Oh hey, it’s the blogging world! And yes, it’s a brand new website.
Vulnerability online is something I’ve been thinking through and trying to use more intentionally, more thoughtfully.
The changes that are happening in my life are intimate and I realize not everyone cares. Still, I have decided to write about one of the transitions as I believe it holds a few keys for all people. I am being real, knowing that’s the place that connects with real people, with real struggles.
I have maintained the facade of pursuing health for the past two years, but fallen deeper into dis-ease in every way and am being deeply sanctified in this area.
I pray that this writing encourages, inspires and engages you.
Here goes something….
There had once been a time where camp was fun, energizing and life-giving. Yet here I was. Fried. Anxious. Withdrawn. I had been aware of my allergies and sensitivities for a few years. I was settled into a very specific way of eating. I’d been dairy free for seven years, egg intolerant for a few (still ate them in baking) gluten sensitive for about four… “clean” and mostly organic for three.
And here we were. It was summer and I was at camp… following an excruciating three years of constant internal chaos. I’d been in a state of inflammation, exhaustion and depletion.
Before camp, I spent one week preparing food. I brought all of my own…. from organic chicken wings, turkey meatballs, beef burgers, bean cookies, nut free granola, spirulina… I had an entire stock in the camp kitchen. It was all homemade… bread I made with three ingredients, cookies I made with no additives or sugar, blah blah blah.
Day after day, meal after meal, the stress of thinking through what was for lunch and trying to get in the kitchen in time to defrost something that was similar to what everyone else was eating so I felt like “I fit in,” all while not being in the way during the craziness of the dining hall rush…. wow, it was a nightmare. Also, how could you possibly fit in when eating beet sauerkraut with your waffles…
What was worse? The beginning of binge-eating. I remember my one day off after the first session of camp… I spent three hours in the dining hall, pretending to journal, but really sneaking into the kitchen to my stash of food and stuffing my face. Five apples, a bag of roasted chickpeas and container of sunflower seed butter later, I kept going and going. Exhausted. But determined to punish myself instead of sleep. Another night, I ate a handful of cookies that had both gluten and dairy in them - it was the first time eating those things in years. I wrote a note to the director and confessed where I was at. I requested permission to go off-site and visit my brother.
It happened. Cute boys walked in as I was curled up on a falling-apart-couch from who-knows-where, with my brother, sobbing. Hands on my head, he declared that I was free in Christ. He broke off all commitments to intense purity as an idol (some would have called it orthorexia) and spoke nothing but freedom over me. We drove to the local health-food store and he bought me some vegan and gluten free bagels, cereals, and Coconut Bliss. They had additives. They had sugar. They had yeast. They challenged my ideals. And it was phenomenal. I was relieved to be at camp and eat what I was served instead of spending my hours off making tigernut bagels and plantain buns.
Shortly after, I had a conversation over dinner with another staff member, and a few vegetarian 12 year-olds who happened to be sitting at our table.
“God showed me that I didn’t need to ignore my convictions anymore, and He was leading me to give it up,” she explained after I asked her why she was veg.
I realized that I had a longing to ditch meat but never made the choice because of my fears. I thought the people who loved me would reject me. I thought it '“wasn’t Christian” because we are supposed to be free, and others would perceive veganism as living in bondage. (This was a perception I had of how Christians I was around perceived veganism and any sort of diet that wasn’t chock-full of post-church cookies and crappy potluck cakes and ribs.)
So, on my way to the kitchen to get my grain free pea pasta that the kitchen staff cooked for me, I passed by the processed tofu dish, full of soy, msg and who the heck knows what else, and decided that I’d rather eat that fake vegan stuff than bad quality meat. I chose to commit to eating whatever the heck they served that was gluten free and vegan for the rest of the summer.
So I walked through the kitchen’s ‘IN’ door and they said “Jos, your pasta is ready over here.” I excitedly looked at them, with a huge smile, and said… “thank you so much, but you know what? I am going to eat whatever you have on the speciality table for the rest of the summer.” They all smiled. I know they were aware of my un-health, and praying, and I know that moment was a big answer to prayer for them.
