Hi all! We're digging right in today...taking a slice right out of our life as of lately. This slice has to do with food. A change. It kind of happened all of a sudden, and I wasn't quite ready for it. But here I am, in the thick of it...and singing its praises.
Let's start with a quick look back. In the past, I enjoyed cooking meals like California BLTs, Asian Chicken Salads, Spaghetti with Meat Sauce, and Chicken Caesar Salads with Homemade Croutons. We loved meaty taco night, chicken marsala, cheesy pizza, and basically indulging in whatever sounded awesome. Bomb diggity meals with the main emphasis on yum and easy. These days, however, our meal times are shaping up to be quite different, and we're shocking and horrifying friends left and right. Not really...but sort of. :)
(Thanks for your grace in looking at these pictures. Sometimes I have time to do a little sprucing up and editing and other times, it's straight from the phone. I haven't taken the time to do what every other blogger in the world has done...understand how to use my camera and lighting properly. Oops. :) So be it. So thanks again for your photography grace.)
As we started this adventure a while back, we were very strict with ourselves. My husband was especially strict with himself, while I was more likely to be the one splurging and making exceptions left and right. In doing so, I felt so dirty...like I was cheating. I kind of laugh about it now. So I bucked up and got just as strict with myself. It was tough at first, but we really wanted to notice the difference in our physical bodies, moods, energy levels, and cravings. And let me just say, what a difference...for the better! We both lost weight pretty quickly, and I especially noticed losing my "puffiness." We have gained energy, felt lighter overall, and found our tastebuds have changed. It's been a few months now, and while we're still in it to win it, we've let loose a little. We have found a happy medium and balance we feel pretty good about sticking to for the long haul. Like I said...a lifestyle change. I'm sure it will continue to evolve, but in this moment...it feels great.
> > > A FEW THINGS ABOUT US < < <
1. We love food. Possible food snobs. Wannabe foodies. Not nearly experienced enough in tasting all the yum out there...but we can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that we desire deliciousness. The idea of a lovely meal, the process of the meal coming together, finding out what it takes to create yum, making food beautiful is exciting to us. We live in the Pacific Northwest, and our idea of a good time (amongst others) is an awesome meal prepared with the bounty from a trip to the farmer's market...opening soon in our hometown. Woo hoo!
2. My husband is lactose intolerant...in a big way. Dairy and he are not good buds. I guess you could say dairy is kind of like his nemesis. Mortal enemy. One sip of dairy...one bite of creamy goodness...and he beelines for the nearest bathroom...and it's not pretty. Sorry, can we handle potty talk here? I thought so. He used to take pills so he could tolerate some of our faves for special occasions and such, but by golly, it just wasn't worth it. He was left with cramps, weird tummy rumblings, and an all around yucky feeling all over. He stopped consuming dairy all together a while back because he had had enough, dropped 15 pounds almost instantly, and was feeling at peace with it. He's someone who can do that. He makes a decision, and he does it. I thought, good for you honey. Hmmm...I should do that...maybe...or not...because...see #3.
3. I love dairy. Like, if I wasn't already married to my love, I might marry dairy because I love it that much. The creaminess. The gooeyness. The milk. The cream. The cheese. Oh cheese. I love you cheese. Where for art thou cheese? I can't tell you the depth of love I have felt for dairy in my lifetime. It runs deep. Drinking glasses of milk a few times a day, milk with every meal, cheese as a garnish to everything. Cheese was my bud, not my nemesis. Or at least I thought. Yogurt, ice cream, sour cream, cream, butter...the list goes on. Goat cheese and fig jam...a staple in my diet. If it was dairy...I pretty much loved it. Also, in being honest, dairy was such an easy go to with a child when it came to meals. It just was. Maybe some of you know what I mean. So many options. See how I'm speaking past tense now. Shocking development.
4. I have ankylosing spondylitis. Quite a mouthful...but put simply...an autoimmune disease that affects my joints...arthritis...joint issues in the simplest terms. Dairy is one of the worst things I can consume while having arthritis...amongst other things...or so I've read. Mostly, doctors have just prescribed drugs...serious...expensive...drugs. I've never seen a naturopath or a dietician (wish I would have), so it's not surprising that not one doctor I've seen has discussed diet or food as a means to improve my health. I should have taken it upon myself...responsibility. Power people. I've got the power...but my how it's been wasted. My arthritis goes in waves, and when it is bad, it is bad. Life is not normal for me or my family when a bad wave hits. It knocks me over and takes my boys along with it. So there came a time when it was absolutely necessary to take the medicine. But what the heck was I putting in my body?! It's scary when I think about it, but when push came to shove, super serious medicine was the necessary evil...and I was thankful. I am not on any medication right now, but it's possible I might have to take these medicines again at some point down the road. Hoping that is far off in the distant future. Or never.
