Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Reflecting on 21 Days of Vegan Eating and a Giveaway!

Before I start, I just wanted to take a minute to thank everyone for voting for Uncovering Food to advance to round three of Project Food Blog. You voted for a dinner party and I hope I delivered! Voting is now open for this round and I hope you will give me a chance to show you the sweeter side of Uncovering Food in round four! Voting is open until Thursday at 6pm PST.

If you have been reading Uncovering Food over the last three weeks you probably noticed references to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and their 21-day vegan kickstart. I picked up Dr. Neal Barnard's book in early September because the title caught my eye. Who doesn't want to read about food seduction? The book addressed how different foods interact with the chemicals in our bodies, including our brains. I hate to spoil the ending, but the recommendation was for readers to try an animal-product free diet for 21 days (I bet you didn't see that one coming!).

I have read a lot of health books over my life time and rarely feel compelled to act on their suggestions, but this book was well written and the research convinced me to try it out. Especially the chapter about how the chemical properties of cheese interact with some people. So I took on the challenge! Today is day 21 and after the questions friends and readers have asked about changing my diet, I thought a reflection was in order and so I will answer some questions I have been asked over the last 21 days. Please remember that I am not an expert, I am merely reflecting on what I have done and read over the last 21 days.

Was it hard to switch? I could never give up X.

I won't lie, it wasn't as easy as the book might have you believe. For example, I came home to the boyfriend cooking bacon cheese burgers and almost caved in to the smells that filled the house. Instead I explained that while I didn't mind him eating his own food, I just needed to hang out in the other room so I wasn't tempted. Two weeks later, the same smell wasn't tempting anymore though because I am feeling so good that I don't want to break the diet. I also went through a nasty weekend where I dreamed about cheese. Don't ask. In short, I definitely felt a physical and mental pull to these foods that I had to consciously work to break. However, once they were broken, I am not feeling the same draw.

What do you eat? How do you get in protein and vitamins?

I eat lots of things! In October I have taken the Unprocessed pledge, so the last couple days have been a little different and I will be posting soon about eating unprocessed, but over the last 21 days I have enjoyed pizza (Domino's thin crust without cheese and loaded with veggies makes a great substitute when hanging out with friends!), I have also rediscovered a lot foods like bbq tempeh and seitan. I made veggie-friendly pockets which I froze for quick to-go meals and have been snacking on kale chips like it's my job. I use lots of nutritional yeast because it has B vitamins, but I also take a multivitamin (which I was doing before this challenge). My nutritionist warned me to avoid overindulging in soy proteins because she was reading research that too much soy could be harmful but that just meant getting a little more creative. I still had my iced soy lattes at Starbucks, but the rest of my daily proteins would come from beans, nuts, and grains. I did notice that my protein intake has not been as high as it was before, but some of the studies I have been reading suggest that plant based proteins are easier for the body to digest so it all works itself out in the end. In either case, my nutritionist just told me to stay aware of my body and if I felt like I had low energy levels, I should reevaluate my diet. However, I actually felt the opposite (except when I didn't sleep much during debate tournaments!). I feel like I have more energy than I did in August!

Do you plan to continue this diet?

This is a hard question for me to answer. I really like how I feel, but I worry about being too restrictive on myself. I am a fan of moderation although I am not always able to moderate myself. I love cheese. I could eat cheese for every meal. Do I miss cheese? Yes. Do I think I can moderate my cheese intake? Nope. This challenge helped me realize that I was having control issues with some foods. Dr. Barnard suggests in the book that for some people, diets that limit these foods to small portions only set a person who has an addictive chemical reaction up for failure. That the small dose triggers a call for more of the food. I said "prove it" because I just couldn't imagine giving it up completely could be a better option. But for me personally, it might be what I need to take control of my health. I do care about ethical treatment of animals, but this isn't why I took on the challenge, nor does Dr. Barnard address these concerns in the book. I did it for my health. I haven't been able to exercise because of a back injury but in the last 21 days my home scale says I lost 13 pounds. I didn't count calories. I didn't limit my food (but I did pay attention to getting in proteins and not solely eating processed carbs). I just cut out animal products. And by doing that I cut out trigger foods like cheese. I also found I could control my nut butter portions where several years ago I didn't trust myself with a jar of nut butter. And I don't think the diet taught me that but I think the awareness about what I was putting in my body did. So I realize I haven't answered the question, but I think it's because I still don't know. This week I will test my body. I will listen to it if I choose to eat something with dairy, egg or meat in it. And then next week I plan on reevaluating my choices. I think I will live a primarily plant based diet, but I am still exploring and figuring out what works for me.

However, this book definitely sold me on the challenge and I would love to give a reader a chance to check it out as well. I will personally buy one reader a copy of Breaking the Food Seduction to read and evaluate for themselves. You are not committing to the 21-day challenge, just winning a copy of a book that changed the way I think about food. Just leave a comment on this post for a chance to win. You can get four extra entries as well for a total of five:

Required Entry: Leave a comment on this post
Extra Entry: Become a blogger follower & let me know(or tell me you are already a follower)
Extra Entry: Become a fan of Uncovering Food on Facebook and let me know
Extra Entry: Share this contest with friends (either post a link on your blog or cc debatespeak at gmail on your email)
Extra Entry: Tweet about the giveaway with a link to the contest and include @UncoveringFood so I can add it to the entries

I will randomly draw an entry (numbers assigned via excel) on Monday, October 11 at 10pm PST and will announce the winner here on October 12. Good luck!


Joseph's Grainery Recipes said...

What? Now Bacon Peanut Brittle??? ;)

Kathi said...

I result decided to go on a plant-based diet. I would love to have the opportunity to read the book and tell me what wonderful things I am doing for my body doing so.

Mo Diva said...

As my foodie twin I am inspired! really inspired to try this. I am so happy that you went through this and came out on top. I love your honest approach to this too! I challenge myself to try this... can i borrow that book? :0)
and congrats!

Carolyn Jung said...

Thanks for being so candid about your decision to go vegan. I admit that I am a carnivore. Yet I still found your answers really inspiring and insightful. Bravo to you for following your own drummer.

Joanne said...

This is so interesting! I'm pretty sure that I couldn't give up animal products permanently but I'm really intrigued by the idea of having a little bit of somethign setting off a chemical reaction that sets EAT MORE. LOTS MORE. I've definitely experienced that! Let us know how this week goes!

StreamingGourmet said...

Read The China Study this summer and started to move towards a Vegan diet. Would love to read a book with more of a plan. I'm always slipping cheese back into my diet. :( I'm at BlogHerFood. Maybe I'll see you Saturday?

Jen said...

Ooh, I would love to read this.
Thanks for answering the questions - i'm three days in and everyone keeps asking me if I plan to "do this forever"

p.s. I don't tweet, but I'm already a follower and a fan on facebook. :)


I get asked by readers if I am being paid to push products. The simple answer is no. In fact, most of the products I write about are ones I have found and purchased during my trips to the grocery store or on the road. Occasionally, a company will send a sample my way and if I believe the product will serve a need for my readers and I would buy the product myself, then I will share it with you. Sometimes I will write to a company after reading about it, if I believe it will help us lead healthier lifestyles. But even then, if the product doesn't pass my scrutiny, it won't make the screen of Uncovering Food. You can trust that every product or recipe posted here has passed through my lips, and that I wouldn't blog about it if it wasn't worthy of you... my favorite readers.