amount of protein, like broccoli
  • Frozen dinners when in an emergency, but only ones high in protein and low in sodium, and vegan, of course
I'm still exploring right now, and I've been overwhelmed with great resources and recipes. So, I'll post what is working and what I'm liking as I figure it out. I just got my copy of Vegan Yum Yum and I'm really excited to start cooking with it.

    3 weeks, no meat

    It's been about a month without, but officially 3 weeks now since I resolved to not eat meat for good. And nearly that long since I cut out dairy. The support, encouragement and ideas I'm receiving as a result of this blog are far beyond what I imagined. Although it wasn't exactly a high bar since I imagined nobody would read it. I pretty much thought I was gonna be on my own here. Instead, I've been exposed to, and become a part of, a community of like-minded, caring people. It helps me stay on track. In a city as big as L.A., and as someone who so often gets buried in my job and daily responsibilities, I sometimes feel I'm missing a sense of belonging. So, thank you this-blog-readers. You remind me I'm not alone.

    Sunday, November 29, 2009

    White, upper-middle-class assholes

    It's really difficult to sound indifferent when asked why I became a strict vegetarian, or vegan. There is no soft answer. I don't want to contribute to factory farming and global warming. Sometimes it goes over just fine. People are supportive and congratulatory. Other times, not so much. I'm not trying to instigate conversation or change someone's views, but there are inevitably follow-up questions. There's one conversation in particular that had me thinking all weekend about it. I gave a somewhat extended answer to this person since it's a pretty good friend of mine. I quickly explained how I heard an interview on the radio with an author of a new book, and his argument was that being a vegetarian is the most an individual can do to fight global warming and factory farming. His first reaction was to say that he knew some vegans, friends of his, and veganism is basically a white, upper-middle-class phenomenon. He said it in a nice way, though. And after that he rattled off all the usual things to defend eating meat: What would I eat? I wouldn't feel full. Nature is brutal, as seen on the National Geographic channel. Humans are meant to eat meat, etc. These are the kinds of things I told myself if the thought of animal cruelty every crossed my mind while eating meat. We went back and forth a bit, and that was about it. He said that stuff, and I said factory farming was a new level of cruelty I couldn't support. It ended up with him admitting he wasn't sure about the whole thing, and I was very understanding.

    The comment that really stuck with me was the one about veganism being a white, upper-middle-class phenomenon. Ohhhhhhhhhh, the irony. What group of people have been responsible primarily for the creation and expansion of factory farming? What group consumes the products of these farms more than any other group? What group increases demand for meat and its by-products exponentially? What group created the laws and tax incentives to encourage it? And resists any changes to the industry practices through lobbying? And buys the propaganda fed to them by the industry? Yes, white upper-middle-class people. And kinda the middle class. Ok, sorta all of America. But close enough. We have created a system and a subsequent demand for it's expansion through our lifestyles. That only strengthens the argument for veganism. Who better to change the status quo than those who created it? In fact, I think it's the only way things are going to change. Vegetarians and vegans number about 1.4% of the U.S. population. If that number were 50%, demand would be cut in half. And so on. The only thing is, I wish I thought of this irony in the moment. I think I kind of did actually. I just didn't want to point it out and come off combative, or like a white, upper-middle-class asshole. Maybe next time I won't be so reserved. Or I'll shut up a bit earlier. The choices, the choices, the choices.

    Saturday, November 28, 2009

    6 minutes and 34 seconds changed my life

    I found it. This is the exact interview I heard on NPR, November 1st 2009, that inspired me to quit eating meat and dairy, and ultimately, become a vegan. (Not the written article, but the audio that can be streamed or downloaded for free.) It's less than 7 minutes long. Whether you eat meat or not, I highly recommend listening to it. It will explain why the following quote from the end of the interview is so true.

