Living a vegan lifestyle is easy. Being a vegan in today's society is the hard part. In no way do I mean any disrespect to other minorities when I say this, but I now have a much greater understanding of the hardship that some people are going through in this world. Now a vegan is only like a thousandth of a percentage that some races or creeds of people have had to endure through the years, but that small taste that I have gotten has opened my eyes more than any speech or video on the subject of prejudice could ever do.

When I came out vegan, I was expecting many congratulatory statements from friends and relatives. "Good for you Tim" "You're the man" "Awesome". Wow was I wrong. I was immediately hit with harsh criticism and concern for my sanity. Sure I had some people say some of those good things, but for the most part I found myself having to answer insane questions and defend myself for going vegan. It was as if people wanted me to apologize for making this choice, as if it is wrong. So I answered what I could with the knowledge that I had gained by reading numerous books, articles, and studies on the health benefits, environmental impact, and deplorable treatment of animals. I had an answer for every question, but still they came at me with more questions...soon the questions started to become redundant and idiotic. I realized that some were just trying to get me to slip or say something "offensive" so they can call me out. As if I am doing this to challenge them or something.

After a while, I laid low...I made a post here and there about what I was eating or an article I found interesting, but for the most part I kept quiet. Soon, outings with friends became somewhat uncomfortable events. I had to answer many of the same questions as before, which I didn't mind, but by this time I was becoming more passionate about veganism and the movement. And once a person becomes passionate about something or someone, they want to tell the world. So I would tell everyone all about it when I was given a chance to express my beliefs. This "soapboxing" did not go over too well with many of them. I soon found myself knee deep in several drama episodes on various social outlets. It would usually begin with me making a post about something I read about, such as the treatment of dairy cows and how disgusting and unhealthy dairy is for humans. This would then turn into a long drawn out argument.. The more involved I got into the movement, the more I felt shunned. I found myself getting into arguments with my friends that I never would fight with. Rarely would others, except my girlfriend, take my side. I never once called anyone out or said that what they were eating was wrong. I simply posted articles that I found and expressed the joy I felt in eating this new way. I still feel that way too. Becoming a vegan is not something that can be thrust upon another individual. They must make that decision for themselves, however I do feel the need to speak on behalf of those that don't have voices. I will offer up the argument and showcase all the benefits of living animal free to anyone if I get the chance. On line I found more people just really wanted me to shut up about things. I guess when you show someone the truth, it can make some people feel guilty about their own choices and rather than change...they lash out and want you to apologize for making them feel that way.

The more I spoke about the subject, the more distant those around me became. Conversations became less frequent and some individuals even unfriended me online. I have since toned down my attitude around everyone, but the stigma still remains. From day one of coming out vegan, my world changed forever. I got a taste of what it feels like to be a minority and I hate that feeling. Is it enough for me to throw it all away and go back to the fold and pretend, like so many millions of others, that there is this magical place where hamburgers are made in the cleanest and most compassionate way possible? NO! My eyes have seen the truth, the horrors that man is capable of. Millions of animals die horrible, painful deaths every year so are bellies can grow a little larger. Those consuming dairy don't want to believe that they are drinking a toxic sludge full of blood, puss and an ungodly amount of chemicals and antibiotics. I have seen the truth, I am forever changed because of it. It is sad when people ignore me or unfriend me, but I'm not going to change my ways to suit anyone. If they can't understand and respect that I am simply trying to live as healthy and compassionately as possible, I really don't know where they should fit in my life at this point. Those that truly know and understand me, know that I do not have a hateful bone in my body. I treat everyone with respect and do my best to never judge people. Hence living compassionately. I think there are a lot of misguided and confused people out there, that really have no idea where their food comes from and I want to help them to understand the truth. For those that do know and don't want to be bothered or hate feeling uncomfortable/guilty, I will not apologize for my statements or your feelings. If you choose to ignore me that is your choice. If you come after me to try and get me to slip up, know that I have acquired quite a bit of knowledge on every aspect of the industry and I will answer you with the cold hard facts and truths.

