My Short Life as a Gluten-Free, Alcohol-Free Vegan

Staff Writer
Thomas Ryder gives up his meat-eating, bourbon-drinking ways to try a 'healthier' lifestyle.


This morning I took an action that risked my life. I did it with forethought; even careful consideration. I took the action with enthusiasm and mounting excitement, literally salivating over the prospect. I ate two eggs. 

I felt this way the day after spending seven days on the Quantum Wellness Cleanse by Kathy Freston. After carefully consulting and practicing her messianic best seller for a week, I now know I will probably die as a result of the gluttonous excess I have practiced for, let’s just say, about sixty years. In fact, after learning of the diseases and maladies caused directly or energized by the foods I have eaten all my life, I figure I am blessed by divine intervention into my inevitable fate.

I am so not a vegan. I decided to give a week to this quixotic cause for three reasons. First, my wife, daughter, and eldest granddaughter all did the full “21-day cleanse,” and the outward results have been spectacular. They look great and claim to feel that way too. Thank you for that, Kathy. Part of me hoped that I would lose weight and become beautiful, but the realist in me simply wanted to do it as a gesture of support for a favorite wife I live and eat with. Second, I am a scientist at heart. I have done experiments with virtually every diet conceived since the days I gave up football pads; all without long-term success. Scientists never give up hope. Third, I promised to do another story for my friends at The Daily Meal and a week of veganism seemed like a hoot. (Not!)

For the last seven days I gave up what Kathy calls “The Big Five:” caffeine, alcohol, gluten, animal products, and sugar. Had I done it for the full 21 days, she promised I could expect “more energy, clearer skin and eyes, weight loss, cessation of certain aches, pains and digestive ailments, release from addictive habits, and a profound and deepened awareness of your personal power and the effect you have in the world.” How cool would that be! I didn’t believe it for a minute. Oh, I know if you give up all that stuff for 21 days you will lose weight. Hell, a ruby-throated thrush would lose weight eating like that for a week. I stepped on two different scales this morning and after seven days I showed a weight loss of 7-10 pounds. Sounds good right? Be skeptical. I have what my doctor refers to with studied political correctness as a “large body habitus.” Weight rolls off me like rainwater, but one beer and it comes back.  At my size, on this diet, I could have a 10-pound gas bubble, so a few pounds at this stage of the game are not impressive.  But, let’s give credit where due. Those inspirational females in my family have been on a variant of “the cleanse” for more than three months and have lost a lot of weight and kept it off so far. They positively glow. I’m still ugly and would chew my arm off if I had to face another 14 days of this food, let alone three months. I know why.

I hate the sheer culinary boredom of veganism. A few years ago I counseled a very good friend that he would kill himself if he kept smoking at the rate he did. He looked at me and said, “How do you want to die?” His response reminded me of a favorite quote from The Wind and the Lion starring Sean Connery. At the climactic moment of the movie, as he and a fellow soldier face almost certain death, Connery’s character asks with a smile, “Is there not one thing in your life that is worth losing everything for?” I have often thought about those questions over the years, and I am proud to say in my life there are a couple of things, maybe even more, worth giving up everything for.