After 6

What happens to my diet after 6 p.m.? After all, part of the plan is that after 6, there are no rules. Still, I’m trying to be healthier, so I don’t want to sabotage myself every night. So some nights, dinner looks like this:

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On the other hand, there are foods that I like that have… shall we say, questionable nutritional content. I am not interested in removing these things from my diet forever. “Don’t let the perfect Beeville the enemy of good,” right? So some nights, it looks more like this:

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This week there was a fair amount of slippage in my evening meals. There was date night, dinner-with-my-daughter night, and my-work-lunch-sucked-today night. That’s OK, though. I’m looking to tighten things back up a little this weekend, but I’m still feeling pretty good about how I’m doing overall.

Backwards Day

The week has gone pretty well so far. My weight has slid slightly in the right direction, which is nice. And I feel good about what I’m eating. I said my lunch on Wednesday would be easy,  since our company buys lunch on Wednesdays and is sure to include vegan options, but in fact, it was this:

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Romaine with some pistachios.  I like both romaine and pistachios, don’t get me wrong! But it was a little thin for lunch. There was a some quinoa, too, so I added some of that to a big plate of the salad. I also swiped some tomatoes from the caprese salad. I’m sure the next person wasn’t disappointed to find extra mozzarella waiting! The rest of the week went pretty well, though.

This morning, I went to a meeting at a cafe where the vegan options were limited and also not really appealing. Instead, I went with a cheese plate with a baguette (white bread) and a latte (with real milk). Yum! I figured part of what I’m doing is about flexibility, and I could always make the rest of my day vegan.

My husband ate a late lunch and wasn’t interested in dinner when I was, which worked out pretty well in this case. It’s just easier to stay vegan when we’re not eating together. I foraged around in the fridge and pulled out some salad greens, farro that I made earlier this week, some leftover green beans, and a portabella cap. I sauteed the portabella with a little olive oil, wine, and garlic, heated up the green beans and farro, and tossed it all on top of the greens, along with a little oil and balsamic vinegar. It was pretty tasty for something I threw together at the last moment! I really liked the farro, which I hadn’t tried before.

It was also a testament to the power of preparation; I’ll definitely be precooking some grains and beans tomorrow to prepare for next week.

 

Lunchtime!

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First official VB6 lunch! Salad with radishes, peppers, tomato, snap peas, mushrooms, avocado, and black-eyed peas. I usually make my own dressing from balsamic vinegar and olive oil, but today I used a miso-ginger dressing I picked up at the store last week. Pretty tasty!

More about VB6

I thought that I should talk a bit about what VB6 is.

VB6: Vegan Before 6 is a book by Mark Bittman, food columnist for The New York Times.  The short story is that because of his health, he had to make a decision: drastically change his diet or begin a lifelong drug regimen to control his cholesterol. VB is what he came up with. You can read more about it-–if you like—in a few of the many  articles and posts that came out last year when the book was published.

Of course, you can be vegan and eat a completely unhealthy diet. Coca-Cola is vegan, after all. On VB6, white flour, white rice, pasta,  sugar, and junk food are, during your vegan hours, out. The point here is to move toward a more plant-based diet—or, as Michael Pollan put it in his own work, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

Bittman’s plan is based on six basic principles:

  1. Eat fruit and vegetables in abundance.
  2. Eat fewer animal products.
  3. Eat (almost) no junk food.
  4. Cook at home as much as possible.
  5. Consider quality over quantity.
  6. See your weight as just one component of good health.

Food breaks down into three rough categories:

  • Unlimited: Almost all fruits and vegetables; seasonings and condiments such as mustard, hot sauce, herbs, salt and pepper.
  • Flexible: Beans and lentils; whole grains; some fruits and veggies (such as avocado, corn, potatoes); nuts and seeds; healthy oils.
  • Treats: Animal products (i.e., meat, fish, dairy, and eggs); white flour and rice; pasta; alcohol; sweets and sugar.

The rule is simple: During the day (or whatever your vegan hours are), eat all you want of the unlimited foods, some of the flexible foods, and none of the treats. After 6 p.m., eat what you want.

