Mandatory Reporting

As a marriage and family therapist in training, I am a state sanctioned "mandatory reporter." What this means is that if I see or become aware that someone is a danger to themselves or others - even if they are not a client of mine - I am obligated to report it to the proper authorities.

Last night, coming home from the gym, I encountered an erratic driver. The driver was two cars ahead of me, driving painfully slowly. I had nowhere to be and was in no rush. My only plan was to stop at the grocery store to try to find some silken tofu. As I neared the right turn onto the street that would take me to the grocery store parking lot, the erratic slow driver ahead of me turned onto the same street. His turn was wide and his car swung into the oncoming traffic lane, forcing two cars to veer out of his way. I hypothesized at that moment that the driver was impaired and decided my mandate required me to call it in.

Coincidentally and fortuitously, the impaired driver also turned into the grocery store lot. I followed at a safe distance and watched as the driver parked at a crooked angle in a handicapped parking spot. I parked nearby and saw an elderly man emerge from the car and shuffle slowly toward the grocery store entrance. He appeared confused.

I called 911, got transferred to the local police department, and told them my concern based on what I had observed. They said they would send an officer to check it out and took my number in case they needed to call me later for any follow up information. I entered the store and saw the driver shuffling around as I sought out silken tofu. I did not get too close to him, but I observed that his eyes were glassy and bloodshot. Discovering this particular grocery store to be sans silken tofu, I left and went home.

Sure enough, a little while later, a police officer called me at home and said that thanks to my actions the driver had been arrested for being under the influence. She gathered some details from me and then thanked me for my intervention, which had removed a dangerous driver from the roads, before hanging up.

I am glad that my actions made the roads safer and may have prevented tragedy. By the same token, I feel sympathy for the intoxicated man driving the car and I hope he gets the help he needs.

6 Word Novel

"Maintenance...please call the front desk..."


Notwithstanding Last Night's Belly-Full of Thai Curry...I Am Almost Two Pounds Lighter

One of my side stream sources of income is walking peoples' dogs. It's actually pretty lucrative and convenient, but that's not the subject of this post. Yesterday, whilst I was walking a couple of dogs for someone, I noticed that my pants were almost falling down. Due to my continuously improving lifestyle habits, I have shed a considerable amount of weight. I am down two pant sizes and my belts are cinched to the last remaining hole. Although I now weigh the lowest I can ever remember, I have not yet hit my ultimate weight loss goal. I think I will need to punch an additional hole in my belt if this continues.

This morning I weighed in at 208 pounds, notwithstanding a massive belated Valentine's Day dinner with my wife Deborah last night, of Thai curry at the popular Ha Long Bay restaurant in Madison. This is down almost two pounds from the day before. Two pounds!

I grant you that I got a lot of exercise yesterday. I walked almost three miles with those aforementioned dogs and I also went to the gym for 45 minutes of stationary cycling and 15 minutes of lap swimming. Still and all, I ate a lot of Thai food and even had a couple of celebratory beers with dinner. So, I can't really explain the weight loss, though I embrace it.

According to the BMI charts online, my optimal weight is something like 185 pounds, but that's ridiculous. I'd be scarecrow thin at that weight. I am a pretty muscular guy. That being said, I'd like to get down to around 199 pounds. If I could break the elusive 200 pound threshold, I'd be thrilled. I'd also probably celebrate the victory by giving myself a dietary "free day" to gorge on pizza and ice cream,* which would throw a few pounds back on me, most likely.

That being said, I've pretty much fully integrated and internalized the vegan diet into my lifestyle. Although I have tried to go vegan in the past without a lot of success (thanks, cheese!), it was pretty easy this time. Part of the commitment I have made to it has to do with all the recent research coming out pointing strongly at a correlation between chronic diseases and a meat/dairy-heavy diet. I just turned 50 years old and I am not getting any younger.** I have, thankfully, dodged many bullets in my life with regard to my health. When I think about my eating (and drinking) habits as recently as five years ago, I am surprised I am still alive, honestly. I used to eat whole family-sized bags of potato chips and/or an eight ounce block of cheese in one sitting. I am not proud of that, but there it is. Now I don't eat dairy at all and I eat actual fresh potatoes (when I eat them at all).

