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About this blog: I developed a special interest in helping seniors with their challenges and transitions when my dad had a stroke and I helped him through all the various stages of downsizing, packing, moving and finding an assisted living communi...  (More)

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Slowly I'm Turning, Step By Step, Inch By Inch, Into a Vegan

Uploaded: Sep 8, 2014
I never thought it could "happen" to me but I think I am slowly becoming a vegan. Up until recently I didn't really understand what that word meant. It seems so close to vegetarian. What could be left after you become a vegetarian? Must be a nickname for a vegetarian. But, as many of you already know, whereas a vegetarian does not eat meat, fowl or fish, a vegan does take that another step and eliminates dairy and all products from animals from their diet. (There are some variations amongst vegetarians ie. some eat eggs but not dairy, some eat dairy but not eggs - I may be missing some other variations.)
Why would I be moving on this path from meat eater, BBQ-lover, milk, yogurt and ice-cream aficionado to veganism? It's feels like a natural progression for me who started out looking for a solution to a weight problem and compulsive eating condition. Fortunately I found help changing around my relationship with food, which included a food plan that eliminated all sugar and sweeteners (except the sugar from fruit) and all flour products. Between those two "restrictions" (I see them as liberations) it cuts out most heavily processed foods. What I was left with was a lot of fruits and vegetables, lean meats, fish, eggs, fowl, and dairy products. For the past 3 years my program and food plan have worked well and probably kept me from getting, at my present age of 61, my first heart attack. I've lost and maintained 40 lbs. It's also given me energy, and time, to do a lot of things I was not getting to in my life, especially since I wasn't spending energy and time thinking, planning and procuring my next food fix any more.
My wife has been a vegetarian for a couple of years, but I never really paid any attention to that. I was content eating my animal foods ? they fit in well with my new food plan. But this summer my 18 year old son, who had become a vegetarian about 6 months ago, who was spending the summer in San Diego, got recruited by a vegan friend of my wife's to recruit comic book fans who were in SD for Comic-con, the comic book lovers gathering, to take 3 minutes to see a video on how animals that were being turned into the food they ate are raised, treated and slaughtered (they received 3 dollars for taking a look.) By the time my son was done with that day's work, there was no turning back for him. He announced he was now a vegan. To top that off, he spent a week in August at the Woodstock Fruit Festival,an annual gathering of raw food enthusiasts, health and fitness "freaks" in the Adirondacks, where he was with 300-400 like-minded folks, including some very fit vegan athletes, iron-man competitors etc. He sent me a link with an interview with a pretty radical animal rights evangelist Gary Yourofsky which included very disturbing videos taken inside slaughterhouses.
I have to say that any body who sees some of that footage of how the animals that are unwillingly devoting their entire lives to being groomed to be food for our tables will have a hard time eating meat again. I didn't think I would be affected like that. It's very sad. There are a number of reasons not to eat animals, but cruelty has to rank right up there as number one. Number two or close to it would be for health reasons. And while free range, grass fed, natural and organic etc labels can reduce the cruelty levels and health hazards to a degree, ultimately we are murdering (or having them murdered for our culinary pleasure) creatures that do feel pain and are slaughtered and often let to bleed to a convulsive death.
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Comments

 +  Like this comment
Posted by Nora Charles, a resident of Stanford,
on Sep 9, 2014 at 3:09 am

Nora Charles is a registered user.

Bless you, Max! Congratulations on your new way of eating and your weight loss. You must feel wonderful, not just for the weight loss, but because your diet is not harming animals. And you're so much healthier!

About 30 years ago I stopped eating meat, after a few earlier tries. I did it for the animals, no longer being able to justify why I was eating them, yet professed to love them. It's hard when your family and friends eat meat. But I stuck with it, and then gave up leather, not hard to do today with all the lovely pleather shoes and handbags. Several years ago I finally gave up dairy. That was hard, especially yogurt. But almond milk is tasty, and I've found an almond milk yogurt that isn't bad.

You must be so proud of your son. Some might watch that footage and just shrug, but anyone with a heart and conscience would have no choice but to give up meat, so major kudos to him.

Have you been to Greens in the city? I say you take your family there for a lovely meal. It's a wonderful feeling eating a meal in a restaurant where cruelty isn't on the menu.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Steven, a resident of Midtown,
on Sep 9, 2014 at 7:16 am

That's great! I've been vegan for 16 years; besides the issues around how animals are treated, I can't support the far greater environmental impact(especially in time of drought) of raising animals for food.

