Plant Based Diet Conversion Aided by a Registered Dietitian PART II

October 10, 2020. The two month anniversary of my first appointment with my Registered Dietitian, who I now lovingly refer to a my “Food Parole Officer”. (She is, for the record, smart, good humored, supportive, non judgmental and full of good ideas). (I often wonder why it took me 63 years to hire one – but then I note with some amusement that our country that is 50% obese makes little use of the one science based medical provider that specializes in nutrition). Having bared all from the first two weeks of my journey here and here I thought I’d catch you up on the last six weeks.

Have you heard of the “gut microbiome”? If not, take quick peak at the 12,900,000 result of that term as a Google search and come back. Ok? Good? So you know your gut microbiome is integral to your immune system, weight, digestion, mental health, and probably every other system in your body. What you may not know is what it feels like to dramatically change your gut bacteria buddies by what you eat. I have now come to know and love them as a boisterous, loud, demanding, annoying, cantankerous bunch of terrorists. I mean friends

Within a couple of weeks I noticed my skin “youthened” (we have a word for aging – why not for getting younger?). My arms which long had dry skin had started developing the kinds of sores, marks, and coloration ive always associated with 90 ear old men. Or corpses. The dead kind Disappeared. All of it overnight. “Cool”, I thought. (Actually, it was more like “Holy Shit”!!!)

Likewise, “digestion”. Mine was already great but let’s just say I passed Jamie Lee Curtis on the activa yogurt track and left her standing still. Eat some oatmeal Jamie.

Swelling, bloating, inflammation gone. Almost overnight. Now, mind you, I’ve been crawling towards better health for a decade- quit smoking, diet sodas, took up regular exercise- but nothing compares to feeding your “good” bacteria buddies and starving the rest. If you’d like learn more in an easy approachable medical science based way, I reccomed the book Fiber Fueled

This really became apparent to me when I heard my dying sugar eating bacteria, say, in their best “Mr Bill voice” (for you missing this SNL reference see here ….”Oh noooooo, we’re dying … need a doughnut, some cake, something…..oh noooooo. I felt a little sad for them really. Now I’m not “on a diet” so I’m not restricting myself from anything but these “good bacteria” are pretty sneaky in that they change your appetite, cravings, and desires. In 8 weeks, I’ve given them half a yellow cake with chocolate icing and 4 Apple fritters. I’m no monster. But they’re still crying.

Here’s the “icing on the cake”. Ok, maybe the nutritional yeast on the veggie burger. After a lifetime of being the poster child for “not a morning person”, I’m waking up earlier it’s more energy and less a desire to go back to sleep. I’m amazed

While on the one hand I’ve spent hours reading vegetarian vegan recipes, shopping for Asian and Indian spices and condiments, rearranging my pantry I’ve been surprised how much I’ve loved the veggie curries and stir fries I’ve learned to make. Like the one pan “basmati ice chickpea, cauliflower, spinach, green curry” casserole dump pictured above. I now consider myself a meat eater who identifies as a vegetarian. Think of it as I’m wearing the make up and clothes but am not getting the surgery.

There are some serious downsides. The good bacteria don’t like weekend binge drinking. Or French fries. Or tequila. We’re negotiating.


Moving Towards a Plant Based Diet Part 2

The science is clear- eating a more plant based diet with fresh vegetables, fruits and whole grains will extend life span, improve the quality of life and substantially reduce the risk of most diseases. Unless one has been raised in a vegetarian home there are many challenges to making progress with this lifestyle change.

I am not willing to be a food related “…arian” of any kind. “Vegetarian”, “Pescatarian”, “Fruitarian”, “Pescatarian”, or “Pollotarian”. I was raised Catholictarian and from it I developed a Post Traumatic Stress Dogma. Veganism is not “Arian” but it is pretty dogmatic. And generally, I’m more inclined to “asms” then “isms”. I’m not an “Arian” word-ist. Love vulgarians, barbarians, libertarians, (hot) librarians, and contrarians for example. In fact, I’m a sexagenarian, although I was so disappointed to find out what that really means. Bottom line is I’m not giving up meat. Or cheese. Or eggs. Or ice cream. Or <sigh>

The second challenge involves learning how to cook plant based. Think of a food you’ve eaten that at worst, made you retch or at best you spit out. The “art” of cooking is learning how to cook that food so that instead of gagging- you think “YUM”. “Yum” like all your dopamine sensors are firing off like a 4th of July fireworks display over the Mall in Washington DC or you’re sitting in a bar with your friends for an afternoon of tequila shots and 4 local sororities swing in for the last stop of their pub crawl. Because, when it comes down to it, you are committing to many days when you think, “double bacon cheeseburger lettuce tomato on sesame bun vs black bean brown rice bowl” and your brain immediately says, “bean rice!!” See my point?

