When I was 14 years old, I became a vegetarian. I was a freshman in high school, and it was an older, cooler sophomore who convinced me that this was an important moral step to take. I would spare animals from suffering. Less grain for livestock would mean more food to feed the world. I would live a long, healthy life.
As time went by, I added more and more restrictions to the way I ate. I tried to eliminate all fat, sugar, and salt from my diet. I fasted. I experimented with veganism and macrobiotics. I obsessed over what I was eating, and then obsessed over my obsession.
When I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area at the age of 23, I was not a well woman. Plagued by a list of ailments, I turned to acupuncture to help me regain my health. The acupuncturists convinced me that I needed to start eating meat again in order to be truly well. After an extended internal struggle, I did. Sure enough, I began to heal.
And that was the beginning of the second leg of my journey with food. I was willing to eat meat, but not from factory farms. I began learning about local food producers and sustainable agriculture. I learned that while keeping animals in feedlots did not support the health of the planet or its people, letting animals graze on pastures did. I began to eat seasonally, and to shop at farmers’ markets.
I began to understand what it was that I had been truly hungering for in all those years of self-deprivation and restrictive dieting: I wanted connection. I wanted to know where my food came from, and who grew it. I wanted to sense the turning of the year: asparagus in spring, corn in summer, pumpkins in autumn, and beets in winter.
I had become a locavore—someone whose diet consists mostly of food grown near where she lives. I abide by no harsh strictures; I just buy from the local farmers and ranchers I love. I now eat everything, and with pleasure and satisfaction. And finally, I am well fed.