I’m experimenting. For the past four years or so, I have been a diminishing meat eater of sorts –a quasi-vegetarian undergoing periodic growth spurts in the veggie-direction. During that period I virtually eliminated red meat from my diet, and quite happily. I was eating chicken no more than about once every month and often much less than that, but fish and seafood were still a large part of my diet. Once in a blue moon, and only after two years or so of a no-red-meat lifestyle, did I sneak in some pork (tacos, you know, and don’t they say that it’s the “other white meat”?).
I still ate eggs maybe once a week, and small quantities of cheese and other dairy products–mainly goat cheese feta on salads or the occasional grating of Parmesan on pasta. I drank skim or partially skimmed milk in my decaf or coffee substitute and ate plain yogurt or homemade kefir, although very rarely (meaning once every couple or three months). My added fats were limited and made up of olive oil, grape-seed oil, and cold pressed organic coconut oil, except for using butter–real butter–once or twice a month on things like baked potatoes, popcorn (the real stuff), and corn-on-the-cob. My diet otherwise was healthy: fresh fruits, green salads almost every day, usually with homemade dressing, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and a very minimum of processed foods of any kind. Sodas and soft-drinks were never a significant part of my diet and when they were I tended toward the flavored and lightly sweetened mineral waters that used to be so popular in Mexico before the the large soda companies completely took over the market, and I can say that I virtually haven’t ingested any sodas at all in almost 20 years.
As for drinking alcohol, over these same four years I’d reduced my intake from being a moderate-to-high beer, wine and mixed spirits imbiber to being a highly-moderate just-wine drinker, but even wine was wreaking havoc with me. After a lifetime of no-headaches-to-speak-of-ever, I went to having terrible migraines at least once or twice a month, and every time I had one, wine seemed to be involved. So scrap that. In January of 2010 (doesn’t it sound funny to write “2010” as if being already a DECADE into the 21st century were just normal?), spurred on by another friend who intended to do the same thing, I promised myself to drop alcohol “until further notice,” not giving myself any ultimatums, but rather looking at it as doing myself a favor for a while, just to see what happens.
So far, so good. I’d also been thinking on and off over the latter months of 2009 and early into 2010 of doing a juice fast or, as they are called these days, a juice feast, and in mid-April I finally succeeded in embarking on a full 21-day juice or liquid diet. I did this for several reasons: I was aging (and still am, dang #%*! it), creeping toward being way over the hill and sliding down the other side, with all those quirky things that start happening at this stage of life, like little allergies evolving into serious sneezes with drippy nose and itchy eyes, restless nights of insomnia and, most recently and despite what I perceived as a healthy diet, problems with pre-hypertension that had at one point threatened to drop the pre-fix and blossom straight into full-blown high blood pressure. I didn’t like that and it totally confused me. What was happening with my body and what was it trying to tell me?
After taking beta-blockers for a year, my BP was relatively stable and I was more than ready to leave the meds behind. I was doing well, actually, weaning myself off of them and since Christmas had reduced my medication from two-a-day to one-a-day and then to 1 every second day. I was ready to graduate to none at all but I really wanted it to work and be rid of them forever, so I decided that a juice feast and clean-out as an aid to the health of my vascular system was just the ticket. I was no stranger to fasting and had done short fasts (a few days up to about two weeks) on various occasions during my lifetime. I knew the joys of waking up on day four of a fast feeling great, bursting with energy and ready to go, the sense of accomplishment of having hung in there through those first 72 hours in which every insidious craving and excuse not to fast tends to assault you non-stop.
And hang in there I did. I spent twenty-one full days wallowing in freshly squeezed, extracted, and blended juices: watermelon water; carrot and apple juice with ginger; celery and lime and spinach mixed with pineapple; beet, apple and jicama; cabbage juice and cucumber juice. I permitted myself herbal teas and vegetable broth when I wanted something hot or different. I’d broken out my dehydrator and made up a salt-free veggie broth powder made of parsley, celery, green and red peppers, leeks, green onions, cabbage and carrots, since here in Mexico it’s impossible to find commercial brands of veggie broth that aren’t laced with hydrogenated fats and oodles (don’t you love that word?) of sodium chloride and things like MSG.
Now, I know from experience with other fasts that a particular phenomenon happens with me. I don’t know if it’s like this for others, but when I’m not eating I get mentally obsessed with good food, healthy food products, useful food thoughts, all the while thoroughly enjoying the physical non-eating aspect of the fast. I love to surround myself with recipes, indulge in imagining what I’ll prepare and eat once I’m eating again; basically, I just have food on the brain. But it is not bothersome. Evening smelling someone else’s food, tempting as it might sound, does not make me want to put food in my mouth or make me feel deprived once I’m into the swing of things and past that third day. On the contrary, it makes me feel rich and lucky to have all those possibilities before me, to know I can start anew with a healthy system. And so while on this juice program, and because the juices are so cleansing and help keep the cravings for non-healthy foods at bay, I began imagining and planning and mapping out what kind of healthy food life-style I was going to follow once the juice feast was over. Because more than anything, I was determined to stay off those beta-blockers.
This determination and obsession with food made me scour the web every day looking for inspiring materials and recipes. And find them I did. I began watching a series of videos that were mind-boggling, presentations by eminent doctors such as T. Colin Campbell, author of “The China Study“, Caldwell Esselstyn, author of “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease: The Revolutionary, Scientifically Proven, Nutrition-Based Cure“, and physician and nutrition expert, John McDougall, author of “The McDougall Program for a Healthy Heart: A Life-Saving Approach to Preventing and Treating Heart Disease“, among many others, all of whom espouse a plant-based diet and vegan lifestyle. I became engrossed by the videos on-line presented by Charlotte Gerson explaining the principles and reasoning behind the amazing Gerson Therapy which was developed by her father (see “Healing the Gerson Way: Defeating Cancer and Other Chronic Diseases“). I read further books and papers by these and other sources and decided that putting a low-fat vegan diet into effect in my life was the path I was going to take.
Again, don’t get me wrong, I am still not making any declarations of long-term intent, am not suddenly proclaiming myself a die-hard vegan and waving the flag of animal rights and full-fledged dietary reform. I have simply made myself a little pledge to try out this lifestyle for a while and see how I feel and where it leads me and, well, so far it has led me here, inspired to do a blog, of all things, to journal this process about what’s it’s like to become a vegan in Mexico…
And here we go!