Oy … you guys, I could say, “Things have been crazy,” but that would need to be followed by “for the last 8 years,” right? You have a drawer full of big girl pants, too, so you get it. Let’s talk about this vegan challenge.
Oh, wait, two quick things since we haven’t chatted in a bit. No. 1, am I the only parent out there getting d-o-w-n to some Descendants 2 songs? Mel is basically Missy Elliott at this point in my life. It’s sad, but I’m leaning into it. So many ways to be wicked. And No. 2, Sloppy Joan pooped down her leg so bad the other day, it filled her rain boot. Like, to the brim. I have a picture, but I think just typing it is about all anyone can handle today.
Good, we’re all caught up.
So, sometimes I wonder if I’m some sort of masochist, ya know? When someone invited me – me! A woman who has spent hours googling phrases like, “Why do yoga arms evade me?” and “Can a person overdose on sugar?” and “painful upper leg jiggle” – to voluntarily lay down on a table and have an iDXA scan, where a machine runs down your person to reveal your actual body composition, I said, “Why yes! Yes, I would love to.”
Why would I do that? Let me just tell you this, now typing from the other side of the experience, there is no go-get-em TEDTalk, no healthy perspective podcast, or frightening food documentary, or humble blog post or Brene Brown-eque book to prepare you for seeing how much of your body is bone, how much is muscle and how much is straight up butcher shop lard.
None. Nothing. Nope.
So, first of all, they have you lay down on your back for the iDXA scan. You know what happens when you lay down on your back? Everything spreads and settles. Like a batch of thick pancake batter hittin’ the griddle, baby. Then, you can’t move for 7 minutes. Because I had to fast for the test, I hadn’t had a lick of caffeine. So, when they said, “Hold still, please,” I heard, “Now, go ahead and take a 7-minute power nap with your eyes open.” And I said, “OK then.”
After your scan is complete, they hand you four papers and send you down for a consult. This is the portion of the visit where you discuss what the colors and numbers you’re seeing around your silhouette – which resembles Baymax from Big Hero 6 – actually mean. They try to be positive, but it’s basically like being broken up with by a cute boy in high school. “You’re bone density is great, but …” “It’s not your lack of muscle mass, it’s your …”
I won’t drag this saga out, or keep you in suspense; my results showed that I am just slightly into the overweight category. This information, sobering as it was, was no Sixth Sense plot twist. It wasn’t like Rachel choosing Bryan after crying off an eyelash over Peter. Or any of the Game of Thrones murders all you dorks are always freaking out over. The news was just confirmation that the slight insecurity I’ve been silently wrestling is now a full blown enemy, and we must go to war. It’s not about vanity (OK, it’s a little about vanity), but it’s about my health and my mobility and my children.
I’m not morbidly obese, but I’m not in a good place, either, and that’s enough to get me motivated for change. I think we’re often an all-or-nothing culture. People are too thin or too fat. They’re too toned or too frail. They’re too obsessed with their body or entirely negligent. But there’s a whole bunch of people globbed together there in the middle. And that’s where I find myself at the moment.
The problem? I’ve kind of exhausted the familiar weapons in my arsenal. The Whole30s and the half marathon training and the calorie tracking. It’s not cutting the mustard, obviously. So, I’ve decided to try something drastic and new, because, you know what, you don’t know until you try, right?
Several months back, while doing an interview with a cardiologist, I asked him about his diet. He smirked shyly and looked down, as if replaying and reliving months of judgement from his peers. “Well, I’m actually vegan,” he said. “Really?” I inquired. “Yeah,” he said. “Of all the personal and professional research I’ve done, it’s the only thing that really makes sense. I cut things out in stages and now I’m almost entirely vegan. I feel great, I maintain a healthy weight and my cholesterol looks fantastic.”
That was the first time I considered the benefits of a vegan lifestyle.
