Here’s the most flattering picture I’ve ever taken of you. (Sarcasm.)
There you are in the back seat on Saturday afternoon, indulging in a vegan chocolate cookie from Whole Foods Market.
You didn’t seem to notice there were no eggs or dairy in your cookie. All you knew is that for some reason, I was letting you pig out on a treat which you didn’t have to earn by going potty at the house.
As for the reason the cookie was vegan, that would be because, well… this is me officially coming out of the vegan closet.
I have suffered from severe allergies and sinus problems since 1992, when I was only 11; I’ll be 32 next month. But a week ago I decided to see what would happen if I stopped drinking milk with my coffee.
About two days into using coconut and rice milk instead, I noticed that my constant sinus pressure cleared up.
Then I became addicted to that version of life. It’s been 21 years since I’ve breathed so easily and have been able to think so clearly. The fog in my brain has lifted, in more ways than one.
I decided that if it meant going vegan (no dairy or eggs, in addition to no meat) to continue my heightened state of well-being, I would be willing to make the appropriate lifestyle change. Watching the documentary Vegucated on Netflix solidified my decision.
Granted, our family has been vegetarians for 15 months now. So I’ve been living an alternative lifestyle this whole time anyway. Here it is; the last picture of us together before I became a vegan. The following day I would become even weirder.
Just to be clear, the vegan thing is just for me; not for you or Mommy.
You don’t like eggs. You don’t like milk. But you’ll eat cheese and yogurt so I want you to keep enjoying them.
Or at least I should say, enjoy them while you can.
I’ve already learned that you and I have basically the same medical issues. The only reason you and I don’t currently still have eczema is because A) I make sure that none of your soaps or lotions contain sodium lauryl sulfate or artificial dyes and B) other than special occasions, I deprive you of processed sugar; even 100% fruit juice.
So don’t be surprised in about 9 years when you turn 11, that you’ll suddenly get this sinus pressure that gets worse at night and any time the weather changes. It will feel like you desperately need to blow your nose, but there’s nothing there when you try.
Son, I hope the best for you. I hope you haven’t inherited my severe allergies and sinus problems, but if you have… at least you’ll have a vegan dad to help teach you have to live the peculiar life of no eggs or dairy, in addition to no meat.
Having kept off the 25 pounds I lost in 2009, it’s weird to look back and see a “beefier” version of myself.
That picture you see is from September 2008; just a few months after Mommy and I got married; back in the days before I had to change my lifestyle to combat and eventually get rid of my dyshidrotic eczema.
Those were the days before I ate actual fruit; instead I was drinking fruit juice, which increased my intake of processed sugar and stripped the fruit of its crucial fiber content.
Those were the days I was still drinking low-fat milk, which actually promotes weight gain; instead of exclusively drinking whole milk like our family does now. (I tested this out on myself and documented it online for any doubting Thomases.)
I wasn’t drinking 3 liters of water a day to help wash out the toxins I’m exposed to on a daily basis.
Only a few people said anything about it to me, back in 2009: “Hey, you’ve gained some weight since getting married, haven’t you?”
But as a guy, I wasn’t really concerned about gaining weight. Honestly, I wouldn’t have changed anything if it weren’t for the constant headaches, digestion problems, rashes all over my body, noticeable acne, and blistered, swollen hands.
It wasn’t until I lost 25 pounds and got down to the proper weight, that my health problems seemed to just magically disappear.
If I could narrow it down to one main thing I started doing differently that made the biggest difference in improving my health, and as a side effect, losing excess weight, it was that I started doing everything I could to avoid processed foods.
In other words, I stopped counting calories and started reading ingredients.
Most popular diet programs seem to be based on the idea that once you run out of your calories for the day, you have to stop eating. That means that it’s okay to eat a fast food burger, fries, and a soda for lunch, but you may not be able to “afford” a healthy banana with dinner.
Interestingly, our family never counts calories, nor do we refrain from eating when we’re hungry. The secret is, there are a lot of ingredients we won’t eat.
When we’re buying groceries, the first thing we look for on the front of the package is “No artificial flavors, artificial colors, artificial sweeteners, or high fructose corn syrup.”
