I’m about to wade into some controversial subject matter here: I’m going to talk about food and diet. It’s pretty dangerous territory I know; so if you are feeling nervous or starting to break out in a cold sweat, just look away.
In all seriousness, I am going to talk about my new relationship with food and how I’ve transformed from an all-American meat and potatoes girl into a *GASP* vegan.
It all started a few years ago when we went on a vacation. It was a phenomenal trip. We camped, we hiked, we went on boats and trains. We saw bison and sheep. I loved every minute of it. Unfortunately, I brought home a souvenir from that trip that I didn’t expect and it took me a couple of years to figure out what it was. Somewhere along the line, I was bitten by a Lone Star Tick. For most people it’s just a bug bite, but for the “lucky” few of us, it is life changing. This little bug can cause humans to develop an intolerance (read allergy) to a particular sugar; a sugar found in mammals. This means I am now allergic to meat; and at first, it really, really sucked.
I absolutely LOVED steak, burgers and pot roast and I was very reluctant to give up the pleasure I associated with them. I was so determined to keep eating what I wanted, when I wanted, that I would take Benedryl before going to a restaurant so I could still order a mushroom and Swiss burger with fries! Eventually, I overexposed myself to the allergen and medication no longer wards off the effects. My allergy is worse than ever. (Can you say anaphylaxes?) I have heard people talk about food and say it’s so good it’s “too die for”. Yeah, no food is THAT good. So, I gave up meat. There were a few pity parties and a little pouting. (my husband might say there was A LOT of pouting.) But eventually, I adjusted. I honestly don’t even know what a burger or steak tastes like anymore.
When I had to give up meat I switched to fish and poultry. I was not very excited about it, but it’s not like I had much of a choice. In time, it became my new normal and it was okay. Plus, I could still have cheese, and cheese makes almost everything better. Things were good…for a while.
A few months ago, I started feeling like crap every time I ate a meal. I was even starting to see a return of some of the symptoms I would experience when my meat allergy began. *SIGH* After a little more pouting and a fair bit of denial, I knew what I had to do. So about a month ago I quit eating dairy. And while I was at it I decided to go all in and I gave up fish, poultry and eggs too.
Now I’m eating things like vital wheat gluten, seitan and nutritional yeast…which all sound weird but taste pretty good. I’m discovering new seasonings and foods. I’m losing weight, I have more energy and I actually feel happier. I’m saving money at the grocery store and on eating out too. (Small town restaurants do not have many vegan options). I could go on, but you get the idea.
I have never felt better but it’s still hard and I have cheated, just like I did with my meat allergy. For example, I had fish and chips with a Guinness while on a recent vacation. In the moment, it was heavenly, but a few hours later, not so much. Once again, I’m learning about risk and reward. I am really starting to embrace this new way of eating and I’m actually thankful for my allergy; it is forcing me to make changes I may not have made otherwise. I’ve learned a lot and I continue to learn things on this journey.
Our relationships with food are complicated, emotional and personal. It’s hard to change lifelong habits that seem to be fundamentally part of who we are. I’m not particularly adverse to change and I really see most change as exciting, but that is not how I felt about changing my diet. It’s a long hard road and I’m still struggling to find my way in this new food jungle I’ve entered. Sometimes, I still want to eat the way I have always eaten, so I have to constantly remind myself of this one fact in order to keep moving forward. There is no food that tastes good enough to sacrifice feeling good for.