Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year's!

Hope you all have a great and healthy 2010!

Soup's On!

My fridge is stocked, albeit quite unevenly, with vegan food from VBites and what is quickly becoming my favorite are the soups!

My first soup was given to me by Heather and it had no label on it. It was a spicy, Indian influenced soup that was vegetable based and was superb!

Tonight I had the VBites Beef Style Stroganoff. I also had a bag of soy-based "beef" to add to the pieces already in the soup mix. It is absurdly easy to make - tear a slice in the bag, put it in the microwave for 3 minutes and it is ready.

After heating up the Beef Style Stroganoff I realized that I should have had some rice or pasta to pour it over. I was watching an excellent movie, "The Sand Pebbles" with Steve McQueen. I was dying for some rice, too! But the Beef Style Stroganoff was great just on it's own!

Speaking of desires, this morning I was at my diner for my daily oatmeal and raisins, but the waffles and syrup were jumping off the menu. It took a minute, and some discipline to order the oatmeal. I mentioned my quandary to the waitress and she said that the waffles are made from a powder not eggs, but I know me, and I would have over-indulged on the syrup. Oatmeal it was! But I splurged and had oatmeal, raisins, AND banana!

I popped over to Barnes and Noble afterwards and saw the large display of new diet and nutrition books ready for the onslaught of New Year's Eve resolutions.

There is so much information out there on diets and nutrition that people are bound to be confused.

What I have learned in these past two months that seemed to have flown by is that there are no short cuts, no quick fixes to weight loss, but it is not hard, not hard at all -- all it takes is common sense and some discipline.

Broadway Melody

Yesterday was a day full of errands - move the car by 7 AM, drive out to New Jersey, take a bus back to NYC, wait on line at TKTS for tickets to a Broadway show - and all in 25 degree weather. In between all this I was really only able to grab some food on the fly, meaning I munched on a banana, and sunflower seeds. When I did have time to eat it was soup. More on that in the next post.

I was basically a late entry to a night on the town - a mere seat-filler, if you will, for some good friends. Since every Broadway, and Off-Broadway show we wanted to see were not available we were forced to see White Christmas.

Dinner was at Morrells Wine Bar in Rockefeller Center. The crowds were maddening around there with the tree, and the hordes gearing up for New Year's Eve.

I did my vegan dance with the waiter, and settled for a pretty good Fuji Apple & Walnut salad (without the Gouda cheese), and a Black Pepper Fettuccini pasta dish (without the lamb sausage). My favorite, though, was a Butternut Squash soup - I attacked it with my bread - again too much bread!

The show was a typical Broadway extravagant musical that my parents would have loved - especially with all those Irving Berlin songs. It was enjoyable, and probably would have been more so had we seen it before Christmas -- the grand finale had the entire audience singing, and my two friends, sisters with great voices and aspirations of the Great White Way, sang the loudest. For my money, I prefer the movie version -- Broadway needs more Big Crosby's and less Tommy Tune's.

I wandered around Times Square after the show and it was amazing to see all the stages, and cameras, and lights getting ready for the big event Thursday night.

Hungry again I wandered into Dervish, a nice Turkish restaurant on 47th Street for some hummus.

Of course this morning I woke up to 2 inches of snow!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Actually, Holding Steady

I have not been as obsessed with my weight as when I first started this vegan experiment. My first week (8 days) I lost 12 pounds, and was quite enthused, and motivated. However, I began to think that 10 lbs per week was the norm, but I was quickly disabused of that ridiculous notion. However, it must be said, no matter what the reason for the weight loss - losing water weight, stop drinking alcohol, whatever, if you simply change your diet to something more nutrient-dense, and do some exercise, even if it is just walking, you will see weight loss in the first week. Just 7 days. That should be enough motivation to continue on.

Thankfully, when I weighed myself at the gym yesterday I was only 274 lbs, a 28 lbs weight loss since I started on November 1. My best thus far was a full 30 lbs lighter.

It feels great to say goodbye to the obnoxiously high 280's, and 290's! Even though I finally crested at 302 lbs, that was because I gained about 10 lbs my final weeks before this diet. Basically, it was a dare. Friends dared me to break 300 lbs for the first time ever, and well, being a mature 41 year old I started ordering mac & cheese, and burgers, and ice cream with reckless abandon!

I remember when I first moved to NYC and I pushed over 250 lbs. That means on the scale at a gym you have to move the lower weight indicator from 200 lbs, to the next notch of 250 lbs. It was depressing and I started working out hard again and dropped back down to 240 lbs -- but I was in my 20's and did not change my diet, I simply exercised more. Now in my 40's, merely exercising ain't cutting it. Thus the personal dietary revolution.

I will be absolutely thrilled when I can move that lower weight indicator from 250 lbs, to 200 lbs because the top weight indicator will show that I am 249 lbs or lighter!

