I realize it has become too easy to find a diet to fit in with whatever you happen to feel like eating and that diets are not there to be picked and mixed but picked and stuck to, which is exactly what I shall begin to do once I’ve eaten this chocolate croissant. – Bridget Jones from Bridget Jones’s Diary
For most of my life, I have been semi-vegetarian. Or flexitarian, as it is also called, though that is deceptively flexible. I explain my diet as simply, “One that I can’t make anybody happy with.” In practice, it translates into, “I generally eat vegetables, fruit and grain but, sometimes, I eat meat and dairy, but there’s no pressure involved.”
I have experimented, though. Towards the beginning of 2011, I decided to become vegetarian. Some of it was on principle, but it was mostly boredom. I just got bored of something that has a ‘treat’ status (as meat and fish do in India, even if its part of the daily diet for many) and thought, what the heck, let’s experiment. I did it for six months, and felt no inner-conflict whatsoever, though much external criticism. I had a party where I ordered non-vegetarian fare, but felt no temptation despite having such power over it. I went for a beach holiday, and felt blissfully impervious to all the seafood around.
I finally gave in when, after a long day applying for jobs in the blistering sun, I felt I was about to collapse unless I filled my belly, and the only restaurant my friend and I could afford in the area happened to be a meat-heavy one. I was neither relieved nor grossed out to be having meat again. Just disappointed at what emotional and intellectual baggage it was to be carrying around a diet ethic that was not popular where you live, but that only concerns your own body and nobody else’s.
And so, I decided to stop claiming anything, unless it was absolutely necessary to. What had mainly been an experiment, an attempt to be relieved of boredom, had also been a social struggle. What I ate seemed to matter more to who ate with me, than myself.
I also tried going gluten-free for a month. This time, it was to see if it aids digestion. I thought it would be easy, because I love rice, and don’t care much about flour. Or, so I thought. By the end of it, I was sick to death of even my favourite rice preparations, and craved rotis. Sure, if I had taken a more active role in the project, researching and trying various gluten-free recipes, maybe it would have worked. But, I’m not that person. I need fast, I need convenient, I need comfort. I also needed to start loving rice again, by denying it to myself for a while.
I’ve never done a proper weight-loss diet. I never had to before, even when my body filled out a bit in post-pubescent years. I’ve struggled with weight gain 2013 onwards, but I know if I approach my diet as something rigid, depressing and self-denying, I won’t last a week at it. I enjoy food, as you might tell by now by the profusion of food-related blog posts lately. I am completely emotional about it. If I am faced with drab, dreary stuff, I crave for technicolour. If it’s too rich and indulgent, my gag reflex buckles up. Food is a simple pleasure for me. It has to be simple, but it has to be pleasurable, in order to be true.
My aunt kindly sent me some homemade chicken curry on Sunday. It’ s always a pleasure, but I had difficulty having it this time, and ultimately had to throw away half of it. The reason was, I had been to the market the previous day, and a bunch of chickens had been staring very intently at me, as if they were looking into my soul. It weirded me out, and I could not remove that image whilst having the curry.
I remember I am a complete hypocrite everytime I have meat. Because I’ve always been disturbed by the ‘act’ of getting it from life to what’s cooked and served on the plate. And I know I could completely abstain from it, as I have done before, without going militantly vegetarian on anybody. But, I know I enjoy it (I’ve only ever had chicken and fish), I’m often in close proximity to it, and even if I refuse to have it, which still happens from time to time, it automatically urges people to go on a mission and make me have it, or judge me because I won’t.
I wouldn’t recommend semi-vegetarianism to anyone, as I’ve struggled with it health-wise. I’ve had protein deficiencies, because there are very few foods I enjoy that can make up for the daily requisite amount of protein (I don’t like dairy). But, it’s just a way of not stepping on anyone’s toes, because the best way you can please people diet-wise is telling them you follow none. Tell them you eat whatever you want, and then eat what you want.
What diet do you follow?