Sunday, August 21, 2011

Most people would take the blue pill.

In the movie, The Matrix, Keanu Reeves’ character is given the choice between taking the red pill which will show him truth and reality or taking the blue pill, which will keep him in his dream-like world. Of course, he chooses the red pill and finds out that everything he thought was real and true .. isn’t.

I too have taken the red pill.  Once you take the red pill.. there is no turning back and you cannot stick your head back in the sand. You suddenly realize that everything you’ve been taught, doesn’t make sense anymore.

When it comes to the animals and animal products we eat, most people will happily take the blue pill so they can go on living in their idyllic fantasy world. It’s a world where cows frolic happily in green pastures on sunny days and wander lazily across open acres. It’s where pigs roll around in mud puddles and sleep the days away under big trees. It’s where chickens are allowed to run free, roost in nests and enjoy taking dirt baths.

In truth, 99% of the animals and animal products you consume come from factory farms.  ‘Life’ on a factory farm is anything but idyllic.

For cows that will become steaks and hamburgers, they are packed into muddy, grass free feed lots and forced to eat grains, which is not their natural diet.  They are pumped full of antibiotics to fend off the diseases they get from not eating a proper diet and are given growth hormones so they get bigger than normal to produce more meat. They are stressed and frightened. When slaughter time comes they are herded thru a building where they get a bolt to the head (and if they are lucky it will knock them out but that isn’t always the case) and are hung from their feet, throat slit and allowed to bleed out and they are disemboweled while still alive. Pigs suffer a similar fate. Breeder pigs are kept in a small cage where they can’t even turn around and are forced to produce babies that enter the system.

For dairy cows, the horrors are two-fold … in order for a cow to give milk, they must be pregnant (just like a human) so they are forcibly raped and impregnated by a man with a syringe only to have their baby stolen from them at birth so humans can steal the baby’s milk. Mother and baby are distraught at the separation. The baby girls are put into the system to become milk cows and the baby boys are tossed into small, dark crates to become veal. When dairy cows are ‘spent’ after about 5 years (even though the average life span of a cow is over is 20 years) they will  be slaughtered for meat.

Chickens you eat are fattened up with hormones so they can’t even walk. They are packed into cages and taken to slaughter where they are first hung by their feet and are passed thru a neck slicing station (many chickens manage to survive that part) and are then dropped into scalding hot water (some are still alive), their feathers are torn out and then they are butchered.

Egg laying chickens lead an even more horrible life. Packed by pairs (or more) into crates no larger than a piece of paper, they are injected with hormones to over produce eggs. Wild hens naturally lay about 17 eggs a YEAR. Hens in a factory farm lay daily. Chickens are debeaked, a horrific practice where the sharp tips of their beaks are sliced off in order to prevent them from pecking one another to death in their close quarters due to the stress. In the hatchery, boy chickens are removed from the group and considered ‘by product’ since they cannot lay eggs and they are not profitable. They are tossed into large hoppers and ground up alive and used as feed meal in dog food and very often are fed back to the other chickens in their feed.

You may think ‘free range’ or ‘cage free’ is better but it really isn’t. Chickens are never housed outside in the fresh air. All cage free means is that they are housed in a large, enclosed building.  

There is no such thing as ‘humane slaughter’. Perhaps if we euthanized feed animals as we do our beloved pets and death row criminals, (a drug that puts them to sleep and another that stops their hearts), then maybe that would be a little easier to swallow but that would be expensive and time consuming. Killing something is never humane.

Some people think it’s ok to eat animals if they come from independent family farms. While it’s possible the smaller farms aren’t injecting their animals with hormones and aren’t cruel to their animals and may even have them housed in an outdoor pasture with real grass, the fact remains that the butchering is usually done by the same slaughterhouses that do the factory farming slaughters. Even if it isn’t, that animal is still terrified and treated in a cruel manner in the final moments of its life. I just don’t know how anyone can justify eating a being under that kind of stress and fear. That can’t be ok for your soul or your karma.

It might make you feel better eating eggs from a local farm where they don’t feed their chickens hormones or keep them in cages but the reality is that eggs are not healthy and shouldn’t be eaten anyway. Consuming flesh, milk, cheese and other dairy products is bad for your health. It’s documented. It’s fact. It’s killing you and the ones you love.

Take the red pill.

