I was vegan for many years. STRICT vegan. Like ‘don’t put that yogurt too close to my raw almond milk granola bowl or I might get bad karma’ kind of strict. And I was fine. I was happy. And had no problems following through. Just saying no to things that weren’t for me. Just asking for vegan at the most random non-veg restaurants. Or just eating plain lettuce if there was no option.
And then I started studying Nutritional Therapy. Most of my classmates were vegan. Some not. And as time went on and we dived deeper into the world of nutrition and living a holistically healthy life I came to certain realisations.
One of them was that I was an extremist. No offence for all the vegans out there, I’m still with you! With extremist I’m referring to my mindset. It was so extrem it didn’t allow any flexibility let alone an open mind!! Now that’s not very healthy I thought to myself. And I started to open my mind. To the wonderful world of a balanced, nutritious, sustainable and most importantly healthy diet. And again, I’m not saying vegan diets aren’t healthy, but you need to know a thing or two about nutrients to get all your essential life warriors. You also need to understand that it really might not be for everyone. We all have slightly different genetic makeups. Slightly different metabolisms. Different blood types. Different SNPs which are genetic variations that can influence how we process and absorb nutrients. Different taste buds. Different lifestyles and level of physical activity. You name it, we are all that slight bit different - physically and mentally. Never spiritually, but that’s for another time. So the point is that maybe your neighbour is the world’s healthiest vegan and will be forever without ever touching a food supplement or getting a vitamin B12 injection, but your sister who tried a vegan diet cold turkey - no pun intended - last spring really suffered.
Back to extremism. I realised for myself that it was actually quite restrictive as a way of life. For me personally. It allowed NO flexibility. Sometimes - in hindsight - no joy or living in the moment. When I was riding that extremist wave, I never thought I was missing out, being extrem or not enjoying the moment fully. But in retrospect I could maybe agree that there were some occasions when having that piece of goat cheese with my beetroot salad might have enhanced the joy of living in this human body with incredibly sensitive taste buds.
So over the last year or so, I’ve opened up. My mind. My choices in food. And my opinion on a healthy diet. And again, I can only speak for myself and in my profession as a Nutritional Therapist I know to be conscious of individuality. But allowing myself to have eggs has been a game changer when travelling in some Asian countries where it’s hard sometimes to get all your nutrients and feel fulfilled when you only eat white rice and some curried vegetables. If you’re lucky there is a Dahl without cream or salted chillied peanuts for some protein. The life of a traveller.. *sigh*. But also, during my studies I learned to understand how an egg can be so very nutritious. It’s packed with proteins and an abundance of vitamins and minerals.
Or I might have had the odd cuppa milk chai with a hell of a lot of sugar in India - I mean how can you miss out on that experience. It’s the simple things in life, right? And being able to ALLOW myself to choose a chai with milk and sugar over a simple chai which is essentially just black tea with no milk no sugar (*yawn*), for me now means LIVING LIFE IN THIS BODY FULLY, but CONSCIOUSLY AWARE of the choices I make. Having a milk chai with sugar every now and again and enjoying that moment so much feels like a big party of joy, presence and mouth love. Why would I deny myself simple joys like that? Neither my body nor the environment on a grand scale will be affected. And I know what some of you might be thinking now - well if every human being on this planet had milk chai with sugar on tap, that surely WILL cause health and ethical problems - I completely agree! How about, what if every human being on this planet only had ONE milk chai with sugar EVERY NOW AND AGAIN instead of four times per day as some people do.
Or how about eating fish on an island, from a local fisherman that uses only sustainable fishing methods - because luckily he’s not corrupted by money and the mass production tools of the modern world - EVERY NOW AND AGAIN (how often are we on an island anyway) instead of eating farmed salmon from the supermarket three times per week?!
Or maybe buy grass-fed organic beef from your local butcher for a special occasion like your boyfriend’s birthday because he loves it so much INSTEAD of buying the cheapest most unethically sourced chicken you can find at the pound shop? Throw the entire world population into these equations are it’ll change the world.
So it comes back to BALANCE. And AWARENESS. Allowing yourself simple pleasure - if then a milk chai give you pleasure - and making a very conscious and aware decision to ENJOY and thank Mother Nature for the JOY. And give back with your gratitude, awareness and conscious ethical choices. Those have nothing to do with being vegan or not. But they have everything to do with being mindful in each and every moment you put food into your mouth. In each and every moment you stand in front of a supermarket shelf (or your online shopping shelf) and decide between organic and non-organic. In each and every moment you look at a menu that has OPTIONS to opt for coconut milk instead of cows milk. Options are great. But if there are no options and you still really want to order that probiotic live yogurt with blueberries despite you not actually “doing” dairy, then that’s great too.
Make a conscious choice, thank Mother Nature and allow yourself to be filled up physically, mentally and emotionally by the joy of having that yogurt. It will be so satisfying. And that feeling will last for a long time which means you won’t want to eat yogurt again the next day. Or even the day after that.
BE PRESENT when you eat. Enjoy every mouthful. And most important of all, LISTEN to what your body tells you. When we start to eat consciously, slowly, mindfully, we learn to really listen. Our bodies know what they need. And once we learn to listen, we know exactly how to respond to that need. Which is different to a craving that develops in your head because you saw the delicious looking cake on the counter.
There are different aspects to making food choices. Nutritional considerations. Care for the environment. Seasonality. Freshness. And animal welfare. Consider ALL of it when making your food choices and you can’t really go wrong.
THE PERSONAL BOTTOM LINE. I eat what feels right for my body and the environment. Which most of the time is vegan. After all, that’s what I love to eat. Plants. Raw cakes. Avocado. But there are moments where it might be an egg. Or milk in my coffee where there is no other option. Or that piece of goats cheese when my dear friend adds it to her signature salads :)! And there might even be times when I don’t crave anything other than pure, fresh, local vegan food for weeks. My body tells me. And I listen.
Lokah Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu. May all beings everywhere be happy and free from suffering.
Follow me on Instagram @lotusandapple
I enjoy studying, creating, exploring and most importantly eating nutritious food and balancing my life with yoga.