My journey going 100% vegan for 6 months. November 1, 2009 - May 1, 2010 (And my new life now)
Friday, June 11, 2010
Saturday morning the male bonding trip took off for Pennsylvania. I would witness my first NASCAR race, and all the cultural entrapment's that go along with it.
With 6 guys in a SUV hooting and hollering as we drove through NYC, through NJ, and into PA, it was only a matter of time before a bottle White Lighting was broken out. After all, part of being a guy on a road trip is to replicate everything you did, said, and thought between the years of 16-20.
This might end up being a long weekend! But, I knew I had to be strong during this test! As coffee and bagels smothered with cream cheese were munched on, I made sure to enjoy my breakfast of two bananas.
Once we met with the RV and set down stakes at the Pocono 500 I looked at a battle field littered with cases upon cases of beer, every sort of bag of chips you can think of, every cookie imaginable from Oreos to Chips Ahoy, and plenty of hot dogs, hamburgers, marinated chicken, and a giant side of beef. This was going to be a real BBQ through and through in the heart of NASCAR country. Had I known the menu (and got up earlier), I would have picked up at least some fruits and vegetables!
As mentioned this was billed as a weekend of excess, and I happily agreed to come way back when I was on my vegan quest. Now, I was dreading the challenges.
The first thing I noticed was that like all stereotypes there is a kernel of truth to it. In the case of a NASCAR race, it was a corn field of truths. People are passionate about their car racing, and they certainly dress the part. However, the sheer number of obese people was pretty surprising, and sad. Outside of the mullet haircuts, trucker hats, and Confederate flags, there was the preponderance of fat people. One woman who worked at the track was so incredibly obese that she could barely move, and her 7 year old daughter was well on her way to becoming terribly fat. I was simultaneously repulsed (she was missing teeth, and was a real, filthy mess - clothes, etc), and felt sorry for this woman. I made it a point to say hello, and be friendly, but it shocked me how large this woman could have gotten - she was easily 500 lbs. And her poor daughter! A majority of the men I saw (if you take out all the military participating in the pre-race festivities) had significant beer bellies, or were obese.
But look what there is to eat - there were fast food joints on every corner, and no food substance at the race could be considered even remotely healthy. However sad, it must be said that people must learn to cook for themselves more, and the sheer act of doing so will greatly decrease the amount of high-fat, processed food they intake. Bad food is cheap and plentiful and obviously good tasting since an entire generation is now subsisting on it.
Now that I have appropriately criticized others, lets talk about myself. The good news is that I drank about half of what I did on Memorial Day Weekend and enjoyed many bottles of water between beers. Oh, I drank to excess at times, for sure, but what constitutes excess to me now is much less than what it used to be.
Eating wise, I fell victim to the easy snack - cookies and chips. Now, even when I was my heaviest I did not eat cookies (never) and chips (very rarely). But when you are sitting around watching cars go by you at 200 MPH (the sound is deafening...literally) you snack out of habit. You may not be hungry, but if your buddy dives into a bag of Doritos, well, that looks good to you too. Then I got sucked into the vanilla oreos -- it was a little like crack to me. Shameful!
So, snacking wise I was horrible. Horrible by my new standards (more strict), but still horrible.
Drinking wise I was far from ideal, and had way too many, but it was half of what I had a couple of weekends ago, and 1/4 of what I used to drink in similar circumstances.
It was on this weekend trip that I also had steak for the first time. A giant slab of beef my buddy brought from his restaurant was grilled up.
Here is the deal. It was delicious. Sorry, but it was. But I had no knee-jerk reaction like I wanted this once a week, or even once a month!
My education on food is such that I am mature in my understanding of food. I can't say that my all vegetarian meal at 21 Club was any more or less delicious than this perfect steak, but I can tell you that my body wants to eat the vegetarian dish more often than the meat dish.
The weekend was lots of fun and we played poker until 2 AM to decide who got the best sleeping arrangements, second best, and so on. I was fourth out of seven so that meant I got to sleep in the RV and not outside in the tent.
I felt like garbage Sunday night as we limped back into the city, but, what can I say, it was expected.
The key for me is to keep such weekends extremely rare.
Finally, back to the steak. I know some people are disappointed and was hoping it would taste weird or awful, but it didn't. However, our grill master was just slicing off pieces for us to eat like Neanderthals, The steak done medium was very good, the steak done medium rare was not so much. That tasted a bit weird and chewy. But then I thought, I always ate my steak medium rare. Why? Tradition! Men eat steak medium rare, but I realized I don't really like it as much medium rare. And so another element of my lifestyle comes into play. Eating things because of tradition, or in the manner born. It really is ridiculous that I would eat something because I thought I "should." Anyway, the medium steak was very good, but I knew it would be a rare thing for me to eat indeed. Yes, I felt it sitting in my stomach afterwards - another reminder that a mostly plant-based diet keeps your whole body feeling better, lighter, regular and more natural.