The religion of…food, revisited

Something heavy on my mind this week is food. I wrote a previous blog a few months back that I called “The religion of… food?”    That title is even more relevant today than when I first wrote it. Meanwhile I am navigating my way through the murky waters of transitioning into a healthy diet and lifetyle-questionmark and all.

The great news? I have successfully jumped over the grand canyon. I’ve begun walking the yellow brick road, meaning I now eat a plant-based diet. I prefer the term “plant-based” due to all the food politics.

Honestly, the word “vegetarian” is quite loaded.  (I found that out the hard way while my mom was in town visiting me). 

Well, I hate labels and “vegetarian” and “vegan” are labels. When you subscribe to a label, you automatically place yourself inside a box with all of the label’s rules and  “do’s and don’ts”.  Now I have to “live up” to the hype- especially when I was raised on fried chicken and mac n’ cheese.  

 Mmm-hmm good.

My dad “transitioned” back in April and I went home for the funeral.  My oldest friend (who had eaten countless pizzas and hamburgers with me over the years) called me out for eating a breaded chicken wing at the wake (redress).  You would have thought I was caught trying to steal home plate during the World Series. 

 

Admittedly I was taken off guard. Friends and family members cooked all the food. What was I supposed to do? Say “Sorry, I know you cooked the food for us and everything, but I’m going to go over here to this local vegan restaurant…want me to get you anything while I’m out?”

Saying I’m a vegetarian is right up there with saying I’m a Christian or a Muslim. I was lost but now I’m found, right?  Now I’m fighting the constraints of another religion- the religion of food.

Which brings me to the not-so-good news: I’ve pierced the veil of the food world. Behind that veil is a land far, far away-kinda like being in Oz…

Vegans, vegetarians, and carnivores…oh my!     

“Oz” in healthy food land is quite confusing and I must say somewhat frustrating. There have been moments where I wanted to click my heels together three times and go home.  

“Home” is a place where I can eat freely and savor every bite of my food without condemnation. It’s where I don’t have to worry whether it’s going to end up on my thighs as cellulite. Or that its pesticides are poisoning me. Or that it’s not bio-available. Or devoid of enzymes. Or if it’s organic. Or grafted. Or uncooked. Or canned with BPH lining. Or processed. Or that it will cause constipation…..

Argh!

So many conflicting “do’s & don’ts” in the conscious food community: 

Grains are good., but:

Don’t eat rice. Rice is toxic for the body.

Eat raw veggies but:

Spinach has oxalic acid which can thin out the blood. Garlic is toxic and so are onions.

…Did we mention that carrots are grafted-meaning they are not real vegetables?

Juicing is healthy…but:

Juicing can cause hypoglycemia. It strips the fiber from the fruits and veggies….

And-

 Enough!    

Hold up. Wait- a- min-ute!

   Food is a religion.

Why? Because:

1. There are a list of “ten Commandments”.  There are rules to being a “conscious eater”.  For example, as a vegetarian, one shalt not consume animal products. There is a social standard of pure perfection to be adhered to to be considered “vegetarian” or “vegan”, etc.

2. You can backslide. Anytime backsliding is a possibility, you’re in a religion.  The people who know I’m eating a plant-based diet are watching me closely to see if I follow through. In other words, am I walking the walk?

3. There is a hierarchy that consists of denominations/sects. Just like you have the catholics and the protestants or the baptists and the methodists, you have the vegetarians and the vegans. You have the vegans and the raw foodists.  You’ve got vegetarians who eat dairy products and those who eat fish and chicken. You have the alkaline foodies who eat only foods with a ph of 7 or higher and then you have the electric foodists who are focused on eating foods with living enzymes.

At the bottom of the health pyramid is the vegetarians. Then you have the vegans. Then at the tippy-top lies the raw foodists. Somewhere above that is the solatarians because once upon a time humans didn’t need food or water. The original man and woman had green skin and derived nutrients from the sun.

4. There exists an “us vs. them” dynamic. Some raw foodists feel they are better than meat-eaters, what I call “food-snobs”.

and

5. There are rules (as mentioned above).

So, there we have it. I have decided to return “home” so I can live my life now. This experience has taught me that I don’t have to allow other people’s doctrines on food to make me feel guilty about my own choices (easier said than done. After all, we all want to eat the right things).

But that’s just the point. Who dictates what’s “right?” I eat tofu sometimes. Other vegans say that tofu is processed and is not real food. They also say that soy contains phyto-estrogens and are not healthy for the body. I did my own research and decided that I will continue to eat it but in moderation. I love it. And I also take bio-identical progesterone so I feel it will balance out the estrogens.  That’s my situation. And while all the health gurus are bickering back and forth over what people are supposed to eat, I’ll be “home” savoring every bite of my fruits, veggies, and yeah, tofu.

Until next time,

keep loving, living, writing…and eating!

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