My mother was a good cook. Of the things she cooked good. Her Italian food was fantastic but she had a couple of hundred years of recipes to rely on. Vegetables, not so much. She generally boiled them into submission. My Dad hated vegetables. My brother hated vegetables. I hated vegetables. I was in my 20’s discovering how much I liked vegetables when I realized nobody wanted to tell her she was a serial vegetable killer. A downright Ted Bundy of spinach. A Jeffrey Dahmer of escarole. Vegetables are significantly bettered when “s’d”. Sauté, Stir fry, Steamed, or Stewed. See, “s’d”? I think the “S” cooking words were invented to cook vegetables so you don’t think you’re eating drywall after licking a cast iron frying pan. I think many people who know how to cook learned from their parents grandparents. So, if you don’t have that tradition, you need to find another way. Learning is hard.

My third cchallenge is I’m a lazy cook and my 1200 sq ft condo does not have an1800 sq ft pantry. I bought a recently released, well reviewed vegan cookbook and began perusing recipes. Here’s some things I’m NOT shopping for or finding room to store: medjool dates, fenugreek seeds, dark agave nectar, persillade, tamarind. ..”. His recipes have recipes INSIDE the recipes for spice blends and sauces. I work for a living. I do not have all day to cook, shop, slice, dice, blend, purée, grate and plate. I can tell you how to make a meatball in a couple years of minutes with 8 ingredients, most of which you have at home. This is a lot of work to keep okra from being gag worthy slimy.

The fourth challenge is tools. The reason cooking is a “hobby” is because there is a never ending list of accessories and tools you want to do it well. I actually just bought a zester.

I’m starting to covet a food processor, immersion blender, stand alone mixer, an herb garden, a sous chef, a valet and a sex addict with ocd who likes to make shopping lists, grocery shop and organize pantries. Ok, I can shop and organize the pantry. But I digress.

Change is hard. I’m on the board of directors for a local charity that teaches teen volunteers commercial cooking skill while they make plant based meals for cancer patients delivered by other volunteers to their homes. Last time I did something like this, I was on the local American Cancer Society Board. I’d smoke in their parking lot before meetings. Their executive director got so angry with me. We’d have short conversations about the difference between “if you do something, you’ll die” and “you’re dying anyway. This executive director however, cooks us vegan meals for board meetings, is a yoga instructor, and has the personality of Mother Theresa. Who likes beer. Who always says, “You can do it,”. Maybe I can.

(I’m currently under probation with a registered dietitian. To see how THATS going see


E Mail Updates to the Dietitian Part 1

Upon hearing of my 50 year struggle with my weight,

a provider friend referred me to a dietitian she had retained with glowing recommendations. I thought why not. As I was proofreading my first e mail update, I thought, “Oh, these are going to be good. I should save these. ALL of these. Rather than wait till I’m a month or so in, I thought I’d post now, letting you know to come back and check in periodically on my progress.

“Hi, Loved our first meeting yesterday. Looking forward to receiving Meal Plan on Wednesday. Instant oat meal this Morning. Dinner -Salad and I made some homemade lentil soup from scratch with sautéed mirepoix, garlic, thyme, rosemary, cumin, ginger, vegetable broth, chicken bone broth, white wine and simmered it for 4 hours. It needs some salt or Parmesan cheese.
Was good for first effort. Shopping list ready for Friday. Ive already had a fantasy about a grilled ribeye and a baked potato. Jesus

I did good with not eating after 9, of you count 9 as after the end of Daylight savings times in a few months. And, if we not mention the vanilla drumstick ice cream cone at 10:15.

