Friday, April 16, 2010

An Introduction

Hello, welcome! Thanks for checking out my blog.

I am a very new vegan who was drawn to this lifestyle after a doctor's appointment last year. I had almost no energy, various mysterious aches and pains, and generally felt like crap. A blood test revealed that 1) I had high cholesterol and 2) my blood sugar levels were also high. High enough for my doctor to ominously mutter something about probably having to go on medication, while advising I lose twenty pounds, change my diet, and have another blood test in three months.

At first, these changes seemed insurmountable. Change my diet? Lose weight? I tried Weight Watchers a few years ago, and didn't have the gumption to stick it out. Also, food was my security blanket. When I had a bad day, I ate. When I celebrated, I ate. When I was bored, I ate. Going three months (because ha ha, somehow I deluded myself into thinking that changing my eating habits was temporary) without my Irish nachos (waffle fries, bacon, lots of cheddar cheese, jalapeno peppers), Krispy Kreme doughnuts, and soda terrified me!

However, I did not want to be diabetic. My father and grandfather both passed away from complications from diabetes. I did not - do not - want that to happen to me.

I had another strong motivator: I hate needles. No, hate is not a strong enough word for it. I am a needle-phobe. It takes me approximately a week to steel myself psychologically for a blood test. The idea of giving myself insulin shots and poking my finger repeatedly makes me want to pass out. Seriously. Just watching those commercials for glucose meters makes me feel dizzy.

So I changed my diet. The first two weeks were the worst. I was a growling, angry person without my daily fix of soda, Cheetoes and candy bars. I drank gobs of diet soda, whittled down my sweets-consumption to a 100-calorie sugary snack once a day, and started exercising.

I also started reading a lot of books about dieting and diabetes. Somehow I stumbled upon a cute, kitschy cookbook called How it All Vegan. I'd always thought a vegan diet was too restrictive (maybe even too militant?) for someone like me. I mean, I liked to cook, but all my homemade meals had either meat, cheese, or eggs in them. And I truly believed that people needed meat in their diet to be healthy. Despite all this, I purchased a copy of How it All Vegan. I took a deep breath, read the introduction section very carefully, and started cooking.

Revelation! Shepherd's pie tasted great without hamburger! Maybe, my husband and I decided, it tasted better without the meat. Chili, too, was relatively easy to veganize. We started going days without eating meat. It's a weird thing, not eating meat. It seemed like the less meat we ate, the more vegetables we consumed. And beans. And whole grains. At the same time, I started exercising 5-6 days a week, kept a close eye on portion sizes, and started limiting my intake of sweets.

My second blood test rolled around. I lost 30 pounds, my aches and pains went away, and I had more energy than I'd had in years. The results of the blood test: my cholesterol went down 90 points. My blood sugar went down 49 points. My doctor was amazed: "I always tell my patients to lose weight and change their diet, but they almost never listen to me." He stopped mentioning medication. As I left the office, I could hear him talking to a nurse about the improvements to my health: "All because she changed her diet!"

Unfortunately, my blood sugar levels was still slightly above normal. The doctor told me he was confident my blood sugar would drop to a normal level if I lost 10-20 more pounds. A third blood test was scheduled.

To celebrate, I decided it would be okay to splurge a little and eat a cheeseburger. It had been a month and a half since I last had red meat. I deserved it, right?

It tasted good. Just ... kind of oily.

And then a few hours later, I felt like I had just consumed a brick. I could feel the ground beef lying uncomfortably in my tummy, heavy. Ugh.

That was the last time I ate red meat.

Around this time, I read the amazing book, Neal Barnard's Program for Reversing Diabetes. Basically, Dr. Barnard argues that a low-fat vegan diet is the most healthy choice (read life-saving) for diabetes. I read numerous other books about veganism (more about them later) and became convinced. Slowly, I said goodbye to chicken (not so hard to do, once you find out about all the bacteria found in chicken flesh!) and fish and shrimp (this one was harder, I've always liked seafood). I was basically a vegetarian for a month, and then I took the plunge.

I thought it would be harder, giving up cheese and eggs. Milk I never really used except in baking. But cheese -- cheese has always been dear to my heart. And eggs were the stuff of Sunday brunch, omelets and quiches.

It's strange. I don't miss either of them. I feel healthy and vitalized, am losing more weight, sticking to a mostly whole-foods approach to my diet, and am excited about the new vegan dishes I am cooking. Which is essentially what this blog will be about: the yummy food!!

One last thing: I began learning about veganism because of my health issues, but the more I read, the more I realized there is an ethical component to going vegan as well. Animal cruelty, sustainability, and environmental issues all play an important role in my life-affirming decision to become a vegan.

My next post will be about the food, I promise!

No comments:

Post a Comment