In years past, I would have waited until the New Year to change my diet. What’s one more month of decadence and debauchery in the grand scheme of things, I’d reason. It’s the holidays. I want to enjoy them. With my mouth.
This year, as you know, I decided to adopt a whole foods vegan diet about a month prior to Christmas. Intelligent people would advise against this for obvious reasons. Namely: that cheese plate is not going to devour itself. You have RESPONSIBILITIES.
On top of that, we were traveling to see family this year. Did I really feel like explaining my food choices at every gathering? Would people feel like they had to go out of their way to accommodate me? Would they be inwardly smirking, thinking this won’t last long. I bet she starts giving that gingerbread man mouth to mouth in 3 … 2 … 1 … And what does a plant-based vegan eat at gas stations and fast food joints during a 17-hour car ride? And also? Pizza.
Paper hearts fly out of my eyeballs when I see pizza. And there was delicious, beautiful pizza on this trip. This whole plantsy shmantsy craziness was just ILL. ADVISED.
But I did it anyway.
I did it because I wanted to enjoy the time—not just the food. And it’s hard for me to enjoy the time when I just broke my pants.
I did it because I wanted to wake up every day feeling healthy and comfortable in my own skin. As opposed to lethargic and ashamed and vaguely suicidal.
I did it because I have no off-switch when it comes to food, unless that food is whole food. (Of course, with plant-based whole foods, you don’t really need an off switch. You can knock yourself out – it’s all good.)
I look at it this way:
If I were addicted to alcohol, and alcohol was destroying my physical and emotional health, people would encourage me to stop drinking.
If I were addicted to drugs, people would tell me to stop taking drugs.
No one ever suggests you shoot heroin in moderation. But with food, moderation is the message from on high—and it doesn’t work. Not for me.
When you’re addicted to something, moderation is deprivation. You’re deprived of the ability to fully enjoy food because you know you’ll either have to stop before you’re satisfied or suffer the painful consequences of overindulgence.
Knowing (as I do with a plant-based diet) that I can eat until I’m totally satisfied and improve my health at the same time is liberating. It doesn’t feel like restriction. It feels like freedom. And it’s life changing.
I may not be bouncing off the walls with glee about the way my thighs are shaped (like liberty bells, if we’re sticking with the freedom theme), but I can far more readily accept my body’s natural state if I know that this really IS its natural state.
In addition, the research I’ve been reading has convinced me that a plant-based vegan diet is the healthiest way to eat, not to mention more humane. (The China Study, in particular, is a book with no agenda other than to save lives – and it demonstrates an undeniable link between animal products, heart disease, and cancer. I highly recommend it if you’re interested in learning more.)
And a plant-based diet is not just salads, I swear.
I’ve turned sweet potatoes into raw noodles with peanut sauce, made raw brownies out of dates and nuts and cacao (that Gus and Larry both LOVED); last night I made “chicken” tikka masala with tofu and chick peas, and Larry asked me to make it again today. There’s STUFF, is what I’m saying. And it’s really good stuff. Tasty and satisfying and totally worth the effort.
There were foods I thought I could never live without (CHEESE! for example), until I realized I wasn’t really living with them. I always had this nagging feeling when I was eating these foods that I was putting my life and health on hold.
This post brings to mind a moment in The Likeness (an awesome suspense novel by Tana French I just finished over the break) when the shit has hit the fan and the story's antagonist recalls the Spanish proverb: “Take what you want and pay for it, says God.”
That feels more powerful than saying "everything comes with a price". It puts the decision in your hands. Take what you want. And pay for it.
For me the total cost of eating the old way is finally coming into focus.
The cost to my health—both physical and emotional.
The cost to the environment.
The cost to the cows and chickens and piggies.
Add it all up, and I can’t afford it.
Bringing a vegan dish to a dinner party so the host doesn’t have to worry about feeding me, or ordering a salad at a pizza place and having to explain why I won’t have one tiny little piece, or listening patiently to lectures about how I need to get more protein from people who think vegetables are “weird” … these are much smaller prices to pay.
So that’s my story as I head into 2014, and (holy bananas!) I’m sticking to it.
What's in store for you?