Being very physically fit and working as a personal trainer, I can say first-hand that veganism is no impediment to strength.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Max Greenberg, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Sep 9, 2014 at 7:28 am

Max Greenberg is a registered user.

Nora: Thank you for your kind words of support and sharing your story. I feel like I am just starting on this path and it's great to hear from others who have already begun and are advanced on the journey. I am very proud of my son. He's been an inspiration to me in many ways, but his concern for animals really touched me. His take on the negative aspects of corporate farming and food manufacturing at a relatively young age also got to me. Regarding retuarants where "cruelty isn't on the menu" (love that description), we should support them for sure. Since my food plan also includes no sugar/sweeteners or flour, I am fairly limited in terms of eating out, which has resulted in quite a savings monetarily. Changing my relationship with food has caused a great de-emphasis on the role of food in my social relationships. When I get together with people it's not the usual "Let's have lunch together" or "we'll have you over for dinner." I try to base get togethers around a shared activity, hopefully involving some physical exercise together, like going for a bike ride. Thanks again.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Max Greenberg, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Sep 9, 2014 at 10:41 am

Max Greenberg is a registered user.

Steven: Thanks for your comment and bringing up the important environmental impacts of raising animals for food. Also, great to hear of another vegan athlete/personal trainer to verify that veganism does not detract from strength and fitness. My son is a 3 sport athlete at school and very interested in the art and science of exercise. While becoming vegan, he is also moving away from weight lifting and focusing on body-weight training. He's a little leaner than he was while a meat eating and weight lifting athlete, but he's quicker and stronger as a result. Keep it up!


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Cathy D, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Sep 9, 2014 at 11:13 am

Steven, what gym do you work in? Do you teach vegan nutrition? My last trainer tried to talk me into a paleo diet, totally wrong for me.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Gotta have variety, a resident of Barron Park,
on Sep 10, 2014 at 6:35 am

I've never felt the need to limit the kinds of foods I eat. There is already too much food obsession in this nation. I guess people like to identify themselves with some sort of group "I'm a vegan", "I'm a foodie", "I'm vegetarian but I'll eat eggs..."

I eat what is natural and healthy for my body. I'm 63 years old and I still put on 120 miles per week on the bike, and about once month I ride over to the coast and back from MV. My recent blood work was perfect. I'm fueled by a lifetime of eating a healthy variety of natural foods and not really thinking much past that. Eat what you like and what is god and you'll be happy and less food obsessed.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Steven, a resident of Midtown,
on Sep 10, 2014 at 6:44 am

Cathy, it doesn't seem appropriate to be too commercial here, but my name is Steven Rice, and if you Google that with personal trainer Palo Alto you'll find me. I don't teach nutrition but I can give advice.

Max, your son sounds like a great inspiration of veganism. Does his school accommodate how he eats? Are there many vegan students there? I hope it is becoming common in his generation.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Max Greenberg, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Sep 10, 2014 at 7:52 am

Max Greenberg is a registered user.

Gotta have variety: I totally agree that we are living in a food obsessed nation. Just turn on the TV and there's any number of overweight, tatooed "master" chefs pushing their latest concoction of breaded, beer-soaked, deep fried specialties. National and local newspapers provide even more daily takes on the latest eatery opening up (they often don't mention the one that went out of business and closed to make room for it - part of the obsession for new tastes and ambiances.)And your fitness to ride that many miles and take that challenging bike ride out to the coast every week is very inspirational. But I don't think the health and environmental and moral concerns with what types of food we are putting into our bodies, and where the food comes from can be considered part of the "obsession." You said "I'm fueled by a lifetime of eating a healthy variety of natural foods and not really thinking much past that." Can you share with us what you consider "natural foods" and what your diet consists of? If your "natural foods" include meat, fowl and dfish, then we will agree to disagree on that. Animals are very "natural", but raising them for the sole purpose of turning them into burgers, steaks, bacon and the like, and then basically murdering them when they are "ready" to make the supreme sacrifice, I don't think there's anything natural about that. Not after a person thinks "much past that" and considers the process.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Max Greenberg, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Sep 10, 2014 at 8:11 am

Max Greenberg is a registered user.

