Nutritiony Things I Have Learned #1

Join me today, won’t you, for the glorious first installment of…

NUTRITIONY THINGS I HAVE LEARNED!

Today’s topic? Protein.

So, protein deficiency is the thing most people worry about when it comes to vegans and vegetarians, and yet most of us probably can’t think of anyone we know (or have even heard of) who has actually been medically diagnosed as “protein deficient.” And that’s because as it turns out, the only time we really see protein deficiency is when someone isn’t eating enough – when they’re literally not getting enough calories.

When that happens, the body burns the amino acids of protein for energy instead of using them to rebuild body tissue like it’s supposed to. In the past, people looked at this and thought, “Ah, that person needs more protein!” or “Ah, that person needs a better source of protein!” but it was actually just a case of the person not getting enough calories. If you’re eating enough calories, you’re almost definitely getting enough protein.

In fact, it’s actually more likely that you’re getting too much protein – which, despite what your aggressive Paleo friend might tell you, is a real thing. When the body gets more protein than it needs, those extra amino acids are just kinda floating around in the bloodstream with nothing to do. The body sends them to the liver, where they’re split into two bits – a bit with nitrogen and a bit without. <–(Very scientific terminology)

The bit without can be used as a potential source of calories, since it’s usually made up of sugar or fat, and the bit with nitrogen…well, it becomes ammonia. Ammonia, as you might imagine, is not the optimal thing to have in your liver, so the liver tries to dilute it by flooding itself with liquid – blood, as it happens.

The liver becomes engorged while doing this (and I realize as I type this that “engorge” is one of the grossest words ever, eclipsing even “moist”), and the ammonia is slowly converted into something that can be sent down to the kidneys to be disposed of in the urine. The kidneys are likewise enlarged by this, and so you have both the liver and kidneys working overtime and getting generally stressed out. Short-term, this isn’t too big of a big deal, but when you’re consistently eating too much protein? It increases the likelihood of kidney or liver failure in later life by, like, a lot. <–(More science.)

ADDITIONALLY! Having extra amino acids in the blood tends to acidify it, and the body deals with this by dissolving some bone to alkalize the whole too-much-acid situation. So not only does eating too much protein stress out your liver and kidneys, it actually depletes your bones – which is probably why the places in the world with the highest protein consumption also have the highest rates of osteoporosis.

SO, YES. The next time someone asks you, “Where do you get your protein?” take them by the hand, give them the most concerned and patronizing look possible, and say, “I get more than enough protein simply by eating the daily recommended amount of calories for a person of my age and general body type. Is it possible that YOU, my dear comrade and companion, are getting too much protein and this could lead to me having to use the word ‘engorge’ in a sentence? Because nobody wants that.”

This entry brought to you by the fact that I was interested in taking a plant-based nutrition e-course but it was too damn expensive so I am now just reading the textbooks. :P

In which sleep deprivation causes rambling and random discussions on sexuality

Greetings and salutations, internet!

I opened this tab with the fervent intention of writing a brilliant blog entry that would live forever as an example of my scintillating wit and talent, but my body has reminded me that I’ve been up since 2 AM and attempting to create anything “brilliant” is just not likely to happen.

So! Here is a decidedly un-brilliant blog entry, for your possible (?) enjoyment.

 

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Vegan Learning Curve

There are lots of things I’m learning as a relatively new vegan. One of them, sadly, is that you can’t show people what they don’t want to see.

In my innocent youth, I always thought of the dairy and egg industries as being pretty benign, just a bunch of happy cows and chickens roaming around on the picturesque farms shown on the milk cartons. When I found out the truth – which I won’t go into here, but feel free to Google “egg industry” or “dairy industry” if you never want to sleep again – I was pretty horrified. “Appalled” would be a good word to describe it, in fact. And I thought, “Do people know about this? People can’t possibly know about this or they’d be as horrified and appalled as I am!”

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In which I walk around the couch a lot and try to eat healthier (also, Chinese!)

So, as it turns out, working from home when it’s freezing cold outside is pretty nice. :D

Unfortunately, this pleasant new development also results in me not getting much in the way of exercise, so I’ve had to improvise. In my previous job, I was both incredibly stressed and receiving a crapton of exercise (lifting children, chasing children, chasing and lifting children at the same time, etc.), and this led me to achieve a quite low weight and the general wan look of someone dying of the plague. While I am pleased to no longer have the plague, it would be nice to achieve some sort of middle ground here, hence my **NEW HEALTH RESOLUTION** (TM).

Yes, friends, every day after my morning lessons, I have been…

WALKING AROUND THE COUCH.

While this may not sound like a revolutionary health resolution, given the shoebox-like size of my apartment and the eyelash-freezing temps outside, it’s turned out to be quite a good method of exercise. I downloaded a step counter app on my phone, and my general routine is to turn on a vegan documentary or health talk on YouTube and then walk around my apartment at varying speeds while the cats race around in front of me, confused but also at least getting their own exercise in the process.

