First, my last physical showed my cholesterol was 263. I went off Lipitor back in 2007 when I was losing a lot of weight on a low-carb diet, and I was sure that because I had been abstaining from all meat, fish and poultry my number would be low now. Wrong! My doc wrote:
Well, I thought I'd just reduce the cheese, eggs and other dairy easily to correct this, but I haven't been able to do so. Then on the Today Show I saw Rip Esselstyn, author of The Engine 2 Diet (E-2) which I mentioned a few weeks back, and I got excited about his plan. However, I'd recently placed a couple of other on-line orders and felt I should wait to send for it, and gradually the idea faded. Then I saw a reference to an interesting cookbook, Terry Bryant's Vegan Soul Food Kitchen.
Your cholesterol was 263 and your LDL 167, so being a vegetarian doesn't help your lipid profile. You are going to need medication.
So I ordered both books, and I told myself I could eat cheese, eggs and other dairy until they came. That day was Tuesday, March 17, 2009, St. Patrick's Day. I opened the box eagerly. I scanned both books briefly, being at work at the time, and brought them home. The E-2 diet seemed daunting, with no added fats or cheese substitutes and no refined carbs. I didn't think I could do it. Bryant Terry's recipes looked awesome and easy to follow. So I told myself I could simply be honestly vegan, no exceptions, and see how it went. Every day I made vegan choices.
We ate in on Tuesday and Thursday, and on Wednesday we brought in Middle Eastern takeout, and I had Koshary, a delicious mix of chopped vegetables, lentils, garbanzos, rice, and rotini pasta, with some marinara sauce and fried onions on top. Last night we went out for Indian food and I asked the waiter which items didn't have any dairy, and it was easy because there were only two (everything else called "vegetarian" had cream or butter in it), so I enjoyed a spicy lentil dish with rice. Yummy, but in the middle of the night I felt I'd overdone the salt.
Yesterday before dinner I shopped at a local health food store and stocked up on many items Rip recommends. That included a loaf of Ezekiel bread, non-dairy yogurt, nutritional yeast, Smart Fiber cereal and some other stuff. Today I went to my local Mr. Z's market and found an even better selection of some items: Mori-Nu silken tofu used in many vegan recipes, organic frozen and fresh fruits, and ingredients for tomorrow's slow-cooker chili.
Today I had an E-2 breakfast ("Rip's Big Bowl") with lots of high fiber cereal, dried fruit, nuts flax seed meal, and soy milk. It was delicious. For lunch we went to a little place my husband loves. "Sweet Creams" features lunch and ice cream. I had a green salad with balsamic vinaigrette on the side and a PBR sandwich--peanut butter, raisins, dark chocolate chips and cinnamon on a dense whole grain bread. It was all good. Later this afternoon, I made Vegan Brownies that are amazing. So, it can be done.
Gist of my experience: it's easier to abstain completely from cheese (Rip calls it addictive and explains why) than to have a little. Kind of like alcoholism. It's easier to stop our drinking altogether than to try to moderate it.
The AA Big Book (on page xxx in "The Doctor's Opinion) says,
The only relief we have to suggest is entire abstinence.
And so I am abstaining entirely, and one day at a time, it's working. I'll keep checking in. Here's a great pyramid to guide my path. Maybe yours, too.