This blog post is not written to try to convert you into a vegan or vegetarian. I'm not going to be using any kind of fear tactics or guilt trips about this issue. I only want to educate and give my personal experience when it comes to eating more plant-based and less animal-based. You might read something you haven't considered before, and perhaps you might want to take action on that. But even if you don't, you are still a wonderful human who deserves to be on earth.
Kim BCE (Before Cleaner Eating)
I grew up eating meat and enjoying it. In high school, I had friends of the vegan persuasion who I thought were CRAZY for giving up meat. I used to sort of make fun of them. I NEVER envisioned myself as ever ever ever becoming like them. I was stubbornly against the idea.
|High school Kim would never have guessed that she would ever turn to the green side
I limit my meat intake, mainly to the occasional fish. I believe my life is SO much better for this decision. I am very healthy, and I feel great in a number of different ways.
The thing that made me consider this type of lifestyle in the first place was my physical health. I read a book called Eat to Live by Doctor Joel Fuhrman, and it completely changed my perspective on nutrition. The book goes into the science of how plant-based nutrition is light years superior to consuming animal-based foods. The science, especially, changed my mind about the types of things I should put inside my body.
|Eating plant-based doesn't mean that you will be sacrificing not eating delicious food. This is rainbow salad is proof of that! Yummy yummy!
I have a very good reason to be concerned about my health. As a quadriplegic, any sickness or condition that I develop affects me 20 times more severely than the average able-bodied person. The number one killer of quadriplegics is pneumonia. I can tell you, firsthand, how debilitating that was for me. I developed it in the hospital when I was first injured, and I had to be intubated and eventually had to have a tracheostomy – just in order to not die. Also, as you can imagine, it's much trickier vomiting or getting diarrhea as someone who has no conscious control over their limbs. It means I have to have people helping me with that, and their jobs are very very gross. So, I also have another important reason to stay on top of my health. It doesn't affect just me.
I also have a family history of diabetes and cancer. Myself, I had thyroid cancer a few years ago, which was surgically and radiation-ally treated. Now, I don't eat the super healthiest of anyone ever. I still eat too much candy and have occasional junk food or soda. However, my latest labs reveal that all of my important numbers are well within normal and healthy ranges (with the exception of creatinine and HDL¹). One of my younger siblings has diabetes, but my A1c numbers are much lower than even prediabetic levels. I firmly attribute this to eating more plant-based.
If you want to change your life for the better, I strongly recommend reading Eat to Live. I also really loved Grow A New Body by Alberto Villoldo, which approaches health from a physical and spiritual perspective. If you find yourself resistant to this kind of advice, (which I can relate to) please don't think of this as an all or nothing solution. You can still gain better health by just reducing your meat/animal product intake or supplementing your diet with MORE veggies, fruit and whole foods. I cannot more strongly testify that this is a smart health choice that you will not regret.
When I started on my more plant-based journey, I had no idea that my actions were benefiting the environment. (I know that there are people out there who do not prioritize environmental concerns because of whatever political party they might strongly affiliate with or because of how they subscribe to a faith which espouses the idea that the world will soon be destroyed by God. Either way, we don't know when the earth will be destroyed, and it behooves us to keep it as nice as we can while we or our progeny inhabit it. I feel like that's an idea that anyone can get behind regardless of religious or political affiliation.)
Food is responsible for 30% of human-generated greenhouse gas emissions, according to scientists, and meat is the most responsible for those emissions. Food production is also responsible for 80% of deforestation and is the biggest threat to species biodiversity. If we are eating less meat and dairy, these omissions will be cut down, and deforestation will slow, and biodiversity will increase. Research also shows that transitioning to plant-based lifestyle could reduce pollution by 49%, and reduce global water use by 14%. It will also increase water quality.
|This movie teaches us to treat Earth with respect
I grew up watching Captain Planet and Ferngully: The Last Rain Forest. Environmental concerns have always been important to me since I can remember. However, a lot of times, we feel very helpless when it comes to how much we can do for Earth. Eliminating or reducing our animal intake can SIGNIFICANTLY make a difference. If you care about Earth, moving in a more plant-based direction is one of the best things you can personally do.
