My second official check-in for “The Vegan Challenge” and the verdict stands:
We are living a vegan lifestyle. Not only has it become routine, but also we are enjoying the process and its benefits.
For the past six weeks, my wife and I have eaten almost completely vegan. The times we have not stayed on course, that I will explain further along, have been purely situational. Once again, I have to thank my wife for the time spent researching recipes, energy to keep us on track, and for the love added that we taste in every amazing meal.
The Homemade Vegan Pantry, by Miyoko Schinner, has and will continue to be a source of recipes and inspiration. We received several new vegan cookbooks as gifts over the holidays, but what I have noticed, is that the process of figuring out what to eat, has become more organic. For instance, yesterday I made a vegan chili that the entire family ate for dinner. This morning, my wife layered the leftovers with organic polenta in a lasagna-like manner that I will heat up later this afternoon for dinner. There is little waste in the process. Leftovers are either eaten for lunch the next day or contribute to a future dinner. What is not eaten from that point is added to the garden compost and will fuel the food we produce from our backyard garden. Although it is not a closed loop system, we grow a substantial amount of organic food that feeds us throughout the year, and it is obvious we are inching closer to closing the loop. Knowing that the food you are feeding your family is of the highest possible nutrition and that it is organic/pesticide free makes me happy. Self-sustainability, in turn, will drive me further to produce and save more homegrown food to seasonally consume and preserve for the non-growing seasons. I love to garden and look forward to the challenge.
Joy. Joy in the process. Joy in how great my body feels. Joy in the knowledge that I am not furthering the destruction and decimation of the environment by supporting factory animal agriculture. And joy knowing that every meal I eat no longer contributes to the suffering of animals. At this point in the process, I find myself reflecting and considering those facts every time I eat. Aligning action with belief is empowering.
To date, I have lost 12 pounds over the last 6 weeks. I continue to thrive in my fitness routine and the only thing I have lost is inches in my waistline. As a former competitive bodybuilder, I feel as though my body is undergoing the changes I would typically strive for during pre-contest preparation. The difference is that I have only changed my diet. To accomplish this in the past, I would have added additional workouts and cardio to the routine, which at times totaled more than four hours of working out each day. Conversely, my current fitness regimen takes less than 30 minutes and no more than 5 days per week. On the weekends, we participate as a family in activity-based fitness. Long hikes, bike rides, bouldering, and playing on the beach is where it is at when it comes to family fitness. Veganism has also made an impact on my wife’s fitness. To date, she has lost ten pounds. In addition to teaching high school science all day, she has found the energy to go to the rock gym with my son two times per week and runs with a girlfriend on the off days. If nothing else, both my wife and I agree, that we could not feel better.
Are We On Course?
My children, ages six and three, have continued to eat a mostly plant-based diet. We currently let them choose what they wish to consume. On his own, my son has stated that he does not want to eat steak because he does not want kill cows. At age six, he has not yet made the connection that the pepperoni on his pizza, the yogurt, string cheese, or eggs he likes perpetuate the violence against animals he insightfully understands; and that is ok. Our goal is to offer our children love, nutrition, and information to make the best decisions as they grow up. There are often leftovers from their meals. I will eat them rather than let them go to waste otherwise contributing as methane producing garbage in the landfill.
My mother stayed with us for several days over the holidays. Both she and my son wanted bacon on Christmas day. We purchased some uncured and nitrate free bacon at their request and prepared it Christmas morning. Both my wife and I had some and soon regretted it. After a month of having eaten completely clean, I could immediately feel the effects on my gut. I did not enjoy the feeling, taste, or knowledge of what I was doing. Personally, I have no future plans of purposefully consuming meat. My wife and I are committed to eating a vegan diet when at home, but when situations arise that we have no control over (such as at a restaurant or a potluck dinner), we will make the best of it. We would also eat whatever was offered in someone’s home or when visiting another culture during travel when there is no other alternative. My wife believes that being flexible is what will keep her on the vegan path long-term and I think she is right.
Eating out is always a challenge, but we have found several vegan friendly favorites when the need arises. Panera Bread’s Mediterranean Vegetable Sandwich, minus the feta, is delicious and vegan. The downside is that it is not organic. Our local pizza joint, Pier Pizza, will make us vegetable pizzas minus the cheese and we appreciate that. It is great, but again, not organic. Our other favorite, the local wrap shop where we get falafel is once again, not organic. Our consensus is that it is possible to eat vegan on the go, but the best quality food is going to be food you prepare from home.
Eating vegan is easy with some basic research. The next step of the challenge is materialistic in nature. Specifically, making decisions as a consumer that do not further support animal suffering. Does that mean I will throw out products I currently own? No. That would simply be wasteful. I have a pair of work boots that I have owned for the twenty years, hope to have them for another twenty, but will not purchase clothing or other items derived the from the flesh or bodies of animals in the future. It takes a bit of forethought, investigation, and planning, but I feel that the effort is worthwhile. It is the logical thing to do and I look forward to the challenge. Join us on our journey.
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