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.

(Click here to find the best deal on this funny dad bod t-shirt on Amazon.)

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.

(Click here to find the best deal on this cute women’s t-shirt on Amazon.)

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.

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Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta

5 years, 7 months.

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Atlanta Aquarium

Dear Jack,

As part of our family’s first road trip as a family of four (in the 2016 Toyota Highlander), we visited the Georgia Aquarium; you are particularly fascinated by whales and sharks.

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Atlanta Aquarium

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Atlanta Aquarium

Of course, the first place we checked out was the souvenir shop, where you found a beluga whale as your companion for the visit. You took my suggestion and named her Bella. She remained by your side throughout our entire Atlanta road trip.

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Atlanta Aquarium

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Atlanta Aquarium

I didn’t know this at the time, but the Georgia Aquarium is the largest aquarium in the western hemisphere! This fact is downplayed by how concise the place is structured, as all branches of the aquarium are virtually connected to the main court, which is connected to the gift shop.

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Atlanta Aquarium

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Atlanta Aquarium

It was even convenient for Mommy to feed and change your baby sister’s diapers, without having to go to the other side of the aquarium to take care of her.

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Atlanta Aquarium

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Atlanta Aquarium

Perhaps our favorite part of the Atlanta Aquarium was the underwater tunnel, in which we stood on a moving walkway as the ocean animals swam above us. I had always wanted to experience that. I finally was able to!

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Atlanta Aquarium

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Atlanta Aquarium

Something else I really liked about this aquarium is how we were able to see the entire place without ever having to feel rushed. We saw it all and it wasn’t too much or too little- it was the perfect amount!

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Atlanta Aquarium

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Atlanta Aquarium

Needless to say, you were thought it was so cool to see all the animals of the sea. I’m so glad it worked out for our family to visit the Georgia Aquarium this summer.

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Atlanta Aquarium

I know there are so many fun family activities to do in Atlanta, but we made the right decision in placing the Georgia Aquarium on our agenda for our family’s first road trip as a family of four.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Atlanta Aquarium

Dear Jack: Family in a Camry- “Monterey Bay Aquarium”

4 years, 10 months.

Dear Jack,

Dear Jack: Family in a Camry- “Monterey Bay Aquarium”

Our family had so much fun road tripping in the 2015 Toyota Camry from Sacramento to Monterey, California. Of course, our main stop on that leg on our trip was the historic Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Here’s my video I made about our trip there, where you can also hear the jingle I wrote for them:

First though, we stopped at Ike’s Love and Sandwiches; a sandwich shop that openly welcomes vegans and vegetarians. I had a very manly vegan meatball sub; as the picture demonstrates.

Dear Jack: Family in a Camry- “Monterey Bay Aquarium”

Dear Jack: Family in a Camry- “Monterey Bay Aquarium”

Once we parked the Camry, we enjoyed our walk from the parking garage to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I liked taking the picture of you standing in front of the giant otter at one of the shops there near Monterey Canning Company.

Dear Jack: Family in a Camry- “Monterey Bay Aquarium”

Dear Jack: Family in a Camry- “Monterey Bay Aquarium”

The aquarium itself was everything we could have hoped for. I was snapping pictures the whole time as you pulled Mommy around, saying, “Hey, look at this fish!”

You seemed most excited by the sharks; as well as the station where we got to draw our own sea creatures, then “set them free”, by watching them swim across the giant screen in front of us.

Dear Jack: Family in a Camry- “Monterey Bay Aquarium”

Dear Jack: Family in a Camry- “Monterey Bay Aquarium”

I think my favorite part was how they presented the jellyfish; in colored lights which really showed off their translucent bodies.

Plus, an extra benefit of visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium is that our family got to check out the Pacific coast; as the aquarium is situated right there on it. Looking down from the pier, we were able to see some seals in their natural habitat; just chilling out on a rock.

Dear Jack: Family in a Camry- “Monterey Bay Aquarium”

Dear Jack: Family in a Camry- “Monterey Bay Aquarium”

Dear Jack: Family in a Camry- “Monterey Bay Aquarium”

I love it that you’re at such a perfect age now to truly appreciate such a fun and wondrous event. It was such a treat for our family to experience the Monterey Bay Aquarium!

Dear Jack: Family in a Camry- “Monterey Bay Aquarium”

Dear Jack: Family in a Camry- “Monterey Bay Aquarium”

Before heading to the hotel for the night, we drove to El Cantaro Vegan Mexican Restaurant for dinner, as we talked about our favorite parts about the aquarium.

Dear Jack: Family in a Camry- “Monterey Bay Aquarium”

Dear Jack: Family in a Camry- “Monterey Bay Aquarium”

Mommy got to drive the Camry from there; you fell asleep within a few minutes.

