Are my dogs secretly vegetarians?

The funniest thing happened with my dogs recently. Before I tell the quick story, it’s important to remember they, especially regal beagle Piper, will eat almost anything. And I’m being very serious about that. ANYTHING. Think of the grossest thing you can come up with. Yeah, she’ll eat that.

So I came home from grabbing dinner with a friend, setting the doggy box of leftovers on a chest just next to the front door. I went to let the dogs out of their room and then to do a few other things around the house. They weren’t crazy about going outside so for about 10 or 15 minutes we all just puttered.

WAIT!!! I LEFT FOOD OUT!! Oh no. There goes my dinner for the next day. But I was definitely curious why I didn’t hear a familiar frenzied ruffle of paper or plastic bags being investigated by curious noses.

I immediately went to the box of leftovers. Untouched. Dogs acting as if it weren’t there at all. What? This was food they could have completely obliterated!

Now I know for sure they’re carnivores. The least picky eaters and they leave my tofu veggie roll completely undisturbed!?

I’ve decided to spend the rest of today being offended.

-Out of the Wilderness

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Dairy Free Weekend, 6 Months Later

How many vegetarians does it take to screw in a light bulb?
I don’t know, but where do you get your protein!?

The biggest challenge was a week-long family reunion in Florida 3 months into my altered diet. Grilled fish. Coke floats. Pancakes. Pizza. Burgers. Food I would’ve indulged in had I not jumped in with both feet on a challenge from my arch nemesis Nick Shell late March 2014. But avoiding those meals wasn’t difficult at all. No, it was explaining why I felt the need to bring bags and a cooler full of my own food for the week. It wasn’t just about being competitive (Nick challenged me to a dairy-free weekend). It was about making a positive change in my diet. What I didn’t know at the time was that it’s also changing my life.

My dad’s dad had a heart attack in his 60s. My dad had a heart attack in his 50s. I suspect my brother and I will, too, at some point. I can’t believe I sat on that information for so long without thinking what I put in my body can, at the very least, maybe help me avoid the same fate. Thankfully, they both survived, but I don’t want to survive a heart attack. I want to avoid it at all costs. Did I think this way 7 months ago? Not so much. But 6 months ago the wheels started turning, thanks to that challenge from Nick I mentioned. Since I suffer from allergies, Nick proposed that eliminating dairy might reduce the symptoms of these attacks. I thought, “I’m on board with that!” My unofficial motto became, “I hate allergies more than I love ____.” Fill in the blank with cheese, milk, ice cream, whatever.

Long story short, I took it a step further by adopting a “vegan plus” diet for at least a month. It’s been that way for over 6 months now. The “plus” is because I eat honey, and I don’t think vegans smile upon that. Whatever. I like local Tennessee honey. For me, it’s not about saying I’m a vegan, it’s about having a healthy body. But the craziest thing happened… this diet didn’t just change my meals, it’s changing my life. I’m almost ashamed of what I used to eat. I even have recurring dreams where I eat a burger, or most recently, a Gigi’s cupcake. Even in the dreams, I feel remorseful after. Waking up is a feeling of relief! And that’s exactly what this has done for me. I had to wake up. Funny that it wasn’t my dad’s or granddad’s heart attack, but it was a friendly dairy challenge that woke me up. Whether you’re a vegan, vegetarian, just want to shed some weight, or you’re curious how food can affect your overall health, there’s basically an alternative for everything you currently enjoy. But you have to want it. You have to love your goal more than you love the food your giving up. I’m also beginning to see how what I eat relates to sleeping better, playing sports better, being stronger, being a better Christian, and with hope, avoiding any sort of heart failure later in life. Not to mention, I haven’t taken an allergy pill since day 1 of this challenge and only recently have dealt with sinusitis (which I believe is unrelated to allergies, although it has similar symptoms).

Half of this journey is about adding in healthy food, but the other half is about cutting out unhealthy food… things like boxed dinners, pop tarts, soda, frozen pizzas, high fructose corn syrup, any sort of dye, etc. I recently stumbled upon some information that I can’t not share. I’ve been editing a documentary about Autism produced by a friend of mine (click here for the trailer), and have been enlightened on the disorder in many areas. One of which is diet. It seems that food plays a major part on the behavior of kids and adults who have the diagnosis. And what’s even more startling, the very disorder itself might be caused by the diet of the parents before conception! There’s a lot of talk about dyes in food, artificial food coloring, heavy metals in food, sugar, gluten, casein, and more, that play a direct role in the behavior of people with autism. That stuff has got to affect the behavior of every person, don’t you think?

This all started with a dairy-free weekend challenge but it’s become so much more. Whether it’s learning about my own diet through an autism video, discovering that I don’t crave the food I once did, or loving God more through treating my own body well, 2014 is about getting roots. Digging into a healthier way of living that will change the rest of my life, and possibly generations to come. That’s enough motivation to keep on keepin’ on.

-Out of the Wilderness

Becoming a Vegan

I’ve toyed with the idea of giving up meat, but only for about a half second. It’s not that I love eating chicken, or turkey, or burgers too much. It’s just that I can’t imagine only eating vegetables, fruit, and bread and only drinking water and juice. Vegans don’t drink milk or eat cheese either. Or eggs. Actually the more I think about it, my diet is everything the vegans isn’t.

How am I supposed to have a ham and cheese sandwich without ham and cheese?

I have a friend, Nick Shell, who’s been posting extremely convincing and very sensible reasons why going vegan is (in my own words) not just a thing hipsters do. He and I caught up a bit on Sunday and he challenged me to go a weekend without dairy. Why didn’t he just stab me with a knife? I love cheese and all things cheesy! Like, what did the guy say when he walked into a… Oh, nevermind. I’ll stick to cheesy food.cheese1Nick’s reason for giving up dairy is simple: allergies. Since he’s been off dairy, his allergies have vastly improved. He could’ve said anything else but allergy conversations get my full attention. Because it’s crazy out here, y’all! Tennessee’s got to be one of the toughest environments for allergies. Pretty much everyone and their brother suffers a few times a year. And my brother’s in Orlando so I’m suffering for the both of us here! But Nick links dairy consumption with allergy symptoms which is radical to me. Just radical enough that the scales of my curiosity are tipping in favor of giving this no-dairy-weekend thing a shot.

I share some of Nick’s enthusiasm for being healthy, but I know for me it’s a slow process of changing my diet, and giving up food I enjoy (Coke floats!) to replace it with food I’ll learn to enjoy (cherry tomatoes, yuck!). That time is not right now. I will take his challenge though, and anyone who’s reading feel free to check back periodically for an update. I can tell you this, the first post after going vegan cold turkey for a weekend, (isn’t it ironic, don’t you think? Going vegan… cold turkey!) will include some sort of rant on how great milk is and how drinking it gives me strong bones and helps me say Aaron Burr whenever I need to.

-Out of the Wilderness