By Amy Lewis
Photography by ChiChi Ubiña
“If cauliflower can become pizza then… you my friend, can do anything!” Superfast Diet
January 1st, I spent 20 days without the consumption of any animal by-product. My son, by his own decision, embarked on a diet that he only consumed animal products. Let me say; he only lasted six days. His excuse was that he was hungry, not surprising. I prepared a lot of food for him, but when I had to travel and was not there to cook, he caved. Honestly, his diet is silly and completely unrealistic. I just indulged him because he was so passionate about it. In his six days of carnivore eating, he says the pros were – lots of energy, no brain fog, and very focused. The cons – very hungry, digestive issues, and gaseous. Not sure how much I can rely on his conclusion because he could only manage six days. Anyway, back to the newest craze: the whole foods plant-based diet. This concept of only eating plant-based foods has taken off. Veganism has always been around but not so mainstream. I thought I would be so restricted, but society has embraced this. The options are pretty limitless.
I have never dieted, so I was a little nervous about not being able to eat enough. I began by setting up delivery from an online company, “Hello Fresh,” which was very good, but it only provided the ingredients. You have to prepare the meals. I needed an extra hour in my day to make it, which was not ideal considering I was cooking my dinner, then my son’s, as well as the rest of the family’s, so it faded fast. Plus, I felt terrible… all the items came individually wrapped in plastic. A little bit of a waste and an oxymoron considering I’m trying to eat clean and healthy, yet it’s ok to clutter the environment with more plastic than necessary. I decided to make it easy and eat locally from “Freshii” and “Little Beet Table.” Soy became a massive staple in my diet. Tofu as well as meatless meats.
About seven years ago, I gave up soy products because studies said it was high in estrogen, and eating too much of it could cause problems with hormonal balance. Of course, like all diets, philosophies change and now soy isn’t so bad—especially women in my age group. The extra estrogen is needed as we age. It also provided my primary source of protein. I was still lifting and doing cardio. My muscles needed some fuel. One caveat is that these meatless meats are filled with a lot of complicated ingredients. I can’t say that over time all of this is healthy. I know “Beyond Meat” is the rage, but the ingredients list is an entire paragraph.
Traveling while dieting can be a bit of a nightmare. Airports have very few options, especially if you are in middle America. Not all restaurants are embracing the plant-based thing. Most vegetarian items include cheese, so you are left with pasta, which for anyone that goes out to restaurants with me knows I never order pasta. However, it all comes down to what’s important… how did I feel throughout?
The first two weeks were a little brutal. My body needed to adjust to the increased amounts of vegetables. I did experience a lot of bloating and was very gaseous (embarrassing to say, but it’s very true). After the two weeks, I felt terrific. My stomach fell flat, my skin looked great. My energy level stayed roughly the same. I branched out to some of the dairy alternatives on the market. The idea of almond cheese creeped me out, but surprisingly it’s delicious, especially the “Kitehill” brand. Cashew milk is my favorite of all the milk alternatives, and I rediscovered coconut sugar, which in my opinion, tastes better than regular sugar. One major con for me was that I saw a decrease in muscle tone, and for most people out there, this wouldn’t matter, but in my case it does. Getting enough protein was hard, almost too hard. At the end of the 20 days, I concluded my ideal diet should be loaded with plants while still incorporating eggs and fish. In other words, dairy is officially off the table! Maybe, I’ll save dairy for my cheat days when I eat pizza, but this overall good feeling outweighs my desire to eat cheese.
The critical lesson here is that eating is a science. Everyone’s body is different. It is important to mix things up and use trial and error. I’m proud I did this and had a goal. I would encourage everyone to do the same, but please keep it realistic. Eating only steak, chicken, and fish seems a little too impossible to comprehend. Always think long-term!