Take it or leave it.

Friday, October 21, 2016

THE VEGAN RETREAT

My five-month foray into eating animal flesh has come to a timely end. For nearly half a year I included 3 eggs and 5 to 10 ounces of fish in my daily diet. The fish was usually sardines or wild salmon. I adopted this dietstyle because I needed a change. At the time I reintroduced animal foods (after 7 years of being vegan) I didn't know how long it would last. If I felt good and liked the results, maybe being a flexitarian, as it's called, would be a lifelong thing. 

And there were benefits. I gained ten pounds of muscle, and got a whole lot stronger. Prior to increasing my protein consumption I had been experiencing nagging pain in my left leg from where I broke it in a bike accident 18 months before. At the time I was even considering surgery to remove the screws in my femur, even though the doctor said this wouldn't necessarily improve my condition. But shortly after introducing fish and eggs into my intake, the pain went away. The high quality protein must have repaired the damaged tissue. 

Eating animal products has its drawbacks, however. And these are especially noticeable to the erstwhile vegan. To be blunt, the biggest drawback is the stench. Animal foods smell. I've never met anyone who likes the aroma given off by raw fish, or who considers the fragrance of hard boiled eggs at all pleasant. All that hydrogen sulfide is noxious. It's no wonder sulfur, which practically singes my nose hairs, is associated with the devil. And these foods smell worse after the 3- to 5-day passage through 30 feet of human intestine. It smells an awful lot like raw sewage, because it is. 

There is also the matter of the slower transit through the GI tract. Being concentrated foods (high calories per gram) and lacking fiber, it takes fish and eggs a lot longer to traverse the small and large intestine than an equal amount of fruits and vegetables requires. Imagine cracking a raw egg and leaving it on the counter for a week in warm weather. I have done this. In high school I used to to style my hair with egg white (for the out of this world hold), and after three days in a cup on the bathroom counter the smell was absolutely putrid. So it's safe to say that eggs rot in the time between ingestion as food and excretion as stool. And as anyone who has used a gym bathroom knows, bodybuilders' farts smell to all hell! 


It got so bad that I couldn't live with myself. I reminded myself of that Peanuts character Pigpen, always surrounded by a cloud of bad air. Had I not been single and sleeping alone, I wouldn't have let this little inconvenience last as long as it did. But walking around with pounds of undigested food in the belly gets a bit tiresome after a while. Literally. I became sluggish on my runs, and my stomach always felt full. Not the full feeling you feel after eating a bunch of high fiber food like beans. This goes away in an hour. Full as in backed up. Even though I was still going to the bathroom several times a day. I know, TMI...

And there's a drawback to carrying extra muscle. Two weeks ago I developed a stitch in my side that progressed to a full back spasm practically overnight. I could hardly breathe. Sneezing, even coughing and blowing my nose, became impossibilities. This never happened to me during my plant-based days. I am only now fully recovering. Not only that, since adopting this new diet I've been breaking out in cold sores with disheartening regularity. HSV outbreaks are a sign of a depressed immune system. My body is probably so busy fighting all the pollutants in seafood (and even the cleanest ocean is filthy) that it is unable to keep the virus in check the way it usually does.

Recently I heard a story. A guy and his wife got lost in the woods. Rather than panic they sat down to contemplate their situation. Miraculously what they described as a wood nymph, a small elfin-like creature made of light and sporting a pair of wings, appeared and led them back to civilization. On the way they encountered a group of deer who didn't seem to be at all perturbed by the presence of humans. The man asked the fairy why the herbivores did not scatter as they usually do when accosted by the aggressors animals usually take people to be. "Because you don't stink of flesh," said the nymph. "You and your wife are not carnivores. The creatures sensed that they were safe and were unafraid." The couple are vegans.

And it's true. We give off vibrations, aromas, energies. Animals pick up on these energies with greater sensitivity than humans, so refined are their apparatus of perception. I see this every day. Let's just say that when after eating flesh I'd use the bathroom, my dog would take a keen interest in what occupied the porcelain god. Probably because it resembled dog food more than human food. Actually, Max himself disdains salmon. And he only sometimes accepts the eggs I make. What a snob!

If you study the world's longest lived peoples, they are primarily plant eaters. Animal foods comprise at most about 1% of their diet. This is about 200 calories a week, or 3 whole eggs. I was eating three whole eggs a day. Though moderate by the standards of most, my animal food consumption was way higher than what should be considered ideal. And so I'm over it. 

How to make the transition? Just cut it out cold turkey, which is the way I usually roll. Instead of eggs I'll have lentils, and fish will immediately give way to quinoa. These comfort foods are great in the warmer weather, and far more nutritious. I'll supplement with vitamin D and B12 and selenium to make up for what I'm giving up in salmon and scramble. 

And one thing is for sure, I can go back to being scent free at both sides of my body. Sorry to get graphic, but that's the truth. No more flexitarian. I don't like to be pigeonholed, so rather than say I'm a vegan I'll still use my pet term, cheagan. After all there's the Mexico trip next month and I'd be out of my mind to resist the allure of fresh-caught fish. During those four days south of the border, you'd do best not to get caught downwind of my south side. I wonder, does the expression "the family that breaks wind together stays together" have any truth whatsoever? We shall see, Cousin Steve, we shall see. Either that or we'll have to give the holiday a new handle. Thanksgiving will become Spanksgiving. As in he who smells it, deals it. So bring out the paddle, 'cause Sheriff Stinker is coming to town.

Ah, I crack myself up. Better me than any more of those nasty eggs!



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