Vegan Confession: I Don’t Miss Meat, Eggs, or Dairy, But I Do Have Fast Food Fantasies…

Vegan Confession: I Don’t Miss Meat, Eggs, or Dairy, But I Do Have Fast Food Fantasies

Fact: I am the only married man you know who is a vegan. We are a rare breed, as I am well aware.

A question I get sometimes is this: “Don’t you miss it? Don’t you wish you could just bite into a juicy steak sometimes?”

My answer is always a quick, “No, not at all.”

I know it’s easy for an outsider to assume that vegans are secretly hungry because they don’t get enough protein.

Granted, I think I am easy proof that I actually get more than enough protein. After having been a vegan for over three years, a vegetarian for 4 and a half years, and kosher (no pork or shellfish- yes, that includes bacon!) for 7 and a half, you can easily see I’m not withering away.

In fact, I’m currently working on shedding the last 5 of the 7 pounds I gained while supporting my wife in her pregnancy cravings. (Organic tater tots and vegan chocolate candy bars do more damage than I previously thought!)

My wife and I have discussed what would happen if she ever ate meat again; as she’s been kosher and a vegetarian as long as I have. I explained that if she ever went back, it could easily tempt me to do the same, which would mean I could have the freedom to eat fast food again.

As I explained to her; it’s not the good, healthy, organic, non-GMO meat that she would cook that I would be so excited about. I could care less about that.

Instead, what I psychologically miss is the glory of fast food.

I miss being able to spend so little money on food that is unnaturally tasty (thanks to the addictive trio of high fat, high sugar, and high sodium).

I miss the convenience of dollar menus and drive-thru’s.

I miss not ever asking myself where my food is coming from, beyond a Sysco delivery truck.

I miss not worrying about the future effect of fast food on my body.

I miss not associating eat red meat with the increased chances of getting diabetes or prostate cancer.

The thought of me ever eating fast food again disgusts her enough to the point where I’m pretty sure she’s won’t ever be tempted to go back. (I used to sneak fast food when she and I first got married 8 years ago.)

Life was easier when I ate fast food. I admit, I miss that.

The place I miss most is Captain D’s. Ah, their greasy, crunchy, fried mystery fish of the sea; made complete with tartar sauce and cocktail sauce. Wash it down with sugary sweet tea… I miss that place more than any burger joint.

But here’s what I don’t miss:

I don’t miss having “untreatable eczema” on my hands, to the point I could barely type on the computer keyboard.

I don’t miss the daily headaches.

I don’t miss the constant sinus pressure, or getting sinus infections every couple of months.

I don’t miss the acne.

I don’t miss being my pants size being size 34; where as I’ve remained size 31 for the 3 years I’ve been a vegan.

So yes, being a strict vegan takes some fun out of life. It’s true.

And I do miss fast food.

But for me, what I psychologically miss isn’t worth more than how I am physically benefiting from doing without the fun stuff.

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Proof I’ve Deprived My Kid Of Fast Food (And Meat In General)

March 20, 2013 at 10:26 pm , by 

2 years, 4 months.

Dear Jack,

Fate would have it that your parents would become vegetarians right around the time you would be old enough to start eating meat; back in December 2011.

Now that I’ve fully converted to veganism, your chances of trying chicken nuggets anytime in the near future look pretty bleak.

But here’s the thing: You really have no concept of eating animals. A vegetarian diet is all you know.

Yesterday we received some coupons in the mail for a fast food restaurant. You saw a picture of a combo meal, consisting of a burger, fries, and a soda. Your reaction:

“What this called, Mommy?”

This past weekend while you were hanging out at an indoor playground, you discovered the pretend kitchen. After toasting the plastic peas in the pink toaster, you found a plastic chicken leg.

“What this called, “Daddy?”

I quickly responded without thinking about how weird my answer would be.

You were confused, but you tried not to question it, as you are still fairly new to the human experience:

“That’s fried chicken leg? Chicken leg.” You walked away with the plastic chicken leg in your hand, trying to figure out why a human being is supposed to play with a random body part of an animal.

I am trying to put myself in your shoes, simply thinking that all those animals on Old McDonald’s farm are just his pets and nothing more.

It’s going to be weird for me the day you’re old enough to understand that certain animals are a protein source for the 97% of Americans who are not vegetarians or vegans.

I wonder: At what point in your life will you finally eat meat; with the knowledge of what it actually is. If ever.

