When I was sixteen I started dating a vegan. He was older, lived on his own, was in a band and I thought he was so cool. The relationship lasted all of five minutes, but he left me with something I would hold onto for the next five years: vegetarianism.
It was sort of the perfect storm that led me to becoming a vegetarian. My mother had always told me I had the body that was “prone to getting fat”, I was compassionate and then introduced to the horrors of factory farming, I was sort of hippie-ish by nature and didn’t want to destroy the environment or kill anything, I wanted to be healthy and have clear skin, and I thought going vegetarian was my answer. How had I not seen it sooner?
Of course the answer to life’s problems was eschewing meat!
I didn’t want any part of factory farming or destroying the environment or raising my cholesterol levels and chances of getting cancer. Unfortunately I failed to realize four main things:
- I was still contributing to factory farming by eating tons of soy, corn and other grains that destroy the earth.
- I was contributing to the death of more animals by eating this way.
- Vegetarian diets are not sustainable and I didn’t even know what a pasture based, grass-fed farm was. I didn’t know anything about sustainability or the environment for that matter.
- Meat doesn’t raise your cholesterol or chance of getting cancer. In fact, (grass-fed) meat is really freaking good for you.
But I was sixteen. I was uninterested in facts! I had my new dietary dogma and I was stickin’ to it.
I’d seen the vegan pamphlets. I’d seen the PETA videos. I’d heard doctors with very little nutritional knowledge say that meat was bad for you, that fat was bad for you. I heard my friends say that we aren’t meant to be meat eaters, that our ancestors didn’t eat meat, that gorillas don’t eat meat (and look how strong they are!).
If only I’d have actually looked for the facts that were right in front of my face. We aren’t gorillas. Our ancestors did eat meat (what the hell did they eat if not meat?) and there has never, ever been a naturally occurring vegetarian culture.
For five years, I ignored these facts. I ignored my declining health, my mood swings, my debilitating periods, my blood sugar irregularities, my cystic acne. I was regularly eating soy, beans, grains and veggies. I ate a lot of wheat. I ate very little cheese and eggs. Eventually I wised up and cut out the soy. I began drinking fruit smoothies every morning. This didn’t help.
I eventually switched to mostly raw foods and just could not maintain it. I was starving, even more than usual. I felt hungry for five years straight. Looking back, I know where my anxiety came from, I know where my depression came from, I know where my overwhelming desire for both alcohol and sugar came from. These things stemmed from my diet.
Because when you aren’t eating animal products and animal fat, your brain suffers, your hormones suffer. The body needs fat. It needs vitamins and minerals found only in animal products (like B12 and true vitamin A, retinol). That cholesterol I was so worried about? Turns out I really needed it, that it was found in every single cell of my body, I would die without it.
All those grains and beans I ate that turned to sugar in my body and fermented in my gut and really did some damage. I needed traditionally fermented food to balance out my gut flora, but I had no idea what the hell fermented food was.
Little by little, I learned. I read every book, blog and study I could about nutrition. I studied cultures, our ancestors, archaeology. I rebuilt my health over the years. I went to school to become a certified nutrition consultant. And this is why I do (and love) what I do. There is so much bad information, wrong information when it comes to health.
I’m here to tell you that their advice is wrong. That eating a ton of soy and grains and beans while giving
up healthy fats from animals will rob you of your health. Foods from animals are not your enemy, they are your best friend. Eating meat from local, pastured based farms will not destroy the environment, in fact it supports the environment and builds topsoil. The genetically modified soy and corn, the grains and beans, the current agricultural practices will destroy the environment.
So before you decide to become vegetarian (especially if your’e a teenager) do some research. Some unbiased research. Make sure you are making the right choice for yourself. Make sure you’re making the right choice for the change you want to see in the world. I want to see local, organic and pasture based farms thrive, so that’s the way I eat. If you want to support genetically modified food and Monsanto, then you can eat the soy and the corn and the canola. But you will suffer for it. Every time you buy food, you make a choice. You vote. You choose local farmers, or you choose to have no idea where your food comes from. You choose your health, or you choose your demise.