Lesson Learned. Again.

I’ve been pining lately – for a version of myself with clear eyes and skin, open breathing and open body. It’s the no dairy version of me. Remember when I stopped eating dairy and eggs? And I kind of complained that the changes were too subtle. I wanted SHAZAM! kind of changes. And eventually, the holidays came and I dove into a sugary vat of butter and eggs.

Well, guess what? SHAZAM! I feel like crap. I could go into all the seamy details, but for now let’s just say all that too-subtle opening and energy seems like a dream state and a good starting point. So here we go again. Day 1, no dairy. Again.

UPDATE: To keep myself honest, I plan on tweeting some of my yummy vegan food choices with the tags #febislovemonth and #veganlunch. Follow along if you like! I could use the encouragement.

The Dog Food Dilemma

When I was a little girl, and I wanted to help my mom in the kitchen, she pulled up a chair for me, pointed at a pile of raw chicken cutlets and told me to first dunk it in the egg flour, then the flour egg, then the breadcrumbs.

I remember the slimy chicken threatening to slip through my fingers, the cloying egg – I don’t think I could take a deep breath until it was floured and breaded. Then the next piece. And the next.

Nothing much has changed; I haven’t eaten meat in ten years, nor have I ever prepared my own.

So why was I picking out chicken at the grocery store this morning?

When Kaylee first came to us, we fed her dry, “healthy” (read: expensive) dog food. If she ever grabbed a pizza crust off the curb during a walk and upset her stomach, we’d phone in an extra order of rice when we got take out, and that was about it.

And when I moved back to NY with her, I was on a strict budget. One of the things I sacrificed was her pricey dog food. But after reading a little bit more about what’s in dog food, I was completely turned off. I re-budgeted, switched her back to the natural stuff – slowly, over a period of a week. For some reason, it wasn’t sitting well with her.

To cut this potentially long story a bit shorter, I’ve been cooking her food for about a month now. Rice, carrots, sweet potatoes and whatever veggies I had on hand that she liked.

The girl was hungry. Really hungry. At first I chalked up her dinner-time enthusiasm to sheer enjoyment. But then I started to worry about her protein intake.

After much reading, I’m still not sure what I believe. Some sources say that dogs can thrive on a completely vegetarian diet. But others disagree. I’m still not sure I want to turn my dog into a guinea pig. But I don’t want to feed her one, either.

Here’s where the chicken comes in. If I am going to feed my animal another animal, I want to be completely comfortable with it. If it’s a natural process, I want to be in on it. I don’t want to repudiate factory meat for myself, but feed my dog canned, cubed, disguised meat product. If I’m feeding her meat, I’m going to have to touch it.

So, tonight, I’m pouring myself a glass of wine, turning on the boiling water, and putting my hands on a store-bought carcass. I’ll pick around the bones and give her some meat – along with her now-usual rice, carrots and veggies. I’ll save the broth (on the recommendation of a friend), and pour it over the dry food I’m still mixing in to her diet. And I will try to remember to breathe while I do it.

Dear Dairy: Week 4 or I Can’t Believe It’s Not… oh.

Four weeks, people! Coming from someone who thinks of cheese as an acceptable substitute for, well, pretty much any other kind of food there is, I’m pretty proud of myself.

A thing or two snuck in under the radar. I ate a really delicious scone that someone brought for me as a gift. It was made with butter, but it was also made with love. It was good, but to be honest, it tasted a little like a giant, flakey pat of sugary butter. Really buttery. And then I kind of felt like my insides were painted with butter. You know, which is either good or bad, I haven’t decided yet.

After four weeks, I do think my system is running cleaner. It’s not perfect, and there are still things I want to experiment with and try. But, overall, I feel less bloated and less crave-y. Also, I know that ‘crave-y’ isn’t a word. I’m definitely willing to stick with a mostly dairy-less diet.

Anything less than completely black or white is difficult for me. Once a little bit of parmesan is okay, then why not eat some pepperjack out of a bag by the handful? But I am going to keep going for now.

There’s a lot of room for improvement in how I feed myself. I’m looking forward to cooking more (er, sort of) and relying on processed soy foods less. Green things look good to me in the grocery store, so it’s about time I figured out how to cook ’em.

Also, it’s World Go Vegan week, apparently. Who knew? New York has a whopping one restaurant participating. But the sites linked here have more information on how you can participate.

You know, or not. Frankly, in the middle of this month I somehow smelled some bacon, and, MAN, did that smell good.

Dear Dairy: Week 3

Wherein I discover some things and ask some questions.

I am slowly realizing how many foods secretly stash dairy products in the ingredient list. And that if you eat foods that don’t come in a wrapper, you can avoid the gruesome discovery of “milk products” while you’re reading the package and chewing.

Here’s the thing: that granola bar has whey in it. And even though cheese isn’t listed on the menu, it’s sprinkled on top of your taco. And when everyone is eating homemade potato and cheese frittatas, you damn well better find a way to make your oatmeal look appetizing or you’re going to fall, hard.

These are the pitfalls, so what are the benefits?

