You Are What You Eat: My Vegetarian Journey
January 16, 2019
Before we get into the details, I want to be clear about my dietary choice. With all the different types of diets out there, it’s confusing. Technically, I’m not a true vegetarian because I eat fish and eggs. So, I’m a pescetarian. Vegans are the most strict but there’s even other options.
Here’s a quick breakdown:
Vegans – Do not consume any animal products, including red or white meat, fish, fowl, eggs or dairy. Vegans also don’t use honey or beeswax, because they are animal by-products. They also avoid using products that come from animals, like silk, leather and wool.
Lacto Vegetarians – Do not consume red or white meat, fish, fowl or eggs. They do consume dairy products such as cheese, milk and yogurt.
Ovo Vegetarians – Do not consume red or white meat, fish, fowl or dairy products. They do eat egg products.
Lacto-ovo Vegetarians (most common form of vegetarianism) – Do not consume red or white meat, fish or fowl. They do eat dairy and egg products.
Pescetarians (me love seafood) – Do not consume red or white meat or fowl. Do eat fish, dairy and eggs.
Alright, now that we got that all straightened out, carry on!
Life before Vegetarianism
I grew up on Hamburger Helper, Campbell’s Soup chicken casserole and pizza. Lots and lots of pizza. Deep-dish, Chicago-style pizza. And lots of it, because my parents owned a restaurant and mom hated cooking.
The restaurant was part of my father’s massive spending spree in his forties, my mom referred to this period as, ‘your father’s midlife crisis’, and perhaps rightfully so. Over the course of several years, Dad went on a crazy big-time spending spree - he bought out the entire inventory of Abercrombie and Fitch, who was going bankrupt at the time. He brought all but the huge antique wooden bar home to our garage. He wasn’t done yet - he also purchased an island, a larger home on the water in our hometown of Darien, Connecticut, and the rights to open a restaurant franchise, called My Pi (the mathematical symbol).
Everything else got sold off quickly but the restaurant was a huge financial investment with a commercial lease of 5 years. My father was an investment banker who worked on Wall Street by day and wasn’t around much, let alone to manage such an operation. Maybe it was dad’s way of telling mom to get a job, who knows?
Anyway, I was 13 when the restaurant opened. Prior to that point, our dinners typically consisted of mushy grey-ish looking blobs of chicken doused with Campbell’s soup. With overcooked canned or frozen vegetables. And gravy, lots of gravy. Thank God my father had a wonderful vegetable garden, or we would have never learned about produce.
So when I wasn’t eating a diet of processed foods, I was indulging in restaurant food brought home by my mother [almost] daily. College dorm food was an upgrade, hard to imagine but true. As an undergrad in Boulder, Colorado, I half-heartedly dabbled with vegetarianism but, I didn’t get serious about it until I was in my late forties.
My weight peaked at 185 pounds (I’m 5’6”) after suffering for over a year with spinal stenosis, an excruciating back condition where a bone chip presses down on your nerves. Even doctors grimace at this diagnosis because they know how painful it can be.
I couldn’t walk well, let alone exercise. I was having trouble working as a medical sales rep, with all the standing and walking required. Eventually, I was able to have life-changing minimally-invasive spinal surgeries, two within 3 months because of complications. Those bastards terminated me six weeks after I returned to work (I guess I was getting too expensive). It was 2009, some companies were just horrible in taking advantage of workers because the economy was terrible and so many people were already out of work.
I had come to recognize that traditional diets didn’t work many years before, mostly because I had already tried nearly everything. High protein, low fat, low calorie, Atkins, Weight Watchers, you name it, I’ve tried it. Right now I’m trying intermittent fasting to try to drop the last fifteen pounds. I’ll let you know how it goes ;-)
What made the difference this time? I was sick and tired of starting over, so I decided to cut unhealthy foods from my diet permanently. I followed the advice of Kathy Preston in her book, Veganist: Lose Weight, Get Healthy, Change the World. Kathy recommends eliminating one group at a time and seeing how your body reacts to it instead of abruptly dropping so many things from your diet at once.
Once you start eating only vegetables, the health benefits are too noticeable to ignore. I started feeling better almost immediately, with more energy. As time went on, I lost 20 pounds. It’s amazing how medicinal food can be, but it’s something we tend to overlook.
Studies demonstrate that a whole-food, plant-based diet (WFPB) can not only prevent, but also reverse many diseases that plague our society, such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes. A vegan blogger I follow wrote an awesome review about T. Colin Campbell, John McDougall, and Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr., all of whom have demonstrated the many benefits of WFPB diet through years of research.
Just So You Know….
This may or may not come as a shock, but I judge meat eaters. Dave eats meat regularly, but it’s typically more of an indulgence, than a regular thing. There are some times that I ask him to make his meat, because raw meat grosses me out now. I don’t push my diet on him or force him to stop eating meat. He’s a grown man who can make his own choices! However, I do nag him to eat better and drink more water!
Vegetarians sometimes get a bad rap; some are very vocal in their views and actually come off as hateful and judgmental at times. I’m not someone who pushes my views on other people or talks about my diet in order to make others feel inferior. And I’m certainly not into being judged myself, so no judgement here ;-0
If people ask me about being a pescetarian, I’ll go into more detail and answer whatever questions they have. I’ll even offer resources for people to learn more, but I don’t preach. Because preachy people annoy the hell out of me and I don’t want to be like that. I feel that when people start preaching and talking down to someone who is open to learning more about a topic (it can be about ANYTHING), that individual is more likely to shut you off and be less likely to do what you’re recommending.
So, instead of leaving a bunch of vegetarian resources in this post… please reach out to me via email if you’re interested in learning more. I’ll send you a list of my favorite books, links, products and documentaries.
See Leo Babauta’s Loving Guide to Going Vegan.
See Kathy Preston’s Veganist: Lose Weight, Get Healthy, Change the World.