Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
Just A Junk Drawer Dream
You can also find Monica's writing here:
« Visions Of Sugar Plums | Main | The Guns. The Guns. The Guns. »

Give Peas A Chance

(This post is sponsored by the very excellent (no exaggeration) folks at Nutrilite. And also, my weight and body fat composition will be revealed and, well, it ain't the greatest.)

And then my eyeball miraculously cleared up.

You remember my bloody eyeball, don't you?

Quick recap. In April I came down with a serious case of what doctors thought might be Episcleritis which is a fancy way of saying Hey. You. Yer eyeball is all red and stuff.

A few months went by and the eyeball was still a bloodshot mess so I went to the doctor who prescribed me a serious round of steroids. The eyeball cleared up but then I noticed I was sporting a mustache that rivaled Tom Selleck's. Oh and hey. I gained about ten pounds in wonky places (read: BACK FAT POCKETS, yes, fat pockets) and I may or may not have challenged Serge to a mixed martial arts match which I handily won.

Steroids. They aren't messing around.

In addition to fat pockets and brute strength, it turns out the steroids are brutal on your personality. As if I need any help in the jacked up personality department. As if. So I stopped taking the steroid pronto and the bloodshot eyeball opened back up for business just as pronto-like. This would've been okay if it was just a bloodshot eyeball, but it's quite painful. Throbbing down the side of your face until you can feel it rattling your back molars. So. That sucked. But it was preferable to the steroids.

By August, after successfully flushing the steroids from my system, I had pretty much accepted the red, painful eyeball as a way of life. Then, in a seemingly unrelated (but, as you're about to read, a hugely related) happening, I made friends with a neighborhood cow my kids named SkullFace and soon decided meat was not the way for me. It wasn't as sudden a decision as it seems. I have long been loitering at the starting gate of vegetarianism but, for some reason, never kicked into action.

Pescatarian, I guess, is technically what they call folks like me. The name for those who don't eat meat but still eat fish. My friendship with SkullFace sealed the deal and I went whole hog, pun intended. I started with no pig and cow and, when that proved easy enough, added chicken into the mix, or subtracted chicken from the mix, depending on how you look at the thing. I briefly flirted with eliminating dairy but the entire dairy/milk conundrum is worthy of a whole other post. And I mean, seriously. No cheese? I never met a cheese I didn't like.

Serge, who is a huge fan of stir fry and curry and all sorts of other vegetable-friendly dinners, jumped on board the no meat train and, between the two of us, we just greased each other and our veggies all up in Olive Oil and got down and dirty with our dinners. All veggies all the time.

Here comes the part where you might call me kooky. Okay, fine. You already think I'm kooky, but here's the part where you say to yourself, I knew she was kooky but I didn't think she was that kooky... A couple weeks after eliminating meat from my diet the eyeball cleared up completely. Just...POOF. Gone. Coincidence maybe, but after nearly half a year of an inflamed eye, constant throbbing pain, when the only thing that would clear it up was the steroids... To just eliminate meat and then, after about three weeks of a vegetable diet (with the occasional shrimp or fish) to have the Episcleritis just disappear?

It never came back.

Wild. It was a true awakening about how what I put in my body directly affects my well-being in so many ways.

At about the same time I was connecting the vegetable dots I was invited to New York City to participate in this two-day event on living a healthy lifestyle, cooking with veggies and supplementing what nutrients you aren't getting with vitamins. Plus, a private lesson from none other than celeb chef Rick Bayless? Now, I'll go ahead and admit I didn't know who Rick Bayless was. I've been too busy filling my head with the Real Housewives to pay any attention to Top Chef, but Serge has apparently been sporting a man crush on the dude so I figured he was good people.

So I got myself to New York City...

...and pretty much the second I landed I was engulfed in culinary amazingness.

Wait. Wrong photo. That comes later. Hold on. Where were we? Oh, yes. Culinary amazingness...

Fist there was the David Bouley test kitchen in TriBeCa where I met all sorts of chefs who wanted to show me how to truss a chicken, filet a fish and make a chocolate souffle.

But, let's be honest, I ain't never, no never, going to be whipping up a chocolate souffle in my time so I let the sugar junkies take in that and, because I've given up chicken, parked myself squarely in front of the fellow filleting a fish and, for the first time ever, learned how it's done. And when I say I parked myself front and center I do not exaggerate:

Back off, people. My fish.

I mean, seriously. RELAX, girlfriend. You're giving the chef bum sweat with all the creepy staring.

After all my laser gazes and the cooking demos were done we sat down to what was, perhaps, the most intense lunch of my life. Like, course after course after course after course after course of fancy stuff like Royal Trumpet Flan, New England Black Sea Bass and a Valrhona Chocolate Souffle.

