MAKING THE TRANSITION
THE INITIAL HURDLES
Some people who become vegetarians claim they never felt better and would never go back. Others try to become vegetarian but give up, complaining that they don’t feel good in some way or that they feel the need for meat. However,
… the neophyte’s nausea does not come directly from vegetarianism or from fasting. Rather, nausea comes from cleansing; it is the cleansing that comes directly from vegetarianism or from fasting. Those who complain of tiredness and headache during their first month of vegetarianism blame their ills on doing without flesh food rather than on having done with it for so long. (Mark Mathew Braunstein, Radical Vegetarianism, p. 56.)
As one loses fat, toxins stored there are released, and it is these toxins which cause nausea. Braunstein suggests that beginning vegetarians undertake a raw foods diet and then a fruit juice fast in order to cleanse their systems and get past these feelings as soon as possible.
What will you do when you eat with people who serve animal-based food? Just eat the vegetables, potatoes, rice, and whatever else is strictly vegetarian and do so with out preaching any sermons. What you are eating and not eating will say enough. Wait until after dinner to answer the inevitable and indelicate questions.
I will not under any circumstances eat meat, eggs, or dairy products—even if the host is offended. I reassure the host that it is my problem and not hers, not to worry about me. If all else fails and she persists, I tell the host that not eating animal-based foods is contrary to my religion. That gets them to back down.
Make sure you eat flax, hemp, chia, or kukui. Your body craves Omega-3 fatty acids. Flax and hemp are the best non-meat sources in the temperate zone. Chia and kukui grow in the tropics. The reason why you crave meat is probably because you crave Omega-3.
STRETCHING, EXERCISE, MEDITATION—FIRST THINGS FIRST
This is a food book, not an exercise book, but I must digress for several reasons: If you change your diet and also meditate, stretch, and exercise, the transition will be easier. You will see progress more quickly, which will reinforce the dietary change. Dr. Dean Ornish in his Program for Reversing Heart Disease ranks meditation and exercise as being as important for good health as dietary change.
Stretch as soon as you wake up. Gently move every muscle in your body. Stretch several times during the day. Lie on the floor and do sit-ups; raise your legs up over your head; do upside-down pushups if you can. Lie on your stomach and do pushups, or at least raise your upper body. Do pull-ups or hang from a tree branch. Lift light weights and hold them above your head for a minute or so, shifting the weight around to stretch different muscles. At work keep your back very straight as you sit at your desk. Move around and stretch at the office. Stretching is the most fundamental form of exercise; it helps keep the body young, and it feels great. Buy a paperback book on hatha yoga, and follow the simple exercises.
If you have a bad back or a bad neck and stretching hurts, then start very slowly, and don’t extend yourself very far. But stretch anyway. Gradually you will find yourself loosening up, and that bad back or bad neck will gradually improve. Sleep without a pillow. A pillow curves your neck forward. Sleeping on a pillow may—in my non-medical opinion—cause people to stoop as they age. Or sleep on a pillow but lie on your side: Your spine will remain straight. Maybe you will stop snoring.
After stretching, meditate for 20 minutes. After meditating, and if you are a writer, move to the computer and start writing. Write as much as possible in a state of meditation, with your eyes closed if you are a touch typist. Learn touch typing: Those keys don’t move around.
Then go out and jog or walk around the neighborhood. Do a slow, stretching jog. When it rains, do it anyway, mocking the weather. When it’s cold you will have to jog or walk faster to keep warm. In dry weather ride your bicycle instead.
Do a few pull-ups on the backyard grape arbor or a low tree limb along your jogging route. Stop and do a few pushups. Jog or walk along and whistle at the birds. Caw at the crows. Meow at the cats. Carry old bread to throw to the dogs that bark at you. Bark, bark—bark, bark—bark, bark, bark. Feed them, and they won’t bark so much. All they want to do is smell you, so let them smell you, and they will calm down. For dogs, smelling things is like reading the newspaper. Jog or walk in the morning, and it will make you feel great. Jog or walk again after work, and it will relax you.
I was out running late one night. I ran by a couple of lazy, overweight teenagers, and one of them asked me, “Why do you run, man?” I passed them, turned around, and jogging backwards, told them, “Because it feels so good.”