Last night I went to my local Japanese restaurant for some sushi. I have not been in there in quite a while and the chef, and waiter gave me a warm hello, and "Where have you been?" You forget that a sushi chef can make whatever you want - made to order! So, I had a a couple of rolls of asparagus, avocado and peanuts. A roll of fake crab meat, and miso soup and salad with the ginger dressing on the side (they tend to drown the salad in dressing). It was excellent. But, no, I didn't order the brown rice.

This morning I was up early to move a borrowed car, and was at the gym at 7:30 AM. Usually, I'm adverse to waking up so early, especially to work-out, but after the misery, I enjoyed a good cardio workout, and shower all before 9:00.

Breakfast was at the local Greek diner where I had, what else, oatmeal and raisins. I ran into the local Korean laundry owner who complimented me on my looks saying I look college age. A wise merchant she is since I spend so much every month with her! But she warned me about losing too much weight too fast which was funny since I hear that often. The body will lose the weight it wants to lose - when you eat a nutrient dense diet and exercises your body will lose the weight that is normal, be it 10 lbs in a month, or 25 lbs in a month. Losing a large amount of weight quickly by being bulimic = bad, losing same while eating healthfully and working-out = good.

I think Americans and their notions of diet are just like those diminutive, high-pitched political bloggers -- they are passionate, and certain in their beliefs, and they are usually wrong.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Small Town Adventure

New Paltz, NY is the type of quaint town upstate that once you experience it you may end up staying for good, as my Aunt and Uncle ended up doing. It's a college town proud of its art heritage, proximity to Woodstock, and active outdoor lifestyle. It's a place where aging hippies, and young entrepreneurs live rather harmoniously.

Downtown New Paltz has its assortment of antique stores, restaurants trumpeting organic everything, and haberdasheries specializing in hemp clothing. In short, a perfect place for a vegan meal.

To work up an appetite we visited the newly opened Walkway Over the Hudson which is a 120 year old iron trussed railroad bridge just recently converted to a pedestrian pathway over a mile long with stunning views of the Hudson River over 200 feet below. Standing in the chill and looking at the ice flows swirling below, and capturing the stunning sight of the enormous Hudson River Valley you can't help but celebrate the outdoor life and quickly forget any childish remorse over not having ham on Christmas!

It was 1:30 and I wanted to leave for NYC soon, but I had to try a restaurant in town. The Main Street Bistro is a restaurant owned by the sister and brother-in-law of a friend. I had met them at a party and they were fiercely proud of the quality of their food - I really respected that. There was a vegan restaurant across the way, but since I can find something vegan-friendly to eat in most any restaurant, I decided to try the restaurant voted best breakfast in the Hudson Valley something like 8 years in a row.

The Main Street Bistro sits in a a wood and brick building as old as the railroad bridge across the Hudson . It was small, and crowded and clearly a popular spot. I sat at the old counter covered with Plexiglas over photos and press clippings which, besides in need of a thorough cleaning, showed an active, fun and successful history of this Bistro. I positioned myself under the TV set showing the hapless Giants and looked at the menu. As suspected, I fell in love with most every item on the menu which included various concoctions of eggs, cheese, and meat. As I began to think that perhaps that hippie-dippy tie-dye looking place across the road advertising vegan friendly food might be my best bet, I saw Robin. Robin's Burrito that is. A tortilla with hummus spread, grilled broccoli, mushrooms, onions, spinach, tomatoes, and topped with fresh salsa. It was amazing! It was so fresh and tasty and healthy. It was not terribly filling even though it looked large, and well, that bridge walk really worked up an appetite, and I had to be a glutton and ordered a second one. It was that good! If I lived in New Paltz, I can assure you I would knock Robin off her crown and adopt the burrito for myself! The owner, and brother-in-law of my friend was seen feverishly cooking in the kitchen so saying hello and complimenting the food was out of the question. But I will be back!

I drove back to NYC and when making a pit stop at one of the rest areas off the freeway I realized for the first time that all the food served at one of these areas are high fat, greasy fast food. Hey, sometimes that is exactly what a truck driver, or a family of 5 stuck in car for hours needs. But, is it impossible to get a healthy alternative, any alternative, to a soggy hamburger which has been sitting under a heat lamp since breakfast?

Thankfully my two vegan burritos set me straight for the rest of the day.

Staring Down the Ham

Our big Christmas meal was celebrated on the 26th (Boxing Day in the UK, St. Stephen's Day in Ireland).

This was difficult, very difficult, because my Uncle cooked this gorgeous ham.

I was armed with my VBites Turkey Roast which took 45 minutes to the ham's 2 hours. At the hour and 15 minute mark I opened the oven to place my roast wrapped in tinfoil next to the ham. The delicious aroma hit me like Father Christmas was shaking me by the lapels screaming, "What are you doing?!" The ham smelled amazing. It smelled and looked like Christmas. I must admit I was a bit depressed placing my roast, the size of 3 hockey pucks stacked together, next to this gorgeous pink and brown glistening ham. I wanted that ham!

