Veganomics

I looked at the scale and could barely believe my eyes. I lost 53 lbs the year I made the switch from vegetarian to vegan. At first, I thought it was great but then I started to worry. I didn’t know if, or when, the weight loss would stop and, frankly, it was getting expensive to keep buying new clothes.

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The weight loss did stop, though, after about a year. I think it was only because it took me that long to find vegan junk food. There are a lot of myths around veganism and probably as many reasons for choosing a vegan lifestyle (meaning you do not consume or wear anything that is, or comes from, another animal) but weight loss was never part of my reason for “embracing the ‘V”.

 

Over dinner, I explained to a friend that many people choose to go vegan for better health but are surprised to find we vegans can be just as fat on a vegan diet as meat and dairy centric people can be on their diet. The vegan diet is still healthier in many ways but if you are looking to lose weight, forget all the diet advice and media hype out there.

 

There is only one sure way I know of to drop pounds and it is virtually foolproof. Here it is: eat less, move more.

 

The more you move, the more fuel you burn. To become lean, you simply must burn more fuel than you take in.

 

Being vegan is great and I have enjoyed many benefits like needing less sleep, having greater concentration and more energy, almost never being sick, and generally feeling about 10 years younger than my age. Those are all fine reasons to choose veganism, too, but if you are doing it in the hopes of becoming thinner, I would just advise you to go for a walk instead!

 

Great food, though. So much great vegan food. Just thinking about it makes me think I need to go for a walk, too…

 

Better Latte Than Never

I drink a latte every day… a large one. Sometimes I make it at home; sometimes I buy it, but I never miss a day. It is a guilty pleasure and easily one of my favorite parts of the day.

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Because lattes are made with espresso (and steamed milk–soy or coconut milk for me), they have a lot of caffeine. I never drank coffee before my affection for morning lattes and I don’t drink a lot of soda or other caffeinated beverages.

I gave up lattes over the weekend; this is my 3rd day free from caffeine (other than a cup of black tea) and boy am I feeling the withdrawal. My head has been pounding the last two days and I have been pretty surly (good thing I am on vacation so only Nicole has to put up with me–she is a real trooper, not taking anything personally and being supportive–I couldn’t ask for a better support system). I have quit lattes before so I know the headache will only last another day or two and I will be happier once I get through it.

So… if you love something and it doesn’t hurt anybody else, why give it up? For me, I am giving up my morning addiction for two reasons:

  1. I can’t get along the same without it. My caffeine headache is proof enough I have become reliant on my morning treat. That means I am no longer the one in control of my life–the caffeine is now dictating my behavior and actions. That is unacceptable.

  2. It is not contributing anything to me. I enjoy the morning sugar bomb and the little energy kick it pretends to deliver (I had the same energy before I started drinking espresso; it has only replaced what was already there). Overall, though, it is just liquid calories that do more to make me fat and lazy than to give me extra zip. Why would I want to keep doing that?

I might still enjoy a latte as a rare treat after I know I am the one making the decisions again, but for now, it’s good-bye to the morning sugar rush and getting my body and mind back in alignment.

It was a good run, lattes, but I have better things to do now. Sorry about your luck.

Now We’re Cooking!

Part of my family is very traditional–the women do the cooking, child-rearing, and cleaning (and they work full-time jobs) while the men sit around and… I don’t know, watch news or yell at each other, mostly.

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Anyway, I hate cooking. I’m proficient at it; I can make a good meal; I just don’t like the time investment for the return on that investment. I would rather pay somebody to do it. However, one thing I love to do is prepare a meal with someone else (like Nicole). It is an easy, low stress time to produce something together while socializing, and joking (or flirting) about our respective kitchen talents (or lack thereof) and other topics of choice.

In short, cooking together is fun. Cooking alone… not so much.

Find something easy to do together with your loved ones (or friends or kids) and have fun doing it. Don’t let tradition or habit jump in the way of living.

