3.18.2010

My food story (part 1)

Thank you all so much for your kind comments on yesterday's post.  Your wisdom and support makes me even more jazzed to share my thoughts with you all.

As I mentioned, this post began as a fairly straightforward list of weight loss tips, which a couple of you had asked me to share after I tweeted that I'd lost 20 pounds. I realized, however, that the changes I've undergone in recent months have taken place on a deeper level than that list conveyed. The post felt incomplete and disingenuous. I felt that you deserved more and that I owed it to you (and to myself) to share that deeper story, even if it meant baring a little bit of my soul. Yikes.

I've always loved food. Maybe it's because I grew up in a household of foodies or maybe it's due to some fundamental aspect of my personality. I love everything about it. The endless variety of textures and tastes, the artistry of a perfectly prepared dish, the coziness of cooking and sharing a meal with loved ones. As far back as I can remember, the utility of food has always been intertwined with the experience of eating it. By this, I mean that food was never mere nourishment. It was, by turns, pleasure, creativity, celebration, togetherness, and community. Until recently, I would have called myself ardently omnivorous, in every sense of the word. What I wouldn't have told you is that my enthusiasm for good food had slowly translated into an extra 30 or so pounds, which I thankfully carried pretty well on my curvy/athletic frame.

The past couple of years and particularly the past six months or so have felt like a revelation for me, food-wise. As a person who loves food, I naturally have followed the push to revolutionize and reform our country's fantastically screwed-up food system. I've read the books and watched the documentaries, first out of curiosity and then because I couldn't stop. The more I learned about what goes into your average supermarket fare, the more horrified I became (and I'm talking just the actual physical composition of the product itself, not even the cruelty inherent in the process, although that horrified me in equal measure.)

There was no specific incident that pushed me "over the edge," so to speak. I slowly became more and more aware of what exactly I was putting in my body, and as a result, how it made me feel. I noticed that I felt light, healthy, and energetic when I ate mostly fresh veggies, non-meat proteins, and whole grains and that I felt dull, sluggish, and vaguely sick after consuming meat, dairy, sugar, and simple carbs. On January 1, 2010, I stopped eating meat and dairy, and cut out most sugar, simple carbs, and alcohol. I made these changes not to lose weight, but because I want to feel like my best self physically and because I want to know with certainty that what I'm putting into my body does not contribute to the havoc the typical American diet wreaks on the environment, the animal world, and our collective health.

I don't count calories. I eat as many fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds as I want. You know what? It's not easy, but it's not nearly as hard as I thought it would be. And even though weight loss was not my primary goal, I have to say that shedding those 20 lbs (20.5 as of this morning) feels darn good as I'm literally lighter on my feet, which gives me more energy and makes it easier to work out. My hair is shinier, my skin clearer, and my sleep more restful. I honestly can't remember the last time I've felt so vibrant and just so...good.

I know that some people take issue with the idea of changing your diet for both personal health reasons and for environmental or animal welfare reasons. There seems to be some sentiment out there that the latter reason is more "pure," and that you should not change your diet expecting to reap physical benefits. But for me, it sort of seems like it's all intertwined. I want to feel good, and part of feeling good is aligning my personal consumption with my values. To separate my own health from the health of the earth or its creatures doesn't make sense to me. Isn't the point that we, as individuals, can effect larger change through our own actions?  It's food for thought (sorry - couldn't resist).

Tomorrow, I'll be posting more details about what I eat, including a sample daily menu and some favorite new dishes, so stay tuned.

xo,

8 comments:

Carolyn said...

Thanks for sharing your food story! I chose to eat vegan for both health AND ethical reasons, and I agree that a lot of vegans frown upon that. Nonetheless, I know I feel better, both about my physical self and emotional self, and that's what counts. Can't wait for tomorrow's post!

Kayla said...

Thanks for being brave enough to share your feelings. I have been vegetarian for a few years now. I chose to eat this way for health reasons (I just didn't like meat and wasn't substituting anything). The positive environmental side effects are just and added bonus!

Lauren said...

Thank you so much for sharing, Ani! I loved this:

" know that some people take issue with the idea of changing your diet for both personal health reasons and for environmental or animal welfare reasons. There seems to be exist some sentiment out there that the latter reason is more "pure," and that you should not change your diet expecting to reap physical benefits. But for me, it sort of seems like it's all intertwined. I want to feel good, and part of feeling good is aligning my personal consumption with my values. "

I've been thinking that and fuming about it and thinking about it some more these past two weeks or so. I'm glad someone else said it too!

shelly said...

this is the very reason that i want to become a health counselor. people need to understand the direct effect nutrition has on your body. i truly believe that you are what you eat! i stopped eating meat two years ago bc i read a book that really laid out the horrific way animals are treated. i knew i could no longer take part in eating tortured animal flesh. i hadn't even thought of the health benefits. you are so right about how much better you feel when you put the right things into your body. i am excited for you that you are eating mindfully! i look forward to reading your story :)

ps- i didn't have time to comment, but your post yesterday was right on! took the words right out of my mouth!

Lavanya said...

I'm a vegetarian (mostly for ethical reasons) and am thinking of becoming vegan both for ethical reasons, as well as due to the horror stories I hear about the composition of a lot of dairy products.

"I know that some people take issue with the idea of changing your diet for both personal health reasons and for environmental or animal welfare reasons. There seems to be exist some sentiment out there that the latter reason is more "pure," and that you should not change your diet expecting to reap physical benefits. But for me, it sort of seems like it's all intertwined. I want to feel good, and part of feeling good is aligning my personal consumption with my values. "

I think so too- one has as much responsibility towards one's own health as towards the environment/other animals..
Even though for me personally, ethics/principle plays a huge role, I am extremely uncomfortable with statements claiming that one is not a vegan if the intention to be one is dictated by lifestyle (and other similar statements). You know, it is no coincidence that once one takes a step back, stops and thinks about making changes that relate to health and the environment, at some point one (that is such an uncomfortable pronoun..lol) also want to make choices that cause as little harm as possible to other creatures. It is all about just slowing down for a minute and thinking about our choices.

So you right!- everything is so entwined it is not always possible or even necessary to discriminate between these reasons.

Phew! that was a loong comment..

E said...

Thank you so much for being so real and authentically you! What a joy it is to read your posts. :) I'm about 90% vegan, and can definitely testify to the all around holistic health and life benefits - especially the sleeping better part!

GO YOU! :) Thanks again. Keep shining.

alison said...

I'm struggling with this decision myself... so thanks for sharing your story

Kristin said...

I have had the same sort of "revolution" when it comes to eating. I'm doing all I can to avoid any processed/packaged foods and just trying to eat everything fresh and homemade. It's not always easy, but oh boy, is it so much tastier and better for me. This is great that you're sharing this with the world because hopefully it will inspire even more people to do the same.

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