Hello, dear friends. I’ve slipped off the radar for a couple of days because although training is going very well and the new program is fan-freaking-tastic…my health has suffered. I have been taking some time to myself to re-evaluate my health & fitness journey and examine what exactly it is that I want to achieve. Initially, this started innocently enough with wanting to prove I can be strong and healthy on a plant-based diet. Thus far, I have proven this to myself. I have not gone weak, I have not seen a decrease in physical strength, and I have not slipped off the plant-based bandwagon. I have, however, seen an increase in guilt, stress and uneasiness every time I eat something that’s not perfectly within my meal plan. That being said, it seems that I have made this journey more about aesthetics and perfect adherence to the “plan” more than a fun experiment, which allows me to adopt a more conscientious, compassionate and healthy lifestyle.
The act of eating, I’m realizing, is hugely emotional and cultural. Even the concept of “healthy” foods is not completely objective or removed from emotional/cultural bonds. A food can be considered objectively nutrient-dense, but “healthy” is subjective. Seeing as eating a vegan/vegetarian/plant-based diet is distinctly counter-cultural (in conservative N. America), it’s important to address the emotional aspect of food. Certain foods are inextricably linked to particular feelings, events and places. For example, when a person is sad, they might reach for comfort foods–whether that’s pasta, chocolate or muffins. Or when they are homesick, they might make a food that their mom used to make for them. People attribute particular qualities and meanings to foods, whether they realize it or not. There is nothing inherently wrong with that tendency. For me, oatmeal/porridge is a great comfort food on a rainy day but it is less appropriate on a hot summer’s day. Some people don’t attribute these kinds of qualities to foods. I do. I also get easily bored. Sometimes, I need to branch out and have something particularly flavourful, colourful and fun to keep me happy. Saying ‘No, sorry, I’m on a diet’ is tedious–especially when I already have to explain that I’m attempting to live a plant-based lifestyle. Part of the reason I found this lifestyle so attractive was because of the freedom and flexibility with portions, foods, etc. It’s really hard to overdose on whole foods. (And overdosing on chickpeas leads to *ahem* unpleasant after effects…)
Flexibility is important not only to ensure adherence to a particular lifestyle but also to keep a healthy, balance mental state. Depriving one’s self of food variety and social eating (e.g. eating at a restaurant) is a sure fire way of raising reasonable doubts about the sustainability of a particular lifestyle. So far, I have found that the food has been tasty, cheap, and easy to find, which is all positive; but restricting myself to certain portion sizes and eating at certain times during the day regardless of fluctuations in activity levels has been a negative experience. I miss experimenting with cooking different foods and finding the joy in trying new recipes.
I will continue to stick with my meal plan for the full four weeks, but because of my lax adherence, I can’t promise amazing results in the before & after pictures. I have seen some changes in my body composition and I hope those will shine through. I guess what I’m trying to say is don’t expect a 6-pack or anything like that. (But do expect exponential strength gains.) I have to keep reminding myself that I’m trying to be healthy and strong in all respects–I’m not just trying to be skinny, ‘cut’ or ‘ripped’. The numbers on the bar are more important than the numbers on the scale. The numbers of animals left off my plate are more important than perfect macronutrient levels.
Gaining perspective and incorporating an appropriate amount of self-care is an important part of any journey. I hope you are taking care of yourselves.
Remember to love deeply, lift heavy and eat your greens!