I'm most interested in how easy it has been to live with what seems like a very limited diet based on a 'religious commitment' compared to how hard it is to feel limited in just my every day life... For instance - with Weight Watchers, one of the biggest tenants of the program is that you should not deprive yourself - because deprivation tends to backfire... causing binging or quitting altogether. And I agree that this is usually true... that learning to manage foods is much more sustainable than simply trying to cut them out.
But somehow - with the vegan thing - I've been able to deprive myself of a huge number of things with little to no struggle. I haven't been tempted to eat chocolate, cheese, dairy, meat... it just isn't an option.
Why such a difference? Because on a normal, non-lent day, if you tell me I can't have chocolate, all I can think about is chocolate... and then eventually I go and consume unnatural, ridiculous amounts of chocolate.
I haven't decided what to do after Lent is complete... people keep asking me what I'm going to eat for Easter... but honestly, I'm not really inclined to eat anything I've not been able to eat leading up to now. If it isn't vegan, it just hasn't been desirable.
Not consuming any animal by-products for the past several weeks has been... interesting. I feel pretty good. My digestion and bodily functions are happier than ever... Honestly - I LOVE the food. Veggies and lentils and hummus and peppers and brown rice... yum. Right up my alley.
AND - knowing what I know about world hunger and feed-lot animals and processed
Theologically, I'm not sure where I stand. After all, God gave us animals to eat. And I struggle to balance out what I know about God's gifts with the research about cancer/chronic disease and animal proteins I first heard about in Forks Over Knives and other sources... like Crazy Sexy Diet and Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead.
The whole idea of giving something up for Lent is a spiritual discipline... an exercise to help us focus our attention on the sacrifice of Jesus... an opportunity to appreciate and honor His suffering by experiencing an opportunity to deny some form of pleasure.
In this almost-over journey, I have learned this: God is a giver of SO many good things. Paring back my choices when it came to food has REALLY made me fall in love and appreciate the things I could eat... I have savored my food like never before... relishing the creaminess of a gorgeous green avocado slice and fully experiencing the texture and toothiness of a bowl of brown rice... these whole, unprocessed foods are SO rich and delicious. Untainted by preservatives... artificial ingredients. Real. Who needs sugary, processed garbage when a sugar snap pea is so full of flavor and texture and natural sweetness? Being vegan gave me an opportunity to notice the bounty/blessing of what I could eat instead of lamenting what I was forced to be without...
I anticipate I will strive to continue to avoid animal proteins after Sunday. I will probably adopt a more flexitarian approach... generally still avoiding meats (which is really easy for me) and working hard to make healthy, whole food choices. Forks Over Knives suggests a diet standard that gets less than 5% of it's nutrients from animal protein. While I'm not sure how to accurately track that, I know that continuing to eat the way we have been these past weeks while allowing an occasional piece of cheese or egg product pass my lips is probably realistic.
The hardest part of eating this way has been dining out or at other people's homes. On more than one occasion I simply brought my own food along so no one would have to worry about how to feed me. I hate making people fret over a high maintenance diet. That is probably the one place I would relax my standards and allow myself to 'go with the flow'.
It'll be interesting to see how it all pans out. Savannah (who has been along on the journey with me) feels much the same way. Having her enjoying the same foods with me has made it SO much easier. She really likes eating this way and so cooking for the two of us has made it a lot easier (and more fun!) There were plenty of times there were two options - our food and the boys' food. Our dear friends the Pannells are taking a mostly vegetarian approach/response to the same movie/research... so eating with them has been helpful (which we tend to do on an almost weekly basis anyway...)
This I know: the typical American diet doesn't really work. For a lot of reasons. And mindlessly consuming whatever is easy, or handy, or cheap does nothing for my relationship with my Creator. But carefully considering each meal - with good health and flavor in mind and deliberate consideration for balance and wise stewardship of resources deepens my appreciation for God's ingenuity and loving provision.
I think that's what being vegan for Lent has taught me... that God makes some REALLY good food. And that I really love good food... (although that part I knew already, my definition of 'good' has been altered in some really remarkable ways.)
Truth is, I'm not done exploring this way of eating... this approach to food. I've still got too many recipes to try. And I've got a husband is is (amazingly) intrigued and open to eating less meat - and the challenge of finding ways to feed him spurs on my motivation to begin discovering how I can make this work for us together in spite of his picky-ness.
I like a challenge. So I'll continue the journey. I've had such a struggle/crazy relationship with food my whole life and honestly, for the first time ever I feel free from a LOT of that... I want to explore that more... and pray about it more... and trust God to continue to reveal my dependence on Him as I learn how beautifully food can fuel my body while recognizing/acknowledging that it cannot/does not feed my soul.
Vegan-ish, I guess... what I know is that it doesn't end with Easter. Easter is just the beginning, I think. Seems fitting... doesn't it?