A VEGAN DIET DRAMA: THE BASICS:
The Break-Up: If you are a soul food lover like me, or just a food lover, I think it is important to go through the basics of following a plant-based diet. I am first to admit that I LOVE soul food, but let me tell you I also love Indian food, Greek food, Italian food, Mexican food, Thai food, Turkish food, Chinese food and the American favorite fast food. Ode to the tandoori chicken, gyros w/ feta, fetuccini alfredo w/ shrimp, chicken fajitas, chicken pad thai, egg foo young, chicken tandir and BBQ hot links with fries - we've had some great times together. However, it is time that I bid you farewell - in the traditional sense that is. I will miss you because breaking up with the one best friend and lover that I knew would always be there for me night and day (not matter what) is so hard to do. After so many years of being intimately connected it's time for me to say good-bye. It's not you, it's me - I just can't handle all that you have to offer.
The Wilderness: Now that you have made a decision to break up with your food companion or companions, I know that you are may be feeling a little lost. If you are like me you are staring a plate and the plate appears to be staring at you. You imagine your favorite dish, but in reality your stomach is growling. I know you must be thinking and asking yourself "Am I destined to a life of bland salads and chewing carrots?" If you are, the answer is maybe - ok, "NO"! However, let me be the first to tell you that you will undergo your own personal wilderness experience and for some of us that experience is longer than others. I have come a long way in my process, but I am not 100% sure that I am out of the wilderness. If you are at a lost of what to eat just let me know and maybe we can come up with some creative options or at least support one another along the path.
The Menu: There are many options available to individuals who follow a plant-based diet and it doesn't mean you have to carry celery sticks in your pocket. I love the foods that I love so this blog will be about veganizing some of them. Now, just to make this clear because I get this question quite often, if you are following a plant-based diet or have identified yourself as a vegan this is what's NOT on the menu: pork (sorry bacon lovers), beef (bye-bye t-bone steak), fish (no more salmon), chicken (fried, baked, sauteed, etc.), seafood in general (shrimp, lobster, crab, oyster, etc), no game (deer, rabbit, etc) - did I miss any? I think I just shed a tear when I wrote the seafood category. I know, our break up has been so tragic. Now, here's the big part, well for me it was and still is, say bye-bye to ALL diary products: Oh, how I miss chunks of cheddar cheese and pepper jack cheese with water crackers. Turn off Paula Dean because you won't be adding pats or pounds of butter. Like cream cheese on your bagel, yogurt with fruit or parmesan on your pasta?? Well, if you do say tata to those things in their traditional form. If you are a milk lover, and I wasn't, you can wave goodbye to that too. Now this doesn't mean that there are no alternatives. There are!! I will happily share them with you in due time. I am building a stole of kitchen of tasty alternatives that are good and good for me. (I've also snagged a slice of pizza or two from my daughter, but I pull off the entire top portion and it drives her crazy).
The Dining-Out Dilemma: OMG! You may be screaming this in your mind like I have, "I will never eat out with friends again!" How dare that eat that juicy fried chicken, baked mac & cheese and those buttermilk biscuits in front of me? These people are simply cruel. Plus, when I asked for something without meat did that waitress just roll her eyes at me? Oh no you didn't! What about a date? I heard men like meat!! Has my pool of potential suitors instantaneously dropped lower than it is already?? Then if I ask for a vegan dish do I always have to get a plate with a hunk tofu that looks like the chef popped it straight from the package?? I say tofuie to that! You may think I am simply joking here, but there are restaurants that will have little or no options for you. In fact, I was at a well known Italian place in the Loop, whose name I will not mention at this time, and the waitress asked me what is a vegan? Come on, seriously???? Crazy question but it made me do some research to learn more about the concept - go figure! That terminology is another post as well. I am all for animal rights, but I will safely and honestly say that my main focus is health, wellness, personal well-being and inner peace. Since this is my goal at right now, I do not cringe when people eat meat around me and I still may have visions of taking a few bites myself (that's keeping it 100). I know the strict vegans, purist and animal rights activist may not like that comment, but I am blogging to be upfront, honest and to include people on this great journey. We will likely always encounter some type of dining dilemma. In fact, people with food allergies do as well. Realit is that some people who are considered too thin, too fat, too musclar or too X (fill in the blank) may get a few staring eyeballs or hear some off the cuff comments when they are out dining. Who cares! As to potential suitors, if he or she cannot embrace that you want to live a healthy and happy lifestyle that's just simply one less person to utilize your time and energy on. So to deal with the dining dilemma simply have fun, think subsitutions and talk to the staff about your needs - they will accomodate you (after they figure out what a vegan is in some instances). Also there are a growing number of vegetarian and vegan places to eat so try them. I will be blogging about my favorites (and disappointments). Remember you are what you eat so turn your dining dilemma into a dining destiny - the destiny of who you are now and who you are determined to be in the years ahead.
The Rebound: Yes, no matter what anyone tells you there are many people who DO NOT wake up one morning decide to become a vegan and do it perfectly from day one. Now people may not want to tell their stories, but that's what you have me for!! I will keep it real and what's real? You can have a great vegan breakfast and lunch and find yourself unconsciously grabbing some ribs for dinner (btw: i stop eating pork & beef my last year at the University of Illinois at Urbana so I had a different issue and it will be for each of us). You can have a wonderful vegan week and feel fantastic, but go out with the kids and grab an ice cream cone: who put that in my hand??? I'm vegan now, darn it! You can even have a few months of success then it's the office party, the holiday event, the birthday surprise, etc,etc. All of these things may be a point of weakness where your plant-based diet get pushed to the side. Well, guess what?? It doesn't have to be the end of your process because you can always wake up the next day and start over. Each victory will make you stronger and you will intuitively start making the choices you desire; so I heard. LOL. Honestly, I remember getting to the point where I looked at an item and I had a quick mental moment that directed me to make another (healthier) choice. I won't say that this doesn't happen today because it does.
The Regret: Why did I make this decision anyway? Whose bright idea was it to go vegan? You may ask yourself this questions and temporarily regret the decision. Here's the key don't stay there! You can vent about your regrets right here in this blog. I am here to support you or heck I may vent with you who knows. However, rest assure that we will end with the right focus. We must ask ourslves why did we make this decision? What are the benefits? If you're on medication you must ask do I want mask the symptoms of find healing through spiritual awakening and proper nutrition? Is that Italian beef, deep dish pizza or other favorite item worth my personal well being? Don't beat yourself up if you indulge and some of you may only reduce your intake of meat and dairy. To me, that's a great start.
The Rewards: If you got this far you are yearning, I mean literally on the edge of your chair, awaiting some good news about the decision to go vegan. There are so many that it would take a post or two or three to really explain he benefits of this decision in detail. I am definitely not going to tell you that it is easy, but it's worth it. This is an educational and life-changing journey. However, when you start reaping the rewards of more energy, better sleep, clarity of mind, improvements in your complexion, better breathing, removal of prescription drugs, improved digestion, the elimination of sickness & disease, weight loss, self-awareness and simply a new pep in your step you will soon realize that this process is worth it too.
The Journey: Simply take it one day at a time. If Emerging Vegan Sistah can do it so can you! LET'S GO......