This post is for the meat eaters, I understand you and I want to make a connection that is not often made with these two sides. I loved meat, all my life, up until I made big changes in my lifestyle. I don’t attempt to force or persuade anyone to change what they are doing, they have to make that choice for themselves. However, I think its worth a discussion. I was that person who made fun of vegans, I proudly stated that the way they lived was unhealthy and un-necessary. I had no information that backed up my view I just said it. I am certain I posted things and said things about vegans that were very hurtful and harsh. I feel badly about that especially since I am now in the position of the people I made fun of. I now know that people who are vegan and vegetarian most of the time are only trying to do the best they can for themselves, their families and their environment.
So why? Why would I change my opinion on something so crucial? What made me think that what I had always been taught and believed to be true was suddenly wrong? The answer to this question is… I was searching myself because of my own motivation and found the true facts. I can tell you even to this day I am as surprised as you are that I am vegan, but I’m never going back.
So it all started when I was reunited with the love of my life. Things change when you are a couple, you start eating together, merging your lives together and in turn making life decisions together. We had tried going “vegetarian” once before, but we didn’t do it properly and ended up always been tired, exhausted and hungry. We mostly ate what we liked to call “lettuce wraps” which you can imagine were not filled with any sort of nutrients and did not keep our bodies satisfied. We went from a full meat dairy diet to cutting several of those things immediately. Knowing what i know now, our bodies were freaking out. I can see why it didn’t work then. So maybe about two months in, we quit. That little false representation of vegetarian lifestyle convinced us “we just needed meat.” However we did decide that we needed more real fruits & veggies in our diet. So we started just slowly incorporating more plant foods into our meals. I truly believe this was the spark that ignited the transition that took several years to complete, but was the right way to do things.
So after telling our friends and family that we tried being vegetarian but it “simply was not practical” and “did not work for us”, we set back on a more “regular” diet as we knew it. We did eat meat again, but we were more selective. We choose our meat carefully and we paired it with salads and veggie dishes. Slowly but surely we began to really enjoy some of our vegetable sides, we got more creative and better at cooking.
Little by little we began to learn more about food in general. We learned what health benefits came from which foods, we tried new recipes. We watched documentaries and read books about different effects of certain lifestyles. The more we learned, the more concern we began to have about the way we were eating. This led to realizations that we really needed to change the way we lived more drastically, if we were going to protect our health in the future. Many of our family members were shocked to hear we were considering going vegetarian again because they knew how it did not work for us in the past and they thought this was just another phase we would be in and out of quickly.
A key moment in our lifestyle transition was when a close family member developed cancer and began treatment. Seeing that person go through what they did. Seeing what it did to our entire family, learning what they went through to attempt fighting the disease. Eventually saying goodbye loosing them to the fight. We wanted to know where this disease came from, what fueled it and what seemed to stop it. Many books and studies on experimental treatments with organic and raw vegan diets seemed to suggest that diet could have a strong effect in the growth or deterioration of the cancer cells that can take over your body. This information linked plants to possibly stopping or preventing cancer cell duplication and processed foods, meats and dairy contributing or fueling the disease. More and more we began to dive deep into information and research.
The trick was, how do you know that something you read or learn is right and what exactly to change? We checked and double checked all the information we could find on healthy living and the relations or links to disease. Of course there were doubts. However, from all the information we went through there did not seem to be any negative effects from incorporating more plants into your diet so we started there. We learned about studies that showed organic food being far less toxic without those pesticides and chemicals all over them. So we started shopping organic, we bought at local farmers markets as much as possible.
It was then that we really discovered the facts about meat and dairy that we had never seen before. We learned that in a Harvard study, cutting out red meats and processed meats (hot dogs, sausages, cold cuts) lowered risk of death by 20%. That was ONLY cutting out red meat. This information floored us and we decided to make some changes. We cut red meat out right away. Little by little we began focusing on plant based meals and avoiding red meat and as much meat products as we could. Then we learned more about dairy, about how the animals are treated with harsh antibiotics and they end up in the milk, how puss and other substances end up in milk and we ingest it. We learned about the biology of our bodies and why many humans have digestive problems as a result of these substances. We were thoroughly disgusted and this was all before the ethical information came to us about the treatment of animals who produce milk. The forced insemination and taking baby cow calves away from their mothers the moment they are born. It was heartbreaking and we could not stomach being part of this industry any more for the sake of our own health, our future family and environment.