Being a vegan is a complete reorder of your entire life. It was not something I just leapt into because my girlfriend wanted me to do it. This has been building for quite some time. I am enjoying all the healthy benefits of this change. I feel amazing. Mentally my mind is guilt free because I know that I am actively taking part in making the world a better place without harming other creatures. I'm loving life and living it to its fullest. Sharing in this venture with me is my girlfriend, Stephanie. We are both learning to shop, cook and live plant based. I am the more militant vegan between the two of us, but I respect her beliefs as much as she respects my own. We are happy and deeply committed to each other and to the movement. It just feels damn good and I am very proud to call myself a vegan! :-)

Namaste

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Posted by Tim Cleary on Monday, February 27, 2012
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A lot of people that are new or unfamiliar to the world of being vegan often assume that all your meals must be planned in advance and/or prepared over a hot stove for hours at a time. Or that you can never hop in the car with a group of friends and just go to the first place you find. That is simply not true at all. While it is true that you must do a little leg work before you set off to a random restaurant, you would be surprised at how many places offer vegan options.

PB&J, Always quick and always tasty!


Even some of the places that don't have a "vegan" menu, usually will have some items that I like to call accidentally vegan. Which are just items that are regularly offered that do not contain meat, dairy, eggs.. i.e. vegan. Peanut butter and jelly, fruit cups, potatoes, chips and salsa, salads. I could go on, but you get the point. Now sometimes you may need to check with different breads and methods of cooking, but that is a simple question to ask of your server. Most places will be happy to accommodate your special requests, as long as it's within realistic bounds. They are used to accommodating individuals with various allergies and will usually let you know what can and can't be done. Walking into a steak house and demanding that your veggie side plate is steamed and segregated from all non-vegan contaminates is unrealistic and disrespectful of the establishment. Show the restaurant and its employees some respect and they will do the same.

A nice tip would be to research most of your local restaurants online in your free time. If their menus are not clear, email or call the company and ask. I have done this with a few places in town already and have found out some "secret" or unlisted menu items I can ask for. Every place I have emailed or called has been very nice and courteous with my questions and comments. I've even started a conversation with the owner of a local burger chain, W.W. Cousins about offering some items for vegans and/or vegetarians. They are taking my requests into consideration, so I'll keep everyone apprised on that front. If you happen to stop by there, maybe make a request to have a veggie burger..even my meat eater friends could do so..to help us out. :-)

Research throughly and frequently though. There are a few websites out there that have done a lot of the research so you don't have to. Some of them have not been updated in a while though, so make sure the info is up to date. I will link to them at the end of this blog. If you familiarize yourself with your local options, it will make life so much easier. That way if a group of coworkers or friends invite you out to lunch, you will be prepared. If they suggest a place where there simply are no options, you can politely decline or possibly suggest an alternative restaurant. Try not to be an ass about it though. If they have their heart set on a place, just meet up with them next time. Another thing you may want to try and avoid is going to the restaurant anyways and not eating. This is not good for anyone. Everyone will feel guilty and awkward because you aren't eating and you will just sit around being hungry, possibly getting upset. Another way is that you could stop in with them and socialize until they are ready to order and just excuse yourself when it's appropriate, Just be sure to let them know your plan ahead of time so as to not surprise anyone by leaving.

Qdoba Naked Veggie

Around Louisville, I have a few of my "go to" joints that I frequent while I'm on the go. Number one on this list is Taco Bell. Wha? Yep, Taco Bell is an awesome accidentally vegan fast food restaurant. Just skip the cheese, meat and sour cream and you will do fine. My usual is a bean burrito with no cheese...fresco style sometimes. I've tried it with beans and potatoes too. Other times I get a 7 minus 2 layer burrito. No cheese, sour cream. You can sub beans for meat on anything too. It's a great place to go if you are in a hurry, not to mention it's cheap! If I have a little more time, I can usually be found at Qdoba or Moe's. Both of these places have awesome choices for vegans. Another accidentally vegan location is Fazoli's. I get fettucini noodles with marinara, add broccoli and tomatoes...mushrooms on occasion. Remember to order your breadsticks "dry" though. Speaking of breadsticks, how about some Crazy Bread? Yep that is vegan too, order it without the parmesan cheese though. The garlic butter is fine, psst...they use a soy based butter...like a lot of places..totally vegan. While you're there grab a pizza. Load it with veggies and skip the cheese. There are dozens of asian places to choose, they will always have something available for you. Make sure they don't use fish sauce though, they will put that on their veggie dishes a lot. Sub shops are another option for those on the go. Load them with veggies, skip the mayo, and as with most places, check with the bread before you go to make sure no milk or eggs were used.