Our next and final stop for our Camry road trip took place the next morning, when we visited the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Amusement Park…

So stay tuned!

Love,

Daddy

<div class="jetpack-video-wrapper"><span class="embed-youtube" style="text-align:center; display: block;"><iframe class='youtube-player' type='text/html' width='560' height='315' src='https://www.youtube.com/embed/2OkLhYPqO1g?version=3&rel=1&fs=1&autohide=2&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&wmode=transparent' allowfullscreen='true' style='border:0;'></iframe></span></div>

Dear Jack: Family in a Camry- “Daddy Date”

Dear Jack: Family in a Camry- “Daddy Date”

Dear Jack: Webisodes 16 and 17 of Jack-Man/Adventures in Fish-Sitting

This past week has been very exciting. I published our 2 most recent Jack-Man webisodes…

Dear Jack: Webisodes 16 and 17 of Jack-Man/Adventures in Fish-Sitting

Webisode 16, “Operation GMO Freedom”, featured Nana and Papa’s garden. Papa and I used some of his old karate gear to create the fight between the GMO Monster and the Guardian of the Guardian.

Dear Jack: Webisodes 16 and 17 of Jack-Man/Adventures in Fish-Sitting

My new song, “GMO Monster” was featured:

He is the GMO Monster

We won’t tolerate him any longer

In his DNA there is bug spray

He is the GMO Monster

This generation is catching on

May our gardens grow all natural

Big Pharmacy is the enemy

They’ll do anything for that cha-ching

It’s the 1st Jack-Man webisode to end with “To Be Continued…”  So from there, Webisode 17, “See You Next Fall,” picks up with a chase into the woods, with the main story line taking place on the really cool rock formation there.

Dear Jack: Webisodes 16 and 17 of Jack-Man/Adventures in Fish-Sitting

One of my personal favorite songs I’ve written for the Jack-Man web series is the one featured here, which is the 2nd to feature Mommy singing:

Do you hear the whispers in the forest?

Are we near the creatures who surround us?

Is this kingdom enchanted?

Is this kingdom enchanted?

I sense the serpents and dragons

It’s more than I can imagine

Is this kingdom enchanted?

Is this kingdom enchanted?

Something isn’t kosher here

Something isn’t kosher here

In other news, last week our family began “fish-sitting” for one of Mommy’s co-workers. At first, there were 3 adult guppies. By Day 6, one of them died. By Day 7, there were 2 adults and about 20 babies. Now there’s probably closer to 30.

Apparently, the male adult died and the 2 pregnant adult females began giving live birth (!) immediately after.

I’m guessing that’s not typically what happens when someone asks you to “fish-sit.”

Also, I love your newest works of art. There’s “Alien Bones,” which sounds like a cool alternative rock band. And then there’s your perfect portrait of your panda bear, Pandy.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: You Think We’re Just Fishing… For Tadpoles

3 years, 11 months.

Dear Jack: You Think We’re Just Fishing… For Tadpoles

Dear Jack,

Immediately after leaving Walden Farm on Saturday, Mommy wanted to stop by some “cute” antique shops in downtown Nolensville.

I spotted a creek behind the shops, so you and I did the guy thing and opted for the outdoor exploration adventure as opposed to looking at beautiful junk in stores.

Dear Jack: You Think We’re Just Fishing… For Tadpoles

Our original agenda was simply to find rocks and sticks to throw into the water.

However, after you realized the creek was swarming with what appeared to be tiny tadpoles, you decided to “catch a tadpole” instead.

First, you called them: “Here, tadpoles! Come to me!”

Then you used a stick as a fishing pole, hoping to catch a few of them. I joined you, of course.

It didn’t take long at all before you thought you caught one, and boy, were you proud!

Dear Jack: You Think We’re Just Fishing… For Tadpoles

Granted, it was just algae… as it was each time after that.

But in your mind, there was a real possibility of actually being able to catch tadpoles simply by placing a stick down into the water for just a few seconds at a time; with no bait attached.

I love your fascination with fishing. Never mind the irony in the fact our family doesn’t even eat fish or any kind of meat.

Still, it’s as if it’s ingrained in a little boy’s mind to want to go fishing with his Daddy. Likewise, I want to “go fishing” with you.

https://familyfriendlydaddyblog.com/2014/10/27/walden-farm-pumpkin-patch-family-friendly-review/

You and I could have stayed out there at the creek all day, but Mommy eventually came back from looking around at the shops; happy to see us doing “guy things.”

Our recent fishing trip has inspired me to already consider buying us a small 2-man tent to put out on the back patio of our new house once we move in.

We could be camping out by next spring!