 

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Why You Should Order Dessert First

Keeping in line with yesterday’s post, I never hesitate to order dessert first when I go out to eat.

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I enjoy the reaction of the wait staff, foremost. Sometimes I get a quizzical look, sometimes the server seems annoyed, and sometimes they are totally on-board and will say something like, “You’re my kind of eater!”

I like dessert first because I am usually hungry and want food as quickly as possible (and dessert is often faster than appetizers), I would have ordered an appetizer anyway so it might as well be a tasty one, and dessert is a delicious indulgence to bond over with a friend and begin a meal properly.

Also, if I do not eat all the food, then I would rather have a leftover meal started for tomorrow instead of leftover dessert, which is not always as good the next day.

 

After all, life is short. I don’t want to leave it knowing I missed any of the yummy parts!

 

Dessert Is Not Just For Dessert!

I love sweets and I love having dessert every night. The only problem is, stupid dessert makes me fat!

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What I remembered today is dessert does not have to be an overloaded sugar-bomb. A great way to finish a meal this time of year is with some fresh, sweet corn-on-the-cob. If made right, sweet corn is truly a sweet treat without any butter, salt, or dressing. Delicious!

Thanks to our Vitamix, Nicole and I also enjoy an ice cream treat made entirely out of bananas. Google “Banana Whip”. If you have a powerful blender (like a Vitamix or Blendtec) it is 100% worth your time to try this amazing favorite dessert of mine that is… almost healthy!

In other words, think outside the box if you love sweet treats but are trying to keep your weight in check. A fresh fruit salad, banana whip, sweet corn, or even a green smoothie with some beets thrown in can rock your sweet tooth without wreaking havoc on your belly.

BUT… if vegan cheesecake is available, all bets are off. Just saying.

 

The King And I Would Not Hurt A Fly.

How would roads look if we built them with other animals and ecology in mind? Would they maybe have 3 or 4 foot walls to deter animals like deer, squirrels, woodchucks, dogs, and cats from straying into traffic?

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I saw a dead deer on the side of the road as I drove home today. It had obviously been hit while crossing the road. I drive a lot for work and, sadly, I see a lot of roadkill.

The thing is, we do not give much thought to our impact on the world, and yet we are the default caretakers of both the environment and the animal kingdom. We are top of the food chain whether we chose to be or not, and we are the only ones with the power and foresight to take care of our planet and its inhabitants, including ourselves. It seems like this should weigh on us more than it does.

I am a firm supporter of progress, science, and taking control of our destiny, but it makes me sad when we build, dominate, or renovate with blatant disregard for our fellow creatures and fauna. It is not only an abdication of our responsibility as kings over this planet, but it is also an offense to our own minds and creativity. It is a choice to ignore the faculty of thought, planning, and foresight–the very utility that gives us dominion over the rest of the world.

Think about what small steps you can take to care for your world and the creatures you are responsible for (whether you chose to be or not). As the default king of the Animal Kingdom, what kind of ruler do you wish to be remembered as? Ruthless and merciless (because that has always worked well for kings in the past…) or honorable and merciful?

In every moment of our lives, we have the potential to be Hitler or Gandhi to the rest of the world. Choose.

 

Vegans Are SO Crazy… right?

Nicole and I had dinner at The Mitten, one of our favorite local pizza places in Grand Rapids with amazing vegan options. At one point, our friends became curious about our vegan pizza, so we offered a sample.

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They cautiously tried a few bites before polishing off the last few slices. As they ate, they commented on every texture and flavor, ultimately deciding vegan pizza is not so bad. They would be willing to eat it again, in a pinch.

This happens a lot to vegans (people who consume no animal products). The veggie-curious will go out on a limb and try the crazy vegan food once, usually after explaining how they could never adopt a vegan diet themselves.