Exercise is an empowering experience that anyone can enjoy: For some it will be jogging; for some it will be walking; for some it will be working on an indoor bicycle or rowing machine. Don’t say you don’t have time. Just get up 20 minutes earlier than usual. Do the most important things first every day.
Through stretching, jogging, and meditating, you can bring the best parts of your personality to the forefront so they can dominate the weaker parts of your personality. In this way you can strengthen your sense of purpose. By the time you are done with your morning ritual, you will be a more committed person.
CHEW, CHEW, CHEW YOUR FOOD
Some people find that eating greens and beans gives them gas. Humans cannot digest cellulose. Fear not (trumpet flourish) Beano is here! Beano really does take the gas out of beans, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, granola, grains, and other gassy foods. Beano is an enzyme, and it gradually is digested, so you need to take a few drops every day or so. Do not put it in your food before you cook it, because heat kills the enzyme. The instructions say to eat eight drops a day, but you will find you can taper off to one or two drops every day or every other day. I no longer need Beano. I have learned that the best way to reduce the gas from greens is to chew, chew, chew them. We should chew all our food much more than we typically do in our in-a-hurry society. It can also help you lose weight. When you chew well, you eat more slowly, so there is more time for your blood sugar level to rise and your appetite to diminish.
Eating plant-based foods does make some people gassy at first, but net total embarrassment is still less. When a strict vegetarian expels gas, there is little odor. A good analogy is the difference between a baby’s poop when she’s breast fed—cute little baby’s odor—and the same baby’s poop when she drinks cow’s milk—peee-yooo!
As a good introduction to the subject, I recommend Edward Szekley’s The Essene Science of Fasting, along with all the score of books Szekely wrote. (www.members.aol.com/esseneinfo/essenecatalog.html.)
Everyone who is reasonably healthy should fast at least one day each week. Everyone should fast daily until noon. Consult with your physician if you have some doubts about your health before fasting, particularly if you are planning to exceed a one-day fast. Fasting gives your stomach and intestines an opportunity to rest and rejuvenate. It gives your body the opportunity to expel toxins.
Your physician is going to say, “You’re going to do what?” He has probably met only two other people in his entire life who fasted, and they were monks. So you will have to persist and ask: “All I want to know, Doc, is whether a one- to three-day fast with juice is going to give me a heart attack.” He will probably shrug and give you his blessing.
Fasting is a way to strengthen yourself physically and emotionally. If you want to quit some bad habit, make some dramatic life change, or make some important decision, fasting will help you do it. If you want to defeat an allergy, fasting will help. Fasting induces an altered state of consciousness without the consumption of any drugs. When you fast, a profound sense of peace and thoughtfulness pervades your body and mind.
There are various ways to fast. A “dry” fast is the most stringent; Muslims do this during Ramadan, and when Ramadan falls during the summer, this can be a 16-hour, no-water fast. The next most stringent fast is a water-only fast. Without advice from a physician, one should fast in these ways only for brief periods. On a long, water-only fast, the mineral balance of the blood can be upset, and a heart attack can be the result.
Normally, one would at least drink water and juices while fasting. Juices are digested within twenty minutes and pass immediately into the blood stream. Drinking juice is close to eating nothing. And juices help maintain the mineral balance of the blood. Another alternative is only to drink juice and eat fruit. Fruit is digested within four hours. A juice and fruit-only fast is a good way to fast for the first time.
Another good way to fast is to eat nothing at all and only drink water or juice from the time you wake up until noon, late afternoon, or even until the evening.
It is best not to fast too long while working. It is best to fast at home. Walk in the yard, read, and meditate. Fasting encourages meditation. Fasting is a time when meditation can be most profound and when you can learn the most about yourself.
A typical omnivore should not jump right into a water and juice fast. She should eat fruit, sprouts, and steamed vegetables for a day or two before beginning her juice fast. As she fasts, her tongue will turn strange colors, and she will have bad breath. Her stool will turn black. Her urine will turn strange colors. However, this is no cause for alarm; she is expelling toxins. During a fast the body burns fat, and it is in the fats that the body stores toxins it is not good at excreting.
