Monday, January 24, 2011

Vegan on the Road: Day 24

Hello Cyberworld!

Apologies for a brief absence; sometimes one's day job interferes with the most noblest of efforts to keep an audience informed!

So here I sit, moving into week 4 of the Vegan Experiment, and I can honestly attest to that fact that going vegan is no small feat. I thought I'd briefly outline some of the positives and negatives thus far of this challenge:

I have lost weight. Who doesn't like to lose a few pounds? (Okay, maybe some of you are the sort that are "trying to gain weight", but the masses don't really want to hear it.)

My hair has gotten drier. No, this is definitely my fault, as I don't believe I am eating enough fat, which everyone needs. It is just that broccoli does not have the same amount of fat as a hunk of cheese...who would have guessed?! Seriously, though, vegans have to be just as mindful of a balanced diet as carnivores.

I've felt "cleaner." That sounds kind of Southern California of me (no offense, SoCal!), but I notice I feel lighter and get fuller faster.

Despite how quickly I have been filling up when eating, I am hungry more often (probably due to a lower amount of protein I am consuming.) With a hectic schedule, this can be troublesome, and my stomach goes from satiated to snarling for more food in only a couple of hours.

The "kinder" approach to eating has inspired a desire to "go green," and I've become more mindful of what I am purchasing at stores and where the products come from.

I've definitely taken my "Go Green" cloth grocery bags from Whole Foods for use at the local Publix discount grocery in the name of the environment. I have not yet decided if this is truly faux pas yet, but it has evoked some eye rolls from the checkout attendants.

I'm not eating cheese.

I'm not eating cheese.

All in all, for my remaining week of veganism, I am going to try to be a bit more balanced. I still need fat and protein in my diet - leafy greens and rice will not cut it. Thankfully, I have a talented chef of a boyfriend, and he has perfected some amazing vegan dishes. For now, the jury is still out on whether my vegan act will inspire an ongoing lifestyle change. However, I'm pretty sure whichever way I swing, I will be bringing those Whole Food bags with me.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Day 4: Vegan on the Road: Part 2

My first day back at work after the holidays was bound to be a busy one. I rushed out of my hotel towards the office without so much as a second thought about breakfast. Lunch was a hummus and pita with celery (yes, mom, I actually ATE celery.) For dinner, I am going to order miso soup, edamame and veggie rolls from a local restaurant. But enough about food...

Let's talk for a minute about habits. We all have them. Some habits are good, some habits are not so good, and some habits you just really should never share with people. One of my (probably not so good) habits is chewing gum. Hey, not so great, but fresh breath is a priority! In any case, I was chatting with one of my coworkers from Texas (side note: I believe veganism might actually be against the law in Texas), and he mentioned that many chewing gum brands are made from animal products. Specifically, the ominous "gum base" can be made from glycerin, which is often times animal-derived. Yuck! All this time, I thought I was chewing a piece of Merry Mint medley and never once considered it would contain animal!

Thankfully, some chewing gum manufacturers use vegetarian glycerine (such as Wrigleys), but many do not. I guess I'll be stocking up on the Juicy Fruit! Lesson learned - veganism clearly requires an thorough examination of anything you put in your mouth (a good thing), and you may have to part with certain beloved habits (a not so good thing), but I am beginning to feel like a kinder person because of this (a very good thing.)

Monday, January 3, 2011

Day 3: Vegan on the Road: Part 1

Traveling, though I love it, is challenging. I have been in airports nearly every week for the last six years, and finding healthy choices of food in airport restaurants, even as a vegetarian (well, hey, I did eat fish) has been difficult. Today, as I sit in the Fort Lauderdale airport and look at my options, finding something for dinner is nearly impossible, but not for lack of trying.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I am working on a more casual approach to admitting my veganism when in a social setting. I asked my waitress what non-meat options might be available, and she suggested the "Tropical Turkey Sandwich" or the "Chicken Mojito Sandwich," which quickly told me that this was going to be even more difficult than I expected. Also, not for nothing, can you even imagine how painful it is to have a table situated in front of the chippies rack, as an ex-Doritos addict?

In any event, I have this new idea, should the TSA allow it, that I am going to carry around baggies of "in case of emergency" snacks/meals. I mean, I don't think a snack baggie of carrots and broccoli are very controversial, nor do I think anyone will really raise an eyebrow if I tried to pack a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (vegan-friendly, as long as you choose the right bread - yes!!)

For tonight, however, dinner will clearly be mixed nuts for me.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Day 2: Who Stole My Cheese?

