About 10 years ago, I sensed that I needed a change. I was living in Chicago working fulltime and trying to finish up my BA. I was in my early 20’s full of promise and a lot of excess weight. Food was something that I absolutely loved but that caused me a lot of pain. My regular diet was that of a typical American. Fast food a few times a week, a general lack of fresh vegetables, and a lot of excessive days. Many a time the food I ate turned on me causing extreme stomach cramps, headaches, and battling my bowel in the bathroom. I have had to leave amazing concerts, shows, and experiences all due to the food I was eating. My solution wasn’t to change what I was consuming. Oh no, instead I would pump my stomach full of Tums and Pepto-Bismol. My stomach issues were so ever present that my family would carry around extra medicine, deemed “the hookup”, just incase I had an issue while out. It was a crazy, stupid way to live. Then something happened. The word ”vegan” entered my world. I bought a book (Becoming Vegan) and started to do a little research. Could I make such a dramatic shift in my life? Would I be willing to give up the foods that got me through rough times in search for a better quality of life? In short…no. The book was soon shelved in the back of my bookcase and quickly forgotten.
Time passed, I graduated from college, and moved back home to the Pacific Northwest to live with my parents as I opened a small retail boutique. Unfortunately, I remained in the same cycle of eat crap food, face the consequences. I tried from time to time to integrate healthier eating into my world. “Hello Acai berries, making a smoothie out of you will fix everything.” After a rough day at work I would drive through a local fast food place. My standard “I’m stressed out and needing something to take the edge off” meal was a 20 piece chicken nugget with a side of ranch and BBQ, two small cheeseburgers, a fish filet, and a large fry to top it off. No soda of course, that’s just empty calories! What in the world was I thinking? I remember hiding the food from my parents, as I snuck away to my bedroom to stuff my feelings down with a gluttonous amount of calories. After all the crumbs were gone and I had licked the last bit of dressing from its square container, the magnitude of what I had just consumed would set in. That was my life until it wasn’t.
I was working with a youth group when one of my teenage boys challenged me with a dare; whoever could go a month without fast food would win. The deal was to give up all the burger joints. Tacos, pizza and Chinese food were all allowed. It was the end of my relationship with McDonalds. I won the bet and never looked back. That was 2009. Even in giving up some of my favorite go to foods, my diet didn’t improve much. The grocery store deli was now the place where I would lose myself in food. Meat & cheese farmer’s “salad”, BBQ beef deep fried burritos, breaded general’s chicken, and a creamy bacon & cheese spread on French bread. My oh my, I really know how to indulge! The problem wasn’t just the amount of food I was eating, but also the cost. The damage it was doing to my mind, body, and wallet was visible. Something had to change.
After years of stomach issues, I decided to go to a naturopathic doctor to see if I could get my body in order. I did some muscle testing for food sensitivities and found out that wheat, gluten, dairy and almonds should no longer be part of my life. I had a “farewell to wheat” weekend in Portland, OR. I guzzled up bread & butter, mac & cheese, and topped it off with a dozen pastries at the famous Voodoo Doughnuts. It was pretty epic. I made a deal to go cold turkey on a Monday morning. The only problem was that my best friend had made me one of her famous (kinda healthy) quiches as a gift. It was frozen, sitting in my freezer, and I had to have it. I cooked it up as soon as I got home. It was so worth the slight stomach discomfort that came after eating half of it. The next morning I was done.
Going gluten and dairy free was surprisingly easy. I stopped at a Whole Foods on my way out of Portland and got an array of allergy free goods. It was amazing to me finding out how much hidden wheat is in almost everything (well everything processed) at the grocery store. It took some effort to find foods that tasted good and didn’t make me feel ill. The hardest part was trying to go out to eat. Although many large chain restaurants have gluten free menus, almost all of the meals still had dairy products. I went to Outback Steak house for my Grandpa’s 94th birthday. I ordered the seared ahi tuna, a baked potato with nothing on it and a side of steamed veggies. It was an amazing meal but ten minutes into it I started feeling sick. After getting home, I realized that the potato had been smeared with butter prior to baking. I have had a few instances of ordering what I thought would be issue free food only to pay for it in the end.
It was a couple of months later when I watched a documentary on juicing for health (Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead). I had been slowly eliminating beef, pork, chicken, and such from my diet. The feeling that I needed to stop eating animal products was almost instinctual. (Also, the last time I ate beef I was bloated and gassy for a week). I had been eating seafood, fish and eggs but knew it was time to give it all up. I decided to do a short juice fast then stop with all animal products. Fasting was an interesting process that I will share with you at another time.
I still have a couple of things to give up (gelatin & honey) but at this point I’m eating a whole foods, plant based diet. It took me over 10 years to get to this place. I feel a new sense of self and it has been quite the adventure so far. I want to share what I’ve learned, resources I’ve found, and what I struggle with. I’m hoping to connect with others like me that are trying to live “granola” while still having a full, extraordinary, and stylish life. So here’s to my new journey as an urban granola.
Much Love, B