Monday, March 14, 2011

One Week Challenge: Vegetarian Eating thanks to Oprah

On Saturday, I decided I would challenge myself to eat vegetarian only meals for a week and if I make it through the week, then I would extend it longer. Give up meat/seafood? Yes. So, what prompted the decision to challenge myself to a week of vegetarian eating ? Several things. My decision to go vegetarian for a week was a culmination of events that transpired over the last few months, including watching movie documentaries, Oprah's Show, and having a steak.

Over the last few months, I watched Food Inc. and Food Matters which essentially talks about where our food comes from, often times depicting horrid living conditions of the animals that humans eventually eat (i.e. beef and chicken). For example, I witnessed well-known food companies raising chickens in caged, often dark conditions with little to no room to roam. Since these chickens were not walking around, chickens naturally got fatter and reached a weight that their own bodies could no longer support and they died. The "lucky" ones that survived through their weight challenges had a grim life -- the inability to see light, living amongst their brethren feet deep in their own feces, only to meet their death after others had died of "natural causes". Appealing? Probably not. And unfortunately, after seeing this, I was not looking forward to roasting the chicken I had in my refrigerator -- but I still did it (which you probably saw in a prior posting).

Another event that compelled me to consider Vegetarian Eating for a week was watching Oprah's show where she challenged her Harpo Studio employees to go Vegan for a week -- which meant no MEAT, no FISH, no DAIRY, no EGGS, no CHEESE ... People may think that if there is no meat/no dairy/no fish, you will starve and the only thing you will eat are processed foods. But, that's wrong (wrong if you're lazy to cook.) Kathy Freston who led the Oprah Vegan Challenge stated that you won't starve and you will still have good tasting food. Kathy provided a tour around Whole Foods and showed meat and dairy substitutes to quell the concerns of the meat-lovers dilemma. So after a week, are you curious about the results? Of the 378 people who tried the challenge, approximately 10% quit; 444 pounds lost, 84 pounds gained and a record amount of toilet paper used (yes, you'll go to the bathroom a lot! but that's a good thing).

From the Oprah show, one of the most impressive success stories came from video editor Rich, who lost 11 pounds during the week-long challenge. He says he stuck to the diet and opted for vegetables and whole grains over simple carbohydrates. By the third day, Rich says he felt better than he had in 10 years. Before the challenge, Rich says he was taking six to eight antacids a day and suffering from migraine headaches. "And let's qualify it, I ate horribly," he says. "I ate poor foods. Now I don't. And I lost 11 pounds."

As a testament to Rich's success, Kathy noted that after a week of vegan eating, your weight starts to drop, after two weeks your blood sugar and blood pressure levels start to drop, and after three weeks, your cholesterol drops. Sounds healthy. Oprah's show enlightened my mind and gave me the idea that maybe I could do this, that is, do this for a week (and perhaps longer).

Although Oprah's show gave me the vegetarian idea, what pushed me over the edge was attending a friend's birthday dinner at a steak house. Mooooo.... Yes, beef all over the place. With the documentaries and Oprah's show fresh in my head, you can only imagine what was going through my mind. Steak didn't appeal to me, however, I was in a steak house -- so I decided to share a steak. As the food arrived, slabs of "prime" steak were everywhere. I can't say that it was revolting, rather, it just made me think about food choices. So with that, I decided the steak I just enjoyed was my last piece of meat before I start my week challenge.

So I began my vegetarian eating-only challenge this past Saturday with an open mind. To make this challenge easier, I thought about vegetables I enjoyed eating, about past meals I had and decided I should cook them. So for my first vegetarian meal, I decided I would cook Lentil Soup. To many carnivores, lentils may sound revolting, or posh people may think that it is poor mans food ... but the heck with the preconceived notions of this bean ... I had it before and I liked it. So that will mark the beginning of this vegetarian journey. I do hope I make it through this week.

If anything, the only thing I hope to achieve from this challenge is to be more conscious of my food choices.

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