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:
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.