Join me on my journey as I train to complete my first full marathon ... in under four hours. I'll share my experiences as it relates to training, as well as my lessons learned about whole-food, plant-based nutrition, health and wellness. It's going to be a great run!
It’s August 2010. I’ve
given up land animals and have reduced my dairy intake, but I’m still consuming
fish (once/twice per week) and eggs.
I’ve been turned on to
the book Skinny
Bitch in the unlikeliest of places … a local Starbucks. It
is there that I meet “the vegan,” a woman who I recognize from my gym but do not know personally. She and I exchange numbers and meet up at
Starbucks one evening not more than a week later.
I am immediately floored
that she chooses soy milk in place of cow’s milk. This woman is outrageously radical (if not a little nutty) is what I’m thinking. At this point I can’t
imagine a life without a 16-ounce, one shot, iced skim milk latte.
We start chatting about
everything from working out at the YMCA and running (which I don’t do at this
point, though she does) to kids and religion. (She’s a Christian, which
interests me even though I’m agnostic. I love taboo subjects like sex, politics
and religion; and when you can find the right person who has steadfast beliefs
but is also open-minded, that’s the jackpot. She was both those things.)
Eventually the subject
moves to veganism and she is all too eager to give me all the ins and outs,
including her story about what prompted her to become a veg-head. She suggests
I continue my research to see if it’s right for me. She wasn’t preachy at all,
just very forthcoming with information. I don’t think she had a vested interest in whether or not I followed her lead. Why would she? It seemed like she just
wanted to get to know me as I wanted to get to know her.
So I have Skinny Bitch in hand and “the vegan” on
my brain. My family and I leave for vacation. I read thru the book in a day.
It’s a very easy read. It’s also mildly amusing, with more than a fair share of
curse words thrown in for effect. If you’re easily offended, don’t buy this
book. It could have been written by Sergeant
Foley on speed (ala An Officer and a
I’m more convinced than
ever that a whole-food, plant-based diet is essential to a healthy life. In
fact, I suggest to Matt that he read Skinny
Bastard (which he does). I’m still struggling, though, with the possibility of never having a slice of cheese pizza or a skim milk latte again. In my mind, I am
totally cool with reducing dairy but eliminating it seems so drastic. And what
would I eat when we go out for breakfast if I gave up eggs?
I give it a shot on
vacation and fail day one, breaking down at the first Starbucks sighting. I
decide to minimize dairy and eggs. Pollan likes moderation. He’s OK with dairy.
Flexitarian feels right. I guess I won’t be a Skinny Bitch after all.
It's early fall. I’m
waiting in line at Wegmans. I see Soap
Opera Digest staring at me so I pick it up and begin skimming through it to
see what I may have missed in Port Charles. I come across an interview with a
General Hospital actress who talks about having been able to reverse her carcinoidcancer through a vegan diet, defying doctors’ predictions
that she would be dead in 2-5 years. She accredits T. Colin Campbell’s The China Study with giving her the knowledge and
the resources to do it. “The China Study?
Where have I heard that,” is what I’m thinking. Then it hits me -- it was
referenced in Skinny Bitch.
I buy the book. Let
me tell you it’s intimidating. Flipping through the pages made me feel like I
needed a PhD to understand it. Fortunately, it wasn’t as bad as I thought (though
his work is now condensed in a 90-minute film called Forks
which I recommend over the book. See
the trailer below.)
In the simplest
terms, drawing on the findings of decades of research in rural China, Campbell
details the connection between nutrition and heart disease, diabetes and
The New York Timeshas recognized the study as
the “Grand Prix of epidemiology” and the “most comprehensive large study ever
undertaken of the relationship between diet and the risk of developing disease.”
At this point, I
know where I’m going to end up. I just haven’t determined when my move is
taking place. Matt’s read Skinny Bastard, watched
Food Inc. and has listened to me go on and
on about The China Study. He
buys into the research but thinks transitioning to a vegan diet is extreme, so
not a lot of support at home.
on New Year’s Day ... Jan. 1, 2011.
