I’m very new to the whole foods/ plant-based/vegan community and can give 100% credit of my cold-turkey transition to the Netflix documentary What the Health and my unofficial hypochondriac diagnosis. Don’t judge me and my functional relationship with web MD. 🙃
Having hit the Netflix catalog March 2017, people who are not a part of the vegan, animal rights, food justice community didn’t get hip to the documentary until a few months later. I was one of those people. I remember seeing a few posts about What the Health on my Facebook and Instagram timelines with one line captions that read like the kind of warnings you’d get from someone that just experienced a shock so soul-shaking they couldn’t remember how to formulate a full sentence. “What the Health. Wow…!” <— statuses like that. But, they were just bland posts and were ignored as I mindlessly scrolled the rest of my timelines.
Now, take into consideration my reason for being unmoved by these posts. Social media patrons are notorious for circulating propaganda videos, especially the ones about food. Often. I’ve seen enough videos of plastic cabbage not burning under a flame or ripping when pulled, videos of food coloring being injected into fruits and the ever popular fake rice posts. I’ve seen the non-decaying burger and fries, the non melting ice cream and the fake cheese and for some reason, like most of you, that was not enough to make me change the way I eat. I was a proud omnivore and relied on my personal instincts and a biannual laxative if bloating became unbearable to keep me safe and away from “alternative foods”. That was, until I watched What the Health.
One evening this past summer, July 16th to be exact, I needed something to watch to help me pass the time while taking out my box braids. I knew this task would take at least an hour if I sat uninterrupted because the braids were fairly large in size so I logged onto my Netflix account and clicked “play” under the documentary promo image. About 5 minutes into it my eyes began to bulge and my mouth found itself stuck in a semi-permanent scowl. I. WAS. DISGUSTED! I developed the most nauseated feeling in my gut and on my tongue after watching hog farms get pooh sprays while filling the air of the surrounding communities with the smell of pig waste, pus drained from butchered meat on its way down the conveyor belt, and hearing about the high cancer, heart disease, diabetes, etc. statistics and their connection to our favorite meat and dairy brands that we continue to support with our dollars. The very next day I tossed out all the animal products in my refrigerator and any unused processed foods INCLUDING the few junk food items stored for emergency purposes and have not purchased any of the items since.
Fast forward to almost two months later and a bit of oversharing: I am currently in the middle of PMS cravings *insert dramatic fall on the floor here* . We all know what this means, right? All of the chocolates, all of the pastries and all of the junk food should be in my possession as I type this but I don’t because my inner hypochondriac is constantly reminding me of what What the Health said about processed foods, dairy (found in baked goods) and sugar and I can’t shake the images enough to give in. Plus, this isn’t some quick fad weight loss diet I’m doing to lose a few pounds I packed on from last year’s holidays. This diet change is for life…but so is PMS, well, at least for the next few decades (hello, menopause *eye roll*) so I do need find as many healthy alternatives as possible to the trash I not so long ago ate until I can get my cravings under control.
Adopting a plant-based way of eating loosely means processed foods are non existent and my sweet tooth should be satisfied with fruits or some snack that I’d make myself since that is really the only way to truly know it is plant based. I’ve even became one of those people I’ve previously mocked who carries around almonds and sliced fruits in my bag daily just in case a slight hunger pang creeps in before it’s time for lunch or dinner because no one is here for low blood sugar levels.
For vegans, however, those rules are a bit different with there being a wider range of snack options in the form of pastries and other sweet treats that you can pick up at a corner store or supermarket. As much as I try my best to adhere to the whole-foods/plant based side of my healthy eating, PMS has me stalking the processed vegan snacks. But, what happens when I don’t have any snacks on hand and the cravings start to scream louder “Damn the nuts and fruits, give me a cupcake!” How do I tame the beast and not stumble in my veganfancy (vegan infancy. Yeah, I just made that up)?
Well, at work this week my willpower was tested and I failed a smidge. I had a minor slip in the form of a chocolate chip cookie from a non vegan brand. I tried my best to wait until the end of my work shift to venture to the Manhattan vegan donuts shop I visited last month to quell my chocolate desires but my internal PMS’ing, dying omnivore used one of its (many to come) last breath to convince me to purchase a chocolate chip cookie. When it comes to pastries, it takes just one nudge to get me moving into the direction of biting into heaven. Blame my father for this trait because he is also a notorious snack binger. My dollar was in hand before I could process what was about to happen and in the blink of an eye (I hate saying that, by the way), the transaction was complete.
After buying the cookie, I sat with it for a bit going back and forth in my mind about why I should and should not eat it. I thought all kinds of things like “you will have wasted money if you toss it out so you might as well eat it.” and “it’s just a dollar. You’ve wasted more money on worse in the past…” and a few other thoughts that tap-danced its way in and out of my head quick enough to be forgotten.
Finally, I told myself “enough of the back and forth!” and I ate the cookie. It took less than two seconds for me to be completely turned off by it which was a shock to myself, indeed. The cookie tasted like a bag of all purpose flour and the texture was freakishly “chewy”. How the hell did I enjoy these in the past? The trash can is where it belonged, not in my belly, and so into the trash can it went. Honestly, I’m glad my tastebuds rejected it. All the more ways of staying motivated with the change, right?
The biggest takeaway from that 10 minute slip up was not about the cookie itself but about the major debate I had with myself over a damn cookie. Why did it take me so much effort to convince myself to eat something I’ve eaten in the past on several occasions? Why did it feel like I had something to prove to myself by not “cheating” and why did I fear letting myself down if I did slip up? Has What the Health traumatized me that much, that quickly? I honestly do not have the answers to these questions right now but the more I learn and grow in this new food style change, I’m sure the answers will reveal themselves to me.
I’m sure I will have more moments of wanting to go back to my old ways of eating because thirty plus years of eating a particular way doesn’t just change in two months. However, the more I research and experiment with larger varieties of whole and vegan foods, the better prepared I will be for all situations. In the meantime, I’m going to stock up on some vegan snacks similar to the donut in that picture above for the next round of PMS.