So much of Christmas happiness is a combination (often Pavlovian) of your favorite sights, smells, and sounds of the Christmas of your youth. Driving through the snow listening to traditional Christmas carols, and songs is infinitely better than listening to your favorite CD. A Christmas tree with lights is always a welcomed and happy sight no matter how old you get. And the smells of Christmas dinner can be intoxicating!

We had fresh green beans and pine nuts which were great, as well as a tasty sweet potato and bread rolls. But then there was the vegan turkey roast sitting next to that big gorgeous ham. It took a few minutes before I was OK with my first vegan Christmas. Now, I had had the Vbites beef roast on Thanksgiving and that was pretty good. I knew this turkey roast would be just fine, but the mind, well, the mind is a powerful thing. It didn't want to like this vegan meal, and shut down my taste buds. Psychologically, I was pining for the glazed ham, and was choking down something that was not ham. My vegan defenses kicked in and my mood began to lighten as I realized that I had lots to be thankful for as I shared this meal at Christmas time. Also, I thought of all those POW's during the war, including my grandfather, who spent their Christmases freezing and munching on whatever they could find, including rats. Whining about my new food choices was not an option!

My feeling sorry for myself soon subsided and I focused on the meal at hand. The roast was fine, who cares if it was not the glazed ham? The point is that I ate my Christmas meal in a warm house with family, and lots of laughs.

I think because we so often associate food with feelings that we confuse what it is which makes us happy. Would my Christmas had been better if I had ham and a glass of wine instead of a vegan roast and water? No. Now, I am all too aware, and often the biggest proponent of food turning into theatre. I think that we, especially us in the civilized world, too often view food not as a fuel for our bodies, but rather a large musical production of props and costumes. Christmas = golden brown turkey, or glazed ham; Baseball game = hot dogs; A Summer Evening at the beach = a lobster clam bake; a movie at the cinema = popcorn, and so on. We are conditioned that certain foods enhance an experience, and they absolutely, 100% do, but going without a particular type of food traditionally associated with a particular occasion (especially if it is not healthy) will really force you to examine what makes you happy. Is it the holiday, family, friends, or is it food and the instant gratification?

I can confidently say that a glazed ham would have enhanced the experience of eating Christmas dinner, but I had just as much fun with family on this special day eating something healthier.

Oh, and during appetizers of cheese and crackers even the most skeptical of people agreed that my VBites Gouda "cheese" actually tasted like, well, cheese!

Even a Vegan Can Gain Weight During Christmas

On Christmas Eve I went to New Jersey to spend it with old friends. I typically spend Christmas with family in California so traveling around snow covered streets this time of year really put me in the Christmas mood.

We went to The River Palm steakhouse, and true to form the waiter was quite nice when I requested something off the menu. The chef cooked me up a nice pasta primavera and the vegetables were fresh and delicious. Drinking water and having pasta primavera with an additional side of broccoli caused some wide-eyed puzzlement amongst some friends I have not seen in a while.

I have not weighed myself on over a week, but I suspect I slipped a little merely out of the fact that I have been staying true to my veganism, but not true to nutrient-dense foods. I have eaten too much bread, and pasta to be sure. Additionally, my assistant made me some homemade vegan chocolate candy that I became addicted too.

Christmas morning I drove up to New Paltz, NY to visit with my Aunt and Uncle. I came bearing some gifts, and a bag filled with vegan food!

I also came with avocados, onions, cilantro, hot peppers, etc and made some fresh guacamole which was delicious.

Since more family and friends were to come on the 26th, Christmas dinner was more casual. I broke out the VBites Bio Schnitzel to add to my vegetables. I over-cooked the Schnitzel so it was dry, but I added some salsa and it was good. The Bio Schnitzel tasted a bit like veal and I look forward to having it again cooked properly.

I did allow myself a Christmas cocktail to feel closer to normal on this holiday, and was glad that I still refrained from going back on the drink full, or even part time. In many ways it takes more discipline to drink alcohol then stop again then going completely cold turkey. I even tempted fate again when after getting back into NYC last night I visited all my crowded watering holes to continue to drink seltzer water and stay disciplined.

Another less than perfectly healthy meal which may have stalled my weight loss for a few days was my consumption of instant oatmeal - this particular oatmeal is flavored and this has more sugar (and calories) than regular oatmeal.

Thursday, December 24, 2009


And Happy Christmas to my friends in the UK! And Happy Boxing Day - do you wish people Happy Boxing Day?

I have my Vbites Roast Turkey, and after my successful Vegan Thanksgiving I am in no worries for the Christmas meal!

Quick Re-Cap:

Last night I had this bizarre need for something really sweet. I basically drink nothing but water, and tea, with the odd decaf coffee, but last night I had this totally crazy desire for grape soda! I felt very tired (did 30 minutes of cardio yesterday), and my body was shaking a bit until I had my grape soda - I don't think I have had a grape soda since 1979! Anyway, I got my fix and I stopped shivering like a Heroin addict. Breakfast and lunch were the same (not bored yet) and for dinner I had hummus and falafel.

