Friday, August 10, 2012

the ugly kid in class

Imagine you grew up being kinda on the homely side. Not hideous, where people would stand outside your house with pitchforks and torches, just definitely less than attractive, worse than mere 'plain' even. Had you been a homely kid, you probably would have been made fun of by the mean kids, and your homeliness would have been tolerated, or at least not pointed out, by nice kids. More than likely, as a homely kid you would have had at least one family member that teased you about your looks, because sometimes family members suck that way. As you grew older, homely, you would have been hearing less about your looks from others, but you'd have been hearing plenty from the voices inside that you had internalized from your mean classmates or mean family. Yep, those voices would still be loud and clear. Really, if you were homely, it would shape everything about  how you interacted with the world, every encounter with new people would be colored by their view of you, real or imagined by you, as homely.

Then imagine that one day you woke up and instead of being homely, you were rather nice looking. Not nice looking like people would want to put a poster of you up on their wall or cast you in their next movie or anything. Just nice looking enough that when you put on some decent clothes people would compliment you on your looks. That would really change how you interacted with the world around you, wouldn't it? No longer would you automatically feel like you stood out somehow in a negative way, you might start to feel like you could blend in to a crowd in a nice way. If you woke up nice looking like that, and stayed that way, when a stranger caught your eye for a moment, that might elicit a sincere smile instead of a quick look the other way.

You know where I'm going with this. I grew up being kinda on the big side. At certain stages growing up I was lean enough, but most of the time there was just this 'bigness' about me. That was reinforced for me by one family member that teased me about it, and also by other people that would just remark on how big I was. Not that it was always said in a mean way, just an observation, but, those voices stick. As I became an adult, I certainly didn't get any smaller. In the Army I was a healthy weight for the most part, but even then my image was that of a big guy. On long marches, who got to carry the big, crew fired machine gun AND all it's ammo AND all the gear that went with it? Me, the big guy. After the Army, I put some weight on and kept it on, though over the years my weight would veer sharply anywhere from around 210 to 245. It was common for strangers and store keepers to look alarmed when they saw me. More than once I was stopped by police and questioned about what I was doing, just while walking down the street. Yes, I know the tattoos and (at one time) long hair, and then later the shaved head, added to the imposing look, but still, the bigness was the main part of my image. Need something heavy lifted? Ask me, the big guy. Need someone for crowd control at an event of some kind? Yep, I gotcha covered. The fact that I'm a very pleasant and kind person, yet looked to many people like a big imposing threat, has been a long running joke among my family and friends for years.

At 181 pounds (plant based diet; results are typical) I'm just really not a big guy at all. When people say I look really thin now, it's not just them being nice, and their not just saying I'm thin in comparison to when I was around 230. I don't get the same nervous looks anymore, even with the shaved head and tattoos. In some ways I think I look a little older this way, because maybe my skin sags a little more now that it isn't plumped out with fat. Looking older I think takes away from the imposing look. Yes, it really changes how I interact with the world. I think I'll keep rockin' the veggies folks, this is good. This baby that my wife and I are going to welcome in a couple of weeks will be the first of our kids that won't ever know a big daddy.

When I went to Google to find a picture for this post, I was thinking, 'what's a good picture for transformation?' Well, I had my first big transformation when I was four years old, thanks to a kind family member (that 'thanks' is to you Paul), so of course the first thing that came to mind to represent transformation was the cross. Jesus loved me as the big kid, the fat man, the big scary guy, etc. He also loves the homely, the lame, the simple, and of course the beautiful and brightest as well. Even if I lost my mind and scarfed down cheeseburgers and BBQ until I was 400 pounds, I would have that transformation, from Jesus on the cross. Now THAT is some spectacular transformation; sinner to saint, poisoned to blessed - Jesus Christ; results are typical.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Pastry and Ice Cream and Cookies, OH MY!

Hi Friends!

My family and I just got back from 10 days of vacation in California. Mostly we visited family and friends. Also, we ate, and that's what I'll talk about here since this is mostly a food blog. Some folks were super weirded out and nervous to have us over for dinner because of the way we eat (or maybe it was also cuz there are six of us, and our children eat like locusts - come to think of it, they might get that from me...). Other people just took it in stride - one sweet family we  visited with had made chocolate dipped strawberries and banana slices using non-dairy chocolate, and had also picked up a bag of Trader Joe's Vegan Chocolate Chip cookies - they said "we didn't want you to feel like you had to compromise." AWESOME! What a way to feel welcomed, right? That was a great evening on many counts, and happily the food matters were a secondary (maybe tertiary) thing so we could just relax and have a great visit. Other than that visit, I was fully in vacation mode when it came to desserts - Marie Calendar's pie (twice), Auntie Nona's chocolate cookies (YUM), chocolate chip twist at a wonderful bakery in Laguna, etc. I'm pretty sure I ate my weight in avocados - plenty of those here in Texas, but in CA they are just so much more prevalent. When I got on the scale yesterday morning, our first full day home, I was up four pounds, but today I'm back down two from that. I'm guessing that within another couple of days back home I should be back to 187. (EDIT - as of today, the third morning back, I'm back to 187).

