Monday, November 30, 2009

The Good Luck Legume

Will it bring me good luck?

For years I heard that my grandmother strongly advocated eating lentil soup on New Year's Day as good luck for the year. I either never tasted it, or had a bad reaction to it when I was very young, and I never had it again. In fact I have no memories of ever eating lentil soup...until today. Today I had vegetable and lentil bean soup. I thought I was going to hate it since surely I have some long suppressed memory of despising the "good luck" bean. I remember the can of Progresso Lentil Soup every year with the photo of slimy brown beans on the label. But, then I remembered, I hated beer as a kid too, so just maybe...Yep, lentil soup is very good! Just like brussel sprouts, things I was conditioned to despised actually taste good once I eat them. I really enjoyed the soup today. Had some grilled vegetables from the deli too (zucchini, squash, tomatoes, asparagus), and I threw in some corn, chick peas and kidney beans for the proper amount of amino acids.

Went to the gym before lunch. Definitely feel myself in better shape - the crunches are easier, and the cardio is easier - now doing the fast walking at 4.0 speed on a 8 point incline, and move it up to 10 point. Did more squats and lunges. Knees feel alot better with the less weight, but still wobbly and painful in the full squat.

There is a marked difference between the clientele at the gym in the East Village near my work, and the gym near my apartment in Midtown, and I think it could be succinctly summed up by two virtually identical conversations I overheard in the locker room over the weekend, and today.

GYM Near Apartment

Guy #1: Hey, what's up?
Guy #2: Hey, good, how are you?
Guy #1: Good, thanks.

GYM Near Work

Guy #1: Hey, what's up?
Guy #2: Hey, good, how are you?
Guy #1: Good, did you get a haircut?
Guy #2: Yeah, I did.
Guy #1: It looks really good.
Guy #2: Thanks.

Even though the gym in the East Village is populated by lots of thin and neat guys, I actually prefer that than the gym near my house with more "average" type guys. It's like when you play better golf with good golfers. I'd rather be around guys in great shape when I am working out - I don't feel self conscious at all, and it motivates me more when most people are very fit in the gym. Although, I must admit, I do wrap myself in 47 towels when entering the stream room.

Dinner was at the Pig 'N' Whistle watching New Orleans manhandle New England with friends. Although I salivated at their potato skins, and artichoke dip, I happily gobbled up some steamed veggies, and had a Caesar salad with no feta cheese and no dressing wrapped up in a whole wheat pita.

Endured the perennial harassment from friends, but feeling good.

Weighed in today at 23 lbs lighter.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

End of Week 4

I think it was fitting to end my first month on this vegan diet with the long Thanksgiving Day weekend. It gave me plenty of time to think and not act on impulses for food or drink that increase weight gain.

I heard a terrific quote from former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee in talking about the U.S. Health problem. He said that the problem is like the NFL - you've got 22 players on the field that need to rest, and 70,000 fans in the stadium that need to exercise. So very true.

Over this weekend I realized that my greatest urges to eat high fat, low nutrient food was when I was very hungry. I was only hungry when I chose not to eat a breakfast, or lunch at a reasonable time. I got caught up doing other things, ignored my normal physical hunger, and then after a couple of hours I was starving at inopportune times to eat healthfully - like at the movie theatre. I've read too many people skip breakfast, and that it is the most important meal of the day. So, shame on me for skipping breakfast twice over this long weekend. If I am going to exhibit discipline over what I eat, I can surely exhibit same when I eat. I have also noticed that often my urges to drink alcohol is when I am bored. So, don't be bored. It is like when you were a child and you whined to your mother that you were bored - what was her response? Go outside and play. That is why so many generations of children were lean. Since I cannot very well go outside and play kickball while socializing with friends at 11 O'clock at night I typically combat that urge with telling one of my elongated stories - other's might be reaching for a pint out of boredom, but I happily forget my urges by the end of the story.

Over the weekend I found myself socializing with a friend at an Irish pub, and simultaneously racking my brain on where to eat in that neighborhood. I skeptically flipped open the menu of the Cornerstone Tavern and found both a delicious hummus and pita bread appetizer, and a huge, fresh salad. Yes, even in an Irish pub I can eat well!

Today, Sunday, I did not even think about going to weigh myself which I think is a positive. I am trying not to obsess myself with how much I lose each week. I will weigh myself at the gym tomorrow.

All told, I ate many salads this weekend - either oatmeal or whole wheat toast for breakfast - and a terrific vegan meat rashers for dinner.

My work-outs over this extended weekend were limited, so I am eager to get back on schedule again!

Finally, yeah, I am a month in, and I feel really good!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

When "The Sweet Life" was too sweet.

It's a bit like the post-Christmas let-down. I successfully navigated Marathon Sunday, the Yankees World Series win, multiple big college football games, the day in and day out desires to eat "normally," and most recently, the indulgent feast of Thanksgiving. Now what? I have no doubt that I will be able to handle this new lifestyle until I reach my goal, and it is not totally miserable, but I am still searching. I look forward to the end results, but I am still aware of the sacrifice - hard to focus on the positive process. I want to begin to ignore the sacrifice and embrace the new eating habits as a desirous choice, and not a sacrifice.

