It was February when I decided to go green. Since then, I have experienced the helpful bounty of my summer gardens, as well as several holidays, birthdays, and many other food-fueled occasions.
There has been innumerable choices to make as to what I will eat – many choices heavily stacked with temptations of foods past. Spoiler alert: I survived all of it with my dietary transition intact.
Before I address where I am with food today, let’s get a few things out of the way first, in the spirit of full transparency. In the past 7 months, the following things have happened:
- I have eaten meat, once or twice
- I have eaten eggs and cheese, a handful of times
- I have eaten goodies full of unnatural sugars and dairy, probably too many times
I am okay with all of these things. The rate of these occurrences, versus the rate of plant-based eating, is extremely slight. As I mentioned in my post earlier this week, absolute words like always, never, and forever have been banned from my personal vocabulary. I realized that these words have no place in the framework of my personal decisions and goals, dietary or otherwise. I am eating plant-based, not always plants – and not never animal products, or byproducts. The articulation of this whole topic continues to be a challenge, but I digress.
LESSONS & REALIZATIONS
Each step I have taken throughout this transition has brought to light many interesting developments. The most valuable lesson I have learned is the power of drastically changing things up, and constantly testing new approaches, when it comes to food. I know full well the value of trying new things; in 2010 I did something new, every single day, for the entire year, and it was incredible (a story for another time). But new hobbies and experiences are one thing – implementing an entirely new lifestyle is quite another.
I never knew that cutting out meat, dairy, eggs, and sugar meant eradicating digestive discomfort and issues, because I never tried those approaches. Digestive issues just seemed like a normal part of life, and I was quite resistant to nixing anything from my plate entirely. I never really tried any approaches beyond trying to control my weight by adjusting portion sizes, or haphazardly trying to create a caloric balance through restriction/purging, or exercise. Making a drastic shift in the way I eat, and going lengths of time without certain foods, opened up a whole new world of figuring out the specific needs of my body. My endless quest to figure out how I can best function physically, mentally, and spiritually, by custom tailoring my nutrition, continues to be a rewarding experiment.
I have also realized that nutrition is just one aspect within an extremely important trio that also includes stress management, and movement. If I am merely eating well, but not exercising or resolving stress in my life, then it’s all for nothing. All three aspects have to be in balance, and it’s a constant juggling act, given the unpredictability and busy nature of everyday life. The pursuit is worth the persistence, however, as I have experienced the life-altering benefits of focusing my energy on cultivating that harmony.
ETHICS & THE CURRENT STATE OF AFFAIRS
My plant-based transition has been heavily influenced by the current state of the world, most importantly how the meat and seafood industries are the planet’s leading cause of destruction. I never thought that emotions would weigh so heavily on what I eat, but my pursuit of knowledge on the subject has opened Pandora’s box, and affects my conscience daily. I am dedicated to doing what I can to improve the way the world is currently operating, which at times feels impossible. But by continuing to grow my own food, share what I have learned, and drastically reducing the amount of animal products and byproducts that enter my home to almost none, I feel empowered.
In an effort to further my understanding of how plant-based diets can succeed, I am pursuing a certificate in plant-based nutrition. On tap for this winter, I am going to dive deep into the world of truly understanding this lifestyle. Just as with yoga, I knew I needed structured education, and the collaboration which that pursuit brings, to take my practice to the next level. There was only so much I could learn and understand on my own, and that goes for plant-based nutrition as well. I look forward to more breakthroughs and discoveries, and sharing what I learn here.
WHERE I AM TODAY
The balance of eating plant-based in a way that works for me is still very much in flux. I am paying close attention to the nuances that certain foods provide in terms of energy level, sleep patterns, moods, and overall clarity of mind. It is an intricate puzzle that is unique to me, and continues to be enlightening, empowering, and confounding all at the same time. As I continue to move through menopause, and experience mysterious, lingering side effects from my cancer treatments, each day brings to light new discoveries and challenges.
I will continue to champion the power of paying attention to what you’re putting in to your body, and how those choices are affecting your overall health, and the health of our world. Plant-based is not the answer for many, many people. Some of the best advice I have heard over the past 7 months is to simply shut out all advice, and really focus on my own body, and what it’s telling me. Plant-based has been the most successful dietary transition for me, to date, but I am always open to the fluidness of nutrition, especially when it comes to the needs of my own body. I am eager to continue my commitment to this transition, which is quickly becoming my new foundation.
IN CLOSING, A FEW THOUGHTS:
- The challenge of becoming someone with specific dietary limitations has become less of a “thing.” Everyone in my life understands, is on board, and works with me to support my decisions. I couldn’t be happier about that, given the initial fears of self-alienating myself.
- As with any major life shift, time has eased the difficulties and temptations. Sugar is the gnarliest beast that I still wrestle with, everything else is hardly missed at all.
- If you’re local, B52 is your plant-powered Pittsburgh paradise!
P.S. Thinking about going Plant-Based? Check out my 15 Steps for Making the Transition.