Still vegetarian for another 30 days

I posted this on Facebook, and I've decided to post it here as well, since I haven't written any updates on my vegetarian challenge. I've renewed my commitment to another 30 days of eating plant-based.

Since I started eating vegetarian and almost-vegan (things I ate that weren't vegan: oyster sauce, some birthday cake with egg and milk, and cheese) on October 1, I've lost seven pounds and two inches off my waist. The weight goes up and down a little depending on my water intake, so my main metric is the inches.

I'm going vegan for two reasons: it's good for my health and good for the planet. I will do my best to be 100% with it, but with the way my brain works, I'm going to leave room for some tiny, tiny cheats and recommit every 30 days.

That means there's always a possibility I'd go back to eating some animal products. I'll be approaching it like I'm a forever recovering carnivore. (Hi, my name is Althea, I'm a meat eater!)

Just a note on how I'm eating: I'm more or less following Dr. John McDougall's diet plan, which is a whole-food, plant-based (WFPB) diet. That means no animal products and no added fat (including oils extracted from their sources, like olive oil and sesame oil).

Whole-food, plant-based

McDougall doesn't call this way of eating vegetarian or vegan because it doesn't allow many things vegetarian or vegan diets allow, but I use those terms because the diet is vegetarian and vegan, and I'm getting a lot of support and tips from vegetarians and vegans. I'm not yet 100% on following the McDougall plan, but I'm working on it.

What got me started on reading up on McDougall was watching Forks Over Knives. The documentary struck a chord because my dad died of a stroke in his early 50s, which is less than 15 years from my age now. More recently, my uncle from my mother side had to get heart bypass surgery. Cardiovascular disease is in my genes.

Also, after working in a job that made me unhappy more than it made me happy in my last two years on it, I was in my worst state of health ever. I must have gained close to 40 pounds since 2009. (Hi, my name is Althea. I'm also an emotional eater.)

Then I had gout, and I learned that medicine for gout is really bad for the kidneys, so managing it with medicine was not an option.

I still love good food

Anybody who knows me knows I love good food, and I thought I'd have a hard time staying off animal products. Well, the only difficulty I'm experiencing is in finding vegan options when I eat out and learning to cook WFPB. Given the choice now, I'd choose the WFPB dish over any meat dish and not feel deprived, really, as long as I have my starch.

To be honest, meat still looks and smells tempting. Maybe I'll never get over that, or maybe as I become more exposed to the ethical side of veganism, I'll be one of those people who feel bad when they see animals on the dinner table. I don't know yet. I'm still new to this.

What I do know is I feel better, health-wise, and I want more of this better. When I struggle in the shift in my relationships because I've bonded with most of my loved ones on good food that usually includes meat, or when I struggle to introduce myself as my new identity, I always remind myself, hey you're still the old joyful, funny, emotional, food-loving you. Still the same, except with less inflammation and healthier arteries and better calcium retention.

One day, I may get an additional kick out of knowing I contribute to helping the planet too. One step at a time.

Trying to be vegetarian this October

Looking at my blog archives, I see a long history of trying to eat healthy. Some years ago, close to ten, I tried a 30-day juice fast. Then I intermittently stayed away from refined carbs and sugar. More recently, but also too long ago, I also tried eating raw for 30 days. I believe I also avoided red meat for close to a year. I also tried intermittent fasting (14:10) for a couple of months.

Both 30-day experiments were more for cleansing than weight loss, but I did lose a couple of pounds along the way. Still, considering my overall health now, everything that I did hasn't led to any long-lasting success. Eating healthy has, and always will be, difficult for me. I should consider myself always in recovery.

While I have managed to stay away from a lot of bad sugar and junk food since I arrived from the US (that was early in July), I still ate a lot of bad food (bacon, my forever Waterloo).

Then there's the matter of exercise. I've tried going to the gym, boxing, and walking. I also recently bought a refurbished folding bike (I've been using it, though I haven't gone very far). Exercise worked for me, but I also didn't last long with it.

Recently, I've been feeling my age. I'll be 38 in a few weeks and I have to admit I am in my worst shape ever. I want to put a change to that.