Too bad about my posture, I know. And hey, nice elbows on the table, fancy pants McGee! The only thing more intense than the lunch and the curve of my spine was the dedication of the guy whose job it was to refresh our waters. I mean, he was not messing around. I would take the smallest sip and before I had even replaced my glass on the table dude would materialize near my rude elbows and immediately refill it. And when your water glass is constantly full your natural instinct is to keep drinking. I must've downed several gallons, is what I'm saying, and the water level was never more than an inch from the top.

By the end of lunch my injured bladder was begging for mercy. And you'd think after seven (seven!) courses my stomach would be crying Uncle! as well but no. The portions were so delicately perfect that I came away feeling delicately perfect. Well, as delicately perfect as a clumsy elephant such as myself can feel, that is.

Anyway, the whole trip was about as intense as my water guy. Nutrilite means business. They roll with doctors and specialists who took my blood pressure (104/72), weighed me (139 - 14 pounds over my pre-baby weight) and took my body composition (29.2% - high end of my age group.)

Here my bad posture and I discuss my health with Dr. Kip Johnson, a lovely man.

Here I am again with my bad posture from another angle. And I swear, that ponytail seemed messily "bohemian" when I left my hotel room.

But hell. What's a gal to do?

Sneak a bunch of Nutrilite childrens multi-vitamins that taste and sizzle like pop rocks (Swear!) when she thinks no one's looking, only to later be emailed several photos of herself doing so. I am only hoping they don't have photographic evidence of me shoving those two boxes in my purse.

Nobody saw that, right?

I'm not gonna lie, I can be doing a lot better in the exercise department. I was advised to do interval training on a treadmill (one minute intense activity/one minute cool down) for at least thirty minutes. I have been doing this instead of my usual thirty minutes at a steady pace and it is kicking my ass. The interval business makes a big difference in the cardio workout, and apparently burns more fat.

I was also advised to eat better foods, which, duh, I know. But I tend to focus on counting calories and not necessarily on giving my body what it needs, which is probably why I always feel so sluggish.

So my focus, lately, is different ways to cook vegetables. My favorite dinner of all-time is tacos. Up until now I'd wager Serge and I had chicken or steak tacos at least once a week during the entire eight years of our marriage. Occasionally we'd grill up some tilapia and have fish tacos, but, for the most part it was steak or chicken. Since I stopped eating meat we started cooking shrimp tacos, which, I think I linked you to this excellent shrimp taco recipe before. It's so good we have the shrimp tacos once a week for sure.

Serge cooks a shrimp or tofu stir fry at least twice a week and I might whip up this South Indian-Style Vegetable Curry, although it requires a lot of veggie chopping, it's worth it. But we're always on the look out for tasty dishes that don't require meat. Enter the aforementioned Chef Rick Bayless who, within a few minutes, whipped up the most excellent vegetarian tacos, Swiss Chard (or Spinach) with Caramelized Onion, Fresh Cheese and Red Chile (totally excellent recipe here on Sarah was at the shindig with me.) Also, if you haven't done it you should try vegetarian fajitas using thickly sliced portobella mushrooms (marinated in red wine vinegar, lime and spices) as the meat. Add in onions (red or yellow), a little green/red/yellow pepper, top with guacamole, sour cream and cilantro and you're good to go.

Sorry to get all food-tastic on you but my focus since giving up meat hasn't been incorporating the meat substitutes into my diet so much as discovering vegetable dishes that are as close to what I used to eat as possible and I wanted to link you to a few of my favorites. I would love to see links to your favorites in the comments as well. Help a struggling pescatarian out!

I haven't got my blood work back from the doctors yet but I'm anxious to hear what they say so I can incorporate food items or supplements into my diet to make up for what I'm lacking. I can't thank the folks at Nutrilite enough for such an awesome, informative trip.

Do you guys take vitamins? What do you take? If you're interested in taking supplements, this tiny assessment test will get you headed in the right direction. And what about vegetarian dishes? Got any you swear by? Link away!


Rick Bayless was a rock star, or a chef star, or whatever you want to call a totally excellent chef and I was most definitely crushing on him by the end of his cooking demo. So I stood around waiting to get the perfect photo of him. You know, when he was being all chef-like and stuff. I didn't want to look like a dorky fan girl so I tried to snap a sneaky shot when he wasn't looking. Below is that shot:

Right. Way to play it cool and casual, Bielanko.

But then he was all, just come get a picture, and was super nice and stuff. So I did. Here's me sporting another "bohemian" ponytail and hanging around with my good pal Rick Bayless.

You know, just giving him some cooking tips and stuff. Here Rick, let me show you how to dice veggies. Oh hey, Rick, I seem to have cut off my finger, can you hand me that towel? No big deal, tis' but a flesh wound. Now what were you saying about mushrooms?

