Self-Care 2: 10% Human

To make a long story short, animals in general and humans in particular aren’t solo organisms, but macro-organisms, reliant upon symbiotic bacteria for most of our digestion and a surprising amount of our general health. 

By number of cells, we are 10% human and 90% bacteria. 

And if  we let our bacteria get too out of whack, we increase our risks of indigestion, heart disease, diabetes, and more of the diseases of modernity.

So one of my goals this year is to eat with my bacteria in mind. 

And apparently, it doesn’t take long to see changes based on diet. Unfortunately, I can’t get the original study to load, but what I’ve read in other places  backs up Miche’s vlog:

We see results within days of serious diet changes, and continue to see lifelong benefits.

Self Care Part 1: Go Deeper Into the Plants


If you’ve read this blog at all, you know that I went vegan last June.

But I didn’t go healthy. 

I still ate like I used to eat: lots of burgers and fries, just veggie burgers.Lots of fried and heavy food in general.

Even doing that I lost over 25 pounds and kept 20 off (I regained a few during the holidays).

I didn’t go vegan to lose weight per se, but health was one of my concerns. 

And my blood pressure was actually up at my wellness visit.

So I knew what I had to do.

I have to go deeper into the plant based diet. I have to start eating a more whole foods diet, minimizing the processed sugars and heavy fats (even the so-called “good fats”).

This will change the way I cook and the way I eat out. 

Actually, it already has. I started eating this way on January 1st. 

I started eating oatmeal with dates for breakfast instead of a bagel slathered with peanut butter.

I’ve added salads to my meals. I’ve started eating raw vegetables, including garlic and onion (so much for my breath).

I already feel better. I have more energy, I haven’t been as hungry during the day, and I think this is really going to help me. 

I’ll keep you posted. 

 

Meat-Free Monday: Vegan Thanksgiving Part 1: the Basics

I’m the only vegan in my family, so a big tofurkey extravaganza is not in the cards.

That’s okay:  I’m honestly not sure how to cook that, or if I’d even like it.

But I can certainly have more to eat than green beans (ick) and green salad.

I’ve been doing some investigating, and I’ve found a bunch of recipes.  I’ll start with some traditional fall and Thanksgiving foods that can be made vegan with just a few ingredient swaps,  often as lottle as using vegan margarine instead of butter:

  • Oven slow-baked sweet potatoes with vegan margarine, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Who needs casseroles?  Bake them until the juices bubble out a beautiful caramelized brown.
  • Baked acorn squash, again with vegan margarine, brown sugar, and cinnamon 
  • Butternut squash with maple syrup drizzle
  • Vegan pumpkin pie
  • Katherine has found and modified a Thanksgiving – ish skillet dish that uses dried cranberries for sweetness and cinnamon for Autumnness. We just ate version 1.0, and it was good. Version 2.0 will include squash or aweet potatoes, and promises to be even better. 
  • I’m working on a crock pot cornbread dressing recipe.  We have limited oven space and a lot of people to feed, So we’re having to get creative with cooking methods

Eating Vegan on the Road:  Moe’s Southwest 

Burrito joints like Qdoba or Izzo’s are usually a good bet for vegans seeking big, filling meals on the road. 

But Sunday, I  got to eat at the king of them all (so far): Moe’s.

Most of the places just have beans as a protein option.  Moe’s also has tofu. Also, both kinds of beans are vegan, and you can get tofu and beans on the same burrito! 

Moe’s offers several different kinds and heat levels of homemade salsa, and they were all great. 

And, to top it off,  they’re very generous with their chips, their guac is good, and they have a wonderful proprietary peach vanilla soda. 

Just what I needed for a long drive home from Florida. 

Meat-Free Monday: Favorite Plant-Based Snacks

First, a reminder: I love in rural Mississippi,  30 miles from the nearest Wal-Mart, 40 miles from the nearest good sized grocery store,  and a good two hour drive from the nearest Whole Foods.

So the snack foods here are the kind off things you can find in small town groceries,  and even gas stations.

They aren’t all health foods,  and none of them are as good for you as medjool dates or raw cashews.

But they are yummy and widely available:

  • Cracker Jack. Yes,  the American classic is plant-based!
  • Boom Chicka Pop popcorn (some varieties have dairy,  so check the label)
  • Most original flavor potato chips
  •  Most “standard” bbq chips. However,  honey bbq, sweet bbq,spicy bbq, etc. almost all add whey. 
  • Unflavored nuts and seeds
  • Oreos and most knockoffs, although I don’t buy the chocolate ones because their cocoa is most likely produced with forced child (literal slavery) labor in the Ivory Coast. 
  • Tortilla chips usually are
  • Hard candy usually is 

Now, most of this list is stuff we should all limit our exposure to, but if you’re at a picnic, or stopping a middle of nowhere had station for a snack on a long road trip, our just find yourself in a small southern town craving junk food, you at least know where to start.

