The incredible, eye opening documentary "Forks Over Knives," taught me that my so called "healthy diet" is not so healthy after all. I don't eat the best foods but I don't eat the worst either; I choose the lesser of two evils, which I convinced myself was healthy enough. I learned that the Western diet (a diet of primarily processed and artificial foods) is the root of so many chronic health problems that we've been conditioned to look away from. I wanted to change my lifestyle in the hopes of getting healthier and here is my starting point- my fears, hopes, and journey toward transitioning to a healthier lifestyle in 30 days. (P.S. I lost 8 lbs in 7 days)
The Vegetarian Chronicles: A 30 Day Challenge, Part 1
After watching "Forks Over Knives," I've decided to challenge myself to transition into a healthier lifestyle; no meat, few processed foods, and lots of fruits and vegetables.
This is what I know about my relationship with food:
- I don't have time for breakfast.
- Lunches are whatever can be delivered to my office- Chinese, pizza, fast food, etc, or a microwave dinner I bring from home.
- Dinners are always microwave dinners.
- Snacks are diet brand fruit bars or diet brand sweets
- 90% of the time, I only drink water
I'm lactose intolerant, I'm overweight, and I've suffered from chronic stomach aches since I was a baby. What's even weirder? The majority of snacks and dinners I eat are from brands like Special K, Lean Cuisine, and Fiber One.
I don't consider myself to be terribly unhealthy but my weight won't move, I'm always fatigued, and I often have stomach aches. Could my "generally healthy" diet be the reason why I'm so unhealthy?
The Gory Details
As much as I don't want to disclose it, it's a necessary detail of this experiment. I'm talking about that dreaded W word: WEIGHT. My start date for this little project was Friday, September 26th. At that time, I tipped the scales at 205 lbs. My height is 5'5 so according so according to the Height to Weight ratio, I should be 6'5. Since I can't force myself to grow, I'll do the opposite and try to shrink (my weight that is.) Also according to the H-W scale, I'm technically considered to be obese, although I don't think I feel nor look "obese," but I won't argue with medical facts for the sake of my pride.
My main goal was not to lose weight but from my experience, aiming to get healthy automatically results in weight loss while aiming to lose weight doesn't always result in getting healthy nor keeping your sanity. But lets get real; a 30 day change is not going to result in drastic weight loss. Hopefully, what it will result in is a transition to healthier lifestyle.
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Hopes and Fears
Going into this I have two main fears: A) I will fail, or even if I succeed in changing my dietary habits, I won't be the slightest bit healthier. B) My biggest fear is that I will end up feeling worse to start out- that drastically changing my diet will be too much of a shock to my body and I'll feel sick. I'm worried that I've been too unhealthy for so long that an attempt to get healthy will epically fail.
Fears aside, I'm doing this anyway.
My hopes are that I will be healthier and I can show my friends and family how to be healthy as well. I'd be lying if I said that I didn't want to lose weight but that's not the main goal. However, it seems that weight loss is the most obvious and noticeable sign of becoming healthier.
I can't guarantee I'll be a perfect vegetarian, or that it will last beyond the 30 days. I'm looking at this as transitional period but so far, it's been pretty easy to avoid meat. It's almost more of an identity issue than a food issue; it feels more natural to me and kind of empowering to declare myself a vegetarian, even though I'm only at the beginning steps. From carnivore to herbivore, here we go!
Why Vegetarian? Why Not Vegan?
Forks Over Knives advocates more of a vegan diet than simply vegetarian. First things first, lets know the difference.
Vegan is actually a type of Vegetarian- 1 of 5 main subcategories:
- Semi-Vegetarian consumes dairy products, eggs, chicken, and fish.
- a pesco-vegetarian only consumes fish and seafood, no other meat. This is a subcategory of Semi-Vegetarian.
- Ovo-lacto vegetarians do not consume meat, poultry, fish, and seafood, but do consume eggs and milk.
- Ovo-vegetarians would be vegan if they did not consume eggs.
- Lacto-Vegetarians would be vegan if they did not consume milk.
- Vegan is the strictest sub-category. They do not consume any animal products or by-products. Some go as far as not even consuming honey and yeast.
I feel I'm closer to ovo-lacto but I guess I'm technically a pesco-vegetarian because I will occasionally have seafood. I just can't give up shrimp lo mien. Plus, fish have much more benefits than red meats and you're still getting protein- although despite common belief, you can get as much protein through a plant based diet as you can by eating meat.
I would like to be a vegan because...well, how modern and cool would I sound? I'd be like Ellen Degeneres. Plus I love animals so I'd be eating guilt free forever. Anyway, the main reason why I'm not taking on a vegan diet isn't because I'm not willing to cut out so many foods, it's simply because it's so difficult to know exactly what's vegan and what's not- and going out to dinner would be impossible unless you only go to vegan restaurants. You practically have to home-cook every meal you ever eat. Cake for example. You can't enjoy a typical birthday party because cake is made with milk and eggs. It's much easier for me to cut out meat and cut down on dairy and other animal by-products. Honestly, it's been pretty effortless.
Feel free to join me on my 30 day transition to a healthier lifestyle!
1 Week Update
It's been over a week since I began this little project and so far I have cut out all meat, except for a little seafood. I've cut out most dairy, and 90% of my diet has been plant based. The result?
I lost 8 lbs in the first week.
Look out for my next article for more details on my first week as a vegetarian.