|morning walk - Barro Colorado Island - Panama|
I grew up in a meat and potatoes sort of family in the rural Upper Midwest. My father and brothers hunted and fished and I remember watching them gut animals in disgust. I wanted nothing to do with consuming an animal whose viscera I saw removed and then casually piled in the backyard. It began as a childhood aversion to bones and veins and my poor mother hoped it was a phase. Thinking a diet without meat couldn't be healthy, she would try sneaking meat into "vegetarian" lasagna for me. I finally declared myself an official vegetarian at the age of 15, with all of the associated adolescent drama and posturing. Looking back on it, I also suspect it was cultivated as part of an alternative or counter-culture identity in the process of trying to separate myself from those that I went to high school with. At any rate, I managed to stick with this diet throughout college, and fortified my initial reasons with ideas about sustainability, animal rights, ideas about the industrial food system, health benefits. I think at one point I identified myself as a "pseudo vegan on a packaging-free diet". Yeah, I got on a high horse about it and I'm sure I was really annoying, but perhaps sweet idealism of the early 20s can be forgiven.
My first major deviation from this was doing field work in Brazil. I did not have enough of a handle on Portuguese to explain my frivolous dietary preferences, nor did I want to be a pain-in-the-ass American. I gratefully accepted food and initially became sick as a result. I don't know if it was the meat, or the shift towards starchy things, etc, but I would feel full immediately, had loss of appetite, felt nauseated, and will not elaborate on the rest. My weight dropped to an unhealthy level and I appeared gaunt. These were the early days of my Ashtanga practice, and I remember how weak I felt as I tried to do sun salutations. But I began to adjust, my appetite returned... and then something curious happened... I began enjoying meat, like... really enjoying it. I developed cravings for feijoada and fried coxinha. I ate and ate and ate, and continued trying new things.... so much so, that I returned to the states to discover that I had gained 20 pounds since that initial weight loss. Practices were sluggish and I was self conscious of the "extra" in the way of my forward folds.
|lunch stop on the way to Urubamba, Peru.|