Very happy it is Christmas! I remember telling myself on marathon Sunday, Nov. 1st that if this vegan thing is too unbearable, I will at least do it until Christmas! Not nearly as difficult as I imagined it would be! Some days were tough, but overall, it went well and I am not worried about making it another 4 1/2 months until I lose the 75 lbs! Plus, I feel so much better after these past 7 weeks. I can't believe I am spending Christmas as a vegan!

As my friends and relatives ask me how they can accommodate the crushing burden of my disruptive, and eye-roll inducing new diet, I assured them not to worry.

"Are you serving vegetables? Good." I have my vegan roast, I am dynamite! All is well!

It is funny how people apply the brakes to such a blessed event as Christmas when they know a vegan is in the midst, when, in reality, we enjoy Christmas every bit as the next person with some minor modifications.

So, a very Merry Christmas to all!


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Solid Day

This morning I cooked at home and had some oatmeal, and VBites breakfast sausages - really tasty. A unique, but very satisfying flavor.

Today I was given a great gift by my assistant - she made me vegan chocolate candy with nuts and candy cane sprinkles. Delicious.

I went to the gym earlier than normal. I rode the bike at high intensity, alternating resistance levels between 14-18 for fourteen minutes. Then I stretched, alternating my abdominal work in there too. I would do 30...well, have no idea what you call them...where I balance on my tailbone, with feet six inches off the ground and with a medicine ball twist and touch the ball down to my left side, then right, then left. I'll call it the medicine ball twist. (Note: not me in photo - not yet). When I do 30, I then do 25 crunches holding the medicine ball aloft. Then while I am resting I stretch. My routine yields 90 medicine ball twists (45 if you count a full rotation of touching the ball down on my left, then right), and 75 crunches. Also on the stretching mat was the guy from the show Mad Men - no not the guy all the girls love, "Draper," the other guy with the white hair. I must say the guy was very impressive with the large work-out ball he used - doing all sorts of exercises with the giant ball, the guy is in great shape.

I then did squats - three sets of 15, and the same for lunges. My knees were quite painful during these exercises. I need to continue to build my leg strength and the pain will lessen. After the leg work I walked on the treadmill at a speed of 4.0 building up the incline to 10.0. I did that for 20 minutes. Then I went over to the elliptical machine for only 15 minutes and alternated my speeds between fast and slower. And then I hit the showers. Felt good afterwards, very tired.

For lunch I got the old stand-by. The vegan wrap at The Coffee Shop. I think by adding avocado, and a little bit of onion it is now a perfect sandwich! Ate the nice salad that comes with it. Felt like some tomato juice today and ordered a virgin Bloody Mary. They really add a kick to it there.

Tonight I went over to a friend's house where she generously gave me a book called La Dolce Vegan. She was inspired by my posting a couple weeks back and found this cook book online. Looks pretty funky, I may enjoy it.

We went to dinner at the Water Club - a cool restaurant right on the East River. It was decorated to the hilt for Christmas which was great. She had the succulent looking steak and shrimp, and I had the steamed broccoli and sweet potato. No matter, I was not starving so it was quite nice.

I must say my host offered me some nuts - nice and healthy. However, she did not have a nut cracker and was forced to improvise!

Today I felt tired the entire time. I often feel tired, and I will pay attention to it more and write about it in more detail soon.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Vegan Tailgate

Nothing is better than warming up before a professional sporting event with buddies, burgers and beer.

Although I had an excellent time last year at The Cabbage Patch pub near Twickenham Stadium before the England vs. South Africa rugby match, nothing beats American football tailgating. Nothing.

In yet another temptation which was dangerously close in severity to the three in the desert found in the Synoptic Gospels, I tailgated today as a vegan. I tailgated as a vegan at a New York Jets football game where most fans can aptly be described as Neanderthals with slobbering steak-blood stained green jackets.

Saturday night 11 inches of snow draped the Tri-State area, including the Meadowlands Sports Complex, and by Sunday morning a fleet of snow plows cleared the facility so the parking lot was ringed with massive snow mountains which resembled the Aleutian Islands. Throw in temperatures in the mid-20's, with biting winds that brought the windchill factor down to 15 degrees, and you have serious football tailgate weather.

My buddy fired-up the grill and slapped some hamburgers on there while I rolled up with my VBites soy burger, and Sage & Majorum sausages. My friends raved about their cheeseburgers, and scoffed at me enjoying my vegan tailgate. I admit it, is was weird to have my first football tailgate without real meat, but it was tasty enough - especially the sausages! My meal looked like a regular plate of burgers and sausages found at thousands of other tailgates on the frozen asphalt tundra, but it was soy based - an anathema to football tailgating, but a helping hand to arteries. The more my friends busted my chops over my counterfeit tailgate, the more my slimming face smiled.

