About two years ago, at the end of 17 beautiful days in Spain, when I should have been tired, though exulted over having spent so much time in the country of my birth, visiting family with dear friends and the love of my life, I sat on the rooftop at sunset in a gorgeous Airbnb in Seville, looking out over the historic barrio… sobbing. Why? After taking nearly the entire month off, I was still popping Ibuprofens like they were candy, and feeling pretty shitty. I spent the month bumming Tylenol and keeping an eye peeled for pharmacies, bowing out of day trips, because I needed time off.
Fast forward to a year later, after TWO VERY scary visit to the ER, my husband talked me into an experiment. He was alarmed by the continuing decline in my health and he wanted to go meat and dairy free for three weeks, as a test. That’s all. Just three weeks. At the end of that three weeks, we’d assess how things were going, and make a new decision about whether to continue.
Week one was—I’ll be totally honest—brutal. I spent more time in the bathroom than I care to confess. Week two wasn’t all that much easier in the bathroom, but I actually WAS feeling better, and found something pretty amazing was happening… I wasn’t in so much pain anymore. I mean, yeah, I had aches and pains, but more manageable ones, and certainly nothing that would make you dive for buckets of aspirin. Now, I’m hopeful.
Now, two years later, we’re about to take yet another trip with the same dear friends and I’m so looking forward to it, all the more so because, for the first time in almost four years, I’m not suffering debilitating pain. What that pain is/was, how I got it isn’t really the subject of this blog post, but if you ask me, I’ll be happy to tell you. However, this isn’t about that; the reason I’m writing this post is because, the one thing I didn’t expect from this experiment was that the people in our lives would have such a difficult time with our new plant-based diet. I get it, really. I do understand how it changes the dynamic, but for those in my life who are missing the me who eats meat, I have to say, without uncertainty, I DO NOT miss her. I was heartily sick of her, ready for her to get the hell out of my life, and honestly, I thought at times she was going the way of the Dodo all on her own, and taking me along with her. So, c’ya biatch, don’t let the proverbial door hit you in the bum. But, here, again, as I now close on a full year without meat and dairy (except for a short cheat-fest, during which I regressed for the sake of social convention and wholly regretted it), there are some things I really need to tell the people in my life. And I mostly need to tell you these things, because I love you, so bear with me, please, and I hope you’ll read this until the end.
The most important thing I want to say is this: I feel better. I do. And I can promise you I don’t do fads. If this experiment hadn’t been a success after three weeks, I would have stopped. That simple. I mean, I LIKED meat and LOVED cheese, and I would have been happy to go back to eating bacon, EXCEPT, I don’t want to anymore, and I have a few things I want to say to clear the air, because I think I’ve been a little passive aggressive about this subject, dancing around it when it’s probably not necessary to do so, for maybe the same reason you don’t ask me more about my plant-based life. So here goes. Among the things I want to say are these:
- Even on my “tired” days, I have WAY more energy than I did before.
- I am NOT lacking anything in my diet, and I know this because: a) I see a doctor regularly, and b) I am pretty attuned to my body’s needs (after so many years of intense pain, this puppy has become nearly hypochondriacal about health). But, if you need to be reassured, I’m due for a physical and blood test soon, and, my doctor, who, incidentally, gave me an enthusiastic thumb’s up over this lifestyle change, will be sure to tell me if there’s anything I’m missing.
- I DO NOT miss meat, and DO NOT feel deprived.
- I don’t want to eat anything cooked in chicken broth, beef broth, or lard, or anything at all that has once been inside a mammal.
- This didn’t start out being a matter of animal rights. It was a matter of health, but now that I know I don’t NEED meat to get by, I can’t justify eating meat anymore. But, please know I do not hold you to my own personal code of ethics, and I am not judging your choices.
- I eat fish, though rarely, and enjoy it. So I’ll keep doing this, because I feel better when I do.
- Yes, I take B12 and Vitamin D, but I’m not missing out on iron, or protein. Most people don’t realize how much protein and iron there is in a well-rounded WHOLE FOODS diet.
- I don’t eat much processed food. This kind of defeats the purpose, and, even though I adore bread and there’s nothing wrong with bread, I’m cutting down on my intake for the same reason: It’s processed. However, I do like it, so I’ll just eat less.
- You don’t need to worry about me; I’m under the care of a doctor, and a physical therapist, and my therapist told me just today that I’ve made huge strides and to keep doing what I’m doing. Yeah me!
- I USED to love cheese; I now HATE cheese. I won’t eat this substance again as long as I live. I don’t miss it, don’t want it, and when I see it, I think “pain!” (I understand how Pavlov’s dogs must have felt.)