5. When it comes to meat, I have cooked beef probably 10 times since being married in 2003. No joke. We hardly cooked beef as a couple. Lots of chicken and ground turkey, and when it wasn't chicken or turkey...it was salmon, pork, or shrimp. But mainly chicken or turkey if meat was consumed. We enjoyed a steak here or there, bacon, french dip, burgers, and other beefy goodies. I'm sure there's more, but when it came time for cooking, beef was a rarity. Oddly enough, not necessarily related to our decision to do this recently, I had stopped cooking most meat for a while before our eating habits changed more dramatically. I was in a cooking rut, and it just made things easier. Who knew.
8. I love to please with food. I love to watch my husband and son enjoy what I make for them. When and if they don't, I shrivel up inside and feel so bummed...not because of how they react (because they're the sweetest and most gracious), but because of how I process it all...the time, effort, and resources that went into that meal. I feel responsible for yum. I long to provide positive food memories...for my son to grow up thinking there is nothing like Mom's cookin'...thinking fondly back when he's older to the yummy food in our home that was a part of joyful dinner table flavors, experiences, and conversations. The phrase, "May I please have more?" is music to my ears. When I think of not cooking meals we had grown to love as a family, although armed with the truth, it hurts a little...maybe a lot...definitely a lot more than I thought it would. I've been brainwashed. I've bamboozled myself. Yep. Food = happiness in my heart...but my head is changing that. I know it sounds ridiculous. I know that I can provide the happy food memories while cooking food with health and wellness in mind, legit deliciousness, but when PDubb shares a recipe like THIS pot roast recipe on The Food Network...with her family all sitting around the table oozing, "Mom this is so good," it stirs in me a desire to WANT THAT POT ROAST! So random and unexpected after reading #5 and #6 right? Ha!!! So far on this journey, after retraining my tastebuds and retraining my body to intentionally choose health, I've found that food that used to call my name no longer does so. I'm not joking. Some things just don't taste good anymore. Every once in a while it does, but mostly it doesn't. So PDubb, girl, you got me. I think your pot roast will be a big time "splurge" one of these days, and I won't feel the tiniest bit of guilt. We're learning that what they say is true: it's not about living to eat...it's about eating to live. Forget rules, forget the guilt, and don't make yourself crazy by freaking out and limiting yourself. Just be thankful, be thoughtful, eat intentionally to fuel your body, and make health and deliciousness a priority.
9. We have other family members attempting the whole foods plant based diet too...some who find it to be quite a challenge and could greatly benefit from making it a priority for legit health reasons. This has served as a big inspiration for us to give it a try, especially my husband.
And can I just say, he needs new pants. He's got saggy booty disease...or at least his pants do. It makes me giggle. He lost weight so quickly, his booty didn't even have a chance. And what's more hilarious, he's so stinkin' go with the flow that we haven't even purchased new pants for him yet. It's been months, and he's just wearing belts and wearing saggy booty pants. Oh my practical/frugal husband. It's time honey. We need your booty back.
10. From my perspective, our culture...my generation, as well as generations before me and behind me, have become numb and often oblivious...to truth, to facts, to information, to health, to nutrition, to the needs of others, to responsibility, to many things. It is all about me...me, me, me...and it's gross. What we want...what we've been told is good for us...what we've been told we need...what we've been told we deserve...young kids and teenagers ruling the roost...lack of respect...lack of understanding...lack of expectations...lack of parents investing in the lives of their children...lack of the ability to do so in spite of all their best efforts...people hurting and struggling, hearts turning cold. Marketing, money, power, and what's good for a few has had great influence on what is "good" for the masses. We decide with our emotions/heart often times far more than we learn from experience, knowledge, truth, and wisdom. It has affected the health of our country as a whole drastically...especially children and teenagers. I cringe at the thought of what kids in this country are being fed consistently...what has become normal. I want to bring them home and feed them all. (Wait! Disclaimer: I just bought my son a mini bag of Cheetohs the other day while shopping at Target. We needed a distraction. It happens. So, maybe I shouldn't be responsible for all the children. Anyhoothem...) Hopefully, you get my drift. Our hearts are waking up in this house to powerful information and facts...and it's a startling reality. Our eyes are open, and they are continuing to become more wide eyed on a daily basis.