All of those ingredients make the product a red flag for it being a highly processed food.
That would explain why finding a good yogurt brand for you is a bit problematic. I’ll be writing to you about that tomorrow…
We also check out the daily percentage for the sugar content and sodium content, which explains why we avoid granola bars and soup.
Another red flag is any food that has the word “diet” or “light” in it. We just say no to mysterious chemicals.
While a diet soda doesn’t contain the sugar content a normal soda does, if nothing else, it distracts us from the drinking enough water for the day.
Why are we not constantly craving foods full of fat and sugar? Why are we not constantly hungry?
Here’s the secret: We capitalize on the good fats, good proteins, and good sugars.
Good fats and proteins include nuts, avocados, seeds and minimally processed dairy products; as opposed to consuming more than 4 to 6 ounces of meat per day, depending on body weight.
Good sugars include whole fruits and whole grains; as opposed to sweet tea, soft drinks, sugary coffees, cake, candy, and white bread.
Because we build our snacks and meals around the good foods, not their evil counterparts, we are able to give our bodies the natural nutrients they need and crave.
This is the life you were born into, Jack. You have Mommy and I as parents. As you get older, it may seem we are depriving you of the good stuff.
Just remember, we learned when you were an infant that you have inherited the eczema from me. So if we don’t keep you on the straight and narrow, it will lead to a life of pain, discomfort, and frustration for you.
We live this way because we care about you.
P.S. I’m not a doctor or nutritionist, nor do I have a product or program to sell here. I am just a dad who happened to learn this stuff through trial and error; using myself as a Guinea pig.
Everything I have shared with you today was simply what I taught myself from the process of trying to figure out the cure to eczema.
Again, I have been eczema-free since 2009. I am very eager and willing to respond with any other readers of this letter who have more questions about anything I have mentioned here today or want to learn about more additional ways to cure eczema.
This week there has been a lot of negative buzz going on about a writer for Vogue magazine who reacted to her 7 year-old daughter’s obesity by placing her on an unforgiving, calorie-counting diet. (At 4 feet, 4 inches tall, her daughter weighed 93 pounds, placing her in the 99th percentile for her age; about 30 pounds overweight.)
I’m not even going to try to be neutral on this subject and end this article with, “What you do think, readers? Did this mom do the right thing?”
Because it’s this simple: The way this mom handled her daughter on a diet was illegitimate and a horrible example for her daughter. I’m not questioning her moral character, but her technique; because I believe it needs to be questioned:
“I once reproachfully deprived Bea of her dinner after learning that her observation of French Heritage Day at school involved nearly 800 calories of Brie, filet mignon, baguette, and chocolate. I stopped letting her enjoy Pizza Fridays when she admitted to adding a corn salad as a side dish one week.”
And I know, in American’s modern day parenting culture, it’s taboo to criticize another person’s parenting style; especially a woman’s, especially coming from a man’s perspective, especially in regards to dieting.
But I don’t care. Here’s my beef:
Weiss would restrict her daughter from enjoying birthday cakes at parties. She would not allow her to eat dinner if she had already consumed her daily amount of calories for the day. And then when he daughter finally lost the weight, she was rewarded her with new dresses.
Yikes. Not cool, Zeus.
I am extremely against counting calories in the name of losing weight. It sends the message that it’s okay to eat lunch from a fast food drive-thru as long as you make up for it by only eating celery sticks for dinner. That’s not a healthy approach.
It places the emphasis on “not being fat” as opposed to actually caring about being healthy. It focuses on superficial image instead of quality of life.
So what’s the magical alternative?
Nix soda and drinks with sugar added. Instead, drink plenty of water throughout the day.
Replace all white bread and pasta with wheat.
Reduce meat intake to 4 ounces per day.
For snacks, cut up actual pieces of fruit.
Make a point to include fresh vegetables in every dinner.
Whenever you’re hungry, eat; granted that it’s included the items listed above.
When you officially go vegetarian, the #1 response you will get from most people is, “Well, just make sure you’re getting enough protein.” I feel like it’s subconsciously assumed that vegetarians are just a few steps away from having an eating disorder.