They should call it crack bread...I love this stuff!!

Now, these places are not the healthiest of choices, but they will do in a pinch situation. What I am showing you here is that there are plenty of options for vegans to eat on the go, cheap and with out too much difficulty. I'm into my fifth month of being a vegan and I have not run across any place I can't eat at yet. I just use the few simple tips I shared and I can leave in a moments notice if I want. Here are just a few places that you can safely eat vegan around town, these are mostly east end because that's where I live and work:
Taco Bell | Qdoba | Moe's | Subway | Lenny's Sub Shop | McAlister's | Whole Foods | Fazoli's
Little Caesars | Soupy's | Red Robin | Vietnam Kitchen | Yang Kee Noodle | Panera Bread
BD's Mongolian Grill | Firehouse Subs | BBC | Homerun Burgers

Here are a few links to help with researching where to go:
http://www.veganeatingout.com/
http://aveganlife.blogspot.com/2006/03/vegan-fast-food-options.html
http://www.happycow.net/
http://www.vegdining.com/
http://www.vegguide.org/
http://www.peta.org/living/vegetarian-living/chain-restaurants.aspx

Happy and Compassionate Eating!!!


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Posted by Tim Cleary on Friday, February 3, 2012
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I am well aware that it has been more than two weeks since my last blog confession. Normally this would be where I start into a litany of excuses as to why that is. Well, there are no excuses anymore for me. I simply did not update because there was no change and I was a little upset and embarrassed that no change occurred. My eating during the two weeks was not really monitored, however when I set forward on this new journey I had already decided that I was not going to be very strict on my eating. As long as it is 100% plant based I am happy. Happily I am still 100% Plant Strong. The place that I have needed to work on has been my processed food intake. Just because it's vegan does not make it healthy.

Yes they are vegan and YES they are not healthy!! 

There is just as much junk food out there for vegans as there are for anyone else. It's all bad! Now, I am not going to punish myself, I am just going to push forward from this point with a promise to myself to severely limit processed food and sugars. I had a great day today, though my lovely girlfriend said I consumed way too many nuts. That is something I will continue to work on hon. :-) My new plan moving forward is to take a much more Taoistic approach to eating, as well as other aspects of daily life. I am going to eat as whole and fresh as I can, and take my time to enjoy every detail and morsel of the food I eat. Here is an experiment that my great friend Thom taught me. It's an exercise for your mind and senses.

I'm going to use a strawberry for this example, but most any food will do. Take the strawberry in your hand and instead of taking a bite, I want you to study it. Look at it very closely, notice all the minute details that make up the texture of the skin. Notice the way the light hits it and is partially visible through the translucent edges of the skin. Feel the bumps, the tiny fibers on your finger tip as you softly examine the fruit. Bring it up to your nose. Take in the full aroma of this delicious berry. Once you have used those three senses, take a bite. Now really focus on the flavor that washes over your lips and onto your tongue. Do you notice the slight bitterness of the skin and fibers that precede the sweet juices of the strawberry? Slowly chew the first bite and hold it in your mouth as long as possible before taking another bite. Focus. Now look at the freshly bitten berry and use all your senses again for the second bite and the third, fourth, fifth...until it is all gone. It should take a minimum of five minutes to eat the strawberry. You can take longer, but not shorter. This experiment helps on many levels. It helps you to gain a better focus of the world around you. It will help those that eat too quickly, slow down and enjoy their food. Doing this experiment regularly will help to make your senses stronger, much in the same way lifting weights build muscle. Try this tomorrow sometime. I will be.


