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Maybe I don’t over-plan. I’ve always believed I did and packed more than I would ever need simply because I couldn’t stop asking myself ‘what if’? Wednesday’s retreat proved ‘what if’ can turn into ‘what happened’.

The photo I posted Tuesday didn’t end up being all I took with me. As it came time to depart, I discovered there were more things I wished to pack, just in case. I added tongs and a cast-iron stove top griddle to the back of my vehicle and was I glad I did. Rain fell on my drive up the mountain and I figured a camp fire would be out of the question. It was but not for the reasons I expected. It was pitch dark by the time I arrived at the campsite and the fire pit that was supposed to be there had disappeared. An intense search was made and, while the search was progressing, I hauled out my griddle and cooked my vegan frankfurters on the stove top. I offered up the griddle after I was finished but my meat-eating co-workers were determined to cook their hot dogs over open flame. A fire was kindled in the lodge’s fireplace but a Duraflame log was used: no one wants to eat anything, or would survive eating anything cooked over one of those. At last, defeat admitted, the griddle was put into use.

Once the Duraflame log had been removed, it was possible to roast marshmallows in the fireplace. I quietly roasted my Sweet & Sara vanilla marshmallows and made my smore with my dairy free chocolate. Just one: I had a treat but I was determined to stick to the McDougall diet as close as I could and that meant limiting sugar.

There were several things I packed thinking ‘just in case’. I used all of them. The co-worker who had signed up to bring bagels had family obligations before making the drive up the mountain and it was mid-morning before she arrived. The only other options for breakfast were ring coffee cakes, muffins, and an egg casserole. I was thankful for my packets of Amazing Meal smoothie mix, almond milk, and shaker I’d packed with me. I had a healthy, energizing breakfast and breezed through the retreat.

I used my ‘just in case’ can of beans. Beans were brought but they were cans of basic, unflavored, black and pinto beans. I’d have eaten them if necessary but I had a can of black beans with cumin and chili spices. I heated them through, added my vegan cheese and sour cream, garnished it with salsa and iceburg lettuce, and had taco soup for lunch.

Ultimately, I did not use the items I was sure I would (my vegan cream cheese) and used all of my ‘just in case’ items. My over-planning made the entire day completely stress free. I waited until everyone was done going through the taco line then slipped in and cooked my food; trying to be as unobtrusive about my diet as possible (and, this enabled me to avoid the kitchen as the meat was being heated). The McDougall diet took a couple of steps back. My grapefruit soda had a lot of sugar in it and the coffee Wednesday morning was fully caffeinated. I ended up being grateful for that. I hadn’t slept well at the lodge: I was in a bunk bed that creaked every time I breathed deeply and sleeping bags make me feel like I’m being swallowed by a boa constrictor. With a full day of activities and then an hour a half drive home, I was grateful for the caffeine.

I will say I was fascinated by how quickly my body adapted to the changes of the McDougall diet. Even though I tried to keep my sugar and caffeine intake down-two small cups of coffee only-I could feel I had too much. I had a sugar/caffeine headache by the time I got home and the fresh vegetables in the salad I had for dinner were like ambrosia. But, yesterday was yesterday. I can’t change it. All I can do is start fresh today, literally and figuratively.

One thing I realized is the importance of planning, not only for the vegan diet but to ensure a healthy vegan diet. In a way, I felt like I’d under-planned. There were things I wished I’d brought but didn’t think of until I needed them. Every experience is an opportunity to be learned from and this vegan lifestyle is fluid; altering when alteration finds. I have learned, adapted, and will be better prepared next time!

The second thing I realized is how caring my co-workers are. My veganism was considered when several made their food purchases. Organic tortilla chips and wraps were brought. One co-worker laughed and said she thought of me but wasn’t sure what was part of my diet and what wasn’t. Questions were asked about what I was eating and, yes, jokes were made but nothing mean-spirited. The retreat was team-building: a vegan and meat-eaters in one of the oldest bonding rituals of eating together. There was wary interest in my substitutions and surprise that a vegan dessert could be as amazing as it was without eggs and dairy. Who knows? Maybe the word ‘vegan’ isn’t so scary now that I’ve shown I don’t live on tofu and grass and that my lifestyle doesn’t mean I go without fun and fabulous food.