6 Months After Quitting My 7 Years as a Vegetarian and 5.5 Years as a Vegan: How Do I Eat Now? High Protein Kosher, Similar to Paleo

Even though I only publicly admitted it recently, it was actually 6 months ago that I decided to retire from my dedicated plant-based stage of life, which coincided with most of my 8 year-old son’s life.

After I made the announcement, one of my nieces was shocked, reaching out to me, saying, “I’m pretty sure you have been a vegan for most of the time I’ve known you, ha ha. So you eat cheese pizza now?”

My answer: Well, I could… but I don’t… not really.

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Here’s what I do eat now:

Certain kosher meats, but only if they are baked or broiled, never fried or processed (like in a “nugget” form).

Wild caught fish: mainly salmon, cod, mahi mahi, and even anchovies; but not tuna, which instantly causes my dyshodrotic eczema to return. And definitely never shellfish: shrimp, scallops, lobster, etc. (They are not kosher.)

Chicken, without the skin.

Turkey, but I don’t really like it.

Beef, but never with dairy, like cheese; which is part of keeping kosher.

Eggs, whey powder, and cheese, but not milk.

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I see no reason to drink milk from an animal; not only because it contains more sugar than most people realize, but I attribute milk as the reason my sinuses and allergies used to be so horrible.

Vegetables, but not cooked in heavy oils.

Fruit, with no limitations.

Grains and potatoes, but only on occasion:

I am intentionally strictly avoiding flour (like wheat pasta or wheat pizza dough), hydrogenated oils, and processed sugar.

So would I eat a cheese pizza? I have; several times.

But I realized that it goes against what I am trying to accomplish; which is to have a permanent, healthy and balanced diet which will allow me to comfortably fit back into my size 32 pants again.

I have learned to appreciate grilled chicken pesto pizza on gluten-free, cauliflower crust.

Could I eat a cheeseburger? No, because it’s combining beef with dairy; which isn’t kosher.

Could I eat a hamburger? I could, but I’m not in a hurry to, since that would involve a lot of bread.

I think that ultimately, new identity as an ex-vegan consists of a dietary regiment that is still as disciplined as being a vegan, though it’s a lot less restricting.

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In the past 6 months, I have loss and kept off 5 pounds since I stopped being a vegan. And because I have been faithfully working out using Darebee.com, it is my belief that the reason I am not continuing to lose more weight right now is that the muscle I am building weights more than the fat.

I’m thinking that within another 6 months, I’ll have more confirmation and clarity for Operation: Comfortably Fit in My Size 32 Pants Again.

If not, I’ll keep being open-minded until I figure it out.

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After 5 and a Half Years, I Stopped Being a Vegan in September 2018… Finally, I’m Ready to Talk about It (Ex-Vegan Back to Kosher, Still Cured of Dyshidrotic Eczema and Sinus Issues)

Don’t get your hopes up- I still wouldn’t be any fun at a BBQ or a hot dog eating contest. But it is true that back in September, I quietly retired my strict vegan lifestyle of 5 and a half years, and my vegetarian lifestyle of 7 years. But why?

Because I realized that for the last few years, I had been gaining weight as a vegan– to the point I basically weighed as much as I did before I stopped eating meat, eggs, and dairy. Here is proof of my vegan dad bod.

For the first year and a half of being a vegan, I slimmed down to 156 pounds, which at 5′ 9″, placed me perfectly in the middle range according to a BMI chart.

Not only I had a lost and kept off nearly 20 pounds, but I also was finally free of my “medically incurable” dyshidrotic eczema and my constant sinus congestion.

I was convinced I would never forsake my vegan identity.

But after spending all of 2017 and 2018 trying to still fit into my size 31 pants, and eventually my size 32 pants, I realized that even with my routine of running on the weekends, my vegan diet wasn’t enough to combat the fact that since turning age 35, my metabolism had undeniably changed.

I was open-minded by the time I accidentally (?) met Mark Glesne at a Starbucks one Sunday morning after church in September 2018. With his experience as a personal trainer, he explained to me that my body had ultimately found a way to rewire itself so that despite consuming 0% cholesterol as part of my vegan diet, I had begun storing fat for lack of complete proteins that are found in meat, eggs, and cheese.

