What should we eat tonight?
Does this question sound familiar? When I was growing up, my family went in circles around this question. Most of the time my mother had it figured out, as she prepared dinner for our family. But often enough we opted for a spontaneous dinner out of the house, and we were ALL on the spot to make a choice. Usually, no one knew what they wanted to eat, and chimed in, “I don’t know,” or “I don’t care.” Around and around we went with indecision until finally someone declared something we could agree on.
We lived in a small city where there were many types of world cuisine just a short distance away. There was Mexican food, Chinese food, American Diner food, Italian food, etc. There were expensive restaurants, hole-in-the-wall dives, buffets, take-out, and delivery. Going out to eat was not necessarily a healthy option, but it was convenient… and it was a treat.
Beginning at a young adolescent age I began manipulating my diet with what you would call eating disorders. It gave me a great sense of confidence to be in so much control of my diet. I could notice reactions and see results, losing significant amounts of weight. The skinnier I was inside of my clothes the happier I thought I was. This went on for long enough that my friends caught on to my behavior. Some of them actually told me that they wished they could have an eating disorder. This was bizarre to me. I thought to myself, “Why would anyone want to be like this?” I knew that even though I thought I was happy, at the root of the matter I was very unhappy… and unhealthy.
Now I understand, that we were all young and seeking empowerment, but we were misdirected and lost as to what Power within oneself was.
When I was 17 I made a decision that made a significant effect in my life. I became a strict vegetarian, and lived a vegan lifestyle. This began to give my eating disorder a moral conviction that I could talk openly about. I believed whole-heartedly in the power of humanity to live up to a standard of non-violence towards animals as well as planet earth. The meat industry made my Angry. Steaks made me cry. The little word, “Whey” in an ingredient list was disappointing, and I did not turn a blind eye to the difference between “Lecithin” and “Soy Lecithin.”
I had given order to my eating with a philosophy that inspired me and a passion that drove me. I no longer checked the scales to see how much or little I weighed. I no longer purged my foods or starved. I simply ate what I knew I wanted to eat and didn’t eat what I knew I didn’t want to eat. I was satisfied experimenting with new health foods. It all felt very exciting. At the time, Tofu was nowhere to be found in my city and Soy milk was up-and-coming. My local grocery store finally did begin carrying these items, once I requested it a number of times.
When I moved to Austin Texas to go to school at U.T, I was de-lighted that menus had “Vegetarian” and “Vegan” labels. Now, in Austin restaurant menus even have “Gluten Free,” labels as well as “Farm to Table.” We have Restaurants that are 100% Vegan, Vegetarian, Gluten Free, Paleo, etc. It is a wonderful city to be conscious about what you are consuming.
But my diet, philosophy, and passions have shifted in many ways since the time I was 17.
A wake-up call for me was when I was just out of university. I was eating a primarily vegan, “macrobiotic diet,” and my iron was so low that the blood bank couldn’t draw from me. I tried multiple times to donate, as I have a rare blood type and they would call saying that they were in need of my donation. Each time I went in, my platelet count was too low to complete the donation. Keep in mind, a macrobiotic diet is FULL of legumes, leafy greens, seasonal vegetable, soups, salads, kimchi, and brown rice. I believe it is one of the most healing, well-balanced and nutritionally abundant vegetarian diets ever.
However, my body lacked the nutrients it needed to be abundant. So I had to ask myself, what kind of standards was I living by if my own body was not healthy enough to offer routine donations to the blood bank? I knew I needed to take better care of myself so that I could THRIVE and also OFFER more to my community and the world around me.
I had to get creative.
One summer, I decided to do a cleanse – a controlled elimination diet. Week One, I gave up refined and processed sugars. Week Two, I gave up dairy products including eggs. Week Three, I gave up gluten. Week Four, Five, and Six, I sustained the diet and felt great! A few months later however, I was living in Costa Rica and… eating and drinking whatever I wanted.
During those few years of travel in Costa Rica, India, Denmark, etc. I gave up my power to control my diet. I opted into eating “like a local.” And I enjoyed it. Now that I am living in Austin again, I have all of the food philosophies at my fingertips. And to be honest with you I am – as I mentioned in my last blog – Finding Balance. The dietary answers to my own health questions are not written in a book. They are in my daily life of cause and effect, abundance and offering, nourishment and satisfaction.
I tell you all of this because my diet is unique, and I imagine that yours is too. Because we all come from different perspectives, cultural connections, and familial heritages. My food philosophy and health needs are not going to be the same as yours. However, I would like to share with you some food philosophies that I find very supportive in my own navigation towards health and happiness. I find it all very fascinating and rich with information that inspires me to be a conscientious consumer.
My hope is that you will also find this interesting, and feel inspired to make informed choices about what to eat and what results to look for from your diet and lifestyle. Remember that after all of the coaching, guidance, counseling, and planning, the choice is going to be at the tip of your own fingers, and the lips of your own mouth.
XO XO XO