Life's an experiment; take a risk!

Hello, readers!

I’d like to return to this blog once more and actually get it active again. Since being vegan for nearly a whole year, I can’t even begin to tell you how great I feel. I am finding that when people get curious about my vegan lifestyle, they often wonder about how expensive it is to eat like this. I also have people angrily telling me that I am privileged and that not everyone can “afford” to be vegan.

My response to this is to conduct an experiment to see once and for all just how expensive or inexpensive healthy, nutritious vegan eating actually is. Starting on Monday, February 4th, I will be posting here a fully up front account of exactly what I eat all day, how much it cost, and what the nutritional value of my food is for two weeks. I will most likely use a website like MyFitnessPal.com to track the food. I will post all of my grocery store/food receipts as well as do my best to factor in the cost of items that I might use that are already in my household.

Like all good experiments, this one has rules. They are the following:

  • I will be making at least 3 meals per day. Sometimes there will also be snacking and sometimes there may be more than 3 meals
  • I will not be including spices (salt, pepper, basil, etc) unless I buy them fresh or if I have to buy them for a certain recipe
  • I will be attempting to be healthy about this (because any diet is cheap if it’s just ramen noodles, potato chips, and Oreos). And yes, omnivore nay-sayers, this DOES include “getting my protein in.”
  • I will not include any fake meats
  • I will track here the cost of any and all food that I buy and eat during the two-week period, including take-out meals if there are any. (Hey, life happens. Sometimes social situations call for going out to dinner, and sometimes there’s just no time before work to make food!)
  • I will not shop at Whole Foods or other specialty “health food” stores. Everything I buy will be from your regular, old supermarkets, convenience stores, or farm stands.
  • I will not be using tofu or fake meats. For all the soy-is-bad-so-how-can-you-be-vegan-and-get-protein faction members out there, I am soy intolerant and will be using as little of it as humanly possible (though I will occasionally include textured vegetable protein–TVP–or edamame).
  • The experiment will run from Monday, February 4th – Monday, February 18th.

Game on!

After a long time…

So it’s been a while since I’ve updated this blog. Since then, I have ended my vegan trial month at the end of January. It was such an amazing experience. I lost weight, felt healthier, and learned about amazing, compassionate ways to cook.

Then I went on a dairy binge. It was a little pathetic, and it actually made me get sick. I’m not going to lie. At first, this worried me. I think I associated my eating habits with something that made me who I was. I have always been a loud & proud lover of all things cheese. To me, as silly as it seems while I’m writing this now, it was a part of my identity. I had always been so decidedly anti-vegetarian growing up, it seemed preposterous that I might one day BECOME one.

Yet, when I found myself at dinner that night, out with my sister to celebrate a successful month, looking at my baked cheese tortellini with chicken in a cream sauce, I found myself really grossed out by the idea of eating animal flesh again. I got through maybe two bites before I picked around it and ate the cheesy parts instead.

Somewhere in my mind, I had finally come to terms with the idea that I do believe, in my innermost self, that eating meat is wrong. It’s funny: when I was about six or seven, I tried to become a vegetarian for those same reasons (I loved animals; I didn’t want to eat them), and I lasted about a day. Willpower was always something that I struggled with, so I just ignored it, like with so many things in my life.

The month of veganism made me see that I DID have willpower, and if I wanted to do something, I could do it.

I basically became a pescatarian right after that, not willing to fully submit myself to the idea of never eating animal products again. It seems crazy, I know, to think that food could have that much of a grip over me. But it did, and I let it. Like I said, there was a part of me that became so sure that it was part of my identity, that I wouldn’t be my sister’s “sister who thought cheesecake was the best food in the world” or my friends’ “friend who would go out and try any new food possible.”

And yes, the eating was (and is) part of my identity. But who is to say you can’t–or shouldn’t–change that identity as you go?

After eating vegan for a month, I realized that my morals were in true alignment with becoming a vegan. But I didn’t become a vegan right away because I was scared of the change to that identity. I am not proud to say that, but I was. And I think that is typical of a lot of people, and it’s probably why so many vegans hear, “Oh, I could never give up cheese, but that’s really great.” Food in our culture has become a huge source of identity, and it’s always scary to decide to change your identity because it changes the way people see you. It changes the way you see yourself.

Before I met my wonderful friend Kima, who really introduced me to the concept of being fully vegan, I was one of those people who scoffed at veganism and vegetarianism. Then one day, she said something that made me think. She said that those who had that attitude had it because vegans were confronting the personal choices of meat-eaters, and that made them nervous. It was true. I was nervous because my own personal choices were being pulled out into the open where I had to look at them and question myself.

At this point (by about the beginning of February), I now knew it was wrong to keep doing what I was doing, but I kept doing it. I don’t think I was ready to make the change. Then, as with any change, there was a catalyst.

Our dog got into trouble with our town after an incident involving a town employee (talk about your bias right there), and my family suddenly had to face an upcoming hearing where the dog officer (a man who, by any and all accounts of the people in my town, hates dogs), and the animal control committee were to decide whether or not my dog would be deemed vicious. If deemed so, they would have the power to either permanently restrain him (affecting the quality of his life to the point where he would not be able to run and play in our own, fenced in yard), banish him from the town, or “destroy” him.

