Hollie Grimaldi Flores: Something to chew on
It is quite early in the year, but I am beginning to have thoughts that it might turn out to be the one I will look back on and say, “That was the year I finally got my act together.” It’s a pretty optimistic statement, coming just three quarters of the way through the first month, but it has been “so far so good” and I think I want to keep the train I am on moving forward, at least when it comes to my wellbeing.
The year kicked off with my resolve to stay alcohol and (mostly) processed sugar free for at least a month, but a recommendation to watch a documentary playing on one of the more popular streaming services has added an unexpected layer of healthy onto the month.
My husband and I watched a show that focused on high performing athletes and their plant-based diets. The data was compelling. The featured competitors were all incredibly successful in a variety of sports. There were long distance runners, Olympic cyclists, MMA fighters and NFL players. They had my spouse at “marathon.”
In addition to testimonials of success, there was medical evidence, a history lesson, and eventually a bit on the environmental impact, which all came together to form a compelling argument to pursue a diet rich in plants and low in meat and dairy. Talk about your 360 degree turn in perspective!
I grew up in upstate New York. A part of the country that has so many farms, when I tried to buy a T-shirt at the local airport, the only one I could find had cows on it. There were so many absences, opening day of hunting season should have been a school holiday. Kids grew up learning how to hunt and fish and grill. We were all about the meat and potatoes.
I also grew up in the new age of convenience food — TV dinners, Betty Crocker and the increasing popularity of fast food restaurants. My mom worked outside the home, so meals were not so much about being homemade as they were about being quick and easy. My siblings will vouch for me when I say by the time I came along, she suffered from “meal preparation fatigue.” Though it may not be an actual medical condition, believe me when I tell you, it was real. My mother solved the “what’s for dinner” question by having the same seven to ten options repeat over and over. Chili on Tuesday. Hotdogs on Thursday. Overcooked roast on Sunday. Pretty boring stuff. Nary a vegetable in sight, which was fine by me, as I did not develop a taste for that part of the food pyramid until I was 20!
Imagine the change in mindset just a few decades later when I agreed to give this plant-based thing a try. (Notice we are never using the “V” word. We do not want to freak anyone out or be mistaken for those weird hippie types who don’t eat meat! And we certainly do not want to get all political.) It’s bad enough that I live in California! I cannot begin to explain this to my family of origin.
I remember meeting my first non-meat /non-dairy eater when I first moved to the Golden State 35 years ago. I did not fully understand the concept. He explained it like this: “If it ever had a face or comes from something that had a face, I do not eat it!” Simple enough, but I could not comprehend how he survived in the world! Whenever he came to visit, he got peanut butter. Once I served him a bag of seeds and stems. He did not eat anything with eggs, milk, cheese, fish, chicken, beef, pork – I was at a loss. Thankfully, I believed in Peter Pan!
I am happy to report I have already expanded my repertoire beyond nut butters. With help from a few websites, my husband and I are discovering new (to us) foods. We are exploring different restaurants. And best of all, we are doing it together!
That is not to say it has been completely smooth sailing. The first week our digestive tracks were on overdrive trying to figure out how to assimilate the changes that were taking place. There was more than one night I thought I had gone to sleep in a duck blind. But over time, things have quieted down and we have adjusted to this new normal.
To be clear, neither of us thinks we have eaten our last piece of prime rib, but we both admit to noticing a huge difference in how we feel after a meal. Hopefully, it will also show up in more meaningful ways when we visit our physicians during our annual checkups because that is really the bottom line.
What I have always known but often forget is that it is up to me to make the changes I want for myself. And, nothing means much of anything if I am not in good health. My husband says he wants to take care of the 75 year old in him now, so that when he gets there, he can still do all of things he enjoys. And I agree. At a certain age, there are only two real choices – with homage to Morgan Freeman — “get busy living or get busy dying.” Here’s to long life. Please pass the kale.
Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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