Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Spy Wednesday: Day 43: Will I stick with It

As I said before, people have been asking if I plan on going vegan long term.  My husband has practically said that he can't eat that way (he could but he doesn't want to).  One of my friends, who's a former vegetarian but never vegan, says it's much easier now for her to build a meal than it was before.  She says it was much more difficult for her to be vegetarian.  I'm sure it's hard now, but not as difficult.  She doesn't eat pork or beef.  That said she does eat a lot better than I do (at least from what I've observed for all I know she crams oreos at night).

So will I?

Well not after Easter.

The problem is that my method of going vegan isn't recommended by anyone.  Cold turkey doesn't work.  There's a learning curve not just in how you cook, but physically speaking.  And I crashed right through it, which is bad.  Because it's more likely now that I will gorge myself for Easter.  I'm already struggling.  You may have noticed that my cravings for onion rings have overtaken me.

That said I've learned a lot.  A lot.  You've probably noticed by the information I've been pouring into the blog.  It is amazing just how much animal stuffs are in our food supply.  McDonald's french fries have beef flavoring.  Why?  It's a dang french fry!  All the way to my chai tea bags.  I caught that one because the Kosher symbol said dairy instead of parveve.  It doesn't even list that it used butter fats in the ingredient lists.  I had to look that up on the web.  Why?  Why?  It's chai tea.  That should be spices and tea, right??!!  It actually grosses me out a little bit.  Not to mention that although I'm not a coffee drinker, occasionally I need the caffeine to keep myself going. 

Incidentally I've learned a lot about porridge because that seems to be a staple in the breakfasting diet of vegans.   Porridge is mostly used in the British lexicon.  Americans tend to use the word hot cereal.  Generally though, the Brits tend to eat one kind of porridge so when they say porridge it generally means the oat version.  It's like Southern-Stated Americans version of Coke.  Yes, I know that not all colas or sodas are Coke. I kid you not when I say that I heard at the drive through someone say "a cheeseburger and a coke, please" and the worker responded with "what flavor?" to which the person responded with "Coke."  Because Coke just means any soda in the South.  It's the same in Britain with porridge.  Americans do tend to eat more than just the oat variety so it makes more sense to be more specific with cream of wheat, oat meal, or grits (which is made from corn).  Yes, I know there's more, but that would be an entire blog post and I've already digressed for an entire paragraph discussing why I've had to figure out what some British vegans actually eat for breakfast.  But if you are British, please be kind and say "oat porridge" or whatever.  Saves me the headache of researching hot cereals.

So how will I proceed going forward with my diet?

I'm not sure.  At the very minimum I will change some of my eating habits.  After I finish the box of tea, I'm switching to a brand that doesn't have butter fats in the tea bags.  That's a pretty easy one.  I've also learned that some foods I like better vegan like the vegetarian refried beans and the ranch dressing.  Some foods the change doesn't seem to matter.  Chocolate tastes like chocolate.

After that I think going vegan on Fridays won't be too difficult.  Limiting the amount of animal products and process foods should be gradual.  I'm not sure that I could give up things cold turkey and as my friend said, it's really difficult.  I really really like bacon.  And not even turkey bacon suffices (I really don't get how she can eat it and I've tried a bunch of brands).

Everything in moderation.

What I ate today:
Breakfast: home fries with nutritional yeast and ketchup

Lunch: bagel with avacado and spinach, coconut yogurt

Snack: protein bar

Dinner: ramen (don't judge me. I hate migraines.)

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Day 41: Veganism- the New Fad

We've rounded that corner into Holy Week.  The end is in sight.  Many people have asked whether or not I'm planning on sticking with the vegan diet, but that's a topic for another post.  Today I want to talk about the fad that is becoming veganism.

Numerous celebrities are coming out vegan including: Alicia Silverstone, Carrie Underwood, Eric Johnson, Al Gore, and Bill Clinton just to name a few. 

Here's a clip from Mayim Bialik

Dr. Oz shot an entire episode on the subject saying he thought it would be the new diet of 2017.

And finally Bill Nye has acknowledged that he is also heading toward veganism as more of the public is.

In 2009, a study found that 1 percent of the population in the US was vegan.  In 2012, another study said that 2.5 percent of the population identified as vegan.  Although according to wikipedia a 2016 study 1.5 percent.  Studies aren't perfect.  But there does appear to growth over time.

