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Thinking about trying a plant based diet

 
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harpospeaking



Joined: 13 Sep 2005
Posts: 194
Location: San Diego, CA

PostPosted: Sun Apr 08, 2012 10:13 am    Post subject: Thinking about trying a plant based diet Reply with quote

As I approach 40, I'm seriously thinking about changing my diet to one that is about 90% plant based. I've been struggling to lose weight for years (I have about 25 pounds to lose) and I've been dieting by tracking my food intake and it's really helped. I just finished watching the documentary "Forks Over Knives" and I'm thinking about making further changes by dramatically cutting down on refined flour and animal products for health reasons.

I hate being one of those people who can't eat this or that at parties unless I'm allergic to something so I'll always steer off the plant based diet about 10% of the time. I'm not one for hard and fast rules when it comes to food anyway.

Has anyone made drastic changes in their eating habits before? Was it really difficult? Did you end up going back to your old diet?

My own story: I actually tried a strict macrobiotic diet in my mid 20s and it didn't do too well with me. The recipes were way too bland and I found myself thinking about how to prepare this food all the time. It was the diet that took over my life so I gave it up. It also made me feel really weak all the time.
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dory



Joined: 11 Nov 2007
Posts: 236
Location: Madison, WI

PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2012 10:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I tried the Atkins diet twice. I felt really sick and really deprived both times. I was miserable, weak and got muscle cramps. Not worth it!!!!

One warning about a vegetarian diet. I am not a huge meat eater and have been a vegetarian at several points in my life. It is not a magic route to weight loss. There are too many vegetarian foods that are delicious but high fat or high refined carbohydrate and high calorie.

MY husband actually gained weight when our dog died and he went on a vegetarian diet for ethical reasons. He felt so deprived giving up meat that he ate extra fat and gained weight. I am not a big meat eater at the best of times. Usually I cook it for my husband and rarely eat it. However, vegetarian diets are weight neutral for me.

DOry
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David



Joined: 30 Sep 2004
Posts: 1855
Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

PostPosted: Thu Aug 02, 2012 12:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Polan (Richard?) writes in The Omnivores Dilemma "Eat food, not too much, mostly leaves." This has served me well on occasion. It allows meat, but not as the basis for the meal, incorporates lots of good green stuff (spinach kale, bok choy all sorts of Asian greens, mustard etc.) By food he means non processed foods. If grandma wouldn't recognize it then it isn't food. This works for me but I admit to having difficulty sticking to it long term.

My most successful strategy has been to eliminate carbs, most notably bread from my diet. If I eliminate bread--there goes my breakfast of 2 slices oof toast with butter and peanut butter---think of that fat and calorie burst every morning. Now it's yogurt and fruit. I've lost 8 kg or 18 lbs since january and it's been slow and easy.
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dory



Joined: 11 Nov 2007
Posts: 236
Location: Madison, WI

PostPosted: Mon Aug 20, 2012 7:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes. That is Michael Pollan. I agree with much of what he says, and feel that processed food is a trap that makes and keeps many of us permanently fat. Again, however, I would say that avoiding processed food and preservatives, and eating like our grandmothers while MUCH healthier than eating at MacDonald's is still not completely safe. Our grandparents (or great grandparents) -- even city dwellers, did an enormous amount of exercise, which even those of us who work out at gyms rarely match. My grandmother, did a LOT of exercise-- very heavy housework, including, in her youth, doing laundry in a machine without an automatic spin cycle, putting it in a wringer to wring out the water, and carrying it-- wet-- upstairs from the basement in baskets, to hang out outdoors, even in winter, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She had huge gardens beautifully and very energetically maintained until the last weeks of her life, and always a raft of dogs who needed to be walked, which my grandfather rarely did. She was a big woman, meaning that she was tall and big boned but never overweight a day in her life. She was also a prodigious eater. She was famous for eating a dozen ears of corn in season, and then starting in on the rest of her meal. She was born in Germany and cooked very heavy traditional German food which the English American members of our family (who picked at "light" items like steamed suet pudding and sandwiches made with leftover pot roast ground and mixed with mayonnaise, spread a half inch thick between big slices of home baked bread-- you get the point) criticized as too heavy. She also burned off everything. If I ate like that I would weigh 500 lbs. Think about the food in working class Mexican restaurants in the U.S. People who install roofs and build highways can digest that extra bit of "gordo" (fat) on their pork, or the cheese melted on their beans without gaining weight. I cannot-- not on a regular basis and I have two dogs and work out at a gym regularly.