I've lost over 20 lbs, and 3 inches off my waist. But, I still feel like I am just following the rules; I am just biding my time, like an alligator drifting along and waiting for its prey to be eaten after this experiment is over. It is the wrong attitude of course, but it is how I am feeling at the moment. Although I have been thrilled at times by how I feel, and the weight I am losing, it is not consistent. I had a great time on Thanksgiving, but the day after I was left wondering, now what? And the answer? Keep it up for the next five months. Call it the vegan post-month let down.

Something did give me some good perspective last night, however, and oddly enough it was a Fellini film almost 50 years old.

Watching the classic Italian film "La Dolce Vita" I could not help but find the parallels of the character Marcello and the last 10 years of my life - searching for true happiness in wine, women, and song, and food, to limited success. The film, I think, is partly a commentary on the emptiness of self-indulgent excesses, so it was not a huge leap for me to draw parallels with my decade of indulgence through satisfying my appetite for life with whatever I fancied at that moment, with no internal governor, and zero thought to the adverse affects on my health.

I know the vital importance to living a salubrious life, and I know the road map. But I will truly achieve this goal when I make the jump from merely following the playbook to making it an intrinsic part of my life. I'm not there yet.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Sailing through Thanksgving like RMS Carpathia

Need not have worried, yesterday's Thanksgiving turned out to be like all others -great.

First things first, no Tofurky. I had a Vegan Roast. It tasted just fine - pretty good actually! It looked like three hockey pucks stacked up and had the color of tree bark, but it tasted like condensed stuffing with a meat flavor. It was pretty good - I enjoyed it. My gracious hosts also made a vegan stuffing using mushrooms instead of pork and vegetable stock instead of chicken stock. Rounding out my great meal were boiled potatoes, and grilled peppers, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, string beans, and asparagus.

It was a great and filling meal that induced a food coma while watching football - in other words, a perfect Thanksgiving!

Sadly, I was unable to partake in the traditional Pumpkin Pie since I did not find time to get an alternative. However, watching a couple of foreign college students from Germany happily dig into pumpkin pie for the first time, and on their first Thanksgiving was worth any great taste to my palate. And dessert for me was excellent. I had Mini Cafe Twists from Trader Joe's - they were cookie twists with cinnamon. These treats had no dairy, and were 30 calories per cookie.

Speaking of palate, my friends take on the vegan roast ranged from "not good" to "not bad at all." So, I think my taste buds are more equipped to handle these new foods after almost four weeks of this diet. But in the end, you want a meatless substitute? This vegan roast was a very good alternative.

Thanksgiving was a joy, and that was really my last big hurdle in this new lifestyle. Any fears of curling up in the corner in a cold sweat while gnawing on a piece of cardboard were dismissed immediately.

I can now fully comprehend what these new food choices will entail, and I am not worried one bit about any elements that would be a determinant to this new lifestyle.

I hope everyone enjoyed a terrific and blessed Thanksgiving!

Water, wheat protein, vegetable fats and oils, soya flour, vegetable protein, flavouring, starch, thickeners: carrageenan, locust bean gum; malt extract

Energy: 1261.00kJ / 301.00kcal
Protein: 24.80g
Carbohydrate: 4.20g
(of which sugars) 0.40g
Fat: 20.20g
(of which saturates) 6.20g
Fibre 0.30g
Sodium 0.50g
Calcium 0.00mg

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Fresh is Best

One of the best days of eating I ever had was about 10 years ago on the shore of the North Fork of Long Island. Every single thing I consumed for breakfast, lunch and dinner (including dessert) was farmed, hatched, grown, or caught -- and made with local ingredients -- within a 1 mile radius of where I was staying. It was the best day of eating, ever.

Taking the debate about animal products out of the equation, what is non-debatable is that fresh, non-processed food tastes better, is better for you, and is better for the environment. Period.

My breakfast and lunch on Tues., Day 24 was much the same as the previous 3 weeks.

Dinner was a delight. I was turned on by a friend to HanGawi on 32nd Street in Korea Town.

Compared to the previous night's food there is no comparison - whereas Angelica is a good restaurant, I was reminded with every bite that I was at a vegan restaurant. At HanGawi, I totally forgot I was eating such a healthy meal!

HanGawi is a vegan Korean restaurant and is all about the freshest food possible. It was an amazing meal! You must remove your shoes and sit at a small table - it is very Zen-like and relaxing.