I've had some pretty major stresses over the last few weeks and I think that they have contributed to the current plateau I have been experiencing. It all seemed to hit me from every angle too. There was the usual money issues...bills..bills..bills..ugh. Nothing more need be said on that subject. Then other stresses, work, some from family and others from friends and acquaintances. And physical stresses with my back. I injured my back pretty bad, late last year. It's taken months to get myself back to a place where I feel comfortable again. I was running every day before the injury, now I can barely walk for 15 mins before my leg goes numb. It has severely limited my exercising, but I have been working hard to correct myself and hopefully one day run again. I did have a bit of a breakthrough this week on the exercise front though, a sign of great things to come I hope! :-)  The other stresses, I am working on them. I am learning that life is too short to dwell on negative things or negative people. I got caught up in some drama online with some friends and that spilled out into the real world...it has since been resolved though. Which is another great thing. :-) The money thing, I am working on that too..

This journey I am on, it's not for anyone's benefit except my own and those that want to be around me and accept me for the person that I am becoming. I am always learning new things about life and will always be happy to share those things I learn with those I care about. This lifestyle I am living, for some reason upsets people. I am trying to live a life that's based on compassion for all things. Hate, fear, anger...these emotions are not welcome in my life anymore. I do not hate anyone, nor will I ever. I might get angry every once in a while, but I will never hold onto that anger...It's just going to be passing through. I realized that the place I was in when I started this journey was a lot more peaceful and focused. Some where along the way I got lost. I'm slowly finding my way back though. One person that has been a guiding light for me is my girlfriend, Stephanie. You are always right there as soon as I begin to stray to help get me back on track. Without you in my life, I have no idea where I would be right now. I am glad that I am on this journey with you by my side. :-)



So there it is, no excuses..no punishment...it is what it is. I am going to continue to work on things as best I can and I will be coming back to share what I have learned along the way. The weight will come off and the stresses will fade as will the back pain....this too shall pass.

Namaste

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Posted by Tim Cleary on Monday, January 30, 2012
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I must confess...the Dude is not a skinny man by any means. Part of the reason I started this blog was to track my numbers. I hope that my numbers, ie..weight & measurements, continues a downward path until I reach my body's goal weight. Keep in mind that I was nearly 400 lbs at this point in 2010. I was severely unhealthy and on track to surely be dead by 50. While I'm not there yet, I have managed to turn this 18-wheeler around and am headed in the opposite direction. I do not have an ultimate goal weight in mind. I know that for each of us, that number is different. It all depends on where my body happily settles at when I get there. I will be adding in lots of exercise as soon as my back heals itself, possibly some running again I hope too. I would love to run a marathon one day! My journey is simply that..there is no destination on the horizon. While on this journey I am hoping to settle into a nice weight, but more importantly I want my body to feel alive and full of life. I want my mind to be free of negativity and depression and my soul to feel ethereal and boundless. 


So without a final number in mind, I do have numbers to begin with. Every two weeks I am going to post my weight and some measurements to keep track of my progress. This will also be a place where I will confess to any cheating or bad habits I have been doing over the last two weeks as well. Right after Christmas I took my first measurements...

Dec 26th, 2011
Weight: 312 lbs
Body Fat: 39%
Waist (at navel): 53"
Waist (at hip): 47.25"
Chest: 49.25"
Bicep: 17"
Thigh: 26"
Calf: 18"
Neck: 18.5"

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jan 8th, 2012
Weight: 298 lbs 
Body Fat: 38%
Waist (at navel): 52"
Waist (at hip): 46"
Chest: 49"
Bicep: 17"
Thigh: 25.75"
Calf: 17"
Neck: 18"

Cholesterol: 114 total | LDL: 52 | HDL: 28

I will be getting a new full blood workup every 6 months to see how that goes. This last one was completed in mid September of last year. 

So far a 14 lb drop in two weeks is pretty dang good, not to mention that I injured my back during that time and spent a lot of time not very sedentary. I haven't weighed this low since the summer after I graduated High School! That's 18 years ago! 