Love,

Daddy

https://familyfriendlydaddyblog.com/2014/10/27/walden-farm-pumpkin-patch-family-friendly-review/

The Shell Diet: Kosher- Pork and Shellfish are Not Clean Nor Good For You, Even If They are Low in Fat

Eat like the Old Testament Jews did.

1) Why don’t Jews eat pork or shellfish but Christians do? Because most Christians that I know take Peter’s dream in the book of Acts literally to mean that it became okay to eat any kind of animal, after Jesus conquered death.  And it can appear that way if the chapter is not read carefully.  But when I read Acts 10 in its entirety, it’s clear to me that God gave Peter the “animals on a blanket” dream to represent to him that Peter should stop seeing non-Jews as “unclean” and start preaching to everyone, since the mainstream Jewish population rejected Jesus as the Messiah.  And by the end of the chapter, we see that for the first time, non-Jewish people trusted in Jesus for salvation.  And not just a few, but thousands of Gentile people were converted, because of the symbolic dream that God gave to Peter.  It was a dream God used to get Peter’s attention.

If it seems difficult to accept that Jesus dying for our sins on the cross didn’t also change the dietary law that God gave to Moses in the book of Leviticus, consider this: Why are so many people allergic to shellfish?  And why is eating pork the leading cause of people getting intestinal parasites?  Because Jesus dying on the cross didn’t change the fact that the bottom feeders, scavengers, and carnivores still eat the leftovers and the crap left over at bottom of the food chain.  Science didn’t change.  By eating these forbidden animals, we are eating lightly toxic food.

In short, eating Kosher means you can eat these animals: chickens, turkeys, sheep, goats, cows, and fish with gills (tuna, salmon, tilapia, etc.). But you can’t eat these ones: pigs, ducks, rabbits, deer, shrimp, scallops, octopuses, sea urchins, or bottom feeder/carnivorous fish (catfish, sharks, swordfish, etc.).

2) And because red food dye is made from scale insects and/or petroleum, any kind of food containing Crimson Lake or Red 40 (mainly candy like Twizzlers and red M&M’s, Skittles, etc.) has ingredients that are not Kosher.  Kosher law does not allow anyone to eat insects other than locusts (which John the Baptist ate), nor does it even mention eating petroleum, but it shouldn’t have to, because it’s pretty clear to me: Petroleum is oil, not food.

3) Also, meat and dairy products are not supposed to be eaten during the same meal.  I’m not saying I never eat a cheeseburger and that I only eat vegetarian lasagna, but I just keep in mind that evidently meat and dairy products were not meant to be digested together, because it slows down the digestion process and promotes constipation.

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

The Cultural Identity of Being “Born Again”

I actually come across as pretty normal on the surface.  But recently, I have realized that I’m not simply a religious guy, or even just a Christian… I am one of those evangelical fanatics- basically another version of Kirk Cameron.  So now, I take this opportunity to come out of the closet and accept my social label as an official Born Again Christian.


“Even though I see fundamentalist Christians as wild-eyed maniacs, I respect their verve.  They are probably the only people openly fighting against America’s insipid Oprah Culture- the pervasive belief system that insists everyone’s perspective is valid and that no one can be judged.”

-Chuck Klosterman, in his book Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs

It wasn’t until recently while finishing the final chapter of Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs that I finally realized I am part of a subculture of Protestantism which outsiders label as “Born Again”, which from what I gather, was a pretty popular term back in the 1970’s.  This whole time I’ve been calling myself a Christian, but now I fully understand that just doesn’t cut it.  “Christian” has become such a generic term these days.  Jesus is officially a household name now. While Jesus may be Ashton Kutcher’s homeboy, it’s safe to say that the relationship I have with Jesus Christ is much different than someone just using Jesus as a funny pop culture reference on a t-shirt.

By reading about myself from an outsider’s perspective (Klosterman identifies himself as a mix between a “bad Catholic” and an agnostic), I am able to understand my cultural identity in a way I never have before.  I get it now: I am a fanatical Christian.  Every thought pattern in my head eventually comes back to Jesus being the savior of the world and my desire for people to know Him.

I find it extremely important and relevant to quote a paragraph from Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs:  “There are no other subjects, really; nothing else- besides being born again- is even marginally important.  Every moment of your life is a search-and-rescue mission: Everyone you meet needs to be converted… Life would become unspeakably important, and every conversation you’d have for the rest of your life (or until the Rapture- whichever comes first) would really, really, really matter.  If you ask me, that’s pretty glamorous.”  For me, calling myself a Christian doesn’t simply mean that at some point I came to the realization that I belief Jesus is the son of God, which would be the simplest definition of the word Christian.  Instead, I live a seemingly curious and quirky lifestyle as it relates to my relationship with Jesus Christ.

