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A Carnivore’s Guide to Going Vegan for 30 Days

4 Jan

Last year, in an effort to look awesome, I took on a personal challenge to go both Vegan and Gluten-Free for 30 days. It wasn’t an ethical or health related decision so much as a Wile E. Coyote strategy to look like Matthew McConaughey meets ripped Jesus.

And the plan was bulletproof.

After only 30 days, I had gone from 194 to about 175 pounds and felt like a freaking superhero. It wasn’t without some severe commitment and sacrifices, but overall it was a good practice in self-control and seeing just what my body needs to function at a high level. Although I wouldn’t recommend this for everyone, it was a really awesome experience and I would totally suggest trying at least a modified version. If you’re interested, here’s how it’s done.

1. Make the decision.

If you’re anything like me, you avoid vegetables like reruns of “Are You Afraid of the Dark?”

Because the answer is OH MY GOD YES.

So making the conscious decision to switch from a purely dead animal based diet to strictly fruits, vegetables, nuts, and gluten-free grains is pretty outside the realm of reason. But don’t worry. We lack reason.

2. Begin.

That wasn’t so bad right? It’s been 24 hours since you started and you haven’t felt any sort of desire to HOLY SHIT IS THAT CHEESE?!?!

I’d suggest throwing out or giving away every ounce of dairy, bread, and meat as this will only tempt you to stray from your convictions. If you’re living with a loved one, congratulate them on their new diet as they’ll now be joining you by proxy.

3. The first week.

If you didn’t feel like punching yourself in the face for the first 24 hours, you’ll definitely feel like it for the remaining 144 hours.

Yes, Fight Club was about Veganism.

That is, if you weren’t so damned weak from all the not eating.

The first week is spent mostly looking at ingredient labels to figure out what you can and can’t eat. The vegan part in this respect isn’t too difficult, but adding in the gluten-free aspect gets to be a huge pain in the ass. This is because most vegan alternatives contain gluten to PUNISH YOU FOR MAKING HORRIBLE DECISIONS.

Meanwhile, your body is getting fed up and has probably started dissolving muscle tissues for sustenance. Oh, and you’re trying to run and go to the gym during this mess, so good luck with that. If you haven’t broken your foot kicking a wall in frustration you can make plans to very soon.

He started it.

4. Detox.

Around the 7 day mark, all the sudden you won’t be hungry anymore. In fact, EVERYTHING food related suddenly looks like a twisted episode of Fear Factor and you’ll want to vomit at the sight of a glass of water. The upside is that the hunger pangs have subsided. The downside is that you will be actually starving for the next 72 hours.

I think this stage can be avoided if you perhaps do a little more pre-planning (like reading this blog), but pre-planning is for responsible folk, and we are not responsible folk.

5. Week 2.

This is your opportunity to start boasting to your friends how awesome you feel. This is more of an exaggeration than an outright lie, as you actually won’t feel those terrible hunger waves from before and your body most likely has adjusted. You’ve also learned what foods you’re allowed to eat and have probably started packing your own Hello Kitty lunchbox like a big boy.

I sign the notes, "Your #1 fan."

However, you will still miss meat, cheese, and bread severely. But it’s best not to talk about it.

This is also an awesome week if you’ve been weighing yourself, because you’ll have dropped quite a few pounds in just a few short days. It turns out when you’re not constantly snacking on Doritos and Mountain Dew your caloric intake drops pretty significantly.

Although it wouldn't surprise me to find Doritos contain no actual cheese.

If you’re still going to the gym and running, it’s probably important to find a good source of protein since you can’t steal it from animals anymore. I started making homemade vegan/gluten-free protein bars (general recipe included at the end of the article) so I wouldn’t waste away like a sand castle at high tide.

6. Going out to eat with friends.

Ready to feel like a huge D-Bag? Be the guy at the table that has the waiter run to the chef to ask about specific ingredients in the salad dressing. That is if you’re lucky enough to see salad on the menu.

And what will you be having tonight?

Well, I was actually wondering if you have any vegan options…

We have a wonderful eggplant parmesan that…

Oh, yeah… That’s great, but I’m actually vegan. Um, I can’t have any animal product whatsoever.

No animal product?

No animal product.

So eggs are okay?

Yeah… No.

Well, we have a delicious mixed salad with…

Does it have croutons?

Of course.

So… Actually none of those either. I’m also looking for gluten-free.

Gluten-free?

Gluten-free.

What the f*$% is gluten-free?

I’ll have a water.

Is waiter's spit considered vegan?

I went out to PF Chang’s with my cousin and some friends and they have a really extensive GF menu. The also have a few vegan options. But the only combination of both?

Steamed rice with steamed vegetables.

Guess what also contains gluten? Soy sauce. I added vinegar for flavor.

