At a supermarket check-out line, a young man expressed to me what I would call a “CURIOUS FEAR OF THE TRUTH.” He inquired about the healthy real-fruit ice pops I had placed on the conveyor belt, asking whether or not I liked them.
“I do,” I said. “We just went vegan last week, so they’re a nice alternative to ice cream.”
“You went vegan?” he said, looking me square in the eyes. “My sister in South Carolina just called me the other day saying she went vegan. She watched some movie called “What the Hell?” or something like that.”
“What the Health” I corrected him.
“Yeah, that’s it. She watched that movie and said that as soon as it ended, she threw out all her meat and dairy and stuff.”
“Yep, that’s the movie that’ll do it. Same thing happened to us,” I said. “We watched that movie and cleared our cabinets and fridge the very next day. It’s on Netflix. You definitely should check it out. ”
“Oh, no. I don’t wanna watch it. It sounds really bad.”
“If you mean it might make you wanna go vegan or vegetarian, then yeah, you may think it’s bad. But it’s not so much a visual-shock video. I mean, it has some of that, but it’s also packed with info on how avoiding certain foods improves chronic conditions like diabetes, joint pain . . . even cancer.”
“Cancer? No kidding.”
“No kidding. That movie will make you wanna treat yourself better. And ‘Food Matters’ . . . that’s another good one.”
“Well, I’m Italian, so ya know, I love my food,” he said, now averting eye contact and shifting his body away from mine.
“Don’t worry, you’ll still be Italian, even if you go vegan. And you won’t starve. We LOVE food. Look at us,” I said, patting my husband’s tummy, “Do we look like we’re starving?”
“No,” he said, laughing.
“Exactly! Seriously, though, we’ve already lost weight and we’re eating as much as we want to. It’s been really easy so far. You’d be surprised.”
“Well, what about protein? I work out a lot.”
“You wouldn’t have a problem . . .” I started to say, but didn’t want to be overzealous and come off as preachy, so I wrapped it up by saying, “but you know, maybe it’s just not for you. Everybody’s gotta do what’s right for them.”
“Maybe I’ll check it out,” he said, politely waving goodbye as he turned and walked away.
Maybe Italian guy will check it out. Maybe he won’t. It’s hard to say, because deciding to go vegan is exactly that… It’s a conscious decision, a deeply personal decision, and is best when it’s an educated decision. You have to be genuinely and fully invested in going vegan to actually pull it off. If anyone tries to sell you too much on making that decision and you decide to go vegan as a result, you most likely will be doing so to please that other person instead of yourself, and you will most likely fail.
We watched the movie “What the Health” on Netflix one night on the tail end of the day I had a major spiritual breakthrough in my yoga class (see Yoga Can Make You Cry, If You’re Lucky). I can’t say what led us to the movie, other than to say it happened organically.
I had been reading the book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals” by Michael Pollan and may have searched on the internet whether there was a movie by the same name. Ultimately that led me to “What the Health” which, when done viewing, resulted in my husband and I each coming to our own but same conclusion, “That’s it. I’m never eating animal-based foods again.” We then went on to watch “Food Matters” which we also found quite compelling. And by the end of the night concluded that we definitely were not eating anything that had any trace of GMO corn or soy in it (GMO=genetically modified organism), including any of all of the byproducts of GMO corn or soy used in virtually every product (food or not) on the shelves of most stores.
The very next day, we examined every ingredient list of every packaged or processed item in our pantry, freezer and frig, and made piles of food that we could either return to the grocery store, donate to a food bank, give to neighbors, or toss in the can if it was already opened and partly used.
The day after dispersing all our unwanted food to the appropriate recipients, we set out to the local farmers’ market to stock up on fresh organic, non-GMO produce that was not genetically altered to work hand-in-hand with aggressive and intimidating super seed and chemical company, Monsanto, and its top-selling poison, glyphosate–the chemical in Roundup brand weed killer, the same chemical that drenches most corn and soy fields in this country and has infiltrated and poisoned our food system to such a degree that it is making it nearly impossible for farmers who want to grow organic or to grow anything other than GMO feed corn to do so (GMO feed corn is NOT edible to humans; it is used primarily as feed corn for animals and as a commodity product used in manufacturing an endless number of food and non-food products on store shelves all over this country).
We spent the night watching additional documentaries on Netflix–including “Forks Over Knives“, “Food Inc.” and “Cowspiracy“–that covered related topics. The next day, we went to our grocery store from which we had been buying organic produce for many years now and more recently non-GMO foods too. By us, the grocery store doing the best job of offering organic and non-GMO is Kroger; they have a variety of stores by other names. In California, they went by the name Ralph’s, and in Arizona, they go by the name Fry’s. There we focused on only buying whole foods and only packaged foods with organic, non-GMO, recognizable ingredients and ideally less than 6 ingredients in total. We set out to restock our kitchen with real food, mostly plant-based, with no dairy and no meat, poultry or fish. We may in the future make occasional exceptions to the dairy, meat, poultry, fish if we know exactly where the food item came from and that it was sourced from animals, poultry or fish raised in a humane, sanitary and healthy way, living a long, happy, healthy life. But our intention is to make sure that these exceptions remain occasional.
Whatever we’re doing, it’s not perfect, but it’s considerably better than what we had been doing before we watched the movies “What the Health” and “Food Matters“.
