Happy Fourth of July!
This year the holiday feels really good. I celebrate our American Democracy, our Constitution, and the Power of the People that emerged so strongly last November. During these difficult economic times, I am very grateful for those trying to address complex issues with courage and strength. I thank those serving in our Armed Forces for their tremendous sacrifice and selfless service to our nation. When I enjoy the fireworks tonight, I'll be very grateful to be an American.
I completed a full year as a vegetarian on June 11, 2009. I made the move for health, humanitarian and environmental reasons. It was challenging to make the big switch from a low carbohydrate, high animal meat/fat food plan to one eliminating meats, fish and poultry. I took advantage of all foods that were free of these, so I ate tons of cheese, baked goods, rich cream-based sauces, and eggs. No surprise that I packed on many of the pounds I'd once lost low-carbing. In making the conversion to a vegetarian lifestyle, I excused myself from counting calories. This view was inspired by the "no other major changes the first year" admonition from the recovery movement. I was letting go of an addiction to animal meat, and that was the primary focus. I kept weighing in and was dismayed to see the gain. I struggled. I lost a few, gained a few, lost a few more, but the net was a pretty big gain.
Then in March 2009 I discovered Rip Esselstyn's "Engine 2 Diet" and found I finally was able to let go of the eggs and dairy. This was easier than I could have expected, and aside from a few moments of weakness, I've done very well. Eating in restaurants has been difficult, but eating at home has been increasingly simple. During the work week, our routine is eating in or taking in from vegan-friendly places and sometimes eating in restaurants. We tend to eat out more on weekends, and I've learned where I can get something on my plan and how to ask for it, something that is not always obvious. Most restaurant chains have nutritional info online or downloadable as a pdf. Websites such as The Daily Plate and SparkPeople (my personal favorite) have many brand-name and chain items in their databases, complete with full nutritional breakdowns.
Our Friends have been really accommodating. If they're cooking, they always ask what I can eat, and I usually bring one or two vegan dishes to share. We were invited to a barbecue and our amazing hosts prepared divine tofu-veggie kabobs and bought veggie burgers for me. I was really touched. If we dine out with friends, they always make sure wherever we go is okay for me. We went to a benefit at the Stroudsmoor Inn recently where the entree choices were beef, salmon and "vegetarian". The friends who invited us called it in, and thanks to their looking out for me, I was served the only vegan entree in the entire huge banquet hall! It was a portabello mushroom cap topped with fresh spinach draped with a whole peeled red pepper and some marinara sauce, over mixed white and wild rice. Absolutely delicious! And it looked better to some who vowed to ask for a vegan plate next year. I sent my thanks and compliments back to the chef.
Using SparkPeople has been a huge help. I get lots of support when I need it, have access to some really great recipes, can log my own receipes in and get an exact nutrition breakdown. Knowledge is Power! What has helped me most to lose over 8 pounds as a vegan has been tracking my food intake online so I can see easily how many calories, and how much of my essential nutrients I've gotten for the day. This helps me at evening snack time to know whether or not to have a snack, and if so, if it needs to be heavy on protein or not. I keep vegan protein bars on hand in case of the latter.
NuGo Organic bars are a favorite, with a whole one only 180 calories and 10g protein. Sometimes half is all I need and they are yummy.
Recently I faced facts that I'd been eating things not logged into my SparkPeople daily nutrition tracker, and I began to get honest about it. I stopped eating gumdrops and hard candies kept in the office for clients and their kids. I stopped grabbing a few pieces of dried fruit, nuts or snack mix. I committed on an online forum for compulsive overeaters to stop doing this, and today is Day 8. If that's not personal progress toward freedom and independence, I don't know what is!