Lately I've been considering taking up some kind of endurance sport, because it seems like that would be a good way to get REALLY lean. Any suggestions? Running probably wouldn't suit me - bad knee and flat feet; biking is cool but my old mountain bike is in a sad state of disrepair - besides, a road bike would make way more sense in the flatness of Texas and the notable lack of any riding surface other than pavement around here; swimming? hmm, too cold most of the year. Well, something will come up, right?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

227 and 40 - 188 and 34

Just taking an opportunity to make a quick post here - my 'office' downstairs is being cleaned so I'm upstairs committing chronocide.

When I started this journey in March, I weighed 227 pounds and my pants were a size 38 waist. That does not mean that my waist measured 38 inches, it just means that I wasn't willing to admit that I had gotten fatter by buying bigger pants. Instead, I did what many middle age guys do - started wearing my pants lower. In the dress pants that I used to wear for work, my belt was creeping ever lower down the front of growing belly, and with shorts I just gave up and wore them around my hips. I'm estimating that my actual waist size was 40 inches, but it could have been bigger. I won't name names here, but a number of guys I know have said 'oh my pants are a size 36' or 'I've been wearing a size 34' since high school.' DeNIAL. Yes, I am sure their pants ARE that size, but they have stomachs that hang over their belts, which are located perilously close to the top of their butt crack instead of many inches higher where their waist actually is.

As of Tuesday, I weigh 188 pounds, and bought some new pants that are a size 34 because I can actually wear those where they are supposed to be worn. Of the three pair I bought, they all fit a bit differently because they are from different makers. In all honestly, one pair is a wee bit tight when worn at my waist, BUT, I am not done slimming down. Not yet. None of the three are anywhere near close fitting enough to make me look like a grape smuggler.

I don't have a firm idea of a goal weight or size, but I do know that when I started this, 177 (a 50 pound loss) seemed daunting. At 188, it seems downright feasible, like maybe even in the next 4 to 6 weeks. Could I be a size 32 eventually? Do I have what it takes to keep going to the gym and working hard five days a week? What if I got to 170? In any case, it's a fun project so I will keep going. Well, fun, and I also feel way  better and I'm plenty more healthy and energetic.

It's comforting to know that I'm not headed for a big ol' backslide (or a big ol' back side) when my diet changes, because I don't intend to change it. Why would I? I still LOVE eating, and there is nothing I miss enough to go back to the fat. Besides, I still choose to eat food sometimes that is not exactly fantastic for my body, but is fantastic for my mental and emotional well being. For instance, last week I lost three pounds, and that was despite having a mini cupcake with my daughter on her date day, and splitting a big basket of fries with my six year old while watching the Rangers game at our local sports bar/restaurant. I'm free to eat whatever I want! Happily, I don't actually want meat and cheese after not having it this long. French fries I will ALWAYS want, so I will have them once in awhile. And cupcakes...those are too lovely to swear off forever. So there you have it - my diet can be described as plant based, no meat, no dairy, VERY limited oil, plus french fries and cupcakes. Shoot, what doctor would say that was bad, right?

This journey is worth it. Beyond worth it. Care to join me?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Happy Herbivore and the Crampy Carnivore

I mentioned awhile ago that my wife and I were getting a bit bored with our plant based eating. To rectify that situation, we went recipe book shopping (on our anniversary!) and bought a fantastic book called "The Every Day Happy Herbivore." Did I call it fantastic? It's ultra-fantastic! So far we've tried the pesto sauce, quick black bean burgers (pictured at left on Ezekial 4:9 toast), Tortuga Rum Cake, and some desserty thing that included yummy cinnamon and apple bits. I won't risk turning the Happy Herbivore into the Angry Carnivore by posting her recipes for free here online, but lemme just say that her quick black bean burgers are QUICK and have very few ingredients. Off the top of my head I could easily recite the whole recipe! Super tasty of course! Oh, and the pesto sauce (ludicrously simple, and totally lovely) is great on pasta of course, but also great as a salad dressing. There is no meat or dairy in her recipes, and if there is any oil it's just the spray kind I think. She offers the suggestion of using parchment paper to keep things from sticking during baking, instead of spray - of course! Great idea. Oh, my link section here includes a link to the Happy Herbivore's blog - check her out and say hello for me! Or just check her out and don't say hello for me because we're not close. As in we've never met - she's an actual chef with a real blog, vs whatever this is that I do here.

