Goin’ Veeeegan?!

I’ll cut to the chase. I’m a vegan.

Really, I’m a shocked as you are. I have, off and on my entire adult life, flirted with vegetarianism. I have vegetarian cookbooks, have “gone vegetarian” once a decade or so, and honestly love my vegetables.

But I also love meat, especially lamb. In fact, when I was a member of Leadership Boerne, I was given an award for being the only “lamb-eating-vegetarian” the group had ever met.

I’ve wrestled for years with how animals are treated in feedlots and after readingThe Omnivore’s Dilemma and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I can say with very few exceptions, I know the meat I have purchased has come from humanely treated animals. I’ve wrestled with the ethic of “dominion over all the earth” meaning that the earth and it’s creatures might not be here for us to consume and exploit. And yet, I’ve never been able to become vegetarian – for whatever reason, it hasn’t stuck with me.

Now, if you’re still reading, I haven’t gone all PETA – really, I was admiring some pretty leather handbags just this morning.

However, I have been reading about exercise nutrition for months. In order to get enough calories and the right kind of calories for my long runs, I started investigating protein and carbohydrate recommendations for distance runners. I learned a lot about nutrition and I knew some professional athletes are vegetarian or vegan, I wasn’t quite sure how that worked. What did they eat? How did they fuel their bodies?

And then there’s Lance.

I’ve had a long-standing admiration (some would say crush) for Lance Armstrong. I’ve spent many early mornings glued to the neighbors TV (because I didn’t get Versus) to watch him race and win the Tour de France. I have a Livestrong bracelet somewhere, and I subscribe to the Livestrong health newsletters.

And I follow Lance on twitter.

So in January or February, Lance tweeted about enjoying his Engine 2 breakfast and I thought, “What’s an Engine 2 breakfast?” So I googled Engine 2 because I care about Lance and had no idea what an Engine 2 breakfast might be.

Google came up with The Engine 2 Diet.
I learned that this handsome fellow, Rip Esselstyn, is a former professional triathlete, former All-American swimmer, an Austin Fireman, and a vegan. That was interesting on its own, but then I learned that in an effort to help a fellow firefighter, whose cholesterol was sky-high, Rip got his fire house to eat “plant strong.” They went vegan baby!

The firemen lost weight and their cholesterol numbers improved dramatically. The firehouse gained local and then national attention for eating differently, and the Engine 2 Diet was born. It’s based on good science, with good research to back it up.

Curious, I bought the Engine 2 Diet book, and read the stories, and made the choice to see what would happen if I stopped eating animal products, chose very low-fat foods, and learned to get my nutrition from vegetables.

The results have been amazing. The biggest change is that I feel energized. I’m not so sleepy in the afternoon, I wake up feeling ready to go. I’ve lost some weight, not the big 30+ pound weight loss you read about in the book but I don’t have 30 pounds to lose, and I already ate a fairly healthful diet before I switched. So the diet wasn’t a total shock to my system. But it was a pretty big change in my dinner plans.

I think President Clinton read The China Study, but I haven’t read it yet.

I didn’t go on the 28-day diet, I took on the dietary guidelines. t can’t say that I’m a “strict vegan” I have had a little bit of meat or fish here and there since I switched. I’ve got a freezer full of free-range organic lamb, and I’m going to help consume that delicious lamb. I still drink 1/2 & 1/2 in my coffee, but I mostly eat low-fat, delicious, plant-strong foods.

It’s funny, I’ve felt a little self-conscious about it all. I haven’t wanted to tell people that I’m eating plant-strong, or (gasp) vegan. Perhaps they’ll think I’ve gone off the deep end, or that I’m now really difficult to feed, or suddenly no fun to out to eat with, or somehow super fussy. Really, I just want to eat my veggies and be healthier. I didn’t take before and after cholesterol numbers, but I’m interested in getting my routine blood work next month, because I know my fat intake has shifted dramatically, and while my cholesterol was good before, maybe now it’s really good.

It’s also interesting to me that I’m a vegan because of the health benefits of a plant-based diet, and not because of an ethical disagreement with eating animals. I think I’ve come a long way.

I’ve made these twice and the second time I doubled the walnuts and craisins (I haven’t tried using raisins). The muffins are filling and healthful and I think they are delicious with a cup of coffee before I start my day or head to the gym.

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