So since September, I have bid farewell to my vegan lifestyle and switched back to simply being kosher; which I have been since Thanksgiving 2008.

I have remained committed to abiding my Jewish kosher law for over a decade now; not eating pork or shellfish, or any other bottom feeder animals.

And even though tuna and tilapia are technically kosher, my eczema did briefly return when I ate those types of fish recently; as well as salmon that was farm-raised instead of wild caught. So I have to stick with fish that are cleaner; like cod, mahi mahi, and wild caught salmon.

As far as my sinus issues, they haven’t returned since I started eating cheese again. However, I refuse to drink cow’s milk, as I believe it was causing my severe sinus and allergy issues; not to mention, it contains a lot of unnecessary sugar.

To help counteract my metabolism noticeably slowing down since I turned 35 nearly 3 years ago, my great friend Mohamad Alaw (who took the photo of me above) helped me get started on a daily work-out regimen, which I have been faithfully doing, based on a website called Darebee.com.

I went from a consistent 176 pounds as a vegan, now to a new consistent 171 pounds by remaining kosher and working out daily; as well as mostly eliminating wheat flour, added sugar, and hydrogenated oils.

Granted, I’m still not comfortably fitting in my size 32 pants, but I believe I eventually will.

I definitely do not regret the 5 and a half years I spent as a vegan, and 7 as a vegetarian. Honestly, had I not begun gaining weight to the point I had a dad bod, I would have stayed a strict vegan the rest of my life.

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But the fact that being a vegan wasn’t enough to prevent a dad bod, I took it as a warning from my body that I needed to change what I was eating.

I still undeniably have a very strict diet, but there’s much more grace. I feel a little bit more human in social environments now.

It’s all about doing what works for me personally. Let vegans be vegans. Let bacon lovers be bacon lovers. Let them not be in a cultural war by demonizing each other like Democrats and Republicans.

Let emotional intelligence rule and let each person find their own way to happiness and health.

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As for me, I’ll be a kosher guy who works out in his living room every day when he gets home from work- as he pursues a goal of fitting comfortably in size 32 pants again, and continuing to remain cured of dyshidrotic ezcema and constant sinus congestion.

Every Wednesday is Noodles & Company: How I Accidentally Founded the “Lunch Bunch” Tradition at My Office

This week marked the third month of my return to the corporate world. After an unexpected gig as a stay-at-home dad for 6 months, my mind is now consumed for 8 hours a day by a constantly shifting workload of HR, marketing, and admin; as my English degree somewhat randomly translated into a lifelong career as a professional recruiter; in addition to running this blog, managing two YouTube channels, and handling SEO for companies on the side.

Never in my life has anything I’ve ever done required such a high percentage of brain functioning as my new current job at a Fortune 500 company; as I hide away all day in a fancy 6 story building outside of Nashville. It’s not stressful, but it’s undeniably challenging.

For most of my 11 years as a recruiter at my previous employer, I was known for just bringing my lunch everyday. And I definitely never went out to lunch with any of my co-workers.

But about a month ago at my new job, I decided to reward myself for surviving the first two months of training. I walked half a mile around the corner to the Noodles and Company; knowing without a doubt they would quickly and easily be able to accommodate my needs as a manly vegan.

The meal was everything wondrous I imagined it would be.

So after I walked the half a mile back to my office, I casually mentioned to Lori, who works in the cubicle next to me, what I did on my lunch break.

She immediately responded, “When are you going again? Let me know- I want to go next time!”

For the next two Wednesdays, she and I both went. Then word spread. Today made the 4th week of our tradition, and now were up to about a half a dozen people.

We’re all Noodles Rewards members; meaning we earn special discounts and freebies each time we stop there for lunch.

It feels good to be a part of the group- and to know we’re going somewhere I actually want to be each week and that I never get tired of.

My favorites are the Spicy Korean noodles with tofu and the Thai Green Curry.

Noodles & Company is naturally an extension of my identity. Not only do they openly cater to vegans like myself, but they also have so many menu options for everyone else in my lunch bunch; including one co-worker who orders theirs gluten-free; which is very easy to do with there not only being rice noodles but also Zoodles, made from zucchini.

