The title of this post is one of my favorite hashtags that I have come to use generously in recent months on Instagram. Why just recently? Well, it wasn't until the middle of October that I officially adopted a vegan diet. [sound of front door shutting] I realize that there are some who may have been under the impression that I've been vegan for much longer, given that the recipes I share here are predominantly vegan. But it wasn't until the day I returned from the Philippines, October 17th, 2012, to be exact, that I made the decision to begin eating completely vegan.
Allow me to briefly digress...
Since eliminating gluten and dairy from my diet, mindfulness and moderation have always been the focus when it comes to what I eat and drink. If I feel like my body is asking for something, whether it be meat, dark leafy greens, tart stone fruit, simple carbs, or something sweet, I simply listen. Even if it's not something I would normally consume, I now understand that in order to keep the miracle of the body in working order, it needs a lot of things - many of which I would never guess. And while I've eaten mostly vegan for about the past 3 1/2 years, there have definitely been times when I have craved animal protein. And as a very physically active person with a dense schedule, it's always made sense and it felt "right," so I gave my body what it was requesting. On top of that, it also made things easier when eating out at a restaurant or as a guest in some one's home. Gluten-free and vegan is still scarce relative to gluten-free and dairy-free, so especially when it came to those instances, maintaining a "veganish" diet was convenient.
Which brings me back to the Philippines.
Before going, I knew it would be difficult to eat meat only occasionally. Filipinos love their meat, and when you receive a guest, you feed them royally. And while that would certainly include vegetables and steamed white rice (lots of it), it would almost always involve a pig, a goat, or fish as well. But even knowing this, I wasn't prepared for the amount of meat I was going to be eating. I alluded to it in a post that I published after getting back, but I would be willing to bet that nearly every meal for the whole 3 weeks, save the ones my sister and I prepared, involved some form of animal. Our relatives were all made aware that I could not eat gluten and dairy, but the memo regarding my vegan tendencies got lost somewhere in the mix.
|Family reunion at my father's ancestral home in Villasis.|
|Meal at my uncle's restaurant. Rice was the only vegan dish.|
|In the dirty kitchen, cooking a vegan feast for the family. A rare treat.|
|All for her: My grandmother surrounded by love on her 104th birthday.|
You're probably wondering, "Did I get sick from it?"
And the simple answer is,"No." Not even a little. Since I was young, it was instilled in me that eating serves two main functions: to nourish the body and to bring the family closer together. And this being my first time back in 25 years, there was particular emphasis on the latter. It was important for me to connect with my family and relatives, and by showing respect and honoring them through enjoying the food they were offering me, I was able to make that happen. It wasn't so much what we were eating, but the fact that we were eating together. That was what my body, and my soul, needed.
But upon leaving my family and my relatives and returning to Texas, the situations that made me carnivorous for 3 weeks were no longer present. So I set an intention to eat vegan for 1 or 2 weeks, to allow my body to cleanse and to reset. Usually that was how long it would be until I would have a craving for meat, so it was nowhere out of the ordinary. I was getting back to me.
But within that first week, I noticed something was very different. My roommate was celebrating his birthday and had made a ton of chicken and white bean chili. Literally, a ton. Surprisingly, the guests were more interested in cake, wine, and margaritas, so the battalion of slow cookers on the counters were left untouched and unstirred. Taking pity, I ladled out a bowl and put a spoonful in my mouth. But as I started to chew, I noticed that chewing was becoming difficult - not because it was tough, but because I didn't want to keep chewing. Frankly, the taste of the chicken was really confusing me. Not that it was making me lose my appetite, it was more that it was doing nothing to stimulate it. In a nutshell, my body didn't want it. So, listening for my roommate's laughter to make sure he was in the other room, I gracefully excused the food from my mouth and set the bowl down, pretending that it was someone else's, and walked away.
|Photo by ©Steve Williams|
And 3 months later, I still don't feel the need to eat meat. I'm still mildly amazed when the smell and sight of meat does nothing at all - no mouth watering, no stomach grumbling, no nothing. There had been times before when I had wanted to take the plunge and go vegan, but I had always encountered resistance and/or fear from my body. But right now, my body is really happy being vegan. Truth be told, it may be the happiest it's ever been, inside and out. My skin is glowing, my hair is softer and shinier, I feel more energetic and balanced, and I actually feel stronger and more present. [Sorry, I know that really sounded like a commercial.] But alas, it's true. I feel connected with myself and the world around me in a way I've never experienced before. And beyond mindfulness, I'm also much more aware of the responsibility, the ethical implications, and compassion, that goes into feeding ourselves.
So while historically it has always been a point of hesitation when people would ask if I was vegan, because I didn't want to be untruthful but I also didn't want to let people down, I can now say that diet-wise, I am a vegan. I don't eat animals - that is now 100% true. And hashtags like, "#whatveganseat" don't have to make me feel like an impostor anymore. Because right now, that's what I am: vegan, gluten-free, and proud of how it's making my body feel. [sound of closet door opening]
So until my body decides otherwise, or I go back to the Philippines, whichever comes first, I look forward to this new chapter in my journey of self-actualization and finding my higher truths. And I look forward to sharing those discoveries with you. Honoring the body, honoring the Earth, and honoring the fact that change is the one constant we can always count upon.
And finding gratitude in that fact.