My relationship with Food
I grew up in a meat eating family, back when the difference between whole and refined grains, high and low glycemic index, natural and processed foods was not obvious, at least where I grew up. You can easily imagine that words like vegan and paleo were completely foreign.
Even as a child, I detested eating meat. I could not convince my mother to let me off. She thought it was a phase. However, after a few years, when I was old enough, she gave me up on getting me to like meat and I immediately gave up on eating it.
Fish and eggs still continued to be part of my diet, but only for a few more years. All this time, I was also overweight by at least 30 pounds. Mind you, that being a vegetarian did not necessarily indicate a healthy diet.
I moved out of my parents house at the age of 18 to go to school in a different state. My diet shifted from home food to dorm food. This included four square meals a day. First one, starting at 7AM and the last at 10:30PM, which was meant to energize myself with a bunch of other kids for late night “cramming” sessions. This was not counting unlimited snacks. It should come as no surprise that my body weight situation did not get any better.
After graduating from school, I went on to live with roommates. Luckily for me, my first roommate matched my lack of skill and laziness towards cooking. We shared a small apartment with a tiny stove and no refrigerator. Our cooking was so primitive, we wondered while eating, if cave men were more creative than us. I was a complete vegetarian by this point. But surprisingly, I do not remember the word ‘protein’ being in my active vocabulary. I paid no attention to sources of vegetable protein. That resulted in my diet being mostly carbs. Despite that, an active lifestyle and simple food helped take 20 pounds of my me.
As years progressed, I started learning more about balanced nutrition. Although I was generally healthy, the high carb, refined grain diet gave me palpitations, almost after every meal. I realized that, I was numbing the unpleasant sensation with sweets and beverages. This is when, I understood the importance of whole grains and protein balance. I swapped refined grains for whole grains. Added soy, tofu, lentils and nuts along with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, which eased the palpitations to some extent.
Speaking of soy, I knew that soy was always on the fence between healthy and harmful. I chose to give it the benefit of doubt, given my limited protein choices as it is. That changed, when a friend who has done extensive research confirmed that the harm in soy outweighs the benefits of it. I had no choice but to take it out of my pantry. I guess, that created some space and welcomed new additions like quinoa, barley, wide variety of beans including adzuki, cannellini, garbanzo, black-eyed peas to name a few. Kale has already become a staple by then.
I still am no gourmet cook. Meals are still a simple affair, nevertheless very hearty. My favorite quick meal for weekdays is a one pot dish that comprises of 1/4 cup of quinoa, 1/4 cup of brown rice, cup of cooked garbanzo beans (from can with no BPA lining), kale, tomato, olive oil and condiments. It cooks in about 20 minutes. Most of my weekday meals are variations of this one pot dish, where I switch the grains, veggies and condiments.
Breakfast is smoothie with almond milk base, vegan protein powder with nuts and dates. Walnuts, pecans, pistachios and similar blend well and I try to rotate them. Its quick to prepare and keeps me going for a few hours until lunch.
Somewhere during this evolution, I started noticing the high cholesterol numbers running in my family. We all have a sweet tooth. My sister, famously could trade real food for large bars of chocolate all day. Last year, I decided to take things into control and eliminated desserts and white potato from my diet. It was also an emotionally stressful period. It is hard to explain how, but somehow the stress helped me stick to my commitment. I did not feel deprived or crave for these anymore. I relished the natural deliciousness of dates and fruits. About 6 months into this resolution, my cholesterol numbers have dropped significantly. That was good enough motivation for me to keep going.
You may have noticed that by now, my diet was mostly vegan. I do not claim to be a 100% vegan and do not aspire to be either. I prefer vegan, but try not to be picky in social situations, where the host is already making an effort to accommodate vegetarian guests. I figured I’d rather relax my restrictions for the evening and enjoy the company.
A more recent milestone in this journey, was to bring consciousness to the activity of eating- and why not? If capitalism, business and other things could be done consciously, why not eating? I Deliberately stopped watching TV, working at my desk, answering phone or reading while I ate. This was initially a challenge, but baby steps brought me a long way. I now notice the subtle flavors in every bite. After all it is one of the simple joys of life.