If you are feeling spiritually bogged down, eating more plant-based can also help you feel better. When we ingest animals, we are making them a part of our bodies. If these animals were mistreated and tortured, those hormones like cortisol and adrenaline are elevated and remain in the slaughtered animal which then become part of our own emotional makeup. We also are unknowingly consuming their suffering, which adds to or exacerbates our own.
Many spiritual leaders and gifted individuals often choose vegetarianism. Some of these people include: Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, Pythagoras, Mahatma Gandhi, Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, Leo Tolstoy, and Fred Rogers. In fact, many religions (including my own) specifically preach about limiting or eliminating meat consumption. I believe, if you listen closely to your spirit, you might feel inclined to limit your animal consumption as well. I know that when I did, I felt closer to God, closer to my fellow humans, and closer to myself.
Impact on Animals
Finally, this is the right course of action if you claim to love animals. If you have pets at home – such as a dog or cat – the idea of eating them seems very repulsive. I know a lot of people regard their pets as members of their family. They all have such distinctive personalities and are very dear. It may surprise you, then, to learn that pigs and cattle are just as intelligent as cats and dogs. They have distinctive personalities, and yet we eat them. And worse, we raise them as livestock in abominable conditions. We would never put our cats or dogs into the deplorable living conditions of these animals raised for slaughter. There really is no difference between your pet and what you put on your plate.
|If eating a cute dog like this is unimaginable, reducing/eliminating other animal meats might be a good thing for you! (Me with our cute puppy, Kingsley.)
I never thought I would be advocating for animals, but I know it's the right thing to do. Animals are sweet, adorable, and wonderful. If you love animals, you should absolutely limit or eliminate them from your diet as much as you possibly can.
When I took my initial steps on this journey over a decade ago, I thought it would be MUCH harder than it was. I thought I would miss meat and that it would be hard to eat "balanced" meals that had enough protein in them. It was slightly difficult, but I had that zealous fire inside me burning, and I would not compromise my health goals for anything. I also learned that as long as you are getting enough to eat, you are getting enough protein. Also, the leading health experts on increasing life longevity suggest eating a lot less protein than we do. They say it will increase our health, and also help us to age more slowly.
Also, if something resonated with you and you want to change, there is no reason you need to do it all at once. You can gradually decrease your animal-products intake. Any reduction is a positive change, even if it is small! Perhaps one day you will think, "When was the last time that I ate meat?" And you will realize it has been a while and that you don't really miss it. Or maybe you will take some small action like eliminating meat from your diet one day a week. That is a small change, but it will have LARGE impacts over the course of time. If you eat 3 meals a day, that is 156 meals with no meat in them over the course of a year! And that will have positive environmental impacts, positive health impacts, positive spiritual impacts, and fewer animals will have died. Also, there are so many good and decent tasting meat substitutes available now. In fact, some of them are so "lifelike" that they don't even taste good to me, because they taste too much like meat, despite being fully plant-based.
|Vegetarian food that I recently ate at Star Wars Land in Disneyland
Lastly, please know that my intention by writing this post was not to judge your choices or attack your lifestyle. In my soul, I know that this more plant-based approach works for ME. I don't know what works for you, and I can't tell you what do or judge what you have done. I lived my life for 31 years eating lots of meat, probably every day of my life. I know what it's like to be on that side of things, and I never thought I would be on this side – not in a thousand years. So I have no room to judge you for your eating decisions. How I am living now, though, has made my life so much better. I only want to give information that might do the same for your life. But it is up to you! And I will love you no matter what you eat!
¹ Low levels of creatinine are very normal for people with a physical disability who cannot use their muscles normally. I have low HDL (the good cholesterol) at 38, and normal levels are 50 or above. I don't know why I can't get that number to be within normal ranges. I've been trying for a while.