I have been making it fun by attempting to make vegan versions of popular desserts, most notably cheesecake, key lime pie, and chocolate chip blondies. The latter recipe turned out fine and tasted pretty good, although it is probably the least similar to its non-vegan counterpart.*** The vegan cheesecake is raw cashew and coconut-based, and is fairly indistinguishable from the "real" thing. I just made a vegan key lime pie today (also cashew and coconut-based) and I have not tasted it yet, so I will have to report back on that later.**** However, the batter tasted really good before I added it to the store-bought pie crust.*****

*Note: Pizza and ice cream are not vegan foods, since they contain dairy. That being said, I am a vegan by choice. It's a very healthy way to eat and I feel ridiculously awesome when I adhere to a vegan menu. Veganism is also great for the environment, since animal-based foods require about 10 times the natural resources to produce as do plant-based foods. However, I am not a Vega-Nazi about it. So if I hit my weight goal, I am going to fully enjoy some dairy-rich guilty pleasures for a day.

**Note: This is false. I am actually getting slightly younger, having reversed my aging process through a combination of good diet, moderate exercise, and supplementation with NAD+.

***Note: This was true. But shortly after posting this, I tried a different recipe that looked like it should have no chance of working...except it did. And these blondies were virtually indistinguishable from their conventional non-vegan counterparts.

****Note: It turned out great.

*****Note: I could have made my own vegan graham cracker crust, but the ready-made, store-bought ones don't have any non-vegan ingredients according to the label. They just have some refined and artificial additives and preservatives. I have to weigh convenience against dietary considerations.

KEYWORDS: best weight loss diet, vegan diet, vegan desserts, vegan pie, vegan pie crust


Vegan Blondies

I tried my luck again making vegan flourless peanut butter* chocolate chip blondies tonight after I got home from a decent, moderate-intensity gym workout. They are chickpea-based, which one would think might be off-putting. However, after blending the batter and baking it, you can't really detect any chickpea flavor, since it is mostly overwhelmed by the peanut butter and maple syrup ingredients. HERE is the recipe, if you are interested in trying it, dear reader: https://www.ambitiouskitchen.com/2013/04/flourless-chocolate-chip-chickpea-blondies-with-sea-salt-vegan-gluten-free-healthy/

After a dinner of leftover chili and zucchini spaghetti with marinara, I had a couple of the blondies. They were pretty delish, though not as delish as actual non-vegan, chocolate chip cookie blondies. However, that was kind of good, because those can be way too sweet. These were sweet enough and definitely peanut buttery. So if you like peanut butter, try these.

A couple days ago, I made a cashew- and coconut-based vegan cheesecake that turned out surprisingly awesome. I still need to try making vegan key lime pie. Then I will have conquered the holy trinity of vegan desserts: blondies, cheesecake, and key lime pie.

*Note: I used almond butter the last time I made these, but they were not as flavorful as the ones tonight, because almonds have a milder flavor than peanuts. On the upside, peanut butter is considerably less expensive than almond butter.


I Have Not Been This "Light" in a Long Time

I was pleasantly surprised this morning when the bathroom scale told me I was down to 208 pounds, the lightest I have been since as far back as I can remember, and a new record low for my weight in recent history.

I want to be able to attribute this drop in weight to the vegan diet I have been on since just after the New Year, just for sh!ts and giggles. However, I can't confidently say that. It's definitely contributing, but I think it's the combined effect of several lifestyle factor improvements. For example, I have been going to the gym more often - roughly five times per week as compared to about three times per week before the holidays. Then there's the holidays themselves...or lack thereof...which means less consumption of caloric foods. Although it is not a requirement of adherence to a vegan diet, I've been somewhat purposefully avoiding added sugar in foods too. Conversely, I have been eating more nuts, which are high in (albeit low-glycemic index) calories, when I snack. My wife Deborah bought us a Nutri-Bullet blender, which is awesome and allows us to make quick, nutritious smoothies that are portion controlled by the Max Fill line of the blender receptacle.

I'm also almost two weeks into my second semester of graduate school in Edgewood College's Marriage and Family Therapy clinical program. The stress of this has reduced my appetite a little bit and also thrown off my eating schedule off. For example, in order to squeeze in a quick gym workout last night, I did not have time to make a decent dinner before my evening class, so I made a smoothie in the Nutri-Bullet instead and took it to class with me. On the other side of that coin, I also find myself eating larger meals after my class ends at 9 PM. Eating late at night is supposed to be unhelpful for weight loss, but it doesn't seem to be unhelpful in my case.

In conclusion, I have no good explanation for my substantial weight loss of 10+ pounds over the past month. I suppose it's possible I have some horrible disease or maybe just a tapeworm.