Friday, January 2, 2015

Going "Food-is-my-Medicine"

(this blog is self-sufficient, but can be read as part 2 of the housesitting blog.  Here's part 1 and part 3)

Noooo animal products!!! Yippee!! I suppose you could call me a vegan, but you know, i really don’t enjoy the label of this.  It’s too loaded, and it seems to automatically create an idea in some people’s heads. Plus I’m learning there are lots of ‘vegan‘ products that still really aren’t that great for you. Really, what I am is just someone eating what feels GREAT in my body, right in my mind, and happy in my heart and belly!!! I’ve become a 'food-is-my-medicine’ eater :).  But for ease of this conversation, we’ll just say I’ve gone vegan :). 

That happened unintentionally, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ve been a vegetarian for 3+ months now, although I have been toying with it for years. The no-meat seed was planted during my worldwide travels where many places vegetarianism was the norm, and it was especially highlighted by my I-want-to-try-snake experience in Vietnam (but couldn’t- read here!) ;). After that, I wussed out on going full bore, finding that for convenience I would still eat meat but rarely bought it. 

Interestingly enough, I think I’m a natural born vegetarian. My whole life I’ve had a hard time eating food that actually looked like an animal (hence the snake story). I can clearly identify that our culture is good at disassociating where our food actually comes from before it lands on our plates.  I once returned a lobster at a fancy restaurant that came in it’s shell, too grossed out to peel it (but of course devoured it when the waiter brought it back just as a chunk of meat).  For as long as I can remember, the only way i could eat chicken was in breast form... if it was a drumstick I got grossed out by the ability to see veins and tendons and such, and I wouldn’t touch a wing with a pole.  And the most telling contradiction? Pigs! Them being my favorite animal, I thought full-pork roasts were horrid, yet I’d eat bacon! Talk about double standard! 

Obviously there was something off there.  SO then, something super interesting happened.  I was happily going along with my vegetarianism, but was still having issues with my tummy (that's going on years now).  I decided to totally detox and see what was up, even went to a food allergy specialist. I ate nothing but veggies, nuts and seeds for over two weeks... and the only times I had issues I had eaten milk or eggs! Then I saw the food specialist and he informed me that chicken eggs are one of the top 8 allergenic foods??? Did you know that?? Whoa!!! 

That makes sooooo much sense!! In my flirting w/ vegetarianism over the years, I’ve devoured eggs, utilizing them as my main source of protein (a whole nother issue up for debate).  But here’s the most interesting part:  More and more recently, I was having to put up a mental block in order to eat eggs.  I’d starting thinking about the fact that this is a fetus, and getting grossed out!  I’d think about that little white connection piece as the umbilical cord and visualize a sweet little baby chick!  So, in order to bypass that thought, I'd started buying the cartons of egg beaters instead!   Now how ridiculous is that?? More separation from where our food actually comes from!!!  

SOOO, when the doc said I should give up eggs for a test, I was THRILLED at the prospect, the excuse, the opportunity!!! I was already without milk, and figured I might as well go vegan... .and it’s been fabulous!!!! Plus no refined sugar and no white grains means= I’m superrrr skinny!  Bonus side effect! I was at 174lbs at my highest in September (after the summer of gluttony), and now I’m right around 154! Yay! 

For me going “plant-based and whole” was a combo of multiple things: 

1) Learning more and more about the connections between our diet and our diseases (watch Forks over Knives and Hungry for Change-- life changing documentaries!). Finally listening to the philosophy that keeps popping into my life: that food is our medicine and almost everything that ails us can be fixed by our diet and exercise.   
2) Making a stand against animal cruelty in factory farms, as well as believing we take on bits of what that animal felt, the chemicals they are fed, and the caged life they led.  If I was ever to eat meat again (which i don't plan to), it would have to be humanely-raised (and that personally verified).
3) I’m tired of my stomach hurting. I don't want chemicals in my body anymore, and I’ve been feeling sooo much better since going this route! I was talking to a neighbor who is a big agriculture guy. He told me a horror story, that back before they switched to organic it was the norm to put harsh chemicals on the crops. He said a cow accidentally licked the pesticides they put on the crops one time, and it dropped over dead in a few minutes!! Ackkkk!!! No thanks! 
4) It’s DELICIOUS!  There are sooo many great recipes online (another reason I couldn’t turn off the wifi).  Here's some of my favs: Spinach Soup, roasted califlower, and zucchini pasta with avocado-cucumber sauce! YUM!  
5.) Eating fresh produce is like a game for me (and i love games): What can last the longest? Anything going bad soon? What can I make from these last few things? What can I make extra of and freeze for to-go lunches? How can I not waste one thing :)??! 
6.)  Your tastebuds change.  I made a sweet pumpkin recipe for christmas that called for maple syrup AND medjool dates.  I simply eliminated the syrup and it was still delicious!! They say it takes 3 weeks to break a habit. I am PUMPED to feel like I've passed the hump of my usually insatiable sweet teeth :).
7.) Playing with spices and foods I’d never heard about or knew what to do with. This was another bonus of housesitting... they had all sorts of spices to play with :). I even started getting experimental, adding this or that and playing with ingredients. That is sooooo satisfying for someone who is just getting their legs in the kitchen! Fun! 
8.) I went through FIVE gallon size canisters of compost in the 4 weeks I was cabin-sitting. That feels great: Less garbage, more fertilizer :)
9.) It can seem more expensive, especially going organic as well, but I’ve tracked my spending just to see. I spent $289 on groceries in December, which included a lot of staples like oils and spices and such. For one person, that’s about $10/day. Not too bad! I’d much rather spend more on good food than thousands on doctors and disease and prescription drugs! 

We didn't cook in our house growing up, and I've nearly always felt incompetent in the kitchen.  Food came from a box and was ready in 5 minutes or less. Just cooking in general seemed overwhelming through most of my 20's. But just like anything, it's about practice and confidence!! The more I get in there, the more i enjoy it and feel more comfy!! In the last few years, I've learned a lot about nutrition, and have been exposed to plant-based eating at all the ashrams I've stayed at.  THIS was the trick for me: exposure. The simplicity and lip-smacking goodness of vegetables was a revelation!!  

My favorite added bonus of eating well? I feel like my physical body is on it’s way to catching up with my super thriving mental body :).  Yes!  Every single time I've settled down for a bit, I've started eating well. And then every time I've gone back to traveling, it's back to bad habits. It's no wonder I'm craving some structure! I'm so ready to have full-body synchronicity :).  

In conclusion,  I am not a diehard advocate, and feel no desire to condemn meat-eaters. I'm far from an expert and am not immune to a relapse to junk (although will fight it tooth and nail).  I'm simply a promoter of listening to your body, and mine was talking to me!!  I think the root of so many of our bad eating habits comes from lack of knowledge and experience… at least mine did! If you, like me, have felt like you can’t control your cravings and what you put in your mouth, be weary of the addictive ingredients of processed foods!!  

Here's a "Plant-strong" resource that seems excellent :) 

A lil' food humor for you. I do love mushrooms :) 

(Click here to go to part 3 of the housesitting blog:  "Lessons learned from a puppy Dog")

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