Day 2

Thanks for your reply. Nice to know these ribeye steak food porn fantasy/hallucinations are in fact, bad habit cravings and that eating more like a bunny, in heat, will ease them.

By the way- good call on the oatmeal. It’s a real appetite killer!! Obviously, one can see it expand upon being doused in water or milk but I’m getting the sense it continues to expand in the body like spray insulation. That’s alive. And in mating season.

Day 4 August 14, 2020

Made it to grocery store yesterday. Bought Dr Bobs Redmill extra thick rolled oats. I noticed Dr Bobs oats compared to Quaker Oats are like corn kernels compared to grains of sand. I followed your plan and put 3/4 a cup of oats in a bowl with a cup and a half of milk. This looked like ALOT to eat to me but I put in the fridge for 20 minutes as instructed. Upon removal I added the fresh blueberries and banana as instructed. Now I’m sure this is two much to eat. So, oats do not absorb cold milk as the do hot fluid. First discovery – partially hydrated oats taste like … (are you thinking cardboard)…drywall. Cardboard actually has some flavor. Think bowl of chalk in milk. The fruit just acted like a really beautiful woman on an unbearable Tinder date. Definitely back to hot oatmeal tomorrow.

Day 5 August 15, 2020

It’s a pandemic Saturday and my calendar is filled with…..nothing. “Hey”, I say to myself, “why not clear out the freezer a bit of some of the things I’ll be eating less of to make room for veggies and fruits and stuff”. I found a beef shank cut for Osso Bucco (which I’d never prepared) and thought – yum. So I spent all afternoon cooking this Osso Bucco. I also fixed brown rice and roasted vegetables which I am supposed to be eating.

This was going pretty well until on a pantry trip I found two boxes of betty Crocker fudge brownie mix. I always make a double box.

Day 9. First follow up call with Dietitian August 19, 2020

(For the benefit of public health, this particular dietitian could not be sweeter ….um.. maybe wrong adjective for a dietitian…. could not be more accepting and non shaming so any references to my negative feelings are strictly internally generated. And possibly magnified for humor sake)

Anyway, a picture is worth a thousand words. I can tell I’m going to be in timeout once a week for the next 11 weeks. Next week, I intend to start with, “Bless me dietician for I have sinned; it has been one week since my last confession.” (Note to self- never see a sex therapist). She asked how the oatmeal was going – I admitted it was life changing (never in a million years could you have persuaded me this would be a description of oatmeal). She was fine with my not eating it cold or with milk. She asked how I did fix it. I said, “Hot, with cinnamon, a teaspoon of brown sugar, a table spoon of maple syrup and the fruit you suggested”. I saw this look flash over her face as she started to say something, stopping cause her filter blocked her (I know this look because it happens to me dozens of times a day, looking left and which point I said, don’t be shy. I can take it. “Try the oatmeal without the sweetener she said, giving some options to help with the flavor”. After that, I worked up to the double box of brownies.

It occurred to me this relationship is going to be very disappointing for her. Women are used to that with guys, aren’t they?

Day 16  August 26, 2020

E mail updates have been supplanted by Zoom follow ups on Wednesday.  I like to start with “forgive me dietitian, for I have sinned, it has been one week since my last confession”.  She asked how I was doing, I asked if she wanted the good new or the bad news first.  She thought a long time. She decide to go with the good news.  I went with being consistent with my oatmeal, eating plant based almost every day, cooking and trying her black beans/rice bowl, etc. 

Here’s where it started to turn.  My four friends and I go out to dinner once a month.  We usually go to a really nice place, although we did go to waffle house once ’cause one guy moved here from “off” and had never been.  Anyway,  what I wanted to order was the steak…. 

BUT, what I ordered instead was the wreckfish –

She was completely less jaded about this than I and commented that both plates had lovely vegetables. Ah, yes, my vegetables. Here’s where I shine. “I had 5 more versions of vegetables – I had Tequila than night”. “Tequila is not a vegetable serving, ” she said. “What?!?! It’s made from Agave! Thats a plant. That’s plant based!” “No,” she said softly. Almost with a hint of sadness. So what about Rye Whiskey? Not a whole grain?” “Nope”. “Bourbon – Corn?” “Nope”. “Potato Vodka?” “Nope”. “Wine Grapes Fruit”?? “Nope” Boy and they worry about elections being tainted. These science dietitian rules are kinda shady, if you ask me.

