Being a vegan or vegetarian truly has more benefits than can be put into one simple post, so let me do my best at sharing the things that made the most difference to me personally. In short, health, vibrance, youth and a clean conscience.
I grew up as a die-hard meat eater and lover. My grandfather was a cattle rancher in Omaha, Nebraska and for us, it wasn’t a meal unless there was some kind of meat with it. Bacon or sausage for breakfast, lunch meat or hamburger for lunch, steak or pork for dinner. Vegetables and fruits were just the things on the side that you were forced to eat but tried to avoid at all costs. I loved meat more than anything (actually, I still do love meat, I just chose to avoid it because the benefits so much outweigh giving into my meat cravings).
In college (1987 – to date myself a bit), my boyfriend decided he wanted to try to be a vegetarian and he dared me to see if I could too. He thought for sure he would win the bet because I basically could not live without meat, but I took him up on the bet.
The transition was so difficult as it truly was nearly impossible to resist my favorite foods. Every time I would smell bacon or a big juicy steak, I would buckle at the knees. But out of pure stubbornness, I kept it up. Days went by, weeks went by, and he and I were still on track as being vegetarians. We were exploring new foods and getting creative, but it is true that my cravings still had not disappeared.
Being a college student and young, I was not very well educated on nutrition in general. And with my new vegetarian diet, I felt that as long as I wasn’t eating any meat, that I was just doing fine. So what that turned into was a diet full of cheese pizza, potato chips and cereal as the easiest and cheapest food on campus. As weeks turned into months, I found that I was constantly starving and that my energy levels were low. However, my life-long battle with asthma was much better. Hmmm – quite the dilemma.
After a full year of being a dedicated vegetarian, I felt I had proved the bet well enough but was ready to go back to my meat-eating ways. All of my vegetarian friends warned me that if I wanted to go back, that I needed to do it slowly by eating one or two bites the first days and slowly increasing the amount of meats I ate so as to not send my system into shock and get sick. I listened to their advice, and quickly went to Wendy’s and got a double-bacon cheeseburger and inhaled it in one sitting. Did I get sick? Did my body go into shock? No way. My body was in pure heaven and I felt great.
I went back to eating meats regularly for a few months, but noticed that over time, I was starting to feel worse and worse. Things like my energy levels, weight gain, constipation were all becoming problems. And that is when it dawned on me, that I wanted to stay a vegetarian, but needed to learn more about how to do so in a healthy way in order to gain all of the many benefits.
From that point on, I learned and applied whatever I could to make sure I was getting enough protein, nutrients and anything else our bodies need to thrive on and within a short while, my health was better than it had ever been in the past.
So, I still am a meat lover and I cannot deny that. But I have proven to myself that I am a thousand times healthier by taking out all animal products from my diet (I am now a 95% vegan). And I also have become an avid animal-rights lover because I do believe they are wonderful creatures who deserve our kindness and respect. Add to that the fact that eating less animal products is so much better for our planet and the benefits of being a vegan or vegetarian are not only good for you and your health, but also the animals and the planet you want to leave behind to your children.
There are many excellent resources to discover the true health benefits such as reduced cholesterol, blood pressure, cancer rates and more. One of my favorite books is The China Study and Hippocrates Life Force.