Szekely says that strict vegetarians who eat a mostly raw foods diet can jump right into a juice-only fast. They are already living on a diet that purifies their bodies. In fact, raw-foods vegetarians do not have as great a need to fast to purify their bodies, although they may still want to fast for spiritual reasons. (Edward Szekley’s The Essene Science of Fasting; Mark Mathew Braunstein, Radical Vegetarianism, p. 59.)
Those who eat the standard American diet, “SAD,” will carry several pounds of greasy, hardened E. coli fecal matter hiding in crevices in their intestines. Fasting is a good way to eliminate it.
It is not advisable to fast for extended periods in cold weather, unless you can keep your house warm. During a fast your pulse and body temperature drop, and you will feel cold. Dress warmly. When you meditate, wrap a blanket around yourself.
GET THE FAMILY INVOLVED
Cooking is more fun when you get everyone—kids, spouses, and guests—to join in, chopping, mixing, stirring, and sampling the food.
As family members and guests show up, put them to work. This is not bad manners. Most people want to be helpful and appreciate getting some direction. Ask people, “John, can I recruit you to cut up these vegetables?” I encourage you, when you are the guest, to be a low-maintenance guest and offer to help. When I am a guest, I go right to work, without even being asked, cleaning pots and pans. I have great talent in this field: I was once a restaurant dishwasher and bus boy.
Start with a clean kitchen and keep it clean throughout the cooking process. Wash and put away pots and pans as you finish with them. Assign this job to kids, spouses, and guests.
The chef’s job is to decide what to cook, select the recipes, buy the groceries, and direct and coordinate the cooking. The chef leads the cook’s helpers, asking one person to wash vegetables, another to cut, another to stir the stir-fry, another to wash dishes. The chef hands knife and veggies to someone and puts him in front of the cutting board. He hands someone a bowl, and says, “Would you please wash this, dry it, and put it away there.” People who are bad cooks are often good dish and bottle washers.
If everyone works on dinner together, it will be ready in short order, and when dinner is over, the kitchen will be clean. There are such obvious advantages to this shared approach that I am surprised that so few families cook this way. It is fun. It is a unifying experience. It is a way of teaching organization. The typical family meal custom in the United States is a tragedy: Mom cooks while husband and kids watch TV. She calls them to dinner. They eat in a hurry, sometimes with the TV blaring. They quickly return to their TV. Mom is left alone in the kitchen to clean up. I love those bumper stickers that say “Kill Your TV.” Unplug the contraption for a month at a time and “get a life.” If you can’t pull this off due to family political considerations, at least work out a rule that requires that the sound be turned off unless someone is watching a specific program. It’s amazing what a difference this can make. There are cordless TV headphones. Buy a set and use them.
This is a good place to mention another American tragedy: the great number of people who don’t know how to cook. An enormous number of people eat packaged TV Dinners and takeout pizza on a regular basis. Undo this tragedy. Teach your entire family how to cook. Teach them by getting them involved with you in the kitchen. Kids learn best by doing, and that includes cooking. Teach the boys too.
Food is very important to kids. They are growing and exercising, and they are hungry all the time. If you give kids the opportunity to learn how to cook, most will quickly take responsibility to cook the food they prefer. There is a side benefit: Shared cooking creates the setting for talking with kids in a way that doesn’t put them on the spot.
A GOOD TIME TO QUIT SMOKING
What does smoking have to do with a vegan diet? Cigarettes and other tobaccos often contain animal products. http://quitsmoking.about.com/cs/nicotineinhaler/a/cigingredients.htm.) Further, before a chemical is added to tobacco, it is tested in the eyes of rabbits and the lungs of monkeys to determine if it is especially toxic.
Smoking causes an acid condition in the body that quickly draws calcium out of the bones and thus contributes to osteoporosis. It damages arteries, constricting them and reducing blood flow to all parts of the body, including flow to the genitalia, which contributes to impotence. Smoking causes blood to clot more readily.
Smoking multiplies the effect of other unhealthy conditions and behaviors: High cholesterol levels contribute more to heart disease in smokers than in nonsmokers. Stroke is more common among women who use birth control pills and smoke than among those who use birth control pills but do not smoke. Smoking diabetics have more complications than nonsmoking diabetics. Smoking increases risks of cancer and heart attack. When a smoker quits, his risk of heart attack drops rapidly. (Dean Ornish, M.D., Program for Reversing Heart Disease, p. 310 f.; Neal Barnard, Eat Right, Live Longer, p. 39, 114, 153, 166 f.; Dean Ornish, M.D., Program for Reducing Heart Disease, p. 70.)