I started with the Steamboat soup - an awesome soup broth with mushrooms, and broccoli. We also ordered the pancake sampler which included pancakes made of leek, spicy kimchi mushroom, and kabocha pumpkin with mung beans. That was terrific, especially the leek oddly enough! Then we had the Emperor's Rolls which looked more like a painting than a meal. The large plate comes with mini tortilla-type rolls and then arranged like the face of a clock, were neat piles of mushrooms stems, different types of peppers, cabbage, shredded carrot, etc. You made your own rolls and added a delicious sauce to each. For my meal I ordered the vegetable stone bowl rice. It was a sizzling platter of vegetables, and rice (I think it was white rice, or a combo of white and brown rice so I should not eat too much of those starchy carbs during the week); all mixed up with a very spicy sauce in a stone bowl - it was fabulous.

When we left our shoes were waiting for us. I was full, and happy that I gorged myself with such fresh, vegan food.

I cannot wait to go back!

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving...sitting there, and my ocean liner is steaming right for it! I have a vegan roast that I will bring to my friend's place. But, how will I celebrate this eating day of all eating days? I aim to go to one of the vegan bakerys in town for a vegan pie.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

"A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people."

So said the 18th Century English in disparaging comments about porridge (And the Scots).

Porridge. Oatmeal. Stirabout. Brose. Gruel. It is all essentially the same thing - boiled oats.

It has been known as peasant food, and it was a daily staple for prisoners in the U.K., but it is a tremendously healthy food in lowering cholesterol!

I eat it virtually ever day with raisins. I get it at the company cafe and it is inconsistent - sometimes rather mediocre in taste, but good enough to eat - so I am eager to find a great new recipe!

My addiction to oatmeal in the morning, and the vegan wrap in the afternoon is short on variety, but very satisfying.

Yesterday afternoon I was dragging - really tired, and had no energy. Have no idea why. Feel lighter, but tired. Will concentrate more on what I am eating and exercising, and sleep patterns to determine the reasons behind my recent listlessness.

Last night I had a work event in the Forbes wine cellar. It is a spectacular place with wines dating back to 1860's, and ornate, silver, Stag-decorated mugs with the biggest names in industry and politics etched into them. Tasting wine is no big deal, right? There would be an imperceptible change in my diet, and no alcoholic buzz simply by sipping a flight of delicious red wines, in this case from Spain. But, you know, I made a determination that I would introduce alcohol back into my diet on my own terms. This wine tasting, as tantalizing as it was, was not on my terms. I rewarded my my sense of smell, but that is where it ended. Again, these little situations where I choose not to imbibe only strengthen my resolve. If I make a grand gesture in saying "no" to slugging down 15 beers watching college football, why not sip less than a fluid ounce of nice wine? Why? Because it is so easy to say yes. Tempering my urges, even when it would not jeopardize my diet, weight loss, or stated policy to not booze it up, is that little extra exercise to make me stronger in the end.

Currently, I feel like I am just following the rules. I am losing weight, and I am feeling better and that is great. But, I am just following the rules, and there is no guarantee that if tomorrow I woke up at my goal weight of 225 lbs I would not immediately dive into a dinosaur-size steak and bottle of Lagavulin. Through each sacrifice, large and small, my goal is to get to a place where I am not merely following the rules (eating vegan, eating healthfully, exercising, and staying away from empty calories in alcohol), but changing my lifestyle where my desire is to lead a healthier life because I enjoy it, rather than because I 'have to.'

Went Old School hippie-dippy vegan last night for dinner. A friend and I went to Angelica Kitchen, a vegan restaurant that opened in 1976! I must say, that although my meal was fine, and filling, had I been introduced to veganism first in Angelica Kitchen I would be currently nursing a hangover, still tipping in at three bills, and heading over to my favorite Chinese for pork and crab meat soup dumplings, and General Tso's chicken.

Angelica Kitchen was packed, and obviously they do a great job, but I ordered their traditional "Dragon Bowl" which consisted of rice, beans, tofu, sea vegetables, and steamed vegetables. It was bland. It was a stereotypical vegan feast that left nothing to the imagination the way Candle 79, and Blossom prepared their meals.

I have gathered up some recipes for Thanksgiving. But as I stand here in the crows nest with my pea coat and binoculars, I am still nervous. I love the American tradition of Thanksgiving and the whole theatre of the meal. However, I must say I did break that tradition for the first time last year when I spent Thanksgiving in the Red Lion on Duke of York St. with well-dressed but rowdy Brits eating finger sandwiches that we stole from the office party we crashed.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

An Extra Handful of Popcorn Shy of 20 lbs

Today, as I close out week three in my 22nd day of this weight loss/life changing experiment, I walked from the gym floor, to the steam room, to the shower, and then to my locker. After drying myself with NASA-like efficiency I stepped on the scale wearing what I was born in, and...282.5 lbs. I have lost 19 1/2 pounds in three weeks - that's 1.4 stone to Ms. Emma's radio listeners. Had I not gobbled up all that crack-seasoned popcorn last night at Pete's I'd be a cool 20 lbs lighter instead.

Although I feel the weight-loss process is not as drastic as I hoped, it is "real" weight loss and not susceptible to the yo-yo effect.

