Posted in 30 Challenges, Healthy Eating

Nineteen Days as a Vegetarian… and still going strong!

eat-mostly-plants-

I have been eating a vegetarian diet for the last 19 days, and incredibly I have not felt the anticipated stress, angst or difficulty I was expecting to experience at the onset of this challenge.

jim bugg

Here are some of the surprises and highlights I have experienced so far in this vegetarian journey:

  • There is a lot more to eat than just salads!
  • Being a vegetarian doesn’t automatically mean you are destined to eat healthy (you still have to watch the junk food, sugary desserts and carbs).
  • Going out to eat is not the easiest thing to do, but there are some pretty easy dishes I have found I can default to at restaurants.
  • I have a new found love for cheese! Without cheese I don’t know if I would have been able to do this.

I have 11 more days as part of this official challenge, and I honestly feel pretty confident.  I may even try to continue a mostly-plant based diet beyond Day 30.

perception-reality-meme

Posted in 30 Challenges, Getting Started, Healthy Eating

30 Days as a Vegetarian

Beginning tomorrow, I will be embarking in a new 30 Day Challenge, where I will follow a no-meat, vegetarian diet.  Before I get into my reasons for wanting to try this challenge and what I hope to gain from the experience, I feel that I first need to provide an honest reflection of where I am as I begin this challenge.

84266508

Getting Started…

I am a MEAT EATER.  I revel in my omnivorous leanings and delight in making and eating steak, bacon, chicken, shrimp, and quite frankly just about any meat-based protein.  In ‘preparation’ for my 30 day meat free diet, today I ate a cheese burger for lunch and Italian sausage with bacon laden loaded baked potatoes for dinner.  I eat meat for almost every lunch and dinner.  I hate tofu.  Meals don’t feel complete without meat as a main course.  And up until rather recently I would roll my eyes and the very thought of a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle.

This challenge has also probably received the most criticism and divisiveness from friends and families.  Some have been pretty excited and supportive but many have been less enthusiastic.  My mom looked at me with a mild horror: “what will you eat??”“you need to be awfully careful with your diet”. Others just looked at me incredulously “why would you do that???”

75adcb1eaea8c41a4f74c2ce1b29e9b79c56a9e8122cc5af3c94d2c7b495bf8a

About 10 years ago I attempted to try a vegetarian diet.  I lasted 36 hours, specifically 2 lunches, 1 breakfast, and 1 dinner.  So there are a lot of potential hangups and pitfalls for me in taking on this challenge.  But as I think about reasons for doing this, I have developed some pretty clear motivation.

98cde6e54f559e4b75013b369fa160e0

Finding Inspiration and Staying Motivated

  • Focused Food: I recently watched the documentary based off Michael Pollan’s book, In Defense of Food.  I have never been a huge proponent of never, ever eating meat and his 7 words of wisdom “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants” resonates with me.  There is value in eating well, in enjoying food and being mindful about what you eat. I like that principle and feel like that is a great tenet to follow as I begin this challenge.
  • Improved Health: This tends to be one of the top arguments in favor of vegetarian and vegan based diets.  The improved health benefits for plant based diets is widespread and pretty well documented.
  • Lowered Carbon Footprint: To be able to personally make a small positive impact on the environment by reducing my personal carbon footprint is hugely motivating.
  • Involvement and Support from Others: A few days ago, I was chatting with a co-worker and mentioned that I was going to be embarking on this meat-free challenge and she and her husband decided to join!  I also have gotten some great feedback and insights from actual vegetarians and vegans, which makes me feel pretty optimistic.
  • Internal Stubbornness: Most importantly, the desire to make it a full 30 days and commit to this challenge will be the final push in hopefully getting me through this challenge.

 

Posted in Challenge Recap, Healthy Eating, Paleo

My Paleo Experience- What I Learned

I spent 21 days on the Paleo Diet.  It was somehow both easier and more challenging than I had expected it to be. Here is an overview of my experience and some of the key discoveries I made by going Paleo.

IMG_0401

The Good… 

  • It was not nearly as limiting as I expected!  I was pleasantly surprised how diverse my grocery cart and meals were every week.
  • My culinary creativity expanded!  I made things I never would think to make in my pre-Paleo diet.  It was exciting to try new things- from snacks like clementines dipped in dark chocolate and almond slices, to vegetables like roasted cabbage and main dishes like sauteed shrimp and pork chops.
  • I felt substantially healthier.