I still snuck in to get sauerkraut and Coconut Bliss occasionally. I added hemp seeds to pancakes void of nutrients and added roasted chickpeas to protein-deficient GF/V pizzas, but for the most part, I engaged with camp food.
So, apart from honey, and the occasional baking with eggs in it, I was vegan for two years. It was fun.
It was even good. I found food freedom from these strict ideals like sugar-free, additive-free, corn-free, soy-free… I ate whatever the heck I wanted that was gluten free and vegan, and loved it. (See photos above.) I re-gained my period that was lost for the six years prior, my hair thickened, and body became more womanly. (See photos below of before and afters.) Constipation was eliminated and I enjoyed eating again.
Buuuuuut I also became far less healthy. Addicted to sugar (both whole food sugars and some crappy ones, plus grains and starchy things in general,) and increased engagement with binge eating disorder. I was usually bloated, uncomfortable, did not fit any of my clothing (which the first year was a good thing, but having to get a new wardrobe three times in three years was a bit much) … re-gained my childhood bad breath trait, amplified existing thyroid issues, adrenal fatigue and iron deficiencies. Yes, I gained healthy weight, but also an extra 30 pounds I had never known. I suffered through depression and still had a low-grade constant anxiety when it came to food in social situations.
(I do have a few pictures of the negative impacts on my body but have chosen not to share.)
Eating disorders are very emotional, multi-faceted, rooted in social factors, spiritual influences and family things. Still each one has legitimate biological roots. For example, people with anorexia often initially have specific mineral and vitamin deficiencies that impact their brain chemicals. In this binge-eating case, one girl (it’s me) was simply denying her body of what it needed. (Though all the spiritual factors and emotional factors are very important and were key in my story as well, and I’m not suggested eating meat as an answer for everyone’s eating disorders.)
The blood typing theory would back my veganism. And while there’s some truth in it, it’s not the whole picture. Not every type A blood is under as much constant stress as I. Not every type A blood has the same personality, intensity, drive and number of commitments. Not every type A blood has endured the same pain, degree of loss and trauma, and all the other factors that are you-nique to yours truly.
According to the BioScan technology, my body has just been patiently waiting for me to eat some turkey and salmon here and there, to daily sip on bone broth, and to stop feeding it coconut, oats, and excessive amounts of treats.
So literally, with the flick of a switch, I changed my lifestyle. (Ok, ok…. it took some time… I had a small and dedicated army of friends praying for me for a week… praying for freedom from this bingeing craziness and for a craving for meat…. within days I willingly drank turkey bone broth and cooked myself local ground beef.)
I should say that it isn’t truly a lifestyle shift… it’s more of a dietary shift. My lifestyle was and will continue to be centred around Functioning by Design, supporting my body through movement, nourishment and rest so it can live into the God-given potential…. so nothing has changed there… It just looks, tastes, smells, and chews a little different now.
After ONLY one week of meat eating, here’s what’s happened...
My nervous system has gone to Heaven.
The first night of meat, I cannot explain what was happening in my body. It was almost sedated. The calmness was tangible in my entire being.
My energy has stabilized (for the most part.)
I still have had some late nights, and nothing nothing nothing beats or replaces sleep, but overall life has felt restful. In the midst of some big life changes and transitions, I’ve had a relatively fluid and seamless experience of life. Even when I’m tired, my brain feels rested.
I have felt satisfied, my mind less on food cause I go hours without even thinking about it.
I want to be very clear that I do believe some people can be fully healthy on a 100% plant-powered diet. They are able to maintain their social, financial, emotional and nervous system health. They are able to eat and be full, suffer not from eating disorders, and really thrive. I would like to think that was me for a bit, and there were days of that for sure… and there still can be. Eating meat now does not mean I am going to be a meatitarian, although, I have unashamedly been craving beef jerky and straight meat so much that I am believing more and more in the benefits of that way of eating. Who woulda guessed? But, all in all, eating meat at least a few times per week has kept me satisfied and fuelled from the inside out.