Because we are polite, vegans almost never point this out, but the funny thing to us is the food we eat is the same food as everyone else with the exception of 1 or 2 missing ingredients. Vegan pizza is just pizza with soy cheese instead of regular cheese, or tempeh instead of pepperoni. The bread, the sauce, the mushrooms, green peppers, tomatoes, olives, etc… are not special vegan versions.

You have steak, a baked potato, and green beans. I have a baked potato, green beans, and a side salad. Almost every vegan meal is just a normal meal with 1 or 2 ingredients missing or added. The longer you are vegan, of course, the more curious you become about food and the more exotic food you are willing to try but this, again, is no different from other foodies.

Anyway, if you are out with your vegan friends, I promise they will be excited to share their treats and prove vegan food is safe and just as delicious as other food (because it is pretty much the same food, just missing meat and dairy). If you do try a vegan bite, though, here is a tip to seem gracious and civilized to your veg-friendly friend… don’t act like you’ve never had food before.


(And, just to be clear, we’re never really offended; we all did the same thing the first time we tried our vegan friend’s food, too.)

 

Are You a Vegan Racist?!?

I had a interesting experience at a Biggby coffee shop. Most of the baristas know me there and know my usual orders. On this day, however, there was a new guy filling in.

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I ordered a Earl Grey Latte with Soy Milk (the vegan equivalent of tea with milk). The young man behind the counter chatted with me while he made my drink. One of the regular workers behind the counter who knew me was also watching, making sure he had the order right. She mentioned I am vegan and asked the stand-in to be sure he used a separate container for the soy milk (which I appreciated).

Once he realized why I ordered the drink with soy, he made (I think) an attempt to show how vegan-friendly he is.  He said, “Yeah, I tried this soy stuff before. Had one of them Soy Chai lattes. It was good. I think I would do it again…”

It abruptly struck me this is the equivalent, to a vegan, of saying, “Yeah, I’m not racist. I invited a black over to dinner once. We had fried chicken. I think I would do it again…”

I know the vegan lifestyle seems strange to some non-vegans, but if you have vegan friends, just treat them like your normal friends. You do not need to impress them with how “vegan-friendly” you are (and most vegans don’t really care anyway; it is a personal choice not a social one). I joked on Facebook, “Just be normal around your vegan friends; it’s fine. We already think we are better than you. You do not need to confirm it.”

The cure for Racism (of any kind) as I see it, is to refuse to acknowledge it. As long as you see vegans (or anyone) as a separate class of people, you are forcing them to be a separate class of people. And, by the way, if you had to pick a side, would you want to be part of the “murdering, carnivorous, can’t-control-what-you-stuff-in-your-mouth” or the “You-are-not-doing-a-very-good-job-of-hiding-you-are-a-bigot” group?

Of course, the barista did not mean to offend me (and, really, he didn’t–it was just an observation), but the point is he did not have to try to befriend me by showing he is half-supportive of something he does not seem willing to commit to or learn more about.

The coffee house guy was just letting me know he tried soy milk once, but I am guessing he did not let the next person know he tried coffee once. Maybe we could have just chatted about the weather?

 

Meretricious People Suck

People sometimes hide their most vile actions under the guise of righteousness and meretricious morality.

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Nicole and I were strolling through the Grand Rapids Festival of the Arts. Nearly every food vendor was representing a religious organization and there were many signs that were anti-gay marriage or anti-gay rights, some even insinuating that AIDS only happens to homosexuals (hello, did you just hear about this new thing called “break-dancing”, too? Do you still think Michael Jackson is black… and alive?).

Watching these people celebrating ugliness and morally corrupt values—actually holding them as moral truths—was disheartening. It sapped my energy, watching them hide behind an ancient text that can not withstand the simplest test of logic, reason, rationality (or morality), trying to disguise their true hatred for themselves and others… just depressing. We are supposed to be fellow human beings rising up to explore the universe and raise the Human Race together.