FYI - my legs are still in serious aching pain from my intensive leg work-out Friday - it's a great feeling, if you know what I mean.

Since I hit the rack at 4 AM I was not exactly an early riser today, so I had breakfast almost at lunch time. I made it myself, slicing up Summer squash, well, I assume it is Summer squash -- it's yellow, and tubular on one end and bulbous on the other, unless there's such a thing as yellow zucchini? Anyway, I sliced or chopped up squash, zucchini, mushrooms, green onions, tomatoes and regular onions. Grilled them up with crumbled, firm tofu sprinkled with Paul Prudomme seafood seasoning and black pepper. I rounded it out with my vegan sausage. Look, I'm not going to lie, it was really good, but substitute the tofu with scrambled eggs and the later blows this breakfast away to another Galaxy (However, to be fair, I've loved eggs since I was two years old - in fact I just listened to the fading U.S.A.F.-issue cassette tape from 1970 that was recorded by my mother for my father in Vietnam, and on this tape, in between her pleas for his safety and professions of love, Mom marvels at my new predilection for that spongy, yellow piece of Heaven! Did I just give the American Egg Board a new slogan?) BUT, but, this tofu scramble was a very good meal! I filled up, it was very tasty, and I felt great eating such a healthy breakfast!

Eating so late I really only snacked on nuts during the day, and water... OK, I broke down and got some Red Vines licorice after the gym. Hey, just being honest - no fats, or trans fats, but lots of sugar. BAD! For every 3-4 great healthy meals I slip up and munch on something technically vegan, but nutrient barren - and not healthy.

Analysis: Happily going in the right direction. The desires and urges are currently, and I stress currently, out-weighed by my happiness with how healthy I feel.

But, as I forge ahead into week 4 a silent iceberg looms dead ahead. How will I handle Thanksgiving?

Whip It Saturday

Saturday started with two pieces of whole wheat toast and soy nut "peanut butter" and ended with a seltzer and cranberry at 4 AM -- with small breaks for salad and asparagus, and too much bar popcorn. While others grab a slice of pizza on the run as we bounce around on a Saturday night, I am forced to improvise with a salad & asparagus dinner at P.J. Clarke's which was unsuccessful in filling me up, so I indulged in delicious popcorn at one of NYC's oldest bars.

My Uncle, my buddy and me met my cousin at Pete's Tavern to warm-up before the show. My cousin is stage manager for DEVO who was playing down the street at Filmore's Irving Plaza. We struck up a conversation with a group going to the concert as well. Noticing my seltzer waters the conversation naturally turned to my veganism. More quizzical looks!

What is Veganism? Here is time for a good lesson:

The Vegan Society was founded in 1944 by Donald Watson and Elsie Shrigley, in response to the broadening of the term "vegetarian" to include the eating of dairy products. The first vegan society in the United States was founded in California in 1948. The word vegan was coined in 1944 by Donald Watson, who combined the first three and last two letters of vegetarian to form "vegan," which he saw as "the beginning and end of vegetarian."

DEVO was a great show! We had backstage passes and it was quite a scene - clearly it would have been more fun had I been drinking. As we bounced around from the Belmont Lounge to P.J. Clarke's to the Pig 'n' Whistle I was able to witness many people in each bar get drunker and drunker as the night wore on. More than once I heard people express hunger that was satiated by pizza or burgers. Glad I am not marching down that path anymore.

In the end, I had a great time, but did not have the energy to see it through to the end of the evening as bars closed up at 4 AM, but did it anyway to be a good host.

How fitting that one of the best songs performed Saturday was "Freedom of Choice."

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Day 20 - not hungry today....until 10 PM

Friday morning had the requisite oatmeal and raisins. Pretty sure I had an orange and then an apple before the gym.

My trainer did an excellent job of using my body weight against me...and I am still in pain - good pain. Lots of different squats and lunges just using my weight - the challenge is to build up my core, and my legs to compensate for my bad knees. Knees are feeling better with each pound I lose.

After the workout I only really needed an energy bar. I had bought a box of PuerFit bars and they are quite good - but you'll need plenty of water to swallow them down, however they are quite tasty. I'll add the PureFit info at the bottom of this post.

After my Lincoln post it was pointed out that he was vegetarian, as was a slew of other famous people such as Einstein. Another interesting note, and a weird coincidence that I just discovered this morning - According to Wikipedia: In 1994, the annual World Vegan Day was established on November 1st, the day of the Vegan Society's founding.

That Purefit bar set me straight for the remainder of the day - I know I should have had a salad, but was not in the mood. Later when I was home I had some wheat crackers and guacamole. And yes, shamefully, I had a sugar urge and I had a peanut chew bar. I was too tired to make anything, and not really in the mood for a salad, or vegan meat. I went out late last night and though I was not tempted by the urges to eat and drink with my friends I still feel like the kid on the outside looking in.