My first thought isn’t sugar.
I’d been waking up for the past year thinking about a massive fruit smoothie, oatmeal, bread… you name it. This week I’ve had the space when I wake up to read, pray, walk, sit, before even thinking about breakfast. I even started my day with fruit most days and worked out or did something and then had breakfast after. I’ve been reading the Bible, journalling, and resting.
My workouts have been great.
I have had desire to be at the gym, energy to push, and mental strength to try new things. My muscles feel stronger, and my perception of them is that they’re more toned and visible with deflating sugar puff.
My water intake has increased.
In between meals and snacks, I’m not in need of sweet things as much — not dependent. I have been able to drink a lot more water. And pee a gazillion time per day again.
My canker sores have been healing.
My oral health has taken a turn for the worse the past couple years. Teeth yellower, cavities and canker sores. I’m not blaming it only on diet, I haven’t done a great job at caring for my mouth. Though it’s related to the copious amounts of sugars I was consuming for sure, and indicative of the dysbiosis it was all contributing to in my gut.
My water weight has decreased.
My face is feeling more and more like me, the glow, rest, but also less puffy. A bloated face AND tummy can be a confidence sucking combo. I’ve felt more myself, but also perceived to look more myself which has fed the former. I actually saw my muscles, didn’t look pregnant in my shirts, and wore some clothes that were in the “maybe someday” rubbermaid.
I’ve become even more knit to my community
How people walk with you through things they don’t understand is funny. Especially this one. Some people have squeeze hugged me, congratulated me, some people have asked me to repeat myself after nonchalantly mentioning my consumption of beef because of their disbelief — convinced they misheard… some have now expected me to eat processed hot dogs with them, join the McDonald’s car load, or order wings instead of hummus on the weekly pub night. Others have been so gentle and intentional with their words, asking me how my experience of eating meat has been, how my body is feeling. Others eager to cook me a steak, or have me over for smoked salmon and sushi. I’ve reminded people that this decision has been for my health, and I am therefore not interested in fake “meat,” or eating garbage. But that I’d happily join them for dinner at their house.
I believe most people’s diets should be based on plants, consuming tons of veggies, and some fruits. I believe our culture idolizes meat.
But I also believe the nutrition and holistic health sub-culture I’m part of idolizes idealistic vitamin and mineral balance (which is real and important, but we under-estimate the value of something like well-raised red meat to give us those things.) We like to overcomplicate and live into these constructs instead of use the information to enhance our lives.
Listen, I said it before, and I’ll say it again; I love vegans. I love their passion, commitment and desire to live authentically and intentionally. I love their care-free spirits that flow from their place of, funnily enough, deep care. I also love vegan food. My new book is mostly vegan, and it was sent out to people the same week I ate meat for the first time in what feels like forever. I love the benefits of higher fibre, variety, the lessening of environmental impact in some arguable senses, and other obvious ones.
I do not regret my time identifying with veganism. And I am certainly not interested in prescribing or any variation of putting my story onto other people. But… I do not regret eating meat.
My takeaway for you? Embrace the journey! It’s dynamic, exciting and always changing… and your body is talking to you!
Doing what you have to do to fuel your body, to nourish your unique holistic make-up is worth it. We must each find a way of eating that suits our needs in every facet of our being. I still have convictions, and I have ben buying locally sourced meat from people whose farms I can visit or stories I can hear. I did still say no to a pint of wings at 11 p.m. of meat from who knows where, opted for hummus instead. I have been intentional with food and always will be. But there’s freedom. Freedom to follow the dynamic journey your body is reflecting.
Listen to your body. Go with your gut. And don’t do it alone. You can’t. I am confident that the ease, grace, and even delight in this process is because of my request to the Lord. When I couldn’t pray for me, and didn’t know what to do, I rallied my friends to come around me and pray for me. People texted, called, hugged, checked-in, and still are in this transition. It’s amazing.