Children take up smoking out of an infantile desire to appear grown up. In the long run smoking really does make them look older—a lot older. Smoking dries out and wrinkles skin, particularly facial skin, particularly around the eyes and mouth. Smoking makes a person lethargic and sedentary.
There is a paradoxical crossover, psychosexual symbolism involved in cigarette smoking, and cigarette advertisers capitalize on this. See the interesting treatment of this subject by David Krogh, in Smoking: The Artificial Passion. He says kids are so determined to learn to inhale something as bitter as tobacco smoke because it looks like fellatio. Kids say smoking is “cool,” but what they are really saying is that they have come to believe it makes them sexually attractive. It a form of exhibitionism which borders on the sexual and the bisexual. Kids confuse smoking with their innate sexual programming: They are programmed to suck on nipples and draw out a warm white fluid, which they confuse with white smoke. They are programmed to stick thumbs, nipples, and food into their mouths, but they subconsciously confuse these programmed behaviors with cigarette smoking. You don’t believe it? You would mock the theories of Krogh and Deal? Well, they mocked Freud too! If you don’t agree, then come up for some other explanation for why kids persist at smoking long enough to become addicted.
The monsters who design advertising for cigarette companies are very much aware of this psychosexual connection and exploit it for their enrichment. All cigarette advertising says that one ought to smoke. That is a lie. There is no constitutional right to lie. Tobacco should not be banned, because such a law would be unenforceable and would interfere with personal privacy. However, all advertising of tobacco products could legally be banned and should be.
There are people who have been able to give up eating animal-based foods but still have not defeated their addiction to tobacco. Ironically, vegetarians who smoke have a lower rate of lung cancer and heart disease than meat eaters who smoke. This is the case with Japanese men, 60 percent of whom smoke, but most of whom eat a not vegetarian but still low-fat, high-vegetable diet. They have low cholesterol levels and little heart disease, although they do tend to have high blood pressure. Japanese men who smoke have a lower rate of lung cancer than North American men who smoke. (Charles R. Attwood, M.D., Dr. Attwood’s Low-Fat Prescription for Kids, p. 6, F. Lemon, “Death From Respiratory Disease,” Journal of the American Medical Association, 198:117, 1966; J. Stamler, “Elevated Cholesterol May Increase Lung Cancer Risk in Smokers,” Heart Research Letter, 14:2, 1969.)
However, I hope you will not use this as a rationalization for smoking. Declare war on the demon weed. Throw those cigarettes in the fireplace at night and burn them or in the commode and flush them. Get up the next day and stretch, meditate, pray, and exercise. Meditation is another word for self-hypnotism. Go see a hypnotherapist. Get acupuncture. Homeopathic remedies are especially helpful. When you feel like smoking, exercise. Do sit-ups. Do pushups. Do side straddle hops. Smoking revs up the metabolism, and exercise will accomplish the same thing.
Some continue to smoke fearing they will gain weight. Smoking does generally poison the body and may in itself interfere with weight gain. However, you can only take this argument so far. There are a lot of overweight people who smoke and a lot of slim people who don’t. Smoking makes you lethargic. If you tend to be obese and are still smoking, continuing to smoke is not going to help you lose weight, because you are not going to exercise as long as you smoke.
Eating more will not make you gain weight if you eat plant-based food. Eat steamed vegetables—delicious. Eat cooked greens—luscious. Eat raw greens. Eat parsley. Eat fruit—oranges, apples, and plums. If you want to lose weight rapidly, dramatically reduce oil consumption except for the essential fatty acids, and eat steamed veggies, raw greens, and fruit. Eating food like this will build the body chemistry and immune system that resist and defeat cancer and heart disease. It is a lot of work for the body to digest high-fiber, strictly vegetarian food; this turns up the body’s thermostat and burns up calories, which means you will be eating more and soon be weighing less. (See the Obesity section of this book, p. 250.)
There will be a voice within you which will tell you to delay quitting smoking until you lose weight, but remember that this is a rationalization which arises from the addiction and thus a way the addiction manifests itself. How many years have you been smoking? Have you lost weight as a smoker? No, you have probably been gradually gaining weight. So try something else. Use reason against such rationalizations.
