I walked out of the doctor’s room, dazed. Nothing made sense anymore. Of all the people I knew, I was meticulous, and the most watchful about what I eat and drink.
Some would say I bordered on neurotic obsession. I’d be mindful not to overindulge in deep-fried butter or pigs in a blanket blanketed with pork fat. And yet, there I was, despite stringent diets and careful observations, holding a report that deemed my cholesterol levels nigh too high.
At 22, I knew no one as careful with their diet as I. I had to, too—diabetes, heart complications, blood pressure, and a hint of a brain tumour induced comma, all clogged my mother’s bloodline. I inherited, along with a few crumbling, unintelligible letters and premature graying, a lengthy list of disorders that could make my adult life miserable.
Therefore I took enough precautions to keep diseases away for as long as I could. I succeeded too-by choosing more fiber-rich alternatives to white rice and flour. I thrived on vegetables, millets, red rice, and bananas. Lamb meat and chicken were occasional because we’d get fresh meat every time I visited my parents.
Life seemed good-except for my weakness for peanut brittle, I’d become comfortable without artificial sugar, empty carbohydrates, and unhealthy fats.
And then came the verdict: high cholesterol.
My doctor denied medicines. He suggested I stick to a proper diet, instead, and that everything should be fine then. Eat lots of vegetables and fruits, he said. “Eat,” he cupped his palm to indicate portion control, “but don’t overeat, meat. And get regular exercise, too” he raised his eyebrows at me, who hasn’t skipped yoga even for a day in the last five years.
What he didn’t know, and wouldn’t listen either, is that I’d been doing everything he said since 19.
Still, something had to change, I knew. Sure, I was cautious, but caution wasn’t enough anymore. I looked through my habits yet again. I was taking eggs and a generous amount of milk every day, in addition to a decent amount of meat every week, and a tad bit too much of it every two weeks. It seemed to me that I wasn’t distributing my meals as efficient as I should, and because of that, I was getting too much of one thing and too little of the other.
Oh, trust me, you can have a careful diet and still be way off course.
I tried quitting eggs. It wasn’t hard because I never liked them much anyway. They involved too much work cleaning up without a stink that it was a relief not to deal with that anymore.
I felt good.
I wanted to keep feeling good and forget the fiasco that was my cholesterol.
I tried quitting milk. It would’ve failed had I woken up one day and stopped drinking tea altogether. It would’ve driven me mad. Instead, I switched to low-fat milk. I scanned labels analysing differences between skimmed milk, 2%, and fortified milk. But I soon learnt the risks of skimmed milk, and not too long afterwards, the vague health verdicts on milk altogether. I realised it could do more harm than good. From full-cream milk, to skim, to skim milk powder, I hopped on and off, before getting tired of them all.
Good food shouldn’t be so hard to get. By the time I realised the potential risks of consuming adulterated daily and meat, I no longer craved it.
I was beginning to feel great.
Black lemon tea and drip coffee never tasted better after that.
I crave other things now-stuff that has little to no room for contamination or heated debates in lifestyle magazines-vegetables, fruits, and nuts. Not only did they taste great, but these foods also made eating a less stressful practice. The idea of relying on a plant-based diet freed up my mind from worrying about the side effects they could cause in future.
Now that I’ve acquired a taste for plants, I don’t think I’d want to go back to a meaty diet, to feeling bloated every morning or being uncomfortable after lunch on Sundays.
The best part is that I’m discovering new plant-based foods every day. My options, unlike popular notions, are abundant even to the point of overwhelming. This search could never end.