    "What we choose to eat when ordering in a restaurant, what we choose to buy at a supermarket, is, um, frankly the most important, or at least one of the most important decisions we'll make all day."
    Jonathan Safran Foer

    Leather & Wool

    So, I partook in Black Friday by going to Express and buying 2 shirts. While I was there, I saw a jacket that looked really warm and awesome, and it was 45% off. I can't stand being cold, and I need a super-warm jacket besides my super-puffy-sleeping-bag jacket. (I know I live in L.A. but it gets cold! I wear a hat and gloves to walk my dog in the morning.) I wanted to buy it. But almost immediately I thought I couldn't buy it, because it was wool, and creating more demand for wool was supporting animal exploitation and factory farming. And then I realized, almost all of my favorite winter shirts are sweaters made of wool. And unlike eating meat, not once had I ever even considered that a wool sweater could be supporting suffering. It never crossed my mind. But now, I know I can never buy wool again. I just wouldn't feel right about it. And the same thing with leather. The same cows I no longer eat are the cows used to manufacture leather products. Now that there are so many alternatives to leather, there is no justification to supporting it any longer.

    That's what I'm learning being vegan is about. Things ignored before are now brought to the forefront. It's not difficult for me to no longer consume animal by-products in their various forms, it's an awareness that my choices have an impact beyond what I had considered before. That awareness guides me to make the new choices that support my values and don't weigh down my conscience.

    Friday, November 27, 2009

    Thanksgiving report card

    Thanksgiving was super-fun as always. I went to my aunt's house, as is tradition, and saw a random sampling of cousins, aunts, uncles and friends. Now about the feast: I found that not eating meat was the easy part. The turkey did smell good, but even seeing it come right out of the oven, golden brown, I had no craving for it. Staying away from dairy is the hard part. Not because I wanted to eat it, but because so many dishes are made with butter and cheese it's not easy to avoid. But, I think I did pretty good.

    Here's what I ate:
    • Snacking: Raw celery, broccoli, and radishes. And a couple beers.
    • Crescent rolls (maybe had butter in the dough)
    • Green beans (tasted like they were tossed with oil, but maybe butter)
    • Cranberry-horseradish sauce (I think I'm OK here. I heard about the recipe on NPR recently and really wanted to try it)
    • Mashed potatoes (Can't I fantasize there was no milk or butter to make them silky smooth?)
    • Sweet potato bake crunch thing (OK, I knew there was probably some butter in this, but I ate it anyway. After dinner, I overheard the guest describe what was in it and it was almost comical how much dairy there was. "...frosted flakes on top...and there's butter and a lot of evaporated milk, and then even more butter, and cream..." My cousin who knows I was trying to be good got a good laugh out of it too.)
    • My contribution: Apple pie (It was a hit. There were only a couple slices leftover. I found a place in my neighborhood that makes vegan pies, and they came through with very little notice. I highly recommend them. Sante La Brea. The pie was amazing, and I can't wait to go back and try their vegan breakfast, lunch and dinner.)

    What I didn't eat:
    • Dip for the raw veggies
    • Appetizer mac and cheese
    • Dinner's mac and cheese with bacon
    • Turkey
    • Gravy
    • Stuffing
    • Butter for the rolls
    • Other pies
    • Cool whip
    I learned my lesson here. From now on, I really need to bring my own meal to Thanksgiving. My brother-in-law (vegetarian) cooked a pea pot pie for him and my sister to eat at their friend's Thanksgiving. I need to do something like that. I really didn't miss any of the things I didn't eat. And I would have been fine without the things I did eat. I gave myself a pass this time to do my best under the circumstances I put myself into, and I did.

    Wednesday, November 25, 2009

    Cake at work / Lost weight?

    This entry is about 2 things that have nothing to do with each other, other than they both happened on the same day.