We have to invent a new way of eating that meshes with a modern lifestyle that is all but devoid of exercise-- even for those of us who try to remain active. I think this is true for all of us except professional athletes or those who do physical work, such as farmers and construction workers. This new diet should avoid processed food, but should also limit very calorie dense food to celebrations, and should avoid snacking-- something people in France are better at than people in the U.S. and, I think, Canada. I think the fact that we have to re-invent eating to stay healthy-- both from the processed diet of our parents (and grandparents in most families) as well as the heavy food eaten by our grandparents or great-grandparents, is why we have so many extreme diets in North America-- the Ornish diet and the Atkins diets are two very popular and extreme polar opposites.

I am struggling with this because I am trying to lose weight, but have only ever been able to lose weight through extreme measures. In my early 20s I was not really overweight but was frustrated that I was (have always been) big-boned and wanted to have that small look of a lot of the women I knew in my age group (including my sister who has a small frame). I lived on 600-800 calories a day for several years, eating a rigid diet of a bagel with one ounce of cheese for lunch, and a large salad or steamed vegetables for dinner. Breakfast, what breakfast? A cigarette-- who can eat like that without smoking-- and a nice healthy diet soda. I got thin, but never really looked like an actress or a model, due to my stubbornly wide wrists, shoulders, feet, etc. and was saved from anorexia by occasional binges. I did something similar a couple of years ago, (without the cigarettes) and did lose weight but could not keep it up to get to my goal weight. I am now looking for a life-long, non-extreme way to lose wight, and I know I have to be part of this project of the re-invented diet. I think it will be mostly but not entirely vegetarian, more fruit than I am eating now (I love fruit but it spoils really quickly so I buy it and throw half away-- need to keep on top) but I feel confused and stalled by all the contradictory advice out there. I think I am like half of the U.S. with the one piece of luck that I am not used to eating in fast food restaurants or drinking full-sugar soda.

Dory
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nima



Joined: 28 Nov 2005
Posts: 93

PostPosted: Thu Aug 23, 2012 4:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi harpospeaking. I grew up as a vegetarian amongst a family of vegetarians. I am not one now (for ethical reasons, I have given up on vegetarianism), but I do respect that way of eating. Since this was a generations-long habit, my diet as a kid was extremely well-balanced. We ate beans, lentils, dairy products and probably a dozen different vegetables everyday.

When I see my American friends turn to vegetarianism, many of them do it in an unhealthy and unsustainable way. They eat too many refined carbs with sugary condiments (cereal and milk, bread and jam, pasta and sauce), and end up gaining weight and feeling fatigued.

I now am a great fan of Mark Bittman:

http://www.ted.com/talks/mark_bittman_on_what_s_wrong_with_what_we_eat.html

He suggests eating less meat, rather than eliminating meat. And eating high-protein savoury breakfasts:

http://markbittman.com/the-stir-fried-breakfast

I think there are many reasons to eat less meat, and in the process, it should be possible to maintain a sustainable healthy weight.

Here's what I try to do: always eat a nutritious, protein-rich breakfast; eat smaller meals for lunch and dinner; snack on nuts, fruit, yogurt, etc to keep hunger away and blood sugar levels stable; eat brown rice, multigrain bread etc rather than refined carbohydrates; cut out junk food, sodas, and sugary or processed food.

I love to eat and cook and get to surround myself with the pleasure of food, without guilt or worry. This morning, I am sitting here having oatmeal with walnuts, a few dark chocolate chips, and raspberries. Along with green tea and some peaches. On most days, I might have an egg and veggie stir-fry or steamed idlis (rice and lentil cakes). I'll probably have rice with tofu and aubergines this evening. I haven't cooked meat in a few days, but have some Sri Lankan fish cutlets in the fridge:

http://healthygourmetfood.blogspot.com/2011/02/fish-cutlets.html

I build a lot of pleasure into cooking and eating and shopping for food. I wouldn't call it a diet, but I haven't gained weight in nearly a decade. And that feels pretty stable to me.

How about you? What would you find difficult about switching to a plant-based diet? How is it different from your way of eating now?
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nima



Joined: 28 Nov 2005
Posts: 93

PostPosted: Sat Sep 01, 2012 10:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is a good source for some vegetarian inspiration:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/series/thenewvegetarian

Yotan Ottolenghi is not a vegetarian himself, but has become a real spokesperson for this way of eating after the success of his cookbooks and London-based restaurants.

See also:

https://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/27/dining/27otto.html?pagewanted=all
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David



Joined: 30 Sep 2004
Posts: 1855
Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

PostPosted: Tue Sep 25, 2012 12:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Currently reading "Wheat Belly" by William Davis M.D. and it is confirming my decision to eliminate bread from my diet. And it encourages me to leave as much gluten behind as possible. Further it increases my suspicions regarding GMOs!
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eileen



Joined: 27 Apr 2005
Posts: 67
Location: antwerp, belgium

PostPosted: Wed Nov 14, 2012 5:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Since the new year, I have dipped into Physicians for Responsible Medicine 21 day vegan challenges. I am mostly doing plant based at home; when I'm out and there's no other choice, I do succumb to cheese.

