Friday, April 30, 2010

What's Next For My Vegan Quest?

The question asked most often of me is this, "What's next?" What happens tomorrow? Well, I will be on the shores of Ireland tomorrow. I am not worried about what is "next." Next is tomorrow. If the question "what's next" is really a hidden question of "will you go back to your gluttony?" Well, I can emphatically state that my lifestyle has changed for good. I will never go back to that unhealthy body again, ever!


The vegan quest ends today, but the healthy quest will continue forever.

I will continue to blog -- mainly to document how I ease back into a life that includes animal products and measure my reactions, feelings, and thoughts.

But, I have no snappy answer for what's next. What's next? Nothing, except for eating mostly a plant based diet, and continuing to exercise.

For me there is no finish line. Today is the end of a journey that taught me self-control, discipline, and moderation. And although I will celebrate when I knock the remaining 15-20 lbs off, the real finish line is dying a natural death at a very, very old age.

The blog will continue, but I will take this moment to thank you all so very much! The encouragement and support from family, friends, and strangers alike was humbling, and motivating! Writing this blog was my silent partner because there was no way I could have done this alone.

Thank you especially to Heather Mills for supporting me so thoroughly with this crazy idea of hers, and to Dr. Joel Fuhrman who was a terrific coach during the process, and to dear Andi who guided me into this endeavor and remained in my corner the entire bout. And to those who read my blog every day and commented publically and personally - I was really touched my your words and encouragement.

This is not the time for long good-byes since this blog will continue, and my journey is never over.

So, my thanks to all of you and now it's on to Ireland and let's see what happens there!

And now, the end is near; And so I face the final curtain



Friends, Carnivores, Omnivores, and vegans, lend me your ears;
 I come to bury Fat Terry, not to praise him.

Over-indulgence, and gluttony pushed me to 300 lbs, with a cholesterol number to match.

Why?

Mike Wallace once asked Jackie Gleason in a solemn and serious tone on 60 Minutes why he drinks so much. Jackie's answer? "Because it's fun."

And that is my answer to that. For most of my adult life I ate food that I thoroughly enjoyed, and drank to excess because it was fun. Oh, during these introspective months of veganism I spelunked all around my mind looking for the why. Why did I allow myself to become so unhealthy? After careful self-analysis, self-shrinking of my head, and retracing my steps and thoughts going back to 1972, I came to the conclusion that I did it all because it was fun.

Too much fun is not a good thing, however, and we all know that.

I was grossly over-weight, my knees felt like bags of broken glass, and my general daily disposition could best be summed up as, "tired." On good days I saw Brad Pitt in the mirror, on bad days, John Candy. But I was always the same obese person. Delusion is a wonderful repellent to abject depression.

Six months ago today I woke up, went to the gym to weigh myself, "Oh, look 302 lbs, how delightful," and walked into the cool November air. I walked past thousands of people running up 1st Avenue competing in the New York Marathon. I watched the athletes, I looked at the thousands cheering them on outside of bars, and eating what they wanted and drinking like it was New Year's. I was nibbling an apple and wondering what the hell have I gotten myself into? What would become of me? All this sacrifice to lose some weight?

The thoughts of an uneducated man.

Throughout these past 6 months of going 100% vegan, and following the dietary playbook of Dr. Joel Fuhrman's Eat to Live there has been a seismic shift in me. No, not in my weight, because even though I have lost about 60 lbs I now have a higher goal. My size? Nope, because even though I have gone down two full sizes in clothing it was not the seismic event I speak of. Surely, it must be your physical size? True, I have reduce the space I take up on this planet -- actually, on Nov. 1st I measured around my rotund belly and write the number on my wall next to the fridge, 51 1/2 inches. Today it is 43 1/2 and shrinking. All great things, but the real seismic shift took place in that space of 5 inches between your ears.

I will never look at what I put in my body the same way again. Food can be delicious! Food can be inspiring! Food can be mood altering! Food can be pleasure inducing! But, in the end it is just fuel for your body. The shift in my thinking is unbelievable - it is shocking to me because all along I thought to myself, "OK, I'll do the vegan thing, I'll lay off the hooch, I'll drop the pounds, and at the end of 6 months I'll be on that train looking lean and mean and living it up with Gleason and crew. But a funny thing happened on the way to the bar and buffet car, I realized the lunacy of gorging yourself to a unfulfilled life. Oh, there will be steak dinners, and Scotch-a-thons in my life to be sure. But, they will be so few and far between as to make them a rare treat, and not a habitual daily tradition.

In the end, I know how to eat healthfully now. And I don't view high-fat, great tasting foods as anything other than a potentially dangerous pleasure principal that most be strictly monitored.

Lastly, I have to admit that I am pretty proud of myself. It wasn't easy, but it was by no means miserable. But I did it. 6 months without chicken stir-fry, chicken wings, kung po chicken, General Tso's chicken, chicken parmesan, porterhouse steak, filet mignon, flank steak, Sushi: shrimp, tuna, salmon, yellow tail, eel, dragon rolls, volcano rolls, California rolls, or spicy scallop rolls, clam sauce on my linguini, hard boiled eggs, soft boiled eggs, scrambled eggs, or over easy eggs, shrimp fried rice, pork dumplings, crabmeat dumplings, wonton soup, egg drop soup, clam chowder, lobster, crab, clams, oysters, cheeseburger, bacon cheeseburger, slice of pizza, slice of pizza with pepperoni, slice with sausage, cheese, muenster cheese, gouda cheese, cheddar cheese, mozzarella cheese, Monterey Jack cheese, cottage cheese, blue cheese, milk, milk shake, bacon, bacon bits, or water chestnuts wrapped in bacon....Oh, and no beer, liquor, or wine.

But the results are irrefutable, and I am damn thrilled.

Yes it was my way

The Requisite (and Dreaded) Shirtless Before/After Pose

Yes, I am taking it off for all the world to see. Loyal readers will remember my early references to the infamous "scar-belly." Anyway, not much to say here other than repeat the immortal words of Dean Vernon Wormer, "Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life, son."