I did slip up once. I sometimes go by taco bell and get two bean burritos with no cheese and extra red sauce when I'm in a rush. This time I went and tried that new beefy crunch burrito. I subbed beans for the beef and got it without sour cream or cheese. They failed to mention that it has a nacho cheese sauce on it. Though I figure if one says no cheese...it means no nacho cheese sauce too. Anyways, I bit into it and realized there was cheese on it. I was already home and too lazy to drive back and replace it, so I ate it. I felt bad afterwards and it really did nothing for me at all. I thought the whole thing was rather disgusting. The rest of my diet has been 100% vegan though. I am having some issues with snacks. I've been eating a lot of nuts and some processed foods through the day, but would like to try some other things that are more clean and fresh. If anyone has any helpful tips or ideas for quick, easy and tasty vegan snacks I'd love to hear them. 

That's it.. See you in 2 for more numbers..

Dude out....

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Posted by Tim Cleary on Sunday, January 8, 2012
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I wanted to start of by giving an account of my journey so far. In terms of the Vegan world, I am still a newbie. I've been following a 100% plant based diet for about four months. I decided to give up meat on my birthday. It was a decision that I had been thinking about for a long time. Several years ago I tested the waters a little and became a vegetarian. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision and I just went with it for several months. I tried out new foods and got a taste of how hard...or easy it would be to do that type of thing for the rest of my life. At that time, I really hadn't researched the subject. I knew very little about nutrition overall really. And ironically as this sounds, the summer before I went vegetarian, I was on a variation of a low carb, all meat and cheese diet. It was the worst summer, in terms of pain, that my body had experienced in a long while. I found out later that I have a painful arthritic condition called gout and that eating high volumes of protein and fats can cause very painful flare ups.

The three months I spent as a vegetarian, I felt great. I still had one gout attack, though It did not last as long and was not nearly as painful. The reason I stopped the vegetarian diet was mostly because I was not really at that point in my life where I was ready to make any major decisions. It ended as suddenly as it began. I was out with some friends and decided to just grab a sandwich that had meat on it. I must say, it was delicious. I savored every morsel of that sandwich as if it were a glass of ice water in the hottest desert. And then I was back on the meat train...an animal eatin machine. I loved my burgers and steaks cooked medium, and had to have everything wrapped in bacon of course. Yum! Gooey, melty cheese was a staple, not a mere option. I was living the good life. Eating a typical Western diet, what's wrong with that? All my friends and family eat that way, everyone I know does. There really isn't an alternative that is as easy to follow I thought. I figured I can eat whatever I want as long as I keep things in check, keep things in moderation. I knew one thing for sure, eating food made me feel good. Especially the foods that are supposed to be the worst for you. Candy, pizza, burgers, creamy pastas, cakes...I ate these things and each bite would transport me to worlds of paradise.

At first, the moderation thing seemed to work. I would eat mostly "healthy" foods during the week, maybe cheat here and there, and on one or two days I'd let myself have whatever I wanted to eat. Truthfully I ended up gorging myself on my off days because I was severely restricting my caloric intake on my healthy days. By the week's end I was so hungry I wanted to eat anything and everything I could find. That in turn made me feel so sick and bloated and I just felt horrible. The crazy part was that I was losing weight! I thought this was crazy, but it worked..so keep going. Unfortunately it is impossible to keep a plan like this going for very long. My cheat days soon started growing and my healthy days started to become the meals in moderation. The weight that came off, suddenly hopped right back on and brought a few dozen of its friends with it. This depressed me. Food depressed me... I was at a dark place in my life, I hid this away from my family and friends. I hid it because people had always looked to me as their helping hand, their shoulder to cry on. I did not want to burden anyone with my problems. I acted as if things were great, but I was not happy. I watched all my friends find careers, get married, have kids...meanwhile I dealt with losing my mother, my career and my health. At times I did try to make some effort to reach out, but they were simply too busy with their lives to notice. I don't fault anyone for that. I certainly hold no disregard for them. We all have moments when we are focused on our lives so intently that we tend to forget about others. In all honesty, my close friends I've had all through high school 'til now are some of the best friends one could ask for. This dark period lasted until around 2010, I had some great moments in '08 and '09, but the cloud was always close behind.