Very happy that this desire for "regular" food and booze is not overwhelming, but even though I feel better, I am not 100% myself in enjoying the new lifestyle - it is not miserable, mind you, by I am very aware of the sacrifice instead of ignoring it and welcoming the new habits.

I must say that there were a few double-takes as I ordered my seltzer at my regular haunts such as Bar Coastal, Doc Watson's, and P.J. Clarke's.

Kosher-certified and vegan-approved PureFit bars do not contain dairy, wheat, or gluten, and will not melt in their packaging. PureFit works diligently to provide high-quality, award-winning nutrition bars without artificial ingredients, sugar alcohols or common allergens, including milk, wheat or gluten.

Our bars are an integral part of The PureFit Fat-Burning System. It provides many of the nutrients and calories you need to round out your PureFit diet. And it does not contain harmful ingredients found in virtually every nutrition bar on the market. 100% All-Natural Ingredients, 18 Grams of Soy Protein, Non-GMO Soy, Unprecedented Great Taste. This low glycemic, nondairy bar is based on over 20 years of research and was not practical to manufacture until now. It offers:
•NO Hydrogenated Oils
•NO Animal Products - Vegan
•NO Cholesterol or Trans Fatty Acids
•NO Wheat or Gluten
•NO Artificial Sweeteners
•NO Hidden Carbohydrates
•NO Sugar Alcohol
Best of all, these bars are versatile. From lunch boxes to soccer moms, from Wall Street executives to pro-athletes—everybody loves the taste and they fit into any pocket. Finally—a nutrition bar designed not only for the whole person but for the whole family.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

November 19th, 1863

Being the 146th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, let me honor President Lincoln with my own vegan address:

Two weeks and 5 days ago my former self brought forth on this sedentary, bloated, and boozed filled body a new life, conceived in health, and dedicated to the proposition that your body is a temple.

Now I am engaged in a great civil war of urges, testing whether that this body, or any body, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure the effects of no animal products. We are met on a great battle-field of that war - the steak house. I have come to dedicate a portion of that flabby mid-section, as a final resting place for all that fat so that I might live longer.

The world will little note, nor long remember what I say here, but it will never forget what I did here. It is for us the healthy, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which willpower who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for me to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these dead fat-cells I take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that I am highly resolved that these desires for steak, and cheese shall not have died in vain—that this body, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that my health: of nutrition, by nutrition, for nutrition, shall not perish from the earth.

Day 18

I'm getting impatient. I want to feel better and look thinner by large strides each day, but it is small steps. I need to keep this impatience under control. I have not eaten this healthfully in consecutive days for, well, ever. I guess at 41 it does not fall off you as quickly.

Yesterday I had a couple of bananas for breakfast, and then my vegan wrap at The Coffee Shop for lunch. I really do like that meal! I went over to the book store to pick up another edition of Dr. Fuhrman's "Eat to Live." While at the book store there were rows and rows of books on dieting and health. It really is overwhelming how many books are there. Each with their own shred of truth, and each with a heavy marketing angle. Bottom line, even though I have not read "Omnivore's Dilemma" or "In Defense of Food" I buy into Michael Pollan's simple mantra: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants

Dr. Fuhrman's book is wonderful in not only explaining the vital importance of a nutrient dense diet, and how it will accelerate your weight loss and prevent diseases, but he debunks conclusively all the other fad diets out there.

Last evening I had a work dinner at our galleries and though the catering staff was very accomodating with my vegetable plate, since short ribs was the only main course, it is still weird for waiters to loudly ask me, "Are you the vegan?" I am not ashamed, but it was said in such a manner as to sound like, "Are you the guy that had to be different than everyone else? Like one small piece of meat is going to kill you? Are you that guy that wants to eat like a rabbit?" OK, so I am still a little touchy.

My drinking temptations continued on with a going away party at a bar called Bourbon Street. It was an industry event so I might as well have been dressed up like the Geico Caveman without my drink - in a room full of heavy drinkers I am the last person to be standing there with a glass of seltzer. Oh, well, many friends promised me they look forward to hanging out with me April.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Day 17

Apologies for the late blog entry.

Tues. was a rather active day. Had 2 bananas for breakfast, decaf coffee, and plenty of water. I had an appointment at the gym where my fitness, strength and body fat was examined. As expected, it took me a full 2 Minutes to bring my heart rate down from 150 to 120 after walking quickly on a steep incline, and my body fat percentage is too high. My strength was excellent, and so was my resting heart rate.

I have increased my work-out routine through suggestions by my trainer in London, and I have a complimentary training at the gym on Friday. The days of cardio only are coming to an end, and an even more rigorous work-out routine is now in the rotation.

Lunch was a large salad with plenty of legumes. Yes, I had to ask my doctor what they were (I'm not a smart man). Most common legumes are alfalfa, clover, peas, beans, lentils, lupins, mesquite, carob, soy, and peanuts. A great source of protein.