And then there was 1 Day Left

Just like it was pure coincidence that my trip to Ireland fell on the day I ended my 6 month vegan quest, honest! So is the coincidence that my post about my 7th Grade Science teacher is followed up with dinner with my 7th Grade Algebra teacher who was visiting NYC this weekend. What is not a coincidence is that I have become so much more introspective on my life since going on this vegan quest. I have thought often about where I began to make choices that were not my healthiest - I think about when my discipline was my strongest (and I was my healthiest) and that was while in military school, and when playing on a sports team. No secret here, when part of a group, a disciplined group like sports or the military I excelled. Left to my own devices I gorged on the sweet nectar of health-apathy, and gluttony.

Looking farther back I was relying on that structure (be it 7th Grade Science class, or as a member of a rugby club team) to keep me focused 100% on my veganism. Because even if I began to eat unhealthfully, such as too many fried falafel wraps, I was still regimented in my no animal products. So, not allowing myself to cheat I was quickly brought back to plant-product meals. Had I merely been a vegetarian, or semi-vegetarian then I would have found fish dishes that surely would have become progressively unhealthy like one day Alaskan salmon, the next fried fish and chips, or found a way to start sneaking cheese into everything. My veganism kept the guard rails up to prevent any gutter balls.

Because of the worlds largest, most dynamic, and most intrusive rolodex - Facebook, I connected with my favorite teacher, Ms. O'Hara. Visiting her daughter in NYC we made plans to meet up for a drink. We met after 25 years at Langan's in Times Square where true to form she was shy about ordering a glass of wine in front of me before I assured her that I was perfectly happy with my seltzer and wanted her to drink! Besides, with enough wine in her I might get the dirt on the other faculty at my Jr. High School, or "Middle School," as they call it nowadays. The only inside scoop I got was that Brother Hinger was the sweetest man she knew (Huh??), and that his hobby was wood carving and he made her some intricate wood Christmas ornaments. Who knew?

Well, the first thing I realized about Ms. O'Hara after 25 years is that I am now taller than her! That and she is so much closer in age to me now to make us virtually peers. Almost. I still panicked when discussing years and I tried to determine how many years between 1979 and 1983. I know, I know, but I froze up! I panicked! I choked! And then instead of excusing myself to go to the rest room, I asked permission. Other than that it was a fabulous evening of reminiscing. She still looks great, and is so very nice. Being a vegetarian since the age of 19 she was most interested in my vegan quest, and she also reads the blog regularly. Although she asked me to call her by her first name, and we could easily be great friends and contemporaries (and I hope we do), there was just something disrespectful in my mind about calling this young, cool, smart woman by her first name - I mean she taught me quadratic equations! But after our great evening I am sure to do so moving forward.

We then went to another great bar, O'Brien's, on 46th where I saw some great Irish friends who had not seen me since the quest and were filled with compliments and queries as to when I will be placing a pint of black gold in my hand again.

For dinner her daughter joined us at Red Bamboo. I had the collared greens wrapped in vegan smoked ham rolls with sweet chili dipping sauce. For dinner I had Dante's Cuisine: Black pepper soy beef, fresh mushroom gravy, asparagus, and yellow squash. I was all fantastic!

Being the Eve of my last day of the vegan quest I at first thought to continue my Spartan-like adherence to the Eat to Live playbook. But then I realized, you know, I am not a boxer or a jockey weighing in before a match or race. So, would my very healthy salad and legumes be a bit more nutrient-dense than my very healthy meal at Red Bamboo? Perhaps. But I became less concerned about today's date and more focused on the small immediate goal (getting to 225lbs), and the more important long term goal of living a healthy, enriching lifestyle. I know I came close to my goal of losing 75 lbs in 6 months, and it doesn't matter if I weigh in with a loss of 57.5 lbs, or 58 lbs, or 60 lbs today, because even though I finished strong, my goal of getting down to 225 lbs (as rock solid as it still is) is secondary. My real goal, and I was never sure if I truly believed this in the beginning, was to change my life.


And that I did.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Classroom I Chose -- The "HOW" of My Personal Vegan Journey

When entering Brother Hinger's classroom your spine stiffens, your smile drops from your face with the force of a dead bolt locking, and you walk, sit, read, and speak in the exact manner in which the stern Brother dictates. There is no getting lost in the shuffle here; there may be 30 other fellow 7th Graders, but Brother Hinger's presence was immense, and intense. Homework due? There was no handing it up to the front where your paper, or lack thereof could hide, rather Bro. Hinger walked to each desk for a quick inspection, and woe is you if your penmanship was sloppy, or if your work was not thoroughly complete. And if you didn't have it done at all? Hell, sheer fire and brimstone hell to pay. It was an odd day if someone was not reduced to sobbing tears by the Gestapo-like interrogations of Brother Hinger over where your homework was, or what was the difference between an electron and a neutron. You lived in total fear of him. As predictable as the Santa Ana winds racing over Los Angeles, every Autumn you'd hear the whisper, "I heard that two years ago Bro. Hinger threw some kid down the steps of the second story classroom!" "Yeah, I heard that too, the kid broke his arm!" A persistent rumor about him that went all the way back to the 1950's and which petrified every new class of 12 and 13 year olds over the decades. When my younger brother went through his class, the rumor was it was me. Although one day, late for his class, he stopped me at the top of the landing, and while my heels were precariously balanced on the top step, and his boney, Ichabod Crane finger was jamming in my chest like a jackhammer making way for the 2nd Avenue subway, the rumor of me being thrown down the steps was greatly exaggerated.