LAST week my family and I were in Buena Vista, CO for a family camp that we were blessed with for FREE because one of our kids had melanoma, and the one we're expecting has some of her organs developing on the outside of her body - silly baby. For more on those stories, you can check out Zion's Caringbridge site and Selah Jane's Caringbridge site (Zion is not in the picture there on the left just because he was having some altitude sickness, not some horrible melanoma manifestation, and my wife wisely declined that particular hike, what with being 6 and a half months pregnant).

Along with this vacation time came some food choice challenges. On the way there, we stopped at a Denny's, and were pleased to find a veggie burger among all the bacon wrapped and cheese stuffed mystery meat items. I enjoyed the veggie burger very much, but my wife felt it had too heavy of a soy taste. At a hotel breakfast I tried a breakfast burrito, sans meat and cheese, but did include Egg Beaters - will NOT be going any further down the Egg Beater Road. Along with being an animal product (albeit with no cholesterol), it turns out they have zero taste and a bunch of bullsh ingredients.

Once at the camp, we did inquire at some meals about alternate offerings if everything being served was heavy on the animal products, but this being a totally free ride we declined to be picky. For the most part we were able to stay plant-strong with our eating, but I did make one exception on purpose. Breakfast one day was cooked outdoors over an open fire, at a gorgeous mountain site reached by horseback -the offerings were French toast (served by being flung from the chef to the recipient about 10 feet away, a game as well as a meal! ) with plenty of dairy, eggs with bacon and cheese and such, and quesadillas with eggs and cheese. I happily ate some of that, and the next day the breakfast was sandwiches with eggs, cheese, and bacon and I ate that because it was what was offered. Later that day, I was in some abdominal PAIN. That did not encourage me to embark on a return to the land of meat and dairy. At all.

Back now at home and in our happy plant heavy kitchen, I'm way more happy with my eating, and still dropping weight - 192 yesterday, whoo HOO!! I used to always grill up a huge steak on Father's Day, but this Sunday we'll be cooking up some fantastic vegan Thai. Can't wait!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

May 20th

Skinny? TINY? (also, it's more challenging now)

Lately, some very kind folks have described me as 'skinny,' and even 'tiny.' To be fair, the person who used the term 'tiny' may have had a couple of margaritas. Now, I certainly appreciate the kindness, BUT, those terms do not apply to me quite fairly at 6' (okay okay okay 5' 11") and 197 pounds. Since dropping 30 pounds, I have been wondering at what point I really would be skinny, and how much more weight do I really need to lose? Should I go for an even 50? Would I look good at 177 or would I look like Skeletor? If I looked like Skeletor would I like that? Actually I just did a google image search for Skeletor and it turns out he's not skinny, he's uber buff - weird for a skeleton. Okay, so, at 177 would I be gaunt? Is it even possible? Am I rambling? Oh hell to the yes I am. I suppose the most reasonable thing to do would be to keep eating this way and exercising and just see what happens.

For years now I've bought XL and XXL shirts. Many years ago I went through a phase where I bought all my shirts at one of those 'big and tall' men's stores, and picked everything in at least a 4X, if not a 5X or even 6X. Was I weighing in at 300+? Nope, I was about 235. Clearly, I have body image issues. In the past decade I've at times been at a size where a L would have been okay. This week I bought a MEDIUM t-shirt. It's a stretch for me - no, I don't mean I'm stretching it out, I mean it's a stretch for me to wear a shirt that touches me all the way around, at least lightly, instead of flapping like a sail.