You are now exactly this fun to go out with.

If you’re living in some hippie town like San Francisco or Portland you’ll probably be fine. Anywhere else and you look like a foodie version of The Jersey Shore.

What you look like when you tell a waiter you're vegan gluten-free.

7. Week three.

This is the home stretch. You’re feeling pretty good, and you’ve made some awesome vegan dishes that make you question whether this isn’t actually an awesome way to live (one of these recipes is included below). You’re rarely hungry and you’re starting to feel catlike and agile. You have occasional cravings of meat and cheese but they’re easy to avoid. You look in the mirror and you like what you see.

Too bad the mirror's such a dick.

There’s nothing really bad to say about this week other than your stomach.

You know how cows are responsible for 1/5th of the world’s methane production? Yeah… That. But you.

8. Week four.

Congratulations, you’ve made it! You’re now in full swing. You feel awesome, you look awesome, and chances are you’ve got the diet down pat. You’ve got tons of energy and never feel tired after eating (not like before). You’re surprised to see how much people around you overeat, and just how unhealthy they’ve let themselves become.

And you look incredible.

9. Week five.

Delicious delicious barbecue.

10. Debrief.

This is actually a pretty solid account of my experience going vegan gluten-free. The first week was hell and the second week was spent learning. But the third and fourth week were awesome and I couldn’t believe the difference in how I felt before and after the switch. I think it was a bit unsustainable since I love meat too much and the all or none thing didn’t work too well for me, but I did a similar diet later and allowed cheat meals twice a week to allow for food with friends and occasional cravings. If you’re interested in testing your self-control and want to feel awesome while doing it, I’d suggest giving this a shot.

Of Tetanus.

This doesn’t mean you have to try and drop 20 pounds in 30 days, since that’s probably not all too healthy, but the vegan and/or gluten-free lifestyle is a good way to feel great and I’m pretty sure there’s some environmental and ethical benefits thrown in there as well (I haven’t done an ounce of research on the subject). I can’t promise that you’ll feel as incredible as I did, but at least you’ll get to talk down to your friends.

As promised here are some recipes to be used on your vegan gluten-free adventures…

Incredible Peanut and Root Stew (I live(d) on this and it’s AWESOME)

1 Onion Chopped
3 Carrots Chopped
3 Potatoes Chopped (Mix ‘em up: White, Red, Yellow, Purple, Whatever)
1 Sweet Potato Chopped
1 Yam Chopped
1 Parsnip Chopped
1 Turnip Chopped
1/4 Cup Uncooked White Rice
1/4 Cup Uncooked Quinoa (Assorted colors?)
1 Tablespoon Tamari Soy Sauce
1 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
1 Teaspoon Ground Cumin
1 Teaspoon Salt
1 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
1 Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper (If you want to give it some extra kick. I also add Chipotle Pepper when possible for a little smoke.)
2 Tablespoons Creamy Peanut Butter
2 1/2 – 3 1/2 Cups Water (Depends on how thick or thin you want the stew)

You just put it all in a massive pot and boil it all together for about 25-35 minutes.

It’s a modified version of a modified version of a recipe I found online. And it can be modified further with no issues.

It makes a ton, and you can just throw the extra in tupperware and feed off it FOREVER. It’s super easy and super delicious. I also buy some avocados and eat a quarter to half of one as kind of a garnish alongside the stew.

Vegan Gluten-Free Protein Bars

Go to the bulk food section of your local grocery store and get all kinds of nuts, seeds, berries, and whatever else you want. Put it in a mixer with a bunch of peanut butter, almond butter, and cashew butter. Add honey. Mix.

BOOM. Protein bars. Shape it into little squares, wrap them in wax paper, and throw them into the freezer. Great for after workouts, running, or early day protein boosts.

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Four Awesome Problems to Have After Getting Freshly Pressed on WordPress

1 Dec

Yesterday afternoon I uploaded my second post to my blog and threw it up on Facebook to start awaiting the handful of views to trickle in. About an hour later, I received Willy Wonka’s golden ticket in my inbox:

“Congrats! Your post has been Freshly Pressed on the WordPress.com home page.”

Golden Ticket
Charlie knows what I’m talking about.

This sent me into an Internet induced tailspin that has given me some awesome problems to complain about. Here’s a brief description of what my Freshly Pressed experience has been so far…

1. You Will Call Every Person You Have Ever Known. Ever.

After contacting every one of my family members, I started scrolling through my phone contacts and texting every single person I know in alphabetical order. Ever wondered how to piss off your 7th grade english teacher at 1AM? Blow that phone up.

Math teacher at chalkboard
Nobody #*%$ing cares that I use comma splices!