Brother Hinger taught 7th Grade Science at our local Catholic Jr. High School. Being a Marianist Brother he was always in a black suit and tie - sometimes smoking his large pipe which smelled of a funeral pyre. He cut a figure that was pure Dickensonian; looking more like a British Headmaster with his Brylecreem inspired slicked-back silver hair, wiry glasses, and pinched face, than he did a Southern Californian man of the cloth. And in his class you did everything with precision. The answer was not "15," the answer is "15 milliliters, Brother Hinger." There were no shortcuts, there was no bartering, no acting up, no fudging, no lying, no nothin'. You sat, you cowered, you did the work exactly as he said. He was the most hated man in 7th Grade, and by the time that class graduated from High School, as well as when commiserating 20 years afterwards, the feeling was unanimous: Brother Hinger was one of the best teachers we ever had because we learned so much.

I tell that story because 6 months ago I was faced with a choice. A simple one really. Lose weight, lower my cholesterol or not, and maybe die young of a heart attack. The vanity issue was a big part for me as well. After a decade of pointing to that college photo of me on the mantel in my apartment and saying, "I used to look like that," while in full courting press with one woman or another, it got old. Old, and pathetic. An obese and pickled 40 year old man living like a 20 year old with the song "Glory Days" on a permanent loop in his head.

So, how do I get healthy? How do I lose a significant amount of weight? What plan shall I chose? What will be my playbook? Which classroom will I choose?

Some kids learn more when their teacher has a beard and long hair, wears blue jeans, sits in his chair backwards, throws the text book in the waste bin, and asks the students to call him "Chuck." Others, like me, where self-discipline is more of a challenge -- be I a restless 12 year old, or a 40 year old needing to change my entire lifestyle -- I need more of a Brother Hinger classroom.

I knew it was not about just losing the pounds. I knew it was a complete life change in how I ate and drank. Now, Dr. Fuhrman's Eat to Live is a great guide. For the big weight loss, it's pretty strict at first, but slowly you reintroduce a limited amount of fish or chicken. And in the end , it would all be about smart eating, and moderation.

Moderation. "Hey, the cool teacher will give everyone an 'A' if you just show up and talk about how you feel about Calculus!" How does my mind work in hearing that? "I wonder if I show up once a month to the cool teacher's class I can skate by with a gentleman's 'C?'" So, if given the chance to eat in moderation where I could have a little bit of skinless chicken, and a little bit of salmon, and a tiny glass of wine in addition to my plant-based diet, I will take that little bit of chicken, and soon enough I will be saying, "Well, these 47 chicken wings count as chicken!" And that 8 oz glass of wine turns into 8 oz's per digit on my hand...both of them. And on and on.

So, I knew moderation was not a friend of mine back on November 1, 2009. I knew that following the instructions of the cool teacher, no matter how sound and nutrient dense, was going to lead me to being imprecise, and fudging on the diet. A small Alaskan salmon filet without butter is good? Well, a giant basket of double-fried fish & chips is good too, right?

I was too old and set in my ways to flip the moderation switch. I needed a semester of precision. I needed a semester of all or nothing. I needed to go 6 months without any animal products at all. I needed to go 6 months without drinking alcohol. I needed a semester of strict guidelines. I needed to go 100% vegan.

And I am so glad I did. It was the only way for me to become friends with moderation. I had to be "all in." I had to go 100% vegan and take the guess work out. I knew without equivocation what was off the menu, and never to be touched. It was only in this environment that I could follow the Eat to Live plan.

Son of a gun, it worked! I have lost 57.5 lbs as of today, and dropped my bad cholesterol 120 points! I look much better, feel terrific, and now I am so focused on this new lifestyle change that the thought of going back to the old ways of eating are simply an anathema to me.

There are many different ways to live a healthy lifestyle, and change your diet to lose weight. But, I am thankful that I know enough to know what works best for me. Some people like it when Chuck says, "The correct answer is what you want it to be," but I needed my knuckles rapped and the answer to be unambiguous. Out of the success of these past 6 months I am now friends with moderation, and I don't need to take a Bro. Hinger approach for my next endeavor, and I can have a great chicken meal that will not lead to chicken parmesan with extra cheese, and I can have a cocktail without it turning into an all nighter.

On November 1, 2009 I walked into Brother Hinger's class. And though it was not a semester of loving everything I ate and drank, and though I was at times unhappy, it was a semester in which I learned more about nutrition than I ever thought I would. It was a semester I learned more about myself than I ever thought I would. And it was a semester about success because it was a semester about precision. So, no, the answer was not, "No meat, fish, dairy, but once in a while a little butter." NO! The answer was emphatically, "No meat, no fish, no dairy, no exceptions!"

And I did it! I did without ever cheating, without ever making concessions for myself, and the results, because of my nutrient-dense eating, are startling!

Breakfast Highlight

Thanks to reader Terrin for the great suggestion!

For the past few days I have added peanut butter to my oatmeal for increased protein for breakfast. Brilliant move, and it is delicious!

T Minus Two Days

There are two days left in my current vegan quest, and I am not really looking at this as the end of some challenge, rather the beginning of a new lifestyle. I am hovering around the 244b mark, 19 lbs off my goal, but still 58 lbs lighter than I was on Nov. 1st. I have lots to say about this quest, but I will save it for the next couple of days. After my dinner of vegetable soup and a terrific salad of mixed lettuce, chickpeas, broccoli, snow peas, avocado, kidney beans, black beans, tomatoes, walnuts and sunflower seeds - no dressing - I went down to PJ Clarke's to visit friends. Remembering a photo from last Fall I decided to take another photo for a before/after comparison.


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Doctor's Visit

Worked out Monday night, and my legs are quite sore today. Today, Tues., I visited Dr. Fuhrman for the last time during this vegan quest. Here is a photo of Dr. Fuhrman and myself and I am trying out my new European cut fitted shirt...perhaps I should still stick with the full cut for now. But a quick reminder below of how I looked last year.

According to his scale I have lost 55 lbs (I think it is a couple pounds more). But the real news, the great news, is the health of my body. Looking at blood work results going back to over a year ago when I had a check-up before a knee operation, there is amazing progress!

Below are charts for cholesterol and liver enzymes.