    Every once in a while it's someone's birthday in our department at work, and we'll surprise them with cake. Today was one of those days. And the cake this time was a fruit tarte with custard and berries. I always loved those things. Well, I'm going to have to get used to not participating in these social eating situations. I wasn't exactly uncomfortable, but I was missing out on the communal bond of sharing with the group. And pretty much any cake is going to be inedible for me. I'm sure this is going to happen a lot in the future, in many different settings, but it wasn't a big deal. It's no different than someone opting out for being on a diet, too full, allergic, etc. But, it was new to me. Because I eat like a horse, and would always eat cake. No more!

    Later on, someone who I don't run into very often at my gym mentioned that I looked slimmer. I've noticed it a little bit, too. And I'm not trying to lose weight. If anything, I've been trying to gain some weight and muscle mass. But, I think it's part of the process of switching over. I'm going to lose weight as I shed the toxins and buildup of meat and preservatives in my system. And I imagine I have to adapt to a new diet. I've read that a lot of people lose weight when they become vegetarian. I'm going to keep an eye on it, though. Right now, I like how I look. It doesn't hurt to have my muscles more cut up. When I got home from the gym today, at 9:30, it was with a big ol' veggie and black bean burrito in hand that I put away as a second dinner. I'm trying!

    And for my first dinner tonight right after work, I had a couple burritos. I stir fried some veggies (bok choy, leeks, cabbage, onion) and slapped them on top of a tortilla and beans. This is the third time I've done something like this, and it's surprisingly good. And it's even easier than when I used to make it with chicken. The veggies cook faster, I don't have gross raw chicken juice mess to clean up when I'm done.

    I highly recommend cooking like this as a first step. I continue to cook the same staple foods as before, only I substitute the chicken or meat with veggies. I didn't have to buy a cookbook, or plan it out for a whole day. I just put it together quickly, no stress.

    Tuesday, November 24, 2009

    Thing I've never cooked before

    I like buying ingredients, and figuring out how to eat them later. I'm a pretty good cook, but there are times when cooking is utilitarian. A means to an end. Food in my mouth. And sometimes these things turn out great. Other times, not so great. But, I'll eat whatever I end up with. Because if I'm cooking, I'm hungry.

    1. Sweet potato
    Today, I needed to cook the thing before it went bad, and I was still a bit hungry after dinner. Let the experimenting begin! Well, I think it turned out OK. I didn't take the time to find a recipe. I just googled it on my phone to make sure it was possible to fry them in a pan. (Apparently, frying them in bacon fat is quit common. Ugh!) I cut it into slices about 1/4 inch thick, threw them in a pan with canola oil and tossed them around for a few minutes, then put them on paper towels to get off the excess oil. I ended up with these somewhat crispy, somewhat chewy strips. I salted them slightly and just ate them like that.

    Not bad. And I have some leftover for a snack tomorrow. I bet they're OK cold, too. And the best thing about it is the smell. My apartment smelled fantastic after cooking them. But next time, I'm looking up a recipe. Maybe a curry or something like that to give it some spice and make them meal-worthy.

    2. Tofu
    I've eaten tofu many times, but never actually cooked it. I hadn't held the weird, wet square and cut into it's soft-clay like texture until last night. It's kind of strange. But, I know this is one of those things I have to integrate into my diet. Sometimes, too much tofu has pretty much made me gag. But this time, I had a tip from a friend at work on how to improve the texture. So, I sliced it up and fried it in oil in my wok til it was crispy. Then, I added the veggies.

    I didn't mind the tofu at all. I'm glad, too. I would have forced myself to eat it either way for the nutritional value, but I can see with a little time I'll be able to make some rock solid meals out of the stuff. It even stood the microwave-the-leftovers-at-work test. The tofu stayed crispy, and I ate it all.

    I'm enjoying trying new things. Every day I really have to pay attention to eating. I have to make sure I get enough calories, enough protein, enough fruit, etc. It's fun though. Every day is a mission to fill my stomach with as big of a variety of stuff I can. And so far, I'm doing a pretty good job, I think.

