On food, and listening to my bossy body

Last week, I mentioned my eating habits — basically, the fact that I’m a dairy-free vegetarian who only eats local backyard hen eggs.  I also noted that I was going to cut gluten from my diet because I had come to understand that it was upsetting my body – and it’s important to listen to your body.

My body has been pretty talkative lately, ever since she realized that I listen to her more.  We’ve been chatting a lot.

My body wants to exercise more. I feel a real craving to do it.  I have yet to muster the motivation to go to the gym more than once a week, but even once is better than people on the couch, as they say.  I’m a work in progress, but I want to go.  I feel amazing when I go work out.

My body wants more greens.  Not liking salads, I bought a blender and I’ve been making green smoothies.  I feel energetic and overall healthier because of the increased vegetable consumption.  If you are afraid of green smoothies — I was too! The secret is to blend the greens with the liquid first, and then add the other ingredients.  Get the spinach, kale, or whatever greens you’re using really pulverized with the liquid (juice, almond milk, whatever) and then add more stuff.  My favorite so far is: Spinach, vanilla almond milk, frozen pineapple, and cucumber.

My body is open-minded about trying new foods.  I made roasted beets.  Delicious.  I made roasted acorn squash. NOT DELICIOUS.  You might like it. I don’t. I gave it a good try.  I am going to try and turn it into a soup.  But I am not optimistic.  Something about the acorn squash does not agree with my body, and I like to listen to her now!

My body has recently told me to stop being a vegetarian.

Ever since reading about the amazing healing properties of some good old-fashioned bone broth, my body has continually whispered, “Hey, you should buy a chicken. We should try that out.  Make some broth, yeah? Yeah.”

So last night, I bought a chicken.  It’s a cage-free, humanely-raised, not-antibiotic-fed, not-given-hormones chicken.  I asked a lot of questions, and the very nice lady at the Earth Fare meat counter answered them all, to the result that I felt really good about my decision to buy a chicken that had had a pretty decent life.

I am not totally opposed to meat.  I realize that we have pointy teeth for a reason, that we evolved to eat an omnivore’s diet.  I believe that animal proteins offer some nutrients that we cannot effectively get from plant sources without supplementing.  I believe that some people thrive on a vegan diet while others feel very sick, and the same is true of a diet with meat.  Everybody is different, and every body is different.

What I am opposed to is animal abuse.  Chickens should not have their beaks cut off or be stuffed into tiny cages.  Pigs should be able to move around.  Animals should be able to live a decent life.  I do not want to eat any animal that was treated poorly while it was alive.  Animals are deserving of our respect and appreciation, whether or not we consume them for sustenance.

 

While my body was fine with this plant-based diet for the past year of being vegan-except-eggs, now my body needs something else, and I think occasional (ethical) meat and regular servings of bone broth are what it needs.  I think the veganism was a reboot for my body, as I learned about healthier foods.  Now I’m ready to begin re-introducing meat again.

Cutting gluten is a big change, and one that requires me to re-learn how to cook and eat.  It used to be so simple to just have a sandwich or make some pasta or heat up a veggie burger or frozen dinner… but now, I have to be aware of everything, moreso than when I was vegetarian. When you have a gluten intolerance and resulting intestinal permeability, eating the tiniest amount of gluten can cause a flare up and hurt your whole body.  Gluten sensitivity/intolerance is linked to autoimmune disorders, arthritis, and joint pain.  I didn’t believe it until I ate a huge bowl of whole-wheat pasta and two slices of bread for dinner one night, followed by insane pain in my knees the next day.  The inflammation was apparent, and that is the moment I knew going gluten-free was something I wanted to do for my health.

I realize that some friends and readers may be disappointed by this decision.  Some may even think it a betrayal of sorts.  To this end, I must point you to Alex Jamieson’s blog post, “I’m not vegan anymore,” which says all the things I want to say about compassion and health and being kind.

I also want to add that, regarding ANYTHING – any topic at all, whether it is about nutrition or medicine or politics or movies you like – when you talk to others who disagree with you, it is important to be kind and compassionate.  When you attack people, they will not listen to you. We must approach everything from a place of openness and knowledge and help people find the truth they need.

Some people’s truth is that they only eat plants.  Some people’s truth changes.  My truth, right now, is to make some bone broth.

Special note: I say a brief word of thanks to the chickens who lay my eggs every time I eat the eggs, and I will continue this practice to thank the animals I consume for nourishment.  It’s important for me to stay grounded in the circle of life.  When I die, I’m going to be a tree!

 

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What’s in a label?

I’m not talking about food labels.  I’m talking about people labels.  Life’s little hashtags that allow people to put us into boxes in their organized waffle-brains.  I’m going to discuss a few areas of life in which those of us out of the mainstream are viewed as weird, strange, or abnormal.

