While I’m cruising into day 67 of an approximately 4-month elimination diet right now, it’s hard to believe what seismic dietary shifts I’ve had to make over the past 10 months or so. The hardest was transitioning from a plant-based diet.
Let’s flashback to last August (2014). I’m walking around an East London market with Craig and the British friends I’ve known since I was 15. A few pints are consumed while we cheer on Man City. A few days later, I’m snuggled in a blanket1 at a Copenhagen bar enjoying Danish craft beers with Craig. By this point, we’ve already fallen in love with kartofellmad, an open-faced onion and potato sandwich on dense rye bread. Such culinary simplicity, yet so amazing. When in Rome, as they say…or when in London and Copenhagen.
While it’s probably not the austere diet you’d expect a health + lifestyle strategist to eat, I was giving myself a vacation in more ways than one. We all tend to ease up a bit more on vacation. For me, this trip was also after several months of wrestling myself over maintaining my several year commitment to a mostly plant-based diet, or vegan in food choice only2.
At first, transitioning to a mostly plant-based diet felt great. I completed a 10-month vegan- and macrobiotic-inspired cooking program, so I felt like I was bubbling over with creativity in the kitchen. You can make a jello-like dessert out of seaweed?!? It felt like an adventure in whole foods. My energy was soaring.
Yet, something started to change. After the second winter here in the foothills of the Berkshire Mountains, I was constantly freezing and dreaming of devouring hamburgers, lamb, and everything except the face of 19-foot long salmon. The wrestling match was beginning. In one corner, my facts-and-figures brain rationalized all the health and environmental reasons for eating only plants. In the other corner, my gut and my heart were flinging dreams and one lunchtime hallucination3 at my brain. Also like a wrestling match, spectators seemed to be hurling their opinions at the ring, too. Because I was fatiguing, the wall of cheers and jeers felt so much louder and draining.
After the 19-foot salmon dream and nearly passing out at our local library, my heart and my gut pinned my brain to the mat. Craig picked me up; and we went directly to the local farmers’ market to buy some local, organic grass-fed beef. It was summarily cooked and eaten.
Physically, it was bliss. It’s hard to describe in words. It like snapping the last piece into a jigsaw puzzle. It fit perfectly. It was grounding. I woke up the next day with more color in my cheeks than I’d seen in a long time. Craig noticed before I could even mention it.
Mentally, I felt like a traitor. I felt guilty. Because of the work that I do, it’s natural for people to be curious about what I’m feeding myself and why. How could I explain the change? These feelings persisted for several months while I figured just how much animal protein kept my body satisfied and where/how to source animal protein that kept my ethical brain satisfied, too. With less frequency and intensity, I still feel the oscillations.
So, this European trip was about truly letting go and seeing what happened.
1 Yes, Danish bars offer heat lamps and outdoor seating. Hygge, or coziness, is not just conceptual there. It's a thing - a divine thing.
2 I could not part with my black leather Vans nor local honey.
3 True story. I was eating a salad on the back porch one day and literally swore I saw some slices of lamb or steak on it. I blinked; and it was gone.