Let’s talk about health.
Dear Curious Readers,
I’m going to take this question regarding health as it relates to diet. Let’s rewind back to 2011/2012 when my own journey with diet exploration first began. I was a server at a popular downtown restaurant, and I had a couple of work friends at the time who were going vegetarian so I tagged along. I also watched a couple of documentaries about food & the food industry, which really catapulted me into this big undertaking. A switch turned ON in my mind, and I was committed. I began researching, experimenting, and making different purchases at the grocery store.
When I started this journey with food, I decided to become a vegetarian (which means I no longer ate any meat or fish, but I did still eat dairy, like milk & cheese). An early 20-something with no culinary know-how, I made impressive meals such as egg & cheese bagel sandwiches and nutella & peanut butter sandwiches. Top chef quality stuff. Crepes were also a favorite… again with loads of nutella. It didn’t have meat in it so I was on track and feelin’ good about it. I experimented some here and there, but my palate more or less remained like that of a 12-year old. This is the first time I’m admitting this publicly, but I had never even eaten a salad up until this point. Like ever in my life. Maybe I should’ve started by saying that before making this switch, I wasn’t the healthiest eater. Gimme steak, fried chicken, potatoes in any form, and chocolate. Salad? No thanks. Parsley on top of my pasta? Hell to the no. So even though I was eating egg and cheese bagel sandwiches for basically every meal and forcing down a salad only every now and then, it was a big freaking deal. I remained vegetarian for a couple of years. I guess I’m a little more disciplined than I give myself credit for.
After some pretty serious soul searching coupled with watching a few gut wrenching documentaries (you know the kind), I made up my mind to go full vegan (meaning I still avoided meat, but now I also avoided dairy & any other animal products). I was the entitled kind, too. “You eat meat & cheese?” *thinks “Are you heartless?”* I thought it was my job to educate people (often unwilling individuals who got roped into convo about food) about the ethical issues behind consuming meat and dairy. I’m half joking about how annoying I was during that time, but kind of not. Anyway, I got off my high horse eventually and tried to keep my dietary concerns to myself. I tried my hand at cooking because at this time it was extremely difficult to eat out while following a vegan diet. One of the best things that has come out of my journey with food so far is that I’ve learned to cook for myself. I found that I actually loved it and even had a knack for it. I was vegan for about a year or so. By this time I was pretty extreme with my diet. I had green juices all the time and ate very strictly vegan. I remember one time my grandmother gave me her leftovers from a restaurant where she had had lunch. I asked her if she was sure it was totally vegan. She assured me it was. As I studied for an upcoming test, I ate her leftover soup. A few bites in I realized it had a weird taste. I started to freak out and called the restaurant to ask exactly what was in the soup. Sure enough, it was made with chicken stock. I lost my shit. I was so flustered that I almost missed my test. I explained to my teacher what had happened, and he just looked at me like I was a whackadoodle. Anyway, I was into it. Just trust me.
After a while though, I started noticing that I was tired, my hair was thinning, and I just didn’t have the energy I used to. I wasn’t a lazy vegan. I did all the right things, but my body was missing some vital nutrients. I made peace with my ethical concerns and slowly began eating fish again. For a while, I fluctuated back and forth between eating some animal products and then feeling a heavy guilt and running back to being a strict vegan. One day, and I remember this day well, I just felt like I needed some meat. For whatever reason, something in me was screaming for red meat. I went to Whole Foods and got a freshly made burger & sweet potato fries and went to my car to chow down. The first bite in I felt strength return to my body. I felt like I was morphing into a superhero. And I loved the meat. There’s something so primal about tearing into red meat. Stark contrast, I know. For those of you who don’t eat animal products, please take a breath. I get it. Trust me I do. I was convinced I’d never eat meat again. And for some people that works perfectly well with their body, their needs, and their blood type.
After experimenting for many years, I’ve accepted the fact that some people need a little animal protein. I can absolutely say I’m healthier & I thrive on a little meat. Eight years later, and I’m now eating for me. No fads, no judgment, just paying attention to what works and what doesn’t. Everyone says it and it’s so true— different things work for different people. And I think certain foods suit a person better at different periods in their life, so it can look different for each person over a lifetime. What works for me right now is: some meat (almost always organic/grass-fed), no grains, and very little sugar & dairy (the occasional goat cheese on a salad, but that’s about it). I’ve also been in the process of healing from illness, so this is what works for me right now, but in 2 years or 10 years it might be different. And I’m open to that. I’m committed to listening to what my body needs every step of the way. And that’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned from all of this. Don’t adopt a diet because someone you look up to on social media says it’s the bee’s knees. I mean try various things, but only you know if it’s right for you or not. Listen to that. Trust yourself because you know best. I don’t regret any part of my journey with food so far because I’ve learned how to cook delicious, healthy meals for myself; I’ve switched to organic/better quality foods; and I’ve developed an intimate relationship with food that wasn’t present before. I bless every meal before I eat it. I try my best to eat mindfully.
If you feel guilt around what you’re putting in your mouth, you might take some time to reflect & reevaluate. If you knew you were going to die in a year, would you eat differently than you do now? I absolutely believe a healthy balance can be found between eating for pleasure & enjoyment and eating foods that are nourishing for your body & mind. What does that balance look like for you? Are you still searching for that balance? What is your relationship with food? What are you struggling with right now? This is a place to be vulnerable & support each other. Share your story in the comments below!
Lots of Love,