The Vegan Variance

When we were stationed in Virginia nine years ago, I was everything. I worked full-time as a first grade teacher and took care of our two preschool age children by myself. R was hardly home and by hardly I mean roughly forty eight hours every six weeks or so when he wasn’t deployed for seven months at a time. I had to shop for our groceries and cook and clean and dozens of other tasks that single parents have to do alone.

Only I was still married. I started to think of myself as a married single parent. {Keep thinking about it. It will make sense soon.}

I found a routine for ourselves that worked. Sure, we ate out a couple of times a week but in an effort to not totally fill our diets with junk and to save money, we mostly ate at home.

We were pretty healthy. Veggies with every meal. Milk for the kids at every meal. Very little juice and very little carbs. Fruit for snacks. I started using the phrase “Sometimes Food” so that we wouldn’t think of certain foods as forbidden though the gamut of all sugar should be forbidden to me indefinitely.

I noticed that our meals mostly revolved around chicken or fish and rice. I liked eating red meat but didn’t care to purchase or prepare the fare; as a result, I learned to live without it. I rarely drank milk but I have been lactose intolerant all of my life.

Lately it’s been hard to avoid red meat simply because R enjoys grocery shopping and cooking. After all of the years we lived apart, he missed cooking for us. Who am I to keep a man from his dreams?

And also I’m lazy.

But being lazy has its downside.

I can’t control my food portions especially since the food is so delicious and made just for me! How do I say no to that?

About a month ago R had a very busy week at school which meant I took over the kitchen. I had the freedom to buy and prepare whatever I wanted. It wasn’t that R was anti-vegan yes he was, it’s just that he’d rather eat meat.

With turning forty in the month ahead and upon reflection of the plethora of health ailments from my parents, I started watching documentaries like Forks Over Knives with a keen interest in reversing what damage may have already occurred. What damage may be ahead.

Prior to my takeover, I talked to R about my concerns over our diet and my addiction to sugar. I wanted to change now so that ten to fifteen years from now I won’t have serious talk with my doctor about I needed to overhaul my lifestyle! We came to simple and completely doable solutions:

We would add more and quality vegetables to each meal.
We would have delicious fruits available at all times.
We would eat more fish and add a couple of meatless meals to our weekly meal plan.
I would talk to my mom about not bringing desserts over all if the time.

{More about Grandma in a future post. Oh, grandmas and their incessant need to spoil their grandchildren… which is totally fine but we do not need a new cheesecake and/or a dozen donuts in our house every day of the week and yes, this happened happens less frequently.}

We reasoned that by following those guidelines, we would have less room in our bellies for unhealthy foods.

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R made this salad with fresh tomatoes from my mom’s garden.

I began preparing more vegetables and cautiously served salads at dinner. Our kids weren’t anti-salad yes they were, it’s just that they hadn’t been exposed to different types of salads. While all of my meals were totally vegan, most of theirs weren’t. I splurged on delicious, ripe fruit and bought A LOT of it. So much that our counters looked like a fruit stand.

The verdict?

Thumbs up all around.

This isn’t to say we are totally perfect. Oh, far from it, but it is easier to bounce back to healthier habits than it used to be. We’re learning to get rid of the guilt of not eating better; by understanding that, it makes it so much easier to move on and try better the next time.

And me? Am I still vegan?

I did really well the first month, allowing 3-4 carefully selected meals that were not vegan. I ran a mile without stopping for the first time in months and this after only a week of cutting sugar and meat products! I am now up to 5 miles a day 3 times a week. I didn’t even notice the first few nights that I did not take my antidepressants. I took them every other day and finally stopped altogether.

And then the school year started. A colleague at my new school passed away suddenly. I had the opportunity to work with him during long term job in sixth grade. He was still young, only fifty-five when he passed, and he biked to and from work several times a week (roughly twenty miles one way?). I hadn’t had too much time to process it because just a couple of days before he was congratulating me on getting a contract and I was listening to his sarcastic comments under his breath during our staff meeting.

He passed away the day before our school year started. The entire campus, or rather the entire district, was devastated. District psychologists were brought in for the first few weeks to help his students and our staff cope with this sad and sudden departure. Flowers came from schools around the district.

Add to that my, ahem, monthly woman friend came to visit.

Well, well, well. What do we have here?

We have me. A woman trying to navigate through her new job. A woman who stopped running altogether for four days because there have been two violent crimes committed in our area. A woman who has been saying EFF IT to her diet because what else can she do?

Me who loves her job and loves learning something new about her profession all the time. Me who despite eating two fracking slices of three meat pizza still took the giant puppy on a five mile jog around the neighborhood. {He looks scary; that is, when I’m not tripping over him and when he’s not running away from chihuahuas.} Me who still can’t quite let go of her sugar addiction but knows that there will be more opportunities to make better choices tomorrow.

Yep, that’s me.

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Above: chocolate peanut butter tofu pie. Below: BBQ Vermicelli from Loving Hut. I could not believe how delicious this was!

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Delicious lunch at California Pizza Kitchen. Chef honored my “no cheese” request. I think you’ll like it too!

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