Slow Foods

29 02 2012

I recently began learning about the slow food movement and joined a group in my area. Many communities have groups so look for one in yours…

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I have really been enjoying this lately:
http://myplantbasedfamily.wordpress.com/
It’s about raising a family on a healthy plant based diet and doing it on a budget. There are some delicious recipes, weekly meal plans and some over all great ideas for those of us beginning our journey on a plant based lifestyle.





You Can Feel 18 Again

28 02 2012

For those that are new to this blog, up until last week I’d spent over 5 months on antibiotics for a nasty staph infection. Staph is something that many of us naturally carry on our body and in our noses. Most of the time we are immune to it, but on occasion it does find a way into our systems and it can be very stubborn to get rid of. I happen to live in an area with many, many hospitals. It’s the medical capital of the northeastern United States. Because staph originally comes from hospital settings and has now found its way out into communities, this part of the country has seen dramatic increases in people becoming infected. It is an exponentially growing problem and you are now more likely to get it at the gym or while pushing your shopping cart than you are at a hospital.

I’ve never been a big fan of meds, always preferring to let my body try to fight things off naturally if possible. I don’t even use pain relievers, unless I’m burning up from a fever. But when I became sick with staph, my body was in no condition to do any serious fighting. Lack of sleep, lack of exercise and a horrendous diet left a gaping hole in my body’s natural defenses. My immune system was left weakened and susceptible. With the severity of my staph infection, I was happy to be on antibiotics and to eventually find a medicine that would do a good job in fighting it off, as I had tried a number of different ones that really didn’t do the trick. What I never expected was to be on meds for so long. At my last doctor’s appointment just before Christmas, I fully expected to be given the green light to forgo the meds, but was instead told to continue on for two more months as a precaution. At times the dosages were so high that several times a day I was suffering from “medicine gut” a term I coined to describe the fire in my belly that would rise up my esophagus. The ironic thing about being on meds for so long though, is that I eventually started to somehow believe that I wouldn’t be well without them. I was literally scared to go off of them. I had become sort of psychologically dependent on them. Being off of them for a week now has definitely raised my confidence level that things are going to be alright. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still nervous but am feeling better.

Before I got sick, I was so completely exhausted. My life was a vicious circle of poor choices leading to worse health leading to worse choices. At times I have been over 400 pounds. I don’t even no how much over 400 because even the scale in my doctor’s office wouldn’t go higher then that. It’s hard to carry that much weight around all day long. I’d get home and just want to get horizontal. I was eating poorly which also sapped my energy. Then I would turn to sugar to get an energy bump. When that rush wore off, I’d up the amounts of sugar. One day I actually totaled up my sugar intake and found out that often times I was consuming hundreds of grams of sugar daily. I was doing nothing to improve my situation and physically and emotionally I began sinking deeper and deeper.

When I did get sick with staph, I slept for days. I couldn’t even eat. I was nearly bedridden due to exhaustion. I lost 17 pounds in two weeks (some of which I would later gain back). It was a miserable time. And as overdramatic as it probably sounds, there were times that I wondered if I was going to even make it. I felt that bad.

Twenty two weeks on antibiotics gives a person a long time to mull over their situation. I researched ways to fight staph naturally and began using a variety of supplements. I began looking at my diet. Some blood-work confirmed that I would need to make some serious lifestyle changes if I was going to get well and get off meds. Shortly after switching to a plant based diet, I began to feel energized like I hadn’t been in so long. I never crashed. Some nights I had to tell myself it was time to go to sleep because I still had energy. I couldn’t imagine feeling much better. But after being antibiotic free for three days last week, I actually felt the best I have in 18 years. It’s not an exaggeration. I literally felt 18 years old again. The fog lifted and I felt so good – physically and emotionally. For two days I wanted to pinch myself. I felt like I had found the fountain of youth.

With a plant based diet that has been modified to also assist with my other health issues, there are a lot of things that I find myself missing. I do miss meat. I do really miss cheese. I miss bread. I miss Snyder’s hard pretzels (with sharp cheddar cheese). I miss fried foods. Sometimes I think of how nice it would be to have a coca cola on ice. Today, I broke down and bought three small peppers stuffed with prosciutto, hard provolone cheese and marinated in olive oil. Three no no’s. But I felt like a little bit of this stuff might actually do my system a favor as I’ve been eating nothing but fruits, veggies and beans lately. They were so good. It was the taste of my grandmother’s kitchen growing up. But afterwards, I felt rundown. And that’s what I don’t miss. And that’s why I will never go back to how I used to eat. Sure I’ll be less militant when I’m healthy and I know I will eat meat and cheese again, but I’ll never go back to having such an unbalanced diet. I feel too good to ever go back to that. It is worth the trade off. It is worth missing these things.

