Monday, September 30, 2013

Veganism, Bringing Joy to my Diet

Well, it's the last day of VeganMofo and this will be my 20th post. Yay! I did it! I must say this was a lot more work that I had expected it to be, but I really did enjoy being part of such a wonderful event and feel very accomplished in my work.

For my final post I thought I would talk about the amazing impact veganism has had on my life. Veganism has positively impacted essentially all parts of my life, but to wrap up the Vegan Month of Food, I thought I would specifically discuss how being vegan has impacted my diet and food.

As you may or may not know, I have multiple food allergies and intolerances which remained undiscovered for many many years and culminated in months of me being too sick to function, about which I go into detail in the "My Story" series.

Once I finally discovered what was making me sick, most notably my allergy to corn, I began the long process of recovery. While I was relieved to know what had been making me feel so terrible, this process was one that sucked a large amount of my time and energy and completely changed the day to day of my life. Whereas before I enjoyed eating and thought about food when I was hungry, now I needed to carefully inspect each product I purchased, quiz waiters and waitresses about dishes at restaurants, and bring my own food to gatherings with friends.

On top of this, while my health was certainly improving, it took a long time to reach a point of "health." The first fall and winter after discovering my allergies I was sick almost every week. I got the cold that was going around, then I felt I had a terrible sinus infection, then as soon as I recovered from that I would catch the newest cold or cough that all my classmates had, and would again be in urgent care with what I thought must be a sinus infection, being told it was not.

Additionally, I was still learning what exactly it meant to have a corn allergy. If you've looked at my Corn Allergy Resource page or looked at a list of ingredients that may contain corn, you likely know what I'm talking about. I didn't always know that dextrose, or glucose, or vegetable starch, meant there was corn in the product I was buying and I certainly didn't think to check the cough medicine, pain pills, or toothpaste I was using for these ingredients. All of this meant I continued to have reactions to corn, and while I was much less sick than I had been previously, when you are frequently confined to bed with a migraine, sinus headache, or cold, it's hard to think of yourself as healthy.

As I continued to treat my allergies and heal from the assault my body had been under for potentially my entire life, I began to have a negative view of food. There was so much I couldn't eat and such risk whenever I tried a new product, all encouraging me to stick with what I knew I could eat (or at least thought I could, as a lot of these foods turned out to actually contribute to my corn allergy). If I remember correctly some of my core staples included potato chips with salsa, ground turkey with mustard, goat cheese and rice crackers, chocolate, and lots and lots of coffee.

Fast forwarding a few months, I began to be more comfortable making food at home and found some blogs with recipes I could easily make (like Oh She Glows), I was more confident telling waiters and waitresses what I needed while dining out, and I was eating at least a slightly larger variety of foods. However, while I celebrated the little victories, such as finding a new product I could eat, food did not excite me or bring me joy. Instead I looked at it as a burden, something I always had to worry about and be afraid of, something that made me a troublesome and unwelcome dinner guest.

Fortunately all this changed when I went vegan. No longer was I saddened by my food. Instead I looked at it as a health promoting benefit to my life. No longer was I afraid to cook new recipes and try new things. Instead I was thrilled when I made a new recipe that I truly enjoyed. No longer did I rely on processed food. Instead I turned my gaze to whole plant foods, the ones with no complicated ingredient list, or any ingredient list at all. Once I could make a dish and not have to worry if that tomato or mushroom or pepper was full of secret corn ingredients, I could finally experience food to it's full potential, as a promoter of health and source of joy.

And since I originally started eating a vegan diet for health reasons, once I was aware and passionate about the ethical reasons to eat an animal free diet and actually "became vegan," my relationship with food only continued to improve. In additional to all the health and taste benefits I was experiencing with my new diet, now my food also had a more important purpose. No matter how terrible a failed experiment was, or bland a dish was at a restaurant, or how few types of hummus I could buy at the store, I knew that my food choices had a positive impact on the world. Now, not only did my food promote my own health instead of tear it down, but my food choices were working to promote a healthier environment and didn't cause harm to animals.

Now, while I still have to inspect ingredient lists, harass waiters, plan ahead when traveling, and bring my own food to gatherings, food brings me joy. My food and diet have a positive impact and a bigger purpose. They no longer weigh me down or hold me back but instead support me and provide meaning in my life. Ultimately, veganism has helped transform my diet from a source of stress to a cause for celebration, a celebration I have every time I take a bite.

There are many other ways that veganism has positively impacted my life, which I will share more of in the future, but that's it for VeganMofo! I really have enjoyed this experience both in terms of what it has pushed me to do and in terms of the amazing things I have seen from other bloggers.

For example, if you need another reason to love JL Fields (check out my shout out to her from yesterday) watch this awesome video she did for today! It was the perfect thing to wake up to this morning!

Happy Monday everyone, I'll be back soon!