- I don’t need or want YOU to eat what I eat; I get that everyone has different health needs.
- I also don’t need you to agree with me; just respect me. Please.
- I don’t judge you for eating meat; I just don’t care to share it with you.
- I am perfectly fine sitting at a table with you while meat and dairy are on it, but I don’t want to eat any of it, and you don’t need to feel uncomfortable because I’m not eating it. If I wanted it, I’d eat it. But I really, really don’t want it, and, again, I do not feel deprived. Nor am I judging you for eating it simply because I am not. That’d be pretty hypocritical of me since I used to eat it and love it.
- Even though I was once excited to find that it was possible to eat nut-based cheese, I don’t eat cheese substitutes, because I don’t crave cheese anymore and I also don’t prefer to eat processed foods.
- Again, I really, really want you to eat what YOU want to eat, and I don’t see any reason we can’t eat our own preferences under the same roof, in the same house, and at the same table.
- If you invite us to dinner, I don’t care if you serve meat, just have some beans as a side for me, and I’ll be fine with that. I no longer see dining the same way, and it’s more important to me to spend time with you. Also, I’m equally uncomfortable with the idea of depriving the people I care about of the food they desire.
- If I invite you for dinner, I won’t cook you any meat, nor serve dairy, but that doesn’t mean I’m not okay if YOU want to BRING a side that includes meat or cheese, or both. I’ll still tip my wine glass to a yummy meal, and I’ll ask you what you brought and how you made it. Cause. Yeah, I like seeing you enjoy things, and it doesn’t bother me that you enjoy something I don’t.
- I am not vegan. Veganism is a lifestyle that encompasses more than just diet. I still have leather boots, and I’m fine with them.
- My blood pressure when my doctor took it last was 117/79. Not too shabby for a 56 year old. (Yeah, 56, you can hush, now.)
- I no longer take NSAIDS, that’s how much better I feel. But, yeah, I’m 56 and still have 56-year-old aches and pains.
- I am NOT okay with eating food that has been cooked with animal fat of any kind, and that includes lard or butter, and I prefer not to eat food that’s been cooked in the same pan with animals. The end result is that it’s really no different, for me, than eating a slice of meat. And I will know I ate it, cause, well, keep reading and I’ll tell you why…
- I don’t want to pick off the cheese, nor eat the fruit out of a pie. Very simply, if it’s been cooked together with animal fat, I don’t want it in my body, and if that seems zealous, there’s a reason for it. After a year-long experiment, I feel so much better, and I’m very protective over that feeling, and don’t want to take backward steps, not even one. I know you love me and want me to feel better, so I’m going to assume you don’t want me to eat it either.
- BTW, a slip here and there is not just a slip here and there, and it’s not like, just one time I accidentally ingested something I don’t want to eat; Not only will I feel it in my bones (literally), it’ll send me back to the bathroom for way longer than I wish to spend there. That’s the ugly truth. Been there, done that. Ain’t doing it no more.
- We can eat at the same restaurants; there’s almost nowhere I haven’t been able to find SOMETHING on the menu. Again, I’m less concerned with what I’m eating than I am with just spending time with you.
- I’m smart, and attuned to my body, and if, at any point, this experiment ceases to work, I’ll question it, and/or stop. My experience has been the opposite: Every day, I think I can’t possibly feel better, and I feel better.
- I no longer sob cause I feel awful, and I’m not scared about what the future holds.
- I AM losing weight, thank you. But I am not losing it quickly, because, well, I am not depriving myself, and I still can’t get myself on the treadmill every day. I’m working on it.
- Also to that last point: I eat very well–too well. Scott’s an AMAZING cook and I LOVE my meals and look forward to them, cause, really, I had no friggin idea what was possible without meat and dairy. I used to think if you took meat and dairy away, what could possibly be left? OMG, I promise you, the possibilities are endless, and more so, because I no longer take the lazy meat-and-potatoes route. Not saying you are doing that, only that I very often didn’t think beyond meat and dairy. Me. Not you. This is not about you or your choices.
- Dinner is an adventure, and then I wake up feeling better than ever.
- I love my plant-based meals so much that Scott and I are considering doing a cookbook. Or maybe two. Or three.
- If you truly want to know the down and dirty details of why I’m doing this (health wise), I’m happy to point you to a few books, because I don’t want to come across as an evangelist.
- If I come across as an evangelist, it’s because I’m truly shocked over the changes in my body and, well, I love you. And if I keep talking about it, it’s because I’m glad I can spend time with you without pain. And if I do that too much, and it sounds like preaching, just tell me you’re glad for me, and politely remind me to put a sock it, because, guess what, my sense of humor is back and I can take a joke.
That’s all. Thanks for taking a minute to read this.