On the one hand, it's a stimulating challenge to go plant based. On the other - it's a whole lot more time spent in the kitchen.
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KYHeirloomer



Joined: 21 Aug 2007
Posts: 552
Location: Central Kentucky

PostPosted: Tue Dec 04, 2012 8:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

it's a whole lot more time spent in the kitchen.

Ain't that the truth, Eileen!

Friend Wife and I tried a plant-based lifestyle a few years back. Here are some observations:

1. "Plant based," of itself, is neither more nor less healthy than any other diet. There is always the question of nutritional balance, exercise, and, in general, lifestyle considerations.

2. If by "plant based" you mean bland, repititious rabbit food, you likely won't stick with it. On the other hand, creative, flavorsome vegetable dihes take time. Often more time than a meat-protein analog.

3. Define what "plant based" means to you. Vegan? Ovo-Lacto? Other? I'll never forget the ime we were on a bicycle tour. All the other members of the group had proclaimed they were vegetarians. But at that first day's lunch meal they decimated the smoked turkey. And at an inn, later in the week, most of them ordered salmon.
For them, "vegetarian" apparently meant "no red meat."

4. Understand that any true plant-based diet will be based around grains and legumes. That's the only way to assure getting the proteins you need for body strengh and health. The lifestyles of most of us all but dictate refined carbohydrates as the grain. And on that path lies danger. Is, for instance, David, willing to forego his toast and peanut butter and take the time to cook a porridge instead? That's the sort of trade-off we're talking about.

5. If you're looking at vegetable based as a healthy alternative, consider this: Where will you get those veggies in January? A tomato that's been picked while green, held in cold storage, then gassed to give it color, is a lot of things. But healthful isn't one of them.

All in all, after about 18 months, we decided that a plant-based diet wasn't really feasible for us.
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dory



Joined: 11 Nov 2007
Posts: 236
Location: Madison, WI

PostPosted: Fri Dec 28, 2012 8:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear Nima,

I am wondering why you switched AWAY from a plant-based diet based on ethical reasons, given that most people who do a switch for ethical reasons do it in the opposite direction (factory farming, animal cruelty, etc.) Mind you I am just very curious, not trying to influence you one way or the other.

I, myself, am not vegetarian but eat a mostly plant-based diet because since I was a child I have not liked the idea of eating animals, and as I ate less and less meat I have liked the taste less and less. I cook meat for my husband on a daily basis as he is South American, and beef is the very center of life. In his country of origin many people eat beef 3 times a day, 7 days a week. Vegetables are not common in the diet, however, fruit is, and I presume that is how people get their vitamins. I sometimes eat the meat I cook, but most days either don't serve myself, or pick it out of shared dishes like fried rice. This is personal preference and taste, not a rigid sense of morals. I am opposed to factory farming, but I also have dogs, so even if I don't buy and cook meat for my husband (I do almost all of the grocery shopping, although not all of the cooking, despite the fact that I am an "alpha cook") I am supporting the meat industry.

I am generally opposed to extreme diets. Part of this is from childhood, because my mom had weird eating patterns and would alternately restrict food and put us on strange diets like grapefruit and boiled eggs. I tried extreme calorie restriction in my 20s and it did nothing but slow down my metabolism. I also tried high protein high fat diets twice because I have diabetes on both sides of my family, and these diets bill themselves as guarantees that you won't get it. (All of my family members have been normal weight and physically active at the time of diagnosis so it is not like it is possible to say that normal measures will prevent it for us, although I am the only member of my family ever to be overweight.) What happened to me is that not only was I miserable and thinking about food at all times, but I got muscle cramps and had to take potassium supplements in order to be able to exercise. I think these diets might work for some people. In my case I reached the point where I decided I would rather end my life on an insulin pump than live on Atkins. I felt that sick. The other issue is that there is a separate group of people who say the best way to prevent diabetes is vegan diets with no fat-- not even tiny drop of olive oil on your salad. The only thing these two diets have in common is they are extreme, and make it difficult to live and eat with others.