The Bad… 

  • My wallet shrunk more than my waistline.  Eating fresh fruits, vegetables and lean proteins was not cheap!  I found myself spending a lot more money than what I expected.
  • Eating out was not easy.  While eating at home was pretty manageable, eating out anywhere felt like a multi-phased balancing act.  I tried to plan ahead when I knew I would be eating out but reading through menus was a frustrating reminder of all the delicious breads, pastas and other foods I was avoiding.

Overall Challenge Enjoyment: 7/10. I enjoyed the food I ate but it felt limiting to stay perfectly within the paleo guidelines.

Success in Completing Challenge: B. I had a few slips: croutons in my salad, a piece of bread, a sandwich but overall I felt pleased with my commitment.

Likelihood in Continuing Challenge: Moderate (but with some allowances)

 

Posted in 30 Challenges, Getting Started, Healthy Eating, Paleo

Journey to the Paleolithic

Yesterday began my journey into the Paleolithic, and I didn’t even need a time machine. I am referring of course, to the infamous Paleo Diet. If you have somehow never heard of the Paleo Diet, or any of its other nicknames: Paleolithic diet, ancestral diet, or caveman diet allow me to give a very brief introduction. The Paleo Diet is a movement where essentially us modern day humans are to channel our ancestors and their dietary proclivities.  Using ones local grocery store as the grounds for their newly adopted hunter-gatherer lifestyle, they are to shun processed foods of all kinds like packaged sweets, cookies, chips along with bread, pasta, and rice.

Why in the world would anyone do this?  Well, by focusing on only what our ancestral caveman relatives could hunt and gather it emphasizes healthy, unprocessed foods.

In my effort to learn a little more about this, I discovered that there are a lot of inherent benefits.  Weight loss, muscle gain, improved digestion, better sleep are just a few of the health benefits people tout after ‘going paleo’.

The General Practices of the Paleo Diet:

  • Lean protein and meats- good
  • Vegetables- very good
  • Fruits- good
  • Seeds and Nuts- good
  • Sugar- BAD!
  • Legumes- BAD!
  • Grains (pastas, breads, rice)- BAD!
  • Dairy (cheese, butter, milk)- BAD!

I have had some hangups about trying the Paleo Diet, both in terms of I can do it (no bread???) and if it was all really worth it. So in my quest for self-improvement challenges, and my interest to get conditioned for my Swim Around Lido Key (only 6 weeks away!) this seemed like a perfect opportunity for me to test run Paleo.

GETTING STARTED…

To make matters difficult, on a recent trip to Seattle, I rediscovered my love for BREAD. This particular bread experience took place over a plate of linguini and clams in a small restaurant in Ballard, north of downtown Seattle. The bread was a crusty loaf with a delicate sprinkling of sea salt over the top and the homemade butter was something I could have eaten on its own (it was truly that good). I am not going to lie, this was a wonderful, but very poorly timed food experience.  So, I had to overcome  (or at least stave off) my deeply devoted love of bread…

I also discovered, after an initial trip to the grocery store that buying fresh produce and quality protein does not come cheap. I will likely need to pick up some clever recipes to make this a little more friendly on my wallet.

IMG_0401

Before I could start my challenge, I also needed to figure out what was going to work for me.  While the basics of Paleo are all the same, there is some room for interpretation, and I had to ultimately decide what would work for me.

So here are the details of my Paleo Challenge:

  • 21 days of Paleo
  • Focus my diet around proteins, vegetables, fruits and some seeds/nuts
  • No bread, rice, pasta or processed food

Here are my non-Paleo compromises (to keep me sane):

  • Corn– specifically pop corn. It is my one go-to snack. I have to have it. And technically, while most paleo-purists will say that corn is not approved, I will argue that it is still vegetable-ish
  • Salt– again, in true Paleo terms, you aren’t supposed to have sugar OR salt but I have to be able to season my food and I use salt as one of my main kitchen staples
  • Cheese/Breadcrumbs– I am going to allow myself the occasional allowance of cheese to sprinkle onto particularly boring dishes or breadcrumbs to liven up and bind together protein. But again, this will be a periodic exception and by no means a habitual practice.
  • Coffee and Creamer– I am not a regular coffee drinker, but my Sunday mornings are sacred to me. I sleep in, have breakfast with the boyfriend and enjoy a leisurely cup of coffee with creamer. I have decided I am keeping this as a once-a-week treat.