People are starting to ask what my first meal is going to be once I’m eating again. It’s too early for me to put much thought into that. It certainly doesn’t help my resolve to sit around daydreaming of my favorite foods, but I have been thinking quite a bit about how I will approach food when I come off of this cleanse.
When I was 21 years old I became vegan for moral and social reasons. Diet For A New America was a revelation to say the least. I devoured it, I believed in it and for the first time in my life I started paying attention to what I was eating. I began reading food labels and putting together the idea that we really are what we eat in more ways than the physical.
I absolutely buy into the idea that when we eat animals we also eat the pain they have suffered. Giving up meat was one of the easiest things I’ve ever done. Zip! It was gone just like that as if someone had finally given me permission to do something I always dreamed of doing. (Thank you John Robbins!) Ultimately veganism became an outlet for the guilt I had been amassing up until then. If I did this one incredible selfless thing, I could feel better about anything else I had screwed up.
For four years veganism worked quite well for me. I was steadfast, my only gripe being the loss of cheese. Most of the time I figured it was an unnecessary craving due to the fact that I enjoyed all dairy substitutes except vegan cheese. I’m sure it’s come a long way since then but I used to say it was like opening a Kraft single, throwing away the cheese and eating the plastic wrapper.
When I was 25 I moved to New York City and entered the most difficult period of my life to date. I was alone, broke and beyond frustrated. I was also living within blocks of three delicious smelling pizza parlors. My cheese cravings were off the charts. One day at a particularly low moment I thought to myself: What if I just eat a slice of pizza? GASP! I couldn’t believe I was really contemplating it. I agonized over the idea for weeks before giving in. Veganism was a badge I had worn proudly. It was an identity I wasn’t sure I wanted to give up. For years I had genuinely hoped the whole world would go vegan, how could I face people if I was eating cheese again? There’s nothing I hate more than a hypocrite.
On my way home from the train one day though, I just did it. I bought a slice of pizza and smuggled it home, afraid someone would catch me and rat me out. I sat down at the table and treated it like it was a gold medal I had worked years to achieve.
Let me tell you that pizza went down smoothly. I expected to get cramps and be sick as a dog for days after eating it but nothing like that happened. Turns out I am the farthest thing from lactose intolerant, always have been and hopefully always will be. The biggest obstacle for bringing cheese back wasn’t physical; it was emotional. I was immediately filled with guilt from head to toe. Oh but it tasted and felt so good! My mood and my energy skyrocketed, which is exactly the opposite of what they tell you is supposed to happen, but it turned out to be my reality. Cheese makes me feel good. And in the end, no one ever wagged a finger at me for my sin.
I fully believe veganism is the most wonderfully compassionate eating choice there is and I salute every single person who adheres to it. My life changed in an incredibly positive way through the experience and my eyes were opened up to information I continue to learn and grow from. But eventually I reached a point where I had to pay more attention to my body than my moral guilt and I have come to peace with that.
After this cleanse I’m intending to bring eggs back as well. I’ve reached another turning point in my diet regarding soy (more on that later) and I think eggs are the best protein option for me moving forward. While I don’t expect any physical difficulties with that, I am expecting more emotional ones. I haven’t eaten eggs since the nineties.
Really it all circles around to moderation. Doesn’t it always? Depriving ourselves of something our body tells us it needs (over the long haul) can be just as bad as overflowing it with crap it doesn’t want. My Diet For A New Me will be centered around listening to my body and forgiving myself for its genuine needs.