The Consumption Chronicles: Part One – Food


The topic of consumption is an incredibly controversial one, with everyone having an opinion to throw in. That, of course, includes me! I’ve got a couple of ideas for other posts based on the various facets of consumption, but in this one I wanted to talk about food.

I was a vegetarian from age 12 to August of last year (that’s ten years). For a year and a half or so of that, I was a vegan. For most of that time, I didn’t eat a particularly healthy diet – I’ve only started paying attention to that in the last two or three years. Being a vegetarian or a vegan in small town Missouri isn’t an easy task – when I was a vegan, I weighed about 95 pounds. Everyone has an optimal weight for their height, and there are people who weigh that much at my height and are perfectly healthy, but trust me when I say that that wasn’t healthy for me.

When I was sick, I didn’t always have the energy to cook vegetarian recipes, & we don’t have the grocery budget for buying everything pre-made. In between that and rethinking some of the ethics that made me become vegetarian in the first place, I decided to re-try eating meat. Matt eats meat, so I could just eat what he cooked.

I braced myself for digestive pyrotechnics after hearing horror stories from other lapsed vegetarians, but I actually reacclimated without any trouble at all. In fact, I found myself feeling better than I had in months after I started eating meat again. Whether this was because of the meat or because of supplements (which I started taking at the same time), I don’t know – but since then, I’ve experimentally cut out both of them, one at a time, and found that going without either makes me feel crappy. (I now eat meat about once a week, always organic & hormone free, and preferably local.)

This is why I don’t think it’s okay to judge others for their diet. We’re all different, and peoples’ bodies react differently to different foods. Certainly there’s a general rule of thumb for healthy (living off of deep-fried foods, soda, and potato chips is all around a bad idea), but attempting to micromanage what other people eat – it wastes your time and it annoys the other person. You can’t tell by looking at a person what their budget or energy levels are like, and to assume that they could or would want to eat the same things you eat is asinine.

My personal food philosophy is to focus on adding good instead of limiting myself. I don’t have any “no” rules, with the exception of high-fructose corn syrup (which plays havoc with my blood sugar). But just by virtue of how they make me feel, there are foods or groups of foods that are pretty much nonexistent in my diet. For example, I only drink soda on very rare occasions, but that’s not even an effort because it just tastes gross to me any more. We went out to eat last month & I ordered a Coke without thinking about it. When I started drinking it, I almost gagged. I still love fresh made Italian cream sodas, though! (Which, really, are in an entirely different category from Coke & Pepsi & the like anyways.) I eat Ben and Jerry’s (chocolate fudge brownie, represent!) on a regular basis and I don’t feel guilty about it. I eat healthy the rest of the time and hey, I enjoy my ice cream. Focusing on feeling good and eating good food with the occasional indulgence is a much better tactic than guilt and shame, in effectiveness & as far as how it makes you feel.

Here’s my food/diet staples, in case you’re curious!

  • Supplements. Every day I take magnesium (morning and night), fish oil (morning and night), a vitamin B complex, and a multivitamin. I feel noticeably ickier without taking these and find myself getting sick more often. A few notes: the fish oil capsules have orange oil in them, to prevent those absolutely disgusting post-fish-oil burps. (Which apparently not everyone experiences, since roomie had no idea what I was talking about. But if you do, then you know why that’s an improvement.) They’re a little more expensive that way, but totally worth it. And the multivitamins are gummy multivitamins. Which I’m sure will earn some eyerolls, but you know what? I hate taking gross horse-sized pills and these are delicious. So there.
  • Lemon water & green tea. I’ve always liked lemon water in small quantities, but when I saw in a post of Gala’s that it actually has health benefits, I made it a point to start drinking it more. I had a hell of a time finding a way to make it palatable in large quantities until I thought of mixing it with green tea, which as you probably know, has tons of antioxidants & is basically magical. So now I do 1 cup of water + juice from one small lemon + 1 cup of green tea (sweetened with honey or a touch of brown sugar while it’s hot), and throw some ice in there. It’s still a bit of an acquired taste, but it’s not bad or unpleasant at all. After we got back from my grandpa’s funeral, and I’d been eating crappy road trip food for several days, I drank my concoction before bed – my skin looked noticeably better the next morning.
  • Tea in general. I’ve become a bit of a tea addict! I must have been drinking crappy tea before, because it always tasted watery and flavorless. I recently discovered Yogi tea – their Bedtime tea is delicious and relaxing, and their Vanilla Spice Perfect Energy tea is another regular of mine. I just received my first order of Zhena’s Gypsy Tea the other day – I got sampler tins of the Coconut Chai & Firelight Chai, and a full sized container of the Ambrosia Plum, plus they sent samples of Earl Greater Grey & the Coconut Rum green tea. I’ve tried everything but the Coconut Rum & love it all! I definitely plan on giving the Chocolate Chai and Raspberry Earl Grey teas a go, but they were out of stock when I placed my first order. I also regularly make my own chai concentrate (based on this recipe).
  • Fresh fruits & veggies. As many as I can eat before they go bad! My favorites are nectarines, blackberries, apples, and strawberries. For veggies: bell peppers and tomatoes.
  • Smoothies. Trendy, yes, but delicious & can be made nutritious as well. Last year for a while I was making green smoothies every morning (some variation on strawberries + bananas + spinach + random fruit) and I’d like to get back to that, once fruits get back in season/cheaper. In the meantime, I discovered a spiced pumpkin smoothie recipe and is so good (plus pumpkin is high in antioxidants & potassium). It’s like drinking a liquid pumpkin pie. My slightly-tweaked version is 1/2 c pure pumpkin puree, 3/4 c whole milk, 1 tbsp honey, a dash each of nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, brown sugar, and cardamom, and a couple of ice cubes – just enough to chill it. Stick in blender and enjoy! (Or you can check out The Perfect Smoothie Formula & come up with your own recipe.)

