I never really cared much about food. I eat, but fancy food is largely wasted on me. A huge portion of my diet is toast, peanut butter, and sometimes peanut butter toast. Throw in pasta, chicken strips, and pepperoni pizza, and you have, like, 85% of the foods I eat in any given week.
This summer, though, I started thinking about food because Eric and I have had a lot of visitors this summer, and that has meant eating out. A lot. For a week during X Games, I don’t think I at a single meal at home. The end result is that I gained a little weight–not much, but enough to make my pants fit weird–and I got way out of the habit of cooking. Cooking just seemed like so much work when I haven’t been doing it regularly.
So, I decided that I needed to be a little more thougthful about how I eat, but it’s also tricky because Eric requires a lot of food just to stay alive. Whatever food experiment that I decided to try, I needed to find a balance between eating healthier, leaner foods and not starving my boyfriend who can eat bacon cheeseburgers and ice cream and still be skinny.
I was thinking about trying a paleo diet because it seems to involve eating a lot of meat–which Eric would like–but I ended up going in the opposite direction: vegan. More specifically, I got the book and the cookbook VB6, which stands for Vegan Before 6. Eric and I don’t eat breakfast or lunch together during the week, so my food choices wouldn’t really require him to make any changes.
I’m two weeks in and it has been going pretty well. What I’m really learning is how much of the way that I eat is mental. Here’s an example: I did not know that onions were delicious. I was a picky eater as a kid, so when I found something I liked, I stuck with it. Hamburgers with mustard, pickles, and cheese ONLY. Why bother to add anything to a formula that is already working for me. I don’t think I ate lettuce on a burger until I was in my late 20s, even though lettuce kind of has no taste. I wasn’t going to risk it.
This means that I just finally discovered the tastiness of an onion, and I am so excited to eat them now. Today, I tried raw celery, and it was…fine with a bit of peanut butter. Considering that I was convinced celery tasted like bitter wax, seasoned with a pinch of evil “fine as long as peanut butter is available” is a huge step for me.
There are a few foods that keep popping up that I am legit afraid of trying: tofu, radishes, and beets. To be fair, I did try beets a few years ago, my expert foodie review was: “tastes like dirt,” which is part of my reluctance. But the idea of trying those other things fills me with an actual anxiety despite the fact that most of the things I’ve tried have been much, much better than I expected.
The other big surprise to me was that I figured I would be hungry all the time. The one food fact I know is that protein makes you feel full and is good for muscles, so I always assumed I needed a lot of protein. In my head, I always work out like a serious athlete. In my head, I am a badass. In reality, I run about 3 miles a few times a week, and every time I lift weights that are more than 5 pounds, I aggravate my stupid tendonitis. Turns out, I can totally get by with some peanut butter and a lot of beans mixed in with my veggies.
As I said, it’s an experiment, and I don’t see myself going vegan full time, but it is forcing me to try more foods, eat more actual foods (instead of Lean Hot Pockets and frozen lunches like I used to eat all the time), and I’m debunking a lot of my long held food myths.