Tonight I ordered a chicken stir fry. I really paid attention to the taste, texture and feel of each item I put in my mouth. I asked myself these questions when I considered a mouthful:
- How does the rice make me feel? (neutral)
- How does eating the vegetables make me feel? (great!)
- The sauce? (yummy!)
- How does eating the meat make me feel? (Actually, not so great! It really was chewy, dry animal flesh. I ate it without enjoyment, and had the feeling that it was the last taste of meat I’d have in a long time.)
My new amazing friend Aryana took me to lunch at a Vegan restaurant and ordered for me. Near the end of this delicious, highly satisfying and nourishing meal, a huge bodybuilder guy (Shawn) walked in and sat down at a table. My jaw dropped. I immediately turned around in my seat and asked him if he was vegetarian. He said “No, I’m Vegan”. My jaw dropped a few more inches. So of course I had to ask him a few more questions!
Me: “How do you have so much muscle on your body if you’re Vegan?”
Shawn: “I follow information from Dr. Sebi. He’s a vegan doctor who really taught me about the body. I follow his food recommendations”
Me: “And do you do bodybuilding?”
Shawn: “No, not really anymore.”
Me: (The question struck me) “I did a bodybuilding competition a number of years ago and I got clinical depression a few years later. Do you think the two are connected?”
Shawn: “Oh definitely! I was not right in the head after. And it’s really common among the bodybuilding community.”
Me: (Brain Blow up) “ How did you heal it?”
Shawn: “Fasting. Eating tons of fruit. Getting off meat and animal products. It was really cleansing and it cleared a lot of sh*t and water out of my body. I lost a lot of weight and some muscle, healed myself then began to rebuild way better than before. I’m even stronger than I used to be.”
Me: (Double brain blow up, jaw now on floor).
So my question was now answered about the body being very capable of having lots of lean muscle mass on a vegan diet, AND more importantly – a connection has now been made between eating animal products and depression!! I’m on to something huge!
(I wish I had a photo of Shawn. But just try to picture 6′ 4″ or so guy, with lots of muscle on him, clear skin and shining eyes. You would have talked to him too! )
At this point fear started to creep in around the thought of eating Vegan, and turning away from meat and dairy. The really deep seated, uncomfortable sensation that you are going down a rabbit hole and you can neither dismiss everything you are learning, but neither can you go back.
The biggest fears for myself and my partner Anton were around eating with friends and celebrating holidays. Ham or Turkey at Easter and Thanksgiving. Christmas dinners. Burgers and rib bbq’s in the summer. Would we now be considered weirdos and cause discomfort in the whole family? Would we actually enjoy eating a vegan or vegetarian diet?
While I can usually go for quite a while on a new way of eating, Anton had a quick fear to come up around missing out on tastes and textures. And foods that were common and a comfort for him.
Another big question for me was around my body image and body type. Most vegetarians or vegans I have met to date did not appear to have much lean muscle mass. Over the years, I have enjoyed building muscle, feeling strong, and having a leaner build. Was it possible that the body was capable of eating a plant based diet, AND having a strong, lean body? Another question for the universe that I hoped I would find answers to.
Despite this gnawing discomfort, I had all these new questions and I wanted to learn more.
I’ve also learned from many people in my life, that all of our emotions really come down to two emotions when you ask yourself enough questions: Love and Fear (Check out The Work of Byron Katie) . So as with other fears in my life, I choose to move away from all these fears, trust that everything is going to be fine (as everything really has always been fine!) and keep moving towards the foods, people and experiences (including eating experiences) that make me feel love and loved.
This was a big “What the??” The people I began to meet and connect to (you know the ones, they feel like instant friends) were either Vegetarian or Vegan. Why is THAT? What’s the connection there?
Sara was the first connection I made. She is a mama to 2 thriving kiddos, a vegan chef, yoga teacher and the administrator of the International School in Hoi An. (We did a school visit just to check it out and our daughter immediately said she wanted to go there. What? You mean we might live here for a bit? )
Sara has a great partner Dane (prounnounced Dan-eh) who is also Vegan and enthusiastically shared his story and resources (Check out the Resources Category). It was Dane who encouraged me to write this blog and share my story. I will forever be grateful to him and his support.
It was really neat to see how their whole family is thriving on a diet that I always thought was really weird and “out there”!
Janie and Peter were next, and their two beautiful girls. Janie is Vegetarian, and curious about Vegan. And she has been a lovely support, and smiling face on my journey. So understanding, open minded, and quick to ask me how I’m doing. Love.
On another day, my son and I decided we wanted chocolate. So we biked to the health food store and shared a delicious, nourishing bar. We met Aryana, her husband Aaron and bubbly 4 year old daughter. Guess what they were eating? Chocolate. (Ha ha! Coincidence? Nope! Love it!) Their family is vegan, from a line of shamans and healers, and they all have this vibrancy about them. In particular, I noticed Aryana has really glowing skin, clear eyes, a radiant happiness and whole body smile. Like she’s holding in a delicious knowing or secret. Hmmm? How is she like that?
March 2018 Update: being open to who comes into my life, and taking the actions to engage with them really makes me feel vibrant and in flow with what’s happening around me, plus in alignment with what I’m meant to learn. These experiences alone grant me all three of my current soul’s wishes! Sweet!
Just as I was seeing the beauty of animals all around me, Vietnam really exposed me to the heart-breaking reality of eating animals (yep, I didn’t say meat).
Like many, in Canada we bought “meat” at the grocery store in nicely sealed packages. We don’t see the death of the animal that got packaged.
Here, you witness and smell the animals’ suffering, death, and preparation to become a food product.
On my morningwalks, I saw chickens being cleaned with freshly slit throats, three big and sad pigs in a tiny pen that became 2, then 1, and each time the river a metallic smelling dark red. The animal parts being sold at the market at street stalls. You can smell the rot and decay, see the flies. Intuitively, nothing about it makes you want to buy any. And the kids instinctively curl up their noses and ask “why?”
Another weird moment was when my husband and I had lunch at a family food stall that served a
delicious dish of broad noodles, fresh greens and a few slices of a local meat-loaf-type-thingy.
And after eating, a few doors down we noticed a sign that advertises dog meat. The first questions to pop in my head are 1. Is there dog meat in this meatloaf? 2. If so, why would I think that that is disgusting when it wouldn’t have been gross if it were pig, chicken or cow? What the!!?
A thought that formed quickly was that if I was willing to eat meat, I really should be brave enough to kill it, or at least cut it up or pluck it. But I don’t have the heart or head to do it! SO do I eat meat still? Hmmm
It wasn’t until Hoi An that I had the space and routine to walk everyday. In the fields I watched little calves trot up to their moms and get licky kisses, birds soar above in their little bird families. By the river, dogs would frolick alongside me, with happy wagging tails. There are these two geese that are inseparable and honk at me each morning, plus two love ducks that cuddle and watch the river together like an old couple.
All these animals and their natural behaviors awakened a sense of awe and childlike delight about animals I don’t often engage with in Canada. But I also felt like I hadn’t truly paid attention, and witnessed animals like I was starting to here. Definitely some ‘Hmmm’ going on!