However, the other vital piece of the tailgate is the beer, and I was dying to join in with the guys and their suds. And when there is snow on the ground, and your eyes tear up with frost in the arctic air, nothing, but nothing is more effective at warming your cockles than the liquid sweater. My pal filled up his hip flask with Irish whisky, and as each Eskimo passed the flask of uisce beatha, it took every ounce of willpower to pass. Tailgating and drinking are synonymous...and I'll be taking both to the dance again soon - but not yet.

A vegan tailgate is like football without pads -- it's a different game, but once you're used to it, you can enjoy long as your team wins.

The Jet's lost, but I didn't.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Other Side of the Story...

It has now been over four months since my friend first suggested this radical idea; an experiment to take a hard-core carnivore and make him a vegan for six months to see the effects on weight loss, and improved health. It has also been over four months since I said, “That’s crazy! I would never do that!”

Well, it has been six weeks since that November morning when I woke up to a new lifestyle. In those six weeks I have lost 27 pounds, and have seen my cholesterol plummet from 300 to 208 - all because I chose a plant-based, vegan diet, void of all animal products.

Now that I am well on my way to this new lifestyle I want to share with you who my friend is behind this radical endeavor - Heather Mills. Heather has been a vegan long before it became fashionable. She is quite evangelical about the vegan lifestyle, and literally put her money where her mouth is. She bought a vegan wholesale food company; donated $1 MM worth of vegan food to Hunts Point, The Bronx; she opened a free fast food vegan place for families of The Bronx; and she opened a vegan restaurant in Brighton, England called VBites. And, all the vegan food I am eating is her company, VBites.

I remember my cocksure attitude one evening leaning against the bar in P.J. Clarke's some months ago while Heather discussed with me the benefits of a dairy and meat free diet with laser-like purpose. I just rolled my eyes, and ordered another martini. I knew how to lose weight, and how to eat healthier. And I also knew there was more than one way. However, looking back, as I entered my 30's,and as weeks turned into months, and months, years I really had nothing to show for myself from this past decade. I knew how to lose weight, so why didn't I engage in healthy eating and drinking these past 3,650 days?

Since I am an all or nothing guy, Heather's idea began to grow on me. Why? Because the effort required to severely cut back on meat, and cheese, and drinking, and exercising more was just not doing it for me. That requires moderation. I don't like moderation.

So, it started to make sense, in a perverse way, that the only way I was going to start a diet and stick to it is if it was a complete lifestyle change. I couldn't change a little, I had to change everything. If everyone changed their diet a little, more plant-based food, they would see the great benefits - however, for me personally, I am incapable of "a little." I decided I would be "all in." And I am thrilled I did!

I am very appreciative to Heather and VBites for providing me with the vegan food during this journey.

Six weeks will turn into six months soon enough, and then, well, who knows -- but I do love skipping belt notches! Oh, and that whole lessening a chance of a heart attack thing is pretty cool too!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

DAY 46

Nothing of substance to report. Oatmeal in the morning, and for lunch a huge salad of chickpeas, kidney beans, black olives, avocado, tomatoes, broccoli, and sunflower seeds. Dinner was a unique mix of vegan fish sticks and sausages. No, I am not pregnant.

I'm a fan of fish sticks, but I grilled them in a frying pan - they are much better in an oven. The vegan sausages I grilled up were great. It was a gyro sausage and they tasted excellent with mustard. I am bringing them, and some vegan burgers to the Jets football game Sunday. Should be an interesting tailgate - I'm confident I will have the only vegan tailgate in Meadowlands history!

Dessert was an orange.

I turned down an invite to meet at a bar, stayed in and did some writing and smoked a cigar.

Sorry, not every night is interesting.

You've Come a Long Way Monty!

John Montagu, the Fourth Earl of Sandwich did not want to interrupt his poker game for a meal, nor did he want to get his fingers greasy while eating meat at the card table. He asked his servant for a slice of roast beef placed between pieces of bread. Voila.

I would often get the urge for a large Italian hero sandwich, or some other assortment of cold cuts. The rational goes that it is far superior to a cheeseburger in the health department. A quick look at some data shows a popular sandwich chain's 6" cold cut combo sandwich has 17 grams of fat, 7g of saturated fats, and 55 mg of cholesterol. Looking at a hamburger from a popular chain has 42 grams of fat, 13g of sat. fat, and 85 mg of cholesterol.

So, sure, the burger is less healthy, but I would normally eat the foot long sandwich anyway. However, if you want the same low fat and sat. fat, with zero cholesterol, and no artificial colors or preservatives, fake meat would work. These meats (made with Water, wheat gluten, sunflower oil & vegetable fat, soya protein, wheat fibre, flavourings, salt, yeast extract, sugar, thickener: carrageenan, malt extract & onion powder) are for people who don't eat meat, but would like the taste and texture, and remembrance of eating meat. Kind of like drinking non-alcoholic beer.

Now, meat is a funny thing. We want it fresh, so a meat that looks different in color can be scary. I tried some last night. As with all vegan "fake" meat and fish there is the psychological factor. You know it is not meat, and there is nothing you can do to trick yourself otherwise.