I decided to start that year fresh and new. I was no longer going to leap into any crazy diet without fully researching the nutritional benefits and weaknesses of the plan. I also decided that I was going to look at my life and completely re evaluate it. I was no longer feeling sorry for myself and I had recognized many of the triggers that were leading to my over eating issues. I had tried working out in the past, but I would go for a week, a month and that would be it. I needed motivation. I needed something more that "going to the gym". My job situation at this time allowed me the freedom to set my own hours and I worked from home, so I decided to start walking at nearby parks. I've always loved nature and the outdoors so this suited me fine. Upon my evaluation I decided to weigh myself. I was shocked to see 380lbs on the scale. I'm embarrassed to say that I had to actually buy several different scales before I could find one that would weigh me correctly. I felt the cold hand of depression grip around my neck when I saw that number, but i was determined to not let it take hold of me anymore. It wasn't until summer that the "click" happened. I was out in LA visiting some friends and while I was out there I decided, my life is going to change from that point on. Originally I had made the decision to move to LA in the beginning of 2011. Little did I know what the universe had in store for me towards the end of '10. My summer was incredible, I spent the beginning in LA and the end in FL. I got to go to a star wars convention, Disney World, and Universal Studios. Because of my size, I was unable to partake in many of the cool roller coasters...but I did not let that affect me too much. I had a plan that when I got home I was going to get myself in shape.

That's just what I did, as soon as I got home from FL I started running, yes 380lbs and running. That quickly dropped to 360lbs or so and I was luckily given a great opportunity to work with a personal trainer. Her name was Jai and she kicked my ass! Oh how I loved it! :-) We trained hard and I made a goal to run a 5k by October. I hit that goal and went beyond. All in all I lost about 70lbs in 2010. Unfortunately the end of 2010 brought some of the greatest moments in my life as well as some of the worst. I had finally met someone that made me feel what the true meaning of love is, she is every bit of everything I have been looking for my entire life. That's awesome! Then the bad came...I blew out my knee slipping on some ice and soon after my dad had a fall that left him paralyzed from the shoulders down. Talk about polar extremes...this was as good and bad as it can get..and it all happened at once. My main goal at this point was just to try and keep myself from falling apart and not turing back to food. I knew that it would be some time before I could get back to working out and live somewhat of a normal life, but I was determined to keep the weight going down. It was not easy, not by any means. My life has been hit hard with trails this year. I am proud to say that I took each and every challenge head on and most of which I have come out better on the other side. My weight loss was a lot smaller in 2011, but it still was a loss.

Over the summer my girlfriend Stephanie, and I had many discussions about nutrition and the way we eat. She had picked up a book by Kathy Freston called Veganist and talked to me about it. My interest soon peaked and I found myself reading the book as well. I then began doing more research on veganism and what it meant to be one. I loved reading as much material as I could find. I found many reports about how bad vegans are, how controversial the subject is, and surprisingly many more articles that showed the benefits of living a 100% plant based diet. Stephanie then surprised me one day and said she had been on a vegetarian diet for several weeks. I was shocked that I hadn't noticed and I was proud that she had come to the decision on her own. I was already thinking about giving up meat again and was wondering how that would work in a relationship. So my switch happened on my birthday. I had a big plate of Bangers 'N Mash. It was delicious! That was the last bit of animal I have and will ever eat. I first took the easier path of becoming a vegetarian, but I still felt bad about how many of the animals are treated in the dairy and egg. Truthfully I have always thought drinking milk was disgusting. I never thought it was natural to drink something that came out of another animal like that. It wasn't until I watched some videos and watched several lectures about how the animals are truly treated and slaughtered that I decided that I am hence forth Dude, Vegan...

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Posted by Tim Cleary on Wednesday, January 4, 2012
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