1.) TOTAL CHOLESTEROL

Less than 200: Desirable

200–239: Borderline-High Risk

240: High Risk

2.) LDL or “Bad Cholesterol”

Less than 100: Optimal

100 to 129: Near Optimal/ Above Optimal

130 to 159: Borderline High

160 to 189: High

190 and above: Very High

3.) LIVER ENZYMES

AST (SGOT) Between 10-40 is Optimal

ALT (SGPT) Between 10-42 is Optimal

January 7, 2009

Total Cholesterol: 268 (dangerously high)

LDL Cholesterol: 197 (dangerously high)

AST: 93 (more than twice the optimal high)

ALT: 94 (Larry Hagman pre-transplant levels)

October 30, 2009

Total Cholesterol: 300 (baseball batting average? Good. cholesterol level? Deadly)

LDL Cholesterol: 227 (walking heart attack. Says Dr. Fuhrman, “we got you just in time”)

AST: 36 (inexplicably normal)

ALT: 73 (still almost twice the amount it should be)

December 7, 2009 (five weeks into my veganism, and being booze free)

Total Cholesterol: 208 (down 92 points, and just a whisker borderline high)

LDL Cholesterol: 150 (border line high, but major potential blockage removed)

AST: 25 (safely optimal)

ALT: 30 (the liver is amazing at healing itself when given the chance)

April 14, 2010

Total Cholesterol: 170 (living healthy in the perfect zone! 130 points down in less than six months – and without ANY drugs!)

LDL Cholesterol: 105 (like new pipes installed in the heart pump!)

AST: 15 (a liver so clean, Bogey would kick me out of Rick’s Cafe)

ALT: 16 (the best advertisement for being a teetotaler!)

Needless to say, the Doctor was thrilled with the results, and I am ecstatic! I have just elongated my natural life, God willing, by years, if not decades!

My blood pressure went from Hypertension last year to a terrifically healthy 95/65, and my resting heart rate was checked twice by Dr. Fuhrman who said “Wow,” it was an “exceptionally low, athlete-level low,” 39 beats per minute.

My weight goal of 225 lbs by April 30th is a bit out of my grasp (but will be conquered soon), however, my overall health from changing my lifestyle has undergone a revolutionary change for the better.

I’m smiling broadly.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Sunday Dinner

 I now know what my mother always meant by "slaving in the kitchen." I spent hours in my tiny kitchen cum foyer alone while I let my pals entertain themselves.

I often try out new recipes for the first time when cooking dinner for guests – I like to live on the extreme.


Four good buddies of mine came over for my Sunday dinner: The Budding Entrepreneur, the Expert Trainer, the Restaurateur, and the Fast Food Athlete. I had a girlfriend of mine film the whole thing, Irish Annie.

I had this terrific veggie lasagna recipe that I started preparing about :30 minutes before my guest were to arrive. Rookie mistake, but I had two things going for me – I was not trying to impress anyone so a late dinner would not be detrimental, and there was plenty of booze.

When I cook I get very intense, and when working in a miniscule kitchen I am forced to have all 9 things going at once, so my friends sat and drank and played to the camera, and I just cut and chopped and cooked.

Appetizers were crackers with VBites cheese – all were very surprised it was vegan. The interest ranged from “different, but not bad,” to “this is good.” I also made my guacamole which got rave reviews. When someone said that they were getting full I let them know it was OK as I nervously eyed the clock and realized I would be serving dinner 2 ½ hours after I asked them to come by.

Then the shots of moonshine whisky came out, so all were felling good and carrying on as I juggled the construction of the vegetarian lasagna.

Irish Annie interviewed my friends with questions about my endeavor and if I had “changed” as a person (none thought I did as a person, but agreed I bettered myself in spades). Between the good natured ribbing, they all had moments of profundity which I was flattered to hear, such as “As he got smaller, he became a bigger man.”

Besides this group of guys who can make each other laugh hysterically, the entertainment was my iPod. Now, having your personal music selections on your iPod for all to hear is risky business, and Murphy’s Law being what it is, even though I have a great and eclectic compilation of songs, the iPod started to taunt me. As my friends got drunker and became restless with the time it was taking to serve them, my iPod on shuffle decided to make every third song either Alanis Morrissette or Jewel which greatly enhanced the verbal assaults.

Dinner is served!

I must say the lasagna with its kaleidoscope of vegetables, and sweet potatoes looked terrific, and it smelled “amazing.”

The only thing that bothered me was that there was no binding agent so the lasagna squares fell apart a bit. But, I thought it tasted quite good. The Lass loved it, and the boys thought it was good enough. Although they all preferred “regular” lasagna, every plate was cleaned – not sure if it was the booze or the taste, but either way, my guest were fed and they were happy. By the end of the night all had dipped their forks repeatedly into the casserole dish (especially the half-asleep restauranteur) and it was virtually gone.

The most interesting part of the evening was our 2 hour serious discussion about health, nutrition, veganism, etc. All five of us guys played college sports, and I was the only one who let himself go over the years. We all agreed on the basic tenants of what is healthy, and the sad state of the average American’s diet, but since Irish Annie grew up on a farm in Galway, and the Fast Food Athlete, although taut, ate at McDonald’s frequently there was a spirited defense of animal products.

Dessert was awesome -- cookies and cakes from the vegan bakery BabyCakes and that was the biggest surprise for everyone that this was vegan food.

It was a great night all around, and though I learned my lesson about making proper time for prep work, I think I have established a bit of a tradition and will have my friends over for more vegan and vegetarian meals long after my vegan quest ends…in three days!

I Know, I Know!

A day after my big dinner and with 4 days left in the vegan quest I go dark?


Sorry, I have been busy all day today and this evening so I have been unable to blog, and now it’s after Midnight, so you will have to wait some more unfortunately.

But, some quick highlights:

* Saturday I went to the golf driving range at 8:30 AM with a buddy and hit 200 golf balls. Then I walked home with my much too heavy bag for about 2 miles. I actually felt it quick significantly -- torso was sore, as well as my legs.

