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.
In South Korea, people really do eat dogs. If you need a visual, check out my personal Facebook page and look in my photo album called “Uncensored Korean Files” to see a dog deli I photographed while I was teaching there.
Here in America we eat pigs, which are just as cuddly as dogs and arguably more intelligent, but we’re okay with that because for whatever cultural reasons, we Americans know that it’s somehow uncivilized and morally wrong to kill and eat a dog, but not a pig.
Similarly, we as individual family units live by our own quirky food limitations. A few weeks ago on Facebook, I posted this as my status for my 871 friends to respond:
“Alright parents, I have a very personal question to ask you for something I’m writing for Parents.com. Where do you cross the line on what you will and will not allow your kid to eat? For example, how much fast food is too much? Any particular foods you just don’t want them eating? What about when you’re not around, like if your kid is at a friend’s sleep-over?”
Out of the 24 comments I received in a 24 hour period, the overall consensus was “everything in moderation.” However, the variable I noticed in their comments is what we all consider to be normal in our everyday eating habits. And that’s sort of the whole point of what I was asking.
For example, for some, it was no fast food. For others, it was no meat that isn’t organic. Or no caffeine or no sodas. And then there’s me, the hard-core vegetarian of the group who didn’t bother to mention the long list of things I won’t allow my own kid to eat.
We all know that cancer, Diabetes, and obesity rates are radically higher than they were a 150 years ago before we as humans we introduced to highly processed foods and began eating them in the majority of our meals. So now we as parents want to protect our kids by making deliberate dietary decisions for them.
So here’s what I say: Let us all be weird in our own weird ways when it comes to what “unhealthy” foods we won’t allow our kids to eat.
I’m past the point of worrying that I might hurt someone’s feelings when they try to feed my son something that isn’t on “Dad’s list” of approved foods.
Maybe I err a bit on the radical side, but so what? My kid’s not going to starve nor be malnourished if I have a say in it. He just may be a bit deprived as an American kid who doesn’t get to experience the joy of chicken nuggets like all the normal kids. He’ll be okay.
It’s not that we all as parents are necessarily judging each other for what the other does or does not let their kid eat. Well heck, if I’m judging anyone for that reason, it would be me. I’m more than willing to label myself as the wacko dad here.
But hey, we all draw the line somewhere when it comes to what we won’t let our kid eat.
Back in August, in the midst of a Facebook message conversation, a friend I have known since Kindergarten described her perception of my wife and me:
“I think of you both as health conscious people….but I can’t picture either of you working out in a gym. I picture you as people who hike on the weekends or bike to dinner.”
Little did she know that I was already mapping out this post, explaining why I passionately oppose going to the gym, yet passionately promote daily exercise in other ways. It’s true, the last time I went to a gym, they had just discovered the hatch on Lost.
My friend was right. I am a biker; mountain biker, that is. At all times, my bike is stored in my Honda Element with me. Every day during my lunch break, I bike to Starbucks to read a book, or to the bank to deposit some cash, or to Whole Foods to pick up some Christmas presents for people.
I pretend that I live in a Mediterranean village in the year 1533, where I would literally have to travel miles at a time in order to get everything done that day. If I want to read a chapter in the current book I’m reading, I have to earn it by biking a mile and a half to get to a place to read it.
If it rains or is too cold, I have a heavy raincoat and “outside workout” clothes to change into. Even when it snows, I’ll still at least walk a few miles outside.
The point is to find someway to get daily exercise (at least 25 minutes) without having to depend on paying someone to use their facility. It doesn’t have to include a mountain bike, but it’s a matter of finding a creative way to get out of the office; even it’s just walking with a friend during designated breaks during work.
I say fresh air (even when it’s cold and wet) is still better than stagnant air inside an office. So let me go ahead and get into it, here are 6 reasons I don’t go to the gym:
1. Joining a gym often promotes an “all or nothing” mentality in which one’s diet follows. ”I was just too stressed to go to the gym for the past two days” often means a backslide into fast food lunches and potato chips as snacks.
2. Gyms promote a perfectly sculpted body as the goal, instead of a realistic, healthy one. We’re not movie stars; we don’t need six pack abs. The focus should be on being healthy, not losing weight. Weight loss is a side effect of active habits, not a target itself.