Will it be the next new diet?  Possibly.  For most vegans it's a life style choice.  And for others it will be because their doctor wants them to eat a better diet with less processed foods.  Veganism may be the way to convince people to watch what they eat as opposed to promoting whole foods.  But at any rate, it will be interesting to see if this trend continues.  Certainly the food industry tends to think it will last a little while.  My bread was recently redesigned and among the changes includes a label that says "suitable for vegans."  That should tell you right there.

What I ate today:
Breakfast: Toast with margarine and jelly

Snack: Popcorn (Skinny Popcorn makes a vegan white cheddar.  It's like crack; I tell you.  So addictive.)


Dinner: ramen

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Day 35: Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order...

*not an exact conversation*

Hubby: I'm surprised you're eating yogurt.
Me: *puzzled look
Hubby: I mean how can you stand it that your eating living creatures.  Shouldn't they be screaming in horror?
Me: *frowning at him

My husband is teasing me.  And yes, it's annoying sometimes.

But he has a point.  Vegans don't technically eat a "plant-based diet" unless they stop eating mushrooms and all yogurts and certain breads.  You see in scientific terms mushrooms are from the fungi kingdom and bacteria, even in non-dairy yogurts, are from the bacteria kingdom.  They aren't plants.  Plants are cucumbers, lettuce, tomato, carrots, turnips, tea, cocoa, etc.  Shiitakes and yeast aren't plants.

So can a vegan eat mushrooms and make breads?

Sure.  Because vegans eschew foods from the animal kingdom.  That's it. 

Plants, bacteria, and fungi are also living things.  For a large percentage of vegans, eating from the animal kingdom is wrong because animals are sentient beings.  In other words, they have a nervous system and a brain; therefore they feel things.  Even if the animal is not being slaughtered but instead used for say egg production, the problem is the treatment of the animal.

I'm not sure if a vegan would be okay if you have backyard fowl and raised them for eggs, but treated them fairly.  It sort of makes the idea of maltreatment being the basis to avoid eggs problematic.  I suppose that would depend on the individual.  Some might take after PETA that animals aren't meant as pets or for humane food production.  Others might shrug.   I think this is why some people prefer to be vegetarians, which is to say they eat animal by products.  To them if it's not harming the animal, it's okay.

This is why vegans who are vegan for dietary and health reasons make so much more sense to me.  I can't find a solid and Christian argument for why people who raise their own animals humanely can't eat them or their by products.

As my husband wisely pointed out, bacteria are living things too.

What I ate Today:
Breakfast: Hashbrowns with nutritional yeast and ketchup

Lunch: Tacos with lettuce, tomato, and refried beans.  chocolate chips with peanutbutter
I've discovered that I much rather like a taco with beans instead of some sort of soy substitute for the protein.

Snack: chips and salsa

Dinner: soy nuggets, onion rings, salad, applesauce

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Day 29: Eating Out and PETA

*Not an exact conversation
Hubby: Let's go out to eat.
Me: Okay
Hubby:.....Oh, we probably shouldn't do that right. Since you're going vegan and all.
Me: I can still eat out.
Hubby: Yeah, but we'd have to go to that vegan restaurant.
Me: No, I just have to look up their menu. It's no big deal.

I've eaten food from Carl's Jr, Denny's, Pizza Hut, and Wendy's.  While there is one token vegan restaurant in my city, I've only eaten there once many years ago.  I'm not sure I'd feel right about going in there again.  They were big PETA supporters and might still be.

Instead what I do is this:
1) I have a book from the library called "The Vegan Cheat Sheet" which has a chapter devoted to eating out at various national restaurant chains.  It tells you what is vegan and also what you can tweak to make vegan like asking to not use cheese.  The books is a little out of date so...
2) Sometimes the restaurant will include dietary information about the food that they sell online.  I really really wanted onion rings from Carl's Jr, but they use milk.  So I had to settle for fries.
3) That said not all restaurants list stuff online so I have to do a websearch which often leads me to PETAs website (shudder). This is how I double checked that Denny's veggie burger is vegan and doesn't contain any egg (like so many veggie burgers do).

I haven't found a restaurant yet that I couldn't eat food from.  Even if it's just a salad, there's always something on the menu.  In Pizza Hut's case, I told the waitress that I couldn't have dairy (she didn't need the full explanation).  So I had a cheese-less pizza with veggies.  I'm thinking that they've made this sorta thing before because whoever created the pizza did a fantastic job.