For dinner I met my cousin who is in town since he works with Devo! We went to Live Bait, a Bayou restaurant on 23rd St. that has been around for years. I used to drink there in the mid-90's, and it was there that my good friend, who is allergic to nuts, discovered that their chicken wings batter is made with slivers of almonds with an emergency trip to St. Vincent's Hospital. It was also at Live Bait that I inadvertently ordered a soy burger 14 years ago and was surprised how good it was. That memory, coupled with some good soy burgers I had at a party back in January, was in the back of my mind when I agreed to go on an all vegan diet.

It was great catching up with my cousin talking about Devo, and his friends who were members of the Z-Boys skateboard team in Dogtown.

Although, I was surprised to hear that some of the roadies are vegans too! What happened to Jack swilling, burger eating rock and roll roadies? Geez, even the once dirty pirates of rock and roll are becoming sissified like me! Well, I guess life extension is actually a good thing, even in a rock band. "Hello, Cleveland!"

Monday, November 16, 2009

Week 3, or Weak 3?

Breakfast was a large cup of Oatmeal and raisins.

I took my old assistant out to lunch at Markt. I ordered the endive salad which was quite good, and the penne, tomato sauce and basil without the cheese. Being a Belgian restaurant there were quite a few Europeans sitting mid-day enjoying a golden brown Belgian ale, and any number of fish dishes. I envied them.

When my belly is full a hamburger looks greasy and unhealthy, but when I am hungry it looks delicious. Coming into week three I am just as determined, but the urges are greater. Yet, as I type this I am watching a documentary about the Dust Bowl, and suddenly my internal pissing and moaning is embarrassing and shameful. For ten years the toughest Americans survived on cornbread and beans with bits of dust in their mouths. I have nothing to complain about!

Was is it willful ignorance?

Tonight I was in the mood for some good hummus. I went to the Turkish restaurant around the corner and got some hummus, warm flat bread, and an awesome salad.

Happily eating away at the salad I realized that there were these very thin, tiny white shavings, it looked like coconut sprinkles. I became more and more aware of the taste - Oh, who the hell was I kidding, it was cheese! Damn it!

Well, like forgetting it's Friday during Lent while eating a turkey sandwich, it was unintentional. It was not much, just a sprinkling, but, I chose to eat on after I discovered my error.

It took 16 days before I made this mistake, so that's not too bad. Also, I have so radically changed not only my diet, but my lifestyle that I can't be too hard on myself. It was an honest mistake that I was not even paying attention to until midway through. I tried to eat around the cheese when I realized what happened, but c'mon, that didn't work too well.

Tomorrow is gym day, so I will do my penance through an extra hard work-out.

The good news: The commercial for chicken wings during Monday Night Football does not look appetizing at all...then again, I am full.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Step Sideways?

Back in 1994 while working for Fox's new FX Channel I attended their VIP launch party. Because I was sitting next to some top advertisers Rupert Murdoch, mistaking me for someone important, introduced himself. The President of FX quickly steered Mr. Murdoch away from me explaining that I was some lowly assistant in my first week of employment. Murdoch then asked me in his garbled Australian accent, "So, how many (unintelligible) have you sold?" Too afraid to ask him to repeat himself I confidently said, "Four!" He smiled, said, "Great job!" and moved on. The look on the President's face said that my first week at FX was likely my last. She later straightened things out with one of the most powerful men in the world. By lying to Mr. Murdoch with my exclamation of, "Four," I had inadvertently said, in effect, that I sold 4 Million new subscribers to FX which would have resulted in an additional $12 Million in yearly revenue to News Corp. "Four" can be pretty powerful!

Look at the great athletic champions who have worn number 4 - Lou Gehrig of the Yankees, Brett Favre of the Packers/Vikings, and Martin Johnson of England.

4 is good, right? Well, not so much in my quest.

This past week I only lost 4 lbs. A step sideways? Obviously. But I thought I ate better this week? I thought I worked-out harder this week? What went wrong? Why did I only drop the equivalent of the weight an average person eats in day?

Looking back over this week I can only ask, did I eat too many carbs? What about my indulging in a peanut chews candy bar, or a bowl of popcorn? Is it just natural for the body to settle down after losing a full 12 lbs in the first week?

I am not sure what went wrong, but clearly I cannot skip lunches, or over-eat fruits and nuts (I think I eat too many when I am hungry). More discipline this week?

I am a little deflated by the results. Week 3 begins in earnest!

This weekend I ate quite well. Tonight, however, I was a little depressed about my results and chose to eat some food I was more familiar with - I had a few vegetable sushi rolls. Too much white rice for sure, but, I needed some normality tonight.