Well, I’m still kind of waiting on that one. My energy seems better (which could also be a product of the running and the yoga – but who’s keeping track?). But there’s none of this miracle cure I read about in other people’s success stories. The skin-clearing-weight-loss-lighter-than-air thing isn’t really happening. Am I asking too much? Or not doing enough?

My dad offers that maybe it’s not dairy. Maybe it’s gluten. Or sugar. Or a combination of these things that are effecting my overall. Or, and here’s my alternate theory, everything is actually already fine. And the fluctuations in weight and energy are normal – overblown in my mind because I’m focusing on them. Am I Gaslighting myself here? I feel as though I’m looking for a miracle – but I don’t even know what I’m trying to cure. It’s exceptionally possible that I’m trying to “fix” myself – emotionally, psychologically – by controlling my diet.

On the other hand, there’s the simple concept of going through life without needing to support the meat and dairy industries. That’s a pretty attractive lure in itself. It might help me in this experiment to stop thinking so much about myself. (Despite my obvious need to talk about myself all the time to strangers online, all this navel gazing starts to feel self-indulgent at a certain point.) And to think instead about the overall good that comes from avoiding a tacit support for industries whose practices are noted for cruelty – physically to animals, and economically to farmers and small businesses.

After week 4, will I continue? Will my mom, as she fears, have to construct me a separate salad without cheese sprinkled on top come Christmas? Or will I have jumped on another well-fed bandwagon at that point? It’s hardly a cliff-hanger, but, still, something to consider.

If anyone has any vegan wisdom out there, I’d be glad to hear it.

Dear Dairy: Week 2

I still don’t miss you cheese! But I feel like crap, to be honest. Is this detox? Or do I just feel this way coincidentally?

Greek yogurt is something I miss. The soy kind is soupy and simply a medium for walnuts, flax and berries. And on a brunch menu, my options are limited to carbo loading. At least until I learn to get a little more creative and eat greens for breakfast.

But aside from that, the eating part has been just fine. I’m trying new things. I cooked some really gorgeous brussel sprouts (as evidenced in an earlier post), and this week I even bought some Kale at the grocery store just because it looked so pretty. I asked a friend how to prepare it too, so it looks like I won’t just stick those purty kale fronds in a vase and stare at them all week.

I am craving green things, even though yesterday I ate only tan things like cereal and knish. Hmm, maybe that’s why I need the kale.

I am grateful for the boost I felt earlier in the week when my energy was up. I was running and moving well. I bought flax to sprinkle on my soy yogurt, like a real live healthy person.

But now I’m achey breaky and my everything hurts. My yoga is challenging because I feel as though I’m practicing inside someone else’s body. There are other factors of course: my cycle is a big one, and that ugly coughing thing that’s going around the office could be another.

The experiment continues, though, as I am assuming this is just ‘the hump’ that happens in any detox. I’m getting greedy for achievement, and find myself setting goals. Go 4 weeks, go until the end of the year! But that’s just the ego part. And I need to remind myself just to listen and take care of myself. The goal is simply to see how this feels.

I could use a good dose of the detox high right about now, though. Just as a moral booster. Maybe the kale will do the trick.

Dear Dairy

It’s been a week since I’ve had any eggs, milk, yogurt or cheese. To be honest, I expected to miss you more. Maybe I’m still detoxing? It was tricky here and there to not grab for a muffin or egg sandwich. But I was smart in my grocery shopping and planning ahead. I was worried I’d relapse, so I bought a lot of replacement foods: power-fu salad to make fake egg-salad sandwiches, soy yogurt instead of my beloved greek, tofutti cream cheese, just for fun.

If anything, I think I’m suffering from a soy-verdose. It’s time to move away from fake dairy and on to just plain old real foods.

This is something I battle with all the time. As happy, clean and joyful as all those vegans over at The Kind Life sound, I’m just not sure it’s the answer for me – which is the whole reason I’m doing this experiment to begin with.

I am leaning toward the idea of full, wholesome real foods making up the bulk of my diet. Duh. I mean, doesn’t everybody want that? But if that’s the case, why I am messing with power-fu tofu fake egg salad?

Because when I come home from work, I don’t feel like cooking. To be honest, I never feel like cooking. A good power-fu sandwich is standby, a crutch, an easy out until I can get used to feeding myself properly. Or, at least that’s what I tell myself. Maybe I’m just lazy.

I tried to cook something last week. I really did. And it was an unmitigated disaster. Something about a pilot light and pre-heating the oven – maybe it’s because I don’t have a real baking sheet and used whatever that thing is that comes stashed away in the boiler part of the oven (oh my goodness, looks, this opens!). Lovely sliced zucchini with onions and olive oil. After a whoosh of flame, not unlike they were filming the sequel to Backdraft in my tiny oven, half of the food was burned to a crisp, and the other half remained completely raw. Not that one half of the tray had burned food on it, no. Each zucchini slice was partially incinerated, and partially as raw as they day it was harvested – I couldn’t replicated this if I tried.

As I scraped the burned bits off the tray, or whatever that was, I tasted it. And because I didn’t want another meal of walnuts dipped in tofutti cream cheese, I ate it. Burned bits and all. Not bad, really. Worth another try for sure.

Let’s hope for better luck this week.