I’ve been meaning to write and complete this post for waaaay too long. Between obligations with school, work, and trying to iron out home buying / selling – it’s been a lot to juggle. The death of my birth mother didn’t help things to slow down any. The last six or eight months have meant a lot of evolution in regard to my views on eating and I hope to explain that to some degree in this post.
Growing up, we were raised somewhere in between allowed to eat anything we wanted and not. The general rule was just about anything in moderation, with a careful eye on junk food. I recall that we always had home-cooked meals, almost every day. I recall, too, that we weren’t allowed to stuff ourselves just whenever and often if we didn’t want to eat what was cooked for dinner, then we either caught hell or were sent to bed early, or both. We could drink as much milk or water as we wanted (we would often go through 5 gallons of milk in a week’s time!), but soda was something we had to receive permission to drink and even then that permission was granted only occasionally and for limited portions. My mom and her son both have battled cholesterol issues since forever, and we sometimes ate Egg Beaters instead of real eggs, but otherwise we really could just about have had anything to eat – in moderation.
Of course as I grew into adulthood this was the foundation of my decision making where it regarded food – although I sometimes ignored that foundation blatantly. In my early twenties I ate as much of anything as I wanted. My metabolism was apparently through the roof and despite eating most of a package of hot dogs in one sitting or consuming an entire box of Little Debbie Swiss Rolls in 20 minutes or less, I found it very tough to gain weight.
As I entered mid-twenties, and even while ending that decade of my life, the weight crept on slowly and it was kind of nice. Where before the only feedback about weight I ever received was how jealous some were of my for being allowed (by Nature?) to eat whatever I wanted without apparent consequence, I began instead to hear how well the additional pounds actually fit me. Now, as I enter my mid-thirties I have to be more diligent about content and portion control when choosing what to eat – this is the time of my life when, if I’m not careful, I’ll end up hypertensive or pre-diabetic like so many others.
Interestingly, it was in my early twenties that I adopted more of a Hindu identity and throughout that development it never once crossed my mind that I should eat “like a Hindu eats.” Of course, hindsight being 20 / 20, I can see how immature and frankly amateur that ideology is. It’s entirely backwards! You should do things (or don’t do things) because of what that means to you – not because you have adopted a label and need to make it fit. You do things, and then wear the most fitting label. That is, if you’re into labels. Another thing I didn’t realize back then – which holds true even today, over a decade later – is that the overwhelming majority of authentic / native / “legit” Hindus I know (I’m specifically referencing ethnic Hindus and of those, those who practice what is known as the Hindu religion) are omnivorous. With that in mind, trying to “eat like a Hindu” is silly.
So, for the last 2-3 years (???) I’ve mostly been a vegetarian. But not really. All along I’ve allowed myself to have fish and some other seafood when the other options available were bad choices – although consumption of seafood was still a rare occurrence. I’d considered myself a Hindu for most of a decade before the decision to begin cutting flesh from my diet. I never once really, truly, or deeply felt that consuming meat was somehow “against” being a Hindu, just that it was increasingly not “right” for me.
The last two months, or so, have been very educational on what it means to be a good person in regard to food choices and my eyes have really been opened.
My gym monthly publishes a magazine called, “Experience Life” and as any magazine created by a gym would be, it’s filled with all manner of tips and educational articles that relate to being a healthier person in a human body. Every issue has sections devoted to educating folks on how to identify healthier foods and provides things like websites, stores, and recipes to help people access and incorporate these possible choices into their daily living. A few issues ago there was a significantly large article in the magazine about “ethical” eating. I’ll admit it wasn’t what I thought it would be. It consisted, basically, of a series of interviews with people – some of whom were everyday people like myself, some were activists of one kind or another, and some were food professionals of one kind or another (dieticians, chefs, farmers, etc…). For some reason, one stood out among them all. I don’t know why because her story wasn’t entirely unique among the interviews, although she was obviously quite educated and experienced first hand the things she talked about. She grew up like I did, enjoying a wide chunk of the broad spectrum of what humanity considers edible. But then she made the choice to be a vegetarian. Then, because of how we farm animals, she went vegan. (In my experience, people often become vegetarians for karmic reasons and vegans for socio-political ones.) I think she also tried everything from the Paleo diet to South Beach and everything in between. The end result of these decades of food warrioring left her quite educated on how her body responds to certain dietary exclusions.
She was consistently her sickest and weakest when excluding meats. This confused me a little because so many modern health problems can be traced directly to meat consumption. But that was the lesson of her truth (a shared truth she holds in common with millions of other very caring, educated, concerned and even spiritual people) – her current existence is better with at least some meat.
I found myself hearing mental echoes of what I’ve read in the Gita where Krishna advises Arjuna that nobody’s dharma is meant for someone else. When you zoom out to the broader “Hindu” picture and include things like Ayurveda, doshas, samskaras, karmas, and other things, it becomes easy to see how what’s right for one person could absolutely be wrong for another. Each human existence is an incredibly unique bundle of components that are still being added to and subtracted from – and have been for eons.
This was a bit of an eye-opener for me.
Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha – Aum Shanti