llforestwhitaker
Forest Whitaker turned vegetarian, lost 80 lbs.

My body is so sensitive to change of any kind; I refer to my intestines as my central nervous system. I suppose that’s where terms like “gut reaction” and “go with your gut” originate.

Still, the changes were so pronounced, I had to look up correlations among vegetarian diets and those of omnivores. Here’s what I’ve learned: Because most of the vegetarian diet comes from carbs, meals are broken down and digested quickly. Meats are only protein and fat, and naturally free of carbs. The body digests fats the slowest; No. 2 is protein. So, digesting a steak can take hours, and all that meat in your system can get backed up and just sit and rot in your intestines for years. (Gross, but true.) When eating vegetarian, it’s important to include high-fiber foods like whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds to regulate digestion.

Before, I definitely wasn’t getting enough fiber, but that’s nothing new for me: I’ve never been able to consume enough fiber to regulate my system, so having “issues” is what passed for normal. Apparently, though, I’m getting enough fiber now. That was an unexpected benefit.

I hope it’s not a fluke, because I do enjoy the addition of so many healthy, high-fiber foods, especially nuts. I’m thinking of making a container of trail mix today, with peanuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, raisins and maybe some other dried fruit. I don’t care much for dried fruits, mostly because of the way they look. Raisins and even Craisins are cool, though.

I’m getting a lot of advice and input via Facebook, and have you readers to thank for that. However, a couple of you have flagged soy milk and soy products as being cancer-causing and able to wreak havoc on female equipment, so I’m going to pass on incorporating soy in my diet until I do some research. Thanks for the heads-up, people.

I also heard from an acquaintance who emailed this today:

Girl, let me tell you about my 3 months as a vegetarian . . . Let’s just say, I GAINED weight and realized that getting rid of meat was not going to help me with my extreme CARB ADDICTION!  Now the three weeks I gave up carbs, I was damn near homicidal . . . but I lost 15 pounds!  I had to decide between losing weight and losing my freedom so I started eating carbs again! HA!

I completely understand, and I told you yesterday how easy it would be to pack on the pounds. Vegetarian pizza with extra cheese, anyone? Even more than before, I need to remain vigilant about processed foods, especially those made with white flour – in other words, everything I like, but doesn’t like me.

And a reader reminded me about Boca burgers and vegetarian meat substitutes by Morningstar Farms. I’ve had both, and always enjoyed them, especially Morningstar’s breakfast sausage patties. They’re full of soy, too, so again, research on soy dangers, if any, will determine how much or how little I’ll use such products.

The bad news is, like everything else that’s supposed to be good for you, products like the above can get expensive. But like author Tracye Lynn McQuirter said, “Organic collards may cost $2.50 a pound now, but angioplasty or bypass surgery can cost $50,000 or more later.  Saving money is good; preserving your health is priceless.”

A Boca burger with lettuce, tomato on a multigrain bun sounds like a great lunch option for today, especially with a side of fresh fruit.

My digestive tract would approve.

Life is full of choices, and many years ago, I chose to become a vegetarian, and it was one of the best choices I’ve ever made.   ~   Forest Whitaker

Leslie J. Ansley is an award-winning journalist and entrepreneur who blogs daily for TheRoot. She lives in Raleigh, NC.