* Sunday I cooked very good lasagna, and my guests thought it tasted good. I realized that I need to factor in "prep time" before I throw a dinner party that requires a meal to cook for an hour; however, I have more to say on my dinner party in my next blog.

* Monday I got my latest blood work results that I will be sharing with Dr. Fuhrman tomorrow. I will wait until I blog about my final visit with the good doctor to share the results. Needless to say I am ecstatic with the results.

Be patient!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Writing Pause

I have not had time to write much this weekend. Currently, I am preparing a vegan lasagna for my meat-eating mates. 4 friends of mine are coming over my apartment tonight to taste my cooking, not just any cooking, but vegan cooking!

The main course is LASAGNA. Now, I have never, ever even attempted making lasagna in my life, much less a vegan one! I found the recipie in the great book The Engine 2 Diet: http://engine2diet.com/

I am modifying it to include some of the VBites "meat" crumbles and "cheese."

Will be filming the evening, so will let you all know how it goes!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Entering My Final Week

Friday I started lunch with a big fruit plate, and a bowl of oatmeal. I wanted a big breakfast because I was eating lunch with a friend and client and was unsure of the choices I had at this restaurant I've never been to. I assumed I would be relegated to a small salad so I loaded up at breakfast.


Took the train with my bosses up to Rye, NY where we met our clients at the Rye Grill. A big, popular place next to the train station and minutes from the corporate headquarters of MasterCard and Pepsi.

The first thing on the menu to jump out at me on this gorgeous Friday afternoon was the clam chowder. Part of my discipline is attributed to eating the same things, and going to the same restaurants so I am not tempted by food I used to love, like clam chowder! However, I asked the waiter about the 4 layer dip. Now, anytime you hear "4 layers" anything it has to be bad for you, but the description sounded intriguing. This dip was guacamole, black beans, corn, and tomato. I made doubly sure – no sour cream, no cheese, just those four ingredients. When I queried the waiter he asked if I had allergies, “No. I’m vegan.” Saying that in public does not sting as it used to for me, and there is nary a hint of embarrassment. The only thing not perfectly healthy was the tortilla chips, but I only had a few, and ate the rest of the dip with my fork. It was quite good, but the guacamole was rather bland.

My entrĂ©e was the salad which was fine, but it had balsamic vinaigrette and the lettuce was swimming in it. I forgot to order without dressing or dressing on the side. It is amazing; I used to always want my salad smothered in dressing, now it is virtually inedible. I also ordered the grilled asparagus which was very good – it actually tasted like it was grilled on a BBQ grill in someone’s backyard.

Thankfully, my usual discussion about the who, what, when, and why of my vegan quest was kept to a minimum.

16 years ago while contemplating where to take my date for dinner on my shoestring budget, my boss said, “You’ve got to take her to the Soup Man.” “Huh, the who?” I had just moved to New York City and was just learning about the hidden treasures of this great metropolis – stuff not found in tour books, nor known by anyone except for those in the know; secrets given to me by real New Yorkers. So, back in 1994 while working for Fox’s FX Network, and living in a small studio in Hell’s Kitchen I was informed that the greatest, cheapest meal I will find is just a few blocks away on 55th off of 8th Ave. It’s closed during the summer; there is always a huge line down the block during lunch. It was supposedly the best soup I’ll ever have, a tiny place where you order on the sidewalk, but, and, this is important I was told, you must order your soup, step to your left and have your money ready. Failure to do so and the chef will kick you out of line. Well, the soup was fantastic, but I made the mistake of asking the Soup Man to recommend one of two soups I whittled my decision down to out of about 8-10 on the chalk board. “All good! Order!” Sound familiar? Needless to say that when I saw the Seinfeld episode of the “Soup Nazi” a year or so later I was shocked that Hollywood had found this little New York secret of mine. Mine and probably 50,000 others. Well, now the Soup Man is world famous and has Soup Man outlets all over the city.
Last night I had some vegetable soup at the Soup Man on my block which consists of six metal vats of soup inside a Ranch 1 Chicken sandwich shop, so not only is the ambience gone, there is no Soup Man, just a women in a yellow Ranch Chicken shirt from Guatemala, who had no idea who the real Soup Man was. So, the new outlets all over the city have no character, no uniqueness, and though the vegetable soup was good, it was not that fantastic soup I remember back in ’94...then again, that vegetable soup could be the exact same recipe, but good memories tend to get great over time.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Week and a Day Left


Last night for dinner I just had some brocoli, string beans, and carrots, all raw, dipped in humus, and a smoothie. I was still tired from the gym and fell asleep immediately.

My daily diet is boring and predictable, and I blame convenience - salad bar at work, and Haru across the street. I am writing a blog called my vegan quest, and what little I write about food is the same thing over and over. What has helped me stay true to veganism, and nutrient dense eating for these last 6 months is that I truly viewed this as a quest, a crusade, a challenge to be met. And just like football, or baseball, or rugby practice which took up most of my childhood through college years, I just did it whether I wanted to or not. When I spent my freshman year of college at a military university I was forced to eat the same thing for breakfast almost every day - cold pancakes. I guess it is a mind set I settle into. There has been scores of times when the last thing I wanted to do was to pull on my uniform and go practice - either I was too sore, or too tired, or just wanted to hang out with some other friends sucking down a 7-11 slurpee by the pool in the middle of August -- but I did it 'cause I had to. Not because I have some great discipline, not even close, rather, it was a commitment to my team, and letting them down is much worse than letting yourself down. That is why I was so vocal about this quest - my family, friends, acquaintances, and even complete strangers would be rooting for me, and I would feel like a jackass if I let anyone down.

Honestly, I have probably thought about, and had memory flashes of my experiences playing football and my days at military school more in these past 6 months than in the past 20 years. It is the mindset that kept me going in those endeavors when I was at my most physically fit that I called upon, in the recesses of my mind, to move forward through this vegan quest.