So you may be thinking "what's your beef with PETA."  Ha ha. Beef.  Well, I have no problem supporting the Humane Society (which is also called SPCA, Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals).  They care about the treatment of animals as well.  Here is my brief list of why PETA makes me shudder.

1) PETA supporters have been known to go off the deep end during some of their protests.  At times they show up naked or covered in lettuce.
2) They don't make much sense. They have protested Pokemon which is a video game with fictional creatures.
3) They have problem with people keeping pets and that includes some people with disabilities who use service animals.
4) They don't believe that we should kill pests.
5) They have targeted Christianity.
6) The founder has admitted that their tactics are not to be polite but to make waves. In other words, rather than appealing to people's good sense like the Humane Society does, they intend to make people angry.
7) They euthanize and sterilize animals despite being fundamentally against both.
8) While PETA has a clear stance on the treatment of animals, it remains neutral when it comes to unborn people. Thus people are treated with less dignity among adherents than animals.

I could go into more details, but I think it suffices to say that PETA is a controversial group even among animal lovers.  This is why I cringe whenever I click on the links.  It could be a great source of information, but the organization is into being controversial and proselytizing and demeaning to humans. The Humane Society on the other hand protests similar things like puppy mills, factory farming, etc and has historically stood up for the rights of children.  Unlike PETA they often send grants to no kill shelters. Maybe a Humane Society has a vegan information page?  That would be nice.

What I ate today:
Breakfast: bagel with red pepper hummus

Please ignore my messy kitchen.
Lunch: Gardein soy nuggets, rice, blackberries, and half a bagel with chocolate peanutbutter
Snack: Cliff bar
Dinner: Baked ziti and asparagus

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Day 28: Why Christians Go Vegan

In a lot of these posts I've hinted at the reasons why Christians go vegan particularly when discussing the historical context of Christians and diets.  But to give a more concise understanding I thought I would lay out the bullet points here:

Why Christians Go Vegan:

1) To avoid gluttony- In the Bible, there is a story of a rich man and poor man named Lazarus.  Lazarus is hungry and has sores all over his body.  He would give anything to eat the scraps from the rich man's table, but when they both die, it is Lazarus who is exulted and the rich man made low. This is one example of many pointing out the dangers of gluttony.

In the West, we eat and consume a lot of food including an abundance of animal-based foods.  It's both the quantity and the quality.  For some individuals there is an obsession with certain foods like bacon so they practice detachment and if necessary avoidance of certain foods to avoid gluttony.

2) For health- Franklin Graham, arguably one of the world's most famous Evangelicals, went vegan at the beginning of the year.  He cites health as his motivation for going vegan, and he also mentions that in the book of Daniel, Daniel eats a strictly vegan diet for 10 days and is said to look well afterwards.  This is commonly referred to as the Daniel Diet.

3) Out of tradition- I won't get too detailed here as I wrote an entire blog post on the various traditions of fasting and diet from different Christian groups. Suffices to say that it is traditional and in some cases it is an obligation as there are directives from your local Bishop.

4) Stewardship- Most people have this feeling that cows are raised happily grazing on grass and that chickens are freely peeking in the yard, but the reality is that much of our animal-based food is not raised this way.  They are usually raised and slaughtered in horrendous conditions.  Animals are being mistreated.  Much of the animals are in terrible shape and shouldn't even be consumed.  This is what has fueled the organic and free-range movements.  Some people find that they can't afford such food or only sparingly so they simply eat a vegan diet instead.

5) For the planet- Another aspect of stewardship is taking care of the eco-system.  Large parts of the rainforest and other eco-systems have been cleared away as pasture and grazing land.

6) In the beginning- In the book of Genesis before the Fall, God told Adam and Eve to eat only the plants.  Post-fall was the introduction of animal products (you recall God putting together animal skins for Adam and Eve).  Some have taken the approach that we should live like we were commanded pre-Fall to set ourselves apart from the sinful world.

7) Love of Neighbor- There are people who are responsible for processing of these factory farmed animals.  There are also people who live close to factory farms and end up with contaminated wells and soils.  My own grandmother experienced severe sickness when her well water was polluted by live stock.

