My favorite mental wealth professional used to marvel at my deep understanding of complicated relationship issues and the workings (and failings) of human behavior on a logical level but he was always quick to follow it up with “but you just fall apart when it comes to applying it emotionally.” We spent most of our paid time together working to get the logical and emotional functioning together as a well-oiled machine. Eventually we settled on “well, that will have to do.” I’ve continued the work over the years often applying his lessons long after the last invoice was paid. That combined with more maturity and life experience, plus distancing myself from toxic people and red flags, I’ve landed somewhere I’m comfortable admitting is much more in sync, even if it does make for a much smaller circle of acquaintances.

But I’ve seem to trade one out of sync trait for another that I didn’t discover until I became more physically self aware. My transition to Veganism was initially motivated by a 4 a.m. realization that I needed to stay healthy as long as possible because people depended on me, specifically my son. Once you have a family you’ve created on your own with people you choose, you quickly realize your physical self is no longer just for you. I not only needed to exist for endless years but I needed to remain strong, free of disease if I was able, and independently functioning and compassionate for everyone. I needed to live the example. This is my obligation as a parent and I quickly realized this meant eschewing all products made from animals from my body and life and trading them for whole plant foods and much more compassion for everyone with whom we share this Earth.

eat sign

Once removing all of the animal-laden, processed foods from my diet, it quickly became clear just how accustomed I was to feeling like shit. I didn’t know that constant run down feeling wasn’t normal or that I wasn’t destined to live a life of migraines and anxiety fueled depression or insomnia. I suddenly realized my body was speaking to me and I was now ready to listen. Daily ailments that were so persistent I hardly noticed were abnormal, quickly faded away.

I have since balanced out my strictly whole-foods diet with more indulgences and convenience foods because life will be life, but indulgences are always vegan and cruelty-free which is itself less damaging to my body and Earth than their cruelty-full counterparts. However, I’m still becoming aware of what makes my body feel her best and what she would rather do without and I’ve become pretty good at deciphering the clues in spite of the language barrier. The part I now find myself struggling with is the disconnect between what makes me feel physically my best and trying to get it in sync with what makes me feel mentally best. Maybe mentally isn’t the best word as when I eat the most whole foods in their natural forms, I experience more mental clarity and my depression decreases to what I imagine is a reasonable amount for someone so aware they exist in a corrupt and oppressive society. So once again it becomes clear that my emotional self is falling steps behind.

I’ve found that processed foods, unsurprisingly don’t leave me feeling ideal. Although tofu falls under the processed category, it seems to treat pancakesmy body right. Fried tofu, on the other hand, could use some improvements but that has less to do with the tofu and more with the oil in which it was fried. Refined sugars are a definite no but the hardest for me to resist and avoid when not at home. Refined flours and empty carbs in general, I’d be best to do without all together and it has nothing to do with gluten, in my case. Even a short break from beans left me noticeably better, just enough that I haven’t gone back. I’m not anti-bean as they are such a good source of protein and fiber, but they are no longer a staple in my lunches and dinners. Too many whole grains –  really the list goes on. I do believe my system is more sensitive than the average person, it has always been, and what works for me will not work for someone else. Even smoothies are now consumed sparingly with the exception of a specific combination I have in the late afternoon. I’ve determined that I do best with a good ratio of protein and carbs along with a little fat from whole foods at every meal, take one of those away or be too dominate in another and I feel off. 

I like to stick to what I know works best and have become very routine with what I eat. I know my body, so what’s the problem? The problem is that I’m currently the only one in the family that is so in tune with how food impacts my body and getting enjoyment out of routine and fairly mediocre meals for the sake of feeling best is reserved just for me. So until my family, and really all of society, likes to gather around the table together with our bowls of bland oatmeal or baked tofu and broccoli dinners, yet again, I feel like my emotional self is longing for slow pancake Sunday breakfasts or getting giddy over finding a vegan diner or bakery. My emotional self wants to bake desserts to treat my family to and photograph empty carb heavy foods and sweets, sit in a cafe drinking lattes, or eating that tofu banh mi on the baguette. Although I love raw desserts made from whole foods, I find so many still call for the use of coconut oil or maple syrup. Two things I prefer to do without on a regular basis. Or they are so fat and calorie heavy from their reliance on nuts that I often feel sluggish and my body likes to cling on to those extra calories for dear life as if I’m going to take a tumble one day so severe and the extra padding is the only thing that will save me. Raw treats need to be reserved for occasional indulgences as much as a tray of white flour brownies.

Red Emmas
My friend and I enjoying one of our regular brunch dates.

To be clear, this isn’t an issue with Veganism, not at all as you can eat as healthy or indulgent as you want as a Vegan as long as access to food in general isn’t an issue. Your meals can be made-from scratch or strictly from cans and boxes. I’ve never once felt torn over eating cruelty-free foods, Veganism isn’t about me, it’s about the victims so there’s never temptation to waver, but as for me it’s about which is the best fuel for the body in which I currently reside. My emotional self is missing the tradition and role that food has played in my life for so long and doesn’t know what to do when food is now strictly reserved for proper refueling. I’m constantly walking this tightrope of nurturing my emotional self or physical self waiting for the day it is one and the same. I want to eat and enjoy the sustenance without the internal dialog of analyzing how it will make me feel emotionally or physically. For now I’ll continue to indulge when the company is right or a recipe is calling my name and find my way back to the baked tofu as soon as I can.