Welcome to the first story in my series ‘Coming a Veg’ which highlights vegetarian and vegan “coming of age” stories. Allow me to introduce Annie, a self proclaimed unrefined vegan whose blogs are real inspirations as is her story. I am honored she submitted it to Bacon is NOT an Herb to kick off this monthly feature.
I grew up in Northeastern Ohio where the endless months of snow, cold and gray sky force most of us to stay indoors and fatten up – with the help of sausages, large cuts of meats, Dagwood-sized sandwiches and lots of cheese – preferably consumed in front of a large screen television while watching football. Not exactly the environment expected to spawn a health-conscious, ethical vegan, but eventually, after many years, that is exactly what I became.
The idea of becoming a vegetarian rolled around my brain for a few years before I took the plunge. By the time I read Fast Food Nation, I was ripe for the picking. Chapter 8 of Fast Food Nation to be exact; the chapter where Eric Schlosser writes about his visit to a slaughterhouse and describes “the most dangerous job.” Up to that point, I’d made it through the book fascinated, but unscathed. I hadn’t eaten fast food of any kind in years so none of what I’d read really surprised me. But by the time I finished reading that chapter – a summer evening in 2006 – I had sworn off eating my last piece, last slice, last bite of animal. It was incredibly painless.
Notice I didn’t say I’d taken my last sip. It took me another four years to give up dairy products. And like most people, I was addicted to cheese and could not imagine living life without it. I’d grown up in a household where cheese was used like a condiment – sprinkled, melted or sliced onto nearly everything. Cheese was sheer gustatory pleasure. It brought psychic happiness, despite the fact that eating it didn’t make my body happy.
But I kept eating it – right up until the science convinced me to stop. As I became more interested in health and in taking care of my body, I started learning that beyond the myriad of ethical reasons to give up eating animal products and switch to whole, plant-based food, there were convincing reasons to do it for my heart, my veins and my brain. The consumption of meat and dairy products has been linked to the major “western” diseases: high blood pressure, cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes. The book that laid it all out and which finally convinced me to adopt a completely plant-based diet was The China Study, by T. Colin Campbell, PhD. There could be no way back after reading the evidence. A few months later, I gave up (added) oils – even the so-called “heart healthy” varieties. The science again showed me that even small amounts lead to clogged arteries which lead to cardiac arrest and stroke. I didn’t like the sound of a middle and old age filled with aches, pains, pills, long-term illnesses and life-threatening surgeries.
Now I reside in another meat-centric state beginning with the letter O. Luckily, it’s easy even here to follow a plant-based diet. We grow many of our own greens and vegetables; I make all of our bread and desserts – all of which are made with whole grains and unrefined sugars or stevia. My devotion to a low-fat, plant-based diet inspired me to create An Unrefined Vegan, a vegan recipe blog. I share stories of life, art and gardening on an Oklahoma ranch at my other blog, Dough, Dirt & Dye.
Clearly I’m a convert – happy to spread the word to anyone who doesn’t shut me up or nod off. I wouldn’t go back to my old diet for anything. Why? Because I feel good. I feel energetic. I feel healthy. And I know the secret. I know that everyone else can feel the same way: become a vegan. Adopt a whole food, plant-based diet. The cows, pigs, chickens, goats, sheep and fish will thank you. And your body will thank you.
The first Monday of every month will feature a new ‘Coming a Veg’ story and would I love to include yours! If you are feeling shy, your story can be posted under a creative screen name, anonymous or at least pass this request along to any other groups or individuals who may be interested. Find more information at this link or send submissions to my email: Pennsyltucky Veggie.