It’s been going pretty well, and I managed to hit 10,000 steps both yesterday and the day before. I’ve also, as a result of all these documentaries, been reassessing the quality of the food I eat, and have been transitioning away from Junk Food Vegan to Hopefully A Bit Healthier Vegan. My diet wasn’t terrible to begin with, but I frequently overuse salt, oil, and sugar, and…yeahhh, I should probably not do that.

Cutting out/reducing sugar has been the hardest, so I’ve been making a lot of juices in my blender – water + fruit, essentially (this is what juice is, for those who were blissfully unaware of the process) – and experimenting with the use of dates to sweeten things, a practice made possible by the fact that Aldi now carries dates. :D

I’ve also been studying the absolute beginner basics of Chinese, because I’m teaching Chinese kids and it would be nice to have some vague sense of what they’re muttering to themselves during our lessons. Is it, “Teacher, you are the best ever and I love you dearly?” Further studies will reveal the truth, I assume.

I’m actually finding that Chinese isn’t as impossible as I initially thought, primarily because I’m starting out by learning the basic-basics: the four (technically five) tones, the general grammatical structure (which is quite similar to English, funnily enough), and the basic pronunciation rules. I still know barely anything at all, but what I am learning is actually making sense, and that’s something I didn’t expect.

So, yes. My free time these days is occupied by cooking, eating, watching documentaries, learning Chinese, and walking around my couch. Just your typical day in the life of a stay-at-home cat parent and ESL teacher. And, of course, I’ve allowed for a great deal of Cat Snuggle Time, because what is life without snuggles? Tis no life at all.

On Chosen, Writing, and Doing What I Please

Kaine’s kickass mother Hema, pictured here instead of Kaine because she’s far easier to draw in doodle form. :P

Long-time visitors will recall that I’ve been working on an LGBTQ+ fantasy novel called Chosen for approximately the last 17,000 years. Its main character, Kaine Ikarra, is a fifteen-year-old transgender boy who is struggling with magic, identity, and the fact that most of the people around town want very much to kill him. It’s tough being fifteen, man.

As I’ve mentioned before, this story started out during my teen years as a cookie-cutter White Dudes Doing Cool Stuff In A Fantasy Setting book, but it’s since evolved into a series that features mostly LGBT people of color doing even cooler stuff in a fantasy setting. Since this is a fantasy world entirely of my imagining, I can do what I want with it, such as making the dominant religion a pantheon of gods and goddesses, many of whom are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, etc., and this thus makes LGBT folks entirely normal and unstigmatized in this world. Likewise, the inclusion of a female chief goddess (and various other awesome females in the pantheon) encourages more gender equality, which means that gender roles in this society are far more equal, and that gives me the opportunity to have kickass ladies all over the place and not have that be at all weird.

The latest I Can Do What I Want aspect of the story has involved my going through the book and subtly altering what everyone is eating so they subscribe to a more plant-based diet. It’s not something you see often in fantasy books, I’m willing to bet, but given my own commitment to avoiding meat and animal products, I figured…why not? WHY NOT HAVE THEM ALL BE VEGAN. MUWAHAHAHAHA I’m drunk with godly writing power.

So. Chosen now features a transgender, pansexual, vegan person-of-color as its main character, and I am quite pleased about that. :D

Conferences, food, and drowsy catnaps

I thought I was done waking up at 3:45 AM due to the time change, but alas, this morning marked another early wakeup and general refusal from my body and brain to return to sleep. As today was Parent/Teacher Conferences and my last day at work, I took advantage of the extra time to (a) write thank-you cards to parents,  (b) cook up some goodies to keep me alive and semi-coherent during conferences, and (c) stare into space for long periods of time while wondering what it must be like to sleep past 4 AM.

  

Donuts and coffee are always provided for conferences, so I brought along a chocolate mug cake so I could join in on the sugar intake and general glorious unhealthiness. I also brought  a non-dairy grilled “cheese” sandwich, which involved spreading my version of Cheap Lazy Vegan’s tofu cheese recipe over toast and pan-frying it, and that made for an excellent hobbity Second Breakfast.

Conferences went very well, incidentally – it seemed like a fitting way to end my tenure at this  school, getting to meet one-on-one with parents and rave about their kids (plus gently offering a few “things we’re working on” :P). Many of them took time out to say kind things about my contributions to their kids’ development, and overall, it was just a pleasant, positive, hopeful sort of day. (And let’s face it, chocolate cake tends to improve just about any experience.)

Upon returning home, burdened by a full-sized keyboard, giant backpack of stuff, and a gift bag packed with homemade cards and lovely little presents, I had some lunch and flopped onto the couch to drowse and watch HGTV. I spent much of the afternoon dozing with cats on either side of me, and I really can’t recommend that manner of spending an afternoon highly enough.

For dinner tonight, I tried my hand at a vegan mac and cheese, which I ate far too much of and which has led to a somewhat unhappy stomach and entirely unrepentant tastebuds.  (And it must’ve been good, because Darla is currently up on the stove licking up a little spill of “cheese” sauce from the countertop. Weird, weird cat.)

Anyway. It’s now nearly eight PM, and despite my drowsy afternoon, I’m more than ready for bed. With that in mind, I shall bid you adieu for now, and hopefully have more to report on – possibly in wacky video form – at a later time. :P