A Gift

It’s been fully two months since I’ve taken on this ‘vegan-ish’ diet, so I’m probably due to give a status update.
The craziest thing so far is all the weight I’ve lost: 18 lbs in 8 weeks. I honestly don’t know how. I’ve been eating plenty, because I simply cannot function when I’m hungry. (It quickly escalates to “hangry”, especially when things are not going well with the child. Or the dog. Or even the cats, if I’m honest.) So yes I eat. I have bread, and pasta, and even the occasional cookie if its been one of those days. Plus I simply cannot jeopardize my milk supply by under-eating.

I actually am below my prepregnancy weight finally, less even than my wedding day, according to my records of obsessive calorie counting & dieting. I won’t kid you though, I’m still far squishier than I was that day since I was working out constantly then, and had seriously good muscle tone.
(Have you all seen this picture?)
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(What about this one?)
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(Crazy, huh!?)

Anyway, beyond weight, I feel good. Great even, when Nora lets me get a half decent night’s sleep. I don’t stress about food on a daily basis, and I don’t struggle with guilt over my less than perfect choices. The only tricky thing I’ve struggled with is eating out. Right now there’s a great vegan restaurant down the street from us, and a few other places that offer vegan options on the menu. But when we go to someone’s house or even another person’s choice of restaurant, I have had to snack before and/or after just to get a decent meal besides side salad. But I can deal with that, and it’s getting easier to remember to make a plan for those situations.

The next thing to do is have some blood work done, both for Nora and myself, to make sure we aren’t developing any nutrient deficiencies. I am really not worried though because I’m still taking prenatal vitamins for breastfeeding, and she’s become very agreeable about taking her gummy multivitamin too. But better safe than sorry.

So in the name of full disclosure, I did have a hamburger last week. I’d been feeling curious for a few days what it would taste like now, and it wasn’t good. Kinda gross even, but that’s pretty much what I expected. I felt kind of sad after, but not guilty, at least. I had the answer to my question and that has some value. I do sometimes miss the convenience of meat, and even the idea of the taste (at least the taste I remember). But I don’t really want to eat it. I’ve found a lot of peace and satisfaction these past couple of months, and no burger or steak or even bacon is worth trading in that gift.

Eating Animals

“It’s a telling assumption, one that implies not only that a thorough inquiry into animal inquiry would lead one away from eating meat, but that most people already  know that to be the case…. I, too, assumed that my book about eating animals would become a straightforward case for vegetarianism. It didn’t. A straightforward case for vegetarianism is worth writing, but it’s not what I’ve written here.” Jonathan Safran Foer – Eating Animals

I came across this book while reading a vegan food blogger’s post about why she and her husband became vegan. I, too, assumed that the book would be a gruesome account of all the cruelties that are part of our omnivorous diet. True to his word, Foer does not tell that simple a story. He begins with the social nature of eating, surrounded by family, specifically his Holocaust surviving grandmother, his against-the-grain father, and perhaps most importantly his new son. He covers factory farms, and, in stark contrast, family farms. He discusses the public health and environmental impacts, and even the subtle differences between animal rights and animal welfare. By the book’s conclusion, I felt a little less guilty about feeding my daughter some of the ‘good stuff’ from Seven Sons Farms, but a little more guilty about offering her meat from unknown sources if, at a restaurant, I couldn’t easily find something toddler friendly and vegetarian.

I admit I had been willfully ignorant of the differences. “How bad could it really be?” I often thought naively. (Hint: it’s pretty bad, but you should really read for yourself like I finally did.) It almost seems like cheating that I had already converted to vegan(ish)ism before reading this book. I didn’t know. And now, I wish everyone knew. Everyone deserves to know. If you want to eat meat, you deserve better food than what’s available in the supermarket.

Since I read the Kindle version, I’ve decided to buy an actual paper copy of this book to loan to anyone who wants to read it. It is truly illuminating.

