Simply ask, “why do I eat one of these baby animals (pictured above) and not the other?” That is really what it has come down to for me. Whenever I question my choice to be vegetarian, I think about the fact that I named my dog, feed him twice a day, cuddle him all the time and bring him to a doctor for regular check ups, while other animals are being slaughtered for food.
Melanie Joy, Author of Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows coined the term carnism: the belief system that enables us to eat some animals and not others. Why is a dog’s life more precious than the life of a cow or a pig?
Now, I know it’s not that easy to make a big diet/lifestyle change, and it didn’t start out easy for me. If you decide to become a vegetarian, it is important to know why you want to give up meat. Eating plants and other meat free food is not for everyone, but it is for me. That being said, the reason I stopped eating meat in 2006 is different from the reason I don’t eat meat today.
In September of 2006, I stopped eating meat, two months after I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Research shows that MS patients, and people dealing with other autoimmune conditions that don’t eat much in the way of saturated fats and “inflammatory foods”, maintain better health than the ones that do. (I would challenge that this goes for most everyone) Giving up meat was one of the best ways I could really “do something” about my new diagnosis. I stopped eating meat to achieve better health.
How I did it
Some of my favorite foods included salami, meatballs, grilled chicken and garlic burgers and I struggled the first two months that I tried to give up meat. I had a few cheats at events and dining out, so I decided to go all the way!
For 30 days in November, 2006, I went RAW. I stuck to a 100% raw vegan diet and lifestyle. I bought a dehydrator and made my own crackers, I went to raw food seminars and ate raw carrot cake and seaweed chips. I dined at raw food restaurants, enjoyed raw pizza and pasta and I ate salads every day. I was committed, for 30 days. While I appreciated some of the health benefits of a raw diet, I missed hot soup and baking cupcakes, and found the diet to be very isolating. I do know many raw foodies who are very happy and healthy with their diet, but it was not for me.
The best part of my 30 day raw vegan diet is that it erased most of my carnivorous cravings. I even stayed away from all dairy products for several months and still do not drink cow’s milk today. It was a great way to reset my dietary sensors (if there is such a thing) and really learn to appreciate a vegetarian diet.
Why I still do it
Avoiding meat and most animal products has helped me to stay healthy, even with MS. My vegetarian diet, combined with exercise and drug therapy has contributed to reduced disease activity. I haven’t had an MS relapse in more than three years and MRI scans of my brain show no MS progress. This is a lot to say about a disease with a naturally progressive course.
While I really enjoy the health benefits of a vegetarian diet, that is not what motivates me to stay meat – free. When I started my veg journey, I started reading. I read about raising animals for meat. I read about factory farming. I learned about the impact of our actions on our bodies, animals and the earth. By really opening my eyes and heart to how meat was put on my plate, I lost my appetite for it. Better health motivated me to stop and compassion sealed the deal.
What I recommend if you are considering becoming a vegetarian
Research vegetarianism and see if it is right for you. If you think it will benefit your health, or if you don’t feel good about eating meat because of the animal cruelty factor, give it a try. You don’t have to be extreme and quit everything at once. You might try eliminating one type of a meat at a time. Start slow with Meatless Mondays, or challenge yourself to try to eat meat free for three or four days and see how it feels. You will feel, and probably see the benefits after two weeks of eliminating meat and dairy from your diet.
Rudy Hadisentosa: http://veggie123.com/
Food Inc – movie trailer
Forks over knives – movie trailer
Earthlings – movie trailer (very graphic – Ellen DeGeneres said, “Earthlings made Food Inc. look like a Disney movie.”)
Please watch for my “tips and book recommendations for newbie vegetarians” post coming next week.