Educate and enlighten yourself.  Be brave enough to step up and be willing to really learn about the food you put into your body. Don’t be the person that sticks their head in the sand and says “I don’t want to know!” I’m not saying you have to give up eating animals and animal products but I’d like you to see the truth and the reality and then make an informed choice. I’m pretty sure anyone that has done that has switched to a plant based diet. The horrors are real. The science is real. The reality is shocking and sad but you can make a difference in your life and in your health and you can find a quiet peace within yourself if you stop contributing to slaughter and fear and suffering and pain.

There is no reason to eat animals or animal products. There is no health reason to eat animals or animal products. Whatever it is you want to eat, there is a plant based alternative.  

Thursday, August 11, 2011

What Going Vegan Has Taught Me.... Everyone is a nutrition expert.

In this multi-part series I will talk about things that I've learned since going vegan a year ago.

 I am very often stunned by how non-vegans are suddenly experts on vegan nutrition. “You won’t get enough protein if you’re a vegan!”, “How are you going to get your calcium?” and “you need meat to survive!” are just some of the comments I get on a regular basis.

I have questions for those people … “do you have any idea how many grams of protein a day you should consume?”, “Did you know calcium is in green, leafy vegetables and that excess animal protein leeches the calcium OUT of your bones?” and “Did you know that humans are not physically constructed to even eat meat? Take a look at your teeth and intestinal track”

Yes, it's possible you know a friend of a friend that tried to go vegan and got sick.. that is because there are many people that don't bother to find out what a healthy diet entails even if they aren't choosing to follow a plant based diet..... those folks are 'junk food vegans', people who live on soda, oreos and french fries.. all are vegan but all are unhealthy. Those people wouldn't be healthy no matter what. It has nothing to do with being vegan.

I am getting advice from people that can’t even tell me what their own nutritional needs are. To those people I need to say this “I’ve done lots and lots of research and I’m confident that I know exactly what and how to eat in order to maintain my health."

Open letter to everyone that has questioned my lifestyle:

I get that following a plant based diet is threatening to you. I get that it forces you to take a look at your own diet and your own health and your own ethics and to reevaluate everything you've ever been taught. I get that it's strange and new to you and weird.

I get that you have it in your mind that I must be deprived, starving, sad and depressed because I don't eat meat and I'm forced to eat icky food all day long.

I just ask that you educate yourself before attempting to take on someone who is following a plant base diet because chances are that person knows what they're doing and can most likely debate you off your feet regarding plant based nutrition.

I've read book after book and article after article. I've watched online lectures and I've spent hours online reading blogs and websites devoted to being vegan. I have a big library of books by the top experts in the medical, nutrition and fitness fields. I have it figured out. Now, if you have questions about following a plant based diet, I'm happy to help but please don't drag out the same old tired excuses for why I can't be healthy unless I eat animals and products that come from animals.

Science and research say otherwise. 

Also, I'm a foodie and I love to eat and my days are filled with amazing, whole, fresh and delicious foods that are not only good for me but are every bit as satisfying and tasty as the food you eat.  There is rarely anything in my diet that causes me guilt. I eat all day long as much as I want and I'm able to maintain my weight because I eat foods that are nourishing me instead of destroying me. I never miss anything because there is always a vegan substitute available.

Make tomorrow a meatless day!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Happy Anniversary to ME!

August 6, 2010 was the day I decided to go vegan after being a vegetarian for 7 years. When I went vegetarian I did it 'cold turkey' and I knew I had to do the same when I decided to go vegan. I know some people need gradual change but for me,  it's all or nothing when it comes to a lifestyle change. I don't handle some change well so my personality dictates that I either jump in or I don't do it at all.

I think many vegetarians eventually find their way to becoming vegan. I did it for a couple reasons. Ethically, I couldn't lie to myself any longer about egg production and how chickens are treated. It doesn't matter if they are 'free range' or 'cruelty free' or 'cage free' because egg production can't be anything but cruel unless you have your own chickens and gather eggs for your own family. Don't fool yourself into believing that the eggs you buy with the fancy certifications are ok to eat. Chickens naturally lay about 17 eggs a year so for chickens to lay eggs daily means they are being 'helped' and that is something I want no part of.

I also couldn't pretend that consuming dairy was ok because 'the cow isn't killed for it's milk.' Dairy cows endure something even more horrific - their babies are stolen. Cows don't just 'give milk', they are mammals, just like us, so in order for  mammals to produce milk they need to be pregnant so a cow is forcibly raped and impregnanted and then when they give birth, their baby is ripped away from them. Female babies go into the diary cow life to start the horrific process over again and male babies are tossed into a tiny crate, left alone and scared, to become veal.

