Showing posts with label the story of my veganism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label the story of my veganism. Show all posts

Saturday, August 24, 2013

I JUST LOVE JUNK FOOD TOO MUCH: the story of my veganism

A road of a thousand miles starts with one single step. 

I grew up in Communist Russia, and by the time the first McDonald's came to Moscow, I was in my late teens. People were queueing around the block, and it took several hours to get your serving of fries. Together with Pepsi Cola (another killer poison, by the way), it was a symbol of our generation, a symbol of freedom, the symbol of the end of life in an informational aquarium, where you were fed what the authorities wanted you to eat. We finally were given a choice! And oh yeah we were choosing!
Along with BMW's, Mercedes600s, flashy designer clothes that quickly invaded the post-Soviet space, McDonald's occupied its niche. Because of this historical background, it had always been treated with great reverence in Russia, and by the time we found out how crazy unhealthy it was, we were already hooked. The taste and texture of french fries, chicken nuggets and filet'o'fish will live in our subconsciousness for ever....

I'm happy that by the time McDonald's invaded my life I'd stopped eating red meat. I was a red meat addict before that, and at age 12 started to suffer from it physically. I would scream at my mom if there was no meat on my plate... Enough is enough! That had to stop, even at a tender age 12, living in a communist country with no concept of healthy nutrition, my body knew that and started to protest... So I'm kinda blessed that I have never tasted a meat burger in my life. Nevertheless, I stuffed myself with lots of other garbage.

I started to substitute red meat with lots of bread, pasta, Chinese noodles (another huge favorite) and other fast food - a common mistake of people who stop eating animal products. Eating vegetables is more difficult, more time consuming; they rot fast, they need to be washed and chopped, and when you're constantly on the go the easiest of all is to munch on a turkey sandwich or buy fast food on the go...which I did, I must confess, for quite some time. When I lived in Moscow, McDonald's was on my way from work, and I stopped there almost every day (the Tretyakov Gallery was also on the same route but I went there only once in several years when friends came to visit from abroad).

Vadis Turner: Fast Food Quilt
Once I moved to the USA, I kept frequenting fast foods of all sorts: Dunkin' Donuts for hash browns (Oh those hash browns! I miss you more than anything in the world!) and chocolate goodness with cream inside; Chipotle for chicken burrito (2,000 calories per burrito, anyone?); Subway (the veggie patty foot-long); my good ol' friend McDonald's (fries, chicken nuggets, filet'o'fish); etc, etc... Starbucks became my second home: I had a huge coffee with milk (or latte) every morning, and a marshmallow square or some other pastry to go along with my Grande. Otherwise I couldn't function. Healthy vegetarian diet, eh?

I wish... At some point, I felt dependent on coffee and fast food, and there is no worse feeling than realizing you depend on something...especially something utterly unhealthy. When you pass a fast food joint and you feel that unexplainable pull to enter, open your wallet and get satisfied... And my battle has started.

There is a new term in the modern internet world: web sites that collect food recipes from all around and display them along mouth-watering pictures are called FOOD PORN web sites. There are lots of them, and thousands of food bloggers submit new recipes daily. I think that fast food logos and store fronts are the FOOD PORN of the offline world - anyone who was addicted to it once would agree. It becomes a sinful pleasure; it calls you, lures you with irresistible chemical smells that interact with your brain to create desire....

(food porn web resource) saved recipes
It's not easy to get "clean", to stop an addiction. Same as alcohol and cigarettes, food addictions take time to manage. Give yourself that time! Or you will most probably slip. I slipped many times; my struggle with junk food failed many times, I'd become a health food theoretic but in practice continued to be a junkie... until i stopped struggling and started to watch... Until I decided to try it the Osho way.
Osho says, " Whenever you drop something by fight, it is never dropped. You will drop smoking by fighting and then you will start doing something else which will become a substitute". I would not come to McDonalds for weeks, but then something happens in my life and I would eat junk again, day in and day out... so i start to feel useless, incapable of even the simplest thing!

Around the same time I heard a discourse where Osho was talking about smoking as a meditation. it was a completely different, non-violent approach to self, and I was intrigued. I decided to watch myself. Every time I had an urge to grab a 2000 calorie burrito, or 2 packs or hash browns, I was watching myself. I still ate them, but ate wholeheartedly, with undivided attention, enjoying every bite. During one of those junk food meditations, an idea came to my mind: starting today, I will count how many times a month I eat junk food. Any sort: takeouts, fast food, soda on set, free drinks at fashion parties... I made a mental mark not to repeat the same junk food place more than once a month, and by the time I went through all my usual places, the month had already passed. Pretty stressless, i should say, and I didn't even have to limit myself. All I had to do is not to repeat the same place! Thanks to the variety of fast food joints in New York City, it was pretty easy; just needed a little bit of awareness.

