Let me start this post by saying, I am in no way a ‘perfect’ vegan. As I’ve spoken about in the past I find the label ‘vegan’ itself problematic. I eat a mainly plant based diet, and I want to protect animals, and save a little bit of the world while I do it. However, sometimes I slip, sometimes I presume something is vegan friendly only to check the ingredients afterwards and find some unnecessary animal product included, and sometimes there is cake.
I see my relationship to food a little bit like I see my relationship to alcohol. I know some thing’s, like gin, aren’t good for me but every now and then I still indulge.
One thing I don’t indulge in anymore is cheese.
And I know this is where a lot of none vegans out there will have let out a gasp of pain and horror. Cheese is delicious, I know this. I never gave up cheese because I didn’t like it. I gave it up because I did some reading, and could no longer separate the cheese from where it came from. Don’t worry I’m not about to go into that.
However, I also read into meat, and where the ingredients in my beloved cake, and fish come from and yet I can still eat those, so why is cheese my one no go area?
Because physically, cheese, makes me feel dreadful.
One weekend a couple of months back I was caught out in a coffee shop. I had the shakes and needed to eat something solid pronto. It was late in the day and the only option they had that didn’t involve meat was a cheese toastie. I couldn’t get home so I ordered the toastie, and guiltily ate (and admittedly enjoyed) my first cheese binge in nearly 6 months. Later that day I was back home, in bed with crippling tummy pains. I told myself I’d been ill all day and this must be part of that. A week later I was out celebrating my dads birthday, and the veggie option I’d ordered arrived with a cheese topping. Not wanting to kick up a fuss, or have to explain again to my family why I’d changed my diet, so drastically, I again ate (and still enjoyed) my meal. Later that night. Crippling tummy pains again. I couldn’t deny it. It was the cheese.
When I first told people I was thinking about going vegan, they warned me this would happen that I would make myself intolerant to things, that just to be safe, I should eat cheese or drink milk every now and then. Something that originally made a little bit of sense to me. I didn’t want to go to a restaurant and find that I absolutely could not eat anything, not out of choice, but because my body would buckle over in pain. But the more I think about it, the less sense it makes.
I haven’t made myself intolerant to cheese, over 24 years, I’d MADE myself tolerant to it, now my body has had a break it no longer what’s to put up with that, regardless of how delicious it is. And this is where I come back to my alcohol analogy.
You’re body isn’t meant to process alcohol, but it can, until you drink too much and you end up with a dreadful hangover. This is what happens to me and cheese. I can eat one slice and feel fine the next day, if I eat a whole toasties worth, well lets just say it isn’t pretty. I’ve never told somebody ‘oh I’ve got a hangover’ to be met with the response ‘you should drink more often, so that your tolerance is built up’ but with cheese or dairy it’s a different story.
I’m not trying to tell you, don’t eat cheese. And I’m not telling you to stop drinking. I still drink, often more than I should, and the only reason I don’t get the same vegan hangover from a cake as I do from cheese, is because I’m guilty of having kept up my ‘tolerance’ to it. What I’m trying to say, is that with all food, we should question it’s effects on us more, because we’re all clued up on the dangers of alcohol, and a bottle of wine comes with a health warning, but food doesn’t. Those little traffic light labels, are still gobbledygook to most of us, and to be honest the idea that one size fits all, doesn’t really work for me.
Like with you’re favourite beverage, you have to work out where your limit is, whilst also being aware, that just because one gin and tonic doesn’t give you a hangover that doesn’t make it ‘good for you.’
I never wanted to be the ‘fussy vegan’ visiting friends and saying point blank I don’t eat cheese, but that is what my body tells me to, and do you know what, once I explain actually I’m not being fussy, it makes me ill, nobody bats an eye lid. Much like when I tell people ‘I don’t do tequila.’
Live life & please drink/eat responsibly x