Steven: I have no problem with people connecting via the blog in a helpful manner and I hope Cathy and anyone interested in a vegan trainer looks you up (disclaimer: I don't know Steven and am not endorsing him as a trainer or his studio.) I think there are two vegans at my son's school (up until now!) The school is in the boonies of CT, and provides pretty standard school cuisine. We are encouraging him to connect with local farmers at the Sunday farmers market and work to connect them with the school in the hopes of figuring out how to get fresh produce delivered on a regular basis. Also working with the chef, which he already has been doing since late last year, on more vegetarian and vegan offerings. I believe he's gotten a small section in one of the schools fridges to store some of the produce he buys. He and the other vegan (who happens to be captain of the track team) bought two blenders and started making and selling smoothies to the other students out of their dorm room, using the proceeds to cover costs and sending the rest to a needy organization on the island country his friend hails from. That part alone really got to me, and yeah, I am very proud of them. He's a senior at the school and I think bringing positive changes to the health, nutrition and psyche of the admin and fellow students would be a fine legacy to leave, well beyond athletic and academic achievements.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Steven, a resident of Midtown,
on Sep 10, 2014 at 10:13 am

Max, your son really is an inspiration, and I think he will be quite a leader.

Great response to 'Gotta have'- I'm happy for someone who is personally doing well now, but we should all consider the impact of our choices on the rest of the world, and our own futures.

For anyone who is interested, my website is www.StevenRiceFitness.com.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Brenda Calvillo , a resident of another community,
on Sep 11, 2014 at 12:35 am

I became vegan 5 years ago. Before that I was vegetarian for 7 years. The only thing I regret is that I didn't do it sooner. Good luck on your journey!


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Max Greenberg, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Sep 11, 2014 at 9:27 am

Max Greenberg is a registered user.

Thanks Brenda for your support. What changed for you after you became vegan?


 +  Like this comment
Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Sep 11, 2014 at 5:50 pm

I'd like to be vegan. I have been moving in that direction, thought I am not a fanatic or anything and I have no problem with eating meat. I just like to reduce the meat in my food so that my meals are not so heavy.

I do have one question of anyone who is a vegan in this area ... what do you think of the restaurant offerings in this area, vegan, vegetarian, etc. I am completely underwhelmed, and rather surprised that Palo Alto and environs has so few really innovative healthy eating restaurants. We have tons of gimmicky places for hotdogs, hamburgers, ice cream, yogurt, cookies, cupcakes ... all kinds of near-toxic stuff, and almost nothing for vegan - and those that exist are pretty pathetic.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by conservomom, a resident of another community,
on Sep 11, 2014 at 9:23 pm

Veganism is about not just "eating what you like" or what is "natural". For me, it is about recognizing and eliminating animal suffering. Billions of them are mutilated, tortured and confined to a life of misery for our palates. We humans are better than that. Allow the animals to live their own lives and stop breeding them for our pleasure.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by L Steck, a resident of Palo Alto Orchards,
on Sep 11, 2014 at 9:39 pm

Hello CrescentParkAnon,
Try the Loving Hut or Garden Fresh in downtown Palo Alto. If you do not mind traveling, Bravo Taqueria on Woodside and Ikes on El Camino in Redwood City. You are correct that it is difficult to find a vegan restaurant. You can try other restaurants, but I find they do not understand quite what you want. My favorite time being when I explained I did not want to eat anything that once was a living animal or any product from them. The waitress said, 'We got chicken' Even if the menu says vegetarian, many times it will have an animal based broth in it, or fish sauce. Go figure. That is why we cook fresh at home most the time.

Side note-Congratulations MAX!


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Max Greenberg, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Sep 11, 2014 at 9:44 pm

Max Greenberg is a registered user.

conservomom: Thanks for your comment and I couldn't agree more.
CrescentParkAnon: As for good vegan or vegetarian restaurants in the area, maybe other readers have some suggestions because I rarely go out to eat. Once I changed my relationship with food, the idea of spending money eating out didn't make much sense anymore, especially since I cut out sugar, flour and processed foods. Many dishes prepared in resaurants are served with sauces and flavorings that contain sugar or other sweeteners, or cooked in a way that adds excess calories (something else I cut down on.) So to eat out and be ordering plain veggies seemed like a true waste of money. Eating out has become such a national pastime and the "natural" thing to do with friends and colleagues that it seems we can be more creative in thinking up things to do together that don't involve food. While local restaurants, cafes, "fine" food markets, celeb chefs and "foodies" will not get behind it, de-emphasizing food in our lives is one way to get a handle on all the over-eating and resultant health problems that go hand in hand with it.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Max Greenberg, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Sep 11, 2014 at 9:50 pm

Max Greenberg is a registered user.

Bravo L Steck. Cooking fresh at home, I like it.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Nora Charles, a resident of Stanford,
on Sep 11, 2014 at 11:27 pm

Nora Charles is a registered user.