Then, about a month ago, I got a weird bug. I felt a ton of pressure in my head and completely nauseous with stomach pains and just generally shitty. While hugging my internal organs and sweating profusely, I decided to watch, “What the Health” the trending new food documentary. (A little secret about me: I am obsessed with food documentaries.) As I listened to the testimonials and the research (some of which I’m not entirely sold on), I started to fear that there was some truth to the reports that my sizzling love affair with bacon might not be in my best interests.
That was the second time I considered the benefits of a vegan lifestyle.
And then I flipped through my planner and came across the images from my iDXA scan, tucked shamefully in the back behind a baby shower invitation. Holding them in my hands, I walked into my closet and looked up at the 8 neat stacks of pre-baby clothes taunting me just below the ceiling. I turned to the mirror and I thought about all of the excuses and do-overs and self-loathing I’d racked up over the past eight, likely more, years. And I started to get really angry.
That was last week. That was also the time I decided to try this vegan thing out. Now, before you get all Judy Judgey on me, realize that I’m not buying the Porsche. I’m just taking it out for a test drive for a few weeks.
There are claims out there that a vegan diet can:
Lower risk of cardiovascular disease
Lower risk of cancer
Improve kidney function
Help lose excess weight
Improve bone health
Reduce your carbon footprint significantly
Gosh, if even one of those works out, I’d be pretty pumped. Of course I realize these benefits would take much longer than 14 days. I also realize there’s a good chance my affinity for the Hog Trough platter at my favorite local BBQ place might just crap all over the whole thing. It’s going to be real and it’s going to be tough, and it’s going to be really tough. But, if I can come out meatless even a few days a week after this little adventure, I’d throw a tally up in the win column.
I will start my animal-free experiment on September 16, and end the trial period on September 29. I might keep going. I might make some alterations. I might just take a nap and decide not to decide anything. In the meantime, I’m pinning my panties off and checking out every vegan cookbook the local library has to offer.
Do I think it’s a magic pill? Nah, I’m a little too old to buy into that fairy tale. But do I think it’s going to hurt anything to try it and see how I feel? Nope. Because it’s about the journey. It’s about trying different things and finding the personally tailored prescription that fits. I am certain I haven’t found that yet, so I’m going back to the drug store.
I’ve had this quote from an article I read for more than a year now. I came across it again last week. It’s from Christopher Sommer, a former men’s gymnastics national team coach, who said:
“Dealing with the temporary frustration of not making progress is an integral part of the path towards excellence. In fact, it is essential and something that every single elite athlete has had to learn to deal with. If the pursuit of excellence was easy, everyone would do it. In fact, this impatience in dealing with frustration is the primary reason that most people fail to achieve their goals. Unreasonable expectations time-wise, resulting in unnecessary frustration, due to a perceived feeling of failure. Achieving the extraordinary is not a linear process.
The secret is to show up, do the work, and go home.
A blue collar work ethic married to indomitable will. It is literally that simple. Nothing interferes. Nothing can sway you from your purpose. Once the decision is made, simply refuse to budge.
Refuse to compromise.
And accept that quality long-term results require quality long-term focus. No emotion. No drama. No beating yourself up over small bumps in the road. Learn to enjoy and appreciate the process. This is especially important because you are going to spend far more time on the actual journey than with those all too brief moments of triumph at the end.
Certainly celebrate the moments of triumph when they occur. More importantly, learn from defeats when they happen. In fact, if you are not encountering defeat on a fairly regular basis, you are not trying hard enough. And absolutely refuse to accept less than your best.
Throw out a timeline. It will take what it takes.
If the commitment is to a long-term goal and not to a series of smaller intermediate goals, then only one decision needs to be made and adhered to. Clear, simple, straightforward. Much easier to maintain than having to make small decision after small decision to stay the course when dealing with each step along the way. This provides far too many opportunities to inadvertently drift from your chosen goal. The single decision is one of the most powerful tools in the toolbox.”
The goal is to document every day of the 14 days, including recipes, noticeable changes and my feelings along the way. I’m sharing this now, in case any of you brave souls would like to follow along and try it as well. I promise I will not feel differently about you if you choose to sit back and take bets on my potential failure from afar. You gotta do you.