Finding A Healthy Balance – Guest Post

This is a guest post written by Kathryn Henry, Seattle-area mom to two young children, and a writer for TeachStreet.  TeachStreet is a website that provides online and local classes, including cooking classes.

On November 29, 2010, something monumental happened:  my husband had his last bite of meat.

Now you don’t know my husband, but trust me when I tell you, he loves meat in any way, shape, or form. Oops, allow me to rephrase that:  He loved meat; past tense.

Allow me to back up to last spring.  I was pregnant with our second child and running around after our busy toddler.  Most nights, nutrition was placed on the back burner in favor of whatever my husband could bring home on the way from work in a grease-stained bag.  I did my best to add vegetables and salads to the take-out offerings, but I knew we weren’t eating the best possible way for our bodies or modeling good eating behaviors for our son.

At this time, a friend of mine started doing a vegan detox.  I was impressed with her efforts and her results – ten pounds lost!  I knew that trying to do such a major overhaul of our diet while pregnant was probably not a good idea, so I made a vow that after the baby was born and nursing established, I would take a serious look at the vegan detox.

So, in November, our daughter was four months old, nursing was going well, and I was impatient to eat healthfully.  I checked with our daughter’s pediatrician to get the green light.  She endorsed the program as long as I ate enough and didn’t restrict calories.  The only obstacle?  Convincing my husband to go along with me.

To my amazement, he agreed to try it.  For one week.  That was all he was willing to commit to.  So, on November 29, 2010, I went to the grocery store and filled our cart with detox-friendly foods and we had a smorgasboard of the meatiest Chinese-takeout dinner ever eaten to send our unhealthy eating habits out with a bang!

The first week was rough.  We both had withdrawal symptoms from the third through fifth day.  Shaky, headachy, even a bit nauseous; it wasn’t a lot of fun.  We pushed through and by the end of the first week, we were both feeling clear-headed and more energetic.  Oh, and one small little detail: my husband had lost 15 pounds.  In a week.  Then thirty pounds in three weeks.   And though some of the withdrawal symptoms had been annoying, the food was. . . amazing.  We were eating black bean tacos, carrot-ginger soup, what I refer to as “kitchen sink salads” with a bit of everything tossed in, roasted vegetables, oatmeal, hashbrowns with salsa, and curried lentils (I adapted the recipe to be vegan), homemade enchiladas, and so much more.

So we decided to go for one more week.  Then another.  Then another.  We kept our vegan detox going through the holiday season and into the New Year.

It was at this point, that I was ready to start introducing some foods back into my diet (I had never intended to be a permanent vegan).  My husband wasn’t.  He was down 38 pounds and feeling better than ever.  He saw no reason to change what he was doing, and I was in full support.

So, that is how my husband, a notorious carnivore, became a vegan.  It turns out he is not the only one, either.  Many sources are reporting an increase in veganism in the United States.  What was once considered an alternative lifestyle for the extreme is now becoming more mainstream.  It is important to note that, by definition, to be vegan is to adopt a complete philosophy and lifestyle, not just about what you do (or don’t) put in your mouth.  It is about using animal-free products in all aspects of your life (no beeswax in your lip balm or leather interior in your car).  My husband is not a vegan by that definition.  We also didn’t try this way of eating for moral and ethical reasons (though we both hate to think of animals being treated cruelly), but rather for health and better eating.

This vegan detox has had a impact on how I am eating today.  What the detox forced me to do was step away from pre-packaged, chemically-laden, “fake food”.  In my day-to-day life, it had become second nature to reach for a bar of this, a bag of that, a container of whatever to make a snack or meal.  While most of those packages had the words “reduced fat” or “whole grains” stamped on them, it didn’t make them healthy.  I was fooling myself into thinking that I was making good choices when it came to our nutrition.

I discovered new spices, ingredients, methods of cooking, and ways of eating food. Taking sugar away redefined my perspective of sweet.   I found joy in the simplistic, natural, wholesome way of eating.

Does that mean that I never run through the drive-thru?  Well, no.  I have two kids under three and a husband that works long hours.  There are days when a Big Mac and fries wins out over a homemade meal, despite my best intentions.

For my husband, he found a whole new way of eating.  For me, I found that there has to be a balance.  I am able to eat healthfully and set a good example for my kids most of the time, with a treat thrown in for good measure here and there.  I think that’s a great way to live.

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