From a vegan perspective, too, the world looks different. There was not a single intentionally vegan food option I could find at the festival—not one. Yet, the zealots preach for ME to take the higher ground and accept their moral code. Their moral code, by the way, literally promotes murder and celebrates pain, seclusion, racism, and ingesting suffering as virtues worth ascending to. This is what they are offering and asking us to aspire to! The sad part is, I know they mean it. I know they believe their dogma and I know they think they are doing right but how am I supposed to hear them preach they have found The Light as they stuff their faces with dead animals?

The world will not be destroyed by bad people with bad intentions. The world will almost certainly be destroyed by willfully ignorant people with good intentions.

Oh, and another thing I learned today is that “meretricious” is now one of my favorite words to describe people that seem good on the outside, but upon closer inspection, are hiding terrible things. If you have never heard it, you should look it up.

The Perils of Eating Out Vegan

When you are vegan (do not eat or wear any animal products), eating out rather than cooking your own food can be complicated, even when going to mostly vegan restaurants.

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Some vegans become irritated when a restaurant makes a mistake with their meal. They may send the food back, chastise the waitstaff, or blast their ire over social media. I do not think vegans have any more right to be upset about their meal not being prepared correctly than anyone else does.

Unless you make or grow your own food, there is no validity to being upset at the mistake of a restaurant. If you have a severe food allergy or special diet restriction, then why would you trust any restaurant serving hundreds (or thousands) of people per week, expecting them never to make a mistake?

If you are vegan and choose to eat out, you can be explicit in your instructions and hope they get it right. If they do not, then it is fair for you to ask for (but you have no right to demand) another course or a correction to make your meal vegan. It is good that you let the restaurant know they goofed your order; they likely want to know so they can do better in the future. It is, however, not so good if you tarnish their reputation or cause confusion on the world’s most powerful social media sites or trash-talk about your experience to friends or family.

It is outrageously irrational to fault a restaurant for making a mistake on an order one time out of (let’s assume… more than a hundred?). Can YOU do anything a hundred or a thousand times without making a single mistake?

When I eat out, I can only rationally assume the food is not 100% vegan, even at a 100% vegan restaurant. For example, there are no clear delineating factors to determine what is vegan. Many vegans, to distinguish where they draw the line on the Animal Kingdom, go by the simple rule, “Do not eat anything that feels pain.” Oysters have virtually no nerves and almost certainly do not feel pain. Are they vegan? Most vegans would say they clearly are not because they are an animal. Broccoli, on the other hand, has a central nervous system–the only tell-tale sign that something feels pain. Is broccoli vegan? Most vegans will not hesitate to say it is, because it is obviously not an animal. Some vegans eat honey; some do not. There are many undecided areas–no restaurant can know every kind of vegan that walks in the door.

I do not expect every waiter or waitress I encounter to know if the rice was made with chicken broth, if the beans have lard, if the fries were cooked in the same grease as the chicken wings, if the soup base is water or beef broth, etc… Even when they claim to know the answers, I must assume they are sometimes wrong. I can easily see a waitress asking a chef, “Is our soup broth vegan?” The chef might not know because he did not prepare the broth, but it is vegetable soup, so of course it must be vegan. “Sure,” he says, “It’s sent to us in unlabeled frozen blocks from our corporate distribution center, but it’s vegetable soup. There’s no meat in it.” The waitress then might return to the table and say, “I asked the chef. He says it is vegan.”

Is it the chef’s fault for making a logical leap that vegetable soup is made with vegetable stock? Is it the waitresses fault for not probing deeper on your behalf? Is it your fault for not specifically asking to see the ingredient list for the soup, if there is one?

The bottom line is, if someone else is preparing your food, you are at their mercy. That is your choice. Don’t cry about it if it is not perfect. After all, there are humans cooking your food in the back. Sometimes lazy, forgetful, honestly mistaken, occasionally careless, stressed out, hurried humans. It is unreasonable to expect 100% perfection 100% of the time.

That is why we vegans have the option of making food ourselves and expecting humans to be human is the entry price for convenience.