My own feeling is that most people in out society eat extremely unhealthy diets. This is especially true in the U.S. where so many people don't cook. I have been in grocery store checkout lines where the teenaged checkers do not recognize common vegetables ("what is this?" "a green pepper") and have been really relieved to see me leave and the customer behind me come with nothing but ground beef (or pre-formed hamburger patties), cereal, and frozen dinners. They supplement the frozen dinners with a great deal of fast food and chips.On the other end are people who are looking to unusual diets as cures for everything. HIgh fat high protein, paleolithic, low fat low protein (did you know protein causes osteoporosis?) , gluten-free, etc. Forgive me for being cynical, but because I live in a family where people have tried to live healthy lifestyles and have gotten "lifestyle-related" diseases anyway (my father was a long-distance bicyclist when he was diagnosed with diabetes, and my brother was a normal-weight vegan who exercised daily when he was diagnosed with coronary artery disease in his 40s and now has 5 stents in his arteries) I am cynical. My "prescription?" Disappointing moderation. I suggest avoiding fast food and processed food because they are calorie dense and I am not sure they are healthy anyway. Try to switch away from excessive amounts of saturated fat and refined carbohydrates (i.e. mostly processed food.) Hope you have good genes, because there are people who live out of a MacDonald's bag who have clean arteries, while my vegan brother has his routed out periodically. Try to cook for yourself and eat moderate portions. Perhaps most important, and this is an area where I often fail, eat scheduled meals and do not snack in between. I blame most if not all of my excess weight on irregular eating schedules.
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nima



Joined: 28 Nov 2005
Posts: 93

PostPosted: Wed Feb 06, 2013 8:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear dory,

I'm sorry to have missed your message. You had asked why I chose to give up on vegetarianism. My explanation is a little long-winded but here it is: vegetarianism in South Asia has a long history, but is deeply rooted in hierarchies of caste and religion. I realized, growing up in an upper-caste Hindu household, how much caste divisions are grounded in food. Though some of these practices have changed in urban areas, the principle of non-commensality is central to caste. Upper caste people of my grandparents generation were not supposed to eat with or eat food cooked by people of a different (ie lower) caste. With that came the notion that the food of other communities was somehow less virtuous and even less tasty.

From there, I came to realize that divisions in diet lead to divisions among people. I don't mean therefore that everyone should the same things. But I both come from a part of the world and frequently travel to places where food is deeply culturally embedded. Particular foods belong to particular people (family recipes, special holidays, ritual occasions, seasonal variations, etc). It would be very difficult for me to engage with those cultures, if I refuse to engage with their food. And this often has meant eating meat. I think my life and my experiences have been richer, once I broadened my diet.

This choice might not make that much sense to folks in the US, where not everyone has such deep cultural ties to food. Instead, like you I know many people who have tried years of different diets, most to no avail. I understand also why more people in this country are choosing vegetarianism, and I think they have good reasons for eating few or no animal products. But either way, I hope food is a something we learn to grow ethically and that sustains and nourishes us, rather than leaving us depleted and deprived at the end of the day.
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David



Joined: 30 Sep 2004
Posts: 1855
Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

PostPosted: Sun Feb 17, 2013 4:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow! Beautiful post nima!
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nima



Joined: 28 Nov 2005
Posts: 93

PostPosted: Mon Feb 25, 2013 4:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you David! When are we getting together for that cooking session?

For those still considering a plant-based diet, do check out Heidi Swanson's 101 Cookbooks.

http://www.101cookbooks.com/

She does a great job of creating a balance of bold bright flavours. Plus her dishes are balanced in nutrition too, because she uses lots of nuts, beans, legumes and other protein-rich ingredients.
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David



Joined: 30 Sep 2004
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Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

PostPosted: Tue Apr 09, 2013 10:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hey nima! I've actually signed up for some South Asian cooking classes at one of the local supermarkets. This retirement schtick rocks!

But I know I'd learn more in your kitchen!
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dory



Joined: 11 Nov 2007
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Location: Madison, WI

PostPosted: Wed May 15, 2013 11:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I understand elitism attached to vegetarian diets. It is a main reason that I am not a total vegetarian. In the U.S. there seem to be two "foodie" trends. One is the meat-centric, head to tail diet espoused by a lot of TV chefs-- perhaps the loudest (and most intolerant being Anthony Bourdain. Then a lot of motly upper middle class people proclaim tht they are vegetarian or vegan and cannot touch meat. I tand in the middle. I am disturbed by factory farming and nimal abuse. At the same time, my in-laws are South American, annd eat beef 2-3 times a day. I figure who am I to reject theirbhole culture? I eat beef when I am there. I also have dogs, and dream of getting a cat as well. That means by definition I buy and serve meat. I also buy and cook mest for my South American husband-- almost every day. Who am I to reject whole cultures who est mest? In my own life I eat the mest I cook only rarely, ( in any case the South American meat I cook is almost incinerated and hard) and usually order vegetarian in restaurants. I do not look down on whole cultures where meat is central. Who am I to do so?

Dory
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