I love food.
I grew up loving tacos and hot dogs in the summertime, regular Filipino feasts of roast pork, egg rolls and pancit (Filipino lo mein). As a college student, my palate matured to include a taste for filet mignon, pulled pork, sushi and chicken Pad Thai. A couple of years ago, after watching Food, Inc. and reading books like Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser, Dominion by Matthew Scully and, Eating Animals by Jonathan Safron Foer (and also having impassioned discussions with some of my vegan and vegetarian friends) I made a decision to become a vegetarian. I lived as a strict vegetarian for the next 5 months. I never stopped enjoying the taste or smell of meat; I simply had to because of all of the information and education I’d been exposed to regarding health risks, animal cruelty, and the environmental damage.
And then St. Thomas happened. I traveled to St. Thomas with Jeanne and Miriam and enjoyed an incredible week of sunshine and resort life. On our last night in town, we visited the Havana Grille in a hotel down the street from where we were staying. On the menu, they had Argentinian-style flank steak with chimichurri sauce. I have a weakness for chimichurri + steak. Somehow, I slipped into the mentality of “I’m on vacation.” Also, I rationalized it somehow thinking that because I was not on actual American soil, surely this cow had to have at least been grass-fed and raised humanely. So I ordered the flank steak. And it was GOOD.
Then 4 Rivers happened. 4 Rivers is now generally to be recognized as the best barbecue joint in central Florida. They were just gaining popularity at that point. I decided to try some of their Texas-style brisket, coupled with some amazing baked beans and macaroni and cheese.
I had unofficially sworn to myself that if I ever ate meat again, I would eat only once a week and never more than once a day, if that. And if I did, I would only eat local or organic meat.
I stuck to that. At first.
My friend Jimmy raises cows for meat and I acquired a 1/8 of one of his grass-fed cows in the form which was locally raised and slaughtered and packaged in the form of ground beef, and a variety of roasts and steaks which lasted me 9 months. All from the one cow.
During this time, I never purchased beef from the grocery store, but I still would eat a hamburger or a steak from a restaurant now and then. Slowly but surely however, I eased my way back into a meat-filled diet.
For the past 3-4 months, I have had this growing, gnawing attack of conscience. I knew something was not right about the way I was eating and I felt ashamed that even though I had all of this education about all of the animal abuse and environmental concerns and moral obligation, I still was able to compartmentalize that information and not follow through in action what I knew in my head to be true.
Somehow, over the course of the last holiday season, I realized that I was ready to reduce my meat intake again. I had made a personal goal to lose about 25 pounds since late December so a natural part of that goal means forgoing meat and dairy as often as possible. I’ve been eating more vegan cuisine lately, but I still allow for the possibility of eating meat on rare occasions. For instance, I went to my grandma’s house last week and she served up siniagang, a traditional Filipino dish of broth, meat and vegetables. I don’t want to eat meat more than 1-2 times a month, but I’ve realized I can’t beat myself up if I eat meat once in a blue moon.
The point is, I am making a concerted effort toward a plant based diet, cutting out meat and reducing dairy intake.
An important documentary that helped seal the deal for me is Forks Over Knives. Jeanne had been telling me to watch this for months and I finally watched it on Netflix over the weekend with John.
I was a bit stunned, to be honest. The premise of the film is that there is a clear, unmistakable correlation between meat/dairy intake and a host of chronic health problems that include heart disease, many forms of cancer, diabetes, osteoperosis, obesity and more.
And get this: many of these conditions are treatable if not completely reversible if the patient adopts a whole foods, plant-based diet.
I have known so many people that struggle with many of these health problems. And yet here is a glaringly simple way to overcome it: through what we eat.
One statistic that blew me away was how in Norway (a country which adopts a Western diet that includes a lot of meat) had moderately high rates of death due to heart disease. In 1939, the Nazis invaded and confiscated all of the Norwegians’ cattle and livestock to feed their own German armies. Stripped of all access to meat and dairy products (including cheese and milk), Norwegians were forced to eat a plant-based diet. After the Nazi invasion in 1939, their rates of heart disease dropped sharply. Once the Nazis left in 1945 however and Norwegians got their cattle back, the heart disease rates rose and continued to rise following the war.
I think Forks Over Knives is an incredibly important film that anyone could watch. I could probably go into this film more in detail, but the best advice I can give is this: watch it for yourselves.
But be careful because it might change your life…