A while back, I wrote a blog about my initial conversion to vegetarianism:
“In 2002 my mom had a heart attack, and I went to get my health checked. It wasn’t good. I was 22, and I already had a blood pressure of 140/88 and total cholesterol of 296 (below 150 is recommended, and anything over 240 is considered very high). And, of course, I was over 100 lbs. overweight. Heart disease and diabetes runs all over my family, and if I didn’t change something I was destined for problems… likely early in my life.
“After the 296 cholesterol reading, my doctor prescribed me a statin drug to lower the number. But I didn’t want to be drug-dependent for life, so I chose another path. I became a vegetarian (at that time still eating some fish).
“I had my cholesterol checked again after three months of being a veggie. It was down to 171! And my blood pressure had returned to a healthier 123/79. My doctor was floored.”
There was more. After I became a fish-eating vegetarian, I became a real vegetarian and then a vegan. But I still had weight to lose. My cholesterol was better, but not good enough, and my vegan diet wasn’t really helping with the wight loss. I was at a plateau.
A month ago I attended a nutritional seminar from Dr. McDougall. What I learned there resulted in changes to my diet. So far, one month in, I’m on schedule.
I’ve been eating this new way now for just over a month (about 32 days). I weighed 213.6 pounds (97kg) the day I started, and yesterday morning I cracked the 200 barrier, weighing in at 199.4 (90.6kg). So that’s 14 pounds (6.4kg) lost the first month. Yesterday I fit into a pair of pants that I’d been keeping in storage anticipating that one day I’d be able to wear them again.
The idea of the diet is very simple:
Eat only foods that are low in caloric density (and high in nutritional density).
That is, stick to foods that have relatively low caloric contents for their weight. In practice this means eating salad greens, green and yellow vegetables, fruits, whole grains (but not whole grain flour or bread), beans and lentils, and starchy vegetables like potatoes. Avoid adding oil to anything, avoid all meat, eggs, and dairy products (no problem for me because I was already a vegan), avoid nuts and avocados, and avoid “empty” carbs like soda and white flour.
Of the foods I eat, I eat as much of them as I want whenever I’m hungry.
Here’s a sample menu for a day, including the areas where I’ve been cheating a little bit. I like to cook, so I’ve been cooking some nicer meals a lot, but this menu will be what I would eat on my laziest day where I didn’t really want to cook at all.
- Bowl of oatmeal (3/4 cup dry rolled oats) topped with berries and maybe a teaspoon of maple syrup, and
- An apple and a mandarin orange, and
- 2 cups of black coffee (I have a significant coffee habit that I’m going to improve, but not now.) You could have one cup or tea instead if you want to limit caffeine.
- 1 or 2 fruits, and/or
- snacking vegetables like carrots or snap peas
- Salad greens with cherry tomatoes with low fat vegan dressing, and
- Steamed vegetable (often frozen, sometimes fresh: string beans, peas, broccoli, asparagus, etc.), and
- Stove-top potatoes or sweet potatoes/yams cooked in water (instead of oil), and
- Large cup of juice spritzer (this is what I used to kick my once really bad soda habit) It’s one part fruit juice to about four parts seltzer water.
I cook up about 5 medium-sized potatoes and my wife, Elaine, and I eat them for lunch and then snack on them later in the afternoon until they’re gone. Sometimes I boil/mash them and add onion, garlic, jalapeno, etc. We eat the potatoes with seasoning… I like to sprinkle on a cajun spice blend I prepare. Elaine likes adobo.
Generally I fill half a large plate with salad, a quarter with the steamed veggies, and a quarter with the potatoes. I usually go back for seconds on the potatoes before the meal is over.
- Leftover potatoes/whatever was lunch, and
- fruit or snack vegetables, and
- 1 cup of black coffee (told you I have a habit.. 3 cups a day is pretty standard) You could have tea instead.
- Salad greens with cherry tomatoes, and
- Steamed vegetables, and
- Main dish (low fat vegan starch-based), and
- Bottle of beer (stick with water or juice if you’re limiting or removing alcohol from your diet)
Example of dinner main dish:
- 1 can of diced tomatoes
- 1 can of pinto beans (rinsed and drained)
- 1/2 cup of frozen corn
- 1 jalapeno pepper, diced or canned
- spices (cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, etc.)
- Stick this in a pot, stir it up, and cook it until the liquid reduces somewhat.
- Serve over brown rice.
Usually go back for seconds on the rice and beans too.
Ways I’ve cheated: I eat white rice instead of brown probably once or twice a week or so. I’ve had avocado a couple of times. The coffee and beer is my consistent cheating. I had one slice of cake and one order of fries during the month. I eat more fruit than I’m supposed to.. probably about 5 pieces a day and I’m supposed to limit to 3. I’m not going to sweat that.
So far the “cheating” I’ve done hasn’t stopped me from achieving my goals… so to that extent it’s really not cheating and is just living my life. The point is: a little cheating won’t undo the good. The more healthy foods you choose, the better.
For all my meals, the rule is that if I’m still hungry, I keep eating until I’m not hungry anymore. I usually cook at least double what I’d eat at a meal so about half my meals have been leftovers.
Honestly, I couldn’t be happier with this diet. I’m never hungry for long, I feel great, and the weight is just coming right off. I haven’t even added to my exercise routine yet. I plan to increase my exercise gradually as time progresses. Once I lose more weight I’d love to start playing soccer again.