Saturday, May 28, 2016

I'm Not Perfect (Day 10 Update)

I am not perfect. I'm not 100% Vegan (although some day I hope to be). I'm not using all cruelty-free products, because I have to finish using up the products I currently have. However, in the future I intend to only purchase cruelty-free and vegan products. I don't feel like I can call myself vegan yet, all I can say is: I've adopted a vegan diet, and plan to turn it into a vegan lifestyle. I've probably made some mistakes and I'm sure I'll make more. I may eat something in the future that contains milk or butter and won't realize/know that until after I've eaten it.
“Being vegan is not about rules or doctrine. It’s not about restriction or self-denial.”
― Colleen Patrick-Goudreau
 Being vegan is not about being perfect. Instead, it's striving to do everything you can to help the earth, and all the animals you share it with.
“It's a pretty amazing to wake up every morning, knowing that every decision I make is to cause as little harm as possible. It's a pretty fantastic way to live.”
― Colleen Patrick-Goudreau
Today marks day 10 on The 30-Day Vegan Challenge. Double digits . . . wooh hoo! I've been loving it. I look forward to receiving that e-mail each morning with either a video or audio message for that day. I feel like I can be meat and dairy free for the rest of my life! I love eating vegan-friendly entres knowing that no animals suffered just so I could satisfy my appetite. Knowing that I'm not giving money to a horrible industry. Knowing that I'm treating the earth with more kindness. It's an awesome feeling. I'm happy and feel healthy. I plan to update every 10 days while on this 30-Day Vegan Challenge. Look out for more updates!
"Why are you vegan?" - Because I listen to my heart not my habits
          --- Source: pinterest 

Copyright 2016 by Dee Dee Wike and Joy Wike. All rights reserved.

Thinking Outside the Box

One of the things we love about our vegan adventure is the chance to try new foods and think outside the box when it comes to meals. Recently, as I was headed out the door to work, Joy asked me what my thoughts were for dinner.  I replied, "I don't know." But before I completed the short drive to the office I already had a plan working and by the end of the day we had created our first vegan recipe!

Remembering that we had some leftover basmati rice from the night before, I began concocting a recipe that turned out to be a hit, not only with Joy but also with my skeptical husband.  It's a simple, one-skillet meal that we are calling "Twice as Nice Rice."  It's easy, economical, hearty, and flavorful!

Boca Veggie Ground Crumbles
Black beans (1 can, rinsed and drained)
Rotel tomatoes (1 can, undrained)
Sliced mushrooms
Sweet peppers (or bell peppers, sliced)
Onions (sliced)
Cooked brown rice (we used basmati rice)
Salt, pepper, garlic powder, cumin, other spices, to taste

1.   In large non-stick skillet, prepare Boca Veggie Ground Crumbles as directed on package.

2.  Add black beans, rotel tomatoes, sliced mushrooms, sliced onions, reduce heat and simmer until onions, peppers, and mushrooms are tender.

3.  Stir in cooked rice and season to taste using salt, pepper, garlic powder, cumin or other spices of your choice, to taste.

4.  If needed to prevent sticking, or if you like a little liquid in a dish like this, add some water while cooking.

SERVE with a garden salad or fresh fruit and enjoy!  Leftovers heat up beautifully!

Of course, you can customize a dish like this easily. All you need to do is "think outside the box" to create a little magic with your leftovers!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Progress Report and Holiday Plans

As we celebrate Day 10 of our 30-Day Vegan Challenge (which, incidentally, I highly recommend if you are considering adopting a vegan or even vegetarian lifestyle), and as I celebrate my own personal decision to become a vegetarian on April 6, I'm ecstatic to be able to share with you my progress so far.