    Monday, November 23, 2009

    Finished the book. What now?

    I finished Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals yesterday. It wasn't easy. I won't go into the details, but what goes on in factory farming is even worse than what I could have imagined. Which, of course, I wasn't trying to do in the past. What's great about the book, is he's very fair. He isn't just stringing together horrific details one after another, attempting to guilt the reader into becoming a vegetarian. It's clear that he wanted to see all sides. This gives the book a legitimacy that a more extreme book may not have. I recommend it to everyone. Even those who choose to eat meat should read it, just to know what they're eating.

    I never thought I'd be the person who wanted to convert people to vegetarianism. I remember thinking that it wasn't anyone's business what I ate. I had all the excuses lined up so I wouldn't have to face what I was doing. I didn't want to hear it (sound familiar?). It was denial (see my post from a couple days ago where I go into more details of my denial). But, now my eyes are opened, and it's hard to turn a blind eye to something so common in everyday life that I find so disturbing. It's in TV commercials, restaurants, lunches at work, etc. It's bizzaro world. Maybe I'll get used to it. I'm new to this. Or, maybe I won't. Maybe it'll motivate me to do everything I can to change it.

    My sister has been a vegetarian for a long time, and my Mom mostly has in her adult life. I can't remember even one time where they tried to explain it to me. And, I never asked. (Deeeeeee-nial!) Now that I think about it, I don't even know why Mom is a vegetarian. Maybe to them it was so obvious why they were, so if I didn't get it I didn't get it. I wonder, would I have listened had they talked to me seriously about it? Would I have shrugged it off? Did they, and did I forget? I don't know. Maybe no matter what, I wasn't ready to make the step until now. Which brings me to this question:  

    What now? I want to reach out to everyone I know, inform them, and try to change the world in whatever way I can. At the same time, I know that I would be extremely annoying if I did that and I'd have no friends. I've decided for now that I simply will answer when asked why I'm a vegetarian. But, I won't be able to live with myself if I don't have a plan in the background to advance the cause of vegetarianism and bring an end to the cruel treatment of animals. If I were a cow, I would want someone to do the same for me. So, it's coming people. I don't know what exactly is coming, but I know why.

    Sunday, November 22, 2009

    A good cooking day

    I keep cooking new stuff, and it today it was especially tasty. For breakfast I had Kashi cereal with Almond milk (unsweetened), based on a suggestion from comments on my blog. It's the first time I had almond milk, and it's delicious.

    For lunch I made guacamole with 1 large avocado, garlic and lemon juice. I added half a tomato to it, and the other half to some leftover black beans. I dipped away with my organic blue corn chips. Awesome.

    For dinner, I tried something new. I quartered a bag of potatoes, chopped up a red onion, threw in some pressed and whole garlic and some olive oil. I tossed it all together, put it on a baking sheet, and baked it for 30 minutes. Then I tossed green beans in olive oil, with sliced almonds. I turned out great, and I have potatoes left over for lunch or dinner tomorrow. Simple, easy and yummy.

    Saturday, November 21, 2009

    Reflections on my denial

    I'm about 2/3 of the way through Eating Animals, and a particular section about chicken processing on factory farms reminded me of an experience I had earlier this year. And it highlights the denial I was living in before I stopped eating meat.

    I was walking my dog on a Sunday evening, tired, and a bright green bird caught my eye. It was lying in a back alley. At first I thought it was dead because it was lying on it's back, but then I saw it move when I got closer. My pup gave it a sniff and walked away. I took a couple steps as if to continue walking, but I turned right back around. I knew I couldn't do that. I felt bad for the little guy, and I couldn't let him suffer in pain and starve to death. I considered stomping on him right then and there to put him out of his misery. It would have been awful, and extremely difficult for me. But, he looked alive enough that maybe he just needed a vet and would be fine. I couldn't kill him. So, I gently picked him up, trying not to cause more pain or put him in shock. He still was only really moving his head and his wings a bit, but he was pecking at my fingers. The little bugger. I took this picture as I was walking back to my apartment.