I also appreciate that I can get meals that come so spicy they fog up my glasses. I like how we can see the staff making our food the moment we order it and then how our food is brought to our table just a few minutes later.

And not only is the price in my budget, but as a token Millennial, I avoid going to restaurants where I have to tip. Noodles and Company is a fast-casual style restaurant; meaning that there is not full table service offered.

By now, it may be easy to assume that Noodles and Company is sponsoring this post. But no, they’re not.

In fact, this isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned there here on my blog, simply because I am passionate about their brand. Back in January 2017, I featured them in a story about my son and I going to see Rogue One and stopping at Noodles and Company for dinner. (See picture above.)

I am simply writing about something I very much like. I am a huge fan of Noodles and Company.

And therefore, the Lunch Bunch is sure to arrive every Wednesday.

Plant-Based Millennial Family Checks Out Vegan-Friendly Restaurant Called “Squeeze In” in Truckee, California (Featuring the 2018 Mazda3), by Manly Vegan, Nick Shell

I didn’t choose the vegan life: The vegan life chose me.

Yes. I’m saying it: If I didn’t have to be a vegan, I wouldn’t be. Right about now, I would totally be downloading some greasy fried fish, dipping it in gobs of tartar sauce, and then washing it down with a Super Big Gulp size cup of sweet tea.

Amazingly, that is my fantasy non-vegan meal choice; not a big steak or a juicy burger with bacon and cheese.

If I ever returned to eating meat, eggs, and dairy, my thorns in the flesh would return as well: dyshidrotic eczema, constant sinusitis, and extreme allergies to animals.

But for over 5 years now, I’ve completely been cured of my ailments. For me, being a vegan is a choice of the head, not of the heart.

Either way, being a vegan has been part of my identity for over half a decade. Not to mention, I’ve also been a vegetarian for 6 and a half years and kosher (no pork or shellfish) for 9 and a half years.

My wife has been a vegetarian as long as I have, and both our our children have been their entire lives.

So naturally, road trips have to be a little bit more planned out for us; since we can’t just stop at the first exit we see. This month we took a road trip across northern California as we made our way to Lake Tahoe. Since I didn’t know about meal prep delivery at the time, my wife found a place called Squeeze In, which is located in the center of a nearby town called Truckee.

If your family is also plant-based like mine, then research no further. Squeeze In is where you’ll be dining next time you go to Tahoe.

I was so pleased with my veggie burger and elaborate salad. It’s such a cool environment, too.

And I really appreciated the bucket of toys the waitress brought to the table, to help occupy my tired and hungry kids as we waited for our food.

After our beautiful drive in the 2018 Mazda3 through the scenic mountains of northern California, the Squeeze In was quite the oasis for us.

I’m convinced that even if you aren’t forced to be a vegan like I am, you will still have a wonder meal and a great time at Squeeze In.

Thanks for checking our my blog; for I am the manly vegan. And you never know, maybe next time, I’ll be coming to your town.

Have you read all 3 of my blog posts featuring my family’s road trip to Lake Tahoe in the 2018 Mazda 3? Here’s a table of contents just to be sure. Click on the title of the blog post you would like to see:

Lake Tahoe Family Road Trip for Our 10th Wedding Anniversary 
Cabin Life in Truckee, California for Our 10th Wedding Anniversary 
Plant-Based Millennial Family Checks Out Vegan-Friendly Restaurant Called “Squeeze In” in Truckee, California

As the World’s Manliest Vegan, I Proudly Endorse All-Natural, Essential Oil Based Products from Jack Black (Courtesy of Boardroom Salon for Men in Nashville on West End); Also Featuring from Prep U

As an accidentally popular Nashville-based daddy blogger and YouTuber who happens to be The World’s Manliest Vegan, or at least The Manliest Vegan on the Internet, I’m not “get a free family vacation to Disney World” famous.

But I am “get a free trip for myself to Florida to see the Grapefruit League Baseball Series” famous.

I’m also “famous enough to get a free car with a full tank of gas for a week” anytime my family goes on a road trip or takes a vacation.

