NEVER SAY NEVER!
By Bera Dordoni, N.D.
“You’ll never make it. You’ll die if you stay there during the week. There won’t be anything to eat – you know they’re . . . vegetarians,” his family and friends warned him.
“I need the work, so I’ll give it a go. If I can’t handle it, I’ll call you and you can come get me,” Digger replied.
That was several weeks ago and Digger has been spending his weeks here eating what we offer him while he’s on the job site helping with a construction project. An extremely talented artist, when working construction he is also completely dedicated to the project at hand. This man has an appetite! He works hard and eats to prove it. When I first offered him meals he accepted his food quietly, but after a few days he said, “This isn’t bad, this vegetarian food.” I ask if he’s still hungry after our meals, and he says, “No, this was just enough.”
Digger lives on the Navajo Reservation in the Gallup area, where he told me he eats “regular food.” I asked him how he defines regular food and he said, “You know, meat and potatoes.” He went on to explain that everyone in his family had laughed at him when he took the construction job with us because they know our eating habits.
These habits weren’t always what they are now, but out of necessity they became what they are. After being a junk-food junkie into my young adult life, I finally paid for it when I almost lost my life to pneumonia. After that, I started eating a plant-based diet that didn’t include loads of ice cream and milk chocolate. (I didn’t say I gave up dark chocolate!)
Then I met my husband who was a meat-and-potatoes man. I liked him a lot, but didn’t like the fact that he had migraines and digestive disorders that were so bad he was miserable nearly every night. Did very little for the romance department. I asked him if he’d be willing to change his diet and he said he’d do anything to get headache relief. He decided to adopt my vegetarian diet and, lo and behold, his headaches went away and he dropped 40 pounds.
It’s true, we don’t eat meat, but we never feel deprived. There are so many substitutes for meat that are plant-based, that are good for our health and don’t clog our arteries, and they are cruelty-free, for those who don’t like the idea of harming animals.
Let’s face it – meat and potatoes might taste good, but the combination can cause digestive discomfort. If you eat meat and potatoes together, there’s a good chance you’ll need Prilosec® or Nexium® or some other digestive aid to avoid major bloating and discomfort. Proper food combining can really make a difference in how you feel after eating a meal.
Another thing that causes us major discomfort these days are GMO (genetically modified organism) foods, which make up a huge amount of America’s ‘food supply.’ But that’s an entirely different topic for another time.
So what can we do to incorporate healthful foods that are not genetically modified and have high nutritional value? After all, why eat if not to nourish the body? Well, there’s always chocolate . . . but let’s not digress.
Ok, so we eat because we’re hungry. When we’re hungry our bodies are asking for something nutritious to keep the physical body going. However, we’ve been trained by advertising to eat things that aren’t so healthful for our bodies. Carbs are constantly advertised. Pizza, bread, pasta . . . and who doesn’t love these foods?
Say, for example, you love pasta, but you know it’s made from white flour and you’re told that’s not good for you because white flour is processed and devoid of nutrients – a dead food. It also is heavy and can be like glue in the intestines if you’re not drinking enough water to help digest this ‘dead food’ that tastes oh so good. I’m one of those addicts who loves pasta, but I don’t like the heavy after effects, and also I don’t want to encourage the diseases that eating these kinds of foods will invite – diabetes, cancer, fibromyalgia, and the list goes on.
So, my choice is to find mostly gluten-free substitutes, since gluten is a big trigger for many people’s allergies today. My favorite substitutes in the pasta category include organic brown rice pasta made from nothing but brown rice and water. There’s also organic black bean spaghetti made from nothing but organic black beans and water. Kelp noodles are made from nothing but kelp seaweed, which also provides a healthy dose of iodine. Organic mung bean pasta is another exceptional-tasting substitute for white pastas. Then there’s quinoa pasta . . . yum. All of these are high in protein, our building blocks. They’re probably all available at La Montañita Co-op in Gallup.
Meat is something that many of my clients claim they’d never be able to live without. Being that Digger is a meat-and-potatoes man, I figured he’d have a difficult time without eating meat all week long. Half the time when we’ve made different meat substitutes, he’s claimed he only knew it wasn’t meat because I don’t prepare dishes with meat. Some of those delicious substitutes are made with tempeh or cashews, or already prepared burger or sausage substitutes like GimmeLean® beef or sausage, or Beyond Meat® chicken-free strips that can easily be found in health-food stores, and even in many supermarkets. The key is to add spices that taste meaty.
Of course beans are an ideal protein source for those who want a substitute for meats. While he’s been here Digger has eaten plenty of pintos and black beans along with red rice and brown rice. He’s also had casseroles with organic potatoes, squash, cashews, spinach, tomatoes, pumpkin, parsley, basil, peppers, onions, garlic and whatever else we have on hand, along with salads and soups. He says he loves the live feeling of the sprouts we grow here daily, and enjoys the locally grown organic eggs and cheese.
Digger’s wife had dinner with us a few days ago. She said she really liked the salad we served and the organic rice pasta with pesto. No meat, but filling enough to satisfy her. Does that mean she might make dietary changes? Not necessarily, but she knows she and her husband could survive if they had to eat vegetarian food on a steady basis.
Most of the time we don’t make changes unless and/or until we need to for our health’s sake. We develop habits that are easy to follow and difficult to change. Until we have to. My husband and I had to, so we did. I knew there was no drug that could replace my common sense, so dietary changes became necessary for our comfort and survival.
Ok, back to Digger. He works hard and takes good care of his family. And he’s willing to eat a vegetarian diet – at least during the week while he’s at work. He said, ‘never say never’ with a smile when his kids laughed at his latest eating habits. He hasn’t grown frail or weak without his meat and potatoes; he says he feels good. And he even says he’s not ashamed to let the world know that you can survive on vegetables, grains, seeds, nuts and fruits (at least five days a week), so he said I could introduce him by name. Meet Edison Bill, artist, gentleman, husband, father, grandfather, brother and all-around nice guy. A credit to the Gallup community. I like to call him my friend.