    No vet would even look at the bird unless I claimed it was my pet, and based on my description (I thought his leg was broken, maybe some internal damage) the tests alone were going to exceed $1,000, let alone any treatment. After hours of calling various groups I finally found a rescue organization that was willing to take him the next morning, against their rules. Valley Wildlife Rescue. Based on their advice, I did my best to give him a comfortable home for the night. I bought some birdseed at Target because it was late at this point, had a little water dish, put a heating pad under the box, and an old t-shirt to line it. Within a couple hours, he was eating and moving around the box a bit.

    I drove to the rescue the next morning, and was late to work because of it. I was so thankful, and they said they'd get back to me. Well, they were optimistic in the first couple days, saying they were stopping the internal bleeding, would x-ray him once he was stable. And they asked if I would adopt him. I'm not a bird person. I had a parakeet as a kid, but that's it. I wasn't looking to have a bird cage to clean up in addition to taking care of my dog. But, something about the little guy made me want to keep him. He was a little fighter. I found him and saved him. So, I was going to keep him. Well, I got the e-mail a couple days later. After an x-ray, they saw his spine was broken, he wouldn't have a good life, and they put him down. I never thought I'd be so attached to a bird, and I was upset. I think I even cried on the way to work the next day, just thinking about him.

    This brings me to my denial. How was it that the suffering of 1 bird was enough for me to put all that energy into saving him, yet I was willing to eat the flesh of animals that have suffered far worse? I even would take spiders outside after catching them, never killing them. I didn't think about it, that's how. I knew it was horrible, but I somehow kept on doing it.

    In "Eating Animals" he describes chickens being grabbed by their legs and most of the time they break them. Suffering. And I've noticed, when people ask me why I went vegetarian and I answer "I'm not down with torchering animals," they always say they don't wanna know any more. They're all in denial. I'm so grateful for hearing this interview and finally snapping out of it. The book is shocking. And all my omnivore friends have a million excuses of why eating meat is OK. Interestingly, none of them are in a hurry to read the book. Otherwise, they'd have to face what I've faced. I had to look inside and really see that I was doing something I felt was wrong. I'm not a person who would support suffering of any life on this planet. And I wasn't living in a way true to my own beliefs. And that's something I strive for every day in as many ways as I can. I can only control what happens in my future, so I can't feel guilt for what I've done. I feel relieved. A burden has been lifted. I'm now more myself than I've ever been. And I've never felt better. And that's what I tell all the nay-sayers who assume I'm feeling fatigued or sickly. When they ask how I feel now, I say "I've never felt better." And I mean it.

    Wednesday, November 18, 2009


    So, today was and is a busy day at work. Non-stop. I'm at home working (unpaid) overtime right now, only taking a break to update my blog. And for lunch I had to grab something quick and went to this fast food-ish type Greek place Daphne's with a friend. I ordered the vegetarian combo, a falafel sandwich with rice and a side salad. Perfect. Or, so I thought. I got back to my desk, and the first thing I did was slather the yogurt sauce all over my sandwich. It wasn't until my first bite I realized what I had done. Well, I ate it anyway. It was either that or lose my shit from no food. And then I saw it. The cheese on my salad. Damn! Luckily, it was mostly on this one tomato and I was able to brush it off and still eat my salad. Lesson learned. For dinner, I was in the same fast eating situation. I ordered a veggie burrito from the local Los Burritos. No cheese, (I remembered this time), and it was awesome. I love when you order a veggie burrito they throw fresh avocado and all the good veggies they charge you extra for if you get a meat burrito. Dessert? A belgian style golden ale. Mmmmmmmmmmm.

    Tuesday, November 17, 2009

    What's black and furry and likes veggies?