Also, I've been considering veganism after meeting up with my old college friend, Jimple, in Albay last April. He's now a vegan, and I marveled at his compassion and discipline when we ate out several times. Another old friend, Joel, whom I've known almost as long as Jimple, is also vegan.

Then more recently, I got to talk to two vegans at a trade fair in Festival Mall in Alabang. They were giving out samples of "Seacharon," seaweed chicharon, and I had a quick chat with them about their lifestyle. One of them invited me to the Manila Vegans Facebook page, and I've been a member since.

I've asked a couple of questions on that page, and I've also been reading up on other vegan's posts. I agree that eating should be cruelty-free and that animals are sentient beings, like humans. My heart breaks at the discovery of the extremely cruel conditions of the animal food industry. But I do not know yet if I can be vegan.

First, I use a lot of leather. I like leather. Second, I do not know if I can let go of eggs and dairy. Most important of all, I am still not convinced that it is unnatural for humans to eat meat. Cruel, yes, but unnatural? I can't wrap my head around it yet.

So, in attempt to improve my health and check if I can live happily as a vegan (as I also try read more literature on it and talk to more vegans about their experience), I am committing to 30 days as a vegetarian (with some room for dairy, eggs and some seafood--if it's part of a spring roll that's largely plant-based).

I'm on Day 4 today, and I've learned that I should definitely learn how to prepare more vegetarian dishes. If my taste buds are happy, I can definitely go veg.

What bothered me about Gabe Valenciano's post

I've been thinking about what Gabe Valenciano wrote on Facebook since I shared it yesterday. I agreed with many of his points. I was glad that Gabe, still very much an insider from where I sit, said what he said about what's wrong with the local entertainment industry, particularly the part about how talent is secondary to a specific sort of beauty.

That's mainly why I shared it. But reading it also left me feeling a little disturbed. My friends and I chatted about it briefly last night, and the phrase "check your privilege" kept coming up. In the morning, I woke up still bothered. Now, it's clearer why.

It bothered me that his words seemed to condemn the whole country because of his bad experience with the local showbiz industry, as if it were one and the same. It can appear to be, yes, but it isn't.

It bothered me that he wrote "I don't owe (the Philippine entertainment industry) a thing" when he was raised by parents who made money off the same industry. While I wouldn't force him to give back, and I doubt if he would need to, I'd expect at least some gratitude from him for what put good food on his table, placed a comfortable roof over his head, and gave him room to dream.

It bothered me that he used Kendall Jenner as an example, when Kendall herself came to fame by way of the same system that glorifies the beautiful over the truly talented.

It bothered me that he makes sweeping conclusions like "The Philippines has lost its character" then calls on people to stop whining and do something about it when very clearly the solution for him was to get out and leave and, at least according to his post, not owe it anything.

It bothered me that he didn't write his piece as responsibly as he could have as a--as much as he hates the term--celebrity who has a large online following, sending confusing messages that would most be likely be distilled as, "Leave this god-forsaken country. There is no hope here." Then he tries to be that hope, a product of here.

Going semi-vegetarian

I've been considering going part-vegetarian recently. My goal is to have 4 meat-free days in a week. I'm still working on making it to four days. It's hard, but I do feel better when I eat more fruits and vegetables.

I still don't know if I can give up meat completely. I don't know if what that blood type diet says is true, that we Type Os need more meat. I went 30 days meatless once, and I craved it so bad, I broke my diet with barbecued pork!

Maybe I should just focus on what I'll be eating (more fruits and veggies) and not what I won't be eating (all my favorite meat dishes). That's a dieting tip that works for me: Pile on the good stuff, and you'll soon forget about the bad stuff.

Still, I'm not yet convinced that eating meat is bad. But vegans, don't write me off yet. I have been staying away from any animal cruelty videos because I can't watch animals suffer, even if I know they suffer for my food.

Let's see how it goes. Part of my goal is to learn how to cook more meat-free dishes, so I'll try to post my experiments here.

Always a parent, always a child

When I went to the store to buy sharksfin dumpling (don't worry, it wasn't real shark's fin), I saw a father and his teenage son buying food as well. The son wasn't feeling well, I gathered, because his father reached out to touch his forehead with the back of his hand. What I found touching, however, was that the son was already over a foot taller.