Aside from your parents’ influence, are you still a vegetarian? I’m sure the truth will come out in your teenage years.

 

Love,

Daddy

The Shell Diet: Fresh- Forget about Processed Foods and Replace Sugar with Whole Fruits

Cut out all processed foods.


1) The worst thing about processed foods is that they are typically loaded with “bad sugars” and “bad fats”, not to mention too much sodium. This means all fast food, fried food, candy, snack cakes, sodas, coffee bought at a coffee shop, even yogurt (loaded with sugar!) just to name a few examples.  “Good sugars” are whole fruits and “good fats” are nuts- they’re good and necessary as part of the Shell Diet.

How do you know if a food is processed?  Any kind of food you wouldn’t have been able to find 200 years ago, if it contains more than 7 ingredients, and/or if it comes sealed in a box or bag sent from a factory, there is a good chance it is processed.  And that means you shouldn’t eat it because it has too much fatsugar, and or sodium.  Those three things are some of the rarest elements found in food, yet in today’s culture, a lot of our food choices are based on those things, and those are the things making us unhealthy.  Jesus didn’t eat Hot Pockets.  Abraham Lincoln didn’t eat Twinkies.  So neither will I.

2) So if you’re not eating junk food, or even “healthy” processed snacks (made with soy or tofu), what can you eat? Eat anything that is a plant, as a snack. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, and even whole grain cereal as long as no sugar has been added (admittedly, there aren’t a whole lot of cereals that fit that description, so unless I am having plain oatmeal with fruit, I buy plain shredded wheat and add honey, which is natural and healthy to eat).

3) Drinking your calories is just as bad, if not worse, than eating them. Soda is what I call “diabetes juice”.  Sugary coffee and sweat tea are “liquid cigarettes”.  And 100% fruit juice?  Still processed.  I call it “vitamin infused Kool Aid”.  We’re supposed to be eating fruit on a daily basis, not drinking it.  Because unless we’re eating the fiber with the fruit, we’re cheating ourselves and just drinking the vitamins and sugar from the fruit, wasting its fiber.

I don’t buy into the advertising ploy of V-8 and other “healthy juices” advertising that if you buy drinking their product, you’re getting the proper number of servings of fruits and veggies.  You may be getting the vitamins, but you’re getting too much sugar, and not enough fiber.  Sure, it’s better than soda, or not eating any fruits or veggies at all, but you’re still cheating yourself out of a healthy thing.

Acknowledgement: This far into reading about the “Shell Diet”, you have every reason to feel discouraged at how demanding of a lifestyle change it is.  But this is the price you pay to be healthy now, and to prevent Diabetes, cancer, and all that other bad stuff.  And there’s no way around it.  Even if you’re thin, it doesn’t mean you’re necessary healthy.

4) So what does Nick Shell drink, the creator of the Shell Diet, drink? Because obviously there isn’t much left to choose from. Mainly water– no less than two liters (ideally 3 liters) per day.  A little bit of milk with cereal or coffee (but no processed creamer or sugar).  Certain select fruit juices like carrot juice or Bolthouse Farms’ Green Goodness- they are the only exceptions to my “no fruit juice rule” because they both contain a power house of nutrients that are difficult to get a hold of and are more of a puree than a juice.

And lastly, one alcoholic beverage per day. Yes, it may sound like I’m going against everything I’ve established so far, but it’s a key factor of the Shell Diet being successful.  Almost every day, I either have a classy beer (like Leinenhugel’s, Fat Tire, Blue Moon, Shock Top, etc., but never Bud Light or anything people use to get drunk on during sports events or that underage teens with fake I.D.’s are drawn to) or a glass of wine (my favorite brand is actually Macaroni Grille).

If you have any religious reservations about this, read this, and if that doesn’t help (or you’re a recovering alcoholic or think you might become one), I have to admit you are at a disadvantage regarding the Shell Diet, but I don’t want to be responsible for you feeling like you are sinning against God (or lead you back into a lifestyle of abuse if you have a history of alcoholism).  If the Southern-small-town-Baptist restriction applies to you, I of all people completely understand where you’re coming from: I never had any alcohol until after high school and college.  It wasn’t until age 24 (right after moving to Nashville; the official crossroads of the Bible Belt and honky tonks) that I was able to process how I truly felt about Jesus Juice (wine) and Baptist Brew (beer).  Ironically, when I abandoned my “drinking is wrong” theology, for me, it was one of the most spiritually maturing times in my life.

