Plant Based Eating Month Reflection#1: How we got here

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I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my own personal journeys–in relationships, in parenting, in my faith and calling, and around food and health. I rather enjoy thinking about food and health. In fact, throughout my entire adult life, I have believed that food has the power to heal and to harm and the choices people make regarding their food intake has a lot to say.

I was a kid of the 80s, teen of the 90s. Pop-tarts, kool-aid (with the full 2 cups of sugar), Wonder white bread, cheese slices wrapped in plastic, and heavily processed meats in yellow plastic containers were it! Also, we had exactly 4 kinds of fruits (from my recollection): red or green apples, oranges from Florida, grapes and bananas.

I was a fast food kid. I can recall weeks where every meal was from McDonalds. When Mom wasn’t feeling up to making lunch, I would get a Happy Meal delivered to school around lunchtime. (There is nothing to make your friends jealous like french fries and a coke for lunch.) Our Sunday afternoon tradition was to get some subs from the deli and head into the mountains for a picnic in Millcreek Canyon. Arby’s was my comfort food for whenever I was having a bad day. But also, we were big fans of convenience foods: Kid Cuisine microwave meals (we didn’t actually have a microwave until I left for college–it was excruciating to wait for that little brownie to cook in the oven), Hot Pockets, and Totino’s pizzas were standbys. My favorite sandwich (and until this month, I would still eat a healthified version of this) was toasted white bread, mayo, mustard, a slice of American Cheese and thinly sliced turkey breast.

It was a different time back then AND there were a variety of real challenges in my home. So I look back on all that with nostalgia, not judgement.

Needless to say, when I was a young bride I had no idea what I was doing in the kitchen. Our first thanksgiving, I was super proud to have figured out that if you add a can of broth to a turkey in a bag, it could turn out pretty well. I also figured out that you should remove the bag of gizzards BEFORE you put it in the oven.

Early in my marriage, I learned there was a strong penchant for prostate cancer in the men of my husband’s family. I did a little digging and found out that although there is a small genetic component, prostate cancer is MOSTLY determined by lifestyle choices, particularly food and exercise. I decided there was no way my young husband was going to endure that, so I embarked on a journey of figuring out what foods could keep him healthy.

Along the way, I’ve been influenced by a number of writers about food: Marion Nestle in What to Eat, Michael Pollen in In Defense of Food, The Omnivoire’s Dilemma, and Food Rules, and various other thinkers and eaters. I’ve been influenced by friends who returned to a more wholesome way of eating and friends who have fought off disease with their diet.

When my kids were young, I was diagnosed with a non-Celiac gluten intolerance. Eating gluten (the protein found in wheat and barley) made my body ill and depressed. Removing it from my diet was a major shift. This is when I really learned that food had the power to harm. In recent years, I’ve started to experience the aches and pains that are “normal” for a woman in her mid-40s. And I don’t like them. But I also started to notice that they were worse mornings after I had a meal heavy on the cheese or dairy.

So I wondered if the food I currently eat really had the power to heal. I wondered if food really does have an impact on my mental health, on how my brain works or how well I sleep. I wondered what it would be like to remove some foods from my diet? I wondered who was right about ideas on sources of protein, natural foods, the effect on the environment, the inequity of food distribution. I wondered if anyone else was curious about eating differently. I wondered if changing the way that I ate would make me feel better. I wondered if anyone would want to do this crazy thing with me or if I would lose all my friends. I wonder a lot of things.

That’s what this month has been about. Exploring the reality of plant based living. So far, the results have been compelling. I’ll be sharing them with you in the first week of June, because May isn’t over yet.

But it’s going to spoil anything to tell you that I really like living and eating this way.

Except the dishes. So. Many. Dishes.

Before I go, I wondered if you had any questions about this food journey or how you might go on one of your own. I didn’t just wake up on April 30 and say, “I think I’m going to be plant based on May 1.” It’s been a couple year fascination AND transition for me. I had to learn a lot in order to be ready to do this. And if you’re curious, I’d love to know what questions you have or how I can encourage you to find the best way of eating for your health.

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