On December 2015, at age 55, I had a routine physical.  I weighed in at 208.3 pounds.  My total cholesterol was 213 and, LDL was 165.  Physical issues at the time included acid reflux daily, joint pain in my hands, frequent headaches, and detection of a polyp, which resulted in further testing and thankfully, a benign diagnosis. Instructions of my medical provider were to reduce my caffeine and alcohol intake, stay away from other acid triggers, lose 20 pounds, and take two Zantac daily. Realizing that careless eating and a lackadaisical approach to exercise had brought me to this point, I decided to make some changes.  Here is a snapshot of my progress.
  • January 1 -- weight: 203.5 lbs. 
  • March 1 -- weight: 198.5 lbs.
  • April 3 -- I returned from vacation weighing 202 lbs..  One of my goals during vacation was to eat favorite foods I haven't found since moving to Virginia:  Memphis BBQ, southern-fried catfish, Gibson's Donuts -- you get the picture.  Mission accomplished, but at what cost?  
  • April 4-5 -- After watching the documentaries Vegucated and Food Inc., I began to seriously consider a lifestyle change.  Prior to going on vacation, Joy and I had already decided that upon our return we were going to begin eating more whole, and fewer processed, foods.  But after watching these documentaries on food production and the animal cruelty involved in producing the foods I've eaten and enjoyed my entire life, I began to weigh the effects of my dietary choices not only on my health, but also on our environment and the welfare of other living beings.
  • April 6 -- At 201 lbs., I decided to become a vegetarian, choosing to live without meat and to eat a whole foods, plant-based diet. (At that time, I decided to be an ovo-lacto vegetarian, consuming no meat, but consuming dairy and eggs.)
  • April 16 -- weight: 198 lbs.
  • April 18 -- Began Joy's 12-week program of eating "mostly vegan" (little or no dairy or eggs) coupled with targeted, regularly scheduled exercise  (see "The Gauntlet")
  • May 18 -- I joined Joy in taking the 30-Day Vegan Challenge.
  • May 25 -- Just one week into the 30-Day Vegan Challenge, I weighed 191.5.  TOTAL WEIGHT lost since my physical in December:  16.8 pounds!  Off all medications, including Zantac.  Seldom have headaches or reflux!  No joint pain!  Increased energy!
At the end of the 30-Day Vegan Challenge I will have more blood work done so I can see the effect this new lifestyle has had on my cholesterol levels.  By then I will have lost the 20 pounds recommended by the doctor -- weight that I won't regain because this is not a diet, but a lifestyle.

As we look forward to a long Memorial Day weekend, we are making plans for our first social and family gatherings -- two cookouts -- since adopting a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle.  Our contribution to these traditionally meat-centered meals will be foods we can eat and everyone can enjoy, such as fresh fruits and veggies, green beans seasoned without meat but loaded with lots of love, and vegan brownies.  We have made arrangements in advance to bring our own "meat" -- veggie burgers to throw on the grill in lieu of the steaks and beef burgers intended to be the main course.  For us the focus is not going to be food for once, but rather the sweet fellowship of family and friends.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Veggie Quesadillas -- It's What's for Dinner!

One of the things I have most enjoyed about being a vegetarian is the opportunity to try healthier versions of favorite foods, such as quesadillas. Anticipating a trip to the grocery store after a day at the office, I craved a delicious but easy-to-make meal that would satisfy my hearty appetite.  Veggie quesadillas fit the bill!

I'll be the first to admit that I am no chef or photographer. But I am a person who loves good food and simple recipes.  Hope you enjoy this one.  Feel free to vary the ingredients and put your own spin on these veggie quesadillas, and enjoy the good feeling you will have when you have enjoyed this nourishing and tasty meal!

Organic refried beans (vegan or fat-free, no lard)
Sweet onions (or yellow onions), chopped
Sweet peppers, sliced
Mushrooms, sliced
Fresh spinach
Shredded non-dairy (vegan) mozzarella cheese  -- We like Follow Your Heart cheese!
Whole wheat tortillas

1.  Saute onions, peppers, and mushrooms in non-dairy butter until onions are clear and vegetables are still slightly firm.


2.  Add spinach and stir together with other vegetables.  Remove from heat as spinach begins to cook down.

3.  In a separate saucepan, melt just enough dairy-free butter to coat one side of a tortilla.  Place tortilla in sauce pan and spoon vegetables over one half.