“What’s the bad news?”, she asked.  I told her of the morning I had a meltdown.  In a triggered, irrational, anxiety attack, trauma from food and a lifetime of dieting kind of way.  I said I thought I needed a food therapist.  “Is there such a thing as a food therapist?”  She said, “You can talk to me”.  Oh, boy.  Is there “dietitian client confidentiality?”   Also, this Tequila thing is going to be a problem. 

September 3,2020. We’re settling into a comfortable rhythm of mentor and mentee, coach and trainee, probation office and food criminal. I usually horrify her at least twice in a 30 minute follow up call. We’re we’re discussing how to tackle my late night eating issues when my once a day sugar addiction raises its ugly head. I was describing what I ate after my dinner salad Some Roasted vegetables and purple rice (good) and then some Fancy Nancy chicken salad from the “chicken Salad Chick”. (Not good). As the look of horror spread across her angelic face, I explained my manicurist mentioned it to me and I had to try it. “Think if me as a crack head who’s best friends are all drug dealers). <sigh>. Making progress.

Humor Weight Loss

Good vs Evil: First Trips to the Salad Cafe and the Gourmet Grocery Store

Im not on a diet; I don’t believe in them any more. I’m not vegetarian but I do try to subsist on salads anymore. I’m what I call an “Asparagus and Sawdustian”. A good friend, aware of this lifestyle change, suggested I try a new local cafe, called Verde. I made my first visit today. This was Good. In an Aristotelian ethical, greater good kind of way, it was heaven for salad eaters. It’s a build your own salad, wraps, kind of place. Imagine if crackheads had somewhere like Starbucks they could go just to buy a rock, or 2, twelve hours a day. Build your own salad with every kind of green, and ingredient and dressing imaginable, then sliced, tossed or chopped. I got my salad, proposed marriage to one of the owners, got my frequent flyer card (buy 9 salads, get one free) and took another gleeful step towards cleaner arteries and enlightenment.

In the same shopping center is a “Gourmet Grocery” store that opened last year, called “southern Seasons”. You’ve never heard of it, because there are only three of them. The motherships are in Chapel Hill NC and Richmond Virginia. I had not been since they opened. I thought since I was there, why not see what this store was all about. I think a similar market is how Dante got the idea for the Inferno with the Gates of Hell, into which you enter various circles of Hell. This was Evil. I guess intellectually I new what a gourmet grocery store WAS by definition, but now, two hours, post-traumatic shopping disorder experience later, I realize I really had no idea. In case you’re not a “gourmet grocery store shopper” let me give you some idea.

You may have never heard of “Southern Seasons”, but it was selected as one of the top 50 Gourmet Retailers in the country. I give you this link, because I think you’ll see there’s a similar Gate of Hell near you, or at least you’ll recognize Dean and DeLuca and these store descriptions will give you the corporate spin on what they sell.

What they sell is Oscar Wilde’s quote, “I can resist anything but temptation”. In Dante’s inferno, there were nine circles of hell, and each roughly corresponds to a station in a gourmet grocery store. I walked through the door right into the coffee and tea section, took a look at the teas, glanced around the store and saw: “bakery”, “”cheeses”, “candy”, “tasting bar”, “English foods”……….oh crap, I gotta get a cart, (the first circle of hell- limbo) this is going to be bad, I thought. No it’s not I thought, I can do this, like the 30 day alcoholic who’s just signed up for the 3 day Sonoma Wine Tasting Tour thinking, “I’m just gonna sample the olive oils”. First hit- one box of Moroccan mint tea.

Next station is the bakery. (Shopping the “perimeter in this store, in terms of eating healthy and I’m sure this is true of any gourmet grocery, would be like sending someone to a Brothel and saying, “shop the perimeter, you’ll be fine. There is no produce here- nary a beet nor a leaf of kale has given its life for the gourmet grocery. Each station is manned by an employee, who I swear came straight from the roast beef carving station at Ritz Carlton Ball Room. “Can I help you, what would you like” you are asked every 8.9 feet. I think they have sensors for that distance. I started saying, “no, thank you, I’m just fantasizing and eating vicariously”.