I soon started to notice that the pull of certain places has become weaker; the undigested pieces of food that get stuck in our intestines and make us crave for exactly that same foods over and over again have probably been washed out in a month, and I started to extend the time between "visits". At the same time, I started to cook more. Even bad-habit cooking is healthier than fast food; and I slowly began to substitute unhealthy choices with healthy ones.

1. Every next trip to the supermarket, I sub'ed one unhealthy food with its better, healthier version. I started to look for low-fat versions of my regular foods. Not the non-fat ones (those are bad) but low-fat, organic milk products, stripped off of fat without the use of chemicals. Milk, cottage cheese, low-fat yoghurt, cream, and cheeses (feta, mozzarella, gouda). I wrote the whole list of healthier alternatives to regular foods in my previous food blog post.
2. I started to substitute chicken and fish with tofu and legumes (I hadn't cooked legumes for years, and it was a new discovery for me that beans can be used in anything other than a Chipotle burrito)- lentils, chickpeas and all sorts of beans; milk with almond milk, regular eggs with organic eggs produced by my violence-free landlady. She has a house in Pennsylvania where chickens roam freely and happily. She never kills old hens allowing them to live up to ripe old age and die naturally. Her eggs taste amazing, I'd buy dozens of eggs a week and eat them almost every day. It helped me drop almost all animal products without even trying (if you live in Brooklyn, I can share her contact with you).
Some people say that you shouldn't eat more than 3 eggs a week because of high cholesterol, but I discovered that if you don't eat greasy burgers and other crappy animal fats, the number of eggs in your diet can be significantly increased. They are a non-vegan superfood, so it's way better to eat 7 free-range organic eggs than 7 cheeseburgers.
3. I stopped eating milk chocolate and switched to dark chocolate. Hazelnut chocolate being my utmost favorite.
4. I substituted eggs with avocados. Did you know they have much in common? Even the shape :)
5. I changed my supermarket. Instead of a regular corner store and Key Food I started to go to Trader Joe's and frequent their organic section.
6. I started to take a daily multivitamin. Research shows that people who take multivitamins live several years longer.
7. I began to buy all organic legumes, seeds and non-perishables at - the best and cheapest online supermarket (if you decide to shop there, use code CHK415 for an extra discount). I started to sprout my lentils, quinoa and buckwheat (bought at iherb) along with a dozen other zesty and flavorful seeds from Johnny's seeds. Mixed with baby greens and lightly sizzled, they make a perfect meal.
8. I started to bake my own cookies and breads, using buckwheat and oatmeal flour instead of wheat. They are gluten-free and filled with vitamins & nutrients. I use chia seed instead of eggs for baking. Almond milk instead of cow milk. Coconut oil instead of butter. With these ingredients almost every recipe can be "veganized".
9. I began to add more raw foods into my diet: the ratio of cooked vs. uncooked has first gone down from 90/10 to 70/30, then to 50/50, and eventually reached 30/70.
10. I started to eat more superfoods and less bulk (bread, rice, pasta, granola). I did a substantial research on healthy nutrition and finally was ready to share it with my friends.
11. I resumed my body cleanses and successfully completed a 10-day cleanse. At this point of my life, I'm one of the healthiest eaters of all the people I know. I'm really happy it doesn't stress me to eat well because the process was slow and gradual; I didn't force any of those changes, they all came naturally as a succession of events in my life. I grew into veganism and nourished healthy nutritional habits from the ground up, over several years, rather than changing everything overnight. And though it took me a long time to get here, those were years of learning and preparation for goodness.

I must say, changing diet and eating habits is EXTREMELY HARD if you're doing it rapidly. But if you're going step by step, it's becoming natural and almost unnoticed. The most important thing to do is to STOP HAVING EXCUSES: believe me, I had plenty! Our creative mind always comes up with something soothing: "I had a bad day and I need some comfort food". "I have a super early call time for a shoot and need an energy drink (or two)". "I'm breaking up with this asshole and I want to stuff my face"... Stop, realize it's an excuse, and do what you intended to do consciously, taking full responsibility for your action. Don't suppress - just stop justifying.

If you love yourself, if you really love your body, you just have to make a decision. Sit silently with yourself, stroke your skin, feel your body as a beautiful host for your spirit, and promise to protect it, to love it, and not to harm it in any way. Loving doesn't mean allowing everything; if you have a small child - would you allow him to eat only candy all day long? If the child doesn't like vegetables, you would still try to somehow sneak veggies into her diet, right? Loving is not the same as spoiling: if you really love your car, you would never knowingly put wrong oil into it, or damage it. So why put wrong "oil" into your body engine? Why clog your vessels with cholesterol, why create sugar spikes and crashes time after time? Think about it; meditate on it, if you will. Listen to Osho, discover the deeper meaning of your obsession, and try some cathartic meditation technique to throw it out of your system.

LOVE YOURSELF. Love your body, and it will pay you back with years of health and happiness.