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To truly know someone it helps to walk a mile in her proverbial shoes. This is a variation on an old Indian proverb and I have mentioned it before. Sometimes while doing my weekly grocery shopping I'll strike up a conversation with a cute coed. Ralphs is about a mile from UCLA so teenage sweethearts abound. 

A recent episode involved a casual chat centered on the nutrient-dense vegetable Swiss chard. A girl - tall, thin, with long, straight auburn hair, great skin and a winning smile, not to mention jeans that fit just right - was picking up a bunch of the red variety. She was lovely to look at, and so I seized the opportunity to ask her how she prepared the vegetable. Never mind that as an authority on healthy cooking I know without a doubt that the best way to enhance the flavor of chard while preserving its nutrient content is boiled with the lid off for three minutes, and also that I prefer the rainbow and white varieties of this leafy green and almost never choose the red ones. They are much too bitter. I just wanted to feast my eyes on her comely form for a few extra moments. She gave me her special recipe for steamed greens, which I'll never use (only by boiling them can you thoroughly remove the acids), and I moseyed on over to the bulk bins. 

I could have prolonged the interaction, or even asked to see her socially and even make her a chard that would if not knock her socks off then perhaps remove those jeans, but there wasn't a spark and I didn't want to be that guy. You know the type. Not creepy, per se, or too persistent, but just failing to get the hint. Because many guys are this type, as I learned not too long ago. 

The instance took place in the bulk section. I was buying dried pinto beans and as the bin was jam-packed I was having a hard time dislodging the surplus from the exit slot. When a guy comes up behind me and says, "Oh no, don't tell me they're out of pinto beans?!" I thought this was foolish, because it was plain as day that the bin was over-full. And yet I proceeded to remove the bin's lid and shovel him out about a lb's worth of my favorite legume, since I like to oblige my fellow customers. The guy, a tallish blond male in his late 40s or early 50s, thanks me and, noting all the produce in my cart, proceeds to ask me 20 questions about diet. 

I, who have a degree in medicine and have written a book on nutrition, and also had time on my hands, obliged again. I tell him to vary the beans and treat each type - kidney, black, pinto, chickpea and the like - as a meat eater would the various carnivorous selections available to the protein monger - chicken and steak and fish, etc. I also allayed his concerns that such a diet would lead to boredom by saying that we have limited taste buds and the bud for sweet doesn't distinguish between the sugar in dates and the sugar in candy. That boredom is in the mind, and simply making sure to eat enough foods that involve all the taste receptors - bitter, sour, salty, sweet, umami and pain for spicy - combined with enough textures, mainly crunchy and chewy, would provide enough defense against tedium. I let slip that I had enjoyed many a savory repast with my most recent ex-girlfriend, just so there would be no misunderstanding (which I could see coming). 

The guy thanked me for the wealth of knowledge, complimented my musculature, which he said seemed quite atypical, at least in his experience, for someone who just eats plants, and then asked me out on a date. I told him he was barking up the wrong tree, but in a more polite way, and reminded him to buy my book. Which I doubt he ever will. The whole encounter, or much of it, was a means to this dead end. And now I know what it's like to get picked up. Though I must admit, it wasn't the first time. Which is why, though I like to flirt, to window shop, as they say, I rarely try to buy the merchandise. Unless it's beans we're talking about. Harmless fun suits me, the no strings approach is my m.o., and anyway I'm not jonesing for new friends of either sex.

But the conversation caused me to evaluate my own dietary history, and this is what I came up with. For my 44.5 years on earth, I have been a vegetarian for 26.25 years, a vegan for 7.5 years, a fish eater (whether occasionally or daily) for 7.25 and a meat eater for 3.5. In other words, I have tried every popular diet, and can say with conviction and authority that the plant-based approach is decidedly the best. As a meat eater (at age 18, 25 and 30) I got really big and muscular and strong, but I was weighed down by all that extra muscle, lethargic and depressed. My back would lock up in excruciating spasm, and I had difficulty with bowel regularity. Then there was the excessive masturbation, and the "bacne." Moreover, as a meat eater I never took much interest in meditation or the perusal of spiritual texts, both of which have been my cherished and customary pursuits as a plantatarian.

As with meat eating, the same went for my days as a pescatarian, more or less. I looked really good on a diet of salmon and eggs, but I didn't feel all that great in my own skin. I was plagued by atrocious flatulence, and suffered anxiety issues, not to mention what I took to be neurological dysfunction likely due to the high levels of mercury in fish. Mercury is a potent neurotoxin, and my excessive intake of this heavy metal manifested in chronic herpes outbreaks, usually on my hips and lower back. Herpes is after all a virus that lies dormant in the dorsal root ganglia adjacent to the spine and then migrates down the nerve fibers to the skin. Not every doctor would admit of a connection between fish consumption and blister eruption, but not every doctor has conducted the experiment on himself as have I. 

