The Jealous vegan is raising The dialogue about plant-based lifestyles while being honest about the benefits and challenges of sustainably changing the way that we eat & how we think about food.

Plant-Based Surprises: When Your Biology Is At Odds With Your Culture

My diet is informed by my biology because there are a lot of foods that just don’t agree with me. Some make me instantly sick, others have more subtle symptoms. Cait Flanders pretty much sums up the idea behind my biology-based diet in her book The Year of Less when she says “I simply wanted to feel better. It seemed the healthiest thing I could do was be aware of how foods made me feel, and eat less of what made me sick and more of what gave me good energy.“ It’s that simple.... or is it?  Because everyone’s body is different, biology-based eating can be quite a task, especially when dining with loved ones or traveling.

Sometimes the things that make me feel good aren’t available and what is available are things I know will make me feel sick.  I’m sure many of our readers can relate. So many times I’ve sacrificed my own health to “fit in” with loved ones or to experience someone else’s culture. This sometimes has meant being sick for days after, although sometimes I’ve been surprised by a positive reaction. I recently took a trip to Italy and was pleasantly surprised by the fact that the dairy there didn’t bother me, but that’s another conversation. However, that trip did bring up the issue of social dining! We at The Jealous Vegan thought this was a very real topic that needs to  be addressed. What does the “biological vegan” eat at Grandma’s house or the graduation party or your favorite cousin’s wedding? Oh and let’s not forget about the awkward conversations that follow when your dietary restrictions are found out or you are seen having a baby bit of something ‘forbidden’? Here come the pitchforks and judgments.

You’ll hear me say often that “food is fuel.” But eating...that’s social. So what do you do when things gets awkward? There’s no right answer for that question, but let’s address the reason for the awkward interaction. People are always resistant to change. Because let’s face it, change is hard. It’s much easier for me to do what I’ve always done than to reroute my habits. The awkward moment comes when others realize that by rerouting my habits I might try and reroute theirs too!  Even if I never say a word, watching me change, even if it’s against my own will, brings their own habits into consciousness. They start to think, and sometimes say, “I can’t give up (whatever it is), I’ve always eaten (whatever it is).” My question to that is always, “why?” Why have you always eaten it? Why can’t you stop eating it? Why do you assume you can’t give it up without even trying? Why did you assume that I even asked you to?

People don’t usually answer the last 2 questions! But, the most common response to the first 2 questions are “this is our tradition/this is our culture.” So much of what we eat and really how we live is based on our culture. We eat what our parents ate, and they eat what their parents ate. The food we eat has the beautiful ability to evoke memories of childhood, our fondest family times and some of the best aromas ever smelt! Food is what many cultures have used to connect the past with the present. Sometimes I think the belief is that if you stop eating what’s familiar you’ll forget where you’ve come from. What we forget though, is that we are so far from where we’ve come from, modern DNA testing has shown us that. Both geography and mankind as a whole.  What worked in the Southern USA kitchen of the 1940’s no longer suits the dietary needs of the Native Washingtonian in 2018. We have and still are changing! Our lifestyle, our food production and definitely our biology! So I suggest we start new traditions of passing down culture. Not based on what we ingest for fuel, but rooted in the things that make us human.

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Biology vs. Culture

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