There are many things in life in which I like to take a very very big picture, cosmos kind of look at things.
The way I eat is one of those things.
For a long time, I thought about the environmental impact in a strictly numbers kind of way. How do I minimize impact? I became vegetarian at 15 (though, admittedly, in the beginning that was more of whim).
I had been an environmentalist since a young age. Encouraged by my school, and a natural tree hugger, I understood that eating plants took less of toll on the environment. Eating lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains was good for my health AND good for the earth! There is a lot of science to back this up.
I also had a vegan stint in college. (But then I also had a no onions and no garlic stint in college.)
And at the time all of this seemed very "big picture."
But, as you likely know, I struggled for a long time with eating sugar, lots of sugar, and in an unhealthy way. I also had a lot of guilt and judgement around food - both towards myself for "failing" to "quit" sugar, but also towards others for "failing" to be as "big picture" with their diets. (Wow, that was a lot of quotes.)
That year I was vegan? It's seriously a wonder that I have any friends that knew me before that lasted through that year. I try to block it from my mind, so I can mostly only imagine how self righteous I was.
Plus, being so strict was alienating. It made parties and family gatherings hard. BLESS my mom for being so accommodating and catering to my various diets over the years!!! I mean she used to cook me whatever she was cooking minus whatever it was I was not eating!!!!
It took a lot of self discovery and letting go of rigid perspectives for me to move beyond the rules that were not actually serving me.
Also, suffering through 7 months of nausea and vomiting in my first pregnancy was enough to make me realize I'd eat ANYTHING to make it stop. I mean I would have hunted a deer and painted my face with its blood if it would have gotten rid of the NVP. Meat, unfortunately, did not help, because nothing helped. None the less, the experience cracked the door open much wider.
I had actually already decided that a bit of quality meat was probably the healthiest, especially for me, since I don't tend to crave much protein. Meat is nutrient dense and very nourishing. The whole chicken noodle soup effect is real. I had read a bit of Traditional Chinese Medicine, and they tout the same: modest, quality meat consumption as part of a plant based diet is often the most healthful. Still, I didn't want to eat animals.
(Except for the one time at my friend's wedding in Ohio, and I had WAY too much champagne. Back at the magical farm house where all her friends were staying, with a kitchen packed with all kinds of things to nosh on... the only thing that looked at all appealing was a giant roasted turkey!! That was the real beginning, and to this day the only meat that I honestly enjoy eating a "chunk" of is roasted turkey! A new traditiona i nthe life of the mostly vegetarian was to eat turkey on Thanksgiving day.)
Roll forward to my current life. Today was Thanksgiving. My mom made a turkey, I made a vegetarian "Neatloaf." We had mashed potatoes, tempeh gravy, sweet potatoes, root vegetables, grains and greens salad, Brussels sprouts, two kinds of cranberry sauce, corn bread stuffing, and a pickle tray. Everyone loved the Neatloaf! But, of course, I ate some turkey, too :)
And my dad, who eats healthy mostly because of my mom, told me after dinner, "I think being vegetarian is really the healthiest way to eat." And I told him, "Maybe only 90% vegetarian." And he said, "You're right. You've lightened up in your old age."
First of all LOL!!! Love it that my dad is calling me old! And second, what a nice middle ground, for the more meat and potatoes guy to be admiring me and for me to be meeting him in the middle!
Looking at the big picture, though, what I mean is this: Yes, it's really good to eat lots of fruit and vegetables. But that is not something that surprises most people. Eating a plant based diet is good for your health AND the health of the environment. However, if you eat ANY diet with rigid rules and lots of judgement towards ANYONE, that actually is NOT healthy for you.
So, sure, aim for a lot of plants in your diet. It will make you feel good, help you live a healthier life, maybe even allow you to live longer, and certainly can help you lose weight. But choose the fruits and vegetables you really love. Have fun with whole grains. And enjoy meat and sugar!
The last piece of the puzzle is that I believe that taking the absolute best care of yourself you can will naturally lend itself to taking good care of the earth. Because people who eat well and feel well naturally gravitate towards choices in their life that uplift the world, and the truth is there are MANY ways to do that.
(Oh, and since we are talking environmentalism, also VOTING for strong environmental protections & protectors is essential!)