Wednesday, September 06, 2006

My Time in the Zone

The story, of which I have no recollection, goes something like this: When I was five, my mother served hamburgers one night for dinner. Always inquisitive, I posed a question to her: “Mommy, how does the cow make the hamburger?” My mother, not wanting to mislead me, replied, “Stacey, this is the cow.” I pushed my plate away.

While I did go on to eat meat again, fast forward about twelve years, and, fueled by burgeoning ideas about animal ethics, as well as a general unrest about chewing animal flesh, I became a full-fledged vegetarian.

A few months before beginning this book, I went on my first organized diet. I wasn’t really trying to lose weight (ok, maybe a few pounds), but was more interested in healthy eating and balancing protein and carbs, as the media told me I should be doing. As a vegetarian, I’m often asked, “Do you get enough protein?” Truth is, I’m not sure I do.

One of the Zone-Diet inspired plans had recently unveiled a vegetarian program, so I decided to give it a go. My go involved about eight servings of tofu a day. I had tofu for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and tofu before bed. As I write this, I stand firm (though, not extra firm) in my belief that tofu is not a breakfast food, no matter how closely it resembles a sausage link.

During my trial, I’m really, really hungry and am not sure they figured in my active lifestyle when calculating my portion sizes. A couple of days into the program, I go to the gym and realize my effort is about 50%. I’m tired, and can’t run far. The next time I try to run, I’m even more exhausted. I barely make it home from the gym, dizzy, faint, and unsure of what to do. My normal blood pressure is 90/60, and I can tell I’m south of that. I consider going to the closest E.R. Meanwhile, I plant myself at the computer, and search the panacea for all things medical, the web, where I learn that such diets (particularly for the uninitiated) often create electrolyte imbalances and that salt ingestion is a quick and effective cure. I grab some crackers and slowly begin to feel better, more myself. I toss the remaining meals, feeling slightly rebellious, but healthy and liberated. About a week later, I get a call from a program rep, who asks me how the diet went. I explain how hungry and tired and sick I became, detailing my near emergency-room excursion. His response: “I’m sorry to hear that. We’re offering a discount for the monthly program, which would be only $36.95 a day. Would you like to enroll?”


PalmTreeChick said...

Un-freakin-believable. Gotta love those people. Atleast you had enough sense to toss that food!

As for tofu, I think I tried it once in my life.

HaileySqueek said...

I'm not a vegetarian because I eat fish once or twice a month, but my daily diet is vegetarian at least 90-95% of the time. People ask me if I get enough protein all the time, too. The truth is, most Americans get too much protein. After doing some research, I learned that I should be getting about 50 grams of protein a day. Then I calculated the amount of protein I ate for a couple of days. I hit 50 grams every day without even trying. The thing is, there is protein in most of the food we eat even if we don't think of them as protein. For example, a serving of broccoli has 4 grams of protein and a flour tortilla has 5 grams. So you can see how it can be hard not to get enough protein - even for a vegetarian.

I think this whole protein concern comes from Atkins and the high protein diet craze. As a result, many (most?) Americans seem to believe that protein should be the main part of our diet. In reality, protein is just one part of a balanced diet and not a very large part at that. I can say with absolute certainty that 8 servings of tofu a day does NOT make for a well balanced diet!

Oh, and I want to say that I'm impressed that you went on your first organized diet only a few months ago. How did you manage to avoid it for so long?

littlem said...

Re: protein - have you thought about protein powder (I like Designer Whey and Jay Robb) or branched chain amino acid tablets (you can get them at your health food store)?

Because given our obsession to be thin, most women don't get enough protein, diet or no.

(I know a little about this b/c of an ongoing attempt to put on enough quad muscle to compensate for a bucket-handle meniscal tear. I'm sure you don't want to know any more.)

Re: the Zone guy -- I'm hoping the last thing he heard on his end was a well-defined *click* as you disconnected the call.

PalmTreeChick said...

I drink a protein shake as well. Just had one for lunch, actually.

Anonymous said...

Haileysqueak: I agree with you. It is hard not to get enough protein in our society. Excess protein is treated just like anything else in our bodies: it is stored as fat. Plus, too much protein strains our bodies because it is hard to digest. The healthiest cultures in the world do not rely on protein from animals - but from vegetables and grains.

Don't even get me started on the environmental impact of excessive animal consumption.

drstaceyny said...

ptc--yeah, it was pretty surreal.

hs--good points. It does seem, as anonymous points out below, that some of the healthier cultures around the world (think Asia) don't rely on protein the way we do here.

lm--I have tried protein supplements (though have no idea if women get enough protein or not, as a whole). I do think that there is an idiographic component to this. I had a meniscal tear last year. Not fun.

anon--see above. Thanks for your input.

Teacher lady said...

Why does that NOT surprise me? It's quite the lucrative business. I wonder how many attorneys they have on staff for when clients start to become ill and they sue.