The second I read the word “destroy” listed in the town by-laws as an acceptable option for an offense that would get a human at least fined and at most a couple of years in prison changed my entire life. The fact that humans believed they had the power to take the life of another, sentient being–and, worse, to consider it “destruction,” the connotation of which is more along the lines of getting rid of an unwanted object, not a life–was appalling.

The dots connected.

This is what humans do every day. They imprison animals, restricting their quality of life. They kill them. They steal from them–their eggs, their milk, their babies.

Why do we think we have the right to do that?

Our dog, luckily, was not “destroyed.” Instead, he was permanently restrained, and every day we have to live with seeing him confined, unable to exercise properly (we, of course, take him for walks and run him around the yard, but it’s not the same as having him chase a ball and run as fast as HE can without being limited by his human companions). It’s heartbreaking, miserable, and it’s taking its toll on him.

I can’t discriminate between species. If I wouldn’t stand to see it for our family’s dog, I will not stand to see it for anyone else. Yes, I said anyone, not anything. They are beings, and deserve life.

I have been fully vegan–not just dietarily speaking, because it’s a LIFESTYLE, not a diet–for about two months now. Yes, I am reaping the benefits of a much healthier lifestyle, but, more importantly, I am doing it for them.

Trial and success, indeed.

Stay tuned for more updates on the vegan lifestyle, vegan foods, and life in general!

Mmm… 3 “cheese” pizza

Recipe: Quick & Easy 3-“Cheese” Pizza

Enjoy a quick dinner for when you just don’t feel like making a huge effort. We’re lacking large amounts of protein here, so I don’t recommend this as a regular meal, but everyone loves pizza! Here’s how you make it deliciously vegan!

3 Cheese Vegan Pizza

Ingredients:

  • Pre-made pizza crust. VERY IMPORTANT: many of the pre-made, oven-ready pizza crusts contain honey. Please read the ingredients label carefully to make sure you are getting one without honey. This eliminates all of the Boboli crusts. I recommend buying Rustic Crust Old World Pizza Crust, Tuscan Six Grain. It’s the only one of their crusts that is vegan, and it tastes great! It’s available at Market Basket in 12″ and in smaller, individual-sized 7″ crusts.
  • Pizza Sauce. If you have your own, vegan pizza sauce recipe, please share!! I’d love to hear about it. I’ve been using Casa Visco Italian Style Pizza Sauce.
  • Daiya Vegan “Cheese” in Cheddar, Pepperjack, and Mozzarella-style shreds. My trial period of began vegan has been aided SO much by the existence of this cheese substitute. The fact that it comes in different varieties is a life-saver! I just tried the mozzarella-style shreds for the first time on last night’s pizza (pictured above), and it really made the whole thing come together. Available at Whole Foods. Visit their website here.
  • (Optional) Vegetables of Choice. Personally, I love adding peppers and onions to my pizzas. Any veggie topping goes, just as with any pizza.

Preparation

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Spread the pizza sauce over the pizza.
  3. Sprinkle the cheese and vegetables on as desired.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes, or until cheese is melted and crust is golden brown.
  5. Let cool for 5 minutes
  6. Enjoy!

Did you try this recipe? Let me know how it came out!

Recipe: Strawberry-Banana Protein Smoothie

Worried that being vegan isn’t going to give you enough protein? I was too! But I have a delicious smoothie recipe you can make for breakfast and not worry about lacking protein! Perfect for those who like easy, quick meals and don’t always like eating breakfast in the morning.

Jump start your metabolism and enjoy a great breakfast! *Note: if you’re someone who doesn’t prefer to drink their breakfast, I’d accompany it with a bagel (my favorite vegan option is Thomas brand everything bagels) and butter substitute (Smart Balance Organic butter spread is a great vegan option, but make sure the label reads “organic”) or toast.

I would recommend just having the smoothie with either with a vegetable or fat serving or leaving it as is, though, because although fruit is not a starch, it is still a carbohydrate.

Usually I eyeball the level of most of my ingredients, but I’ll try to give you a ballpark. You’ll find the taste balance that works best for you.

Equipment:

– Blender

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons of hemp protein powder (or other vegan protein powder)
  • 1 large banana
  • 1 – 1.5 cup of chopped strawberries
  • 1.5 cups almond milk (recommended: Almond Breeze Original by Blue Diamond)
  • 4 large ice cubes

Preparation:

  1. Place all ingredients in blender
  2. Blend until smooth
  3. Pour and enjoy! (Great for an on-the-go breakfast in a travel mug!)

 

Did you try making the smoothie? Let me know how you liked it!

I was getting a little discouraged today, mainly because I did not pack enough food to get me through my work day. And, like many, when I get hungry and my blood sugar drops, I get really, really bitchy.