However, the "Beef Style" cold cuts I had last night tasted kind of like turkey on its own. The texture was a little different from regular meat, as was the color. However, I slapped them on some wholewheat bread with mustard, and I was happy enough munching away at my new sandwich. I also had some vegan Gouda cheese which was pretty good too. Now, this fake meat and cheese, according to my palate, does not taste exactly like the real thing, but if you want to go meat and dairy free, you will be just fine eating these! Remember the first time you tried Diet Coke?

I was with two friends last night who had not seen me since November 1st, so it was great to get their reactions and encouragement. Also, I ran into a couple I had not seen in a bit and they were quite complimentary of the effort as well. The effusiveness of the compliments, and encouragement is proving my point -- for a guy like me to go vegan (and throw in no drinking for good measure) is so radical that it prompts hours of conversation and inquiries. When people talk about living healthier it is only a good thing. The really cool part is that the amount weight lost is not the focus, rather the lifestyle change. Almost to a person someone says that they should adjust their diet a bit.

I have no problem being the poster boy of over-indulgence going down the straight and narrow since it seems to motivate people.

This morning I put a wool suit on (it's 31 degrees with a windchill of 21). But I bought it a while ago, and it was always way too tight in the trousers. So much so that there was a crease around waist of the trousers were my fat-ass, disgusting stomach spilled over.

Ahhh, fits like a glove now!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Victory At "C" -- Recent Blood Work In!

"C" as in Cholesterol!

Cholesterol is a soft, waxy substance found among the lipids (fats) in the bloodstream and in all your body's cells. It's an important part of a healthy body because it's used to form cell membranes, some hormones and is needed for other functions. But a high level of cholesterol in the blood — hypercholesterolemia — is a major risk factor for coronary heart disease, which leads to heart attack.

Cholesterol and other fats can't dissolve in the blood. They have to be transported to and from the cells by special carriers called lipoproteins. There are several kinds, but the ones to focus on are low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL).

What is LDL cholesterol?

Low-density lipoprotein is the major cholesterol carrier in the blood. If too much LDL cholesterol circulates in the blood, it can slowly build up in the walls of the arteries feeding the heart and brain. Together with other substances it can form plaque, a thick, hard deposit that can clog those arteries. This condition is known as atherosclerosis. A clot (thrombus) that forms near this plaque can block the blood flow to part of the heart muscle and cause a heart attack. If a clot blocks the blood flow to part of the brain, a stroke results.

My blood tests are in!


Total Cholesterol
Below 200 Desirable
200-239 Borderline High
240+ High
Me, Nov. 1 - 300
Me, Dec. 7 - 208

LDL (Bad) Cholesterol

Below 100 Optimal for those at risk for heart disease (i.e. smokers)
100-129 Near Optimal
130-159 Borderline High
159-190 High
190+ Very High
Me, Nov. 1 - 227
Me, Dec. 7 - 150

So, in five weeks on this new vegan diet I decreased my overall cholesterol 92 points! And I decreased my bad cholesterol 77 points!

This goes beyond feeling healthier, to feeling safer!


People get cholesterol in two ways. The body — mainly the liver — produces varying amounts, usually about 1,000 milligrams a day. Foods also can contain cholesterol. Foods from animals (especially egg yolks, meat, poultry, shellfish and whole- and reduced-fat milk and dairy products) contain it. Foods from plants (fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds) don't contain cholesterol.

Typically the body makes all the cholesterol it needs, so people don't need to consume it. Saturated fatty acids are the main culprit in raising blood cholesterol, which increases your risk of heart disease. Trans fats also raise blood cholesterol. But dietary cholesterol also plays a part. The average American man consumes about 337 milligrams of cholesterol a day; the average woman, 217 milligrams.

Some of the excess dietary cholesterol is removed from the body through the liver. Still, the American Heart Association recommends that you limit your average daily cholesterol intake to less than 300 milligrams. If you have heart disease, limit your daily intake to less than 200 milligrams. Still, everyone should remember that by keeping their dietary intake of saturated and trans fats low, they can significantly lower their dietary cholesterol intake. Foods high in saturated fat generally contain substantial amounts of dietary cholesterol.

People with severe high blood cholesterol levels may need an even greater reduction. Since cholesterol is in all foods from animal sources, care must be taken to eat no more than six ounces of lean meat, fish and poultry per day and to use fat-free and low-fat dairy products. High-quality proteins from vegetable sources such as beans are good substitutes for animal sources of protein.

How does physical activity affect cholesterol?

Regular physical activity increases HDL cholesterol in some people. A higher HDL cholesterol is linked with a lower risk of heart disease. Physical activity can also help control weight, diabetes and high blood pressure. Aerobic physical activity raises your heart and breathing rates. Regular moderate-to-vigorous-intensity physical activity such as brisk walking, jogging and swimming also condition your heart and lungs.