Lots to consider. Mainly, we felt tugged to this way of eating for quite some time, and it was time we did something about it. Our diet consists mostly of vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes, quinoa, brown rice, and whole grains. Loving it. As I mentioned previously, we have eliminated animal proteins (making exceptions when it makes sense to us) and many processed foods...starting out very strictly and slowly finding a balance we can live with. Now that we're not being so strict with ourselves, we are "coloring outside the lines" a little here and there...not going obsessively crazy trying to eliminate every single processed item in our pantry and cupboards. We are making a conscientious effort to investigate and be informed...look at that ingredient list and feel good about what we're putting into our bodies. I imagine we will take adventures one at a time as they come in the future...parties, restaurants, being served in someone else's home, holidays...but we will experience those decisions from a different point of view and a healthier perspective. It's been quite a journey...and one we are still right in the middle of walking. But in this moment...where we've landed as of now...it feels good.
So what are we eating? I thought it would be fun to wet your appetite with a few pictures from our journey...mostly from my phone. I'd actually like to take more pictures...to remind myself of successful or loved recipes, as I hope to compile a big ol' fatty food picture binder...a source of inspiration. Funny enough, I haven't even tried too many recipes yet, as we've just modified what we were already eating to fit the "plan." So much inspiration out there...so many recipes to try. I'd say we have about a week's worth of meals we're rotating right now as faves...and then, when I have the energy and time, I try something new. Still need to dig in further...get more creative...get more daring. It can be a bit overwhelming really. I'm finding that all it takes is the willingness to start. Enjoy!
> > > BREAKFAST < < <
Steel cut oats, agave nectar, walnuts, bananas, and almond milk (sometimes chia seeds). This is a hearty and filling breakfast...especially comforting because of its warmth.
Rip's Big Bowl Cereal - Berry Flavored (E2 Product Line - mentioned below), strawberries, bananas, and almond milk. Cereal packed with a punch, full of crunch, and a dose of sweetness with fruit that curbs the appetite until lunch.
> > > SNACKS AND SIDES < < <
Veggies and hummus...great go to. Who knew hummus could be so yummy?! Not me. I used to be a ranch dipper...like full of sour cream and mayo ranch...but not anymore.
Fruit. Lots of it. Enough said. When you eat the rainbow, you eat the rainbow of nutrients our body so desperately desires. Color = superpowers!!!
> > > RANDOM MEALS < < <
Veggie and brown rice soup. This is my ode to chicken and rice/noodle soup. It's pretty much the same soup that I've always made, except I swapped out chicken and chicken stock for veggie stock, added mushrooms, kale, spinach, and green onions, and called it a day. I love it. I have tried with success, I have tried Better than Bouillon veggie stock, but the one I tried has soy in it...and I'd love to find a great veggie stock without soy. I would love to make my own (and hope to soon), but the convenience of a quick go to is amazing. I tried a few other brands as well, and I literally dumped the cartons down the drain when I opened, smelled, and tasted. Completely horrible!!!
Veggies and rice. We've always loved a good stir fry. Again, same concoction I've always made but without chicken and with the addition of pineapple and ginger. Great flavors...and it makes for a great excuse to use the chopsticks I bought on our honeymoon in Kauai.
> > > SPLURGES, EXCEPTIONS, AND FUN FINDS < < <
It's not easy to eat out, but you do the best you can with the options available. It's all about making it work for you and not stressing. We love the veggie fajitas at our favorite Mexican restaurant. They sizzle coming out just like their meaty counterpart. Yum.
So these are not on the plan...like...at all. But they remain. Great dose of yum when I need it most. Some days I eat none. Others I eat 2 or 5 or 6 or 7, okay 10. I've eaten 10 in a day. It happened. My Mom says she allows herself one a day. Mom, who are you?! Is that a joke?! I am learning self control.
So excited to find these! Delicious!!! My husband did a happy dance when we tried these. Finding ice cream he can fully enjoy was such a gift. Not exactly healthy, but definitely a dessert we will be enjoying for years to come.
This is processed food we are willing to eat...yum!!! The flavor is so good...plain or dipped in my homemade guacamole. Need to stock up on these bad boys.
I made Coop Martha's mac and cheese a few weeks ago. It's the bomb diggity. Is it full of all sorts of dairy that I've eliminated from my life? Yes. Is it delicious? Yes. Was it worth it to have a bowl myself? Yes! I won't be making this often, but it's worth a splurge now and again...especially because it's Coop's fave. And who am I kidding?! Mine too. I don't want to live in a world where I can't take a bite of mac and cheese now and again...yummy, homemade cheesy, oozy, creamy goodness.
