I’ve been a vegetarian since early 1990, when I moved to Germany and had to start cooking for myself (and Steve) regularly. I just got skeeved and decided–there in the land o’ meat–that it was time to go veg. At first, I gained a lot of weight b/c I moved to a cheese and butter based diet. Which, yum. I got sorted out, balanced the diet a bit, and moved on. I started learning to cook different ethnic cuisines and started to really enjoy cooking. Then, years later and back in the States, I started having kids and cooking turned to chore again. I did still enjoy it when I had time to get the right ingredients, do the prep, etc, but more and more I’d had to turn to quick pasta dishes. And slowly, without my noticing, I’d become a vegetarian who really didn’t eat many vegetables. A carbitarian, really. Cereal at breakfast, cheese sandwich at lunch, pasta and cheese at dinner, cookies and crackers and chips in between…I expanded. At a check-up at the doctor’s office, I found I weighed the same as I had just before giving birth…and there was no baby a brewin’. And my hips started to hurt.
A friend of mine had started to eat according to the plan in a book called Eat to Live the year before. She lost pounds and gained a healthy glow. I got the book, read part of it, and put it away. It called for 6 weeks of no dairy, no eggs, very little grain, very little soy…just vegetables and fruit, mostly. And no snacking. Seemed utterly impossible. But I felt awful. I had to nap everyday, not just “Oh, I could sleep” but “If I do not nap, I will not be safe to drive.” I woke up thinking of when I was going to get that nap in. And my hips were killing me. I’d gotten an arthritis dx, but I had only recently turned 40–how could that be okay? I finally decided to just do it. It’s only six weeks. I committed to three and dove in. I joined a yahoo support group and told myself that I’d really try to be strict, but if I wanted an egg, I’d have one. I gave up dairy, I gave up gluten, I gave up added fat and added sugar. The first week was hard–the carb monkey is one of those mean monkeys that hang on really tight and whack you in the head. The second week was better, because I was starting to FEEL better. The third week was hard again, and I started feeling deprived of bread and butter–staple of life, right? But, I was feeling so much better–my hip pain wasn’t as constant and I didn’t nap–that I committed to three more weeks.
At the end of the six weeks, the carb monkey had gone back to the jungle. And four months later, I am two sizes smaller and much, much healthier. When I eat out, I don’t worry too much about the ingredients–I had a lovely salad with Maytag bleu cheese the other night–but I find I just don’t WANT the really heavy cheesy dishes. At home, I still cook with some cheese, but only once a week or so rather than every night and usually very little. The kids love Mexican-style food, so I’ll give them more cheese than I put on mine, but I’ve cut theirs back, too. The biggest contributor to my success at eating well has been my green smoothies. Every morning, I make a smoothie of fruit and a green (baby spinach, kale, chard)–sounds unreasonably disgusting, I know, but the fruit really masks the taste of the green. I even started a green smoothie blog to keep track of my favorite (and failed) combinations. The smoothie fills me up in the morning and sets the stage for a day of healthy choices. I find I actually want salad for lunch–I’m sure for some that’s a no-brainer. Vegetarians eat salad. It’s what you give them when they show up at your BBQ. But I was never a salad eater. Now I am. With gusto. And I don’t graze all day. Smoothie for breakfast, salad for lunch, a pile of carrots or fruit around 3 or 4, a sensible and delicious dinner, and then a little bowl of nuts with a glass of wine or a beer at night. And the best thing is, I don’t feel deprived. If I want a cookie, I have a cookie. But I don’t feel like I need to eat the whole box.
So, when I’m writing about food, that’s where I’m coming from. I love to eat and take pleasure from it, but I’m learning to eat in moderation. After reading Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food, I’m paying more attention to where the food comes from, what’s been done to it, and how it fits into the larger planetary picture. You can’t be a greenie-beanie eviro warrior and eat at McDonalds twice a week. You just can’t. And you can’t be healthy on a grain-based diet. So. I’m not a vegan, but I don’t eat much dairy. I’m not a raw foodie, but I like to eat as much raw as I can. I’m not fat-free, but I try to keep the intake low. I like exotic food, but I’m also feeding three kids who are not particularly adventuresome in palatte. I hope you find something you like and come back often.