3. Gyms cost money. I’m not going to pay for what I can get for free.
4. There is a pressure to commit to a gym. Remember that episode of Friends where Chandler tries to quit the gym, recruiting Ross to help him, but then Ross gets suckered in to joining the gym too?
5. Working out puts too much focus on calories. For me, it’s about the the right food choices to begin with. I bet my daily calorie intake is slightly high, because I eat plenty of whole fruits (which are already naturally loaded with sugar) as well as avocados, nuts, and whole milk (full of good fats), but I weigh 20-something pounds less now than I did in these featured pictures of me from 2008 on my honeymoon in New England, before I had made my lifestyle changes- like biking and cutting out processed foods.
6. People size you up at a gym. Plus, it’s easier to do the same to other people; focusing too much on bodybuilders who basically live there.
So I say, liberate yourself from the gym. Despite all the rage, you don’t have to be a rat in a cage.
It’s weird, but true: There are more non-Jewish Americans who are kosher-abiding than those who are actually Jewish. Last October, a book by Sue Fishkoff came out that I would love to read. It’s called Kosher Nationand it explains why America has gone kosher. Fishkoff shares:
“More than 11.2 million Americans regularly buy kosher food, 13 percent of the adult consumer population… There are about six million Jews in this country. Even if they all bought only kosher food, which is not the case, they would not be enough to sustain such growth. In fact, just 14 percent of consumers who regularly buy kosher food do so because they follow the rules of kashrut. That means at least 86 percent of the nation’s 11.2 million kosher consumers are not religious Jews.”
My wife and I, along with our nine-month old son, are among that 86 percent. We are not Jewish, or even Seventh Day Adventists (who also do not consume pork or shellfish). But we are adamant about our kosher diet.
So is it a religious thing for us at all? Not really, but sort of. We just kind of stumbled into it.
Through the Mexican bloodline in my family, I have adopted eczema- a vicious skin disease. My mom has it on her neck. One of my uncles has it on his knuckles. And I had it on the palms of my hands; in particular, I had dyshidrosis, where tiny clear blisters form, then pop, and dry out the skin- basically burning it.
For several years during my 20′s, I had what I call “Freddy Kruger hands.” It was embarrassing, overpowering, and even depressing to live with. I was desperate to figure out what exactly it was and more importantly, how to cure the “incurable” disease.
And so began my journey into the world of natural cures and holistic living.
My skin problems peaked shortly after getting married. My wife and I took our honeymoon in New England, eating pretty much nothing but shrimp, scallops, and lobster the entire time. It was good eatin’.
When the week ended, I got back and realized that my entire body had broken out. I found myself in a cloud of despairing depression for no good reason.
I learned that the bottom-feeder shellfish that I consumed were full of heavy metals, including nickel. On top of that, my tungsten wedding ring also contained slightly toxic metals.
Eventually, I remembered that somewhere in the Old Testament of the Bible (Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14) God instructed the Jews not to eat certain animals. I was always under the misconception that those food laws were simply there for a certain group of people to show their obedience to God. Now I realize that those random food laws were God’s way of helping people to know what foods to eat- even as a way of avoiding cancer and disease.
By not eating the animals that are lowest on the food chain, along with all carnivores, the human body is exposed to much less toxins.
And the whole thing about not mixing dairy products with meat? Simply put, that combination prevents food from digesting through the body too slowly. Otherwise, the undigested food remains in the body for too long, potentially causing health problems.
Needless to say, as I converted to a kosher diet, my eczema gradually disappeared; as a side effect, I also lost 25 pounds in the process. So I became inspired to invent The Shell Diet, which is basically the kosher version Mediterranean Food Pyramid.
And that’s how we became a kosher, Gentile family.
Granted, I’m not saying it was an easy transition. It’s still tempting to smell crispy bacon that a co-worker is heating up in the microave or dine at a seafood restaurant where I lust for buttery scallops. But for me, it had to be all or nothing. Anything was worth getting rid of my eczema.
Even for our son, it’s not necessarily easy to keep him kosher. For example, most infants’ pain relievers contain Red Dye 40, which is derived from petroleum; while others may contain Crimson Lake, which is made from scale insects. (The only insect permitted to eat by kosher law is the locust.) When I was a kid, I had a lot of stomach problems, as well as, anxiety attacks- that is, until my parents stopped allowing me to have foods with red dye in them.
It’s strange that I would become the least bit of an expert on being kosher; especially for the fact that I don’t really have any Jewish friends.