Looking at the positives over the weekend I can point to a few success stories:

Saturday night I was in full social mode at Landmarc in Tribeca. I stuck to my seltzer water and had a delicious grilled vegetable platter, but an open grill crowded with gorgeous steaks sizzled and hissed at me just a few feet away. Ugh! This lifestyle change better be worth it! Later that evening I ended up at Lexington Bar and Books, a great cigar bar. Smoking my cigar and staring at the illuminated bottles of gorgeous brown whisky was a huge gravitational pull. In the end, eschewing the scotch I felt empowered - these little victories, I am confident, will break my old habits soon. The next morning I would dive into temptation again as I joined friends at Clancy's to watch the Ireland vs. Australia rugby match. My friend's Irish breakfast of eggs with white and black sausage taunted me. I sipped on my virgin Bloody Mary. When the Irish came back and tied the game 20-20 in the final seconds I cheered wildly while I sipped my tea even though the foam from many pints of Guinness rained down around me.

Even though I publicly promised myself that I would not be obsessed over the numbers, and that it was the journey that was the most important, I would be lying if I didn't say I am disappointed by the mere 4 lbs lost this week.

After this week, "Four" is just not as powerful as my mendacious utterance 15 years ago.

Oh, and now that I know that a radio station in the UK has promoted this website the pressure is really on. But, don't worry Tommy, I am confident that this Yank won't let you down!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Saturday - Day 14

A late breakfast was two pieces of toast with soy butter (imitation peanut butter) and a banana.

I walked over to a bar where a number of friends drank beer, ate burgers, and even had an oreo flavored birthday cake. I stayed for 45 minutes. Any longer and the quasi-fun would turn to misery.

Next door was the gym where I had quite a good work-out.

I don't look any thinner than I did last week when I had lost a hefty 12 lbs in the first 8 days. But I am not letting that discourage me.

For an early dinner I had strawberries, grapes, and granola, and then a salad of lettuce, broccoli, carrots, cucumber, and mushrooms.

Tonight I plan an adventuresome Saturday night - if I pine for a cocktail, or some "regular" food I will be disappointed, but not surprised.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Sirens of Jewish Penicillin

Some urges for food and drink transcend the need to be sated and goes to the core of being programed by tradition.

I visited The Coffee Shop at lunch for my favorite vegan wrap. It was a chilly, windy day with a slight drizzle. Looking at the specials one perfect item jumped out -- chicken soup. There was never a more perfect day for hot bowl of chicken soup. Healthy, tasty, traditional - just right. Ignoring my desire for a healthy bowl of soup loaded with chicken was no different than ignoring an urge for a slice of pizza, or a martini with friends. It's not part of the program, and the more I practice this self control, even when sirens are calling for a bowl of Jewish penicillin on a cold wet afternoon, the stronger I will be during this 6 month experiment.

The vegan wrap was still delicious - wheat tortilla filled with zucchini, summer squash, tomato, onion and hummus.

On a Friday night after work the ads in the subway for bottle of beer played their part on my programmed desire for a mug - no go. I went to the movies tonight, and obviously a box of popcorn is as traditional as buying your tickets - no go...yet. Saw "Pirate Radio," fun flick. Back at home and not getting my fill of film I popped in "Citizen Kane." Not only did I cave on my urge for popcorn (no butter of course), but my vice mirrored Mr. Wells and I lit up my pipe.

Still vegan, relatively healthy, and I punctuated the evening with a nod towards the hurricane brewing off the coast by eating an Ida Red apple.

Finally, don't want to spoil it for you, but Rosebud is a sleigh.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

On the 12th Day of Veganhood...

I really can't go back to my old weight. I won't let it happen since I am feeling better, lighter, more energy and the knees are not hurting nearly as much on the stairs! Even the circumference of my waist, actually my stomach, has shrank by 2 inches.

Enjoyed oatmeal and raisins for breakfast, then a banana. And then I screwed up again. My plan to go to the gym at noon, and have my salad afterwards turned into working through lunchtime, then hitting the gym, and then deciding that I would be home in a couple of hours and eat then. Bad idea! I know it was a bad idea!

Yet, I went home and had a large meal of a fake double cheeseburger, green beans and some fake fish sticks.

On my first day of posting, 12 days ago, I received the following statement/question:

"Uh ... Okay ... I'll be looking for the explanation for eating fake foods."

The most simplistic answer is that the reason one eats fake meat (not fake food since it is is made with soy, onion, etc.) is that it is better for you than eating a real cheeseburger.

I will not outline all the scientific and nutritional issues of the danger in red meats here - you can get that online or sign up for Dr. Joel Fuhrman's free newsletter.

I will say that the American Cancer Institute conducted research that was published in May of this year that determined that those who ate red meat daily were more likely to contract cancer and heart disease.

Also, a "fake" soy or veggie burger with "fake" cheese is half the calories and half the fat of the real thing.

Now the important part: It tastes pretty good. I made my double cheese burger and added a slice of tomato, and mustard and a few dollops of steak sauce. I enjoyed it! If I were at a picnic, and had no idea it was fake meat it would take me at least until halfway through before I realized that there is something a bit different, certainly not bad, but different about the burger. However, the taste and smell is enjoyable. For me tonight, when I was not thinking about it the burger tasted like a burger, but when I thought about the fact that this is a fake burger it was very evident that it was different. Bottom line - if you eat three burgers a week, make one of them a veggie burger - try it out. The brand I am eating is very very good. And don't obsess over the fact that it is not real meat - relish in that fact.