You really can put lightening back in a bottle. You really can feel 18 again. It’s not bullshit. If you want to feel young again put good gas in your tank. If you want to lose weight, cut out the things that the body has difficulty processing and eat more naturally. Go plant based for two weeks and tell me if you don’t feel absolutely incredible. I’m not telling you its gonna be easy. It’s gonna be very hard but everything that is worth something in life comes with a price.

Some people have asked how to make the switch to a plant based diet easier and I have said get really, really sick and see how easy it is. Because short of that, I doubt I would ever have found this path. In a few weeks, I hope to put together a daily menu for people who want to try a plant based diet out for a couple of weeks. If you are already on the path, consider leaving me some of your favorite plant based recipes below in the comment section or email them to me at johhnysized@gmail.com. Keep them easy. Remember what it was like when you first started. how overwhelming it can be.

If you aren’t yet on the path but suffer from fatigue, want to lose weight, etc. – consider going plant based just for a few weeks and see what a difference it can make. Even smaller steps like cutting out sugar, or processed foods could allow you to feel and see some real noticeable results. Learn from my mistakes, if you are unhealthy, don’t wait until you are so sick that you have no other options.





Heading in the Right Direction

27 02 2012

And so begins week 10 of a switch to a plant based diet. I lost a pound this week which brings the total to over 47 pounds lost through diet, exercise and sickness. Trying to hit the 50 pounds down mark has proven to be difficult, but I’m making changes to facilitate it so we’ll see what happens. I feel pretty good that this will be the week that I see the plateau crumble and see some serious weight loss start up again. Limiting plant based fats like seeds and nuts and cutting out oils all together while increasing exercise should help to make make the difference.

As someone of an italian heritage, I’ve grown up around olive oil and it is used in an awful lot of meals. I thought for sure that switching away from it would prove difficult but it has not been. I’m using veggie broth to saute with and I am enjoying the natural taste of my veggies now. Very often in the past, asparagus would be covered with a coating of egg, breadcrumbs and cheese or wrapped with bacon or with a glaze of some sort. Don’t misunderstand me, bacon makes everything taste better, but it’s also nice to eat these vegetables and be able to just taste their natural flavors. Over the weekend I used broth to make an asparagus and zucchini wrap with dijon mustard that was amazingly good. I’m using alternatives for salad dressing and enjoying the the results more than I did when I was using oil. I recently heard about a semi-local retailer that is selling 13 year old vinegars that are reportedly so good, nothing else is needed for a fantastic salad dressing. I’ll be eager to check that out at some point. It’s interesting that when you cut out a lot of the processed foods, fats and oils, you feel like your taste for things really begins to more fully develop. I recently had a small portion of macaroni with no sauce or any other topping and it was the most enjoyable pasta that I have eaten in quite a while. A few moths ago, I would of rejected the idea of plain pasta, but now it is an absolute treat.

I thought I’d be upset about not getting further along this week but I’m slowly getting to the point where I feel like weight loss cannot be the only measure of success. “Further along” is relative. I feel good, so good that how I feel must also be factored in. And as long as I’m heading in the right direction with my weight, thats fine by me.





Olfactory Blues

26 02 2012

This may sound crazy. I’ve always had an amazing sense of smell. But my sniffer is definitely changing lately. After two months on a plant based diet, I feel a bit sad to report that beef no longer smells like it used to. I want it to because I love beef, but it doesn’t anymore. The smell of hamburgers being cooked makes me want to be sick. I mean really sick! Like I need to get out of the room before I hurl sick! And the burgers end up looking wonderful and delicious but the smell is becoming an impossible hill to climb. And tonight the smell of fish sticks, a food that I have always loved, smelled more like rotting garbage than fish. I literally had to stick my head in the garbage can to make sure the smell wasn’t coming from there. It probably sounds horrible and overly dramatic but it really is the truth. To my fellow meat eaters, I’m sure I’m really starting to sound like one of those “nutty plant eaters”, but yeah, the longer I do this, the less meat appeals to me. It’s getting to be that I can’t really get past the smell, even if I wanted to eat meat. I really am becoming one of those “nutty plant eaters’ and its one of the best things that has ever happened to me.

I am happy to report that freshly made donuts continue to smell wonderful….not that I’ve had one.





Planting the Seeds of Success

25 02 2012

“I hated every minute of training, but I said, ”Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.”
– Muhammad Ali

 

 





Getting Off Oil

24 02 2012

The lifestyle change to plant based foods has taught me to trade things I thought I loved for the things that my body needs. Giving up animal sources of food was a little difficult and although I do crave a juicy steak from time to time, I’m managing. Giving up sugar was hard for the first few days but now I don’t even think about it. I see things like soda and candy and they look like poison to me. (Donuts for some reason, still look wonderful!) Dairy was probably the biggest challenge because of my love of cheese. I still do miss it but I can’t argue with how I feel, and how I feel is better than I have in 15 years which is really saying something. In a way, a plant based diet is like finding the fountain of youth.

