Wednesday, January 19, 2011

This is us, and we are VEGANS. RAWR!

Here we are. Our little family of 6, Mama, The Dad, Kid 1, Kid 2, Kid 3, and Kid 4 (although, she will forever be BabyBean.) Here we are goin’ Vegan. Wow! Whoda thunk it?

Our story is probably a lot like most. I would like to state that, although we have a great love for animals, that has nothing to do with our decision to become vegan. I always had this supreme misconception that vegetarians/vegans were all huge donators to PETA. Ignorance at its finest. Sure, over the years I’ve seen the videos on factory farming and how poorly the animals we stuff in our faces are treated. I continued to eat meat because I LOVE meat, and we, the human race, are carnivores after all. I love a nice bloody roast beef laden with BĂ©arnaise sauce, a big greasy burger from the dingiest diner, even a hot dog smothered in chili and cheese (wait! Hold the onion, please. Yuck!).

We were the typical American family, too busy or too tired to cook, so we relied on McDonalds about 3 times a week, made something out of a box or can, and spaghetti & meatballs the rest of the week. Then, we watched Supersize Me. At this point we didn't cut McDonalds out completely, but we sure did cut down. I started getting better in the kitchen and cooking more real meals. I grew up with a meat, carb, and veggie at every meal and I strove to do the same for my family.

We've always been crunchy at heart and tried to do right by the earth, using cloth diapers, recycling, using green cleaners, etc. But we were completely ignorant when it came to our food choices. Just because the FDA says it's food, most definitely does not deem it gospel. We then watched Food, Inc. 

WOW! What an eye-opener that was! Right then and there we decided to not only buy organic when possible but also purchase only free-range grass-fed meats, dairy products, and eggs. We also brought the tradition of  Meatless Monday in our home. Of course at this point, May 2010, we cut out all fast food chains entirely. I felt good about our meat and dairy purchases. Not only were we helping the local farmers, we were eating the best quality meat we possibly could. 

Fast forward to Christmas 2010. We, the parents, are no longer comfortable in our larger bodies and decide to go on a strict diet come January 3, 2011. What was the diet you ask? We were on a road trip when I read in my latest issue of Whole Living about this: Whole Living 28 day challenge . So, it wasn’t a diet per se, it was a kick in the ass way to start eating healthier. We were really excited about the mind and body aspect to this challenge, as well. It’s about time we felt happy and satisfied and whole. We had no intention of dragging the kids along as we knew they wouldn’t eat anything we served and we didn’t want the fight. Oh boy the dinner fights ‘round here. 

So, while we, the parents, were eating millet and beans, the kids were happily munching on meatballs, burgers, and hot dogs. For the first week we had to give up EVERYTHING we loved. Dairy, added sugar, wheat/gluten, along with many others, but the one that killed us was CAFFEINE!!!! Are you kidding me? Really? No coffee?? Within the first hour of waking every morning, I’ve drank 2 luscious cups with a splash of creamer and a teaspoon of sugar. But, we did it. For me, the first 3 days were HORRENDOUS!!! I’ve always had a problem with migraines, but these were debilitating. In order for me to be somewhat functioning, I cheated. I had 2 cups of tea that were “naturally low in caffeine”. Yes, I cheated and I’m fine with that. My children’s lives were dependent on me functioning. 

It wasn’t only caffeine for me, though. It was a combination of no bread or sugar as well that sent me over the edge. Withdrawls. I haven’t looked it up, but I’m assuming there is an addiction to wheat/gluten/sugar. It was as though I was quitting smoking all over again. Not fun. But then, it was ok. I started feeling better. Because of the mental stress of giving up all of these things, I was not keeping up with the mind and body aspects of the “diet”. Not to mention how much time I was spending in the kitchen, cutting, dicing, mixing, blending, phew.

On January 11, 2011 it all changed. I watched 1 simple movie (do you sense a trend here?) ‘Change Your Food, Change Your Life’. During the movie, I texted The Dad and asked if he wanted to go vegan. He laughed, as he has mentioned several times over the years how he’d like to go vegetarian and I always said “No.”, no discussion. I like my meat. I was serious and he said “Sure.”. So, here we are and I’m feeling great. On Sunday we were allowed to bring coffee back into our lives and I couldn’t have been more excited! Starbucks Casi Cielo was out early this year (if you’re unfamiliar, it’s the most delicious coffee known to man and it’s only available late January through February) and I ran out on Friday to have it on hand for the big drink on Sunday. On my counter it sat looking at me so longingly and tenderly, waiting. Waiting to be opened and lovingly ground into what would be the single best cup of coffee I’ve ever had. 

Sunday morning came and I shuffled into the kitchen at 7 am, ground up my coffee, placed it in my “My Kcup”, grabbed my favorite cable knit mug, scooped up 3 (has to be exact) ice cubes, splashed my creamer (now soy, of course), poured my sugar, and hit the 6oz button. Oh that smell!! How wonderful! How I’ve missed you so!!! With my mug cupped between my hands, I put my face almost into it and I inhaled deeply. Comfort! Sheer comfort. I sat at the kitchen table and slowly took my first sip. Huh. Not like I remembered. Nothing like I remembered. Another sip. Nothing. Could it be? Have I lost all love for my morning companion? It just didn’t taste the same. No, it wasn’t the creamer, I’ve used plenty of different dairy products in my coffee and still enjoyed it to it’s fullest. This was different. I continued sipping, trying to recreate the old flame. Nothing. I ended up tossing ¼ of it down the drain. The Dad was the same, except he actually got the shakes and jitters from the caffeine. He drinks his black. The addiction was gone and there is now no need for the caffeine. It wasn’t hard, just the first 3 days. I gave it another whirl on Monday morning and again, nada. I was going to try again, but I don’t think I will. Every now and again I’ll have a cup and try to relive our morning memories, but I don’t want that addiction again, so we’ll just be acquaintances from now on. 

The same holds true for bread. I’m a huge lover of bread. All breads, cheesy bread, hearty bread, sourdough bread, white bread, crusty bread, flat bread, naan bread, you name it, I’m a fan. When we were allowed to bring wheat/gluten back into our lives we went to Panera and purchased a loaf of Stone Milled Rye. Again, nothing. What I’m really getting at is, it only took 1 single week for me to completely lose the desire and taste for the things I loved the most in my diet. Come to find out, caffeine may have been my biggest enemy for the past 20 years and I never knew it. Did you know caffeine can actually cause headaches AND depression??? Hmmmm.

Granted, we are only just into week 2 of being vegan, but I feel great about it and I’m excited about it. I’m feeling better emotionally AND physically. The kids? Not so much, but I’ve never seen them TRY so many different foods in just one week as I have this past week.  Soon enough, their taste buds will change, as ours did and they will love it just as much as we do. Our children have watched all of the movies above, as well, and we are very  honest with them about any changes in our lives.

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