I was thinking about practice today when I went to the gym for the fourth day a row. The last time I did that I was in High School during football hell week. And I felt the same too! My body was constantly achy and sore - not painful at all, just achy because my muscles are not used to so much disruption.

After work I walked across the street to meet friends at ESPN Zone to watch some of the NFL Draft. The young men drafted to play pro football who were defensive or offensive linemen were all about the same size as I was when I started this quest, 6'4," 305 lbs. However, those guys were built of muscle, and I was constructed of blubber...but more to muscle now, and melting away the fat. I am seeing more definition in my upper body. But my mid-section, my stomach, is still a spare tire.

For dinner I dove into some edamame, no salt, and salad, and spinach. The problem with the spinach was that it has ginger sauce on it, tastes good, but probably not the most nutrient dense.

8 Days Left! Sprinting, but feel I can sacrifice even more! Although following Dr. Fuhrman's plan is not a sacrifice, nor cutting out animal products, but what I mean is that I can push myself even more during that hour in the gym, and eat even more precisiously the diet plan of Eat to Live. I am eating incredibly healthy, but a little bit of ginger dressing here, and a cup of miso there, and a little extra humus, all can be pulled back for this final week.  For 6 months I ate well, I ate a nutrient dense diet void of all animal products, and I was never hungry and never felt like I was suffering day in and out. I proved to myself that I can live a normal, healthy, and happy life through a diet that was nutrient dense, and 100% vegan.

However, I am ending this quest with a bang, and that means a little sacrifice, a little more pain, and little more sweat.

Finally, speaking of sweat. For whatever reason I still sweat profusesly even after I shower. It's not hot outside, it's not humid, but my body just perspires for 20 minutes after I leave the gym.

OK, not going to end the blog on sweat, so I will say good night.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

T Minus 9 1/2 Days

A quick mid-day update.


I woke up a few times last night extremely thirsty -- I think I have had too much salt in my diet recently (miso, edamame with salt on them), and I have not drank enough water in the last 24 hours even though water is what I basically only drink. I'll have a coffee a day, and some green tea, but that is it. I also woke up hungry, and I surmise that it comes from two days of intense working-out. I tried a soy yogurt for the first time - pretty good.

This morning at work I had a giant - 2 lbs - plate of melon, watermelon, pineapple, and strawberries. I was still hungry, so I ventured over to Green Symphony and got an oatmeal with walnuts and blueberries. I ate it there to watch the symphony of both theatre people and construction workers coming in and out - always entertaining.

At lunch time I went to the gym. I am not allowing myself to think about anything - the mind is very manipulative! The same section of your brain that will make you flee a charging rhino without thought can just as strongly convince you that arranging paper clips by order of silver patina brightness is a better use of your time than going to the gym.

For these last 10 days I am just ignoring all my urges - if I want to go to the gym tomorrow, I go today. If I want four dark (vegan) chocolate covered almonds as a snack, I suppress it, or have an apple or banana. If I feel like quitting the treadmill at 15 minutes, I go 30.

Feeling a little sore in the legs from my multiple cardio workout yesterday I grabbed my gym bag and walked to the door at lunch time. My brain was screaming for me to sit down and scroll through photos online of all the golf courses I will play in Ireland. I went to the gym.

I only had 40 minutes to work-out. Did abdominal work -- getting too used to it, I need to try different exercises. Then I rode the bike hard for 5 minutes, then the elliptical for 10, then the treadmill on a steep include (14) for another 10 minutes. Then I did bench presses.

25 minutes of cardio is not ideal, but I got to the gym for the third day in a row and sweated profusely. My thought is that even though I can't do a complete work-out because of time, I will still go to the gym and sweat as much as I can.

For lunch I went to Chopt and got the Vegetarian Powerhouse salad (lettuce, broccoli, chickpeas, edamame, craisins, sunflower seeds, carrots). I am drinking plenty of water - 3 liters thus far.  As I write this hours after the gym, and lunch I am pretty exhausted and sore in a good way. I'm also pretty hungry.  I'll go get a banana and apple now.

Finally, a quick hello to the All Blacks and Puma readers! I can see that some from New Zealand and from Argentina have recently begun reading the blog. Hello!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

T Minus 10 Days

171 days ago I started this challenge posed by Heather -- this vegan quest to change my life, and my diet, coupled with Dr. Fuhrman's lifestyle diet plan. My goal was to engage in a radical new change in the way I live to lose a significant amount of weight, and get healthier. Return to my athletic roots so to speak.


I viewed this challenge back in October by stating, "Simply put, if I was going to lose the weight, and keep it off I had to do something drastic. I had to push all my chips to the center of the poker table. I had to be 'all in.' My goal, besides healthier cholesterol, liver, blood pressure, etc., is to get back down to what I weighed my senior year in college. That means my goal is to lose 75 lbs."

Along this journey I have learned so much about myself, and about food and health. I can walk away now a much smarter and better person. But now is not over. I have 10 days left. There are 10 seconds left on the clock. There are 10 yards left for a touchdown. There are 10 feet left in this horse race. How will I finish up? How will I end?

The bigger story is what these past 6 months meant to me, and how the first few weeks off this diet will be like since this has all been a set-up for how I will live for the rest of my life.

But we are looking at the last 10 days of this quest, and I will be sprinting to the end. I will make my ultimate goal weight in the coming weeks, guaranteed, but how will I end up on April 30th? How strong will I finish?

After a typical day I hit the gym after work even though I was still sore from my work out the day before. I want to go to the gym everyday for the next 10. I rode the bike for 10 minutes at a higher level, then I jumped on an elliptical machine that allows full range of motion to simulate running through tires on the football field. I did that for high intensity for 10 minutes and then jumped on a treadmill walking briskly on a very steep incline for 20 minutes. It was a great 40 minute cardio workout and my shirt was drenched in sweat.

