The Runaway (Vegan?) Mama

A funny thing happened on day four of my Ten Day Yogurt Challenge. Actually, two funny things happened: (1) I started to like it. My timid slurps turned into happy bites, and now, I’m sold!, and (2) I started reading a book called Crazy Sexy Diet, written by cancer survivor Kris Karr, and I’m learning that a vegan diet – one with no meat or dairy (and no yogurt!) – can fight off cancer and other illness, including IBS, which I suffer from now. It can also help me fight off the diseases that have wreaked havoc on my family, including colon cancer, heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s. Yes, my family history suggests I’m screwed.

My grandmother on my father’s side was one of four – yes four – sisters who had Alzheimer’s. Colon cancer comes from both sides of the family tree, and in case you’ve forgotten, my gastroenterologist discovered a polyp in my 35-year-old colon last fall. In addition, I’ve had at least half a dozen birth marks, moles and other growths removed from my skin because when tested they had pre-cancerous cells in them. Low vitamin D levels have been linked to cancer, and guess what? It doesn’t matter that I live in sunny South Florida. My levels are below normal. Quite frankly, I’ve felt powerless to change my disease destiny…until I picked up Crazy Sexy Diet.

Ms. Karr’s book suggests, rather convincingly, that there is a gargantuan link between the foods we eat the diseases we have. It also proposes rather persuasively that regardless of the crappy genes we may have, we can change the outcomes with diet (and exercise, meditation, etc.). I’m really excited about these ideas, but also a little bit uneasy.

You see, you don’t get the exciting ideas without the sad, awful truth about the U.S. meat and dairy industries, which is why I’ve avoided movies like Food Inc. It’s not just because motherhood makes it hard to see movies, finish books or take showers. It’s because I know if I watch it, I’ll want to stop eating meat and dairy. And that’s a hard thing to do. And I like cheese. A lot.

Crazy Sexy Diet inadvertently opened my eyes to all of this and now I’m in a tizzy. Knowledge is power, right? Well, it’s also terrifying. And so is disease…and slaughterhouses…and a vegan diet!…and mammograms. I had my first one this morning. I didn’t do it because I found a lump. When I had the molar pregnancy in 2005, my oncologist told me to start getting them when I turned 35. I should have the results in about a week. For anyone wondering, the mammogram didn’t hurt. The hour and a half I spent in the waiting room was way more obnoxious than the test itself.

I’ve opened a new window – or a book in this case – and I’m eager, anxious and confused all at once. On one hand, I’m researching chickpea and quinoa recipes, and on the other hand, I’m craving a glass of wine and a bowl of chocolate chip ice cream, neither of which is very vegan!

Will I become a full-time vegan? In theory, I’d love to meditate and drink homemade green juices each morning before starting my day. The reality, though, is that I sometimes don’t even get to pee or brush my teeth before chasing Riley around the house to change a poopy diaper. I do more for my kids before 7am than most people accomplish all day. I don’t have enough “me time” right now to accomplish such a complex diet and lifestyle change, but I’m definitely going to eat less meat and dairy, and perhaps after some soul searching, less Pinot Grigio and Skinny Cow desserts. My path to a vegan lifestyle will have to be done “mommy style” (i.e. slowly).

Does it seem like this blog has become less about my kids and more about me lately? I knew once I started writing I would find myself on some kind of personal journey. Fear not, though. I honestly don’t think it’s possible for me to have an awakening that doesn’t somehow have something to do with my boys. Since I started reading this book, I can’t stop thinking about what they eat (too much dairy, lots of sugar and processed food), and more importantly, what they don’t (vegetables!). I would never subject them to a strict diet, especially at their young age, but I know there is more I can and should do to teach them stronger values around food and health.

So, for now, the yogurt stays. I’ll start by weaning meat from my diet, which should be relatively easy because these days my tummy is never happy when I eat it. I’ll tackle dairy after that. If I come across any good veggie-friendly recipes along the way, I’ll post them on the blog.

This is definitely to be continued…

What are your thoughts about food and disease?

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