Day 4

I’m starting to settle into looking at food from a vegan perspective. I don’t have to eat what others consider to be a “normal” breakfast. This morning I cut up and fried one of the potatoes I’d baked previously with onion and then sauteed zucchini and spinach and topped it with sliced avocado. It was a filling, yet light and tasty meal. I had my morning tea, Darjeeling, and felt pretty satisfied with everything. I didn’t miss having an egg with my potatoes at all.

We went to a place in Portland known as “food church”. Every Sunday people line up and then are allowed to come in and take what they need from piles of food sourced from local stores – New Seasons, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, etc. We were 3rd in line and I picked up a few potatoes and yams, bananas, cantaloupe, grapefruit, small tomatoes and chopped veggies for stir-fry. I also picked up 2 types of bread and allowed myself one bagel. All of this food is food that major grocery chains would throw into their garbage compactors and fortunately for those on the lower income levels, like myself, these people collect and distribute food that is past it’s prime or imperfect.  I can’t explain how wonderful it is to have a source of good quality, mostly organic, vegetarian/vegan foods when you have little or no money. It is priceless.

I just wish more American businesses felt like giving to those in need instead of chucking less-than-perfect items into a trash compactor that crushes and makes sure no one can benefit in any way. They just produce more trash for the landfills. There used to be a time when employees could purchase or take home expired or damaged goods. Companies have become so paranoid of employees deliberately damaging items or benefiting in some way from having access to these things, that they do not allow, and go to great lengths to make sure they don’t, get to take any of these items for re-use.

I could go more into detail about my experiences with that, but I’d rather not get sued right now. I will say that I have worked for both Michaels and Home Depot and they make sure things end up in the landfill – no ifs, ands or buts. Michaels will actually have employees spray paint on or break items before they go into the dumpster to prevent re-use. Okay, I’ve said enough for now. It makes it all the more rewarding to see people working to re-distribute food, something this country wastes by the ton, to those in need.

Later in the day Sam re-created my new favorite sandwich, one I had yesterday at Sweetpea Baking Company in Portland. It is “grilled cheese” (Daiya cheddar) with smoked maple tempeh and avocado on wheat, or in this case, 7 grain bread, because it’s what I received from food church. It’s delightful comfort food and I highly recommend it. Pair it with any number of delicious side dishes and it’s a quick and easy winner that gives you a hug on the inside.

As for how I’m feeling today…no severe hunger pangs and I feel like my blood sugar may be stabilizing a bit with the new food combos. I feel like I’m processing the food, instead of it sitting in my stomach for a while. I don’t feel “full”, I feel satisfied. Hopefully that makes sense, but it’s the best way I can describe it. I feel like my digestive system is really working quickly and the food is not sitting for long. At the same time I’m not ravenously hungry and feel more calm about getting to my next meal. It’s a good thing and I’m looking forward to reporting how I feel on day 7.

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Day 1

Today was my first official day as a vegan. I started off simply, with some organic cereal and soy milk. By lunchtime I was really wanting to eat something, but pushed on and went to my gallery to drop off some new work and talk about next month’s show. I had a piece of French bread while there and just when I was starting to feel sick-hungry (my own fault for not being prepared), my girlfriend texted and invited me over for a meal and a smoothie. It was yummy and I was oh, so grateful.

I should explain that I don’t do well when I’m hungry. I feel sick to my stomach and it comes on very quickly. It’s just the way I am. Might have to do with my medication I take for diabetes. They’re pills, so I’m guessing they are time-released. It would explain the sudden waves of hunger I get too.

I made a stop at the grocery store on my way home and picked up what I think are staples for quick and healthy meals. Quinoa pasta and polenta, red quinoa, spinach, carrots, potatoes, an onion, salsa, cucumber, green onions and avocados rounded out my buying for today. I have organic pasta sauce in a jar, a few of them, and it is really easy to slice and fry up polenta and top it with sauce and wilted spinach. I also planned and made a large quinoa salad for tonight and tomorrow using the green onions, cucumber, carrots and avocado. I toss it with my favorite dressing, Annie’s Shitake Sesame. No sugar and no dairy = awesome.

I used this evening to bake 3 potatoes while I made the salad. I ate one and have the other two ready to fry up or re-heat when I get hungry tomorrow. I also have left over quinoa salad, so I think my lunch is taken care of. Yay! I’ll most likely have cereal again in the morning because it is fast and easy. I need to switch back to unsweetened coconut milk or almond milk because I am upping my soy intake in other areas of my meals.

I had a talk with my mom tonight on the phone and explained to her what I can or can not eat now. She didn’t know what quinoa was, so it gave me a chance to teach her something new. As old-fashioned as she is, it’s nice to know she’s at least trying to be supportive and understanding.