Food habits:

I am vegan once I leave the house.  At home, I eat local pasture-raised eggs, zero dairy, and zero meat.  I am vaguely considering adding the occasional meat product, but only ethically-raised meat.  I avoid GMOs and buy organic groceries.  I’m preparing to cut gluten from my diet after realizing that when I eat it, it makes me hurt.  I am learning to listen to my body.

Raise your hands if you just thought something like “That sounds like a bunch of froo-froo hippie crap” or similar. Veganism is not the norm. It’s more common than in years prior, but it still gets questions.  On top of that, try adding a gluten-free diet!  People just freak out. “What are you going to eat?!” “Uh, vegetables. Try them, they are good for you, and they don’t come in a box.”

Before I go to a restaurant, I have to look up the menu online and see if anything is vegan.  I also try to avoid soy and corn because of GMOs.  Now that I’m going gluten free, eating out will be nearly impossible.  Hooray, challenges!  They make us stronger, right? Right?  Whatever, I’m going to Chipotle (and ignoring the soybean oil because even I have to have a line somewhere.  I have also been known to demolish corn chips at Mexican restaurants.  I’m not perfect, okay?).

Here’s an example of how my ordering usually goes:

Hi, sorry, mine’s going to be annoying, I’m a craaazy vegan!  I’ll have the spaghetti (listed in the menu as spaghetti and meatballs, with cheese), without any meatballs or cheese – just noodles and sauce.  And the garlic toast, and do you know if any of the salad dressings are vegan?  Okay, no salad, I just won’t worry about it.

Another recent dining experience:

Prior to ordering, I was lamenting the fact that this restaurant had a vegan burger but not a vegan bun.  That just seemed stupid to me.  I wondered aloud if I could just get the burger without the bun.  My dining partner said, “Or you could just deal with it this once.”

The pressure to just stop being a crazy psycho vegan hippie was enough to make me just eat the damn bun.  I got sick, but I lack evidence to say it was really the bun. It might have been the greasy fries.  Sorry, body.

When I introduce myself in situations as a “dirty hippie,” or a “crazy vegan,” or a “crunchy granola freak,” even in jest or to break the mood, I am putting forward a bad image of myself.  Dirty. Crazy. Freak. These are all negative words.

If I don’t eat meat, eggs, or milk at a restaurant, I can ask for the vegan options without making a joke at my own expense to make the server feel better about having to serve me.  I am 100% sure there are pickier customers out there.  When it comes down to it, I’m pretty easy.  Now that gluten is on my chopping block, things will get more complicated (and may result in fewer restaurant outings, sorry friends).

Now if only I can get Chipotle to stop dropping other people’s cheese in the guacamole.  Seriously.  Join me on this brief diversion from my point:

chipotle correct

Correct placement of burrito when placing cheese on top. Directly in front of the cheese container.

chipotle incorrect

Sometimes they move the burrito in front of the guacamole, and then put the cheese on. This results in cheese falling into the guacamole, which makes me a very sassy lactose-intolerant vegan. (All acceptable labels).

Back to my point:

Those of us with dietary restrictions, whether self-imposed or medically necessary, should own them.  Ask your questions and order your meal the way you want it without apology.

Some tips:

  1. Print a list of your dietary restrictions for the chef to read, including cross-contamination concerns (i.e., if you order rice pasta, make a note not to boil it in the wheat pasta water)
  2. Do your homework before you go out.  There are a lot of gluten-free and vegan dining websites that can help you find a diet-restriction-friendly restaurant.  Check out restaurant websites for the online menu and allergen information
  3. Dine with patient, supportive people.  Someone telling you to just deal with it and eat the bun is not going to help the situation.  It is stressful to handle dietary restrictions in your own kitchen, let alone in a restaurant.  Sure, a vegan can compromise on a dubious bun, but if someone had an allergy, they wouldn’t have that freedom.
  4. If you have food allergies, bring your medication/epi-pen just in case.

Personal care

I don’t use commercial shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, or toothpaste.  I smell and look like a normal human!  (I may still be figuring out the deodorant, to be perfectly honest; experiment #1 did not go smoothly… literally).

Consider the following explanations:

  1.  I don’t use shampoo, because I’m a dirty hippie freak.
  2. I don’t use shampoo, because shampoos contain a lot of questionable chemical ingredients and I don’t want them in my body.

I have used both of these explanations.  One of them is detrimental to my cause.  If I want others to consider the implications of slathering themselves with chemical ingredients, I need to frame my explanations with an educational and health-conscious perspective.  I can’t just say, “I’m a dirty hippie,” because (a) I am not dirty and (b) unless YOU want to identify as a dirty hippie (which I am sure you don’t), you won’t even listen to my explanation of why (insert commercial product here) is bad for you.  It’s all about presentation.

