A week or so ago, I started watching videos on a website that were made by an MD who looks at the latest nutrition research and then makes a video about it. I have no idea whether or not these videos are fair, but the studies are real. Most of them are studies that were done in Europe and published in European medical journals, and there is just something about European countries that seem so sane and rational compared to the US.

I was mostly watching for entertainment purposes, and intentionally choosing videos about vegetarian and vegan diets. I also watched a bunch of videos on dairy, which I ended up regretting. There was one about the contaminants in milk that made me horrified that there was even a carton in my fridge.

Itís also been a hobby of mine, off-and-on, to find good vegan recipeís ever since Adam and I started cohabitating. Generally speaking, being a vegetarian is pretty easy (at least, for me), but veganism is a completely different ball of wax.

In all my years of vegetarianism, Iíve never been interested in veganism, for myself. Iíve even said, on multiple occasions, that I will never be vegan, when people have asked me about it, knowing that my live-in partner is vegan.

You see, I didnít become a vegetarian for animal rights reasons, which historically speaking, seemed to be the only reason to go vegan. Although, today, that seems to be changing, as more and more research is suggesting that a solely plant-based diet can be extremely beneficial for oneís health.

Vegetarianism is something that just sort of happened to me. Yes, there is the story about how I needed to take a break from animal eating, after I accidentally ran over a raccoon, but before that, when I was very young, I always knew it was inevitable.

As soon as I became aware that not eating meat was a possibility, something inside of me told that I would eventually be one of those people. I didnít know how or why, but I knew it would happen.

This is partly because I didnít like meat. I didnít like the taste, and if I ate large amounts of it, my guts would churn, trying to figure out how to process it. My dad, of course, would try to push it on me (because no story about my childhood is complete without an Evil Dad component).

It was my early-to-mid teens when I became solely dependent on myself for food. At first, I ate what I had been taught to eat, which was the standard Midwestern fare, and I would cook these things for me and my brother (and dad, if he was around). Over time, family was around less and less, and I could cater to my own tastes. I slowly started eating more of what I liked and less of what I didnít like, which meant, meat appeared less and less in my diet.

When I finally got to the point where I decided that I ďneeded to take a break from meat,Ē it was hardly a transition, at all. The next thing I knew, it was a few years later, and I still hadnít eaten any meat. I was a vegetarian.

So, craving meat wasnít an issue for me (one big obstacle for vegetarians).

Nutrition wasnít an issue, for me, either. Iíd grown up exposed to Japanese food, so I knew where to get tofu and how to eat it, and I still had plenty of dairy in my diet.

Ordering in restaurants wasnít an issue because I was too poor to eat out.

I didnít have any pressure from my relationship because my first husband was a vegetarian (total coincidence).

All of the things that usually trip up aspiring vegetarians just never happened to me.

So now, Iíve been a vegetarian for 16 years, and it feels like itís time to start looking at my dairy consumption.

I could talk about my egg consumption, too, but when I became a vegetarian, I had stopped eating eggs for about ten years, because I didnít like them.

I learned to like them a little over 5 years ago because my boyfriend, at the time, was constantly pestering me about getting enough protein. He blamed vegetarianism for me being ďtoo skinnyĒ and thought I should put on weight. He was really just the kind of guy who would have criticized me for being too fat if Iíd gained an ounce. You know the type.

So, anyway, as far as eggs go, I can take them or leave them. No big deal.

Dairy, on the other handÖ well, Iíve had a love affair with cheese as far back as I can remember, so thereís that part. Thereís also the part where Iím mildly lactose intolerant. Iím ok with most dairy products, and cheese doesnít seem to bother my digestive system, at all.

Drinking milk has always made me nauseous. When I was in my early 20ís, I started drinking soymilk. Then, I developed a sensitivity to unfermented soy, so I had to stop the soymilk.

I started drinking lactose free milk. Eventually, I was able to transition to skim milk and still be ok, but mostly because I donít have much reason for drinking milk. I usually mix it with other things; I add it to my tea, use it for cooking, etc.

As I think I mentioned before, earlier this summer, I ran out of eggs and cheese at home, and never bothered to buy more. I was getting into the vegan recipes, and those things starting feeling less and less necessary. I am still eating low-fat, Greek style yogurt or Skyris (I just bought some today).

After buying lots of that Chai latte mix, and mixing it with milk, and drinking approximately cup of milk a day, I discovered that my digestive system is really not very keen on the stuff.

So, what about my love of cheese?

Well, I still have cheese in my diet. A couple of weeks ago, Adam and I went out to an Italian restaurant that leaned more towards the authentic, Neapolitan, side. I had the margherita pizza, and I found the dots fresh mozzarella to be perfection. I am almost positive that my appreciation was heightened from not having eaten cheese, in awhile, and that made me happy.

Over the weekend, Adam and I went to a potluck. There was pizza and a pasta salad with cubes of cheese in them. I was starving, and I dug in. I was struck by how strong and rich the cheese tasted. The fat and sour flavors jumped out at me in a way that Iíve never experienced before.

It was almost overpowering. Adam has mentioned that to me a few times, when heís eaten cheese. I didnít understand what he meant until yesterday, when I experienced the same thing. It wasnít horrible, but it wasnít great, either. I reached my cheese limit fast, and I didn't even touch the fancy cheese tray that was out.

That experience this weekend, coupled with the dairy videos Iíve been watching, has caused me to take a serious look at the dairy in my diet.

Iím not at the point where I have any intention of becoming vegan. If that ever happens, I imagine that itíll be a very gradual process.

However, Iíve done some research into dairy free milks that are not soy (turns out that Hemp milk is the most nutritious, if you donít count soy). Iíve looked a little bit into dairy free yogurts (thereís not a huge selection). Iíve also looked into the possibility of making yogurt out of tofu (I can tolerate fermented soy, just fine), but thatís too much work for me, right now.

As far as the animal rights piece goes, I think that Iím like most people.

I have a certain level of comfort with the current state of things. I like the cheap products and high standard of living.

I worry about the economy. I lived in the Midwest, and I grew up with people whose families made their living from farming animals, and it has been their livelihood, for generations. Iím also aware that many people canít afford the luxury of a major dietary change. Yes, you can eat cheaply and nutritiously as a vegan, but it takes time, effort and experimentation, to get there, and all of those things equal money.

While Iím aware that my cheap products and high standard of living are afforded to me through the exploitation of others, including atrocities committed against animals in factory farms, Iím so uncomfortable with the suffering thatís happening on my behalf that I have a willful blind spot there.

Anyway, this is getting way too long, so I have to cut it off. Oh, I also bought some almond milk yogurt today, just to give it a try.

1 comments so far

Tuesday, Sept. 06, 2011 at 3:16 PM