We sought out all of this information ourselves so I know my explanation in this blog post will not change the minds of others who are meat and dairy lovers. It was really hard to learn this was the way things were. It was really hard, at first, to give up things we thought we really liked. However there was light at the end of this transition and I truly believe the reason we completed it and feel so great about it, is because we saw the potential. The true reason for the transformation in our lifestyle was health. If we could lower a risk of death by disease by 20% by just cutting red meat, what else could we do? If the only thing standing in our way was making vegetarian and vegan food replacements as delicious as the meals we had come to love, then that was a challenge we would gladly accept. The more we cut out the questionable things and replaced them with quality healthy produce, the better we felt. The proof was in the results. We scoured the internet for amazing vegan and vegetarian takes on “traditional meals.” Some we liked and others we didn’t, we even made some of our own and they are now staples in our home. We prefer our vegan nachos or tacos recipes to going out any night!
We are not doctors obviously, I am finishing a certification on nutrition and health, but I do not have a masters degree. I only know what I have read and heard and seen, and of course how I now feel having changed my entire lifestyle. What all this information is telling me, is that we are meant to eat plants. The science and the facts show that we need plants for optimal survival. Eating more plants and becoming vegan, I have eradicated any trace of my asthma I suffered from as a child, I can concentrate better, sleep better, have more energy and remember more accurately. We feel amazing and we only started feeling this way when we found the perfect balance and truly started giving our bodies what they needed to thrive.
It is so easy to look at vegans and vegetarians and poke holes in their lifestyle because many of them truly, are doing it wrong and depriving their bodies of what they need. They are not eating enough, they are still counting calories and depriving themselves of essential nutrients. The facts are clear you do need to eat more when you have this lifestyle, but focusing on the right things. This lifestyle is not taught when you grow up, its not explained and sometimes its unclear how to do it right. We are not “meatless product” vegans, we do not live on processed foods and vegetarian products. A yummy veggie burger is fine once in a while but its real food from the earth, grown on trees, bushes, in the ground, on vines that is going to sustain true health and that is what we live by.
Until we made sure we were eating enough, plenty of fruits and veggies, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, we did not feel the best we could. Getting good sources of proteins, (beans, avocado, tofu & tempeh, nuts) and healthy carbs (rices, grains, oats) and all the nutrients the human body needs (iron, vitamin c, vitamin K, calcium, and more) is essential to satisfying your body. It is totally possible to do this as a vegan, meats and dairy are not essential to health. Those products may even inhibit your body from being as healthy as it can be.
Again we know we will not change the minds of others, but if you are curious or asking yourself why vegans and vegetarians are always talking about food and it seems like they are always trying to convince you that this is the way to go, its not because they think they are superior, despite what many people say. The reason they want to share so much is because they care about you, your health, and the environment too. It takes dedication to your health, your family’s health, and the environment to make these changes and live this way. We have a great deal of difficulty going out to dinner because everything is covered in dairy or served on meat. Believe me, we wish it was not so hard, but we do it because its the right thing for us. Not everyone is ready, not everyone will be able to do this now, or as soon as we did, it takes time. We only share because we believe with proper information people can make changes for the better. Its true just like Maya Angelou said “I did then what I knew how to do, Now that I know better, I do better.”
The world is slowly waking up to the reality of food, the harsh realities of the meat and dairy industries. People are choosing organic, they are choosing sustainable they are choosing life and color in their food. I encourage you to choose for yourself, to discover and find out what is in the foods you are eating. I know there is a chance I could be wrong about many of the things I believe about food. However, when I think about it, adding more fruits and veggies into peoples meals everywhere really can’t hurt right? So if you don’t want to give up meat, then don’t! If you want to keep your glass of milk then do so! You can still make changes without giving things up day one. Maybe choose some organic milk next time you are at the store, or buy a smaller carton. Maybe be mindful about drinking more water. You could choose more responsibly raised meats, learn about grass fed, cage free, antibiotic and hormone free. Maybe visit your local farm and see what they have to offer? Then you are not giving up something you really like but instead fueling your local economy. Just making these small changes and adding more fresh foods into our diets can make a great deal difference. I hope this article does not offend you but helps you, I hope its relate-able. I truly only wish to give information to those searching for it like I once was and I only wish to help those who want the help I offer.