And to my delight, I’m also at the point now where on any given day, my wife may announce to me, “Nick, some company set you a package in the mail…”

This week, I got a care package courtesy of the newly opened Boardroom Salon for Men in Nashville on West End, including all natural, vegan-friendly products from Jack Black that they sell at their location:

Jack Black Charcoal Body Bar Messaging Soap

You may remember how about a month ago, I did a special video there when they gave me my first ever clean head shave.

Well now, a month later, they’re still keeping me in the loop. Apparently, they learned how passionate I am about all-natural products; ones that are based from essential oils, not weird chemicals.

Coincidentally, I also happen to receive a care package from Prep U:

Prep U Body Wash

Prep U Active Dry Powder

Prep U Body Spray

Prep U Natural Deodorant

The Prep U product line is specifically made for pre-teen boys; though I must say, their deodorant is my new favorite, of any brand! It works so well.

In case you didn’t know, about a decade ago, I stopped using personal products that contain shady ingredients like sodium lauryl sulfate. I also stopped using deodorant that contains aluminum.

I am a dyshidrotic eczema survivor. In order to be healed of my disease, I had ultimately become a vegan (5 years now) and only use all natural products.

So as you can imagine, the products sent to me this week by Boardroom Salon for Men in Nashville on West End are obviously an extension of my identity and completely inline with my own brand image.

In addition to being all natural, they also smell very clean, in a classy, subtle, masculine way. In other words, not like Axe body spray.

For me, this is like Christmas in June. I’m the 37 year-old dad and husband. I don’t get nice stuff for myself. My money goes to my family- and my attempt to pay off the mortgage early.

Getting these care packages this week made me very grateful and very happy, as you can see in the picture below.

Thank you Boardroom Salon for Men in Nashville on West End. I am honored to serve as spokesman for natural products for men!

3 Awesome Kid-Friendly Vegan Restaurants in New York 

By guest blogger Eathen Smith, as part of the sponsored Hotel Planner campaign.

The environmental, health, and social benefits of vegan food have never been more obvious to a new generation of health-conscious parents and restaurateurs. Both are on different sides of the restaurant counter but are equally determined in their efforts to promote healthy food choices for children.

Vegan menus for kids are still difficult to find, but there are numerous kid-friendly vegan restaurants in New York City. The number of hotels and transportation near some of the restaurants makes the city perfect for time restricted parents. Here are a few vegan-friendly restaurants found throughout the city;

Experience Convenience and Vegan Delights in Queens

Vegan-friendly, homemade, fresh, delicious, convenient, and attentive staff are all words that have been used to describe Bruno’s Restaurant. It is located near Howard’s Beach in Queens and is close to JFK Airport.

Large portions of food are the norm at Bruno’s Restaurant. The vegan-friendly menu includes fresh salads, pizza, pasta, and Italian desserts. Friendly staff also go above and beyond to provide a wonderfully warm and inviting atmosphere. There are plenty of transport options nearby, and taxis are recommended for late evenings.

Looking to stay nearby? Hotels are conveniently located all over Queens and can be reached within minutes.

Convenient Mexican Vegan on the Lower East Side  

JaJaJa Plantas Mexicana is a walk-in restaurant located on the Lower East Side of New York. The vegan menu rates highly among locals and visitors. There is a park across the road for distracting the kids while the family waits to be seated. The wait is worth it when the menu arrives. It is made up of unique Mexican food such as vegan chorizo, black bean burgers, and cauliflower rice. JaJaJa is located above a train station and car parking is plentiful making it perfect for a quick exit. The modern decor of JaJaJa is complemented by fun music, convenience, and an excellent location.

Upper East Side Vegan Experience  

Le Botaniste is for families with slightly higher budgets but provides delicious vegan food on the Upper East Side of New York. The restaurant offers a fast and convenient restaurant experience. There are lots of vegan food options at this restaurant, and a family with children can be in and out of Le Botaniste in minutes. The Tibetan Rice Bowl is a favorite choice for vegans. It contains coconut curry, brown rice, and veggies. Bowls of green vegetables, quinoa cookies, and assorted bowls of food are just a few of the other menu items.

Exceptional and tasty vegan food in New York City will continue to convert carnivores. The choices for kid-friendly vegan food is phenomenal, and there is something for every budget. The convenient restaurant locations near hotels and public transport make for an easy meal and decreased waiting times. Creative vegan delights from some of New York’s best have the potential to change a new generation of eaters and bring joy to conscious parents.

