My decision to change my diet to vegetarian over a year ago was an easy one. Changing my lifestyle to accommodate that decision required a higher degree of difficulty. There are many reasons I decided vegetarianism was right for me. All the research I had been exposed to pointed me in that direction. The change was gradual and above all, a learning experience. What I discovered immediately was the importance of diversifying my diet to include as many fresh fruits and vegetables as possible to ensure that the absence of meat in my diet would not result in any lack of vital nutrition. I quickly learned where to shop, where I couldn’t shop, and how much planning ahead it would actually take to make it work for me and my full time work schedule. Leaving the house at 8am, working all day, and heading to teach yoga 4 nights a week kept me really busy. So what do you do if you don’t live in a place where convenience meets organic fresh food? You do exactly what you have to do; make the commitment. Commit to planning out your meals the night before your busy day. Commit to yourself to accept nothing but the best fuel for your body.
The majority of busy Americans rely on our Nations multiple “fast food” chains to bridge the gap between over-scheduled calendars and the dinner table. When I decided to take a step back and examine what was available to me as the consumer in reference to prepared food at the many establishments that are considered convenient, I was shocked at how little choices there were available for the vegetarian. It made me wonder; at what point are the standards you set for yourself compromised for convenience?
There is a song I have used in my yoga classes that has a simple and profound lyric: “garbage in, garbage out.” Simply put, if you put garbage in your body, you are without a doubt going to get the same thing coming out. That garbage can take the form of obesity, high cholesterol, low energy, high blood pressure…the list goes on. Maybe you are thinking, “I don’t have any major health concerns, so I must be doing ok.” At which point I dare to you to answer the question, What major problem must occur within your own body to shake you out of mediocrity and into living a life of abundant health? It’s sad to say but we all do it. We take our health for granted and act as though we can put whatever we want into our bodies, and doing so will not affect our health whatsoever. It’s amazing the things we consume without knowing the origin, the ingredients, or the nutritional value. We select our food based on three criteria.
While those three things are important, they cannot override what is the essential, overarching fact; The quality of the food we eat, and the nutritional value that it contains. What is it supplying your body that will keep you functioning as healthy, vibrant people?
Every day food becomes more and more controversial world wide. In America we are the fast food nation. Our children are gaining weight at a rapid rate, we are the fattest nation in the world, and scientists are turning our food sources into experiments with growth hormones that make our food bigger, grow faster, yield more, and overall become cheaper. We are cloning animals, creating our own breeds of “frankenfish”, all to keep up with the demand for consumers who are over-consuming and looking for the bottom line lowest price of food. How many times have you eaten a meal and had no idea where it came from and how it ended up on your dinner table? This is food that our spouses, children and loved ones are eating, one bite at a time.
Recently my husband and I took a vacation to San Francisco where we dined one night with an old high school friend of my husbands. Paul is from the small town where my husband grew up, the land of dairy farmers and livestock. When Paul suggested we share a meal together at a local vegetarian restaurant, I was delighted! During dinner Paul and I spoke about our decision to cut meat out of our diets. While Paul made that decision for reasons completely different from my own, what he said to me really struck a cord. It only reiterated what I already had been chewing on in my head for days. Paul said, if it wasn’t so convient to have made the switch to vegetarianism, he probably would not have done it. He can order-in and order-out for every meal in San Fran with an endless choice of restaurants and dishes that support his converted diet. Farmer’s markets and organic groceries are aplenty in his city. He never has to go out of his way to make the healthy choice. No temptation for McDonalds or Taco Bell as the only on-the-go, no time to cook option.
On that same trip to San Francisco my husband and I decided we would rent a tandem bike and make the trip from San Francisco over the Golden Gate Bridge into Sausalito. The journey delivered beautiful views of the city and a unique way to experience all the Bay Area had to offer. Never having ridden tandem before, we decided to give it a whirl. We thought, “we ride our bikes at home, we can make the 12+ mile trip no problem.” Well what we hadn’t encountered during our bike riding trips at home was the steep, meandering, uphill climb that was required to even make it onto the foot of the bridge. The first hill we came to was tough, and we had to rely on each other to keep going to make it to he top. Halfway through my thighs were burning, and I’m gasping for air between my laughter at my own struggle to make it all the way. Did we give up? No! We were committed to make it all the way up the hills and across that bridge.(All while fighting a cool rain and a 2 hour deadline to meet the last ferry back to town! J ) I’ll admit, it was tough at first. Once we made it up the first hill, the others became easier. We knew what to expect and we made it across. The reward was fresh air, beautiful views, and a once in a lifetime experience that we will never forget.
That’s how it is when you make a lifestyle change. Its tough at first, it might burn a little, and you wonder…WHY DID I EVER THINK THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA? You will want to give up, let go, and fall back from any progress you’ve already made. But what have you really accomplished? With the greatest sacrifice comes great reward. And who are you rewarding? Yourself, your family, and those people who care most about you and need you.
During this season of merriment and cheer, the holidays bring gluttonous traditions that we’ve all become accustomed to. I challenge you to make the commitment to end the cycle. Make the commitment to take more care in what you choose to eat, spend that hour at the gym, or catch a yoga class when you could otherwise be just sitting at home and watching TV.
Every day is a new beginning, a chance to choose and live in the abundant health God intended for us.
If you’ve already made the commitment to your health, I encourage you to stay on track. It’s so easy to make allowances and then try to justify them during the holidays. Don’t give up! Now is the time it matters most. If you haven’t yet made the commitment, I hope my own experiences and heartfelt thoughts help you realize the importance of looking at the big picture and long term effects of the decisions we make everyday about our food and lifestyle. I can’t promise it will be easy, but I can promise it will be worth it.