Matt and I wake
up and for several reasons realize that our marriage isn’t working. We’re
disconnected from one another and unhappy together. We have two choices before
us -- do things differently or continue living
Fortunately, we choose the former. But our journey to fixing what ails us isn’t going to be
about merely surviving. We have to end up thriving as a couple, something I
don’t think we ever did in the past. We start aggressive counseling and
establish an immediate connection and closeness. If it’s a sign of what’s to
come, we’re in for a lifetime of awesomeness!
I start running early
in the New Year. It helps me as we work to rebuild our marriage. Shortly
thereafter, a gal pal asks if I would consider running a half marathon. I
decide in the moment that this would be a good thing for me. I share my plan
with Matt who encourages me to do it and volunteers to train with me (unlike
me, Matt has always been an on and off runner). This is great for two reasons: 1) It ramps
up our one-on-one time in a very healthy way, and 2) It gets me ready for my first half. With the
exception of when I ran to my car following a screening of the movie Scream, which I saw by myself, I had
never really run prior to that time so I needed all the support I could get.
He also says he’s
been thinking more and more about our health and suggests we transition to a vegan
lifestyle. I’m shocked, but ready and very eager. For me, it’s giving up what
little dairy and eggs I’m consuming and fish once/twice a week. For him, he needs
to go Full Monty. He’s game, if we can still eat sushi once a week (something
we enjoy doing together). I agree.
And that’s how it
We give up fish
altogether in June 2011. In terms of meat/fish, we’ve never looked back -- not
once. I don’t cook with dairy or eggs, nor do we order either off a menu.
I describe us as
being “almost vegan,” because we don’t quiz the wait staff at restaurants for the list of ingredients in breads or pastas, for example. If an item is prepared in
butter or cream, we ask to have it removed. If it can’t be modified, we
choose something else. And in the spirit of total transparency, every once in a
while we may grab a non-vegan cookie or slice of birthday cake at a party.
We live an
amazingly satisfying vegan life together, thanks to the pioneers who have come
before us, giving us delicious recipes that would rival any meat- and dairy-based
dish, dairy-free products that we can buy easily in most supermarkets, etc.
vegetarian options are also popping up on menus across the country. It’s an
easy lifestyle to adopt and enjoy and it’s becoming more and more mainstream.
Dare I write it’s actually a better lifestyle than the one we left behind (it
we’re happier eating like we love ourselves. It’s not only fantastic for us
physically, but also mentally and emotionally. Our only regret is not doing
this sooner. But you can’t change yesterday. For us, it’s all about today and
When people imply (rather, state outright) that living vegan is too difficult, I suggest they pick up Pollan’s In Defense of Food. His message “Eat food. Not too much.
Mostly plants.” will
help you achieve optimum health. The typical Western diet will not. And
as I shared in yesterday’s
and vegetarians don’t possess any greater health benefits than true
For us, we preferred the vegan way of life. Our taste buds reawakened (it's true). We didn’t miss meat or dairy. Our food
was more creative and tasted better. We began cooking with foods, spices and
herbs that had largely been absent in our former diet. It was a natural progression
for us to just say, “We don’t want to eat these foods anymore.”
When we first
became vegan we wanted to convert friends and family. In a sense it was like a
Born-Again Christian finding God. We felt like we had the very simple answer to many of the
health and dietary issues plaguing those we loved. While we had good intentions, looking back we were also incredibly annoying. Today we try to be more like my friend “the
vegan” (though when you see people you love struggling, it can be ridiculously challenging to look away). If you want to know about veganism or how we eat or what challenges we
face, we’ll answer all your questions. But we’re not actively looking to change
anyone. Your diet is your diet -- for better or worse. That's our mantra at least for 2013 and we're going to try to live it.
And about that
sushi -- we still enjoy date nights at Sogo and other Japanese restaurants. We
simply order vegetable rolls now. We also recently took a Vegan Sushi
The Natural Gourmet Institute in New York City to learn how to make rolls at
Our learning never ends, nor should yours. Keep an open mind.