Why do I strongly endorse daily consumption of one alcoholic drink per day?  Aside from the abundant health benefits mentioned here, it is a filling and healthy rival (again, in small amounts, not abundance) to sugar.  Plus, at the end of the day, with dinner, it is relaxing.   And that is a good thing.  It’s important to relax, because stress causes cancer.

*But wait, there’s more…Go back to the main page of the The Shell Diet by clicking right here.

The Curious Case of Collecting

Collect them all… whiles supplies last!

The marketing teams working for our favorite kids’ cereals brands and fast food restaurants obviously had a good reason to promote collecting the whole series of toys they attached with the food they were selling: to increase profit. But what is strange is the way my actual response was often “sure, okay” or “I won’t make any promises, but I’ll try”. Because in the bottom drawer of my dresser at my parents’ house back in Alabama are several complete collections of plastic figurines.

A few months ago I gladly let a co-worker borrow my Dave Ramsey CD series on Financial Peace. Within a few weeks, she was no longer employed where I work. When I called her to say I’ll drive to her side of Nashville to get my CD’s back, she assured me that she will bring them to me when she’s finished with them. I waited two more months and called again- her phone is out of service.

The funny thing is, I don’t even need the CD’s. I’ve already listened to them and daily apply what I learned. At this point, I should consider them a gift that she needed more than I did. In fact, I didn’t even buy the CD’s myself. Someone gave them to me as a gift.

But they were MINE. And now she has them.

Why must I feel so compelled to want to possess things? Things I definitely don’t need. Things that aren’t even mine.

I am learning to convert this desire of collecting material items to collecting memories of new experiences instead. Collecting all the state quarters does me no good but travelling to random states like Rhode Island (which my wife and I did) stays with me. And I don’t even need a souvenir. As long as I have a memory, I’ll always remember when my wife and I got hot stone massages from two very strong hippie women in downtown Providence. And if one day my memory does fail me, I’ve got the pictures on facebook to remind me.

“There’s something missing in us, we long to make it whole. Though it never feels like it, I know you have it all.” -Pete Yorn (Social Development Dance)

healthnutshell: What Exactly is a Doctor, Anyway?

Stupid question, but doctors should outlive their patients, right?


One of my favorite movies of all time is actually a documentary, Super Size Me.  As Morgan Spurlock goes on a 30 day fast food binge, he checks in with the three separate doctors to monitor his health.  But something I always thought about in the back of my mind when I saw one of the doctors in particular was “that doctor needs to go on a diet himself”.

Isn’t there something a bit off about that?  An unhealthy doctor?  A doctor who is in danger of a heart attack?  In my mind, a doctor is an expert on health.  Therefore, he should live out what he knows.

Consider a pastor of a church.  His career is over if he gets caught cheating on his wife (unlike certain celebrities who may lose their marriage over it, but not their careers…).  A pastor is held at a higher standard because of his profession.  Why aren’t doctors live by a higher standard as well?

Just like no one can take seriously a man under the age of 40 with a mustache, I can’t take seriously an unhealthy doctor.

I should find out what exactly a doctor is, according to Wikipedia:

A physician — also known as medical practitioner, doctor of medicine, medical doctor, or simply doctor — practices the ancient profession of medicine, which is concerned with maintaining or restoring human health through the study, diagnosis, and treatment of disease or injury.

What’s interesting in this definition is the lack of the word “prevention”.  So it’s a doctor’s job to maintain or restore human health, but not prevent a healthy person from becoming unhealthy.

According to the Wikipedia definition of a doctor and America’s general concept of them, doctors are there to help fix what is broken.  With medicine.

It’s no secret that doctors make money off of people sitting at home watching commercials targeted at unhealthy people who go to the doctor to buy the legal drugs they saw advertised.  I can remember a time, pre-1995, when I didn’t use to see commercials advertising for prescription drugs.  Doctors sell drugs, legally.  To people who, for the most part, were simply uneducated on how to live healthy in the first place.

If I break my nose, have strep throat, get a pregnant wife, or need to get “snipped”, I will go to the doctor.  If not, I do everything I can to avoid that place.  I definitely won’t go there to buy their new product.  I eat an apple a day, literally.