Physical inactivity is a major risk factor for heart disease. Even moderate-intensity activities, if done daily, help reduce your risk. Examples are walking for pleasure, gardening, yard work, housework, dancing and prescribed home exercise.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Monday, Monday

Missed breakfast Monday morning, but I popped into our lunch cafe around 11:30 hoping for some oatmeal, but lunch was being set out. I had a cup of Minestrone soup - excellent! Was I hungry, or was it one of the best Minestrone soups ever? Who knows, but I am usually not blown away by what they serve in the cafe!

Oh, and I also munched on an apple before the gym. At the gym I did an intense bike for 10 minutes, jumped off and stretched, then crunches, then lat pull downs, then shoulder press, then elliptical for a hard 20 minutes. I should I have done walking on a steep 10 point incline for 20 minutes but I was a bit tired and pressed for time.

Coming back from the gym I was naturally hungry. Oddly enough, I thought a Big Mac sounded like a splendid idea, but when I dreamed of unwrapping the Big Mac, and biting into it, it was not wrapped in paper, but Styrofoam. When my mind wandered to the Golden Arches, it was not the one up the block on 3rd Ave, or the thousands I have driven past in my life, rather, it was the one on Devonshire St. and DeSoto Ave. in Chatsworth, California. When I dreamed of a Big Mac it was one that I had as a child. I guess Big Mac's taste better as a kid anyway. But, I thought it quite odd that as I had an inexplicable urge for a Big Mac it ran like a movie in my head from 35 years ago. Pulling up to the McDonald's of my youth sitting in the back seat of a white 1968 Ford Galaxie while my mother shouted our order into the speaker at the drive thru (and ordering strawberry "frappes" with her Massachusetts accent to the utter confusion of the order taker). I can vividly recall every detail of our trips to McDonald's in my youth probably because they were not very frequent.

I am become slightly delirious with bizarre cravings and weird remembrances! But when I returned to the office I ate a PureFit bar and felt pretty good (I think I have been erroneously calling them 'profit' in previous posts - I guess I should actually read the box.)

Monday night I picked up some flat bread and hummus at the Turkish place around the corner. I spread the hummus on the Rosemary flavored flat bread, and added some zucchini and squash I grilled up, plus sliced avocado and tomato. It was awesome. One of my favorite meals (and quite similar to my vegan wrap)! I also had some nice vegan falafal which was great too!

Pulled out an extra notch hole on my belt this morning too!

Let's Talk About TW

No, not him, rather, my Titular Weekend.

My weekend was fun, but this weekend, well, it was really in name only.

Let's start at the end - tonight I rolled into the Pig 'n' Whistle, and the bartender did a double-take saying that I look slimmer and slimmer each time I come in. I'm down 27 lbs.

Here is the deal, after 6 weeks 27 lbs is very good of course, but I am a bit stuck on the 24 lbs - 27 lbs lost. It goes slightly up and down each time I step on a scale. I am not losing as quickly as I want, and I think that is because I am not working out as hard as I should be! I think I will force myself to go 4 times per week - the intensity of the gym visits are too inconsistent.

So, my weekend on paper was quite fun and busy, but I was missing meat big time, and I felt at times like a shell not partaking in cocktails with friends.

This is the season for parties, and partying, and, well, cheer.

Friday night I met a close friend at Uva,the wine bar, and sipped seltzer water while the bar hummed with Christmas energy. It wasn't even the wine that had me pining for a glass, it was the giant wine list. So many choices, and I got to pick none of them! Then we went to a my good friend's Christmas Party. Food (Cheese and salmon) drinks (wine, beer, cocktails), cheer, plenty of cheer, and...seltzer water and an apple. I felt like an ass. Yes, it is great to shed the pounds, and yes, it is great to live a life in moderation, and yes, it is great to hear compliments, but damn it, it is wholly unnatural to stick out like a sore thumb amongst great friends who you have eaten and drank with for so many years. I mean, sure I had a nice time, and some laughs, but an element was missing. It is totally natural to wish people holiday cheer and clink cocktail glasses with your friends, and I felt unnatural! But, this is why I did this experiment now - to go through the Christmas Season and all the temptations. Not to feel miserable, but to celebrate my discipline. Well, I was disciplined, but hands down it would have been more fun if I ate and drank what everyone else was. But, I chose to take this challenge head-on, and that even meant I showed up with a fruit basket gift for my hosts!

Saturday I mixed up a great lunch. I chopped up my zucchini, squash, mushrooms, broccoli, snow peas, and my soy based "fake" meat. This time I used mush less ginger stir fry dressing. The pure taste of fresh vegetables fried up with soy meat was terrific. Love that feeling of being full, and knowing how healthy your meal was.

I went to MoMa for a private event and to see some exhibits. Nothing puts me in the mood for a nice glass of wine and cheese platter more than an art museum. I was so self conscious of what I was GIVING UP that I did not have as much fun. Then it was on to the Time Warner Center where a trip to the Stone Rose lounge - a bar that overlooks Columbus Circle, and dinner at Porter House New York just added to the pain.