You’ve probably heard of “Catholic guilt” or maybe even “Jewish guilt”, but I need to introduce something called “Born Again guilt”.  Because we truly believe that Jesus literally meant it when He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father but through Me,” we carry this burden of wanting every person we meet to “have a personal relationship with Jesus” like we do.  We sincerely believe that by trusting in Christ as the redemption for our naturally flawed nature and by loving serving others as ourselves, we will be part of the Heavenly Kingdom when Jesus returns as the King.  Sounds pretty sci-fi, yes.  But so does every religion, including atheism.

It’s no secret that I find reasons to insert random facts about the year 1983 or to tell which actors are Jewish or relate the Rubik’s Cube to everyday life.  That’s just me being me.  But I am also constantly looking for ways to write about or at least mention Jesus in ways that are subtle as well.  I realize that if Scenic Route Snapshots was simply me preaching, I wouldn’t be getting between 600 and 1,000 hits each day.  Instead, I write about whatever off-the-wall thing is going through my head that week.  And if it’s possible to show my faith as relevant to the subject as my faith is relevant to my life, I won’t shy away from mentioning it. I would love to sit down with people and discuss my relationship with Jesus on an everyday basis.  But I know that often, that isn’t practical, and therefore not possible.

Kirk Cameron is the official mascot of Born Again Christians. Just ask them about a movie called Fireproof or something called "the love dare"...

Everyone I know, it seems, already understands why Jesus died on the cross. That cultural familiarity with Him, in American, often can be the thing that keeps people from seeking Him in their lives beyond a basic understanding.  It’s hard to tell people what they already know.  So when I write and when I am involved in seemingly surface conversations with people, I try to find ways to point the thought process to my faith somehow- even it’s simply using the word “afterlife”.

How can you tell a Born Again Christian (also referred to as “saved” or “evangelical”) from other deists who use the term “Christian” to describe themselves?  Here are a few red flags to look out for:

They attend a “small group”. In addition to regularly attending their church on Sunday, many Born Again Christians meet once a week (in groups of around 6 to 10 people) at someone’s house for about two hours to study the Bible together and pray.

They strive to study the Bible and pray on a daily basis. In addition to their weekly small group meeting, they also study the Bible and pray privately as well.  Sometimes they refer to this as their “quiet time”.  Many of them can be seen doing this during their lunch breaks at work.

They avoid using profanity. This is often a way they recognize each other.  This means they also refrain from saying “oh my God” as well, as it profanes the name of God to matters that are not holy in any way.

They use the word “blessed” to describe their life. It’s a way of glorifying God in a non-churchy sounding kind of way.  Also, when you leave a message on their cell phone, they end their “sorry I’m not here right now…” spiel with “have a blessed day”.

They truly believe that sex is for only for people who are married to each other. Even if many of them largely contribute to the high viewership of the reality TV show The Bachelor, it’s understood between them all that they collectively do not approve of the “overnight date” episode with the “fantasy suite”.

They politically identify as Republican, or are part of the newer, cooler, independent version called the Libertarian Party. If nothing else, these two political parties typically support the Pro-Life movement whereas the Democratic Party is at best indifferent on the issue.  For Born Again Christians, abortion is not up for discussion or debate.

They take the Bible as literally as possible. Jesus was literally born from a virgin.  Jesus literally multiplied the fish and the bread.  Jesus literally came back to life after these days in the tomb, etc.

They do not believe in Evolution. In particular, the theory that humans evolved from apes. Intelligent Design is instead their theory of choice.  Here’s the 101 on how the dinosaurs fit into Noah’s Ark.

They often refer to Jesus as “Jesus Christ”. It’s almost like “Christ” is Jesus’ last name.  Really though, it’s a Born Again Christian’s subtle way of distinguishing Jesus as the prophesied Messiah of the Old Testament, as opposed to just a historical rabbi who happened to be a “good teacher”.

I'm not Mormon, but I feel like I can relate somewhat to their cultural identity and displacement in society.

So if you know someone who contains at least two or three of these attributes, there’s a good chance you’re dealing with a Born Again Christian. Like Kirk Cameron, Sarah Palin, and President Jimmy Carter, they are the ultra-conservative Protestants.  They seem to blend in with society at first glance, but once you get to know them, you’ll notice the underlying behaviors that set them apart from standard Christianity- like a Mormon, only without the added teachings to the Bible or the crazy mad dancing skills.  (Derek Hough, Julianne Hough, and Lacey Schwimmer of Dancing with the Stars as well as Heidi Groskreutz and Benji Schwimmer of So You Think You Can Dance are all Mormon.)   For some humorous characteristics of Born Again Christians, check out this blog by Jonathan Acuff, called Stuff Christians Like.

“You gave your life to Jesus Christ… and you were not the same after that.” – “Not the Same” by Ben Folds