The bakery has an entire display case of single serve items because the sugar dealers learned from the drug dealers you sell more crack if you sell it one rock at a time. For the latter, its economic restraints, but for the former, they’re hoping you succumb to the fallacy that the calories are not so bad in just one piece. Second hit: “bad day” brownie. Pause a moment and let the full emotional tug of that sink in as you picture yourself looking at this brownie in the clear plastic case which also has chocolate chips, mini marshmallows, peanut butter and Rice Krispies. $4.99. (Third circle- gluttony) I’m sinkin fast.

The cheese counter is next. Imported cheese from every European country. The Stilton is tempting but at $25 a lb, I realize pricing here is at a percentage of the federal deficit, but going to a private entity. I’m impressed. (Fourth circle-Greed)

Next is the Candy Counter- which is pretty pedestrian – not counting the handmade artisan chocolates, the high end, high percentage cocoa bars, or the entire wall of jelly bellies. Pedestrian until the imported candy. The sugar dealer in the candy dept had a french accent. T guess they think you won’t feel so much like a crack head, if the cute woman, says syrupily, “oh, mon cher, what of theese shuck-o-latt can I help yoo weeth?” Not finding dark chocolate almonds, but noticing the mayan cayenne almonds were dark she gave me one to try. spoiler alert, the “cayenne” is not is there to rhyme with “Mayan”- Holy shit was that hot!!!!!!! (fifth circle of hell-anger, seventh circle – violence).

I was just doing reconnaissance after that till I saw they had imported Italian Torrone. They don’t sell Torrone in South Carolina. I think it’s because the top and bottom look like catholic communion wafers. But this Torrone was chocolate covered. That’s when I discovered that the Spanish also make a Torrone which they call, Turron. Third hit. El Almendro $7.89.

I wound my way around to what I would call “housewares”- or cooking utensils, dishes, accessories sold at jewelry prices. I needed one of the screen things, you know, that goes over your frying pan, so when you cook bacon you don’t have to call in the company with the haz mat suits to get grease off the entire side of your kitchen wall where your stove sits? They had one, so I though I’d save a trip to Bread, Bath and Beyond (this is my interchangeable name for Atlanta Bread Company and Bed bath and beyond. I know- such a strange malapropism you ask, but try it sometime. Just merge two businesses names and use the one Name to refer to both. Have fun with it) it was $25.99. Eighth circle of hell- fraud. I did however, get a salad chopper- don’t even ask.

I walked by the tasting bar, they had TWO people and gave them the same “fantasizing/vicariously”. Hold up the cross, garlic and holy water; hope-you -don’t -get bit gambit until the little brunette hawking the coffee wanted to hold my brownie. The other lady asked, “is that a BAD DAY BROWNIE?” “Yes it is”, I replied. The toffee brunette red the ingredients and let out a 50 shades of grey kind of gasp. She explained tasting the food was a way to help small business owners and the toffee company was her toffee company. I tried it- “holy shit!”, I said. “Holy shit good or Holy shot bad?”, she asked, plaintively batting her eyes. I bought a box. “You don’t have to do that, she cooed”. Second circle- lust

I’ve been in here an hour and a half by now. I look in my cart and I have: a bottle of blk alkaline bottled water (not even gonna try to explain that), the Moroccan tea, the BAD DAY brownie, the Spanish Turron, and the salad chopper. I take a swirl through the spices, marinades, English foods and pasta and sauces. Sicilian marinara in a jar?!?!? Sixth circle of hell heresy.

I manage to check out with my FIVE (items) which fit in a large plain brown McDonald’s meal bag and get out for $44. I see that friend who sent me to the salad cafe place Monday morning. The ninth circle of hell? Treachery.


Nourritures Entières (That’s French for “Whole Foods”)

Maybe it’s just me, but when I walk into Whole Foods Grocery Store, I feel like I’ve wandered into a very touristy part of Paris where they really want my money but aren’t so happy I’m there. It even smells like a foreign country when you walk through the door, doesn’t it?

