Ten years ago, despite my largely carnivorous brethren, I had a handful of vegetarian-ish friends. Because they still bought leather handbags and ate fish, however, I decided we could still be friends. Some pursued the diet for health reasons, but most of them were animal activists who just couldn’t stomach the idea of ingesting steak, veal, pork or chicken once they learned how we process meat in this country. And as a person with some definite opinions, I could get behind such convictions…as long as I didn’t get a dirty look when I ordered my filet mignon.
Throughout the last decade, however, the numbers have shifted and I now only have a handful of meat-eating friends. Thanks to a heightened national awareness about health, documentaries about the food industry, and, of course, Dr. Oz, vegetarianism seems to be more common than ever before. So common, in fact, that according to many, veganism is now hailed as the next logical step in the nutrition evolution. Especially for diabetics.
Once regarded as an extreme lifestyle for people in search of an identity, veganism is now a common approach to conscious wellness. The studies are clear on this and there is no denying the health benefits of a vegan diet.
While I am on board with being vegan-ish – hey, I love cashews as much as the next guy – I don’t know if I want to live in a world without cheese. Without yogurt. Without Revello’s Pizza. Is life worth living if it is so severely restricted in this way?
Because if you’re a diabetic, life is restricted enough. An OREO craving at 11 pm must be resisted. Polishing off your own birthday cake is not an option. When grabbing Happy Meals for the kids on the way to soccer, there will be no Big Mac for you. Don’t have too much wine or your sugars might crash. Want to run a marathon? Great…good luck figuring out your sugars while running and not going so low that you’re inevitable road kill. Want to eat a salad? Marvelous…now calculate your carbs, check your sugars, dose your insulin, start eating within ten minutes, check your sugars again to make sure you dosed correctly, do the hokey pokey and turn yourself around.
And don’t forget to put in your 40 hours at work this week, manage hellish May’s endless kids’ activity/school-year wind-down events, get to the gym at least 5 times, run a Clorox wipe across the bathroom sink, schedule your blood-work, call Aunt Mary on her birthday, treat 34 mosquito bites on your 8 year old (sustained during yesterday’s play date), and have a conversation with your husband that evolves beyond “How many times have I asked you NOT to…”
But the truth is that all of that is 1) life and 2) superficial restriction. The actual restriction is neither seen nor felt…yet. My risk of heart disease, stroke and other complications is already significantly heightened because of diabetes. My need for insulin will only increase as I get older, so the less I need now, courtesy of a vegan diet, the less I’ll need later. The less my organs will endure so they’re healthier later. And the longer I get to live.
The greatest restriction would be to miss seeing my daughters raise their daughters. And that’s when a world without cheese suddenly does make sense.