Monday, December 2, 2013

The Pains of Being Pure at Stomach (Not a band, but a reality)

A look of shock came over his face when I explained why I couldn't eat the green beans he lovingly prepared for the buffet.
"You're allergic to pork?!" he exclaims in disbelief. "I have never heard of that!" What I said registers in his brain. "That means you can't have --"
"I know! Bacon. I can't have bacon. It's a travesty. I'm well aware." I cut him off. I know what he's going to say next.
"Or --"
"Sausage. Ham. Pork chops. Pork rinds. Refried beans. Anything cooked in lard. Anything at the restaurant Bacon."
"I would rather die than be allergic to pork."
"I'm actually really happy. Thanks!"

Imagine this same conversation all. the freaking. time.

A few months ago, I gave up sugar completely because I have an addiction. [Insert previous conversation here, substituting sugar and various confections.] When I consume sugar, it feeds a chronic medical condition I was diagnosed with at 13, and it also makes me feel suicidal if I over consume. Since I've been sugar-free for a few months, my thoughts are the clearest they've been in a long time, and I no longer consider suicide as an option when I emotionally reach dark places. In fact, I hit rock bottom right after I went off sugar, and I believe fighting through my addiction AND the pain of everything crumbling around me was a huge part of what helped me survive the most difficult time of my life. During that time, I was very conscious of my thought processes, and I said to myself, "Wait a minute. I don't want to take my life right now... HOLY CRAP!!!! THAT IS AWESOME!" Clarity, prayer, good friends and family, and a few extra counseling sessions were what I relied on during that time, but the sugar was long gone, and I am proud to say I slayed the shit out of that dragon. 

Now, I've moved on to a new journey as my birthday challenge. I'm adopting a plant-based diet, at least for the next 90 days. I do foresee it becoming my lifestyle. I wanted to challenge myself to commit for 3 months to the full extent. I may add fish and lean, "ethical" meats back into my diet at a later date. I have tried many times to successfully adopt this way of eating, but I failed for a number of reasons. The main one is really silly but it is true: I get tired of upsetting/inconveniencing people by the way that I eat. 

Being meat-free can be painstakingly isolating at times. Yes, I'm aware that I make my own choices and that choosing not to do something because of what someone else thinks is a people-pleasing, co-dependent mentality. And honestly, I get really tired of having to explain myself. People get soooo argumentative over food! It's difficult to eat clean even when you're consuming meat, so that is magnified when one tries to eat clean AND cut the meat out altogether. Texas, much like Georgia, is the land of barbecue and pork and all things animal-derived, it seems. While most people are cool with whatever you want to put in your body, there are still people who shun the idea of someone not consuming meat, and a few of them are very close to home. For example, one of my best friends would never date a vegetarian. (Enjoy dating in Austin, friend!) One of my other best friends almost vomits at the thought of something edible not having an ingredient with an animal-derived product in it. ("Vegan cupcake?!" *throws it at the wall*) One time, I told one of my uncles about a restaurant that served very convincing meat-looking soy protein. "If I didn't know, I wouldn't have thought it was fake!" I said. His response was, "I wouldn't have thought it was food!" Cool. Thanks for your support. (Sarcasm.)

Not everyone is like that, of course. (Shout out to my Aunt Kathie for being the first food-weirdo in my family! I love your little vegetarian self for taking one for the team!) I actually do have a ton of support from most of my family and friends because we've all been on some sort of off-beat eating plan. Collectively, we've tried Weight Watchers, Atkins, Sugar Busters, South Beach (I actually support this diet for the most part.), Suzanne Somers, Susan Powter, HCG shots (Not a fan. Needles scare me.), Mayo Clinic Diet, Slim Fast (Throwback, y'all!), shakes, juice (I win this category all on my own!), meat-only for 2 weeks then veggies-only for 2, rinse and repeat... You name it, my family (Myself alone!) has tried it, and we support each other the best we can, even if we disagree. [Read: HCG was scary to pretty much all of us except for those doing it, obviously.] 

My parents were actually inspired by the film "Forks Over Knives" to adopt a plant-based diet as well, and they did GREAT! It lasted for about 6 months, and my hat is totally off to them. My dad was super committed and bought plant-based nutrition books for all of his friends who had medical conditions, explaining to them what he had learned, and enabling them to take their health into their own hands and turn off cancer genes. I highly doubt any of them read those books, but I am so proud of his enthusiasm and his willingness to lead his friends to healing. My mom was reluctant at first, but even she started to actually get excited about eating vegetables and how she felt on the new eating plan. I think they ran into the same issues that I've experienced, but worse for them is that they don't live in Austin where nutrient-rich foods are widespread and easily available, and I would be surprised if the restaurants they went to in South Georgia would let them in their establishments if they uttered the word "vegan." There is no community where they live, that they know of, and it just got hard for them. Their commitment, although brief, inspired me to keep going. When I told them that I was going to strictly adhere to a vegan diet diet for the next 90 days, I was encouraged, and I'm sticking with that.

I do not like complaining, and that isn't what I'm trying to do here. Maybe this will bring to light some of the issues we herbivores face. (This post doesn't even touch on cruelty-free reasons for going vegan. I commend those who are outward about their views. I support you!) What I guess it all comes down to is this: I'm not asking anyone to change their ways. I may make educated suggestions if someone is constantly complaining about something and seem to be asking for advice. That's what I would do with any situation, really. I may share how this new way of eating has been beneficial for me. However, I'm not holding a gun to anyone's head, saying, "You better only eat plants or your grandma gets it!" It's called having a conversation, and for whatever reason, it really offends people when I talk about what I eat. 

So, I decided to not give a shit anymore about what others think. That should have been my attitude from the get-go, however, one of my top needs has been acceptance since I can remember, and that is a really difficult attitude to have when you've been a people-pleaser your whole life. Thankfully, I'm on this new plane of self-acceptance. It feels good to a) accept myself fully from the inside out, b) get creative with my new lifestyle and food choices because I love to cook and make beautiful food, and c) eat nutrient-dense, healing foods that make me feel like a shiny unicorn floating on a double rainbow with cotton candy colored clouds! Some people see vegetarians/pescetarians/vegans/non-meat consumers as weak, and those people can suck it. 

I choose to be plant-strong. I choose to eat for my highest self. I choose to heal my body - for good.