4.  Spread refried beans on other half of tortilla, sprinkle cheese over veggies and/or beans, and fold over.

5.  Cook quesadilla on medium heat, turning every couple of minutes to prevent burning.

6.  Cut quesadilla into triangles and serve with favorite sides, such as Mexican rice, quacamole salad, or chips and salsa (pictured below).  Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

It's Not a Diet -- It's a Lifestyle

Since making the decision to become a vegetarian I have made every effort not to refer to a meatless existence as a vegetarian "diet," but rather a lifestyle.  Trust me, I have been on enough diets in my fifty-five years to know the difference -- and this is different, and better, than anything I have tried thus far. With this lifestyle there are no gimmicks, no quick tricks, no starving myself to accomplish the goal of better health and weight loss. On the contrary, I am eating sufficient quantities of delicious, nourishing food to keep me satisfied and boost my energy. For the first time in my life I have hope that I will finally lose my excess weight and keep it off because this isn't a diet, but a lifestyle choice I have made.

The decision to modify my intake of foods (still avoiding the "d---" word here) to whole food, plant-based nutrition, with no meat and very little dairy protein, has had a surprising impact on me, far beyond the weight loss that I have experienced thus far. It has heightened my awareness of environmental issues that warrant our attention and made me more conscious of those who could benefit from making similar changes to their diet. Most of all it has made me realize how thankful I am for the body God has given me and how important it is to be a good steward of my health, the environment, and the resources and family with which I have been blessed.

Every day is an adventure, filled with opportunities to learn more about this new lifestyle and to share that knowledge with others in hopes that they too will consider "living green and eating clean." Who doesn't desire or deserve better health and a sense of well-being?  Certainly, you do!  What are you waiting for?

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Where's the Beef?

"Why on earth would you want to give up meat?"  That's a question that every new vegetarian will be asked. After all, you can't have a balanced diet without meat, right? Don't we need meat in order to get the right amount of protein? Well, the answer to that question is no. There are plenty of sources of protein in plant-based foods.

On April 6, 2016, I decided to drop all meat from my diet and become a vegetarian. Not once have I wistfully looked at my plate and cried, "Where's the beef?"  On the contrary, one night I dreamt that a friend invited me over for dinner and the only thing on my plate was the beef, and it wasn't even cooked!  Talk about a nightmare.

Four weeks into this adventure...
  • I feel great! -- with more energy, a greater sense of well-being, and excitement about trying new foods and discovering new information. I am convinced that part of my increased energy is a result of not having to digest foods I probably shouldn't be eating anyway, including meat, refined foods, and sugar.
  • I feel empowered to finally be able to take control of my weight and my health. My whole life I have struggled with being overweight. As a middle age menopausal female, this has been especially bothersome. To add insult to injury, a recent physical revealed that my cholesterol is elevated and I am considered obese. Now that I have cut meat (and most dairy) out of my diet, the needle on the bathroom scale is moving in the right direction! I have hope that by the time I have my next physical I will have lost the 20 pounds the doctor told me to lose and my cholesterol reading will have improved significantly.
  • I have discovered there are things I can do to help the environment and show compassion to our animal friends. Did you know that animal agriculture generates a lot of methane (a greenhouse gas) and results in the destruction of the planet's rain forests? Those poor cows have to graze somewhere! Have you seen the inhumane methods used to produce the meat we eat? If not, watch Vegucated, the film which was the catalyst for my decision. It might just make you think twice about picking up that package of steaks in the meat section of your grocery store.
  • I enjoy grocery shopping now! Each trip is an adventure and an education experience as I read labels, try new foods, and check out with a cart full of healthy fare.
  • I am genuinely happy!  Happy to be on my way to better health. Happy to be doing something positive with my life, in partnership with my daughter, for the benefit of mankind, our animal friends, and our planet.
Maybe you don't think the vegetarian lifestyle is for you. After all, it's kind of hard to imagine giving up that favorite cut of steak or chicken. Or, maybe you aren't aware of the health benefits of a plant-based diet or the environmental impact of animal agriculture. If that's you, I pray you will take a look at the information linked on our Links &  Resources page and begin doing some research of your own.