For dinner, I was not paying attention and walked a few blocks passed Chopt where I was going to get a large salad. Standing in front of my apartment, and knowing all I had left was some broccoli , I went across the street to PJ Clarke's to get one of their Third Ave. salads which are quite delicious - except for too much oil. I also ordered some steamed spinach. Chatted with a nice woman from Ireland who was happily waiting out her flight delay in one of the best bars in the greatest city in the world.

I made a smoothie back at home (sans greens...but I'm going to do it soon), with strawberries, banana, and flaxseed, and some soy milk.

Not hungry, feeling satiated, and tired from the gym.

I am attacking these last 10 days with a good wind at my back!

Lastly, welcome to new readers from Malaysia and South Africa!

Monday, April 19, 2010

So, My Previous Week's Results

I mentioned that I would take the prior week and devote myself to a very rigorous adherence to Eat to Live and see the results.

Well, my adherence was tepid at times because I would be tired,and rely on foods that I enjoy that are not fully nutrient dense such as vegetable sushi rolls with white rice, and falafel wraps which are fried. My workouts totaled 2 1/2 days, and as a result I lost but three pounds -- currently, I am down to 245 lbs, exactly 20 lbs to go to my goal...in 11 days! Well, it is not going to happen, but to date I have lost 57 3/4 lbs. And being that my original goal was to lose 60 lbs I will be happy with that, and I will indeed reach my total goal of 75 lbs (maybe more?) by the end of May, no problem!

Tonight I had raw broccoli, string beans, and a carrot dipping it in humus, and a tomato and herb mix from my Turkish restaurant. And I made a giant cheery and blueberry and banana smoothie.

So, in regards to what I will eat, and how I will live my life when this 6 month quest is up, all I can say is that my weekly diet from now on will be mostly plant based, hands down. I am very curious to see what my desires are on May 1, and when I try meat, how will it taste? It is all pretty exciting stuff because I know I am changing my life, and I am very curious to see what form that will take. Some have said that maybe I will continue my veganism, honestly, I don't know.

But, as a result I will be continuing this blog, especially since I am going on a golf vacation to Ireland arriving May 1st! I am sure I will have lots to talk about!

Thank You for Reading!

This morning I had a smaller cup of oatmeal with raisins, and a banana. Went to the gym for a good work out. My abdominal work has greatly improved! For example, when I started I would take a 12 lb medicine ball, and while balancing on my tailbone with my feet off the ground rotate my torso touching the ball on the mat to my left, and then my right. I would do one rotation - touching the ball down on my left and on my right - 10 times. The I would do 20 crunches holding the ball in the air. I would then do three sets of that. It was quite a work-out on my abs. However, now, I use a 20 lb medicine ball and performing the same exercise do 50 full rotations, and 30 crunches for two reps. I am far from six pack abs, not even a one pack, my stomach circumference is still a spare tire, albeit 9 inches smaller than when I started! -- but my core is alot stronger and now my ribs are visible which I have not seen in years!

Well, it took me 5 1/2 months, but I figured out Google Analytics and how I can see the type of people visiting and reading my blog.

In the U.S. people from 30 different States are regular readers, and people in 15 countries read MyVeganQuest! In order of the most number of unique visitors:

U.S.
U.K.
Canada
Australia
Denmark
France
Brazil
Spain
Ireland
Switzerland
Singapore
Japan
Bulgaria
Estonia
India

Thank you for reading!! Needless to say I was shocked, and very humbled at the reach of this crazy blog. It is not enormous numbers, but there is great diversity of where our little community of readers come from!

Greentopia

For you staunch environmentalists you will like the email my company sent out this morning. I consider myself more of a Theodore Roosevelt conservationist, and believe in the responsible, common sense stewardship of the land. Sadly the tactics of today's most extreme environmentalists really put me off. But, when it comes to reusable coffee mugs, even though the coffee cup serves the same purpose, I say sure, go for it, go green....



HAVE YOU USED YOUR GIFT FROM YOUR 3XSQ GREEN TEAM & COPCO YET?


Why waste when you can save? At no cost to the company, the Eco-First Copco To Go Mug is a 16 oz. thermal travel mug that works as an instant reminder to be kinder to the earth. Taking after the classic to go coffee cup, your new mug is sure to attract double-takes. Its non-slip grip mimics a traditional insulation sleeve. Plus, it is microwave & dishwasher safe, features a double-wall plastic construction for enhanced insulation, and is BPA free. This reusable mug, like the stainless steel canteen you may have received in past Green Week, is your greenest option at the office. We hope you’ll love it and what you’re doing for the planet with it.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Contemplative Sunday

For breakfast I made my big bowl of boiled oats, and raisins, and flaxseeds. At first the taste of flaxseeds on my oatmeal tasted weird, but I actually grew accustomed to it, and like the unique flavor mixed with the raisins.

Still endeavored to change more of my life – and in this case, my hoarding of clothes which greatly clutters my already small apartment – I started pitching away clothes I have not worn in years.

Why do I save so much? Well, I remember visiting Grandparents, and Great Aunts and Uncles and loving going through their stuff in the attic. For some bizarre reason, I feel that clothes from my past are something to hold onto – especially T-shirts and sweatshirts with logos from college, and sporting teams. Well, I still saved those. But I started purging my closet and chests, and under my bed of tons of clothes, some more than 12 years old.

I just want a cleaner start for this new endeavor. As my vegan quest comes to a close I am thinking more of how I will live my new life and not even thinking about doing cartwheels because I can eat a porterhouse steak again.

It is cathartic to eliminate the things that add to clutter in your life, and yes, clean closets and drawers, and not having piles of clothes on top of already bulging bureaus scraping your ceiling adds a sense of freedom.

Three giant bags going to charity later, I am quite satisfied with this weekend of purging! Because I am going to have to take my suit jackets in I decided to pitch some sport jackets – even ones that I have worn just this week. It is sad in a way, those sport jackets which were torn around the inside chest pocket, lining frayed, and holes in the side pockets where I hid cigars from a disapproving girlfriend years ago, well, they served me well, and it was a bit sad to say goodbye. I guess I will have to rely only on memories, and when I bounce my Grandchild on my knee and tell him stories about my sport jacket, there will be no attic to dig it up for show and tell.