To continue: I was raised a vegetarian. Up until the age of 18, I lived in a house where meat was neither served nor stored. Of course I ate flesh a handful of times in my teens, usually in the grade school cafeteria or over a friend's house for dinner, but this was an exception rather than a rule. Probably a dozen times at most, which is less than once per year. But as a vegetarian I ate lots of cheese and bread, and the result was more constipation and bloat, although I wasn't nearly as heavy as I would be as a steak eater, or for that matter as strong.

Veganism has it all, except for a catchy name. I prefer to say I'm a plant eater. My body looks better today than ever before, and I'm also faster and feel better than I have with any other diet. Energy levels are good, and my psyche is calm. See all the introspection that came of a guy's failed attempt to take me on a date! You benefited from his lack of luck. 

But I'd still like to find someone to enjoy some leafy greens with, at least now and then. The way to a man's heart may be through his belly, but to gain access to mine, you must still have a vagina. And please remember: boiled, not steamed.


  1. I've been a vegetarian since reading your book about, oh, say a year ago or so, and I haven't noticed any reduction in musculature and I'm stronger now than I was then, because that's how working out works. I would say that most of my meals are actually vegan, although I eat too much cheese, overall, and I like an egg every now and then. I also eat more grains than you would probably like. But the point being that I think the "big and strong" aspect of a carnivorous diet is overstated, at least from my own experience.

  2. ur probably right. i gained 25 lbs one summer on a carnivorous diet and saw a proportionate increase in strength. on a whole foods vegan diet (without protein powder, which doesn't agree with me) i don't think i could gain more than 5 lbs, although running a fair amount probably serves to minimize large muscular gains. my most recent fish and egg eating experience which lasted 5 months led to a weight gain of 15 pounds and rather rapidly. when i gave up those foods that weight came off almost as fast as it went on, except for a few lbs which i've maintained as muscle. and with just that little added weight has come added strength. i will also say that in certain exercises i'm arguably stronger at 153 lbs than i was as a meat eater and gold's gym regular at my heaviest weight of 189.

  3. Yeah, man, see, I've never had such drastic bodily changes, regardless of diet. Must be a genetic thing, or something. For the past 10 years or so, I've drifted anywhere between 170-190, having been stable at 182 since about November of last year. Now that I think about it, I had gotten back down to about 170 after I had cut out all meat, but got up to 182 over the course of a couple of months, so I've gained some weight despite being on a vegetarian diet. But my metabolism is quite slow. I basically eat 1.5 meals or about 1200 calories per day and I still weigh 182, at a height of 5'7".

  4. i wouldn't chalk it up to genetics or slow metabolism. Two things are noteworthy: first is the reliance, or perhaps over-reliance, on dairy and grains you mentioned. cut these atrocious food groups out and you will notice a striking decrease in your weight. these foods gum up your system so that it becomes an inefficient calorie burner and waste excreter. two: your caloric intake is excessively low. yes caloric restriction (and an intake of only 50% of normal meets the definition) is associated with life extension, and perhaps this is your aim. but by keeping intake so low you force your body into energy conservation mode, in other words you slow your own metabolism. there is nothing wrong with this if you are satisfied with your body habitus. but if weight loss is your goal, then i'd say increase caloric consumption by having more frequent meals, eliminate grains and dairy, and you should be wherever you so desire. assuming you are an accurate estimator of your intake. i don't know how anybody could survive on 1200 per diem other than perhaps kate moss in her heyday. free advice, take it or leave it my friend.

    1. Changes to my metabolism started immediately after I stopped wrestling in college. I spent many years on intense caloric restriction in order to lose, at times, 10-lbs in a single week. I had gained 15-lbs within a month despite always adhering to a pretty "clean" diet. It's only gotten worse as I've aged and have had episodes of losing weight. When I first got to 190, I reduced my caloric intake as if I were cutting weight for wrestling again and got down to 170-lbs within 6 weeks. I then gained weight again and lost weight again several times, each time needing less and less calories to make the weight loss.

      So... yeah, it's been a really messed up process that got me here. I'm also the only person I know who not only sustains on such few calories (on average), but who manages to be "stocky" while doing so. I've attempted to up my caloric intake to 1800 recently and I gained 3 lbs in about two weeks. It's ridiculous, so my low caloric intake is not totally by choice, but because I gain weight extremely easily at this point. If I have a big, restaurant-type meal at any point, I'll usually have to consume 800-1000 calories for the next day or two to prevent gaining a full lbs or even two.

      I've reduced dairy significantly, but still struggle to cut cheese out completely. And grains has been a real challenge. I remember your advice from your book, and I appreciate your advice here. I'll try to take it. haha

    2. hey you have nothing to lose. that's untrue: you do; and you will! enjoy the adventure, and remember: yeast instead of cheese.


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