Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Life as I know it

A couple of months ago, my grandparents decided they were going to drastically change their diet and become vegans. When I heard the news, I couldn't believe it--if you knew my grandpa, you'd understand my disbelief. My whole life, he's been the guy who likes to eat just about everything. I remember my grandma used to joke around, telling us that the only thing she could buy that he wouldn't eat were salt and vinegar potato chips; but if there was nothing else for him to munch on, he might have eaten those too. Furthermore, the best meals I can remember my grandma cooking all had meat, cheese, or butter--sometimes all three. My grandpa is a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy.

That is, he used to be.

I remember talking to them about it, initially, and my grandpa said one thing that stood out to me the most--it's not a change someone can make unless they have a reason that drives them. I respected their decision and was, actually, really excited for them. It is their health that has inspired them--and because, of course, I'm not nearly ready to live a life without them, I was proud of them for taking drastic measures to improve their health.

I, on the other hand, insisted that I could never handle a vegan diet. Why? Because I like hamburgers too much. My favorite restaurant is Old Chicago, and one of my favorite things to do is to go there and enjoy a beer with a classic cheeseburger, or a Chicago style pizza. There was no way I could give up meat--and definitely not dairy! Besides the cheese I can't go without on my hamburger, I love ice cream.

Ice cream. Let me tell you a little bit about how ice cream changed my life.

This summer, ice cream became a part of my nightly routine. A couple scoops a night was my night cap--I wouldn't go to bed without the delicious, milky, nectar. For a while, I'd come home from the grocery store with different variations of vanilla ice cream with chocolate covered peanut butter cups, rabbits, swirls--didn't matter, as long as there was peanut butter. After a while, and an impromptu trip to Cold Stone Creamery one evening, I decided to go for something lighter. Cake batter flavored ice cream became my new craving. And then I discovered it--the most delicious summer ice cream pick my mouth had ever known--I do, I do, Wedding Cake--butter-creme flavored ice cream with chunks of white cake and raspberry swirls! Oh my gosh, it was so good. So good that  I could hardly stop myself from going back for another bowl after I'd finished my first; occasionally, I didn't even try and stop myself. I loved it.

My waist, on the other hand, did not.

Now, I'm a woman--feeling fat is something that happens on a regular basis. Bloating happens. We get over it. But, that was the thing, I had hit a point where I wasn't getting over it. A week went by and I was wondering why I still felt uncomfortable in my body. Then another week slipped by, and another, and I couldn't shake the feeling. It was frustrating when everything I put on made me feel like I had to add another layer to cover myself up just a little more. Something had to be done--so I made the decision to go on a diet.

I'm the kind of person that, when I make up my mind to do something, I do it. And I had made up my mind. So, after my summer vacation with family (where I knew going on a diet wasn't going to happen), I changed how I was eating. I decided that I wanted to lose 20 pounds. I gave up sweets and beer, I cut way back on carbs and upped my protein intake, I started eating more vegetables and, within the first two weeks, I lost nine pounds.

It was awesome.

That's when I decided that I was going to start making my own vegetable soup. I was getting sick of salads for lunch everyday, and with autumn on the horizon, soup seemed like the next best thing. It was a great idea, in theory, but not so great the first few practice rounds. Turned out the soup I was eating didn't have nearly as many calories as I needed and by the end of my work day, I hadn't eaten enough food to provide me with the energy I needed. My body was going into starvation mode.

My solution? More protein. But, I didn't want that to mean more meat. I couldn't afford more meat! So, I started hunting for ideas. I added beans to my soup and my body was very pleased; and, happy to have found a few recipes for nutritious lunch time meals, I kept looking. It was then that I discovered the plethora of recipes out there for vegetarians. It wasn't long before the lulls at work were filled with me scouring the internet for more vegetarian soup recipes. Soup recipes turned into dinner recipes and snack ideas and then I realized something....

If I stopped buying meat, my grocery bill would probably go down in price. Plus, with all the recipes I was finding, I was sure that I could still maintain a well rounded menu that tasted just as good without meat. And, I was suddenly very intrigued by the idea of knowing exactly what I was eating--so, switching to a vegetarian diet just seemed to make sense.

It dawned on me that what I was eating went beyond just feeding myself. The knowledge that my body is not my own took on a whole new meaning; I understood that my body is a gift from God and it is a temple that houses Christ's promise in the form of the Holy Spirit. Suddenly, I realized that I needed to take care of myself better.

Surprisingly enough, I don't miss ice cream. While I am still trying to stay away from sweets and excessive carbs for now, I'm not sure that my diet will really have room for those things in the future. I've found that I actually enjoy eating healthy and it's not as hard as I imagined it would be. My recipe hunt has grown into a habit. I seek out blogs with recipes and articles about food and nutrition. When I think of something I like to eat (outside of fruits, vegetables, dairy and nuts), I look into what it would take to make it. And, I've discovered, most of the things that I now eat, I can make them myself.

So, here I am, a vegetarian who has vowed to make as much as I can from scratch. I tell people that I have this rule that I live by--If I want it, I have to make it. And you know what? I love it. Not only does my body appreciate my efforts (I've lost four more pounds--yippee! Only seven more to go), but I thoroughly enjoy the time I spend in the kitchen. And there is something so rewarding about eating something that you've made from scratch.

I look forward to sharing this experience with you; I'm anxious to grow spiritually, as a person, as a woman, and as a cook as I journey my way through life as a vegetarian--life as a health conscious consumer--and life as a Scratch Kitchen chef.

That's all for now--Rosalyn

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