It was an introspective weekend for me, and I watched two biographical documentaries about two men who could not be farther apart, but share a common problem – they never knew moderation. Sounded familiar to me, so I watched, and nodded my head. The first was about the great tenor, Opera sensation, and movie star of the 40’s and 50’s Mario Lanza who, according to an old pal, had a “voracious appetite for food, women, and wine.” He died at 38 years old of heart failure. I can go on for pages about having the aria Vesti la giubba run through my head at different times in my life.

The other bio, and on the opposite end of the spectrum, was Joe Strummer lead singer of the classic punk band, The Clash. He also had a voracious appetite for women, and wine, and 100 other things. He died of heart failure at 50.

Both were geniuses in the respective field of music, though I would be hard pressed to convince my parents (big Lanza fans) that The Clash constituted “music.”

But what struck me about these two men was that they both filled self-perceived tortured gaps in their lives, at the height of worldwide fame and fortune, with drinking, or eating, or drugs. I found both lives fascinating.

For lunch today I put a couple of whole wheat tortillas in the oven, and then covered them with left over humus and black beans. For a simple meal, it was very good.

12 Days Left!!

Saturday Purge, and Trouble with a Former Penal Colony

Saturday, still thinking about the last 24 years of my life, and this new change, I decide to make some alterations to my life beyond diet.

Although it sounds simple, it was enormous undertaking – I began to purge my clothes. Partly for the new size I wear, but mostly because I have too many clothes that I have not worn in years and years whether they fit or not.

After a giant bowl of oatmeal, raisins, and flaxseeds (by the way, I have not noticed feelings of sluggishness since increasing my seeds intake), I got to work on my shirt rack.

I filled a garbage bag of shirts alone that I will take to the Archdiocese to drop off. I still have 43 dress shirts. For those in the UK, dress shirts mean shirts you would wear with a tie, or to work. I made the mistake of saying dress shirts around some Londoners who teased me since, I suppose, “dress shirts” in England are like tuxedo shirts – fancy dress. Whatever you want to call them, I’ve got 43 of them – is that an absurd number of shirts for a man?

Saturday night I met a great friend down at the chic lounge at the recently opened SOHO Trump Hotel. I joined her, another former co-worker, and a few others. They had a significant head-start on me and were many bottles of wine deep in the evening. Being that I am not running this race, I settled in for some seltzer and joined the conversation. My friend sent me a text warning me that the group was pretty sauced, but as I have stated many times before, I can hang out easily with people who are drinking, or even eating steak. In fact it is almost insulting that I could not handle temptation right under my nose – it’s been 5 ½ months of swatting away temptation like King Kong downing bi-planes from the Empire State Building.

The women at the table, and one guy who just flew in from Australia that day, immediately started in on me. Basically, they were so sure of themselves, and their energy force of fun that I would quickly succumb and join them in drinking. “Oh, please, c’mon on, order a drink,” was quickly replaced with “We don’t trust people who don’t drink!” Now these were all mature, successful people, and a teetotaler was not welcome at first. Soon enough my gregariousness watered down their insistence that I drink with them. However, the Aussie was looking at me with that drunken, sleep-deprived cock-eyed look that said simply, “I don’t like you.” His mumbled insults about me not drinking were grating my nerves. Not only was my manhood challenged by a foreigner on my own turf, it was done over an activity, drinking, that I used to excel at. In fact, I am quite certain that in my prime I could out drink the entire front row of the starting Australian rugby team (Sorry, Mom, but my country needs me). But what was most annoying was that I am not some dilettante invading this table and turning my nose up to these people marching through bottles of Chardonnay. I explained myself more than once that I would love to join them but I am a mere 2 weeks from completing a six month quest. It didn’t stop. I was in the mood for something hot, so I asked the waitress to bring me some hot tea in a glass. I purposefully did not order a tea cup and all the accoutrements. I just wanted some hot tea in a water glass. When it came out the mumbling Aussie exclaimed, “Who the hell drinks tea at this hour?” Well, I snapped. I apologized for not drinking my tea at the appointed time of 4 PM, but last I checked the last time a foreigner questioned us on how we consume tea it ended up at the bottom of Boston Harbor! So I said, “Look, in three weeks time when I return from Ireland, Mr. Aussie, I challenge you to a drink up! You and me will have a drinking contest, and I will even let you bring a buddy, and I will take both of you on, and we'll see who is left standing!”

It was explained to me for the 800th time that he is Australian, like they cornered the market on drinking prowess. Well, this is New York, pal, where drinking is an art form, and I have spent the better part of 10 years mastering this hobby, and, coincidently, often with good pals from Down Under -- friends of mine from Sydney who are well aware that I am no shrinking violet and respect this new lifestyle of mine.

Now, I know this seems shockingly infantile on my part, but damn it, I hate when people cannot understand the endeavor I have chosen and are unable to just respect what I am doing, and shut your mouth. No matter how cool you think you are, no matter how much fun your group is, I am not going to deviate from this self-appointed challenge no matter how often you goad me. Deal with it! I am not an energy-suck, I am not bringing the table down, and I am not being judgmental about how other people live their lives. If anything I am envious of your rotating bottle service. My gregariousness added to the group, not subtracted from it, so if they can't stand the fact that I not hoisting my sail to achieve my three sheets to the wind, tough.

I have been taking lots of good natured ribbing since November 1, I expected it, hell, I wanted it! This lifestyle change for me, going 100% vegan for 6 months, and adding no drinking to boot, was bound to disrupt the universe in which I live, and I expected it. I enjoy the jokes, and good natured insults, but when it turns to contempt, and from a stranger no less, well, I get a little pissed off.

Other than that it was a fun Saturday night.