This post originally appeared in June, 2010
It happened on a recent weekend trip to Chicago, but it could happen anywhere, really. I decided to dine at a little grocery with a cafe. This was perhaps the most gourmet grocery I have ever found myself in, filled with cookies from Belgium, marshmallows from France, Asian cooking sauces that I had never seen before. It was breakfast, and given the nature of a Chicago weekend, I was hungry from the all the walking. And my feet were sore. I ordered a bowl steelcut oats with raisins and brown sugar and a cup of coffee with soy milk. I got the sugar because I was on vacation after all. I settled in and watched the servers and barrista while I waited for breakfast.
Plate after plate of crispy salty bacon strips with piled breakfast potatoes float past my table, eggs benedict with pale yellow hollandaise sauce layering perfectly over the rounded poached egg. Back when I ate eggs, my hollandaise sauce was divine, with a creamy start and strong lemony finish. The coffee was topped with heaps of whipped creme, so fluffy and sweet. I got hungrier and grew tired of waiting. My oatmeal finally arrived, a grey runny glob with golden raisins, brown sugar, and a splash of soy milk. A filling abundant breakfast, right? Perfect protein married with healthy carbohydrates.
But in the setting of all butter croissants and three egg omelettes, decidedly austere. Don’t think I get it right all the time; boy, I wish I did. But when I struggle following this diet, I remind myself of the environmental consequences of my choices and hope that the thought of doing right by my fellow man and my planet will help me stick to it. I imagined eating seven loaves of bread versus one steak, avoiding the concentration of resources innate in animal proteins . I imagined the pollution of our rivers and oceans with factory farming techniques. Just thinking about the effects of my nutritional choices on the environment helps steel my dietary resolve.
But sometimes living this diet leaves me feeling like I got less instead of more. I dropped my cholesterol from 211 to 133 with near elimination of animal proteins, and I took 25 points off my fasting blood sugar. I moved from pre-diabetic to normal blood sugar levels. I feel like I saved my own life simply by aligning my diet with what 80% of the world eats already. But I wanted luxury protein and concentrated animal fats on Sunday morning in Chicago. Even with balancing the morality and ethics and health, I think I always will.