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.
It’s not that your parents haven’t tried to introduce you to other options. You’ll eat rice and beans, quesadillas, pizza, bananas, goldfish crackers, bananas, raisins, pureed fruit, cereal, and… well, actually, that’s pretty much it.
However, if we gave you macaroni and cheese every single night for dinner, you would never complain or ask for anything else.
Interestingly, the more expensive organic brands of yogurt, often aimed at babies and young children, do not contain gelatin.
It’s not just because we’re vegetarians that we avoid ground up animal bi-products in our foods. The way I see it, a hundred years ago when people ate yogurt, they probably didn’t go through the efforts to sprinkle their yogurt with gelatin.
Since I’m very deliberate that our family avoids processed foods as much as possible, I feel that a non-meat food product that requires ground up animal bi-products to taste or look right is too processed for us.
What is the alternative to gelatin in yogurt? Locust bean gum, which is derived from the seeds of trees; I assume they cost more than the animal bi-products that gelatin comes from.
However, there was one brand of yogurt that met all my strict qualifications: It had to be all natural, healthy, vegetarian, kosher, and yet still as affordable as the competition.
The winner… Chobani Greek Yogurt!
So I bought you an 8 pack of their Champions Tubes, which are portable pouches of their Greek Yogurt.
You had no hesitation in trying it. In fact, your immediate response after your first taste was, “I can like it!”
Then I grabbed a tube myself and realized just how good it was. I’ve never tasted yogurt that was so pure and “unchemically,” which is a word I just made up.
Jack, just realize how epic that is. You got upset with me because I took from you the only all natural, vegetarian, kosher, and yet still affordable yogurt on the mainstream market.
We both win.
My congrats to Chobani Greek Yogurt, who I’m sure have no idea who I am, for earning my trust and becoming the only yogurt brand that shares my same high standard and beliefs in what good food should be.
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.
As you are well aware by now, you have a health-obsessed, mountain-bike-riding-during-his-lunch-break vegetarian for a dad, who is attempting to make it taboo for food and drug companies to be shy about what they generically list as “natural” and/or “artificial” ingredients.
I’m still trying to figure out what in this world is not either natural or artificial…
Pretty sneaky, right? Well, the FDA approves this ridiculous behavior in regards to companies listing their products’ “ingredients of ingredients.”
So while I am so “one with nature” that I chose the wooded outdoors as the location for my head shot for The Dadabase, I also want our family to be aware of other subtle “health landmines” we encounter everyday without realizing it.
Today I want to focus on microwaves; as they are machines that convert even the healthiest foods into processed foods.
Neither Mommy nor I trust them. Yes, we have one at our house, but it’s something we subconsciously feel shameful about.
Fortunately, because we are so serious about avoiding processed foods, that prevents us from eating anything that would require its sole preparation in a microwave; like a frozen snack or meal, for example.
For the frozen vegetables we sometimes eat, like broccoli and okra, we heat them up in a pan on the stove, with olive oil.
As explained in this 2 minute video by Organic Liaison Health Director Deborah Klein, MS, RD, microwaving creates radiolytic compounds in food (not naturally produced in the body) that could be carcinogenic, or cancer-causing:
In other words, no matter how healthy or organic a food is before it enters a microwave, it always becomes a processed food by the time it leaves the microwave.
I wish I could say we never use microwave. It’s something to aspire towards. As for now, we only use our microwave to reheat leftovers, which unfortunately for me, is about once a daily since I eat leftovers basically everyday for lunch.
Something I do to reduce the amount of time my food goes in the microwave is I set it out on the counter for a while, so it’s not as cold.
Who knows? Maybe I’ll get so serious about this “Microwaves Are A Dangerous Science Experiment On Our Bodies” campaign that I will find a way to start using a toaster oven, despite our time-starved family schedule. Don’t put it past me.
My conscience really bothers me about our family using a microwave. It can’t be good for any of us; especially not you.