What’re your dietary staples? Any particular thoughts on food consumption to share?

(Comment rule for today: Food & diets are a touchy subject for everyone. I am not looking for diet proselytizing or advice & any such comments will be deleted. Feel free to share about what you eat, but don’t get preachy.)

  • Ellie Di

    It’s interesting that you felt better after you added meat back into your diet. Tasha at Voracious did that after being vegan for five years and got SERIOUS shit for it, even though her health is now much improved. It saddens me to see how much other people will hate and judge when someone changes their diet so that they can be healthier.

    For me, I was vegetarian for a few years after watching as sheep slaughtered in 3rd grade. I went back to eating meat in college, but I’ve always been low in my dead-animal consumption. Meat always seems to smell better than it tastes for some reason, plus it’s expensive. My husband likes to eat it once a week, which is down significantly since we first met, so I still eat it now and then, but left to my own devices I don’t miss it.

    Our staples are brown rice, lots of water (husband drinks less coffee now than he used to), leafy greens, beans, tomatoes, apples, potatoes, and cheese. I can make lots of awesome stuff with those! We try to eat 80% whole, fresh foods, and in the summer, a lot of it is local because Ontario houses the Green Belt. They grow everything here!

    Interesting stuff! It’d be cool to see what you’re bringing home in groceries once the winter clears up and you get better produce, too. Just a thought!

  • Michelle

    Yup, I heard about the thing at Voracious and that was part of why I added a note about the comments, which I don’t usually do. I know that I was eating a healthy vegetarian diet before I started eating meat again (meaning: there weren’t any major nutrients or proteins that I was missing out on), so I really don’t need someone to dietsplain’ to me about how I was. (Which I saw all over Tasha, poor thing.)

    I don’t find myself eating meat all that often but I get a serious craving about once every week and a half or two weeks, so we’ll cook something up and then I eat it for a day or two, and then I don’t really want it again after that for another week or two. *shrug* But as I noticed, if I cut it out entirely I start feeling different in a bad way.

    I think the only thing that changes much in the summer is that I eat a LOT of fresh food. There’s a local store (Sprout’s) that has amazing deals on produce every week as long as it’s in season, so we pretty much go stock up on whatever the sale fruits & veggies are. I’ll eat breakfast, snack on fruits & veggies all day, and then have something more substantial for dinner. I should have added portobello mushrooms to the list though, I LOVE those things. I make a killer rice stir-fry with chopped peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, & beans. Yummy and filling.

  • Michelle

    I feel like I should add that what I meant (in the first paragraph) was, I was obviously not getting SOMETHING from my vegetarian diet, but I was following all of the suggestions. Taking supplements, lots of fresh fruit and greens, getting protein, etc. etc.

  • Kristin

    Food! One of my favourite topics lol:-)

    Amen on the fish oil, lemon water and green tea!

    I discovered by accident that the lemon water really helps with weight loss too – seems to speed up the metabolism. But you’re right – if I miss them, I do feel noticably “yech.”

    I know where you’re coming from re: vegetarian quandry, Michelle. I’ve yet to become vegetarian, though i’ve come close on several occaisions. For me it stemmed from a severe concern over the industrial slaughter of animals. Where I am right now, we have cows. 12 steers to be precise. And believe me, they are like people. Each one has a personality and likes and dislikes. Seeing them and then the processed meat in our fridge that we consume as a family does not sit well with me. And for a long time, I couldn’t rationalise the taking of an animals life simply so that I might continue existing in mine.

    It wasn’t until I had a greater appreciation for the cyclical nature of existence that I began to realise that the consumption of other animals *can* be ethical – even right. Provided a series of considerations are made. The most important? Respect.

    I think in a very real way that respect is the central issue around consumption. We need to respect not only ourselves, but the food we eat – because more often than not, a living breathing creature had to make a sacrifice for

    And I think so many of the consumption related illnesses which have gripped our society stem from a complete absence of “respect” in the industrial distribution and consumption of food. And as you say, the organic/free range movement – I think – is a recongition of that missing element.

    In the ideal life I am slowly building, I will eat meat – but I will slaughter and butcher it myself. It feels instinctively “right” that if an animal should forfeit it’s life for mine, that I owe it the respect of taking that life myself – and in due reverence and humanity for the sacrifice that’s being made. Taking another animals life for the perpetuation of your own really does humble you.

    I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes, Michelle:-)

  • Kristin

    PS: omg I just re-read what I wrote – I totally hope I didn’t sound preachy in what I said! I apologise if it comes across that way…*very* unintentional. I respect everyone’s choices in diet, as long as it’s a considered one (as yours is) – that’s my little caveat, and the gist of what I was trying to say with my too-many-words lol.

    Eat. Drink. Be merry:-)

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  • Michelle

    Oh no! I didn’t think you sounded preachy at all! I actually thought your comment was very thoughtful and I agree with most of it – I read it last night before bed but just didn’t have the energy to reply ;) I agree with a lot of what you said about the cycle of life & death – that was pretty much my thing, was that I realized my problem with eating meat was with factory farms & not eating meat itself. I still think factory farms are terrible; which is why I avoid them. I don’t even eat meat when we go out to restaurants unless it specifies where it came from on the menu (which sometimes happens, here in Austin). Ideally, everyone should have access to locally, humanely farmed animals & plants – I think that’s be better for people & the environment.

    With the comment moderation note, I was more wanting to avoid disrespect in anyone’s direction (i.e. “how dare you do (blank), you’re a bad person and ruining everything for everyone ever”). So no, I don’t think you crossed any lines. :)