Today’s biggest challenge was getting hungry and not having food nearby and ready to eat. I definitely need to work on keeping snacks in my car for times like that. Some of my faves are Primal Strips, nuts ( I like most of them and usually have a mixed bag with me), fresh fruit and in some cases a pbj sandwich. I’m sure this will evolve as I find myself needing more substantial snacks to curb those sudden hunger attacks.

I find myself looking ahead at day 2 and at least I know I have some prepared food handy and supplies to get me through a few more days. Go team vegan!

p.s. – I posted a status update on Facebook about going vegan and friends were supportive, but not nearly as many people “liked” it as did when I announced I was going vegetarian. Perhaps they think I’m radical now?

And here’s the problem with a bucket list…

I was feeling really happy about crossing things off of my bucket list. Something I didn’t expect was the way it would make me feel physically. To deliberately go out and eat back to back to back foods that are very rich and loaded with dairy products does eventually take its toll. Especially when you are someone who is somewhat allergic to dairy.

Blech. That is how I feel right now. I was trying to rid my house of the last of the non-vegan foods yesterday and today and it just pushed me over the edge. I even had to turn down an invite to the Mongolian grill, one of my favorites, tonight. Argh! I don’t even know if I can bring myself to eat the last 2 eggs in my fridge. It sounds ridiculous, but the thought of it makes me not want to eat. So, I will not eat, until this blech feeling passes. I think it was my eating the last Amy’s cheese pizza for lunch that did it. Carbs + cheese = :/

On a positive note, I am just about ready to call myself a vegan. It’s a scary first step and a big one, but I’m ready. I just need to buy a few groceries and make sure I’m prepared and I will give the green light and announce my new status on Facebook. That’s how all things become official nowadays, right?

Welcome to 2012. So far, so good.

I ushered in the new year by spending a quiet weekend with my partner on her farm. We spent the week before working our way through my “I’m going vegan, what foods will I miss bucket-list”. We went for the best of local favorites with hand-made ice cream, pizza that you have to wait in line for, crepes, omelettes, and more. We rang in the new year with my mom’s lasagna recipe (the vegetarian version), tiramisu (I’d never had it) and locally made marionberry cheesecake. It was an overload of rich and delicious dairy-filled foods.

Yes, I am going vegan. It’s funny how people have reacted to this news. Some say, “How will you live without ______?” Usually it’s ice cream, but sometimes other foods people can’t believe I’d live without. Everyone has been supportive though. I am not going vegan in order to look down on others and judge them. I am not going to become a more radical activist than I already am. I will not suddenly hate meat-eaters. When I became a vegetarian I did it for moral and ethical reasons. I became someone who was happy to talk with people about factory farming, fast food and why they should care about where and how there food is produced. Going vegan is the next step for me and I am doing this strictly for my health.

Over the last year or so I have been reading a lot about research in regard to diabetes and heart disease. It has been proven that a vegan diet can cure or slow down these diseases. If my giving up ice cream and cheese will prolong my life and make me happy and healthy, why wouldn’t I try it? The one thing I have learned is that you can have delicious pizza without cheese, sorbets, a latte with soy or almond milk and vegan baked goods so good you’ll never know the difference. I am going to be just fine.

I live outside of Portland, Oregon. I am fortunate enough to be close to vegan-friendly restaurants and bakeries. I have many friends who are either vegetarian or vegan. They get it. I have already been flooded with suggestions for restaurants and blogs with recipies to try. My vegan friends want to help me every way possible. My partner is behind me 110% and is already cooking vegan meals for me and likes to help me when I talk about needing meal ideas. If anything, this is bringing us closer as a couple.

I know I sound like I have the world in the palm of my hand and this will be a piece of cake (vegan, of course). The truth is I am nervous and a bit scared that I will fail. We humans are exactly that, human. I am not the biggest go-getter when it comes to being creative with breakfast foods when I have to get to work or school. I have always fallen back on eggs and toast because it is quick and delicious. I have 5 beautiful chickens in my backyard who produce eggs and I will be handing them over to my partner and her mom to eat. This makes me a bit sad. In order to succeed, I have to get over these hurdles.

I have to face the fact that the one fast food place I frequent, because of their local and natural foods and vegetarian options, may be off of the table. Their vegetarian options generally contain cheese, which I can’t have. This means I will not have an option to stop and grab food on the days when I’m rushing around. I will be forced to think ahead and have food prepared. I need to break out of some old habits, but I am going to do my best.

I also am making a pact with myself that I will return to the gym. I am still recovering from my accident last summer with the drunk driver, but it’s time to start moving more. I also want to return to yoga classes, something I’d just started getting into when the accident happened. I’m going to be using this blog and my zine to share this adventure with whoever wants to follow along with me. I will share the things I learn and recipies I try, blogs and on-line resources, as well as my day to day emotions and results. Hopefully this will be a successful journey and I promise to do my best. Follow along and feel free to email me or comment with your feedback or suggestions. You can even join in if you’d like. Here’s to 2012 – a year of health and happiness.