Day 2 of the Vegan Experiment is underway. My Top Chef-caliber boyfriend made me a delicious vegan lunch of dirty rice and sauteed vegetables with black beans, seasoned to perfection. Then, I survived dinner out at a local Italian restaurant,
which was an overall enjoyable evening out, despite not being able to indulge in my beloved Parmesan cheese. A couple of observation in my first day "out of the closet" as a Vegan.

1.) Veganism, to some people, is a four-letter word. Unlike people who tell others that they don't eat bread or those who claim to avoid red meat, admitting that you follow a vegan diet seems to be followed with the inevitable "why are you a vegan?", an inquiry seemed served up with a side of fear the person will answer "I love animals." I do, in fact, love animals, but that is not the reason for the Vegan experiment. I am attempting a cleaner diet for my health. I will continue to update the cyberworld on the societal response I experience as a, gulp, Vegan.

2.) Ordering at restaurants becomes surprisingly easier...and more difficult. After scanning the menu, I recognized that there were a limited number of items I could order, making my dinner selection much narrower and simple. However, I must admit that my eyes lingered a little two long over the Caprese salad and seafood fettuccine options on the menu. Not out of character for me, I gave our waiter a couple of simple requests to "jazz up" my selection. (See tip below)

3.) Don't be afraid to ask. Working in a job that requires constant travel, I've realized that people in the service industry are actually extremely helpful and willing to accommodate, assuming you show your gratitude to them. Often times, at the hotel I stay at, I will be craving something not listed on the menu (say, steamed vegetables and rice). Generally, the staff has been willing to provide this, and I go out of my way to thank the chef, the server, etc. (This does not have to be extra gratuity -although I am sure it would be welcomed. You may be surprised at how many people forget to say "thank you.") I will definitely be relying on this kindness this week, as I hit the road for the first time as a Vegan.

4.) Fridge full of cheese? Exploit your non-vegan friends. Yesterday, my boyfriend did me the "favor" of eating the remainder of cottage cheese. If you are like me, you may still have (well, a ton of) cheese still in the refrigerator. Well, take that leftover dairy and that extra bottle of champagne from New Years and host a little Hump-day happy hour at your place this week. Just be sure to include some vegan-friendly appetizers for yourself to avoid the seductive stare of that hunk of brie.

5.) The Freezer section is not off-limits. I hate to admit it, but I have had an on-again, off-again affair with the freezer section (uh, some of those frozen pizzas on the market are just too good to resist, and I've definitely warned people to Lego my Eggos!) However, I discovered that Amy's brand creates an amazing Tofu Scramble wrap (available in most grocery stores in the freezer section) that mimics eggs for breakfast, which I found actually tastier than many egg dishes I've had in the past. Actually, I've tried many of the Amy's brand dishes (many of which are vegan) even before this experiment, and I have yet to be disappointed.

Tip: Some foods, like traditional pasta with Marinara sauce, can seem really bland without the hefty pile of Parmesan cheese many of us our used to topping the dish with. I asked the waiter to amp up the taste factor by making my sauce "Fra Diablo" - essentially, spicy Marinara sauce. Upping the spice factor sort of "fed two birds with one hand." Not only did the extra spice improve the tastiness factor, but I ate about a third of what I normally would have and was completely satisfied.


Saturday, January 1, 2011

Day 1: Uh, What in the World Do Vegans Eat for Breakfast?

After bidding farewell to 2010 with a grueling workout at the gym (including 52 reps of each strength training move - one rep for each week of fabulousness that 2011 will bring), I woke up this morning ravenous. In 2010, I would immediately go to the kitchen, grab some egg beaters, toast an English muffin, and slap on a piece of cheese, composing a sloppy Egg McMuffin sort of situation.

That was so last year. This morning, I obviously knew I would not be able to partake in the egg or cheese aspect of my usual concoction, but I was not aware that English muffins are made with milk! Daunted and not unafraid, I began looking through the refrigerator for something that would not, in Meal 1/Day 1, immediately ruin my intention to go Vegan in the month of January.

Hmm... the leftovers of pecan-crusted salmon from the delicious meal my boyfriend cooked me last night were unfortunately not an option. Brie seemed to be calling my name, but I reluctantly plugged my ears. Even the frozen pizza in the freezer felt like it was trying to seduce me! I began to feel like my only breakfast option would be to gulp hot sauce down and call it a meal.

Then, blessing of blessings, I recalled I'd purchase mini-bagels a few days earlier. I quickly scanned the ingredients - no milk, no dairy, no eggs! Hallelujah! Clearly, I could not enjoy these toasted little wonders with cream cheese, but I slathered some peanut butter on them and can honestly say I was equally as satisfied with the "vegan" alternative.

