Once A Carnivore: A Journey To Health Through Veganism
These days, I find great pleasure in eating from the bottom of the food chain. Sometimes I just have to admire the beauty and scope of the options: bright orange carrots, vibrant bell peppers, deep green broccoli and crunchy apples, sweet berries, juicy nectarines, plums and pears, nutty grains, peppery greens and tender beans in all shapes, sizes and hues. There isn’t a dull member of the plant kingdom – hardly a fruit or vegetable appears at the muddy end of the color palette (okay, so potatoes aren’t winning any color competitions – but there is the gorgeous purple variety). Surely the colors are meant to tempt. They wear their nourishment on their sleeves.
You guessed it. I’m a vegan. But let me begin by establishing my flesh-eating bona fides. I did not grow up with hippie parents doling out sprouts and homemade granola. I’m a Cleveland girl raised by parents of Czech-English-Italian-Sicilian descent. A Cleveland girl knows from meat. I have good memories of enjoying deep-fried and platter-sized weinerschnitzel at Frank Sterle’s; ordering thick pastrami sandwiches and matzo ball soup at Corky & Lenny’s and standing in line at Alesci’s deli to order sticks of pepperoni and ponderous globes of provolone. Hot dog with the works? Yes, and thank you very much. Slab of kielbasa - why not? (Sausage could be the unofficial state food of Ohio.) I never met a hamburger I didn’t like and just the smell of a plate of Cuban pulled pork sprinkled with lime juice could induce a blissful food coma.
So what happened? I took an interest in my body. I started running and working out. I hit the books. It was a natural progression from exercising my body to finding the optimal fuel to keep it feeling good and running smoothly. It felt right to really think about what I was ingesting. Long runs demand wise food choices and strength training calls for foods that heal and empower. The journey began with Fast Food Nation (I stopped eating meat the same day I read the chapter on slaughterhouses) and The China Study (if you’re drinking milk for strong bones, you might want to come up with a Plan B) and continues today with Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease: The Revolutionary, Scientifically Proven, Nutrition-Based Cure, by Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., MD. Over the years I’ve adjusted my diet slowly: first banishing fast and processed foods, then meat, followed by sugar, then dairy and now I am moving towards eliminating all refined grains and oil (yes, even the extra virgin variety.) According to Esselstyn’s book, the average person consumes 65 pounds of heart-disease-inducing fat per year and the American average cholesterol levels are around 200 mg/dL. To stay on the fast track to a heart attack or stroke, keep eating meat and cheese. On the other hand, plants contain minimal amounts of fat and have zero cholesterol – which means your veins stay clean and your motor runs like a champ. (As for the tired argument about protein: don't worry about it. Most of us get too much protein anyway - and a balanced diet based on plants will provide you with all of the protein your body needs.)Continued on the next page