    My dog! Even lettuce, it turns out. About a second after I took this photo, she snatched that green leaf and chomped away. I just need to follow her lead. Good girl. 

    Today went really well. I started my day with toast and OJ. For lunch I made this yummy sorta-mexi-style salad with lettuce, spinach, 2 tomatoes, 2 avocados, rice, black beans, and hot sauce. Did I mention I eat a lot? I threw it all in a tupperware, shook it around, and bam. Done.

    It's strange, it always seems like I made way too much food, but I end up finishing it. And then I ate those 2 mandarin oranges in the background because I read that citrus aids in the digestion of iron and other minerals. For dinner, I had asparagus, snow peas, and a mixed veggie stir fry on top of rice, with nuts sprinkled on top.

    Also, I've read almost a hundred pages of Eating Animals, and I plan to finish it tonight. It's a quick read, and I can't put it down.

    Monday, November 16, 2009


    I prepared a familiar, delicious, filling dinner as soon as I got home from work: Soft Tacos. I ate soft tacos at least a few times a week in the past, and I think it'll be easy to continue doing that, vegan style. Instead of using chicken as usual, I substituted stir-fried veggies instead. And I made rice, black beans and guacamole to go with it. Yum.

    As I was cleaning up, I got a knock on the door. As a thank you for giving him the last of my meat filled food, my neighbor, Jimmi James, brought me a whole bag of fresh fruit and veggies from the local farmer's market! I usually can't make it; it's on Monday mornings when I'm at work. What a thoughtful surprise!

    All the support I've been getting from friends, family and and the web has been so great. It's more than I would have imagined, and it helps a lot. But anyway, he didn't leave empty-handed. The dairy products in my fridge have been extremley tempting. I had to ditch them or I was gonna crack soon. I didn't realize that it would be the dairy that would be the hardest to kick. But handing it away as I did with my meats gives it a finality to help me ignore the cravings, and accept the new way forward I've chosen. But, damn, even the parmesan had to go. Ouch.

    Sunday, November 15, 2009

    Not Eating Dairy: FAIL! FAIL!

    Yeah, double FAIL. I contemplated giving the rest of my dairy products to my neighbor today, and now I think I will. I didn't already because it's hard for me to let go. I really love milk and cheese and not eating them is really gonna suck for a while. But this morning the first thing I did was eat some cereal with the remaining milk in my fridge: FAIL!

    However, I did make a new, healthy, vegan light lunch: Spinach with sunflower seeds, almond slivers, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. And a baked potato with garlic. Easy and yummy:

    Did I just say "yummy"? Wow. Anyway, my next FAIL is something I think I'm going to run into a lot. I was at Cafe 50's (a diner) with a friend, and nearly everything on the menu was made with meat. And everything else had cheese. I panicked. I didn't know what to order. I was hungry. I didn't want to complain or seem weird by ordering a sandwich with nothing on it. So, I ordered a breakfast burrito with eggs and cheese (held the bacon). FAIL! I could have ordered a veggie burger, but I didn't. I need a plan for these sorts of situations or I'm sure to buckle under the pressure in the future. And I need to get over my embarrassment and do what I need to do and order what I need to order, regardless. This is harder than I thought.

    Also on their menu were insanely awesome looking shakes:


    And I was thinking to myself, "Oh shit, Wow. I can't even have shakes anymore. That really sucks." (For the record, I got this photo from Yelp. I didn't order one. But I wanted to.) On the good side, no FAIL on the meat side of things. And still no cravings for it.

    Saturday, November 14, 2009

    Goodbye Dairy. Hello Lentils.

    My plan was to still eat dairy, (I mainly consume cheese, yogurt, eggs, and milk), and phase it out at a later date. Well, that date is today's date. I was in denial. I somehow justified it. But, my brother-in-law pointed out the obvious: Dairy farms are horrendous for animals. So, I'm done with that, too.

