Going Vegan (sort of)
I’m trying to be vegan, for a variety of reasons: health, politics, weight/fitness, on general principles. Although I spent fifteen years as a vegetarian (some years ago, when I was living in England), for the past 25 years I’ve been quite carnivorous, also for a variety of reasons.
My friend Charlotte Gould gave me a book called The Secrets to Ultimate Weight Loss by Chef AJ. Although I could stand to lose ten pounds, weight loss was not my main focus — rather, I became intrigued by Chef AJ’s story. She became a vegan at 17, but maintained a center of gravity around 160lb, because at the same time she was a (vegan) junk food addict. In searching for ways to release her own food addictions, she worked with mamany food addicts and also did research on the neuropsychology of addiction… specifically, the way any behavior creates or enlargers the brain receptors for that food, drug, or activity. Conversely, avoidance of that food or other addictive substance/activity will, eventually, allow those receptors to disappear.
Now, the energy healing work I do, Geotran, works with the brain chemistry as it is affected by our behaviors, including thoughts, feelings, desires, will, and (of course) addictions. In fact, we define addictions as behaviors that lead to biochemical changes, so her perspective and the Geotran perspective are in alignment. Thus, when Chef AJ wrote about being addicted to wheat, sugar, alcohol, salt, and so on, it caught my attention. Apparently there is research suggesting that high-calorie and inflammatory foods naturally develop these receptors more quickly and completely — hence, we are more easily addicted to foods with a higher caloric density AND with those that overstimulate the taste buds with salt, sugar, etc.
The solution, as outlined by Chef AJ, is to completely avoid meat, dairy, sugar, salt, alcohol, oil, and other foods that have more calories per ounce. She suggests we eat as much as we desire of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and beans, with occasional, very limited quantities of oil-rich fruits or nuts like avocados and nuts. The more calories per ounce, the less we should eat. Chef AJ’s own experience is that since adopting a whole food, plant-based diet, she does no calorie-counting or quantity control, she now hovers around 177lb, plus she actually enjoys physical exercise (which she never did before).
My friend Charlotte moved to a plant-based diet about seven years ago because a mutual friend made her watch the film Forks over Knives. Between Chef AJ and her new understanding of the cruelty of raising animals for food, Charlotte leapt into a vegan diet, also restricting or eliminating oil, salt, alcohol, sugar and any other food with a high caloric index. (She does occasionally indulge in one of my chocolate truffles, especially those made without butter, but that is a rare exception.) As a direct result of these changes, Charlotte has lost more than 50lb, and has been able to go off her anti-stroke and heart medications.
I was staying with Charlotte when she gave me a copy of Chef AJ’s book, and of course it was encouraging to be spending time in her plant-based household. I then moved to Urbana IL, which is smack in the middle of the Midwest — a region well known for meat, bread, and obesity. On the other hand, the person from whom I bought my house is almost completely vegan, along with the local contra-dance community. Socially, I find a lot of support for a gentle walk into being more vegan or at least vegetarian. My best friend is seriously carnivous, and we eat together 2-3 times per week. Of course, I love to cook, so this is an interesting challenge; so far, the most graceful solution is that he cooks meat at his house, and I explore and develop vegetarian or vegan dishes at my house.
So here are some recipes that I’m working on for my next cookbook called Healthy Holidays: savory dishes can be found HERE, while desserts are HERE. Note: Not all the recipes are vegan, but all are vegetarian and gluten-free, and even those can be adapted to be vegan. So have a go, and let me know what you think. Also, various recipes will be found in my blog (amongst other topics), so feel free to adopt and adapt whatever strikes your fancy.