A very veggie birthday – and why we are (mostly) plant-based

My birthday was great! Thanks for asking. I had two fabulous filled days with my family spent playing and searching out plant-based edibles everywhere we went. As we toured around the valley and the Wasatch Back, we looked high and low for plant-based meals (reviews coming) and found the most satisfying were also the most wholesome, and the least satisfying were the ones relying on substitutions and still using heavy amounts of sugar and white flour. And then there were places that had no idea how to cater to the weirdos asking for meals without cheese, eggs, sausage, or sour cream, but wanting to charge more for extra veggies. So, I got to thinking about why we do what we do when it seems to counter-culture and at times, very hard?

In some of my earliest conversations with my most normal plant-based friends we talked about how the reasons for being plant-based often evolved from the reasons for going plant-based. So, how did I get here?

My husband and I met at a Society for Ecological Restoration meeting, and we’ve always been the earthy-crunchy type (though not animal rights activists). We got into the locavore scene early in our marriage and have championed gardening and farmers’ markets for a good long while now. We read lots of books – Pollan, Bittman, Kingsolver, Planck, MacKinnon & Smith, etc and loved the short-lived 100 Mile series on Planet Green. Even then people thought we were nuts and we STILL ate meat and dairy (though I made my own yogurt and cheese at times), but it wasn’t until visiting Courtney and her family that we were introduced to the next step.  (It’s a slippery slope, I tell you – don’t get started or you might find yourself here!)

They made the choice for health reasons after reading Eat to Live, they both lost a bunch of weight, and she radiated energy when we saw them. (She had a baby two weeks after me – 9 lbs 5 oz, super healthy, and was riding her bike until the last week or her pregnancy.) She gave a copy and also recommended the China Study. I read Eat to Live and started applying principles, started the China Study, and dug a little deeper. We have never eaten a lot of meat, but now we ate even less, and my family was okay with that so long as food tasted good. But learning to cook plant-based sometimes felt like learning a new language, one I’m only starting to feel conversant in.

Then Matt met a guy on a plane, a guy with shoulder length hair that was diagnosed with Lymphatic Cancer three years prior and was currently cancer free. He’d read the China Study and rather than 25 feet of incisions and perpetual illness due to a lymphatic system removal, his whole family went plant-based and he’s cancer free. His friend did the same. Anecdotal, probably, but that’s okay.

Then there is the Word of Wisdom found in LDS scripture, which parallels most other religious beliefs about diet and health. My two favorite verses are these:

12 Yea, aflesh also of bbeasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used csparingly;

13 And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be aused, only in times of winter, or of cold, or bfamine.

It also talks about herbs and fruits in their season, and grains! And when I see “winter, or of cold, or famine”, I recognize that in 1835, when this was written, there wasn’t a fully stocked grocery store down the road that allowed them to pick up fresh vegetables and oats in February if they ran out. They would understandably have needed to eat a chicken.

And then we went out with some friends and told them about all of our findings and a month later (after she read the China Study twice while nursing her sixth baby), they challenged us to our 60-day China Study/Plant-Based/Word of Wisdom diet. They’ve teetered back and forth since then, but we’ve decided it’s worth staying with. We’re still finishing up some of our frozen treats and I am not satisfied with egg and butter substitutes, though I bake a lot less now so it doesn’t matter much. We just feel so much better when we stick to plants.

And then, I found myself thinking the other day that I was very grateful that no animals had died for my food in a long time. WEIRD! I’m not the PETA type, nor do I think animal consumption is inherently bad – just the Western approach to its production and consumption.

A plant-based diet is good for a lot of things – the mind, the heart, the body, the soul, the earth. It doesn’t much matter how we got here, but the reasons we stay are growing. It seems that every day my “testimony” of a plant-based diet grows when I see people sick, angry, tired, entitled and selfish. For me, it all comes back to the Sanskrit word I learned in yoga: Ahimsa.

So, for my 34th birthday I anticipate a year of new struggles and growth, but as I look forward to another 34 years I want them to be better than the first 34. I want to be able to tread a little more lightly, do a little less harm, and be able to give more of myself and take less of what is out there.

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30 thoughts on “A very veggie birthday – and why we are (mostly) plant-based

  1. Hi Amanda happy birthday, thanks for sharing your and Matt’s story. It was interesting to hear about your journey. I have been vegan for a few years now and you mention ahimsa which is important for me and the reason why I am vegan. Enjoy your day .

  2. Happy Birthday! I’ve been a vegetarian since 1986 and it really is the way to go as far as good health. I’ll be 49 next month. My blood work is excellent and so is my bone mass. (And I didn’t even do it sensibly until recently when I started eating protein with each meal!)

    • Congrats! That is serious commitment to eating well! I love the ancillary benefits associated that come without trying! I can’t wait to get my blood work done, but for now (while nursing), I’ll have to just hope it’s good.

  3. Thanks for sharing your story, and happy birthday! I enjoy learning from other bloggers, as they always speak from experience, and I’m going to take a look at the “Eat to Live” site for more info. :)

    • You are welcome! The old adage that experience is the best teacher is true, and sometimes even better when it can be someone else’s experience

  4. My sister also uses the “learning another language” analogy, and I think it’s a good one. Especially when dealing with omnis. They look at me like I’m speaking another language. The three motivations of health, environment, and animals weigh about equally for me, with health a little more important. I’m not enilghtened yet, so I still have an ego, and I’m most worried about one animal: me! In practice, I’ve found Dr. Fuhrman to be fascinating, but the most practical application is Dr. John McDougall. He has been the most helpful of anything I’ve learned. Happy birthday! Go for a run and eat plants.

