After a few months of serious over-work, I’ve spent the last week and a half in what I call a Spa Staycation — staying close to home, catching up on reading, exercise, a little self-care.
One of the things I’ve been doing is reading and watching documentaries about food. Each year, I have my students watch Food, Inc., and am gratified by their response and about just how many of these teenagers start to make some serious changes in their diets. I began watching other films in order to supplement what we are doing in class, and have found a few that are really helpful. “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead” is about how the average diet is killing us. The answer here is a plant-based diet, and juice fasting — and the results were remarkable. I also watched Forks over Knives, which again supported the plant-based diet over the animal protein and dairy product diet so many Americans eat. Since there were a lot of medical statistics provided in this film, it helped to make it clear just how seriously ill we are as a nation, and how directly linked our diabetes epidemic, obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease and other disorders are to the highly processed foods, the chemicals, hormones and antibiotics that are in the meat, poultry and dairy we eat.
Finally, I watched Engine 2, which offers some very helpful advice on just how to shift away from our habitual eating into the plant-based diets that are clearly so much more healthy.
All of this made me re-affirm my desire to eat not only a vegetarian diet, but a vegan diet. It’s a tough thing to stick to in the beginning – until things become second nature. It is also tough for someone who does a lot of her socializing in restaurants and pubs — because these are not often places where you can find much by way of vegan offerings. Add to that the realization that wheat has been playing havoc with my health — so now, I’m not only vegan but non-wheat. Ha! Good luck.
Another issue, for me, is that I love….LOVE…..creamy foods. I love baked goods. I love pasta. Salad without creamy salad dressing? No way. To never have a muffin? Cripes. And no way I can live without the occasional bowl of steaming hot pasta. Oh….and I forgot pizza. I love pizza. So…am I totally screwed? Am I destined to fall off this diet into a pile of rigatoni?
I know how easy it is to backslide, and how hard it subsequently is to get back on track. So my determination, during this Spa Staycation, is to create lists of foods for each meal – relatively simple things I can keep on hand. Then, the more challenging part of this is to find recipes that offer me ways to make alternatives to my favorite Marie’s creamy dressings, or to al fredo sauce. I know there must be cookbooks out there that offer pasta recipes that are non-gluten/non-wheat. I try not to think of a life without another piece of cheese, or without a blueberry muffin….and instead think of ways that I can get the same tastes, textures and enjoyment without the products that are, ultimately, going to shorten my life.
Today, I went to a drug store around the corner from my home, to pick up a few things. While I was there, I walked through their “food” aisle. LOTS of nuts — almost all of which were heavily doused with salt. Many of which were also slathered with sugar or honey, or “honey-cinnamon”. I found ONE bag of plain almonds, where the ingredients just read “almonds”. One. On the other side of the aisle, there were canned foods – most of which were laden with salt, sugar, and in some cases a bunch of other chemicals, including thickeners made of the dreaded wheat. Soups? Same thing. I found ONE can of lentil soup that had lentils, water, some vegetables and salt…..but it listed “artificial flavorings” — which could be just about anything. Then there were rows and rows of cookies and crackers. Chips. Pretzels. Two rows of cereals, all of which were sugar-laden. Even the so-called “healthy” cereals like Special K are filled with sugar. Even something that should be simple – like Rice Krispies, is filled with sugar. Wheat Belly, a website that discusses the problems with the wheat products in our country actually had a blog today about the cereals of America.
So, this will be a bit of an adventure – getting back on my vegetarian diet, refining it even more so that it is now a vegan, non-wheat diet – and finding a way to NOT be a pain in the butt when I go out with friends to these restaurants we’ve always frequented. As they order their burgers, or coconut-coated butterfly shrimp, or their pasta, I am going to have to order salad, or veggie burgers with no roll — and then whip out my own home-made dairy-free creamy salad dressing. We’ll see how this goes. But I’ll try to do some follow ups here on the blog as I move forward with this quest.