Eating vegetables – a diet update

For any of you following along, you’ll remember back in February and March, I talked about my eating, and cutting down on meat. I think it’s time to give an update.

First off, I’ve decided that I don’t like the word “flexitarian”. It sounds to “made-up” and cheesy, like someone is coming up with a word to describe something because they need to write a tv script. Kinda like the word “Chrismukkah“, which was something dumb on TV years ago. As a non-relevant side note, Hannumas is a much better word for mixing Hanukkah and Christmas. It flows off the tongue easily and is just fun to say. But hey, that’s off topic. So, henceforth, I will be trying to not use that word.

As far as what I’m eating these days:  If someone asks, I say “I’m a vegan, but not strict.”   As for as what I have cut out with meat and animal products, when I am being “strict” about it, it’s pretty extreme. I’ll explain.

You’ve probably heard of this movie out there called Forks over Knives. When I first heard about it from my friend Andy, I thought it had to do with eating food that didn’t need a knife. Seriously, since we were talking about vegetables, it made sense to me.  It really is about choosing a diet to promote health and avoid having a heart attack instead of choosing to have heart surgery (aka “the knife”).I watched the, and read Dr. Esselstyn’s book (Amazon: Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease), and talked to Andy some more. And did a little looking online, of course. Being a prime candidate for a heart attack, I made the decision this is what I needed to do. So, I made the change to a plant-based, mostly whole grain diet, with very little oil.It was pretty easy, since I wasn’t really eating much meat to begin with.  And I did make the decision that I was only going into this with the understanding that sometimes, I’d probably have some meat and what not. After all, we have Bubbie’s brisket once or twice a year, and some Cincinnati chili too (although we’re working on a vegan version of it).  That’s the “not strict” part of it.

I figure I’m eating something that wouldn’t fall into the vegan spectrum about 2 meals every two weeks, which makes me a vegan roughly 90% of the time.   It could be sharing a few bites of pizza with the boys when we’re out, or finishing their half uneaten egg salad sandwich. (I didn’t force this diet on the children, since at this age, they’re pretty picky.  However, I do fight over Kale with Isaac. He loves the stuff.)  And if you’re wondering, when I do eat the pizza or sandwich, I usually feel pretty bad about it. Not emotionally, as in “I’m cheating”, but as in an actual lump of food is sitting in my stomach feeling heavy. Blah!

Oh, I’m also eating hummus, which has oil in it.  But I can’t seem to make oil-free hummus myself, so until I figure it out, store-bought is still in. That’s the other not-so-strict part, is that the suggestion is to cut out anything that has oil in it, with a goal of getting cholesterol below 150 without the use of drugs. My cholesterol levels have never been outrageously high for some reason, so I’m a little lax there. The no-oil part is the extreme part of eating this way to me, and probably the hardest thing to figure out.

What does a day of eating look like on average?

  • Cereal or oatmeal
  • Almond butter and honey sandwich
  • Air popped popcorn. Lots and lots of popcorn.
  • Apples, oranges, or whatever fruit is on hand.
  • Quinoa, brown rice, beans
  • Vegetables, such as peppers, corn, peas and regular ol’ stuff like that.
  • Some sort of smoothie. I love my blender, so I get creative with it sometimes.

How has this been affecting me?  After a few months of this, I feel good, but really, empirical evidence is best.

  • I did not have my cholesterol checked, since when I checked it last year it was 161, I wasn’t feeling too bad about it. I’ll go do that one of these days.
  • My fasting blood sugar, which had been hovering right around 100 for a few years, is now in the mid 70’s.
  • My heartrate is 59, in the middle of the day. (i.e. not resting, but not actively doing anything either.)
  • Since I got out of the army 20 years ago, my blood pressure was alway 139/90, give or take a few points. It’s now 121/77. (Again, when I was walking through the store and decided to try the machine out.)
  • I’ve lost over 10 pounds in the last couple months.