Prepare for me to rock your world. (As if I don’t always.) The reasons people eat meat are because they like it and it’s convenient. People do not eat meat because their bodies need the protein. For any person with access to a grocery store or market that sells veggies and beans, meat is nutritionally unnecessary.
After all, I accidentally became a vegetarian. Throughout the years, as I learned more and more how to eat properly by cutting out foods with the word “high-fructose corn syrup” in them and started eating fresh fruits, veggies, and whole grains in every meal, I finally woke up and realized, “Hey, I don’t want even want meat. Why am I eating this?”
According to the fascinating documentary, Forks Over Knives, which features people who reversed their cancer and Diabetes by switching to a plant-based diet, even the vegetable with the least amount of a protein, the potato, still provides the minimal amount of necessary protein.
Twenty years ago from this very minute, I was probably at Burger King with my family, who was impressed that a skinny little 10 year-old boy like me could so easy down a Double Whopper combo meal. My catch-phrase back then was, “Meat. I gotta have more meat.”
How ironic that two decades later A) I’m a vegetarian and B) I’m never hungry after eating meatless meals.
Forks Over Knives also explains how 500 calories of vegetarian food triggers the mind and body that a person is full, both quicker and longer, than 500 calories of animal based food. Therefore, the more animal-based and processed a meal is, the more necessary it becomes to overeat in order to feel full.
Vegetarianism is considered an alternative lifestyle. But the way I see it, eating meat is the actual alternative lifestyle.
Take a fun look back to the book of Genesis in the Bible. It starts out with God telling people to eat plants and herbs. From Adam until Noah, 20 generations later, there is no mention of anyone eating animals. Then after the Flood wrecked the Earth, God allows people to start eating certain animals (not pork or shellfish.) Why? Out of necessity.
In this new version of Earth where it rained now, where Pangea had been torn apart, where peoples’ lifetimes shortened from centuries to less than a century, for many people it would become necessary, at times, for them to survive off the protein of slaughtered animals. It was scientifically a new environment; they had to adapt.
But here we are now in 2012. It’s never been easier to have access to fresh produce and whole grains. We don’t have to rely on the alternative lifestyle of eating meat.
Instead, we eat meat because it’s easy, familiar, and fun. We like it. But we don’t need it, nutritionally if we get our protein from the right places to begin with.
It’s simply a myth that vegetarians don’t get enough protein. Pretty weird, huh?
If you would like to personally ask me any questions about converting to vegetarianism, feel free to email me at nickshell1983@hotmail. Or simply check out this article I wrote a few weeks ago: Healthy Parents: 5 Steps to Planning Vegetarian Meals. Trust me, if you’re attempting to go vegetarian but aren’t “feeling full,” it means you’re doing it wrong. I’ll help.
I grew up drinking skim milk; so did my wife. However, as of last summer we switched to whole milk. Why? Because despite contrary popular belief, low-fat milk is not healthier than whole milk. And I can prove it.
Last May, I read an article in Details magazine called “Is Skim Milk Making You Fat?“ It presented evidence from a study that showed how drinking skim or 2 % milk, as opposed to whole, actually causes people to be more likely to gain weight. Why?
Low-fat milk is more processed than whole- as the word “whole” naturally implies. When the fat is removed or reduced from the milk, so go the nutrients from that fat. Therefore, those who drink low-fat milk tend to feel “less full” and therefore consume more calories elsewhere.
It seemed too radical to be true. So what did I do last May? I switched to whole milk, after only drinking skim my whole life. After 30 days, I wanted to see if I had gained or lost any weight.
I documented this science experience on my personal blog website, both before and after. The funny thing is, during that month, I ended up doubling the amount of milk I drank each day, because it tasted so much better with the extra fat (and nutrients.)
The results? I didn’t gain or lose a pound. (And no, I’m not one of those people who can eat whatever they want and never gain any weight. That was only in high school for me.)
My weight stayed virtually the exact same after the 30 day switch. After seeing the results, or lack thereof, my wife switched to whole milk as well.
So are you the least bit curious? Are you tempted to switch to whole milk now? If you do, then you yourself can be the cool person who gets to drop the knowledge on your friends that no, drinking whole milk doesn’t make you less healthy.