Monday, December 31, 2012

Year 2012 in Review: Trying Veganism, Or How I Lost 15 Pounds Without Trying

Once upon a time, in a land far away called “college,” Krystal gave up her meat-eating ways and became a vegetarian.  I know that some people go vegetarian for animal-rights reasons or environmental reasons or health reasons or a combination thereof; I went vegetarian because I really don’t like the taste of meat.  I had not consumed red meat in years, never ate pork, and only occasionally ate chicken or turkey.  Going vegetarian did not seem that hard.  And it really was not hard when I had a dining service cooking for me at all times and I didn’t care how healthy my meals were.  I ate lots of bagels, lots of fruit salad / granola / yogurt combinations from Holmes Lounge, lots of rice and beans, and lots of pasta. 

Then I became a married adult who was responsible for making meals all the time, and life became more complicated.  I could not cook “real food” when I was 22.  Eric and I ate out at least 7 meals a week – we hit every restaurant within a 5 miles radius of us, it seemed – and I ate a fair amount of chicken meals then.  (Eating out as a vegetarian is hard.)  Eventually we pieced together a few meals we would make at home, then a few more, and a few more, and now, in 2012, we eat out only once every 1-2 weeks or so. 

Handling raw meat is disgusting.  There is no way around that essential fact and I mostly refused to do it.  In addition, I derive no joy in creating a meal that I myself will not eat, and I love to cook now, so I’m supplying the majority of the meals.  As a result, the majority of home-cooked Whompton meals have been vegetarian by default.   

Back in late June, an old friend came to visit and shared her path to veganism.  She read Disease Proof Your Child by Joel Fuhrman and The China Study and wholeheartedly embraced the underpinnings of the two books:  the food one eats dictates one’s health and that whole food, plant-based diets have shown the ability to stave off cancer.  Jessie decided to minimize the animal products she consumed and she felt incredibly healthier as a result. 

So, in late July, I read Fuhrman’s book.  And then Food Matters.  And then The End of Overeating.  And then Becoming Vegan.  Each book advocates minimizing animal-based foods as a way to be healthy and the evidence presented in the books was rather convincing.  I decided to go pseudo-vegan in August.  I ate no meat, no eggs, no butter, no cheese or yogurt, and the only milk I consumed was on my morning cereal.  I did not shop in the expensive vegan areas in the grocery store or anything; I just ate fruit, veggies, beans, rice, cereals, and breads like normal.  I also continued exercising at my standard level.

In the space of one month, I unintentionally dropped 15 pounds.  For some people, this would be a reason for huge celebration but, oh goodness, it was terrifying for me.  Clearly my egg and dairy consumption provided the calories to maintain my weight; eliminating those calories without replacing them with something else caused me to lose weight dramatically.  This was not a sustainable path.

I’ve made some necessary changes to my food consumption.  I increased it.  A lot.  I eat seconds and thirds at lunch and dinner and continuously graze in the afternoon.  I eat cheese occasionally and I frequently have nuts for dessert.  I’m more mindful of calories in and out, which was not something I paid attention to previously, and I certainly attend to my protein intake.  My body complains if I don’t consume enough beans, for instance.  I have gained some weight back, which is fantastic, and I’m diligent about weighing myself every day to prevent another weight loss. 

Overall, I feel better in my whole foods, mostly-plant-based diet, and I hope that my family is healthier as a result. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Year 2012 in Review: Samantha Becomes a Whompton (Again)

Krystal and Samantha are sisters; we’re four years apart in age, which mattered a whole lot when I was in middle school and she was in elementary school, but didn’t matter at all by the time I was in high school.  Over time, we became very good friends because we had so much in common, and she frequently hung out with my friends and me.  We grew up in Owensboro, KY, which is a fine place, but one that we both were eager to leave after high school graduation.  I won’t speak for Samantha, but I never felt like I fit in Owensboro and I was overjoyed to move on.  I departed for Saint Louis and Washington University; four years later, Samantha left for Centre College in Danville, KY.  We got our degrees, married straight out of college, and then stayed in our respective college towns. 

