You’re probably asking “what on earth do these three places have in common”?, and you know what, I am a bit unsure myself. All I know is that in some way they are linked to my happiest memories from home. I’ve lived in Australia for nearly 5 years now and though I accept it as my home and love it dearly, I still unfortunately experience home “cravings” from time to time. I no longer call it homesickness, as homesickness and a twinge for home or “craving” as I call it, are two very different things. The first year after I had moved to Australia and even well into the second year I was homesick. The homesickness didn’t affect me every day, but when it struck it was worse than the flu, debilitating and painful. I felt helpless and unable to concentrate or function properly. I could compare it to the feeling you have after you lose a loved one. That inescapable feeling that things will never be normal again and functioning without them is impossible. Back then I was holding on for dear life as I waited for what I was told would happen, to happen. I was waiting for the unfamiliar to become familiar. I was waiting for the smell of damp earth after the torrential rain to make me feel anything except uncomfortable. I was waiting for the sounds of the native birds in the morning to remind me that I was home, instead of an early morning notification that I was thousands of miles from the hum of my local freeway outside my window. It wasn’t my first time feeling homesick, after spending several years overseas when I was growing up I should have been a pro. But there was one very distinct difference this time. I didn’t have my family with me. I didn’t have a support network. My success depended largely on my determination to stick it out and make the best of things. I remember googling homesickness and trying to find cures and aids, much like you would if you were experiencing a health condition (you know you do it too). It was something to pass the time, but it wasn’t very helpful. Eventually, things became less foreign. After a few complete seasons I started recognising the indications on the native plants that the season was changing. Certain scents and songs began reminding me of times spent in Australia instead of home. I now breeze through my days hardly giving a second thought about where I live or goods and services available… except occasionally, and thats when one of these three places will flit across my mind. Sometimes its a weather pattern, a ray of light, a scent, a song, or a warm dry breeze blowing across the tarmac in one of the outports like broken hill. And then it hits me, just for a second, its almost tangible pain. Pain so sharp and palpable it momentarily takes my breath away. A reminder of a place that exists that I am no longer a part of. As humans, it is my belief that we are largely comfort seeking individuals. We desire financial security, a comfortable home, a reliable car, a sustainable job and the people we love to be preferably close by. When any of these items are removed, we become uncomfortable and it sends us into comfort seeking mode. So how does this relate to diet? Massively! Food is for most of us a comfort item. Sure its a necessity and ideally that is how we would treat our dietary habits, however not many of us do. Even now, when I catch a cold, I fondly remember laying in the arm chair at my Mimi’s (my grandmothers) house while she served me hot tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. The food is tied to the memory of absolute love and comfort. Its not just comfort either, its pure joy! Bbq’s on the Fourth of July! Turkey on Thanksgiving and chocolate on Valentines day. The food we crave and eat regularly are intricately woven into our lifestyles and our happiest celebrations. When we take it all away, it feels like we are removed from normality and comfort.. home. We basically become “homesick” for the foods we have grown accustomed to. To make matters worse, there are scents, and visual reminders everywhere that keep these items fresh in our minds. It can feel a lot like torture. The hardest part can be when this torture is self inflicted! You may start your day feeling great and ready to shun the meat, dairy and sugar eating world forever. You may even feel a bit self righteous as you pass on the cappuccino and order yourself a long black. But come mid-day or late afternoon your squirming as your searching for a bit of comfort. This is the hardest part, and this is where some support is beneficial. Whether it be a friend, an online support group or even your family, asking for support is a fantastic way of feeling less alone on the journey. Remembering why you started the journey becomes hard when the cravings hit, and thats why its crucial to have someone to remind you. The most important thing to remember is that even though a lentil burger wrapped in lettuce is hardly reminiscent of a cheeseburger, it will eventually be tied to a memory, a happy one. After a year, every memory from the previous year will be bound to healthy food and lifestyle. The subsequent years will follow and all of a sudden what was once foreign and uncomfortable becomes shiny, new, exciting and best of all more comfortable. So while I may never understand why Santa Barbara, Las Vegas and the 99 cents store are my triggers for a bout of “home craving”, what I do know is that I appreciate them as a reminder of where I came from and a promise that with determination, I can overcome anything.
You would think that telling friends and family about a new, healthy lifestyle you have decided to follow would be met with not only excitement and pride, but also interest in why you began this journey and how they might (a) support you and (b) potentially benefit from doing the same at some point. Monique and I are really fortunate in the sense that we both have very supportive families, particularly in regards to this subject. My Dad was diagnosed with third stage melanoma 18 years ago. The cancer had metastasised into his lymph system and basically he was given a very grim diagnoses. I will write in more detail about this at a later time, for now I will just say he overcame cancer through diet and alternative medicine. My Mom and Dad still adhere to a plant based diet and they have seen many long term health benefits, for my Dad, surviving cancer was only one of the many benefits. Monique’s Mum may not be following a plant based diet, but upon hearing of her change in diet was immediately supportive and looked for ways to accommodate her. For many others this is not the case.