    Well, today was my first trip to the grocery store with a vegan mindset. I picked up some things I have never bought before in my life. Exhibit A:

    Green and red lentils, dried edamame, beet salad mix, sunflower seeds, garbanzo beans. Of course I've eaten these things before, but never cooked them at home. Now they will be staples, I suppose.

    Hmmmmmmm. I don't give a f**k about eating meat.

    On Friday I emailed everyone I knew who I thought might be interested in this blog, and Facebooked it. The response was...Wow! I got a lot of support, and even more concern over my protein intake. I'm feeling really strong. I haven't had any cravings. If anything, I have more energy because I'm feeling lighter. And maybe it's a mental thing too, because I've made a decision about something that means a lot to me, and I'm sticking to it. OK, stop crying. But, my favorite response was from my best friend. He hadn't seen the blog yet, and I told him I went vegetarian. His immediate response was: "Hmmmmmmm. I don't give a f**k about eating meat." He continued to say he wanted to go veg and just hadn't gotten around to it because it wasn't convenient. There have been 2 people so far who said I've inspired them to possibly change their diet. It's an unexpected consequence of this project that makes me feel good. Ok, that's enough crying. Contain yourself.

    Friday, November 13, 2009

    I did this to be healthy, right?

    Well, I guess this is about as healthy as Kraft Mac & Cheese can get. It did the trick for dinner. I ate another half-plate after this, by the way.

    Wednesday, November 11, 2009

    Emptied my fridge

    I could have eaten meat today, but I didn't. I gave myself a pass. But I saw no reason to indulge in something I find unethical. I went to Sharky's with 2 friends from work for lunch. Instead of my usual chicken tostada salad, I got a tofu tostada salad. I couldn't finish all the tofu, and I thought I was gonna gag on it a couple times. I'm not big into tofu, and it won't be making it into my diet for 2 reasons: gag factor, and it's processed.

    A small project after work was getting rid of all animal products from my apartment. And how embarrassing, it was mostly frozen. Chicken breasts, chicken empanadas, fish sticks, breaded shrimp, lasagna, organic turkey sausage, pot stickers, turkey lunch meat and tuna. I piled it on my counter and it looked like this:

    Next, I gave all my meat products to my neighbor Jimmi James. He was very happy:

    My last project was buying Eating Animals. It's 11:35, my order is just placed, so I just made it.

    Tuesday, November 10, 2009

    Tomorrow is my last day to splurge.

    From an early age, I felt eating meat was wrong. Factory farming has especially disturbed me. But somehow, I was able to ignore this rational conclusion and go on eating meat. I would tell myself that I don't want to eat meat, but when I was hungry my animal side took over. (Interesting that my "animal" side enjoyed eating animals) At age 30, I'm making a lot of changes in my life, so it stands to reason this change happens now as well. After listening to an interview on NPR with Jonathan Safran Foer (author of Eating Animals), I knew my meat eating days were numbered. I've always loved meat: steaks, chicken, fish—I love it all. So, I'm going to document my struggles and triumphs in my new life of meatlessness.

    I wanted to give myself a week of practice to see what it was like in my normal routine to change my eating habits. Well, I didn't make it 100%, but pretty darn close. On Friday night I had plans to go to a concert, and I had to stay late at work, and then traffic was horrible, and in my hurry to get home I stopped at Wendy's and got a 99 cent chicken sandwich. It was pretty damn good. Usually, I'd get a double burger, at least. But, besides that, 100%. And I think I had some shrimp stir-fry at some point. But it was healthy. I was expecting to have less energy, more cravings and fatigue. But, none of that.

    So, tomorrow is my last practice day. My last day where I told myself it's forgivable to eat meat. Maybe I should eat a big-ass burger. Or splurge on a filet mignon. Or bacon wrapped dove wings stuffed with more bacon served on a bed of bacon. I don't think I will, though.

    Tomorrow I WILL remember to buy the book that pushed me over the edge to vegetarianism: Eating Animals