Time passed …. and then Samantha and her husband split up.  Eric and I convinced her to join us in Saint Louis; she moved in and we never looked back.  At first glance, most people assumed the worst about our situation – that all adults were miserably coexisting in some terrible black comedy.  That’s not true at all.  She was neither a charity case nor forced servitude; instead, she was an integral member of the family and we loved having her here.  She, Raina, and Lola fostered an incredibly close relationship; I gained a best friend in the house; Samantha grew into an empowered, beautiful adult.  The situation was rather wonderful all around.

Eventually, Samantha decided to move out and live on her own, which was bittersweet for all of us.  We designated Sunday “Samantha day,” and we’d go to the Zoo or she’d come to dinner or she’d read books to the kids …  It never felt like enough time together, but we made do.  Then Samantha decided she wanted to move back closer to us so she could see us more often.  She took a second job and started working roughly 70-80 hour weeks to save up money so she could buy a house in our neighborhood.  We went from seeing each other every Sunday to rarely seeing each other at all.  In a word, it was terrible. 

After many conversations, we all agreed that it would be better to have Samantha back here at the Whompton abode then any alternative we could brainstorm.  She and Roxanne moved back in October and it’s been fantastic.  The transition was so smooth, the girls love having her back, Lola especially loves having a dog in the house and Roxanne seems puppy-like in her enthusiasm as well.  Eric, Samantha, and I plan to be together for the long haul – until retirement and beyond! – and I’m looking forward to our many years together. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Year 2012 in Review: Ethical Society of Saint Louis

The Whomptons joined a religious community.  For starters, you need to know our religious position.  I am an atheist and Eric is, at best, a deist; neither of us believes there is/are god/gods/goddesses actively at hand in our world.  Any good that happens is because humans made it, and any bad in the world is because humans made it.  At core, that conflicts with most faith traditions and we’ve never felt at home in various churches as a result.

Enter the Ethical Society of Saint Louis.  My first experience at the Ethical Society was back in college, when I attended a Roe v. Wade celebration there, and I remember wondering “Wow!  I never imagined a church supporting abortion rights.”  About seven years later, Eric and I started hunting for a Saint Louis church community and I remembered the Ethical Society. 

The Ethical Society places "deed before creed" and encourages its members to think deeply, be intentional, and do what is good and right.  The Sunday School core values sum it nicely:  "I am free to question.  I am free to choose what I believe.  I accept responsibility for my choices and actions.   I strive to live my values."  We went to a fair number of platform addresses – I remember hearing one on gun control and another on atheism that knocked my socks off – and we fell in love with Kate Lovelady, the leader of the Ethical Society.  She has a way of approaching a topic from angles I never anticipated and I always come away struck that I really learned something new when she talks.  We became convinced this place was our best match. 

We didn’t join in 2007 because we weren’t convinced the community was the right match.  The folks who attended platform were substantially older than us, and I was absolutely creeped out by how uniformly white the population was.  What we didn’t realize then is that all the younger folks are helping out with the Sunday School program and/or are selective about which platform addresses they attend because carting around little ones is hard.    

In 2012, we know a wider array of people our age, with kids our daughters’ ages, and with like-minded interests.  We have a community of folks who legitimately and thoughtfully question everything that is put to them, they weigh the information, use critical thinking, and then come to a decision.  Our conversations with Ethical Society members are very intelligent; you cannot get away with standard platitudes in any conversation there.  The members challenge your statements and you need to defend and explain your position using careful reasoning.  I think the population holds the full spectrum of activist white liberals in Saint Louis, who sincerely want to learn from each other and make the world better.  Also, everyone we’ve encountered has been so genuinely nice and gentle, and I don’t worry about someone there making my child feel bad because she doesn’t celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah. 

In addition to getting to know the adult community, we’re meeting the youth community too.  Eric and I have taught four Sunday School lessons each.  Eric’s experience was overwhelming – corralling 16 1st and 2nd graders was substantially more challenging than originally anticipated – but, by the end of the month, Eric had a much better handle on the group.  I took the 5th and 6th grade class on purpose (I understand that age group!) and had a smoother transition and more positive experience.  We also joined Ethical Outdoors, a scouting group that allows members of all ages, genders, sexual orientations, and religious affiliations to participate.  Our whole family goes to the meetings and we’ve met more people there as well. 

We finally have a place where we fit, and it’s so wonderful.  Our weekends are substantially busier now that we’re active members – attending Sunday morning services takes up a LOT of weekend time – but the time is well invested.