So, I’ve been eating a Vegan Diet for the last week now. It’s a little difficult and it requires thought. And that’s why I love it.
I used to work for a guy who was on a diet so restrictive that it actually made the dieter’s body temperature drop a couple degrees, a diet not recommended for teen-age girls because semi-starvation prevents menstruation. Sounds horrible, but he enjoyed it the way some people like to pierce their skin, get tattoos or other forms of mild self-torture.
For me, adopting Veganism is more a way of creating a game out of eating. It was a way of injecting scarcity and chance back into a part of my life that had become routine, unconscious, unhealthy even gluttonous. Rather than resenting the inconvenience of a limiting diet I embrace the self-imposed scarcity.
Most of us aren’t toned the way a wild animal or some aboriginal man is toned. Not a personal criticism, more of a societal observation. The abundance man has cultivated has had a downside. The machines have been given too much rich fuel; they aren’t running optimally. Like me, you can run five miles or more almost every day and you’re still up against the man’s most triumphant trap – food is everywhere; life is too easy. You can’t outrun a bad diet.
After watching “What the Health?” the other night at my daughter’s insistence I decided to try Veganism. Regardless of whether the movie came to the right conclusions or not (Veganism being the only healthy option for humans) I decided to move to a plant-based diet.
My go-to comment on Vegetarian cooking was always: This is delicious. I could be vegan if I only had someone cooking it for me. If it were only more convenient. So, I liked vegetarian the only objection was the inconvenience.
But now, looking at diet as a kind of game, I see that finding food should be difficult. So, the disadvantage (lack of easy availability) used to be my objection but now has become my motivation.
When we humans were traversing the vast savannah we didn’t know where our next meal was coming from and our bodies evolved to hoard and store sugars and fats. Now, food’s easy availability is our curse. Our desire to graze on anything and everything is completely natural, and these days, with calories too available, it has become deadly.
Consider modern-day hunting and gathering.
- It doesn’t take all day anymore. Hunting and gathering used to be something that you began doing the moment you woke up until you went to bed. Hungry was normal.
- Calories aren’t scarce. They used to be. Infinite calories are no farther away than our cellphone.
- You don’t have to earn your calories anymore. No more endless walking, seeking, evaluating, sniffing, tasting, hoarding, puking, tracking, chasing, killing, hauling, protecting.
- Menus are pornography. Jesus, just look at the adjectives. Look at the variety. Look at the exotic and unnatural combinations and permutations used to tempt us. Kids are food-jaded before they’ve even learned to calculate a 20% tip.
- Meals are still social. There is an inherent social and biological desire to conform when we all sit down at the table together and in some ways that’s good. Family meal time has become sacrosanct. In a time when we are more and more disengaged from each other, sharing a meal is seen as the last bastion of family time. It’s probably easier to tell your family that you are gay, athiest or of another political bent than that you would now prefer to eat differently. But, remember, you can still join the conversation without joining the meal.
- Food is invisible, un-tasteable and immemorable. Because of its over-availability, because it is literally everywhere we no longer taste it carefully.
- Food doesn’t look like food anymore. So much is so processed that a real leaf is more likely seen as a garnish than as food.
It’s safe to say that consuming, the gathering of necessary nutritional fuel, has become twisted away from its essence.
Self-imposed scarcity might not be new – after all it’s been around since the first person decided to “go on a diet.” But, for me, the “game” of accepting and even enjoying the empty hunger, the strange looks when I opt out of ordering at the business lunch, the conscious avoidance of what’s available just because has made it fun.
How might voluntary scarcity be applied to other aspects of our lives such as spending, recreation, sex, work, relationships?