After suffering for years from a rare case of eczema, I did some research on Wikipedia to find out how to be relieved of the disease.  While no known medical cure exists, I followed the advice on Wikipedia and drastically changed my diet, and now, thank God, my skin cleared up on my hands.  Cost me no money and required no doctor’s visit.  Despite many people urging me to go for a visit.  I saved myself time and money.

Doctors are good.  They do their thing.  I do mine.  We already learned that a doctor’s job, according to Wikipedia, does not involve preventing the problem.  So I take it upon myself to do just that: prevent the problem.  So what do you call a person who does that?  I need a clever word for that.  Whatever it is, I am one.  And anyone can be one.

"Dr. H" from The Biggest Loser

As if looming Diabetes and heart disease weren’t enough of a reason to live a life of prevention, consider a new study done on doctors in India, which is said to be true in America as well.  Their average lifespan is around 58 years old for doctors, while the general population lives to be closer to 70 yeas old:

“Stress, a sedentary lifestyle and lack of exercise were the main causes of death in these cases. [Doctors] tend to become obese and are under great stress… Most of them are hypertensive and diabetic. These conditions reduce their chances of living longer.”

Read the full article:

http://www.mumbaimirror.com/index.aspx?page=article&sectid=3&contentid=201002092010020901523931154144cbf

Typically, medical doctors have stressful jobs that keep them from spending much time with their families.  They don’t make time for exercise or plan healthy meals.  Doctors have easy access to antibiotics and other medical quick fixes.  And of course it’s not uncommon for a doctor to smoke.  Not that any of those traits are unique to just doctors; they actually all sound pretty familiar.

And that’s another reason why I choose to live like a nutritionist, not a doctor.  My role models?  Jillian Michaels, Bob Harper, and Dr. Huizenga (“Dr. H.” from The Biggest Loser.  Seventh Day Adventists.  Kosher diet abiding Jews.  My dad.

They are my doctors, with or without the M.D.

healthnutshell: That’s Not Food

Why don’t beer companies have to put the nutritional facts label on their bottles like soft drink companies do?

My wife and I have a few sayings at our house that we shout at the TV when fast food commercials come on, like this one:  “That’s not food!”  There’s one for Steak N’ Shake where they advertise 4 meals for under $4 each.  These “meals” consisted of fried burgers on white bread with greasy fries and a sugary soda.  Recently my wife sarcastically reprimanded the TV when she saw that commercial:  “Yeah, because that’s a meal.”

As learned on one of our favorite documentaries ever, Food Inc., almost always  nutritious food costs more than unhealthy food.  Because unhealthy food (eaten for pleasure, mood enhancement, and/or convenience) isn’t really food.  And that’s why we tend to say “that’s not food!” in our house when we see something that’s an imposter.

By all means, I’ve been tempted for months now by Pizza Hut’s “any pizza, any toppings, $10” special.  What a deal.  But I also know that just a few slices would max out my sodium, fat, and sugar for the day.  If it seems to be too good of a deal, it probably isn’t food. I haven’t given in so far, and I’m beginning to think I won’t.

Last weekend my wife’s stomach was bothering her so I got her some ginger ale, which is supposed to be a good remedy.  It worked.  But the next day she was a little disappointed to see that an 8 ounce serving contains 24 grams of sugar (the health equivalent to smoking two cigarettes).  So that got us to thinking about other sodas.  Like dark colas and bright orange sodas.  More sugar, more artificial coloring, and loads of caffeine.

Beer and alcohol virtually contain no sugar because it converts alcohol.  I’m very cautious of eating or drinking things that I know were not consumed during Biblical times.  Jesus and his disciples drank wine, not grape juice (which is full of sugar).  They also didn’t drink sweat tea or chocolate milk, which often have much more sugar than soda.

Read “healthnutshell: A Tablespoon of Sugar or a Cigarette?”
http://wp.me/pxqBU-sf

And then the irony jumped out at us.  For sodas, a person can look on the label to see the nutritional value (or lack of it, or degenerate value).  But not for beer.  Beer only contains 4 ingredients (which are all natural) and when compared side by side for nutrition which I’ll do in a minute, is actually healthy for an adult, whereas soda never can be because of its sugary nature.

Read “healthnutshell: Barley into Beer”
http://wp.me/pxqBU-2L

It’s funny to imagine all the foods and drinks with a nutritional facts label on them, though they have the opposition of nutrition in them.  Yet drinking a beer or glass of wine a day is healthy for a person, but it’s not treated as food.  With a little help from Yahoo Answers, I found out why.  No big conspiracy, though.