I can’t say exactly what led my husband and I to be as ready as we were for this change in our lives. Before this recent revelation, we were much like my new-found Italian friend at the supermarket check-out line . . . curious, but afraid to commit, afraid to give-up something, to go without something we think we need to be happy.
My husband and I both came to our ah-hah moment on very different paths. Whereas the clincher for him was primarily about the tremendous health benefits of going vegan, including REVERSING chronic conditions like inflammation, heart disease and even cancer, my interests were primarily on distancing myself from causing unnecessary suffering to animals. I also have been big on rejecting GMO foods and Monsanto poisons for roughly 2 years now. Fortunately for my husband and I, our secondary reasons perfectly aligned with each other’s primary reasons. We were on the same page. The timing was right for us as a couple to go vegan and to throw in the designation that whenever possible and practical, we would try to only eat organic and non-GMO.
For us, the truth has been freeing. It feels good. It feels right.
Two and a half weeks into eating vegan, we have been getting more educated about ensuring we get the nutrition our bodies need and desire. We feel more energized. My husband’s stomach slimmed down 3 inches in 3 days, a reduction in bloating, no doubt–something he wasn’t even aware he was suffering from. Due most likely to a natural reduction in inflammatory foods that aggravate the body, he also noticed he no longer had joint pain in his hands and legs. And yet another immediate perk is that we’ve been easily and steadily losing weight while eating as much food as we need to.
We have figured out the best restaurants to go to when we want to go out on the town, including the Japanese restaurant we’ve always been going to that serves plenty of veggie-only options we hadn’t yet tried. We also discovered an Indian restaurant that highlights quite a lot of vegan dishes. A long conversation with the manager of the Indian restaurant led to his comment, “Being vegetarian is easy. I’ve been vegetarian my whole life. I was born in India and in India, most people are vegetarian.” Until that night at the Indian restaurant, my husband had not ever eaten Indian food. He loved it, thought it was excellent. I was relieved because I thought for sure if we didn’t find decent date-night options for food with a vegan twist, we would not last long on a plant-based food lifestyle. After eating at the Indian restaurant, we felt confident we could easily eat vegan when not at home in our own kitchen. Success!
We’re excited about the future effects of our new food choices, curious to feel what it’s like when our bodies are fed better fuel than they’ve ever been fed before.
We’re also wondering what in the heck we were afraid of in giving up the foods we’d been accustomed to eating our whole lives . . .
- Did we fear letting go of comfort foods and the reasons why we’ve attached so much meaning to them?
- Did we fear no longer feeling a part of the family by giving up favorite family food traditions, especially holiday traditions?
- Did we fear feeling like an outsider at occasions where non-vegans and non-vegan foods were the norm?
- Did we fear getting healthier, like it would make us some kind of tree-hugging, bark-eating whacko if we did so?
- Were we afraid of starving to death on healthy food?
- Were we simply so addicted to an over-abundance of fat, salt and sugar that we thought it would be a bitch to break from these overly abused, addictive food components?
I don’t know for sure why it took so long to break from our conditioned ways, because it took only a few days for us to get in the vegan groove and realize . . .
- We could easily let go of certain comfort foods, and heck, some of them we could still rely on (Baked sweet potato, anyone?).
- We still can join in on the occasional special family food traditions that connect us with our families and community. Everything in moderation is the key to success. And it can be a fun challenge to try and alter old family favorites into healthier recipes that everyone can learn to enjoy as much as the originals, maybe even more, because we know they are better for us health-wise.
- We are not outsiders anywhere as long as there are fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, and/or veggies at events we attend, which is pretty much the case everywhere we’ll go. And it’s so easy for us to bring our own little emergency, collapsible cooler of food if for some reason there isn’t enough of the right food for us. We’ve found it super easy to pop into a grocery store and buy hummus and chips to munch on when we’ve miscalculated our food options.
- Though I’ve been known to hug a tree or two, I’m not a bark-eating whacko, and going vegan has not made me a whacko. Feeling healthier after just two-and-a-half weeks into veganism is an awesome reward for our willingness to change up our food intake. Feeling healthier is the very thing that encourages us to keep at it. It’s not even a question, really. We really love what we’re doing and how we feel.
- We’re not starving to death. Trust me. My husband is a big man, weighing in at 237 when we started this. He is not one to starve himself. He is eating well, loving the food he is eating and has lost 7 pounds so far. I eat whenever I’m hungry and I’ve lost 5 pounds so far.
- I think the clincher is that we were, in fact, addicted to an over-abundance of fat, salt and sugar. I’ve never been confident that I could easily break from fat, salt and sugar. Fat makes you feel full. Salt makes you crave more salt, Sugar makes you crave more sugar. Add to that the list of additives in processed foods that are meant to feed these known addictions and it would seem awfully hard to stop eating these addicting foods. But it’s not. After 3 days, we didn’t have any particular cravings for any of it–not fat, not salt, not sugar. Not dairy. Not meat, poultry or fish.
But as I mentioned earlier, we all have to come to these conclusions on our own. Nobody can lead us to it. We have to find our own way. And if in the process of focusing on ourselves, we inspire someone else to try, then so be it. And if not, so be that too. When the time is right, the fear will disappear, replaced with conviction that the time is right to do what you know you need–and therefore want–to do.
Peace to you all, and HAPPY EATING!