I’m quite sure it was Glennon Doyle who said, “Everything is connected to everything. Obviously.” So in that spirit, let’s talk about food!
Last month I was interviewed for a program on simple living and the subject of diet came up. Somehow we went from how to schedule times of unplugging to what I had eaten for lunch, and in a hot second we were down a rabbit trail of Q&A about a vegan diet. I know. It seems odd. Except for the fact that it happens all the time.
Since drastically simplifying my life, one of the subjects that comes up over and over again is diet. At first I ignored it. I wrote it off as a reoccurring coincidence. Let’s be honest, people like to talk about food. As I’ve come to understand the myriad ways simple living and diet are connected, I’ve also been inspired by the number of people with thoughtful questions about food in general and specifically about why or how to go vegan.
First up, let’s address the V word because I’m going to keep using it. For some, it’s akin to religious. It’s fallen out of favor. Yes, there are preachy, extreme, elitist vegans just like there are preachy, extreme, elitist religious people, but let’s keep the words anyway and try to make them good again. So I’ll use vegan instead of “plant-based” (1) because it’s easier (2) because it’s true and (3) because sometimes words need to be redeemed. (And yes, there are some nuanced differences between vegan and plant-based, but we won’t get into that here).
Simplicity and Your Diet
With that out of the way, back to the connection between simplicity and diet. What does simplifying my closet have to do with what I eat? Why are so many minimalists vegan? Why should I care?
You might not care. At all. That’s cool. Quit reading here and we’ll still be friends.
I didn’t care about any of this for a very long time. As a lifelong athlete on a quest to discover which foods boost performance, I’d tried almost everything. In my efforts to run faster, get trimmer and feel better, I would eat whatever it took to get me there. I tried slow carb and ended up with a crush on Tim Ferriss. I tried Whole30 and ended up with a girl crush on Melissa Hartwig. What I never ended up with was a way of eating that worked for my body, my mind, and my spirit.
Now I know why. Years of nutrition study and mind/body/spirit work had pointed in the same direction over and over again. As I do with most everything that’s hard, I fought it. I wanted to keep going to France and eating cheese. I was terrified of becoming a social pariah. I thought I might do it wrong (as if there’s a right). I was afraid of people thinking I was an elitist jerk.
Finally and slowly and fumbling my way through, I gave it a whirl. I had mostly stopped eating meat already, so I began cutting out eggs. I ate a little less cheese every day. I bought coconut yogurt. I let go of the protein fixation. Then I did the one thing that made all the difference: I stopped explaining myself (note: this works for most things in life). In turn, I didn’t become a social pariah and my friends still wanted to have dinner with me and actually no one really cared. No one really cared. It seems that’s what happens when you walk your own path and let others walk theirs.
If you’ve ever been a vegan or vegetarian for five minutes, you know the classic question. “Why? Because of animals or the environment or health?” In the beginning my answer was yes because deep down I knew it was all of those things. I also knew that this one decision had begun to change everything and there was no going back. As Rob Bell says, “Once you see you can’t unsee. Once you taste you can’t untaste.” So to better articulate my why, I dug deeper. I went back to school to learn more of the science and biology. I examined how our food choices are connected to SO many other choices we make. We can’t disconnect our bodies from our souls.
Over time, I’ve also discovered how diet is related to a life of simplicity. We all have our own path, but for me the two converged in a few basic ways.
Believing there is a better way
First, those of us striving for simpler lives have a pretty strong game of subversive action. We’ve already seen that “normal” often means broke and unhealthy and uninspired. We’re already on a different path. For me, that made it easier to believe there is a different way to fuel and nourish our bodies while nourishing our souls and our planet at the same time.
Aligning actions with values
Second, minimalists know the joy that’s found when our actions and values are in congruence. When we learn the connection between human labor and what we buy, we begin making more conscious buying choices. In the same way, I aim to be a person of compassion and nonviolence and responsiblity. I wanted to remove cognitive dissonance from my daily choices, so eating in a way that does less harm was a natural next step.
Keeping it simple
Finally, a vegan diet is a simple one. It’s simpler for the planet. It’s simpler for our bodies. It makes shopping and prepping and eating simpler. At first I feared doing it wrong, but it turns out that when we set our intention toward living in a better way, there is no wrong. We fumble our way through, we learn as we go, and we have grace for ourselves and for others along the way. We keep it simple.
Now I have more questions!
Good! For the last few months I have been compiling the most common questions I get about living on a vegan diet (as well as some of my own because I’m a questioner). Everything from “What do you actually eat?” to “Can I get trim with so many carbs?” to “What about social engagements?”
To answer these questions, I’m launching a series called “Ask Your Vegan Friend” over at The Strength Movement, where I write about food and fitness. If you have questions, email me! If you’d like to follow along, jump over there and subscribe. I am so excited about this and I’d be honored if you joined the conversation.
Oh and one more thing before you go…
I’m always late to parties. In keeping with the trend, I’m finally on Instagram.