For some reason, no one seems quite as enthusiastic as you, even if they are legitimately excited for you. And it’s not because they’re not totally hyped about your new found exposure, only that you’ve just snorted the internet equivalent of Scarface Brand Cocaine.

Scarface with cocaine
Perhaps he should’ve just started a WordPress site.

Then comes the moment you run out of people to annoy. Once you’ve exhausted your entire network…

2. You Will Do Nothing But Constantly Check Your Comments, Likes, Links, and Statistics.

I haven’t eaten for 17 hours. I can’t do anything but click between email, Facebook, WordPress, Twitter and my phone. Sixty minutes after receiving my first email from WordPress, I had almost 50 blog related emails waiting to be read in my inbox. And it’s awesome. I had a bunch of plans last night and I didn’t do a single thing because I was obsessively waiting for each individual comment and response.

Guy staring at paint drying
Define “a bunch of plans.”

After I saw the number of visits jump past the 1,000 mark, I suddenly realized I hadn’t planned for the next problem…

3. You Are Totally Unprepared for This Large of an Audience.

I originally wrote the article as a satirical look at my recent experience with the health care system (it’s all very true). So imagine my surprise when all the sudden I find that the post is actually hitting home for thousands of people. Now I’m reading and rereading my work with my new found text-induced neurosis and rewriting my “About” page like it’s my status update on Facebook.

Guy thinking hard about something
Wait… Is it “your” or “you’re?” Probably doesn’t matter, no one’s going to read it anyway.

My other big issue is that I just started writing last Monday. This means I have exactly one post other than my Health Insurance piece to offer this totally incredible audience. Two posts. I have a total of two posts.

Guy selling two beers
“Hey! I know everyone’s thirsty, but don’t worry, I brought these two beers!”

Regardless, you’ve updated as much you can, now it’s just time to sit back and enjoy the ride right? Welcome to problem four…

4. You Will Now Live In Constant Fear That You’ve Just Peaked as a Hobby Blogger.

You know those moments in life when you’re having so much fun you just have no idea how things could possibly get any better? This blogging hangover feels kind of like the day after those moments. You’ve just written about an experience that seemed to have a pretty big impact on a bunch of people, how are you possibly going to top that?

Screenshot of blogpost
Hint: Not with this.

You’re slowly getting bumped off the Freshly Pressed page and you’re getting fewer and fewer likes/shares… You start to wonder, “Did I just hit the absolute top of my game only five days after starting?”

K Fed Douche
Ask K-Fed, he should know.

And so begins the pity party.

In the end, it’s so absolutely cool of WordPress to float blogs of interest up where people can see them regardless of how long the person has been blogging or how many posts they have. I think it’s a pretty awesome incentive for anyone and everyone to just get out there and start writing, because you never know when an opportunity might arise that gives you the chance to be heard by thousands of people. I really appreciate WordPress for giving me that chance and of course all the  bloggers and readers who’ve shared a few minutes of their day to read a few thoughts from a fellow Interneter. I’m incredibly fortunate and lucky, because I know that there’s a randomness to it all. It feels like winning the lottery.

Celebrating with money
At least, what I imagine it feels like.

If you like the blog, make sure to follow up top! And if you’re into the “Twitter” you can always follow me at @MacsJF. I know, it’s shameless…

Thanks for reading!

Three Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Health Insurance

1 Dec

My experience with Health Insurance companies for the last five years has been mildly benevolent, in that I made sure to pay them X amount a month and they made sure I was covered if my feet fell off. Things went decidedly south about 6 months ago when I decided to, god forbid, move.

Stern Looking Doctor
“Perhaps you shouldn’t have moved to Oregon, hippie.”

I’ve learned a lot of crappy things about the Health Insurance Industry in the last few months, and I feel like a lot of it was avoidable if I had known just a few key pieces of information before making some health related decisions. I’d like to share those lessons with you now so you can dodge some of these complications and headaches in your future dealings with the Healthcare system.

1. Health Insurance Companies Want to Eat Your Family.

After moving, I called my insurance broker and let her know my new address in Oregon. She went ahead and did her magic, and a month later I received my bill. Surprise (was it though?), my new premium for my wife and I just about doubled from $270 to $499.96 per month. I wanted to make sure my new donations were going to a good cause (like paying for the CEO’s stripper mistresses) so I called their customer service to find out what the deal was.

Turns out I was now out of network, so my premiums went up accordingly.

Customer Service Woman
I’d love to help you, but I’m kind of busy with my modeling career.

That would make sense, except that the quality of my plan went in the other direction (down). Since I was out of network, the percentages the insurance company contribute towards my expenses dropped from 80% to 25%. The 75% I was contributing was now going towards a deductible that had also doubled from $1500 to $3000.

