Obsession of any kind is not healthy. With a lot of discussion and dos and don’ts floating around, the new obsession today seems to be one of diet.
We must remember that as far as diet goes, the first thing one needs to be clear about is listening to one’s body. We must remember that the purpose of a diet is keep oneself nourished and healthy. Once we realize this, one would need to make a plan that is doable, practical and achievable.
I was born into a vegetarian family and never felt like altering this at all, even if there are hiccups along the way.
Last year, my husband and I went on an official group tour to China. I was very excited not just about the place but the fact that I liked all the people we were going with us. Alone with clothes, we packed along with clothes took a lot of packets of pre-cooked upma, rice and curries as we had heard that a vegetarian meal was not always available.
Even though all this care was taken, it so happened that once a flight was delayed and we were served free food. All the vegetarians opted for ‘cheese burger’ that seemed to be the only option available for vegetarians. What we did not know then was the term ‘burger’ itself usually means beef with cheese only being an optional topping. In this scenario, the entire group ended up eating a bite of beef, an absolute no to all vegetarians and even non-vegetarians of the Hindu faith !
People very extremely vexed but then slowly realized these things are bound to happen when one is travelling. The obsession ceased and we got on with our lives.
My tryst with naturopathy
When I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis a few years back, it was naturopathy that first showed me a ray of hope. I went very strictly on the diet recommended to me and yes, I did feel better and definitely more energetic. However, it also became quite a complex issue to deal with while travelling or even while visiting people. It took up so much of my time to plan meals that at one stage, I just wanted to give it all up. In other words, this actually became an obsession of sorts. It was also extremely difficult to keep finding the alternate sources of nutrition. It was then that I altered my pattern.
My diet today
I almost always eat plant-based food when that choice is available. And when that choice is not available, I ensure there are chutneys or powders that see me through the day.
The difference between being a strict vegetarian or naturopath versus a practical vegetarian is the world of difference between easily following a kind diet and struggling to stick to a strict regimen. There are seven tips of ‘practical vegetarianism’ that I follow and would like to share.
Let us try to
Eat as much plant-based food as we can when we have the choice.
We in India are very fortunate as we have a wide choice of plants and I think we should make use of it.
Eat all kinds of fruits and vegetables.
Nature has done a pretty good job. A plate that is colorful is also most probably a healthy plate with a balanced set of nutrients that we need.
Understand the nutritional aspects of fruits and vegetables –
One does need to understand that many fruits and vegetables are a powerhouse of nutrition. When we know these better, our cooking and/or eating shall move towards including all of them in our diet.
Stock our kitchen with home made chutneys and powders that are healthy.
I have found flax seed (commonly known as alsi in Hindi/ Marathi) is a great source of amino acids (which is known to be rare in a vegetarian diet) and make a dry powder combining it with garlic and rock salt and have it regularly.
Avoid processed, refined food
Some things one must avoid a far as possible are processed, refined foods. This includes refined salt and sugar. We could use rock salt, jaggery or brown sugar that is less processed.
Eat with an attitude of gratitude
The simple truth is that for each plate of food in front of us there many people have grown it, chopped it, cooked it and delivered it to us. We must try to remember this and eat with a sense of gratitude.
Be practical and understanding
We have to recognize the fact that the dietary choice of others in this world may be different. We must know that we need to get along with everyone and for this, understanding is important.
In a world where vegetarians are already a marginalized group, fringe groups are further sub-categorized into vegan, pescatarians, raw foodies, lacto-ovo vegetarian or microbiotic.
I am vegetarian as I was brought up as a vegetarian and do eat eggs too once in a way as once again, I have always eaten eggs so I guess I could be called lacto-ova.
I prefer to however, define myself by attributes other than the contents of my sandwich or palate. My diet today, so far, has been plant based. The most important aspect is that I just do not give it much thought.
We can easily follow whichever diet that suits us if we make it practical and doable. Let us not identify ourselves too much with our diet. In other words, let us all stop obsessing about something as minor as a diet and lead life in a wholesome, complete manner.