Not too shabby, for doing nothing too drastic. (Well, unless you consider not eating animal products drastic. I don’t.)  I should point out also, I have not counted a single calorie.  The only time I’ve looked at calories was when we were out one day and bought some trail mix called “dieters delight”. It made me chuckle because when you look at the package, which would probably all be eaten in one or two sittings because someone thought it was “healthy”, it was around 1400 calories.

There have been a couple unexpected benefits to this. One of them is that dishes are much easier to wash! Strange, but true…when you don’t cook meat, and don’t use much oil, the dishes don’t get grime caked on that needs to be scrubbed off.

My wife is giving me a hard time for reading “food books”, but I figured if I’m going to make decisions like this, then I should educate myself.  I’m looking for something to go counter to the Esselstyn diet, for comparisons of opinions. Currently on my nightstand are:

Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto (Amazon). I’ve watched his presentation online, and have a few more videos to look at. He has a some other books I’d like to read, such as the Omnivore’s Dilemma. From what I’ve read so far, I like it.

T. Colin Campbell’s The China Study (Amazon). I figure this is going to be not-so-light reading, so it will take a while to get through, but it should be interesting.

Interested in more information? There are the books I link to above, plus there should be enough information here to get you started searching the internet. If you have specific questions, let me know and I’ll see if I can address any of them.

You might also like Dr Lisle, The Pleasure Trap: Mastering the Hidden Force that Undermines Health & Happiness(Amazon link).  I haven’t read, but I watched a video presentation on Youtube. I’ll read the book when I finish my current list of books. You can also search for Dr. Lisle and find some other video presentations online.




  1. Hi Rahn- very nice post/update. I’m glad that things are going well for you, diet-style-wise.

    You mentioned your being on the lookout for contrasting opinions. I’d argue that the paleo diet is about as contrast-ey as you can get.

    FWIW, Ken Leebow (whose post on quinoa was one of the first, “Hey, I can cook something healthy all by myself!” nudges I had) posits that there’s an awful lot of similarity there: (He forgot to add “no dairy” to the vegan side, but I’m sure that was an oversight.)

    I will say this about any “diet” out there: for me, protecting the health of my endothelium is job #1 since endothelial failure seems to be directly related to many of the top causes of Western disease/mortality. In my mind, if a diet is silent about its injuring or helping my endothelium, I’m not interested.

    That said, if you were to find some real science that proves why my idolizing endothelial health is bunk, I would certainly be interested in hearing about it.

    • Yeah, I think the Paleo diet is pretty much the opposite. I don’t know much about it besides it says to eat no carbs and lean meat. I see lots of people doing Crossfit do the Paleo, and just like doing Crossfit, they tell everyone about it. But then again, most vegans and vegetarians do the same thing, and tell everyone who will listen that their way is right.

      I figure with the books I’m reading now, it will give me a good idea about the endothelium health stuff. It’s touched on lightly in Esselstyn’s book, and I think it was mentioned in Forks over Knives. (It’s all blending in my head, so maybe I’m imagining that, and it’s really all from you talking about it.)
      Heck, I should probably do a post just on what the endothelium is, but then people might thing I’m a doctor. 🙂

      I liked Ken Leebow’s venn diagram on that page showing the overlap of the diets. While I don’t like all of his writing, some of it’s pretty good. I should look around his site some more to see what else is out there.

      • Yeah, the endothelial discussions from recent books and videos are kind of blending in my head, too.

        Since endothelial health pretty much drives my dietary decisions, I started penning a here’s-what-it-does note to myself, but I haven’t gotten very far. Part of that is because its role in cardiovascular health is incredibly complex and varied. Oh, and part of that is because I’m not a doctor, either. 🙂

        I like lots of Ken’s articles about the junk that’s being dangled in front of us every day and how, in the end, it’s our individual responsibility to make healthy choices. I don’t think that he values endothelial health as much as I do.

        But hey, to each his own. YDIW (“You’re Doing It Wrong”) is an annoying stance to take and I try to never go there with this stuff.


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