For the past four years of my life, I've been riding a wave of bacon and beer. As one of the Hungry Dudes, we've had the pleasure of visiting many of metro Detroit's best restaurants. However, eating that way comes with a price attached.
There have been weeks where we'd eat burgers three nights in a row or pizza six times in a week or BBQ seven times in 10 days. Sure, that may seem like heaven, but it's virtually impossible to live that way for an extended period of time.
Earlier this year, I decided to make a change for one month. No meat, no cheese, no refined sugar – it was a modified vegan diet, if you will. I picked May, and also decided to dive into Bikram yoga at the same time. If nothing else, I was going to lose some weight. What I discovered, though, was much more profound than that.
My father was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in his 30s. I am in my early 30s. I was over-consuming way too often for my own good. Going vegan was not some simple publicity stunt or some hair-brained idea to get slim quick. Rather, I felt like a month of veganism could kickstart an entire lifestyle change.
I'm not naïve. Changing my diet does not equal a lifestyle change no matter how much food is part of my life. In addition to going vegan, I decided to jump head-first (not literally) into Bikram yoga – yes, the yoga practiced in a 105-degree room. This might be time for a disclaimer: I am not condoning following my practice without first consulting a doctor. These are drastic changes.
There is nothing easy about making changes like this. My best advice is to plan ahead. Find some interesting recipes, read about veganism, learn about yoga or whatever exercise you decide to do and be excited. A lack of enthusiasm is a recipe for disaster. Dining out is incredibly difficult, but there are definitely options.
Cacao Tree in Royal Oak specializes in raw, vegan cuisine. I'm not exaggerating when I say their burrito is one of the best burritos I've ever tasted. Seasoned walnuts, almonds, and seeds ("meat"), pico de gallo, guacamole, cashew "sour cream" and lettuce are wrapped inside collard green leaves. I realize this sounds like the prototypical "hippie food," but once you take one bite, you'll never yearn for Taco Bell again.
However, eating at Cacao Tree every night would be tough on your pocketbook, so cook some food at home. I became close friends with beans, quinoa, farro, kale, coconut and almond milks, tempeh and avocado. There are literally thousands of vegan recipes online. It becomes a matter of trudging through and picking out the ones that intrigue you.
Bikram has always intrigued me. The prospect of burning close to 900 calories in 90 minutes is very tempting. After one class, I simultaneously loved and hated it. While doing it, Bikram is physically and mentally taxing. I was at a breaking point at least three times my first week, but the immense feeling of accomplishment when a class is over is worth every second of pain endured.
The same could be said about how I felt at the end of May. Every second of inconvenience was far outweighed by my overall better health. Yes, I lost close to 20 pounds, but more than that, I gained a sense of clarity I'd never experienced prior to May 2012. In fact, I'm so happy with how I feel that I've decided to continue on a mostly vegan path. There's no way I'm going to quit bacon or pizza or burgers, but moderation is more important than gluttony. | RDW
If you are considering a closer look at a vegan lifestyle and have questions, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.