We are working on getting our four year old son on board slowly but surely. This meal is a happy splurge every once and a while. It's funny. Little buddy actually seems excited...and then he requests meat, cheese, and a corn dog. Oops. It's awesome and hilarious to discuss health and nutrition with our son and hear him reason with us. He's got the facts down, but his desires don't quite line up accordingly. Crazy the grip that food can have on even a four year old. This lifestyle change couldn't have come at a better time.
My husband spoke with a man during a lunch work meeting about all this, and this gentleman had transitioned to a vegan lifestyle a few years back. They discussed much. He looked at my husband funny...like he was crazy...when he mentioned we were having trouble getting our son fully on board. Maybe he was a little more
unwavering, steadfast, merciless, and unwilling to make excuses for himself decisive with his kids. We're just not there yet. I feel weak. See #1, 7, and 8 above. ;)
> > > WHAT LIT A FIRE UNDER OUR BUNS < < <
1. Jamie Oliver - Dude can cook! This man has a passion for real food. He also has a passion for teaching people the difference between real food and the nasty stuff that is labeled as such. I was especially inspired by his tv show Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, which focused on food eduction in our country. So powerful. Our hearts were definitely stirred.
2. Family - We kind of got started officially while hoping to encourage family members to stick to this plan, but I had actually been learning about this way of eating from one family member in particular for quite some time. My Mama. She introduced me to healthy recipes, healthy ingredients, and excitement for healthy foods long before we were interested. I owe a lot of my interest and desire for this lifestyle to her...although she might not know this. I would give her a hard time when she talked about how yummy lentils were. I would taste these raw date balls and then spit them out. I just wasn't ready. She beat me to it. But Mama, thanks for the example! I'm with you!!!
3. Forks Over Knives - A powerful food documentary (with lots of recipe resources). Oh boy did this knock our socks off and really get the ball rolling. From the Forks Over Knives site...
The feature film Forks Over Knives examines the profound claim that most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting animal-based and processed foods. The major storyline in the film traces the personal journeys of a pair of pioneering yet under-appreciated researchers, Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn.
4. The China Study - Mind blowing facts that provide encouragement and data for fact driven folks (ie - my husband!). The following information is directly from The China Study site...
5. The Engine 2 Diet - Plant strong firefighter Rip Esselstyn, son of Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn of Forks Over Knives fame, challenged his buddy firefighters (some...dangerously unhealthy) in Texas to a 28 day plant strong diet challenge, and the results were out of this world amazing. It led to the Engine 2 Diet. We watched THIS E2 documentary on Netflix, and it was interesting and informative. The website offers fun resources for kids and loads of recipes. We've also enjoyed some of the E2 product line launched at Whole Foods stores recently. As this product line was recently being promoted, my husband went to hear Rip speak at the Whole Foods near his office building. He said it just made it all that more practical and real for him. I think it was important for him as a man to see another man flourishing with this lifestyle. Additionally, the following excerpt is straight from the Engine 2 Diet website.
The Engine 2 Diet is based on peer-reviewed, medical research science that shows a low-fat, plant-based diet can prevent, and in many cases reverse chronic western diseases — cancer, heart disease, Type II Diabetes and more — with the added bonus of healthy weight loss! All by simply changing the foods we choose to eat.
6. Food Documentaries on Netflix - Oh boy...Have I ever watched a million food documentaries on Netflix?! If you have Netflix, you have a plethora of resources and information available to you...food, farming, where ingredients come from, what is in food products, how animals are treated, food production, GMO foods, marketing of food, being a vegan, being a vegetarian, restaurants...all sorts of good information and stories out there. Seek and ye shall find. I would give you some examples, but none come to mind. They've all melded together into one big ol' movie in my head.
Wowsers...that was a lot! Surely, if you're interested and tugged toward this lifestyle...any part of it...even just wanting to eat healthier...all the information out there can be quite overwhelming. It's really about starting. Just doing something. Making one decision. One decision can lead to another decision, and from there it snowballs. It only gets better and more familiar. Easier and more practical. Whether it seems like a bunch of bull honkey to you or a bit of inspiration, I hope it will provide some sort of encouragement in some small way to anyone feeling the nudge as we did. The key in it all is finding what works for you, and making health a priority.
Big hugs to you and lots of love,