The problem I’m having now though is that after 46 pounds, the body is starting to level off with the weight loss. I’ve switched my diet up here and there, added some additional exercise but still I’m not seeing much weight loss. I think I’m struggling with plant based fats. I love seeds and nuts. A 3.5 ounce bag of pumpkin seeds contains nearly all of my recommended fat intake for the day. I can polish a bag that size of in a few minutes. I probably eat a bag of those every day or two. Pistachios have also become a big snack food around here. I’m realizing that a lot of my plant based fat is coming from these two things every day. But the majority of my plant based fat is coming from olive oil.

I’ve started reading up on olive oil and in so many ways its not the health food that it has been marketed as. It is total fat. There are 120 calories and 14 grams of fat per serving. Pound for pound, it contains more fat than butter. It’s also heavily processed and often cotains chemical additives. The reality is, its nearly impossible to find a pure grade of virgin olive oil in your supermarket, especially if you are buying it in clear glass or plastic (as sunlight breaks pure virgin olive oil down). It only has trace amounts of vitamin E and many or the purported benefits of olive oil can be gained from the foods I am already eating. To top it off, it is only heart healthy when compared to other kinds of fats. And no, other oils do not seem any better for you as the nutritional values appear to be about the same. I’m not a doctor, but what I’ve been reading lately would seem to indicate that my heart would be healthier without it altogether or at least in vastly smaller quantities. I have used about 36 ounces of it in my salads and cooking in just the last several weeks. I’ve never consumed so much olive oil as I have been recently. It’s a lot like taking several scoops of ice cream, dumping them onto your salad and asking why you’re not losing weight.

So this will be the next step in this process, severely cutting back on plant based fats and eliminating olive oil all together. For sautéing, I will try veggie broth and see how that goes. For salads, I tried using 3 parts balsamic vinegar and two parts dijon mustard (mixed together then drizzled) last night and it rivals any dressing I’ve ever gotten at a decent restaurant. It is so much better tasting than an oil and vinegar dressing.

It’s true, I don’t really know what I’m doing. I’ve never eaten this way before and admittedly, I’m not well educated on these things but I’m trying to get there. I feel ike all of the plant-based fat intake has been slowing my progress down and so I’m going to tweak my regiment a bit and see what happens.

“Every mouthful of oils and animal products, including dairy foods, initiates an assault on these [cell] membranes and, therefore, on the cells they protect. These foods produce a cascade of free radicals in our bodies especially harmful chemical substances that induce metabolic injuries from which there is only a partial recovery. Year after year, the effects accumulate. And eventually, the cumulative cell injury is great enough to become obvious, to express itself as what physicians define as disease. Plants and grains do not induce the deadly cascade of free radicals. Even better, in fact, they carry an antidote. Unlike oils and animal products, they contain antioxidants, which help to neutralize the free radicals and also, recent research suggests, may provide considerable protection against cancers.” – Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr.





Veggies – the Perfect Prescription

23 02 2012

So the Broccoli Rabe soup came out fantastic. As I tried it, I was thinking of how much my mother and grandmother would enjoy it. My mom stopped by today and tried a little and told me it was some of the best soup she has ever had. Success!  This soup is hearty!

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I love cajun food and recently came across this recipe. I’m hoping to give it a try soon! It would have been perfect for Fat Tuesday!

CHICKPEA GUMBO (From Fat Free Vegan)
2 teaspoons olive oil (or 2 tablespoons water or broth—see SUSAN’s TIPS)
1 tablespoon flour
1 large onion, chopped
1 medium green pepper, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
2 cups vegetable broth
1 28-ounce can tomatoes, coarsely chopped, with juice
1 16-ounce can chickpeas (drained)
16 ounces sliced okra, fresh or frozen
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)
1 tablespoon Tabasco
1 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke flavoring
1-2 cups additional broth or water

In a large pot over medium-high heat, sauté the onions, pepper, and celery in the olive oil. When the onions begin to get translucent, add the flour and stir continuously, scraping the bottom of the pan, until the flour begins to brown slightly. Add the vegetable broth and tomatoes, stirring to combine. Then add the remaining ingredients.

The gumbo should have enough liquid to resemble a chunky soup; if it is too dry, add some more vegetable broth or water. Cook for at least 30 minutes, until the flavors have a chance to mingle. Remove the bay leaves and serve over rice.

Veggie sausage can also be added!

That’s it for today, Brother Body wants some rest now!








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