    • The most important animal has to be you – without you, you can do nothing else, so I’m totally with you on that.I haven’t explored Dr. McDougall yet, but I’ll give him a look. Dr. Furhman isn’t reviewed much, but he’s a good gateway.

  5. Dang it Amanda. You know we are almost there. BTW, headaches are doing better with chiropractor/massage therapist. Turns out I still have the spine of 9months pregnant and my neck and shoulders are all up in super knots. Go figure. Do you think vegan gluten free would be too extreme?

    • There are lots of gluten free vegans and resources out there! This girl is on an even more limited diet, but check out some of the things she makes: http://glutenfreehappytummy.com/

      There is also lots of books. I have another plant based book by this author: http://www.amazon.com/Complete-Idiots-Guide-Gluten-Free-Cooking/dp/1615641254/ref=sr_1_6?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1342622156&sr=1-6&keywords=gluten+free+vegan.

      Plus If you need help, we are here! Our little support network and recipe sharing on this blog I think I can say has been a lifesaver for all of us through this journey.

      Here is my first post behind the reasons I went plant based:
      http://goodcleanfood.wordpress.com/2012/02/19/sick-of-being-sick/

      I guess I haven’t done a follow up, but my ulcerative colitis is completely in remission, as are all of my other autoimmune issues. My children are happier and have less tummy troubles and my husband has never felt healthier. I USED to take 16 or more pills a day and now I’m completely off ALL medications. Pretty awesome.

      Hope you can get your spine realigned and let us know if you take the plunge! p.s. email me your address so I can send you the magical cafe rio shirt!

    • I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to make you feel the pull, but it is amazing. If Clemens is on board, it’s not as hard, but if he’s not then it’s tricky. Your kids are young enough that they are still teachable. And plant-based GF is doable. You don’t have to go there all at once either! It helps to make a big leap rather than tiptoe in, but sometimes it’s okay to jump out to warm back up. Good luck repairing the shoulders. My chiro has done amazing things for me – a good chiro is like gold, a bad one is like bad debt.When are you coming?

  6. Dude, this post rocks in every possible way Amanda. I have to admit that reading this made so proud of you that my eyes started leaking a little bit while I read it. Dunno what’s up with that… Dang hormones. Anyway, a very happy birthday week and much love to you from our neck of the woods.

    • I think the air was dry last night – that could also explain the leaky eyes. Thanks for being an anchor you didn’t know you were, since I probably would cheat or give up if I didn’t have friends counting on us …

  7. I can relate so much to this post, and a plant diet is definitely a slippery slope! One step leads to another and before you know it you start making conscience decisions about your food choices!
    I am also LDS and got the opportunity to go to Girl’s camp as a Stake committee member. The experience was amazing, but I couldn’t help being disappointed that EVERY. SINGLE. MEAL revolved around meat and dairy products. By the end of the week I was having digestive issues, I was grumpy, and had ingested far too much sugar! It was a good lesson to learn for next year. I will be packing my own cooler!
    Thank you so much for quoting that scripture, it is one I am going to have to memorize. I think a lot of members of the church have loss sight of how much animal products you should really be consuming.
    I’ve just discovered this blog and I will be adding it to my google reader! Great Post!

    • We went by the Lion House as part of my birthday celebrations and on the menu were Lionhouse Chicken, prime rib, pork tenderloin, and some other meat dish as unhealthy and overweight individuals swarmed temple square – it was killing me to see. Tonight our RS activity involves pulled pork sandwiches and making candy necklaces for our girls at girls’ camp. Somer on the blog has done a great job of teaching some of the members of her ward, but it’s a hard thing to share and teach sometimes. I totally understand the need for a cooler – we’re packing dinner tonight (my whole family is going)!

    • Funny thing Carrie- I just left our girls camp where the chef (after my request for corn without butter) found out I was vegan. His eyes lit up and he made me a special meal every time I came in. Talk about being overwhelmed with gratitude! So unexpected and so cool. I wouldn’t have made it long on oreos, chips and salsa. ;) Sorry you had a less than healthy experience, it’s amazing how different we feel when we are aware of the food we eat!

      • It’s so true and not that I am 100% Vegan (yet!), but living in a small town means living around ignorance and hunters. If I even mention my quest into Veganism I get the most horrendous looks like I’m a weirdo (with love, I’m sure). I try not to let it bother me, or get defensive about it, but sometimes it’s hard!
        It is so nice to hear that your camp experience with food was good! Next year will definitely be different for me!

      • Ooooh, do I know that look. Keep up the quest, in awe of your efforts despite the odds. They will see their blunder in 20 years when you are still vibrant and they are unhealthy and miserable. ;)

  8. Thanks for sharing! I originally became vegetarian for health reasons, but as I’ve learned more about environmental issues and the inhumane treatment of animals in mass production, I’ve slowly been cutting out all animal products. Thanks again and happy birthday!

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