8) As a personal penance- Fasting or abstaining from certain foods is a good personal penance (which is essentially why I've gone vegan for Lent).  So long as going vegan doesn't inhibit your other obligations then it is a moral good.  You don't have to do this just during Lent or Advent. You can do it at other times as well as long as those other times are not supposed to be times of Feasting such as the Easter season.

Keep in mind that eating animal-based foods is not in and of itself immoral. Certainly it could be immoral for an individual (as in the case of gluttony) or groups of individuals (in the case of ignoring a Bishop's directive).  So we should frame the avoidance of animal-based foods/products as being because of the sin of disobedience or gluttony etc. rather than the erroneous sin of eating animals.  Does this make sense?

What I ate Today:
Breakfast- bagel with vegan chocolate-peanut butter
Lunch: peas and home fries
Snack: Cliff bar
Dinner: black berries, and chocolate chip pancake, not pictured french fries (Hubby brought them home)

Day 27: Christians and Health Food

We keep getting hit.  This weekend the plague struck Knee.  It's spring. It seems like it never ends.

But onto the main event...

During all the multiple law suits over the HHS birth control mandate, I learned some eye opening stuff.  People do not connect the dots.  Let me explain.

When people, rather liberal and atheist types, think of religious people, they think in stereotypical terms.  Religious people are nutty right wingers who spend all their time watching sports, drinking beer, and eating really bad foods.  Or something along those lines. While there are some who fall into those categories, there are numerous people who don't.

Case in point: Eden Foods

Eden Foods prides itself on being a small processor of organic plant-based foods.  It's a closely held company whose CEO is a Catholic.  He sued (and as far as I can tell is still suing) the government because he doesn't want to cover birth control.  His lawsuit is similar to Hobby Lobby's although in that case they objected to 4 forms of birth control.  Eden Foods doesn't cover any life style medications/devices like Viagra or any birth control.  Viagra isn't mandated to be covered but birth control is.  (Although at this time of writing, the Republicans are making several attempts to repeal that part of the mandate and replace it with something else).

The company is named Eden Foods which is a reference to the Garden of Eden, which is a Biblical place.  The CEO prides himself on eliminating BPA lined cans.  The whole point of his company is offering healthy, pure foods.

This is appealing to those who want a healthy, pure food product.  Often these people searching for organic food stuffs are liberals and irreligious.  So when they discovered that Eden Foods doesn't cover birth control and was suing the government in order to continue doing what they always do, which is promoting a healthy, chemical-free lifestyle, some online people went bonkers.  They basically trashed the Eden Foods facebook page and pledged to never buy another Eden Food product.

It wasn't that they didn't share similar values of living a chemical-free lifestyle with eating a healthy diet.  It was because he based this value on his Catholic faith.

What was most shocking to me was these numerous people were shocked to discover that Eden Foods was run by a Christian using Christian ideas.  Clearly there was a disconnect with the name being a Biblical reference and the idea that not all Christians/Conservatives are junk food addicts.

Would it surprise you that Eden foods is not the only Christian food company?  It shouldn't especially when I've been talking about this being true for years. Nor should it surprise you when you read the packaging of several different brands and also what they are named.

Food for Life, while it claims has no religious affiliation, has put several Biblical references on their products including Ezekiel Breads.  The founder Max Torres got the recipe from reading the Bible.

There's also Bragg Foods Inc, which makes this nutritional yeast product.  If you look closely, their label includes a Jesus fish with Biblical reference.  The head of Bragg Foods Inc appears to be a Christian.  She appears on labels along with her late father-in-law.  Both are/were into healthy eating and give lectures on the subject.

So yeah...

Christians have historically and are currently into nutrition, diet, and healthy eating in alignment with Christian principals of diet and fasting.  Why this is so shocking to irreligious people is confusing to me.  It's also shocking to me that numerous fellow Christians are unaware of this.  But now you know.  Hopefully this will no longer be such a controversial thing but rather a point of mutual respect and understanding.

What I ate:
Breakfast: overnight oats
Lunch: romen noodles, salad
Snack: overnight oats
Dinner: soy nuggets and corn

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Day 22: Christian Fasting

These past few weeks have been hectic.  I sort of fell off the radar because I was feeling blah, which probably is best explained by the sudden onset of illness from other members of the family.  In other words, I think I was fighting off what they had but didn't know it at the time.  Then HB got a rather nasty cold with a huge amount of coughing.  Last week on Thursday I went to pick him up from school only to be notified that his teacher and four other students (6 according to him) puked.  On Friday I picked him up complaining of stomach issues.  A few hours later he developed this plague.  Fortunately nobody else has gotten it.  Although Hubby has gone out of town and texted me saying he thought that he had a fever (which HB had a fever too).  So....I guess you see why I haven't posted anything in a couple of weeks.