Image via Flickr by WoodleyWonderworks

A “Work Date”with My Wife at ENAR 2018 in Atlanta (Featuring the 2018 Mazda CX-5)

Last week during Spring Break, our family opted not to go somewhere slightly exotic, like Destin, Florida; as usual. Instead, I dropped my wife off at the Nashville International Airport for her flight to Atlanta, then I drove our kids to my parents’ house, in Fort Payne, Alabama; where I grew up.

My wife went to work immediately, as she was there to help represent Vanderbilt University’s Biostatistics Graduate Program in at the ENAR 2018 Spring Meeting. (In case you happen to be out of the loop, ENAR stands for Eastern North American Region of International Biometric Society.)

I spent the first day of Spring Break at Ruby Falls with our son (more on that in the near future, so stay tuned…). But the very next morning, I left early for Atlanta; in the 2018 Mazda CX-5.

This SUV was the perfect size for my 3 hour scenic drive down Lookout Mountain into the Rome, Georgia; and eventually Atlanta. I appreciated not only the great gas mileage it got (25 city, 31 highway), but also how well it handled all those sneaky curves on my route.

As a stay-at-home dad who works from home as a Social Media Specialist and Influencer, I haven’t commuted to an office since last October. So I do admit, it was nice being able go back and forth between The Beatles and Tom Petty for a few hours. There’s a part of me that misses that 2 hour round trip everyday to work, where I could sort of just think about my life as I listened to good music.

Thanks to the trusty GPS, I had arrived at lunch time at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Atlanta. My wife met me right away at front doors, where I introduced her to our new ride for the week, and from there we drove just about 5 miles away to our favorite vegan restaurant in Atlanta: Cafe Sunflower in Buckhead.

Our lunch every bit as magnificent as we expected; so much so, that we went back again the next day for lunch! Though my wife is an amazing plant-based chef, I love being able to take her somewhere nice where she not only doesn’t have to cook, but a place that is also as committed to our lifestyle as we are. (My wife has been a vegetarian and I have been a vegan, for well over 5 years now.)

Afterwards, we headed back to ENAR 2018, where I took photographs of Vanderbilt’s booth; as I will be writing an article for Vanderbilt’s website to promote their presence at the event. I was proud to see my video series on display on the monitor, as one of my many roles working as a freelance Social Media Specialist is to create promotional videos for companies.

Over the course the past few weeks, I had interviewed several current students and professors from Vanderbilt’s Biostastics Graduate Program, then made a series of short promo videos. Not only were these playing on a loop during the whole event, but I will eventually upload them to a YouTube channel that I will be creating and managing for the department.

I also also very proud to see my wife there in her role, as well; serving as a beautiful model and spokesperson for prospective students. More importantly though, she had helped coordinate the booth for the department, including all the logistics in getting it there, along with other Vanderbilt employees.

After a hard day’s work, we took advantage of a special attraction there at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta: They have a restaurant called Polaris, on top of the hotel. You have to take a special, exclusive, elevator there. And the over the course of an hour, the entire restaurant spins; so you get to see a 360 degree view of Atlanta. We will definitely go there again!

The next day after ENAR came to an end, we headed back to Cafe Sunflower for lunch again, then took a different route back to my parents’ house in Alabama. Our adventures were far from over, as we would be taking a family trip to Rock City the next morning.

I was very grateful to be able to have a “work date” with my wife. Sometimes, or maybe I should say usually, it requires some creativity in being able to plan fun dates when both parents work and have young children.

Perhaps at some point, our lives will be a little less crazy. As for now, we are truly making the most of what we have!

To check out the entire trilogy of blog posts about the cool trips my family took in the 2018 Mazda CX-5, just click the related link below:

A “Work Date”with My Wife at ENAR 2018 in Atlanta (Featuring the 2018 Mazda CX-5)

My Family’s Road Trip to Rock City in Chattanooga in the 2018 Mazda CX-5 (Featuring the Original New Theme Song I Wrote)

My Road Trip with My Son to Ruby Falls in Chattanooga in the 2018 Mazda CX-5 (Featuring the Original New Theme Song I Wrote)