Cows yearn for their babies and they bellow for them. Baby cows do the same. In order for you to drink that milk, the baby must be denied. I find that cruel and horrific. I cannot be a part of that. I especially cannot be a part of that knowing I don't have to be a part of it. There is no reason for humans to drink the milk of another species. Human babies need human breastmilk, yes... but only as long as it takes for them to grow and get on solid food. There are acceptable and yummy alternatives to dairy products.

Plus, not consuming dairy is healthier.... which leads me to my second reason for going vegan.

I've done a lot of research on the plant based diet.  I've read both sides and it is my belief that a plant based diet is the most healthy diet and the most natural diet for a human being. I won't get into the scientific explainations of how our bodies are not designed to process flesh and dairy products but you can research on your own if you are interested.

My original thought when going egg and dairy free was to see if my health improved. I decided to try going vegan for a couple weeks to see if I could notice any change, any differences. I actually expected to go back to eating dairy on a very limited basis, mostly because I had it in my head (like most vegetrians looking to go vegan) that I probably couldn't live without cheese.

I was wrong.

I can and I do live without cheese. Well, I still have 'cheese' but it's a homemade vegan version and it's fantastic and it's healthy so I can indulge and enjoy it, knowing I'm nourishing my body istead of harming it.

Once I had dairy out of system I felt lighter and better. A fog was lifted. I got a flatter stomach, I rarely have any stomach issues, my skin cleared up and my conscience was clear. I also no longer have rapid heartbeat, which was something I'd have a couple times a year.

Going vegan was pretty easy for me but when I decide to do something, I do it. I still struggle when I'm out in restaurants because I like to be in control of my food so it's hard when someone else is cooking for you and they don't share your beliefs or even understand them. I often take my own food to events like parties, cookouts or picnics. I do that because I want to continue eating the right foods and not compromise unless I absolutely have no other choice.

For me, the key to being successful at avoiding certain things is to make those things very undesireable. I did a ton of research to find out why eggs and dairy were so bad for my body. I found out what is actually in dairy (yuck) and that made it pretty easy to avoid it. Thinking about what an egg actually is made it simple to avoid those but the reason I'm successful is because I have a vast vegan universe at my fingertips - the internet!

Over the past year I've had a few food cravings that involve dairy so I've gotten online to do a search for things I want to make that are traditionally dairy and egg filled like mac & cheese, cakes, cookies, fudge, cheese and others. I have been successfully able to find a vegan version of everything I want to eat. I am not deprived nor am I starving. I eat and eat and eat and what I eat is fantastic and full of flavor and best of all it's good for me.

I've also found new friends, vegan friends that have taught me and supported me and have become a beacon in the non-vegan jungle. I've lost friends by going vegan but that just shows me who my true friends are. I've inspired people to try going meatless or making the move toward becoming vegan. I've opened the eyes of countless people who had no idea about cruelty or ingredients.

My heart led me to being a vegetarian (I wouldn't eat my dog so why would I eat a chicken?) and my head keeps me there (it's the healthiest way to eat) and my goal going forward is that I not become part of the system - the system of sickness, surgery and popping pills to manage diet and lifestyle related diseases like cancer, heart disease, diabetes and obesity. I will not go willingly into the second half of my life as a victim of the government and a victim of processed food. I will take control instead of having choices made for me.

So, a year into being vegan has made me wish I started years ago but the truth is that you have to start somewhere and you have to make the choice to not take what you are given and to start questioning what you've been told and taught and brainwashed to believe.

You must sit down and do it. You can be free of pain and unwanted pounds, you can have energy and feel good. You can cure and stop the progression of disease. You can stop taking medications and start nourishing your body with the food that empowers it. You only get one body and you should take care of it instead of trying to sabotage it. You probably take better care of your car than you do your own body.

Finding true health is 80% diet, 10% exercise and 10% genes. Exercise is for your cardiovascular health, muscle fitness and stress relief. You can't do anything about your genes but you can control your diet. You control what goes in your mouth.

Following a plant based diet isn't about giving things up, it's about finding new things and choosing to be selective about what passes your lips. A plant based diet is full of whole and fresh foods. You can eat a ton of food and still maintain a healthy weight when it's good for you and not processed and full of sugars and chemicals that your body can't process.

I am always here for anyone that needs guidance and advice. I am no expert but I've learned a lot over the past 8 years and I'd like to be a beacon in the non-vegan jungle as others have been a beacon for me.

So, happy anniversary to me. and yes, that's a vegan cupcake.