The B12 Dilemma

There is this thing I keep tripping over on my way to fully veg: the necessity to supplement B12, and a couple other vitamins minerals depending on how diligently you diversify your diet. It’s one thing for me to take a couple of pills every day (I’ve been doing it for years anyway) but it’s quite another to get Nora to take some pretty yucky supplements regularly. And plus also aren’t we supposed to be getting our nutrients from whole foods?

Side note: this is one of the most glaring contradictions in The China Study. Dr. Campbell berates the supplement industry as opportunistic and ineffective at best and dangerous at worst. And a few pages later makes an ever so casual mention that vegan diets require a little help from this same said industry.

So I’ve been digging deep and trying to find some appropriate sources for Nora to get her B12. Shellfish, low-mercury fish, and yes even liver are all on our list to find a local, ethically grown and slaughtered supply.

Which brings me to my next sticky spot. What counts as ‘ethically slaughtered’? I know I said before that I wasn’t interested in veganism for the animal rights issues, but since I wasn’t eating them anyway, I started reading about what the situation with factory farms really is. Ug. It’s bad, folks. Granted it’s not entirely black and white down on the farm either. And there are family farms practically in our back yard where we can see for ourselves how the animals live and die. There are just some things you can’t un-see.

I guess it all boils down to the fact that I’m not quite sure what we’re going to do. I literally lay awake most of the night trying to come to any half decision at all. And when exhaustion finally took over my brain and body, I drifted off to sleep with visions of Native Americans living as peaceful hunters, taking only what they need and thanking the beast for its sacrifice. (Yeah, I was pretty freaking tired. I don’t even know if that’s factual or just a stereotype.)
Regardless, that may be the solution for now. And as Nora gets old enough to weigh in on the conversation, we will try to help her decide for herself. Just like everything else, I suppose, for this is parenthood.

Vegan-ish

So… Long time, no update, huh?

Well we are busy. Beyond busy really, but good. Nora has been making us rethink our ideas about baby proofing almost daily. But we still make it from one day to the next without major incident.

We got her allergy tested recently, and it came back positive for dairy, cats, and dogs, primarily. None of these are much of a surprise, so she gets to eat the same as me, and we bought some air purifiers to help with the pets.

Another more unusual thing we’re trying out is not eating meat. Well, I’m trying anyway. And Nora, because I put the food on her plate. And Brandon because I plan the menu and do most of the cooking.

Actually he is a lot more on the same page as me than I expected. It’s his fault, anyway, since he got on a food documentary kick, and then we started juicing and reducing our meat intake. And then I started reading a book I’ve had on my shelf for about 3 years, called The China Study, and just decided to give it a whirl. Just eat plant-based, “whole” foods.

It seems pretty simple. As long as you’re willing to keep an open mind and try new things. (Granted, a lot of people aren’t ready to overcome this first hurdle!) I told Brandon that I might make a few terrible dinners while I sort all this out, and at least he’s willing to try new dishes as long as I attempt to consider his preferences. I seriously doubt we will ever give up animal products altogether. Even though Nora and I cannot have any dairy, I’ve already found that eggs are hard to avoid completely. And then there’s the matter of my great love for sushi. I can pretty much give up all the amazing and savory steaks and burgers and sausages and everything else. But once in a great while, I will probably indulge in my fishy obsession.

Even with these exceptions, it’s a pretty big change. I feel better though. I can eat and feel nourished. I don’t know how else to describe it. We eat so many plants, our grocery cart is filled with them and we’re getting the Green Bean Delivery, too!

I know this choice seems like a hard one, but it really wasn’t. So many of us want to just feel better: look better, move better, have more energy, not worry about disease, etc. And this whole foods, plant-based diet addresses all these things. I would very strongly encourage anyone who is looking to better themself to read that book, The China Study. It clearly and scientifically enumerates the way our diet fails us and demonstrates how to heal ourselves with better nutrition. No matter how hippie-dippy that may sound, the evidence is laid out in study after study. It’s pretty compelling.

