Day 16-28: Beans, birthdays and a big oops.

Here we are.

3 days until the end of this challenge. 3 days until I make the decision to continue with this plant-based diet or abandon ship. Most people I know are hoping I completely abandon the plant-based diet so I can eat “normal” (read: heavily processed or animal protein) food. I won’t lie. It’s a bizarre feeling being so close to the end of this experiment. I certainly have come to identify quite strongly as a person who eats exclusively plant-based foods. When people press on and ask why I “can’t” eat meat, dairy or eggs, I patiently explain that I am taking part in a 30 day experiment in which I eat exclusively plant-based foods. I still haven’t told my trainer about my dietary changes, but I don’t think that matters. On my last training day under his supervision, I not only felt stronger than I have ever been but I also received direct positive feedback. Obviously, the dietary change did not negatively impact my overall strength. In fact, I’ve seen a drop in my weight (fat loss), increase in muscle definition and an increase in weights I’ve been putting on the bar.

I’m still doing Olympic lifting three times a week on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. In addition, my work days are usually between 50-60 per week. I feel that despite my best efforts to increase my strength and eat a whole food, healthy diet, I have been struggling to keep my stress levels in check. I’m getting to the point now where I’ve crossed over into worrying whether or not I’m adhering *perfectly* to the plan. Perfectionist tendencies are something that I am working on letting go. For my sake. For my sanity. The time I spend in the gym is the only real time I have to let go of my daily stresses. It’s as if whatever is on my mind disappears for a brief moment while I’m performing sets of cleans, snatches, squats, deadlifts or military presses. Since there is a real risk of injuring myself if I’m not fully focused, I am forced to pay attention wholly and completely to the task at hand. In that sense, Olympic weightlifting is a lot like meditation for me. One singular focus. One sacred, blissful moment between myself and the bar. I either succeed or I fail to perform the lift–there is no middle ground.

The barbell teaches me patience and puts me in my place when I attempt to lift too much too soon. The bar also uplifts me when I successfully increase the weight and perform a good set with good form. I honour the other lifting devotees by keep the area neat and re-racking the equipment afterward. Someone else might require the same stress release and quiet contemplation (apart from grunts and heavy breathing) as I do.  My time at the gym is precious and sacred to me. It is where I feel strong, at peace, still and sane. I am not the best lifter, nor the strongest, but I am willing to work to gain quiet strength and sculpt a beautiful body–that’s mostly/completely fueled by plants.

The trouble with being mindful about what I put in my mouth is that it is one more thing for me to worry about. I have found myself thinking about food more in the past week than usual and it has been bordering on the obsessive. Although I try not to discuss my dietary choices with other people, sometimes it’s inevitable. People are curious, they ask questions and I’m compelled to answer as honestly and completely as possible. Though from morning to night, I am thinking about meals and what I will be having on a given day. An example of this came up recently, as quite a few friends and family members have birthdays in August and September. I have had to refuse cake, ice cream, poutine, and pie in the name of completing this challenge. An awkward moment came about when I went to celebrate my brother’s birthday at a ramen restaurant. They offered vegetarian ramen (with cheese) but no vegan ramen option. I did order the vegetarian option, and I may have eaten the smallest amount of cheese but tried eat around it. I also had miso potatoes, which I could have had on their own as an entree. If I was truly being intelligent about my choices, I would have picked two vegan-friendly appetizers as a meal but my stomach, not logic, ruled. I had heavy pangs of guilt afterward. This seemed like unhealthy thinking to me. As someone who has recovered from a severe case of disordered eating, I don’t know if I should accept this guilt as a red flag or a sign that I’m becoming more mindful about my food choices. I may have to use a gentler, more relaxed approach to food once this is over.

I do wonder whether any other serious vegans have slip-ups every once in a while. I can’t imagine I’m the only one who has had dairy mysteriously show up in “plant-based” dishes. To be fair, I’m impressed that I didn’t binge and that I no longer have a real taste for cheese. Who would have thought my tastebuds would change this drastically?

I still love greens, beans and eating out of bowls with chopsticks. I don’t see myself dropping those eating habits any time soon.

But the restrictive eating? Maybe. I prefer a more intuitive approach.

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