So of course, I started looking for something to eat, and the D’Angelo/Papa Gino’s combo store a few doors down looked better and better. It’s freeing to realize there are so many options for dining out too. The most important thing is that you stay 100 percent sure that everything you’re eating doesn’t contain any hidden animal product.

Luckily, D’Angelo is very helpful and provides a list of ingredients for all their foods on their website: http://www.dangelos.com/nutrition.html?topic=ingredients

Papa Gino’s does as well: http://www.papaginos.com/nutrition.html?topic=ingredients

So this was what I got to eat tonight!

– Small, cheese-less pizza with caramelized onions, peppers and garlic

Garden salad with balsamic vinaigrette dressing

I don’t feel deprived, and I get to eat an awesome dinner!

Tell me, what are your favorite restaurants/eating-out options? Vegan or not…

A Vegan Month!

So, it’s a new year, and I’m newly vegan for a month. Well, another three weeks at least.

Unlike a lot of people, I didn’t start this resolution on January first. I actually decided it mid-December. I thought I would try being vegan for a week to see how I felt. Then I realized a week would do nothing for me, so it became two weeks. But after thinking about it some more, I figured out that, to really experience the effects, I would have to do it for a month.

My first thought: how the hell am I going to live without cheese?

My second thought: wait…isn’t EVERYTHING made with some kind of animal product?

The answer to the first question is still unanswered. I’m on day 8 of being vegan, and I still miss cheese. I don’t miss it as much as I do the first few days, but I still have pretty regular cravings. I love cheese…a lot. Luckily I’ve found some fantastic substitutes, like Daiya brand, available at Whole. Foods.

The answer to the second question: a lot of things ARE made with animal products, but it’s making me more conscious of what I’m putting in my system, and I’m cutting out a LOT of processed crap and baked goods. For bread, I’ve mainly switched to the much-less-processed Ezekiel bread. And, though I can no longer eat at my favorite local bagel shop, I’m finding that Thomas brand everything, cinnamon raisin, and onion bagels are suiting me just fine with a Smart Balance butter substitute or some natural peanut butter.

Also, it feels REALLY great to walk into the grocery store and walk right by the baked goods or the ice cream section, knowing that they no longer hold any power over me. That is huge.

I also have cut out soda (too many sodas make it too difficult to tell whether they’re vegan or not with all the chemicals and everything. If I’m really in the mood for a treat, I could go with a Cherry Coke Zero, but I’m trying to cut it out altogether). I find I’m drinking a lot more water.

Don’t get me wrong, “vegan” doesn’t automatically equal “healthy.” There are tons of unhealthy options while being vegan, like not getting enough protein, or stocking up on “accidentally” vegan snacks, like Oreos and Sour Patch Kids and Lays BBQ chips.

Luckily for me, my mother happens to have been a personal trainer/nutritionist for the past 30 years. She’s not someone that particularly believes that vegan living is the healthiest option, but we’re working together to make sure I’m still having balanced, protein-filled meals. It’s been really helpful so far, and in just a week my mental clarity has skyrocketed, and I feel HAPPIER. People have commented that the transformation it’s like night and day.

And the physical benefits aren’t so bad either. I received a gorgeous jacket for Christmas that, unfortunately, I couldn’t button. There was about 2 inches of space in between the buttons when I tried. Cut to day five of veganism (which started the day after Christmas): the jacket now buttons.

As someone who has struggled with being overweight for a very long time, I can’t even tell you how much this means to me. I finally, finally have hope that this can be done, and I believe in myself. I’m not here to preach about being vegan, and I don’t know if it’s the right thing for everyone (in fact, I don’t honestly know if I’m going to continue it after my month’s trial is over). What I do know is that I am learning an important lesson in what I am capable of, and that’s amazing.

(But I still kind of miss cheese.)

Welcome!

Hello, as-of-yet non-existent readers!

Welcome to my collection of thoughts, published online (hopefully) for your entertainment. My goal here is to be completely and totally honest about the ups and downs of my crazy journey called life. I’m only 22 and still have a lot left to learn. I’m trying things out, succeeding sometimes, failing other times, and doing the best I can.

I decided to call this blog “Trial and Success” because I don’t like the phrase “Trial and Error.” I prefer the idea that so many of us have grown up with: the idea that we can do anything we set our minds to.

Truth be told, I’ve thought about starting this blog more times than I can count. Why now? Because I’m finally ready. Feeling comfortable with myself has been a long and sometimes painful struggle for me over the years. I don’t think I’m fully there yet, but I am at a point where I feel like I can openly be the person I want to be and self-identify to the outside world as the person I feel like on the inside. I know that was a little convoluted, and if that made sense to you, congratulations!

I really like the internet medium because it’s a place where, mostly, you can be whoever you want to be and meet like-minded people. Some of the closest friends I have are people I’ve connected with first through an online medium and now in person whenever we can manage (disclaimer: always practice safety on the internet, please!!).

I’m committed to a philosophy of everyone finding and choosing the right path for them as long as it does not harm others or infringe on their rights. So, most importantly, I hope that as I go through my journey, you can share with me your trials and successes on your own life path, whatever that may be.

Cheers,

Lynx

 

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