All that aside, it’s our choice (ahem, MY choice.) And it’s still very much an experiment in process. I’ve attempted more than a few lifestyle changes over the years, each time learning a little more about myself. Hopefully this sticks around for a while, because it feels pretty great!

Sweating the small stuff

It’s no secret that I’m a bit of a worrier, mixed with a serious dash of perfectionism, a side effect of which is insomnia inducing mommy-guilt.

I’ve been caught up in a massive change-up of my routine (again) due to Nora’s new mobility (crawling, cruising, and crashing, oh my!) and those precious 20 minutes I had for two whole weeks to get in a workout have once again vanished.

It sucks.

I’m just not a dieting kind of girl. I’d rather eat foods I enjoy and then kick my own ass for a couple hours at the gym. It makes me feel strong. Being hungry makes me feel weak.

And cranky.

And like a bad mother.

I know I’m just in a rough headspace the past few days, still playing catch up from my time in Greenfield helping my sister’s family and now having some new concerns about Nora’s hips that will go unanswered for a couple more weeks until we get down to see her doctor again… I’m just a little stressed.

Unfortunately, 3 a.m. isn’t the best time to get resolution so I should probably try getting some sleep instead.

How to not starve

My friend Chrystal who heads up Momodcasts recently did a great podcast on how to survive meal planning with a new baby in the house, and having survived the first three months of mommy-hood with barely having to cook, I wanted to add some of my own survival tips that may come in handy to someone else.

First of all, I attacked my last trimester to-do list like a fiend. And when ‘cook and freeze meals’ came up, I knew this was a big project not to be taken lightly. Unfortunately, a lot of the meals I cooked before-baby weren’t very freezer friendly, so I went on a massive hunt to assemble and taste test recipes that Brandon and I would both enjoy. I used the My Recipes search tool to help with sorting through recipes based on things we didn’t like or couldn’t eat. In the end, I still had to get creative and found out that Brandon isn’t quite as picky as he claims to be.

Once I made a list of all the recipes I planned to cook and freeze, I picked one or two to make each week so that I wouldn’t be completely overwhelmed with cooking. I made some basic things like meatloaf and beef stew, also some fun dishes like jambalaya and a chicken & broccoli casserole. I also realized that I needed to make a checklist of what we actually had in the freezer so that Brandon could pull out meals in advance and not leave us with a bunch of one meal to eat for several days in a row. You can check out my finished product here.

The second BRILLIANT idea I had was a grocery list template. Since I’m the one who does the cooking in our house, and I’m the one who puts together the grocery list each week, Brandon would be hounding me ever single week about what we needed to get at the store if I didn’t give him some help. It sounds complicated, but since I wasn’t going to be cooking any major meals (they’re in the freezer, ha!) I basically just needed a pantry cheat sheet, plus some easy lunch items. It took a little bit of thought and preparation, but I can’t tell you how many Sundays I’ve had to bow out of grocery shopping and Brandon was able to handle things without a hitch. Obviously our list is completely suited to our tastes and needs, but feel free to use it as a template for your own shopping trip. You’ll notice we opted for disposable eat & drink-ware since we don’t have a dishwasher, and doing dishes was pretty low on our priority list the first few weeks. Since then, we’ve mostly switched back.

In the end, my month’s worth of meals in the freezer ended up lasting almost three months with a little help from family and carry-out from our favorite restaurants, and I re-made a couple of the easier recipes and restocked the freezer, too. Now that we’re in our third month of parenthood, we’re on a bold new mission to clean up our diet a bit, and still keep our sanity. We’ve started ordering most of our meat from Seven Sons, a local farm that raises free-range, grass-fed animals, and we also just signed up for this amazing organic produce delivery service, Green Bean Delivery. My favorite thing about Green Bean, as opposed to a standard CSA from the farmers market, is being able to customize each weeks order, and still knowing where the food comes from. We’ve had two deliveries so far, and I have to say just how great the quality of the produce is! Plus, it comes right to our door… it doesn’t get any better than that!

So we’re starting to get into a groove around here, and it tastes pretty good!