‘Coming a Veg’ is a monthly series which highlights vegetarian and vegan “coming of age” stories. What started as a 30 day commitment ended up changing his life. Jim Tunall of Mifflin County, Pennsylvania has an inspiring story to share about his past year and all he has experienced as a vegan. Happy Veganiversary Jim!
I am a life-long animal lover. The obvious dog and cat stories certainly are top of mind. As a youngster I befriended every pet along the seven block walk back and forth to school. More than occasionally I carried a bag of food for neglected canines and treats for outdoor cats. I had a pet raccoon for two years and raised pigeons. In our backyard we raised chickens and geese.
As a teenager, growing up in a clan of hunters, I discovered I could not pull the trigger on a rabbit or squirrel or turkey or deer or bear. Before I gave up the “sport” entirely, I often shot several feet off target so not to upset a favorite uncle who always was with me. He finally surmised that I just was a terrible shot.
We lived in a rural area and I loved sighting deer and turkeys in the woods or while out for a drive. Seeing a fox, weasel, bear, elk or wolf in the wild was pure excitement. I enjoyed days on farms and pet many a cow and chased a pig or two. At the dinner table I never equated those animals with the meat I was enjoying. It just did not cross my mind. Until November 2012, meat was a mainstay of my diet, three times a day, seven days a week.
So how does over sixty years of being a meat eater Segway into a vegan lifestyle? Being perfectly honest it was a spur of the moment decision. After several major weight loss programs over many years succeeded, each one with a loss of fifty or sixty pounds, a light bulb went off in my mind. Diets do not work. Doing the same thing repeatedly with the expectation of different results is predictable failure. So, how do you lose weight and then maintain the new found healthy level you’ve set as your goal?
I was the co-leader of a community wide healthy living tune-up and meltdown program in 2010 and 2011. We reached over 500 people each year and lost close to 5,000 pounds in total each time. The third year start date was close at hand in November of 2011 and I had gained 30 pounds that I lost the prior year. I couldn’t spearhead the program unless I could find a way to achieve and maintain a healthy weight level.
One of our presenters in year one was a vegan. Most participants were less than impressed with such a radical lifestyle. How could anyone follow such a rigid plan, almost a religious dedication to the concept and contrary to billions of dollars of advertising and the bulk of most restaurants menu offerings? Do these people march in “Save the Animals” parades and chain themselves to baby calves on their way to becoming veal Parmigiano?
My wife shared the same history and I shocked her completely when I asked her to join me in “trying” the vegan program for 30 days. Let’s just see how radical this plant based lifestyle is. We went all the way and eliminated meat, fish, dairy, eggs, sugar and oils and only ate “whole” grain breads and concentrated on getting loads of dark green plants like kale and avoided soy based processed substitutes. It took two days to feel empowered and three to get hooked on the amazing new opportunities.
We set a goal of 80 ounces of water per day to our new way of fueling our bodies. Whole grains and fruit for breakfast. Creative stews of beans and kale and cabbage and brown rice and root vegetables for lunch and amazing spinach salads, stir fires or whole grain pasta for dinner. Low calorie popcorn for snacks and nuts as an alternative.
Seeking area restaurants with vegan choices became our hobby and there are many exciting options to dine out. This has been a growth industry just in our 11 month journey. The internet is a God-send of information and resources.
So how are the Tunall’s doing? We are both down 50 pounds. I no longer use medications to control high blood pressure or high cholesterol. We rarely use any pain medications for headaches or sore muscles. We enjoy good health and feel great with loads of energy and all our food addictions are in remission. Occasionally we find ourselves in social settings where we fall into vegetarianism, but it is a rarity.
We feel content, empowered and have a brand new desire to march in that parade to “Save the Animals”. Our seventeen year old daughter is firmly a dedicated vegetarian with no pressure from either of us. It was her choice.
We originally committed to 30 days, recommitted to six months and then extended our vegan contract to one year. We have already decided to re-up for year two. It is truly an exciting, fulfilling and satisfying journey. We aren’t evangelizing yet, but we are very close to it. We don’t preach, however, if asked we take advantage of the opportunity to elaborate. Life is good!
I recommend three books to everybody interested in healthy living:
Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyne
The China Study by T. Colin Campbell & Thomas M. Campbell
Forks Over Knives: the Plant Based Way to Health by Gene Stone, Esselstyne & Campbell
The first Monday of every month I 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.