Meat and dairy are the foundations of the western diet and to remove these would seem extreme. We’ve been conditioned to believe that without these staples our bodies cannot grow “big and strong”,(insert image of disapproving mother pouring another glass of milk). Many of these ideas have stemmed from what we have been fed through media and marketing campaigns often funded by the meat and dairy industry themselves. These nutritional “facts” have been handed down through generations and are deeply engrained in most of us. It doesn’t take much to scratch the surface and find the myth below these “facts” but one must be open minded as well as receptive to change, this isn’t always the case with family or friends. Monique has been met with emotions just barely falling short of rage, waiters that roll their eyes and interrogations that would have made the Spanish Inquisition seem mild. Friends that never would have given a thought about nutrition in their own diets, automatically became experts on the necessity of meat and dairy. Monique was even accused of not loving animals enough for it to be a valid reason to go vegan, (I tend to agree, I’ve seen the way she looks at her goldfish while holding the wasabi and soy sauce).
All joking aside I feel it is important to have some cold, hard facts up your sleeve for when you are faced with these encounters. Usually these inquests come from a place of genuine concern but can seem a lot like opposition at first. There are a plethora of reasons that one chooses to go vegan. Each and every journey is unique and perhaps that is what needs to be shared. This being the age of acceptance and diversity makes it easier than ever to be proud of lifestyle choices, vegan being one of them.
Cheers- Amber & Monique
I am just going to jump right in and talk about something quite personal. This subject is extremely important to me, and any one who has ever had issues with digestion would know exactly where I am coming from. The discomfort that comes with digestion and gut issues can be all consuming and stressful. For me personally… I have never been so desperate to find the answer to my issues. Unfortunately the general practitioners that I saw here in Sydney listened briefly, had a look at my physical composition and told me I was fine. I was so not fine! I wanted to scream at them!! They weren’t around at night when I couldn’t sleep due to the discomfort. I was so sick of getting ignored! I had to take this problem into my own hands…
I have always struggled with my digestion.. without getting too detailed, I suffer from many of the symptoms described in those suffering with IBS. If you were to ask Monique, she would be able to tell you all of the ins and outs (literally) of my daily struggle. Monique being the gorgeous friend that she is, listened and offered encouragement, secretly hoping that I’d find a cure so she no longer had to hear about my ….crap.
The amount of thought and attention to what goes into our diets is finally paying off though in the form of healthy digestion and.. elimination.
I am going to be completely honest here, I struggled with addiction to laxatives over the years. Even being extremely health conscious, I fell into that trap easily. Here was the typical scenario: Start work at 3:00pm, operate 5 flights, arrive for the overnight at 8:30pm, eat a late dinner, sleep 6 hours and wake up feeling bloated and uncomfortable. At 5am I would be unable to use the toilet because there was no time and I couldn’t relax! I would then operate another 5 flights before ending the shift mid-day. During cabin service I may have had the urge to go, but it is unacceptable to leave the trolley in the isle and go running to the toilet while your passengers sit there waiting for their cups of coffee. I should probably mention that Monique and I work for a regional airline and we are solo flight attendants on 34 seater prop planes. The flights are typically short with quick turnarounds which can make for a non-stop day. This schedule combined with the expansion and compression of gas in the gut with all of the take-offs and landings during the day left me reliant on laxatives. So long as I took that tiny pill at night before bed, I would use the toilet in the morning and I would have less bloating and discomfort. I never really thought about the long term effects, or the problem at the root of all of this, I was only seeking temporary comfort.
All of this was happening, and on top of it, I was chronically ill! The common cold was far too common. Then it dawned on me! 60-80 % of our immune function lies within our digestion… So there it was. Maybe this is obvious to others, but geez, it took me long enough to figure it out!
I took a radical approach! First of all, I stopped taking those horrible laxatives. Second I did a five day green smoothie detox consisting of only green vegetables and raw ginger and turmeric. I began making Kombucha (thanks to a friend setting me up with my starter scoby). I also started taking a very high strength pro-biotic. I combined this with cutting my coffee intake and eating a primarily raw, completely vegan diet, free from all grains and flours. I started having colonic treatments to strengthen the bowel itself, and I continued to exercise nearly every day, and guess what?!! My guts started working!!! My health and energy seemed to sky rocket! I realised I was finally on the right path, and without any of the expensive, unhealthy, conventional medications and “cures”. I wish I could say that this change occurred overnight, it didn’t. It was a long process, and often uncomfortable and frustrating. But here’s the deal, I wanted permanent results! And like anything valuable, it often requires a lot of hard work. If it was easy, laxatives wouldn’t even exist. So now I have a healthy, functioning digestive system and as a result my whole outlook and energy has improved.
All this said, it leads me to one very valid analogy. During this time I had some personal issues with a very toxic person in my life. What I realised is, the process of elimination is extremely important in all realms of ones life. Elimination is just as important as the quality of what we introduce, wether it be into our diets, or our inner circle of friends. We can change our diets and become extremely conscious of what we are eating, but we must make sure we remove anything/anyone that may upset that beautiful balance that leads to optimum health.