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.