The Church of Tofu

  • heart disease(s)
  • strokes
  • osteoporosis
  • diabetes
  • climate change
  • destruction of rainforest (planetary lungs)
  • animal cruelty
  • excess anibiotics & hormones
  • manboobs/early-onset puberty
  • obesity
  • overall health

There are so many reasons to examine or re-examine one’s diet. Too few people do. Too many people tell me I should STFU and leave people alone. But, it’s not like I’m trying to sell a sky fairy or Harry Potter powers. And frankly, it’s not my health in jeopardy if you don’t believe me. (I’m old enough that the planet should limp along for at least the rest of my lifetime and I never had kids.) But I tend to be a bit anti-corporate, so the more people who think any one thing is a bad idea, the less likely giant retailers like Walmart are to go along and they seem to be the economy at this point (which is another rant altogether).

Here’s the thing: I know about shitty food. I know about meat. I’ve had fried chicken. I was born in the South for Eff’s sake. I’ve tried “Sweet Tea” (hated it), chicken biscuits (fine before, but now the thought turns my stomach), NC BBQ, stuffing with mystery by-products in it, bacon fried in the fat leftover from last week’s bacon, salad that was nothing but iceburg and a puddle of thousand island dressing… I’ve tried lamb (was gamy and fatty and gross). I’ve had goat (gamy, fatty, gross). I’ve tried chitlings (vomit) and fried pork skins (double vomit), and venison (so not my favorite). I’ve had sushi and sashimi and maki. I’ve had raw conch and apple pie copious amounts of MSG.

(For the record, I’ve also been to a Baptist church, a Methodist church, non-denominational Christian, Inter-faith, Greek Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant. and Jewish temple. Same thing: been there, done that.)

To me, the meat-eaters and the Christians (and since I grew up in the South, there’s a lot of overlap there in my life) treat me the same way. If I’d just try it one more time, with an open mind this time, things would be better. On the other hand, I should shut up about my opinions because they’re just wrong and no one wants to try that or hear about it.

Which leaves me wondering: HUH?

Look, in high school, I was the fattest skinny person ever. By that, I mean, I couldn’t have run more than ten feet without passing out. Part of this was lack of eating because apparently I wasn’t crazy about my choices then either I just A) didn’t know any better and B) didn’t have any money I didn’t put in my gas tank. Part of this was lack of desire to do anything resembling physical fitness because I’d been taught that was the same as sports, which all involved a team, which I wasn’t welcome on, which… Yeah, team sports and I weren’t compatible. I only stuck with band to make the band director mad. *rolls eyes* I lived on ramen, iceburg lettuce, cookies, and the occasional partial slice of school “pizza.” Not good.

If we compare this to religion, I guess what I did then would be whichever version of organized faith you think lacks the most substance and is heaviest in crap.

In my 20s, I still had no money and no one bothered suggesting that eating anything other than fast food and ramen was a bad idea because I was a size four (which back then was skinny) and even doctors have a tendency to associate size with health. Skinny people can still be at a high risk for all the same diseases and complications as not-skinny people, but no one tells them and few even realize it. (You know, because heroin-chic was super-healthy back in the day.)

(If we wander back to religion, I guess this is the super-pious person slowly dying from fasting and flogging or who says all the right things in public and fondles small boys at home or who thinks the seizures from snake-venom poisoning are the Lord talking. At any rate, it’s delusional, but maybe not everyone sees it.)

In addition to eating poorly, I also had a habit of falling into states of depression. The kind where I’d sit at my desk crying and trying to remember if anything in my desk drawer was sharp enough to kill me because five o’clock seemed too far away and it was only Tuesday. Apparently some doctors along the way thought this seemed more serious than my diet so they prescribed all sorts of anti-depressants that made me gain weight, lose weight, feel sleepy, high, wired. So, I quit them all. Because I didn’t want to go through life as someone else. I heard working out would help, tried it, and found the symptoms subsided.

This is the part where one either gets all “go tell it on the mountain” or decides he/she doesn’t trust the results and shouldn’t discuss it for fear he/she seem a flake. At the time, I went with the latter. I still didn’t fully trust what happened. I was in my late twenties when it’s still too easy to be swayed by peers and it still wasn’t commonly accepted. I also still had “those days,” which I later figured out were situational depression rather than clinical depression. I just hated my stupid job and needed a new one.

What does this have to do with diet, you ask. Well, because a few years ago, I cut out meat. I did it gradually. It started off with the beginning of the recession, which seemed to hit FL faster than everyone else, much like it did in the late 1920s. Meat was expensive, so I started buying less of it. Then I read The Jungle around the same time the vegan presenter started showing up at school with his films and the more I researched matters, the more modern factory farming didn’t seem all that different from Upton Sinclair’s world, which skeeved me out.

I weaned myself off meat by buying less and then none. I tried eating fish (as sushi) once a month, but that was a hassle, so I just ate none. I cut out hydrogenated oils because I learned what they can do to arteries and because I saw what they look like before they turn into brownies. (Super gross.) After a few months, I couldn’t eat them again without feeling sick and wanting to shave my tongue to get the coating off. I cut out high-fructose corn syrup mainly for environmental reasons because I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, but it pissed me off that the HFCS ooze was in everything and the corn growers were lying to me about it. (I hate being lied to.)

Now, all this was fairly easy because I was the kind of person to eat all my veggies first anyway (you know, after I started eating food). I wasn’t a big red meat fan and hamburger and meatballs always kind of tasted like blood to me (very metallic, coppery). I guess my body knew better all along and I wasn’t listening.

I got excited about cooking and experimenting because… well, because unless something is creative and a challenge, it will bore me quickly. And, low and behold, I felt better. I had more energy. I lost a few pounds of fat. It got easier to put on muscle. I started craving weird things like spinach and hummus. I got excited about strawberries. I sometimes get the strange urge to just jump up and down or go run somewhere. I started thinking it was a good idea to walk, five and seven miles at a time, just because.

It was like discovering Buddha and Jesus square dancing in a Wiccan ring while Allah and God cheer them on.

Apparently there’s a reason CEOs, celebrities, athletes and former President Clinton have switched to a plant-based diet. It might sound awful if you’re eating McDonald’s fries right now, but I used to drive out of my way for McDonald’s fries and now I can’t eat them nor do I want to. I don’t miss them. (I swear it. I can bake fries at home that I like just as much.)

Not only do I have more energy, I’m happier and spend way less time contemplating the sharp stuff in my desk. (This doesn’t mean I’m not still ranty because that’s my personality, not my diet.)

I get flack for this. People say I’m pushy and weird and blah blah. But, part of it is defense. If I politely decline someone’s pork roast, I get berated. If I don’t want ice cream because I don’t have a sweet tooth, I get called out as not normal or told “you have room, you’re thin” or some variation. If I opt out of a group lunch at a meat-only diner or out of a meats and eggs heavy breakfast, I get accused of not being a team player. But if I go and just order a coffee or suggest bringing tofu scramble or vegan pancakes, the reaction is “what’s wrong with you” and “I’m not eating that weird crap.” What’s good for the majority is not good for the minority and vice versa.

But, see, after so many years of crappy eating, I want to do the right thing because I feel better and because I hate doctors. I don’t want scary surgeries if I can help it. (Hence all the yoga to avoid “spine specialists.”)

And it makes me feel less like a born again Baptist than someone who wants to warn friends and relatives not to walk into the open manhole cover just because it’s in the path everyone else has been taking.