I guess the moral of the story for day one is that going vegan is going to take some planning...and some substituting. The good news this morning is the hot sauce remained untouched.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Vegan Experiment

Welcome to 2011, cyberfollowers! My apologies for a quiet 2010...I think it has been a challenging year for many, but let's turn the page to the fabulous year ahead!

To properly greet the year ahead, I have decided to participate in a little experiment. Specifically, I am eating a Vegan-only diet through the month of January. Yes, I can practically hear your gasps and feel your shudders. I, like most Americans, have been generally horrified at the idea of giving up many foods that I love (one word - cheese!) in exchange for the healthier, plant-based menu that veganism demands. Plus, there is the matter of having to own up to my veganism in restaurants and social settings involving food, inevitably evoking the looks from others that not-so-subtly inform me that veganism is on par with leprosy in their minds. So, why, oh dear god, why would I do this to myself?

Two words - Blue Spirit. No, this is not some new deity that I've created in my mind to worship and build a shrine to in our backyard. Rather, this is the name of a Yoga resort in Costa Rica, where I dragged my boyfriend last month to attend a yoga retreat, hosted by my friends Karen and J.J. I knew to expect a wonderful itinerary from these folks (Kundalini yoga classes, Mixed martial arts, informative classes, and Zip-lining! through the jungle of Costa Rica), but I didn't really anticipate a vegan-oriented menu. I was determined to give it a chance though, in spite of my hatred of quinoa (which I eventually learned to like, once I doused it with some contraband barbecue sauce I snuck into the resort!) As it turned out, the vegan menu was delicious. Then again, when you are working out 5 hours a day, you would probably be grateful if all you had to eat was paper.

Then, the last day, my yoga group went out for a "last night in town" lavish dinner in town. There was cheese, wine, pasta, deserts...did I mention that there was pasta? I thought I would be in heaven. Instead, the sauce of my pasta tasted really salty. The cheese made me feel really bloated. Even the bite of desert I had tasted (grossly) like pure sugar. I know the food was "good," as in I would have loved it if I had been eating it the week before, but after a week of clean vegan eating, I was actually really disappointed.

The next day, I felt terrible. What I mean by this is my body felt icky, the way it does when a person overindulges at Thanksgiving or the morning after having one too many glasses of wine. Plus, I was annoyed - annoyed that the foods that I had loved for so many years could make me feel so bad. It was as though I had been in a bad relationship for years and never even knew it.

It didn't stop with that dinner. When I returned to the U.S., I tried eating one of my either favorite foods -Doritos (I know, you don't have to be vegan to find this admission pretty disgusting.) I had precisely two chips. They both tasted like I was biting into a salt block.

Clearly, my body was telling me something. Thus, I began to body has carried me and tolerated my crazy lifestyle and diet for years (not important how many!) I've decided to give it a break, at least for January. This idea has been catching on (you can read about it on ), and I will be sure to give you my honest play by play of how this goes.

The month of January might involve a lot of quinoa, but thankfully we have plenty of barbecue sauce at home.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


In a self-absorbed haze, I sat outside of a lovely hotel in Baltimore last night, anxiously reviewing my professional tasks at hand, reviewing the documents I needed to create for an early morning meeting I had scheduled. A gentleman, sitting relaxingly and very near in proximity to me, calmly puffed on his cigar, and gently observing my anxious texts to my boyfriend, who was otherwise obligated.

In the instant we all dread that strangers will want to start a conversation with me, the well-dressed man in the suit with carefully selected cuff links initiated a dialog with me. (Here I will include a disclaimer...the people that know me well know that strangers feel pretty quickly that I am their confessor, that their deepest, darkest secrets are somehow alright to be shared with a complete stranger.) This man, who I shall call "G", was to be no exception. Except, G was different. G is HIV positive.

This man slowly unfolded his story. Here are is the overview, in bulleted, project management format:
  • He is heterosexual
  • He was not informed by his partner that she was HIV positive, but he now knows she knew, because the initial round of drugs they gave him was ineffective. The only way that they would be ineffective if his partner knew and was receiving drug treatment
  • He pays for his treatment completely out of pocket.
  • He is an extremely intelligent individual.
  • He is actively seeking love. He discloses to any prospective lovers the state of his disease. He has perpetual fears that he will infect a HIV-negative partners, even having safe sex.
  • He was never promiscuous. He was monogamous with all of his partners.
  • He is extremely intelligent - he works for a huge finance firm in a high powered position.
  • He is lonely. He has seen many friends in his condition die. He is worried that he will die alone.

What did our conversation do for me? It brought life into perspective. G is an inspiration. Keep his story in your mind, and his health in your prayers. I'm blessed to have "endured" a conversation with this amazing person, and wish you all the same good fortune.