Culture Shock

This is Blog 3 in a 365 day series!

Click HERE to start from the beginning!

Phase one of the experience: frustration. But not the frustration I anticipated, surprisingly enough. I anticipated colliding with frustration through cravings. Through wanting that hamburger so damn bad that I snuck one from McDonalds on my way home from work. Through dreaming about steak fajitas. Through questioning my decision to so boldly announce a desire for a plant strong diet. But no, actually, my frustration has been caused by culture shock. It’s been roughly 60 days of a no-beef, vegetables-with-a-side-of-meat lifestyle and people keep asking me, somewhat condescendingly, how it’s going. “Not terrible, but not great,” has been my response. One thing is for certain, I have learned a lot in this short period of time about our culture. . . or, at least, the culture portrayed by the various bodies around me. This is what I have learned:


1. Diets but not lifestyle.

This has been most glaring. Atkins, Mediterranean, Weight Watchers, Low-Carb, No-Carb, All-Carb, Sugar-Free, Gluten-Free, Low-Fat, No-Fat, Juice Cleanse, Teatox, Whole30, South Beach, Nutrisystem, Dukan, Dash, Fasting, Zoning. . . holy shit, pick your 30 day torture device. These fads are painful, not only because they rest on the idea that dietary success occurs through the immediate denial of enjoyable foods and liquids that your body has become accustomed to consuming daily, but because they are not sustainable. But who cares about dietary sustainability, right? Once you reach sustainability, you reach lifestyle. And the #1 thing I have learned? Adopting a lifestyle not the American norm is an affront to those around you. They become angry. Some criticize aggressively, others criticize passive-aggressively. But all, thus far, have criticized with offense, as though my decision to decrease the amount of animal protein I consume weekly some how insults their own being to the core. A 2 or 3 oz cut of meat versus 14? Obscene. Exploring plant based diets, at all? Blasphemy.


 2. Lose weight but not cholesterol.

We are always trying to lose weight, aren’t we? Lord knows I’ve been trying to lose 10 pounds for years, which is difficult for someone who is somewhat over indulgent and lifts heavy weights as her exercise of choice. So, I get it. We all want to be our own image of perfection (an image often influenced by the entertainment industry in all of its unrealistic, eating disordered glory). Hell, it was only 6 months ago that I accepted my weight and frame for what it was. So, I get it. I get it. I get it.


But I do need help understanding why wanting to lose weight receives a sympathetic and tolerant nod but changing the way you eat to live longer and stronger is somehow ignorant and ill-informed. Pre-diabetic? High cholesterol? Hypertension? Here, take these pills and continue on your merry way. Eat more vegetables and less red meat? You’re the f@#%ing anti-christ.


Nevermind research. Nevermind 150 year analyses of trends and change. Welcome to America and American, corporate influenced, government-backed consumerism.


3. Aesthetics but never morals.

On second thought, maybe I don’t need help understanding society’s obsession with weight loss. We all just want to look good naked, right? (A generalization, I’m aware). But is it or isn’t it the overall purpose of dieting? It’s acceptable to want the body of your (or your spouses) dreams but it’s strange to acknowledge the devastating impact of global agribusiness. Change yourself to be some conventional, heteronormative definition of aesthetically pleasing, but don’t change yourself to decrease environmental impact.  Fool.  I find this interesting in a country of people that pride themselves on their moral supremacy.


 4. I want what I want and I want it now, at any cost.

At the end of the day, one thing I have realized with many of the quick-to-speak, slow-to-think nay sayers is that they just don’t want to give up the things they enjoy. Not even in the slightest. Period. And the mere mention of someone they know giving up something they once enjoyed whether it be for health or environment is a slap in the face. Is it intended to be a slap in the face? No. Does that matter? No. Is it frustrating? I think the tone of this blog in comparison to the rest should answer that question well on its own.


But then, here I sit, I take a deep breath and I think about the tradition/s of cooking. I think about the power that cooking has to transform us as a people. I think about the love that is expressed in the food that I cook for my family. It has become social and cultural fact that few people in this country cook at all nevermind cooking real, raw, fresh foods. This feels unfortunate.


I think about the beauty in flavor. . . flavors I didn’t know existed because I relied so heavily on the flavor of meat. Really, it has been fun. New recipes, new perspectives and a fresh look at my connection to the earth. The best part? My boys. They have yet to question anything I’ve served little meat, no meat or mostly meat. Yesterday we had BBQ pork roast with coleslaw. Tonight we had vegetarian enchiladas. I didn’t even tell the 10 year old that it was vegetarian and he went back for seconds. It warmed my heart and made me realize that this is easier than I even thought. I can. . .  we can. . .  be in control of our health if only we so choose. And only if we are privileged enough to do so, but that is a social injustice for another day.


3 thoughts on “Culture Shock

  1. Very well said and I must say that your writing skills are exceptional. Just another accolade to your growing resume. Definitely food for thought. I find it disappointing that you are experiencing any condescending remarks from such people. I’m puzzled by their criticism. Well, never mind them, keep on trucking. It can only get easier. A hundred years ago when I let go of all meat it started off OK , had a stomach ache for 3 weeks with all the ruffage I was eating, but then it all smoothed over. I felt so great and I didn’t really miss it as much as I thought I would. It helps to only be around vegetarians. Anyway I have really been fine with the kind of eating lifestyle you are implementing. I do need to eat a low protein diet. Not that you are eating less protein. So far I love your whole blog, keep up the good work. Love you Mom

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