Sometimes I feel like some kind of food alien ~ and get odd looks from others. The big question being "but where do you get your protein??" This blog post is inspired by that particular question. And the next time a curious person asks me that, I can direct them to this post! :-)
I didn't take the photo above, and am not able to find the credit of the person who did ~ isn't it beautiful though? Does it make your mouth water? Mine does.
At 19 years of age, I read John Robbin's book 'Diet for a new America' and it opened my eyes to a whole new reality of living and eating, not to mention it brought to my consciousness the harm that is done to animals in order for us to eat them. I vowed to do no harm ~ a vow of Ahimsa ~ and have honoured that with devotion when it comes to eating any land animals. I became vegetarian and began on my path of exploring what to feed this body of mine.
Back in the 90's, if you chose to be vegetarian, tofu and soy products where your substitute for meat/protein. I ate a lot of soy. Over the years, soy products became more and more GMO'd, and during my second pregnancy I had intense migraine headaches throughout the 9 months. I was drinking soy milk, and eating tofu regularly. I didn't make the connection that I had developed a soy allergy until my 40's, when I eliminated soy from my diet and the migraines went away. Now, if I unknowingly consume soy, within a half hour a migraine develops and I need to retreat from the world and curl up in bed.
Gluten and dairy became troublesome as well. Most gluten grains give me hives along my side body - very itchy and last for days or up to a week. Barley (a more ancient, less processed grain) is one gluten grain I am able to ingest without any disturbance. Dairy brings on major digestive issues which are quite uncomfortable. I was able to eat aged cheddar because it is more digestible than fresh dairy, however recently I have returned to being vegan - with my only animal by-product being raw honey.
Living on the west coast, I was eating fish and seafood because how can you refuse a freshly caught salmon at a potluck? Now we are living in Alberta, with no fresh fish in sight - so I am not feeling like eating any from the deep freeze section of the market and my chances of going fishing and catching my own fish are low.
So how do I get my protein then?? I learned our bodies are only made up of 3% protein, so our requirements for protein are actually quite low. I consume beans, legumes, dark green veggies, seaweeds, spirulina and chlorella powders, brown rice, nuts and seeds, quinoa ~ it feels abundant to me and I have energy and stamina. It has never felt to me that I was lacking enough protein. I supplement with B12 and iron ~ as a holistic nutritionist, I know all about the supplements I need, and the proper balance of nutrients needed to keep my body healthy. Once in a while, I sit with the naturopath so we can run some tests and make sure my levels are balanced.
Besides the health aspects, the spiritual aspects of eating vegan is huge for me. This is that part where I derive most of my devotion. Eating clean and light is not some discipline I've adopted ~ it is coming more from a place of a strong desire for lightness of energy in my body. Clarity. Simplicity. Purity. I can connect with the currents running through me. The less extra ingredients or fillers the better. My body can say, yes ~ I know what this is ~ and carry on with the process of moving it through so that I can have more vital energy to practice yoga or meditation, or my daily tasks. In the evenings, I stop eating by 7:00pm so that I can have a long window of fasting before breakfast in the morning. This allows my body time to focus on other important healing processes while I rest. During the day, I snack very little and meals are modest in size. I also incorporate Ayurvedic principals of eating with the seasons ~ cooling foods such as lettuces and cucumbers, melons and juicy fruits in the warmer months, and more spicy, warming foods in the cooler months such as squashes and root veggies, grains and spice teas. I drink alot of herbal teas - my herb pantry is stuffed! I love to grow my own herbs for tea, and also order the ones I don't grow in bulk. Herbs are medicine to me.
I've done some crazy experiments - the big one was eating only raw, uncooked foods for a whole year. I was inspired by the raw food movement that was happening at the time, and got really into it. Amazing things happened to my body and I opened up spiritually. It felt as if the energy centers in my body were spinning at full force and at times I was even vibrating with this powerful energy. After a year of this, however, I remember feeling paper thin...not as in skinny, but thin as in transparent ~ the air could move right through me, and I became very cold (it was winter). I went to my naturopath and was advised to start eating cooked foods again to warm up my system. She reminded me I was living in North America, not the tropics! I listened, and warmed up soon enough. Fun adventure, and one I wouldn't do again.
The 'do no harm', Ahimsa, is to this day my main driving factor. I love animals. What gives me the right to kill them or participate in their death by buying into what others have killed? I am personally not able to bring myself to support that. I understand that there are others who are looking for a more humane way to raise and slaughter animals and I give them credit for raising them with more compassion. I am not able to support the killing of them though - as pain-free and fear-free as they say it is. My heart physically aches (I have wept watching documentaries such as Dominion...I couldn't watch more than 15 minutes of that one), and that is something that I'm not able to just brush off. So, I listen. My lifestyle allows me to have a clear conscience, and that is important to me. I've also learned that our human bodies are designed as herbivores, another large topic ~ and so I feel confident that I can thrive on a plant-based diet.
I'm not interested in criticizing what others eat and their choices. This blog post is not to point fingers. My choices are highly personal, and coming from my heart-space. Different bodies need different things, and I don't deny that some bodies need meat as protein. Mine doesn't, and I know that. Over all these years - 28 of them - I have flourished without land animal meat in my system. I am spiritually connected with myself and have healthy thoughts and emotions. My system runs like a clock, and I love that. I'm also not contributing to the environmental concerns that come from mass production of animals for food. My vote is cast by what I don't buy from the store.
The only downside is the occasional, accidental ingestion of anything offending to my system. Big reactions. White sugar makes me feel like I'm on crack (not that I know ... and it feels to me like crack would be something like the reaction I have! I eat natural sources of sugar only - dates and dried fruit, honey and coconut sugar). I also don't drink alcohol, so when I'm at parties or family gatherings, I'm constantly saying 'thank-you, I'm great without'. I try to come up with positive responses - because I DO feel great just as I am. I don't have a need to alter my experience. If I want to do that, I can have some caffeine (I love yerba mate) or do some Kriyā yoga! :-)
So, it has been a journey. It will continue to be an exciting one for me. Food is a large part, and also a small part for me, as I love to focus on so many other things besides eating or snacking. The pangs of hunger are like little obstacles that surface that I acknowledge and observe them as they pass. Of course, I give in at times - and I try my best to make healthy choices, rather than junk food choices. The odd time I do have chips or something highly processed, I remember why I rarely make those choices.
For example, right now I have two little red patches under each eyebrow. They surfaced rather suddenly - and I am now looking at all the new foods I consumed recently, or if there were any commercial cleaning products or fragrances I was exposed to (that's another issue for me - staying away from synthetic fragrances or toxic cleaners / detergents). I'm sensitive, and was I always? Or has it increased due to my clean eating and living? I suspect a bit of both. And, these alarm bells in the form of rashes or hives, migraines or belly aches are a way for me to slow down and look for the offender. If my body was overloaded and not able to send me these messages, they could be more internalized and morph into some bigger disease. I'm grateful, and also cautious.
So there you have it. A why to what I eat. Living in Alberta, the land of cows, pigs, chickens and dairy - I'll be directing many folks to this post. :-) I'll be able to save some breath, so I can eat my veggies and fruit more peacefully (haha). I'm game for being the weird one at all the potlucks - I've been doing it most of my life. It works for me.
Love and veggie crackers ~
Leah Marie xo