Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Other Five Percent

"Are you a vegetarian?" The question is almost inevitable when I go out to eat with someone for the first time. Whether alone or with the family, as we order our food you can see the expression on their face change. Watching from across the table, the gears are turning. And then, usually after the veg-friendly appetizers arrive and I/we dive in, they can't help but ask.

My answer is always the same, "No, I just don't eat meat." Then I smile. Sometimes that answer is enough but most of the time further inquiry is made. I choose that response because the answer is a complex one and if the listener isn't really THAT interested I'd rather not waste my breath trying to explain it to them. For those of you who are curious or maybe even flirting with vegetarianism yourself let me share...err....try to explain my stance. I know that it is one that will probably elicit criticism from both sides of the omnivore/herbivore isle but I'm OK with that. 

Okay, here goes nothing... 

Growing up my mother was a second generation butcher. Meat was a huge part of our lives! Not only did we eat it but other people eating it helped keep the lights on and put food on the table. Meat was a part of who I was. I have childhood memories of watching my grandfather and his crew processing dear, watching him trim the fat off of steaks, make hamburger, etc. They are fond memories and to be honest, made me more aware and appreciative of where meat comes from and what it cost.

Yet if you read our Meet Us page you saw that we eat a 95% plant based diet. We say 95% because there are exceptions. You see, we are not morally apposed to eating meat or animal products. Being plant-strong athletes is a choice that we made because we realized that the more plant based food we eat the better we feel and perform. I have learned that there is a difference between feeling "full" and feeling heavy and tired. And that plant based protein sources are absorbed by my body faster leading to faster recovery without leaving me feeling weighed down by a big burger or steak sitting in my belly.

But I am more than a plant-strong runner. I am also a Kid's Pastor, Camp Counselor, Missionary, and Business Man and I refuse to let my running aspirations affect any of these other areas of my life negatively.

Here's an example of what I mean...

As a camp counselor, meal time is a tremendous opportunity to bond with the kids in my group and so if they are only serving pepperoni pizza for lunch I am going to eat it. (*brief pause while all the vegetarians gasp*) Why? Because my job is to connect with those kids, to find out where they are in their lives and to speak positively into their lives while they are at camp. The last thing I need is for them to be distracted by what I eat or don't eat. Instead I may choose to only eat one piece of pizza and later, back in our cabin, I will pull additional food out of a "survival kit" that I bring along containing trail mix, dried fruits and vegetables, granola, Cliff Bars, etc. This helps me to maintain that the focus remains on the children and not on my diet. That is my range, what I have decided is an acceptable deviation from my diet in advance. If I slip up once in a while, it's okay. It doesn't change who I am. Tomorrow is a new day and I will start it with a clean slate.

If you are newly plant-strong (whatever that means to you) let me encourage you. If you slip up, you are not a failure. If you find yourself in a position where you have to choose between eating something you have sworn off and being miserable and you choose to eat it, it's okay. If you are a vegan and find out the restaurant cooked you veggies in butter, it's okay. Tomorrow is a new day. Forgive yourself and start with a clean slate. Decide in advance that certain deviations are acceptable from time to time. As long as you are successful most of the time you are a success. Don't let yourself be defeated by the other 5%

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Baby Food

Recently I took our youngest daughter Cole to her nine month well-baby visit at the pediatrician. Prior to the appointment I was told by the front desk that we would be seeing the nurse practitioner rather than the doctor this time. No big deal. All they're going to do is weigh her, ask us some questions about her development, give her any shots she needs and we'll be on our way. She's a perfectly healthy, on target, roly poly little girl. When the nurse walked into the room I shuddered. It was the same nurse practitioner that had been at our old pediatrician's office. The one that told us for months that there was nothing wrong with out youngest son James (Who it turns out is extremely asthmatic!). And then, when we finally convinced her otherwise she called an ambulance and had him rushed to the hospital against our wishes! The nurse we had switched doctors to get away from had followed us!

"How is she doing?" She said cheerfully.

"Great!" I replied. Trying to mask my disappointment. She began looking at the charts.

"Oh my! It appears that Cole has lost almost an entire pound since her last visit." This did not surprise me. Cole is more active than ever. At nine months old, Cole crawls everywhere. She has started pulling herself up on anything she can and she has decided that she doesn't want to be fed but would prefer to put food into her own mouth....all by herself. Any parent who has been through this stage with their children knows that nine month old babies are not the most proficient at feeding themselves. This combined with her new found mobility almost guarantees some weight loss. "What do you feed her?"

I went on to rattle of a list of the various fruits, vegetables and grains that we might feed her on any given day and mentioned that she typically eats whatever we're eating.

"But what do you do for protein?" I explained that there is protein in many of the vegetables, beans and grains that we feed her. Not to mention that there is plenty of protein in her formula. "What about meat?"

I just stared at her. Dumbfounded. "She's a baby..." was all I could muster. I didn't want to get into the fact that we are plant strong runners who rarely even have meat in our house let alone feed it to our baby.

"Well she needs meat. ...and butter." I stared blankly. "I want you to add butter to all those vegetables that you're feeding her. And the next time you have pork chops... Throw one of them into the blender. Add butter and some formula and blend it down into mush and give her that." I just stared some more. "You know what? I'm going to go see if the dietitian is available. I'm sure she has some great tips for you as well." She walked out of the examination room and closed the door behind her.

I sent out a tweet.

Nurse just told me that Cole needs meat. Lol! She acted as if that is the only protein source in the world. "baby w/2 teeth, have a steak!"

I began preparing myself for a lecture. Who pushes meat on babies anyway? And pork? What if I were jewish?!?

Soon the nurse practitioner and the dietitian walked in together. "So, she's lost a pound since her last visit. I already told him that they need to add meat and butter into her diet. I told him to throw a pork chop into the blender with butter and formula and give her that." The dietitians eyes got wider with every word the nurse spoke but she remained silent. "I was hoping that you would have some more ideas for him. I'll leave you guys to talk." And with that she walked out of the room.

The dietitian was very nice. She introduced herself and then began asking the same questions the nurse had. "What do you feed her?" Again I rattled off the same list of various fruits, vegetables and grains that I had listed to the nurse. To my surprise she did not ask the meat question. "I think you feed her perfectly" she replied. "She obviously is just getting more active and needs more calories. Lets just try adding another scoop of formula to her bottles and that should give her the extra calories she needs. If she continues to loose weight then we can look at other options but I think the extra powder will do the trick."

I felt vindicated! Our plant strong diet was "perfect"! The dietitian shared our opinion that meat and butter are NOT the building blocks of good nutrition and we were doing the right thing by feeding our kids foods that grow up from the ground. She never asked if we were vegetarians or vegans. Never tried to label or categorize us. Never asked how we got protein. It was clear that we are healthy active people, lacking in nothing nutritionally and with that she sent us on our way.

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