My friend Raphael was telling me about his repeat experiences with the Arden’s Garden 21 days Cleanse, which entails cutting out all processed foods in addition to meat products, flour, sugar, caffeine, alcohol, dairy, and smoking — and replacing them with produce juices. His first experience resulted in him dropping 15 lbs, while increasing energy levels, even while training for a half-Ironman triathlon.
As someone with a predilection for extremes — I don’t do just one half-marathon, I do 5 over 7 months — I thought it would be worth experimenting. And then I realized something about their cleanse — this is basically a vegan diet in juice form.
Why Try Vegan?
Back in 2008 I tried being a “vegetarian worker” for a month, in which I avoided meat Monday through Friday. I enjoyed the experience; I learned how to cook with different foods like tofu and herbs, found a new love for broccoli and spinach, and revealed a lot about my own mindless eating habits.
For example, I discovered I ate a ton of meat — the U.S wins a silver for meat-consumption at over 275lbs/year. When you add in my vice of cheese that measurement might even be accurate — the average American consumes more than 550 lbs of dairy ever year.
I also learned that a vegan diet can still be a questionable diet loaded with sugar and flour, both of which are ingredients I could consume less of.
How is this Vegan Plus?
As I approach my mid thirties, I’m carrying way too much excess fat, my blood pressure is higher than I prefer, and my blood glucose spikes if I don’t watch my sugar intake. Even after several years of focusing on exercise including 30-day bootcamps, olympic triathlons, half-marathons, and cycling metric centuries, I’ve been consistently inconsistent with weight loss. It has become clear that I really, really suck at food portion control.
I love me some food. No, I mean really, really love food.
I plan vacations around foodie destinations (that and I prefer climates conducive to growing wine grapes). I think about food all the time, even after finishing my last meal. I invest a lot of money on buying the best, fresh ingredients for when I’m trying something new in the kitchen; but that’s only a fraction compared to dining out.
After pedaling across Georgia for 5 hours, my fuel is the thought of whether to enjoy that night’s epic meal with that red wine from Argentina, the Indian Pale Ale from a West-coast craft brewery, or that new cocktail with organic cucumber vodka.
Respect the Food
And that’s why this is vegan plus — I need to learn to respect food.
I need to respect that an ounce of cheese can have over 100 calories. I need to learn that a serving of meat is 3 ounces, not 6 (or 8). I need to accept that a piece of cornbread — normally consumed in less than 3 bites — has enough calories to fuel me for an entire 1 mile run.
Vegan Plus is my way of getting my mindless food consumption back under control. It’s my way of learning portion control by replacing calorie-dense decadences — flour, dairy, sugar, red meat — with nutrient-rich ones like vegetables and fruit. It’s my way of exploring a completely different way of planning and shopping for food, cooking meals, and enjoying them.
So, goodbye dairy, flour, meat, sugars, caffeine, and alcohol — I’ll see you in 21 days.