Reader Comments (21)

Totally Rick Bayless proximity jealous.

Also: messy tucked ponytails are totally Bohemian or something. Surely they make me look all cool and too-good-for-hair-doing when I'm gallivanting around with my post-baby belly and maternity yoga pants. RIGHT??

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

You FEEL bohemian. And then someone sends you a bunch of photos of yourself from all angles wherein your ponytail looks like a Brillo pad and you look like a homeless person from Whoville and then you don't even know who you are anymore.

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTheGirlWho

I made these changes (all vegetable/whole grain) a little over a year ago and I feel sooo much better. I'm not claiming it's gospel or that it's for everyone, but have you seen Forks Over Knives? It's a good jumping off point for exploring how to change your paradigm around food. I have just tried to pay attention to the way I feel physically when I'm eating this way and I definitely feel much better. It has been a lot easier to maintain a healthy body weight this way, too. One last thing - I love tacos, too, and I substitute grains (i.e. bulgur, split peas, etc) for the meat to give it 'bulk' and add veggies to that. Bulgur and tempeh can take the place of ground beef in chili and soups, too. :) Hope your eye continues it's current improvement!

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHolly

New rule: no one is allowed to take pictures of me.

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

Solid rule, Jessica.

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTheGirlWho

Biotin supplements will make your hair (and nails) healthy & grow super fast.

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGrace Miller

Great post, Mrs B. Our mutual friend Amanda is going to be seething with jealousy when she sees this... (after having spent most of the last ten years trying by means both fair and foul to tempt both of my beautiful and life-long vegetarian children over to... the Pork Side.

You are, as always, a funny, truthful, thought-provoking and brilliant writer. And, believe you me missy, I do NOT say that often. Don't stop, don't change. Ever.

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Murff

You are glowing in that last pic with Rick B. Was it the steam from the food or is cooking healthy really that awesome?

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBonnieLee

Oh, I've been taking Fish Oil supplements for years. It's an anti-inflammatory and now my face is not red and dry. It's clear and nice.

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBonnieLee

Giving up red meat and chicken was the best decision I've ever made in my life. My hubby has tried to join me, but he still orders steak when we go out. We don't cook it at home though. Pinterest has been my veggie recipe mecca. Here's my savory foodie board: It's full of lotsa recipes with no meat required.

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLauren

A few thoughts: Damn that article is long so I'll keep it for when I'm not in ADD mode.
Dress is hot! Posture is very cute. Hair. Like my granny always said if you've got nothing nice to say... I kid (not). Yes I kid. Hum.
What else. Pink tights yay. All that food looks good. I would have taken it to the face.

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMiss A

The last photo is perfection. A really AMAZING photographer must have taken that. (I sense fear in Rick's eyes. Do you think he's frightened by my slight stalker tendencies?)

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterwhoorl

I have a major crush on Chef Rick. I was in Chicago, dining along with another foodie friend at Frontera Grill when Rick walked by. He was chatting with different patrons and she and I were so star struck and SHY we avoided eye contact and missed our chance to say, "hello, we love you" She and I are still kicking ourselves that we didn't say hi. I'lll never make that mistake again, yo.

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

@whoorl - I think you mistake fear for lust. It's understandable.

December 17, 2012 | Registered CommenterMonica

Holy. Cow. That post made me laugh harder than I have laughed in some time. because your writing voice was hysterical. in all seriousness, though, it's absolutely true about how eating tons of veggies makes you feel like a million bucks. I still need meat in my diet from time to time though I try to stick with hormone-free, grass fed beef and free-range hormone free chicken. I feel amazing since I've made a conscious effort to eat tons of veggies and take it easy on the bread.

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKaty E

Oh please, you're beautiful! Remember the "I am beautiful" post? I loved that!

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered Commentersherewin

Jelly! I love Rick Bayless. He has these tasty shortcut taco sauces that are SO good:

I love the Key Lime Cilantro one. It's great for a shrimp.

Anytime I think I'm bohemian anything, I end up looking like Frumpy Frump.

December 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTheMostess

We are mostly meatless at our house. With a picky 10 year old around it has gotten pretty hard to be creative. Thankfully she likes eggs and cheese and refried pintos. So we have some of those at two or three dinners per week. There's also a lovely tuna tomato sauce over pasta dish that I learned from Marcella Hazan that is a big hit (except with the 10 year old).

December 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

glad to see the path works out so well for you...
only best... keep rocking...

December 18, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterfahrenheit

It seriously takes me like a half hour to do my messy bohemian ponytail. I too have had a bohemian ponytail mishap that was photographed and now it's like I may as well do a french twist.

December 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTeresa

Hi, read this and immediately thought of who is also on Flickr. Some interesting diet info and recipes, hope this helps.

December 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDan Hardwick

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>