I would love to see a white tablecloth full/bar vegan restaurant in Palo Alto. Mr. C and I go out to dinner about once a week, usually to an Italian place as we can order simple pasta and salads, but it would be wonderful to have more choices.

Great piece, Max. I look forward to more blogs from you!


 +  Like this comment
Posted by GiGi, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Sep 12, 2014 at 3:24 pm

Nora Charles, Just about everyone would be a vegetarian if they could get food like Greens has every day... That is a wonderful place; if they opened one in Palo Alto, I think they'd do fabulously well. Yes, a white tablecloth kind of place - a special place. Yum.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Sep 15, 2014 at 11:38 am

L Steck, thanks for the suggestions. I have tried most places ... I am not really sure what the adjective to describe my dissatisfaction with them would be, but they all seem similar with the following characteristics:

1) too expensive.
2) too purist ... I am not and do not ever want to be a fanatically vegan, vegetarian, carnivore, or extreme anything else, and when a restaurant exists merely to cater to some small group of like minded people they usually lose me on execution. This also may be why most are too expensive as their clientele is by necessity limited so they have to play games.
3) too tricky and clever. many of the veg eateries are full of soy-based fake-meat and then bad veggies ... a kind of direct alternative form the meat and potatoes places, but with fake bad meat. when I cook at home the best things I make are almost always mostly veg, some starches, and a small bit of meat, almost for seasoning. The whole history of human beings has been unthinkingly to eat meat.
4) There are political and social and environmental consequences to eating meat that I try to think about with every meal and everything I eat. I am not always perfect about it, but I am pretty constant. I do not like to support any type of factory farming. I don't like GMO, or monoculture. I prefer local to global. I prefer humane, and I do not believe that animals should not ever be eaten, it is nature's way.
5) I think humans desperately and quickly need to find another way to exist on this planet, and the warlike abusive dominating model needs to end, by whatever means, but I don't see any evidence that "praying at the altar of fake meat does anything or brings any consciousness to the action of eating.
6) Most veg places are unskilled in their cooking, and inconsistent. Veggies are harder too cook well than meat, but when done right vegetarian or sparing meat dishes leave you feeling so much better in every way.
7) Bad value for one's money ... on nearly every veg place I've been too they are all pretensious as something so special that they charge double and give you half ... and you simply cannot do that with vegetarian food because you cannot live with small amounts of vegetables and
8) They always always, almost always only have the cheapest vegetables around, the least nutritious and use maybe one central item for each dish that is expensive, say nuts or mushrooms and surround it with starch and watery cheap filler. In short they are mostly rip off joints seeking to exploit the best efforts of people to change, and it results in frustration, ill health and a backlash against vegetarianism in general I think.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Sep 15, 2014 at 12:49 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Look at the Happy Cow website for vege, vegan and vege friendly restaurants wherever you are


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Max Greenberg, a resident of Midtown,
on Sep 19, 2014 at 3:40 pm

Thanks Stephen for the website for finding places to eat. I hardly ever eat out so can't comment on the eateries and issues that CrescentParkAnon commented about. Interesting name for that website "Happy Cow". I'm reading a book called "No Happy Cows" by Robbins (heir to the Baskin-Robbins fortune). Makes a good case that there may not be too many happy cows around. Has anyone read it? One reason organic foods in the market and as part of prepared foods at a restaurant cost "so much" seems to be due to gov't regulations which are often applied equally to factory farms and small organic farms.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Now now now,, a resident of Barron Park,
on Oct 2, 2014 at 6:57 am

"Vegetable are very "natural", but raising them for the sole purpose of turning them into casseroles, cakes and the like, and then basically murdering them when they are "ready" to make the supreme sacrifice, I don't think there's anything natural about that."

Sorry, but I'm a living healthy example of a modern meat eater. The concern seems more PETA based than nutrition base.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Max Greenberg, a resident of Midtown,
on Oct 3, 2014 at 11:07 am

Thank you Now Now Now for your comment. Your humor is well taken. On the other hand, even if refraining from eating meat was not a healthy thing to do, watching a few minutes of the many videos available on youtube showing the awful conditions animals are raised in and their eventual brutal slaughter would provide reason enough to refrain from eating them. No need to bring PETA into this. You state you are a living healthy example of a modern meat eater: would you be willing to have us vote on how healthy you are: age, sex, height, weight, vital body levels, maybe even a photo. And please be honest? Also, define ?modern meat eater.? That sounds like fast food, hot dogs, sausage pizzas.


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