Over the last couple of years, in an effort to be “healthier” and lose weight, I’ve been trying to cut back on/and/or eliminate: dairy, carbs, wheat, sugar, red meat, non organic, processed, GMO, pesticide ridden, chemically added to, red meat, (I know I said it twice, I really miss it) diet soda, foods. This has left…. nothing to eat.

Just in case you are not on of the “Over seven million customers [who) visit our 367 stores in 40 U.S. states, Canada, and the U.K. each week,, Whole Foods is a grocery store that sold THIRTEEN BILLION DOLLARS worth of the remainder of that nothing left to eat last year and is growing at an astronomical rate. I had been there a few times, that lovely place where they put your food in small paper bags at $100 per paper bag. Where you walk out wondering why you just paid three times what you normally pay for groceries and you’re apparently happy about it. Yeah, that place.

But I’m getting a little ahead of myself. I’ve only to been to France once, and for years before I went, all I heard was how rude to Americans the French were. When I went, I was lucky enough to go with some friends from the UK, who went several times a year, and both spoke pretty good French. I also spent the better part of a year brushing up on my high school French. Which meant that I could go in any restaurant, pick out what I wanted on the menu, look at the waiter with confidence and ask that the carburetors on my car be rotated angular with my tires. Anyway, I found the French to be as friendly, and kind as people anywhere, except for the one guy in the camera shop, who, when I went in by myself to get my film developed (YES, it was THAT LONG ago, I had FILM in my camera) got very ANGRY with me, because I politely asked in French to just have one set of pictures printed, (which I am sure came out as – can you please scratch my ass with a bulldozer) and he was trying to tell me that double prints was a better deal ( which came out to me as boo boo, blah blah blah, oui oui) and I was trying to tell him as nicely as possible that I was very sorry my French was so crappy and he then proceeded to tell me that I was a stupid ignorant fu&*ing American (which I did understand). I got the double prints. Other than that, France was lovely.

Similarly, Whole Foods can be a lovely place with a little planning. Here’s some things I’ve learned. Do not ask for:

1 The Cigarette Counter
2. The Monsanto Products Aisle
3. The GMO Vegetables
4. Raid, or other Pesticides
5. Tide, Bleach, or Styrofoam Coolers
6. Plastic Bags at Checkout
7. (They are not giving discount flu shots this year. (or any year)
8. Foie Gras
9. Veal
10.The endangered species Cook Book

On the other hand, (and I guess we can be grateful Mayor Bloomberg has left office for this), they have no problem with SUGAR, ALCOHOL or SALT at Whole Foods. Wow, they have a bakery there that would kill at diabetic at 100 yards. They really have the best grocery store of any in the town where I live and there are 18 grocery stores in the town where I live which works out to roughly, well, just an obscene number of grocery stores. They even had vegan oatmeal cookies. I stared at them for awhile. I wondered, did that mean they took something out, or did they put something in. I didn’t even know they put meat in Oatmeal cookies. I bought two. They have a gelato bar. Nice.

I’m guessing they have no problem with salt because alot of the nothing you can eat that’s NOT of the list at the beginning of the blog tastes like plywood. Salt makes plywood taste better. Every chef and anyone who’s watched the food channel knows this. Salt your plywood. Not to get overly preachy in a humor blog, but “Americans eat too much sodium, commonly consumed as salt. High sodium consumption raises blood pressure. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, the nation’s first and third leading causes of death, respectively”. While we need 150 to 500 mg a day, the Institute of Medicine recommends 1500 mg a day. Whole foods devotes maybe 20% of their floor space to an oasis of freshly prepared salad bars and freshly cooked dinners and a deli laid out in a cornucopia overflowing with gluten free, lactose tolerant, soy based, leading you to the healthy land. But salt laden. The other day, I got a salad from the salad bar and some Guatemalan chick soup. a friend asked what was in it. I said chicken, rice some green things and some Guatemalans. I don’t know. Why Guatemalan chicken soup instead of Ecuador, Honduras, costa Rica, or Venezuela? Ok, strike Venezuela, I get that. Anyway, next day I gained two pounds. Wow, how much salt is in there? So today, I went and checked out their prepackaged soup and read the labels. All of them had between 35% and 50% of the daily recommended intake for salt per serving.

I wonder how the Gelato is???? I bet its tres belle. That’s very beautiful.