There’s one other thing Bittman repeats again and again: Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. He presents the plan a certain way, but maintains that you have to do it the way it works for you. That’s one of the things I really like about this.

So, I will drink cream and sugar in my morning coffee, and I will have a bit of sugar in my afternoon tea. That isn’t going to kill all the benefits I gain by shifting my general diet toward healthier whole foods. And if I have eggs and bacon and mimosas at a weekend brunch with friends, that’s fine too. I’ll eat vegan for dinner, or maybe I’ll just write off that day.

The other thing I like about the plan is that, even though it amounts to “Eat more plants,” there’s enough structure for me to sort of hook into psychologically. I can break the rules if I choose to, but there are rules. Also, I get a free pass every day, so if I really, really want a cheeseburger (I love cheeseburgers), I can have one. Most nights, I will eat healthier foods–because this probably doesn’t work if I don’t do that, too–but no one is telling me that I have to.

Also, since my vegan meals will generally be during daytime hours, I think this will be pretty easy on my home life. I’ve asked my husband that we not have junk foods in the house for the first month or so (especially chips—I love chips), but it’s not as if I’m asking him to give up meat for dinner. He’s open to healthier food, but I really wouldn’t see either of us choosing to become full-time vegans.

The final thing I will say here is that this is not a space for people to argue with me about my diet. You say “vegan,” and people freak out. Just read the comments on any of the stories about VB6 last year: all the true believers come out to argue. This blog is about me trying to be healthier, so support and discussion are welcome; polemics, not so much.

 

 

Coffee with…?

Among other things–reading, making shopping lists–I am trying to figure out what to do about afternoon coffee.

My morning coffee gets half and half and sugar; no, half and half is not vegan, sugar is to be avoided on VB6, and morning is certainly not before 6 p.m. But some things are sacrosanct. And the intent of VB6 is that it’s not all or nothing. You can be flexible:  do what works for you and do what makes sense. A tablespoon or two of half and half in the morning is not going to kill me.

But there’s a limit, right? If I break my own rules all day long, then I’m not really doing anything differently, am I?

Which brings me to afternoon coffee. I like to have a little coffee in the afternoon. Also, I just started a new job where there is an actual professional quality espresso machine, so I have developed a little afternoon latte habit. It was already a big treat, since the only cow’s milk at work is whole milk, which I gave up years ago. There are some vegan milks available at the office, however. So in the last couple of days, I’ve tried lattes made with soy milk and vanilla almond milk, but….

Bleh.

They made me feel sad inside. I particularly disliked the aftertaste. I’m sure you develop a taste for it over time, but I’m not sure how hard I want to work for it. That said, I really don’t think I want to make an exception for a half -cup or so of whole milk in the afternoon. I may switch to tea in the afternoons.

Ten pounds

In the past two months, I have gained ten pounds. TEN. POUNDS.

When I was younger, I never had to worry about my weight. In fact, I had a hard time gaining weight, so losing it never crossed my mind. Even when I was pregnant, my doctor would exhort me to “drink more milkshakes!” because I wasn’t gaining quite enough weight. And in the weeks after my babies were born, my pregnancy weight just sort of slipped away.

But middle age is different. I’ve gotten a little thicker around the middle in the last few years. I’ve been hoping to lose ten or fifteen pounds, but truth be told, hoping is just about all I’ve done about it. And now I have another ten pounds to deal with!

It’s really time to do something about this. No, I’m not seriously overweight, but I’d like to prevent that. I’m concerned about my health, but more than that, I just don’t feel as good about myself as I used to.

So I am going to start on VB6–that stands for Vegan Before 6, not Visual Basic 6–next week. Long story short, this is pretty much just what it sounds like: from the time I wake up until 6 p.m. (or whenever I eat dinner), I’ll be vegan. For dinner, I can have whatever I want.

I’m hesitant to call it a “diet,” because the intention is that (if all goes as planned), I’ll be eating like this for the rest of my life.  It’s not meant to be a diet as in, “I’m going to do this until I lose 25 pounds, and then I will go back to normal.” Instead, VB6 is meant to be a new normal. It is diet as in, “the way you eat.”

I haven’t started yet, though. For this week, I’m just reading through the book, looking at what I eat now, and preparing myself for changing how I eat.