When it comes to diet transitioning, no matter where you fall in the spectrum of things, you will always be challenged with the overcoming of food addictions. These food addictions are personal and unique for each and every one of us, and while oftentimes not pleasant to go through, rest assured, you CAN indeed release yourself from whatever particular food addiction(s) you may be facing.
Some of our food addictions are more readily released from habit than others, while there typically will be at least 1 or 2 (or more) food addictions that seem to haunt your every meal decision. There are tips and tricks to manage and overcome every type of food addiction, and just like anything else, you may need to experiment and try different things before you find the solution that works best for you.
For me personally, years back when I was transitioning from a vegetarian diet to a vegan diet, my number #1 food addiction was cheese. If I steamed vegetables, I topped it with some shredded cheese. If I made a veggie sandwich, it included a thick slab of cheese. If I made a salad, I always topped it off with some shredded or cubed cheese. Then of course, there was cheese fondue, cheese and crackers, cheese dips and good old string cheese for snacking. No, I’m not from Wisconsin, but you wouldn’t have known that, because I was the ultimate ‘cheese-head’.
I had to look at why I was consuming so much cheese, and what ‘need’ was it really filling in my otherwise healthy vegetarian diet. After food journaling my meals for 2 weeks (highly recommend this practice!), I was able to take a real hard look at why I was including everything from Swiss to Feta in all my dishes. I believe that sometimes it was for the salty component that the cheese added. Other times, it was for the texture the cheese added to a dish. More often though, the cheese was simply acting as a filler, to help the dish feel more substantial and make me feel full longer. And, yes, there was the occasion when the actual flavor of the cheese is what I was craving.
Now, before I started this food transition and my commitment to give up cheese, I had previously NOT consumed dairy milk or dairy ice-cream. My only other dairy foods that I was consuming at that time, were sour cream for my bean burritos, the occasional use of raw butter and ricotta cheese (again with the cheese!) for my veggie lasagna. The occasional spoonful of raw butter and sour cream were easy to give up. In fact, I now use Toffuti brand vegan sour cream, whenever I want some sour cream for garnish, and Earth Balance brand vegan margarine. Both are delicious. My ultimate food addiction I needed to overcome was CHEESE.
Now began my task of finding healthy vegan cheese substitutes. Without detailing every bump in the road of transition, I will offer you the things that worked for me. If the cheese was filling my need for saltiness, I replaced the cheese by adding more real sea salt and kelp flakes to those dishes. (You will actually always find a container of kelp flakes in my spice cabinet now.) If the cheese was filling my need for texture, I substituted with various vegan cheese alternatives, until I found the ones that I liked the best. If the cheese was added to a dish to make it more substantial and filling, I substituted by adding additional ingredients such as nuts, seeds and denser veggies to those particular dishes. In dishes where cheese was added for the actual taste of the cheese, I started substituting with nutritional yeast flakes, which I found to be surprisingly versatile and very easy to get used to.
Now, while each and every one of these substitutions helped my diet transition, and was indeed successful in helping me cut cheese from my diet, there was one final component that was the ultimate SUCCESS factor. I had started watching some documentaries by some very brave undercover journalists and film makers, about the all-too-often unspoken abuses that is beholden onto commercially-raised animals on a daily basis. I was so incredibly shocked, saddened, angered and appalled, that I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I could never consume another bite of cheese, butter or other any other animal by-product again. (The only animal by-product I now consume, is raw honey.)
Commercially-raised animals that are raised for their meat, are not the only animals to endure inhumane suffering, torture and grizzly slaughtering practices. Dairy cows and egg-producing chickens suffer extreme torture on a daily basis. It’s so appalling to think that humans are even capable of these actions, it defies all sense of logic and reasoning to me. If you’ve never seen any of these eye-opening documentaries, I strongly encourage you do to so. While grueling to endure even from the vantage point of being a spectator, by being fully aware of the abuse that is happening to these defenseless animals, we can then be the voice of awareness and change for each and every one of these beautiful creatures that we share Mother Earth with.
So, at the end of the day, the ultimate factor of success in my overcoming my addiction to cheese, were the eyes of the animals shown in these documentaries. Eyes that pleaded for help. Eyes that pleaded for love and compassion. Eyes that spoke to my very soul, and to which I gave them my promise to be an ambassador of awareness, truth and love for animals rights.
For every one of you who eats and lives a vegan lifestyle, you are being of HUGE benefit to these animals. As soon as you say ‘NO‘ to consuming and using animal and fish products, as well as animal by-products, you too are stepping into the role of animal rights ambassador.
I’m a huge supporter of all animal rights groups and movements, as well as film-makers who bravely bring these devastating practices to the awareness of the public through the making of their documentaries.. So, if you’re struggling with overcoming a particular food addiction, especially ones that involve giving up an animal product or animal by-product, try some of the tips I previously mentioned above. However, I also strongly encourage you to start watching some of these documentaries for yourself. While the animals can’t speak to you in a literal sense, I promise you…..they will indeed ‘speak’ to you!
Bon Veggie Appetit!
Gina ‘The Veggie Goddess’ Matthews