In all fairness, all the info’s right there in the 60 page document they gave me when I signed up. I should have chosen to be a bit more curious and it’s all pretty standard operating procedure stuff for health insurance companies.

Piles of Paperwork - Lots of work
It was filed alphabetically between “Screw” and “You”.

Fine right? No worries, just switch your insurance to a company that considers Oregon in-network… This leads us to lesson 2:

2. Don’t You Ever, As Long As You Live, Switch Insurance Companies.

Remember that one time you went to the doctor to get that insignificant thing checked out? I know, it wasn’t a big deal, but you’re going to have to include it on the application.

Remember that application for coverage you just sent in? Yeah, it got rejected because of that thing.

Last August, I ruptured my eardrum while Scuba Diving (because I make terrible decisions). I went to the doctor so that he could verify that I was an idiot, and then I was all done because this is an injury that heals all by itself like a cut. While we were there, we decided to check out an issue my wife was having which was some blockage in her salivary duct. I know, way too much info. There’s a reason I’m telling you though. The doctor suggested we get a CT scan to pinpoint exactly what’s going on, and then we went on our merry way.

Like the honest folks we are, we mentioned both events on our application to ODS with some assurance from our broker that he never sees anyone get rejected for such small issues.

We were both promptly rejected for coverage.

What blows me away, is that my wife is 26 and I’m 28, we’re both in good health (we stay fit, we don’t smoke, don’t drink, don’t eat fast food, don’t have any chronic conditions), and we’re honest on our applications for coverage. What is the health insurance company looking for? I was rejected for a condition that was completely resolved.

Doctor looking in an ear
“I think I left my daughter’s tuition payment in there…”

We appealed the decision. I had to go back to the doctor so that he could verify that everything was fine with my ear (4 months after the accident) and I typed a 4 page document attached to the doctor’s chart notes to try and let the insurance company know that my ear was fine, and that my wife’s issue was a minor annoyance that occurred maybe twice a year.

They accepted me and rejected my wife.

We’re now going with the statewide insurance plan for my 26 year old healthy wife because ODS is not willing to cover her. This is the Oregon plan that is the failsafe for residents who cannot otherwise get health insurance.

We’re now in a bad position because we wanted to check out a minor concern with a preventative mindset (and we were already at the ENT Doctor) when we would’ve been better served just ignoring it.

This leads me to point 3…

3. Don’t Ever Tell the Truth About Anything, Ever.

Seriously. If there’s one take away from any of this, remember that everything you tell your doctor will get marked down forever on your chart notes. Some day, if you even get individual health insurance, when you’re arguing with the company about your claim, they’ll point to it and say you never told them, or alternatively, that it was a preexisting condition. So don’t tell anyone, anything, ever.

Black and white photo of dr. dre
Just don’t lie to this Dr.

I don’t actually know too much about the current state of the health care system, but I don’t think I ever realized how crippling the system is until I finally had to deal with a different side of it. I’ve always been healthy, employed, and stable, so this was never (selfishly) a concern to me. One of those things changed, so now I’m in a different boat. I’m very lucky that I have a variety of resources and a bit of income and savings to handle the complications, but I can only imagine how difficult this must be for someone in a different situation. How broken is a system when young healthy people can’t even get affordable health insurance?

My wife and I are incredibly lucky to be physically sound and capable, so I know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel for us. But I have no idea how people are dealing with similar situations who have actual problems that need actual care.

Clown Doctor - Humor
They go see this guy.

Knowing what I know now, I would be much more selective about what I would reveal to the health care system, which seems like a terrible solution to a ridiculous problem. I would rather risk my health by not getting something checked out than risk being denied in the future or seeing my rates jump astronomically.

Does that not sound crazy?

UPDATE (11/30/11 21:12): I’m incredibly blown away (sorry I keep using that phrase) by all of the comments! I’ve been a bit frustrated with my experience so far, but it’s certainly far more interesting to hear that it’s a commonly felt sentiment. And sad. Mostly sad.

It’s pretty striking that for such a developed country, we still have a healthcare system that seems to function pretty terribly, evidenced more by the disposition of the responses rather than the statistics you can find here or there. Originally, the post was meant to be a satirical look at what felt like a ridiculous situation, but I’m quickly finding that this story is hitting home for a ton of people, which again, blows me away. And again, feels pretty sad.

I started out trying to reply individually, but I’m quickly realizing that it’s a losing battle. Thank you so much for all the responses and I really appreciate everyone taking the time to read my blog, which I know is one of… Billions? I know there’s a lot of them, so I appreciate you spending some of your reading time with me. If you’d like to do it again sometime, please feel free to hit the follow button up top. Or alternatively, follow me on twitter, @MacsJF. (My apologies for the shameless self-promotion).

Thanks again!

-Max