Medicine

I think medication is seriously over-prescribed.  I focus on natural healing and nutrition over medication, and I feel much better for it.  I have not gotten sick all winter, and I haven’t had any medications in months and months.  I’m happy with it, and I’m happy to talk to people about it.

Shopping

The minimalist in me doesn’t shop much anyway, and the environmentalist in me wants to shop used.  I do confess that I bought a blender on Amazon for $60 because I couldn’t find a used one that met my criteria.  I’m a really picky eco-minimalist I guess.  My Christmas list included “cloth napkins, from Goodwill is fine” so I really don’t require “new” to be satisfied.  This goes against the grain of so many people’s inclinations that it stands out and gets questions.  Instead of  the tried-and-untrue “Oh, I’m a tree-hugger and MALLS ARE EVIL,” next time I’ll try a little “It’s better for my bank account and the environment to try and buy things used first!”  It might get some better feedback.

Be proud!

If you differ from the mainstream in any way, celebrate it.  Don’t apologize for it.

Be awesome, like this mom whose photo showed up in my Facebook feed:

Not_Me

Stop pinning, start doing

We live in age where knowledge about nearly everything is at our fingertips.  We are plugged in and constantly connected, and “I don’t know how” is no longer a valid excuse for anything.  If you can type it into Google, you can learn it.

I recently made myself a degree from the University of Google to display on my wall.  I think I have learned more from Google than I did at college.  I don’t have a problem with that.

I have noticed, however, the phenomenon of learning without follow-through.

Pinterest is the most obvious offender.  On Pinterest, you can soak up a ton of information in the form of pictures and links and recipes and how-to guides, stick them on a board (perhaps entitled “Craft ideas” or “DIY” or “Recipes” or “Must do this!”), and then never, ever look at them again.  I am guilty of this.

For instance, the following pins are ones that I pin with the intent to read later and execute but then forget about:

But look! These are things I have actually utilized:

Some other pins are things I can’t follow through on until I have a house or kids, so those are okay to wait on.

I’m making a new goal to learn something new, or follow through on some project, each month. In this age of information, there is no excuse not to learn something new!

What have you learned lately?

Some thoughts on food

As we minimize the clutter in our spaces and minds, shouldn’t we also minimize the clutter in our food?

I’m pretty much over eating anything I can’t pronounce.

I had heard about these “GMOs” that have had people up in arms in recent months and years, but only recently have I done more digging and come up with the conclusion that I’d like to lead an organic lifestyle.  Genetically modified foods and pesticides on conventional produce terrify me.  It may be more expensive to buy some foods organically but for me personally, the peace of mind that I’m not eating a vegetable with pesticides written into its DNA is worth it.

On that note, apparently 86% of corn in the US is genetically modified (as of 2010. Forgive me for citing Wikipedia).  Yikes! Corn is in so much of the food we eat, and we don’t even think about it.  Canola and soy are also huge GM crops, and they are also in basically everything.  I can’t even imagine having a corn or soy allergy, but more and more people do as GMOs become more prevalent.

I will be instilling some minimalist virtues into my new eating habits.

  1. One in, one out – Technically this one is going to be reversed.  As I finish a non-organic/GMO/non-pronounceable food item in my kitchen, it will be replaced with a whole-food, organic/non-GMO alternative.
  2. No clutter – Buying fresh produce means less packaging, and it also means I can’t stock up on things because they will expire faster when they’re not full of preservatives.  I will only buy what I plan to eat in the next week or so.
  3. Quality over quantity – I will be paying more for a healthy food option over spending the same amount on several unhealthy food items.  Junk doesn’t have a place in my kitchen or my stomach anymore!

I’m already nearly vegan, so this is just one more way to make my friends and family dread entertaining with me!  Sorry, family. I love you very much.

A perk to this new plan of mine is that I’m seriously turned off by junk food.  If I don’t know what’s in it, I am very wary.  I am not perfect, however, and succumbed to the will of a doughnut in a work meeting recently.  For shame.

One issue I foresee is that of eating out at restaurants.  I’m not sure how I will handle that, besides not eating out at all.  Who knows what they put in their food?  I know Chipotle Mexican Grill sources organic and local ingredients when they can but I am not sure about other restaurants.  There’s probably corn and soy products all over the place!   If anyone has a good source for finding restaurants that use local/organic ingredients let me know in the comments.

Do you follow a particular diet?

Also, here’s a great source for more info on GMOs: http://www.nongmoproject.org/