REFLECT. CREATE. RECHARGE.
a life on the road, with a head in the clouds
Vegan After Lunch
The best way I can describe myself to people I meet while being a professional singing nomad-gypsy, is that I spend my life painting my nails to put my hands in the dirt. In other words, I'm an outdoors type, but you probably would never guess it, because I also have a passion for cosmetics and fashion. I grew up camping, hiking, and fishing with my grandparents while my mom was at work at the Sleep Inn. I'm a girly tomboy; being outside admiring nature and breathing with the earth (excuse my brief woo-woo outburst) is very important to me; I thrive on it.
My family is really tough. Not just tough-love tough, though that is part of it. They're the kill-your-own dinner, grow-your-own-vegetables, raise-your-own-chickens, get-your-ass-out-of-bed kind of tough, and I couldn't be more thankful for that upbringing, especially in the career that I've chosen. I was absolutely the "girliest" in the family. I was the grandkid who was painting my nails with Grandma while getting ready to go fishing with Grandpa immediately afterwords. I was the adolescent soaking up the sun and fresh air and watching everyone else water ski while helping Grandpa drive the boat. I was also the one wearing makeup at 12 just because I liked art, and I thought it was fun to play with paint on my face (and also because the neighbor-kid next door to my Grandparents' house thought I was a boy, because my mother got sick of hearing me complain about the way she did my hair, and had it all chopped off). And still the one to get bored playing dolls or house with my girlfriends and would go build a tree-fort with my best childhood friend Matthew (of course after my nails were done and had changed my outfit no less than thrice.) I call myself solar-powered because I am a much happier, less cynical, kinder version of myself when I'm able to spend significant time outside, especially if the weather is somewhat warm. The sun gives me unbelievable joy and energy, so any activity that involves getting a little vitamin D while also getting that blood flowing and/or enjoying fresh mountain air feeds my soul.
But of course, as soon as I arrived in Malibu to attend Pepperdine University in 2010, I missed my Montana seasons. I learned early on that I need balance (uh oh, my Libra sun is showing again). Okay, definitely more sun and summer than not sun and summer, but a balance of it, nonetheless. I've found this to be true about most of us humans, and for so many aspects of life. Mountains and beaches. Going out and staying in. Luckily, I've chosen a career that encourages (demands) travel and am forced in some ways to achieve this balance the best I can. The funny thing is, people are usually taken by surprise when they get in my car and hear the music I listen to. I'm an opera singer who exclusively listens to anything but opera when it's not for work. That's not because I don't love opera; it's because I think it's important for us to cleanse our palate when we're not working so that each time we return to work we are thrilled to hear opera and say to ourselves, "This is my job?!" Balance is so important for so many reasons, dare I say especially now, with the current state of our world, politically and socially.
Something I discovered when I started training my voice classically, and particularly as I've had to say a sad goodbye to my early and mid-twenties, is that I am terribly prone to acid reflux. What a wonderful thing for us singing artists to have to deal with, right? That was obviously sarcasm; it's exhausting and a pain in the ass. But in a strange way, it is kind of a blessing in disguise that our job depends on us to treat our bodies in the most careful way.
~Side note - this is one of the things that is the most wonderful about this career; that it requires us to be healthy, get lots of rest, respect and care for our instruments (our bodies) and actively work on our heart and mind as well. ~
Because I grew up very poor with my single and brain-damaged mother, and more notably, because I grew up in Montana, I was used to eating lots of things that I later learned were likely the foods contributing the most to my acid reflux. Foods like red meat (the deer my uncle caught the last weekend), lots of cheese, etc. And in college I wasn't quite ready to completely change my diet; I didn't have the mental energy, nor did I know the first steps at the time. After graduate school I briefly tried being vegan to see if that helped my acid reflux (and also because I love animals and would like to do my best not to support bad treatment of them, especially since our bodies are meant primarily for leafy greens and seeds) but much to my surprise it got worse. I tried many different diets and combinations of diets, and nothing besides prescription acid reducers could make my reflux go away. So finally, about year and a half ago I took a DNA test that revealed to me what I should and should not be eating and it said: "Lots of lean meats, some cheeses, high fat, little to no carbs, and lots of leafy greens." WHAT?! MY DNA SAYS I'M SUPPOSED TO EAT SOME OF THE MOST ACIDIC THINGS? ...... no.....here comes that word again: balance. Vegan after lunch™
The way our bodies process animal proteins is basically by throwing acid at it, which is not conducive to later-in-the day eating, since we tend to sleep during the night time. So since my DNA claims I need lean meats and few carbs, I eat the animal proteins for the first two meals, with veggies, and have a small portion of some sort of pasta or carb-y thing with my veggies at night. Ideally, we shouldn't be having carbs and animal proteins together, because our bodies process the two very differently. But either can go with veggies. I have my college choir director to thank for teaching me that fact, but the research is easy to find online.
So far, the vegan-after-lunch diet (coined by yours truly) is working quite well for me. I still struggle with some acid reflux if I'm stressed or if I have a food slip-up, but it's so much better than it was a couple of years ago, and I don't have to shove pills down my throat (at least, not very often). Now, this might be a terrible diet for someone else. The most important thing is to listen to your body, your instrument, have patience with yourself, and find some kind of balance that works for you. I think most of us artists know this already. But this diet frustration has been a particular reminder to me of just how important seeking balance is in our lives, in all aspects. And how one body's most healthy ground zero won't be the same as nearly any other body's. I had many doctors and advisors suggest many different diet changes, and none seemed to work. So I highly recommend a DNA test. They are fairly affordable online (I know, none of us have any spare change, but our instrument's health is our most important investment) and are quite fast and easy.
If you don't struggle with acid reflux, and/or if you feel you are quite balanced in your life in general, already, congrats. I am very jealous of you ;) But I feel quite strongly about the need for all of us individually and as a collective whole (myself included) to continue to think about and seek out what feeds our soul; what makes us the best versions of ourselves, especially right now in the midst of super moons, SOTU's, eclipses, and all the other crap we're up against. We all need a reminder to find our "Vegan After Lunch" balance.
Cheers y'all..... Stay Sunny
If anyone out there also struggles with acid reflux (or doesn't) and thinks this type of diet might work well for them, I'd be happy to help with some ideas! Feel free to email me.