1)     Because alcohol is involved, beer is not regulated by the FDA.  Alcoholic beverages are instead monitored by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, and they don’t require nutritional labels for products.

2)     In theory, all beer technically ever can be is the same four ingredients: water, yeast, barley, and hops.  Beer is beer.  It’s just brewed in different ways.  There’s no wonder what’s inside the bottle, unlike soda.

3)     General disinterest.  There have been no complaint letters from people wanting to know the nutritional value of the beer they drink.

4)     Technically there is no nutritional value.  Like tea.  Or water.

Here’s that side by side comparison:

12 oz. can of Coca Cola

Nutritional facts: 140 calories, 50 mg sodium, 39 grams of carbs, 39 grams of sugar

(over time is the equivalent of smoking 3.5 cigarettes)

Health benefits: none

Drug ingredient: caffeine

12 oz. bottle of Killian’s Irish Red

163 calories, 13 mg sodium, 13.8 grams of carbs, 0 grams of sugar

Health benefits: decreases risk of heart disease, improves bone density, flushes kidneys, reduces blood clotting

Drug ingredient: alcohol

They both have essentially the same number of calories.  But Coke contains about 3.5 tablespoons of sugar and unknown, unnatural, and unpronounceable ingredients.  Plus added caffeine, which isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Whereas Killian’s Irish Red has no sugar (it’s been naturally converted to alcohol) and contains only familiar, natural, and pronounceable ingredients.  Plus several health benefits, and that’s obviously a good thing.

As I mentioned earlier, cheap food with little to no nutrition almost always costs less than food that is actually good for the human body:

Cost of a 12 pack of Cokes: around $4

Cost of a 6 pack of Killian’s: around $6

Granted, not everyone can handle alcohol.  Whether they have a family history of alcoholism, an addictive personality, a lack of self-control, or a moral opposition (Baptist, Church of Christ, Mormon, Muslim, etc.). Fortunately, I don’t.

When I look at the comparison it’s pretty obvious which way I’m gonna go.  I choose the healthy option.  Knowing that too much of anything is never healthy.  “Drinking responsibly” takes on a whole new meaning.

No matter how you look at it, choosing what to drink is a moral decision.





Russian Roulette with a Made in China Cap Gun

I’ve heard the phrase “we’re not promised tomorrow” enough throughout my lifetime that it’s become a cliché. And what else can I really do to truly “live my life” and “make the most of it”? My issue is that I’m too aware of how short and precious life is.

During the summer of 1998, right before my senior year of high school, I spent a few weeks at a music camp in which us kids stayed overnight in the dorms of the college at Snead State in Gadsden, AL. I wasn’t the kind of kid who looked for trouble when not supervised. So instead of sneaking out at night, one of the things us teenage boys did in that dorm was play Russian Roulette, with a toy cap gun that was made in China.

Because, what else would we do?

In other words, the seven of us staying in that hall gathered in one room around a toy gun that we loaded with its accompanying ammunition, the equivalent of Snap and Pops. It had a barrel just like a real gun and we would only place one “bullet” in at a time. Meaning that there was only a one-in-six chance that the toy gun would make a big “POP!” when the trigger was pulled.

We all took a turn, passing the toy gun to the next guy after we pressed it to our own temple and pulled the trigger. If it was just a “blank”, we stayed in the game. If it went off, we were out.

It was a very entertaining game. Actually addicting.

But at the same time, it made us nervous. Our hearts would speed up in the anticipation. All over a popping sound from a toy gun bought at a gas station.

Just a dumb game we played that summer. But for me, it brought some reality to the fact of how true that analogy is in every day life. I do everything possible to eat and drink healthy, to exercise regularly, and to reduce stress. Preventing disease and cancer is a lifestyle to me.

Yet, as people who smoke cigarettes and who regularly eat fast food and who don’t make an effort to exercise daily all tell me, “we all gotta go sometime”.

There are still car accidents. There are still those random deaths like an unexpected brain aneurisms, and I don’t even know that that is.

I am completely over-aware that every morning I wake up, it’s a game of Russian roulette. Maybe not a one-in-six chance of life ending. Maybe more like one-in-a-half-a-million.

But to me, I’m only alive another day because God let it happen. So really, it’s not a matter of any chances. Not one-in-an-anything.

And that truth is one of the most sobering, frightful, and yet grace-filled thoughts I can think of.