We aren't here to sell you a product or make you any promises regarding your health, but rather our desire is to educate you so that you can decide in your heart what action you need to take. It's up to you to make the choice.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Gauntlet

On April 6, 2016, I made the decision to adopt a vegetarian lifestyle, following in the footsteps of my daughter Joy, who had made a similar decision two days prior. Soon afterwards, Joy threw down a gauntlet -- a challenge, if you will -- to join her in a 12-week program to commit to eating a plant-based diet with little or no dairy and eggs, in order to maximize our health, minimize our carbon footprint, and show compassion to animals.

Pictured here is the gauntlet, the chart Joy created and gave me, which is now posted on the back of my bathroom door, where I see it often.  Not only is it a visual reminder of my weight and exercise goals, it is my reminder that we are on an adventure, doing something truly worthwhile, and that whatever sacrifices we will make along the way will be worth it in the end.

The chart also serves to motivate me and to keep me accountable to her, as she is to me. I couldn't be more proud of Joy for sharing her compassion, her vision, and her desire to make a positive difference in her world and in the lives of those she cares about. We are now in our fourth week of healthier living and two weeks into the 12-week program. Collectively we have lost 7 pounds since cutting animal products out of our diet.

Maybe you are like me -- middle-aged, menopausal, or just struggling to get the number on your bathroom scale moving in the right direction. Or maybe, like us, you are an animal lover or want to effective positive environmental change. If that's you, we invite you along for the journey! Even if you don't take up the gauntlet and try a plant-food based diet, we encourage you to follow our journey on our blog, read or view some of the books and videos we have posted on our Links & Resources  page, and educate yourself about the benefits of whole foods, plant-based diets, and environmental effects of food production, particulary in the way meat products are produced.

Why I Became a Vegetarian

Like many people I grew up eating meat. Chicken, catfish, barbecue, hotdogs, and the occasional burger. Being from Memphis, I especially loved catfish and barbecue, but I never gave a second thought about what I was truly eating. A couple of months ago I began watching "what I eat in a day" videos on YouTube. I stumbled across some vegan ones and became interested. All the food was obviously healthy and looked really good. I figured I could lose some weight and get healthier, but I didn't know the environmental and animal benefits that would come from this diet/lifestyle change. Before leaving for a spring-break trip, my mom and I watched Food Inc., which was good but didn't show a whole lot about the meat and dairy industry and its impact on the environment and animals. I ate my fair share of meat and dairy while on this trip, but I planned to go vegan when I got back.

Upon returning from my trip, my mom and I sat down to watch Vegucated which was definitely an eye-opening film for me and my mom. Before having watched this particular documentary I was mostly looking at going vegan because I figured I could lose a lot of weight, and get healthier. However, after watching this film my mindset began to change. I started to feel compassion, sadness, and anger. After watching only that one vegan centered film I felt so much more knowledgeable, and I wanted to watch more films like it! My mindset changed from being focused on just losing weight to wanting to help these animals, and the earth.

Since then I have watched Cowspiracy and Forks Over Knives  , both extremely good documentaries showing the health benefits of a plant-based diet and the environmental impacts the meat and dairy industries have on the world. I have been meat-free and vegetarian since April 4th and I have no desire or intentions on going back to being a meat eater. I have been consuming some dairy and egg products, but after watching Cowspiracy I would really like to try to eliminate those from my diet. One thing that I have experienced since going vegetarian is happiness. That's really the best way to describe it. I feel so happy knowing that I'm doing better for the earth and especially the animals. I have also become more aware of animal testing and I plan from now on to only buy cruelty-free and "no animal testing" products.

I hope that people see this blog and watch some of these documentaries in an effort to become healthier, happier, and live a better life. So many people are vegetarians and vegans now and there are so many different resources out there. Today, in fact, I purchased my first plant-based book! I would also like to add I am no expert in nutrition or really anything else. I'm learning just like everyone else reading this! But now that I know some things I intend to change my actions and put in effort to learn more and help spread the word about a more plant-based diet and its impact on animals and the world. Hope y'all enjoy!