I mean, who wants to think of food when this is going on?

I have a barter/trade thing going on.  I give music lessons to a teenager in exchange for babysitting.  So in the midst of all that is sickness, I was giving lessons because said teenager has an upcoming exam.

It was also her sister's birthday and there was a cake, which was offered to me.  Now you all know that cake consists (ordinarily) of eggs and milk.  So I passed on it with the explanation that I was going vegan for Lent.

You'd think I just announced that I was joining a cult.  Her father's eyes got hugely wide, but then he simmered down.

What really struck me during the brief exchange was that he thought that some Christian fasting practices are over-the-top and "unBiblical."  I politely refrained from pulling out my ninja Bible skills.  He's a Presbyterian and not a very well versed one.  I don't expect him to be a theologian.  Nor do I know of many Protestants who do fast.  He's got a very busy job and has to raise three children.  So I bit my tongue and reminded myself that in all charity not everyone has the time or inclination to do their homework.

Since I do have the time and inclination, permit me to enlighten you.

Fasting practices are ancient.  There are many references to fasting found in the Old Testament and New Testament.  And dietary restrictions are also normal.  Sampson, from the Old Testament, was raised as a Nazirite.  He was not allowed to drink alcohol. The Essenes, a group of Jews during Jesus' time, were forbidden from sacrificing or eating meat. According to the Gospel of Matthew, John the Baptist, who there is some debate if he was influenced by the Essenes, is said to eat or have for meat only locusts and honey.

That right there should blow any notion of dietary restrictions and fasting being "unBiblical" right out of the water. It has always been a part of the Church as well.  Jesus, in the Gospel of Mark, tells the disciples to fast and pray in order to heal.  Later in the Acts of the Apostles, there was prayer and fasting especially before missionary work.  Prayer and fasting go hand in hand.

In modern times, Coptic Orthodox Christians of Alexandria and Ethiopia have the most restrictive diet.  Outside of 7 weeks after Easter, they eat a vegan diet. According to Wikipedia, they are vegan 250 days a year.

Other Orthodox Christians and Eastern Catholic Christians observe fasting practices during Advent and Lent.  These are often referred to as Little Fast and Great Fast respectively.  During Lent, there is a progression of abstaining.  First it is meat, then it is cheese (dairy and eggs too), and lastly oil (and fish).  The idea is that it was a time of rest for the animals.  Today, oil doesn't require the use of animals to produce so this is merely a tradition.  Usually on Sundays (and for some Saturdays) the fast isn't observed.  Wednesdays and Fridays are vegan.  This of course depends on the Bishop's directive and if you are in good health.  If you are interested in understanding this more, here's a great blog post on the topic from a Priest's wife.

Western Catholic Christians have historically had stricter fasting observances/dietary restrictions.  Black Fasts were part of the early church and are still observed by Orthodox and Eastern Catholics on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.  Over time the Church has eased many of it's restrictions.  Here is an article detailing fasting/dietary restrictions in the United States back in 1906. I imagine my Catholic great-grandparents had to observe this fast.

Monastic orders have traditionally held higher dietary restrictions and fasts than the laity.  To this day, some monastic orders such as the Carthusians and Cistercians practice vegetarianism on a regular basis.

Protestants also have fasting and dietary restricting traditions.  Seventh-day Adventists tend to be vegetarians and are expected to follow Old Testament dietary laws.  Some Mormons restrict their meat intake.  Also some Society of Friends extend their practice of peace to animals and are vegetarians or vegans.

So with all this in mind, I decided to hold a stricter fast than is required.  This is actually encouraged by the Bishops as a form of personal penance.  But one doesn't have to fast just for Lent or before Mass, it's Biblical to fast for a myriad of reasons in conjunction with prayer.

Here's what I ate today:
Breakfast: not pictured overnight oats

Snack: not pictured hashbrowns with nutritional yeast and ketchup

Lunch: not pictured, salad and spaghetti with mushballs

Snack: not pictured, rest of overnight oats

Dinner: not pictured, vegan chili and toast