I'm going on 3 months now of not eating meat and dairy. A few weeks in, I grilled 30 cheeseburgers for the local middle school soccer team, which was an engagement I agreed to prior to my big dietary makeover. The experience was not pleasant, the burgers looked yucky, and I had no temptation to eat them. A couple weeks ago I had the second of such engagements, and this time the burgers looked intoxicating. The aroma and texture of the worthless white bread hamburger buns, the sizzle of the cow flesh, the rich look of the thick slices of cheddar cheese....breathtaking. No, I didn't partake, not even a nibble? Know why? Because I realized I didn't want one, I wanted THREE, at LEAST. That's a problem. Moderation and me are not exactly on close terms when it comes to junky food. Then a couple days ago I went to a potluck with my coworkers and I had fried chicken, huge deli sandwiches, and large hunks of BBQ sausage - meaning, I had those things available to me, didn't eat any of it though. It was hard! I felt like an alcoholic at an open bar. Happily, I had brought lentil chili and someone else brought some unadulterated fruit.

My wife and I have been discussing how we are getting a little bored with how we're eating. What we'll need to do is read more recipes, and learn more skills. For me, the temptation to go back to meat and dairy kinda dies away every time I consider how that might take me back to the land of 230 pounds.

Since the middle of last week when the Engine 2 Diet site was kind enough to publish a guest blog that I wrote, LOTS more people have read my humble little blog here, and I've had so many wonderful comments! Thank you all so much! Feel free to keep the suggestions coming for other animal free food ideas coming!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Bacon and Gatorade

My oldest boy went from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts this year, and with that change came the prospect of weekend camp outs on a monthly basis. Also, the prospect of me going along on said camp outs...I figured I should check in with the troop leader (a significantly overweight man, with a son in the troop that was on the road toward being even more overweight than his dad) about what the boys eat on those weekends for two reasons, 1) my kid had cancer, so we don't have him eat a bunch of sugary processed crap, figuring he should have fruit and veggies instead, and 2) I sure wanted to know for my own sake. Here's what I found out from the troop leader - the boys that lead the patrols are in charge of the menu and the cooking. I asked 'so, if the boys choose to bring nothing but Pop Tarts and hot dogs...?' and he said "we allow them to fail, it's part of the learning process for them." Stunning. Strangely enough, they don't have that same 'learning from failure' ideal in place at the gun range. He did say though that we could certainly bring along food of our own.

We took a cooler with fruit and vegetables for both of us, and some bread, avocado, cereal, and hummus for me. Guess who else had fruit and veggies at the camp site? NO ONE. Saturday morning my son's patrol leader did not do a headcount, and as a result my son missed breakfast - a breakfast of bacon and gatorade. That's it. That is a FANTASTIC way to eat in the morning to be ready for a full day of activity in the sun! Suffice it to say, I had a bunch of fruit and such to give my boy, along with plenty of water. For lunch the boys had meat sandwiches, and again I doled out some fruit. One of the dads who attended roasted a whole pig for the troop to eat that night for dinner. What went with it? Rice and beans - white rice with zero nutritional value, and canned black beans with loads of sodium, cooked with an excess of olive oil. My spinach and avocado salad was really good.

Yes, I know Scouting and camp outs are not just about food, BUT, I would think that since part of the Scout motto is "I will keep myself physically fit," then some level of appropriate guidance in how to eat would be a worthy idea? They have the boys work on calisthenics, but say nothing about how to fuel their bodies in order to do the calisthenics! Perhaps other troops do it better, or at least I hope so.

Friday, April 20, 2012

I gave up dairy and meat, not art and taste.

April 20th, 2012

In case I haven't been clear, let me say loud and clear that eating without consuming meat, dairy, or oil DOES NOT mean sacrificing taste. If it did, I don't think I could do it, but IT DOESN'T. See the plate of food pictured here? Let me tell you about it, layer by gorgeous layer starting from the bottom;

1. chips made from baking organic corn tortillas, interspersed with slices of avocado.
2. a big spoonful of mixed legumes - adzuki, lentils, and mung beans.
3. a slow cooker mix of quinoa, black beans, tomatoes, and other vegetables.
4. garnish of diced purple cabbage, tomatoes, jalapenos.
5. dusting of nutrional yeast.

It was more than lunch, it was a food induced euphoria of taste sensations. I know that some of the ingredients I mentioned sounded unfamiliar, and there are some philistines reading this thinking it would be good IF there was a bacon weave draped over the whole thing, and I imagine some of you are thinking 'YUCK.' If I had been served this the first day I changed my diet, I would have enjoyed it. Now after a month and a half of not eating animal products, my taste buds are clean and tidy so that I can eat this and LOVE it. From a standpoint of taste alone, this way of eating is worth the switch. Oh, then throw in the fact that you reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes to a teeny level, I believe the choice is clear.

Have I mentioned I've lost 21 pounds so far? No, I don't spend endless hours at the gym. I walk my dog, and sometimes make it to the gym.