Here is the deal: It is Christmastime, and on these weekends it is quite normal to have a couple of glasses of wine, or beer, or cocktails, maybe eat a bit more than normal, even have red meat. It is virtually tradition! Well, I miss those traditions, and I was bored stiff. The urges for meat and drink were because they go together with a Saturday on a cold December evening in NYC! It was not difficult in the hand-trembling, mouth-watering, hair-pulling way. Hell, I said no without much difficulty. But I hated saying no! At Porter House I had grilled brussel sprouts, a tomato and onion salad, and hash browns. Although each tasted delicious, there was too much oil on the brussel sprouts, as well as balsamic-mix dressing on the salad. I feel better, and actually the vegetables taste better when they are more natural, not spruced up with oils or dressing.

Sunday I had brunch at the Pig N Whistle - salad and fruit bowl. Very boring, and bland. I am better off making my own salads. Its obviously cheaper, and tastes better - but I can't shake the need to be around people, to do what I would normally do.

I had a huge sweet tooth on Sunday, and munched on a few jelly beans. Why I did it, I am not sure. I think I was almost rewarding myself for suffering through a pretty good weekend which missed a crucial element of fun by inhaling a handful of, essentially, sugar. I am not happy about that!

This evening I caught a theatre group performance which a friend was in - really good stuff! Again, lurking about the Lower East Side with friends after watching a small experimental theatre just begged for some normality, i.e. sitting in a quaint, funky bar and talking about what we just saw with glass in seems almost sacrilegious to slide into these unique LES places and order a seltzer. Well, by the evening I was spicing it up with some cranberry juice. We ended up at Stanton Social, and the four of us devoured a couple of orders of their edamamme in this peanut sauce. Exceptional.

Some more random bars, P.J. Clarke's, etc. Cold air, wreathes on the door, and festive music.

Yeah, it was a pretty good weekend, but I spent the entire weekend more aware, and more conscious, and more uncomfortable about what I am sacrificing than at any point since November 1.

But, I will end with this, I am still just as determined to lose the weight, and I have no plans to quit this endeavor at all!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Gym Etiquette

OK, I'm in the groove eating wise, so no need to repeat listing my diet from the last couple of days; suffice to say I had my share of bananas, oatmeal, and that delicious vegan wrap from the Coffee Shop. The only problem with the wrap is the large slices of red onion. It's tasty, but then I scour the office for lifesavers, and no one ever gives you just one - it is usually a handful, and, well, I still have a sweet tooth at times. You get the picture.

Going to the gym for me is a solo event done with little fanfare, or social interaction, it is like going to Mass. You get in, and after an hour or so, you get out. I don't socialize, I don't hug people, and I don't talk to anyone I don't know. And when it comes to the locker room, I adhere to even stricter rules!

Besides rules, here are some real pet peeves of mine found in the men's locker room:

* Towels - why must they be the size of dishtowels? Before any weight loss goals, I will judge another mile stone when I wrap my towel around my waist hand's free!

* Hair Dryers - They are called hair dryers for a reason. Please use them to dry the hair on your head only! It is repulsive when guys pretend they are an automobile at the car wash and use the hair dryer over every inch of their body.

* Cell Phones - enuff said!

* Showers - they are for showering only, not your own personal, guttural, nasal cavity clearing, and expectorating Olympics!

* The Steam Room - Now, the steam room is quiet time. You sit, WRAPPED IN A TOWEL, quietly. That's it. Do not come in with one of those high-end water-proof iPods encased in a large band around your bicep, bobbing your head. Neither myself, nor the other guys want to hear your music. And please don't make exaggerated sounds of breathing heavy or stretching & growling, we hear you! Don't hum, and don't sigh in a pronounced way. When you must blow air forcefully through your pursed lips, do it in the gym, heck, even in the locker room, but not in our little echoing steam room! Also, you are in a steam room, you sweat, don't friggin play with your arms and face rubbing the sweat around making that loud slapping noise like you are handling a wet fish! Just be quiet! Just sit there! Don't look at anyone, don't talk to anyone, and for crying out loud wear the damn towel! And another thing, what is with guys who feel the need to stretch every appendage, completely nude, in the steam room? There is ample room on the 2nd and 3rd floors at Equinox to stretch. Your return to ancient Greece, and their habits is not really the visual I need during my quiet meditation in the steam room. Call me a prudish conservative American, that's fine! Then again, as I continue on this vegan journey, who knows, maybe I will change my tune about nudity, and towels! After all, my trekking in for a steam with 47 of them is not exactly helping the environment! But what I will never compromise on is this personal grooming in the steam room. OK, the guy that walks in with his face full of shaving cream? Fine, as long as he shaves in the sink. But, the putrid animal who sits on his fat ass and whips out a kit to scrape the dead skin off of his disgusting feet is too much!

Class dismissed.