Planning a Disney Trip: Vegan Options


So we’re planning a trip to Disney World in Florida, one my wife has almost entirely paid for via clever use of credit card reward points programs.

So in addition to buying  new walking shoes and training for the many miles we will walk each day,  we’ve been researching just how I’m going to find something to eat. 

Fortunately, “The happiest place on earth” generally knows how to take care of vegans (And anyone with dietary restrictions,  whether they’re religious, allergies,  our whatever).

I’ll go through park by park in a later post, but today I’ll start with a few universals.

Disclaimer:  I’m still planning my trip,  so all this info is second-hand. 

  • popcorn (it’s not real butter) 
  • pretzels 
  • Anything made with Gardien Chick’n
  • Sorbets
  • Dole pineapple whips
  • Most of the quick serve places have at least something you can eat
  • Use the Disney app to check the menus ahead of time

Any nice sit down restaurant or buffet IF you tell them when you make your reservations and again when you get there

Basically, any place that takes reservations will take care of you if you ask. You should ask in advance if you can,  but I’ve read several accounts of vegans having good experiences even without calling ahead. 

Sources:

The Disney World app. Seriously. 

PETA has a good info page on Disney vegan options. (regardless of some of their questionable actions over the years).

The Vegan Disney World blog is also great. 

Meat-Free Monday: Simpler Food

(Video warning: harsh language)

Well, one good thing about going vegan, is that I am immune from the worst of it: pink slime, McNuggets, whatever’s in hot dogs. I get a bit queasy thinking about how many of those I ate over the course of the last 40 years.

But I’m sure I’m still taking in a lot of frankenfood. I never knew that about orange juice.

So I’m working to make some gradual changes in a more “whole foodsy” direction.

  • Eating oatmeal for breakfast more often
  • (As opposed to peanut butter and bagels, or prepared cereals)
  • Topping my salads with homemade vinegar dressings, not pre-bottled one
  • Eating even more raw fruits and vegetables than I do now
  • Chilling and eating dates for dessert more often, instead of more processed options
  • Eventually getting a juicer and making my own juice

This will hopefully be better for me, both for long-term health and short-term digestion. My weight may even settle in a little lower, but I’m much more concerned with blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and so on.

In Praise of Southern Baptists, Part One (Bet Some of You Never Thought I’d Use THAT Headline)

Cemetery and Church

Photo by Keichwa, Creative Commons

I grew up Southern Baptist, and am currently an active member in good standing of a Southern Baptist Church. And I criticize the denomination from time to time. But today I want to praise them for something they do well:

Funerals

I bet I know what you’re thinking:

  1. This is a morbid topic for the day after Christmas
  2. Aren’t Baptists the ones who always feel the need to have an invitation and altar call at funerals?
  3. Don’t liturgical denominations have more meaningful, beautiful rituals?

Maybe it is a little morbid, but it’s what I’m writing about today. 🙂

As for the altar calls, as crass as it seems sometimes, it makes sense given the strong belief in the need for a conversion experience. On the one hand, it can be offensive, but on the other hand many people grieve without hope, and may find hope and life transformation in an encounter with God.

It’s hard to fault a preacher for trying to provide an avenue to such an encounter. The methods are sometimes heavy-handed, and that’s worthy of criticism, but the motive and the action itself is good.

As for the service itself, I’m not sure. I haven’t been to that many liturgical funerals. But I’m really not talking about the “official funeral” where the preacher or other officiant says a few words and someone sings a song or two. I’m talking about the time before and after.

Baptists live by one maxim, if no other: nobody should have to cook and grieve at the same time.

Food pours in: casseroles, chicken, roasts, salads, vegetables, desserts, enough to last at least a week. And it keeps coming, so that when the first batch is eaten or gone stale, a second wave arrives.

The entire extended family is brought into the church and fed by the church members either before or after the funeral.  This gives them a collective time to grieve and visit.

Too often in our globalized, far-flung society, funerals are the only times we get the whole family together. That time needs to be spent together, not making arrangements for food.

This sounds trivial. But as someone who’s been on both sides of it, I can tell you it is not. It is a powerful part of the healing process, and one that I’ve taken for granted for a long time.

I used to think it was universal, but it has recently come to my attention that it is not. And that blew my mind. You mean other groups, other churches don’t do this? It seems so basic.

Don’t get me wrong: we’re certainly not the only ones that do this. The Jewish tradition of Shiva is similar, though perhaps less informal. Lots of other churches and groups do the same, with varying degrees of formality.

But not everyone. Not every church member in every church in the world or even America gets this kind of treatment. Not every church community pulls together and spends not only its money but its time to aid the grieving process.

And so I want to praise the denomination that takes care of its grieving so well and so consistently that I assumed everyone did it.