EXPLAINING YOURSELF AS A VEGETARIAN
Most people have been taught all their lives that there is nothing wrong with eating animal-based foods, and they have developed no sensitivity to these issues. Many people will conclude that your not eating animal-based foods means that you are condemning them. Explain to them that this is something you have decided to do for the environment, for the animals, and for your health. Explain that you do not impose your dietary choice on others.
Meat eaters can be intrigued with vegetarians—especially vegetarians with a sense of humor. They love to make jokes about us. The Greek playwrights made Pythagoras the butt of their jokes for hundreds of years. They would point to an animal and warn people to be nice to the animal because it might be the reincarnation of Pythagoras—because Pythagoras believed in reincarnation, or metempsychosis, as he called it. They poke fun at us because they feel guilty. Don’t be offended when omnivores laugh at you. Laugh with them. Make jokes about yourself.
There are times when I try to be funny and get no laughs, and then there are times when I say something not intending it to be funny and get an unexpected laugh. Some people take offense when you laugh at them when they are not trying to be funny. I have always aspired to be a comic, and I have learned to accept a laugh any way I can get it. You get more net total laughs that way. My point is that although we environmental vegans take our calling seriously, people are not generally convinced by continuous and intense serious argumentation. Usually people learn a little at a time. And they learn more easily from humorous and happy people.
Saying something clever can help open a person’s mind: I have been known to say, “When I was in law school I had high blood pressure, but then I became a vegetarian and learned to meditate, and now I don’t have any blood pressure at all.” I refer to myself as a “vegetable” or a “vegetablearian” or a “vegerian.”
I explain that I hold myself to a different standard than I do others. I point out that even if they choose to continue to eat animal foods, they should eat more veggies—”just like your mother said.”
The best way to lure meat eaters away from cholesterol is to feed them tasty vegan food. Let the food do the convincing. It will make them feel light and healthy. They will enjoy chomping on this food for an hour and not feeling bloated. Tell them some of the amazing tales in vegetarian history. Point out to committed Christians that Jesus and all his apostles (except Paul) and the entire Judeo-Christian church for 400 years was vegetarian, and that orthodox Christians are still vegetarian two days each week and all during Lent. Point out the environmental advantages. Tell them how vegetarians eat more and weigh less. Tell them that they can take up a green diet as much or as little as they want.
WHERE TO BUY VEGETARIAN AND ORGANIC FOOD
If you are fortunate enough to live in the Seattle area, shop at Madison Market, Puget Consumer’s Coop, Whole Foods, or Manna Mills. In other areas you will have to be creative. Grocers in ordinary stores will help you because they are consumer conscious. They will try to stock whatever you and others are willing to buy. In this book I have made things easy for your grocer by identifying suppliers. Pledge loyalty to your grocer if she will go to distributors and get these products on the shelves.
Your grocer is more likely to stock vegetarian and organic foods if they have a long shelf life, that is, if they are frozen, dried, canned, or aseptically packaged. Frozen organic vegetables and frozen organic fruit juices are available from Cascadian Farm (www.cfarm.com), which has recently been bought out by Welch’s, which means you are going to be seeing the Cascadian brand all across the country. So if you are persistent, you will be able to buy these products. In remote areas the only thing you will have trouble buying will be fresh organic fruit and fresh organic vegetables, and that is why you should grow your own garden and get into sprouting beans and seeds.
Look up local health food stores and ethnic grocery stores. Chinese and Middle Eastern stores will stock many of these items.
Look for a Seventh Day Adventist Church. Most will have a book and grocery store. The Adventists hold to a lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet in their church dinners, and many Adventists eat the same way at home, although they are not required to do so by their religion. Note, however, that many of the vegetarian meat substitutes sold in Adventist book and grocery stores contain milk and eggs and are not strictly vegetarian. Nor are they always organic. The most important ingredients will be available everywhere: kale, mustard, collard, leek, turnip greens, onions, basil, and garlic. Chop them up and cook them in a big pan with water and olive oil and flax.
