So, we recently finished yet another vegan detox. Or as we like to call it, Two Weeks Vegan. As usual, we had a bumpy start, a happy middle, and an energetic, great-feeling end.
But this time something was different. We had a lot more interest in what we were doing, and a few people even followed along. Some did part, some did whole. Some liked it, some loathed it, some totally mocked me out. But in the end there was one question that kept coming up: Why do y’all do this thing?
Well, in my post from last year, #twoweeksvegan, I wrote a bit about why my husband and I did the first detox. Looking back, that first one was more of an experiment and, as I saw it, part of the yoga journey I was on. And when you’re around mostly yoga people, a detox is a regular occurrence, and a lot of yogis are vegan (or pretty close to it) all the time anyway, so it wasn’t that big of a deal.
So maybe the question really isn’t, “Why did you do it,” but more, “Why do you keep doing it?”
(I’ll start by answering for myself. I’ll let my family write their own rebuttal piece, “My Mom Cooked Weird Stuff and How Therapy Helped...”)
Here’s the deal: I feel great. Really and truly. I have more energy. I sleep better. My skin glows. My digestion is perfection. My yoga practice feels more connected to my actual life. I’m a nicer human.
But, I also feel more in tune with where my food is coming from, and the entire process of delivering food to my family’s table. I love trying new recipes, and I really love it when they’re good. As I said to a friend, these detoxes force me out of my very small, very traditional cooking safe zone.
I didn’t grow up in a foodie household. While my Dad was a weekend grill master, my mother didn’t cook at all. We did, thankfully, have someone who did: our beloved Curtis. She cared for our entire family in a million ways, but what I remember the most was the food. She cooked wonderful southern meals for us: divine fried chicken, green beans with bacon fat, savory chicken and dumplings, and the most incredible apple pie, with the flakiest homemade crust you can imagine. Southern heaven on a plate. But here’s the thing: all the actual cooking happened while I was at school, so I was never part of the process. I never even witnessed the process. What Curtis did for us was so unseen, so mysterious, it seemed to me as a child that what she did was pure magic. It sure tasted that way.
So when I left home, I was at a bit of a loss. College was fine - the dining hall kept me alive, as did ramen, canned soup, and turkey sandwiches. But once I was really on my own? Hopeless. My sister helped a lot – sharing recipes she had learned and divined, and I was smart enough to marry someone who loves to cook and who is also a gill master like my Dad. Honestly, though, until I had a family, I never gave cooking much thought. But once my boys arrived, I thought about it. A lot.
I stumbled along for years, barraged by information, trying to do what was best. But after that first vegan detox, I wanted to feel that way more often – for all of us to feel that way more often. And I wanted our family to learn more about how our food choices affect us and the world around us. We started easy – vegan versions of foods we already loved: mac and “cheese”, vegan chili, veggie burgers, smoothies. So far so good. Then more experimental fare: millet falafel, “creamy” mushroom soup, walnut paté, tempeh. Some recipes were great successes. Some were great failures. But over the course of each detox, we figured out at least one or two new meals that we loved as a family. Meals that are now requested by my husband and children, whether it’s two weeks vegan or not.
So, to make a short story long, that’s why we all keep doing this thing. As the line blurs between how we eat during Two Weeks Vegan and how we eat the rest of the time, we are all eating a wider variety of foods, with a greater concentration of healthier, more nutrient-rich choices. My kids have taken a great interest in where our food comes from and how they can help select, grow, and prepare it. They even look at labels on their own, to see how long the ingredient list is, and if they can pronounce every word. More often than not, they will reject the junk without any participation from me. The USDA Organic label and the Non-GMO label are as familiar to them as the Nike Swoosh.
Do the boys still get Easter baskets with Cadbury Eggs? Yes, they do. Has all the fun been drained out of ice cream? No, it has not. But the 80-20 rule is deeply ingrained in them. They inherently know that treats and processed stuff are sometimes foods, not all the time foods. And that there is great pleasure in preparing and sharing a meal that nourishes both the body and soul of the people you love.
So that’s why I do it, and that’s why our family does it. And while I love the idea of becoming a vegan full-time, I also know that I love bacon. I know that cheese gives me a deep, unyielding pleasure I can’t describe. I also know that I am a Southerner, through and through. And while I may look like a Californian, something chemical happens in every cell of my body when I come near whole-hog pit barbecue.
And that’s just how it is. The key is to know yourself, know your family, and then try to make the best choices you can. Whether it’s Two Weeks Vegan, Meatless Mondays, or switching to organic and non-GMO. It’s all good. And it all makes a tremendous difference. For you, for your family, for our health and for our planet.
Give it a whirl, y’all. And let me know how it goes. You might just learn somethin' good!!