I think the last time I ate a cheeseburger, fish sticks, and Jolly Green Giant green beans from the can I was 11 years old.

I will certainly not eat these fake burgers and breaded fish sticks every night - maybe two nights per week, but when I do I'll know it is better for you than the real thing, and it tastes pretty good too.

Today was not the healthiest day - missing lunch, and gobbling up burgers and fish sticks - but it was still vegan, and much better than what I normally would have had.

Candle 79

The restaurant most recommended to me by this new vegan society that I am discovering was Candle 79.

Located on 79th and Lexington, Candle 79 is a small, quaint Upper East Side Restaurant just like any other restaurant up here in this tony neighborhood. Half expecting to see the young, hip, and snarky crowd, Candle 79 was anything but -- it's clientele was not unlike any other eatery.

Waiting for my friend I struck up a conversation with a lovely couple 40 years married. He was a vegan - has been since Sept., and she was not. It was refreshing to see an UES couple, flirting with their Golden Years, enjoying a nice bottle of wine and a romantic dinner as if they were at Grammercy Tavern, Le Bernardin, or Bouley.

My preconceived notions about going vegan, and vegans are challenged daily. Even at such an early stage in my journey I can state unequivocally that if you want or need to cut back on your animal product intake you will lose nothing in the way of taste, enjoyment, ambiance, or experience by going vegan or vegetarian, be it once a day, or once a week.

If I may editorialize here - the biggest problem with veganism is its misconceptions and misperceptions. One reason could be that the average person's first interaction with a vegan could be that slightly kooky, ex-hippie, vegan bakery shop owner who you run into at the video store in town. But, unfortunately, on a grander scale I think some of the vegan celebrities that get the most media publicity are the ones who say the most outrageous things against omnivores, like Natalie Portman, or are known as pot-loving activists like Woody Harrelson. They damage the perception of veganism. However, it is not widely known that All-Pro NFL star Tony Gonzalez is a vegan. That needs to be brought to the forefront more.

In 11 short days my perceptions of vegans and veganism have changed dramatically, and there is no reason why that perception cannot change in the world. For me personally, I am still convinced that when my veganism ends I will go back to eating a more modified diet of meat and fish and dairy. Could that attitude change and could I go all vegan? I say right now, it is doubtful. But who knows. What I do know is that most all of my negative stereotypes about the vegan diet, and those who eat vegan have been challenged, and mostly dismissed!

So Candle 79 - the food was great.

For an appetizer the Grilled Seitan Chimichurri was delectable. The Guacamole Timbale was very good (but, I prefer my own recipe).

My entree was Wild Mushroom Stuffed Tempeh (fermented soybeans in a pastry/cake type form). It was delicious, and also included sweet potato sauce, apple-pomegranate salad, and brussel sprouts. Now, if you asked me two weeks ago I would have told you I hated brussel sprouts, but that is because I am quite certain I have never had them before. Quite good!

What does one do when dinner is over at 9:30? Go for an after dinner drink of course! Tempting fate again, my friend and I went to Uva wine bar on 2nd Avenue. The comfortable, Italian villa decor, and excellent wine, beer, and whisky selections were exactly what I needed to ride into the valley of temptation. While my friend had wine, I had raspberry tea. And you know what, after a while I realized that sitting back in this great atmosphere and drinking tea was not so bad after all! I actually had an enjoyable time without imbibing! Would I have had a better time with a nice glass of Barolo, or nice scotch? Yes, I believe so, but, it was not tortuous to drink tea, it was a fun time. And that is the key -- having fun, and being my old self without the habits of eating and drinking poorly!

I want to dig deep into my soul and write about the unbearable experience of this metamorphosis in lifestyle. I expected to summon the darkest corners of Kafka, or explore this suffering in graphic detail like Sinclair Lewis, but, it has not come to pass. I resist the temptation to inflate the difficulty of this task in going vegan, and cutting out the drinking because it has, and it's only been 11 days, been much more easy going than I feared!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

"How Many Forks?"

Ouch! Not a question you want to hear from the deli lady. I had just filled up a plate of pineapple, watermelon, mango, melon, strawberry's, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries for breakfast. Did it look like it could feed two or three people? Maybe, but I was hungry, and thirsty, and craving fruit! And it was delicious.

For lunch I wandered over to a Korean Restaurant and had miso vegetable soup, and a bowl of sizzling brown rice and vegetables -- it typically comes with an egg over-easy, and I can see how great that would be, but even without the egg it was excellent.

Tonight is dinner at Candle 79 - the one restaurant that all 487 vegans who contacted me recommended.

Remember it is Veteran's Day today, and though there is a good sale at Macy's, make sure you thank a veteran, and think of veterans past. I'll publicly thank my father, Captain, United States Air Force, B-52 Navigator, 1966-1970.