EATING OUT AS A STRICT VEGETARIAN
More and more restaurants offer vegetarian and strictly vegetarian food. They do so because our numbers are growing. Look for Middle Eastern, Thai, Moroccan, and Ethiopian restaurants; they almost always offer strictly vegetarian food. Indian vegetarian food usually contains milk, butter, and cheese, so ask.
Most restaurants cook meat, milk, eggs, and vegetables in the same pots, pans, and skillets. The veggie burger you eat at a restaurant may be broiled on the same broiler where the hamburgers are cooked. So you are eating little bits of meat. If that bothers you, ask your waiter to tell the cook not to fry your veggie burger on the griddle or broil it on the broiler but to microwave it on a plate. Many veggie burgers are made with cheese and eggs, so ask the waiter if the package says “vegan” on it.
In Middle Eastern restaurants, when you get a falafel, fool, or baba ganooj sandwich, the cook will often heat the pita bread on the meat grill. Ask the waiter to heat the pita in the microwave.
In Chinese restaurants, almost everything is cooked with small bits of meat. Ask for rice and steamed vegetables. Ask the waiter to gather every type of vegetable, nut, and tofu he has and steam it.
In any kind of restaurant, focus on the salads and appetizers. Many will be vegetarian. When ordering salad, ask for vinegar and olive oil and dress your own salad.
In restaurants that have a salad buffet, you can eat salad, or you can order a plate of rice or pasta and then add the salad toppings to the rice or pasta.
In Italian restaurants eat bread with olive oil to dip it in, salad with vinegar and oil dressing, olives, and baked garlic. Ask if the pasta is egg noodles or wheat, and order the pasta naked. Ask for olives to put on it. Most Italian restaurants have a marinara sauce, which may or may not be strictly vegetarian. Ask if it is cooked with butter or anchovies. Say clearly: “no meat, no cheese, no butter, and no anchovies.”
In ordinary restaurants, there may be nothing on the menu that is strictly vegetarian. In such cases write out your order. Go through the menu and make a list of all the ingredients mentioned which are strictly vegetarian. Order a salad or rice topped with all those items on your list, typically the following: tomatoes, sunflower seeds, chick-peas, pickles, artichoke hearts, water chestnuts, baby corn, peas, green beans, kernel corn, carrots, celery, and olives. Tell the waitress to charge you whatever is fair. Those eating with you will wish they had ordered the same.
Bear in mind that waiters, waitresses, and cooks are busy people who work odd hours for low pay, and that they may not understand what a strict vegetarian does and does not eat. So be explicit. Say “no eggs, no cheese, no milk, no meat, and no fish.” If you do not, you may find grated cheese or a fried egg on top of your food. Write it down for the cook. Leave them a 25 percent tip, and go by the kitchen and thank the cook. These people are going out of their way to serve you a special dinner, so be reasonable and generous.
It is disappointing that most vegetarian and vegan restaurants serve nothing containing flax, hemp, chia, or kukui. These ingredients are absolutely necessary for a vegetarian or vegan diet to supply Omega-3 fatty acids. Encourage vegetarian and vegan restaurant owners to buy this book and cook the recipes in it, many of which use flax.
CHANGE YOUR LIFESTYLE ALL AT ONCE
Let’s presume the worst: You are overweight, have high blood pressure and diabetes, drink too much coffee, are addicted to tobacco and alcohol, consume too much legal and illegal drugs, and don’t exercise. How do you change your lifestyle? Most people will say they will eliminate one bad habit at a time. For example, they say they will give up coffee after they have quit smoking, and when they have done both, only then will they think about quitting drinking and only then think about starting an exercise program, and only then think about switching to a vegetarian diet.
However, you will have greater success if you change everything at once. The exercise, the improved diet, the clear thinking that comes with giving up caffeine, nicotine, and drugs, the immediate weight loss, the focusing of purpose that comes with stretching, meditation, and exercise, and the good feeling that will come with changing to a strictly vegetarian diet—all these changes will reinforce each other and make the change easier.
If you adopt a green diet, you will be in the minority, and people may imply that you are strange because you are in the minority. However, being in the majority doesn’t prove anything. The majority has been wrong on many issues: For hundreds of years the majority defended slavery, anti-Semitism, the subjugation of women, bleeding with leaches, killing witches, and the idea that the earth was flat. You will be in the minority, but it is animal eating that is strange.