My Stand on Plant-Based Living and Why I Am A Vegetarian
by Shanita Lyn. |
By now, I'm sure we've all heard at least some of the arguments in support of cutting down or eliminating animal products from your diet. The less meat you consume, the lower your risk of chronic diseases like heart problems, diabetes and cancer; the less dairy you consume, the less you are contributing to the excessive amount of methane produced by dairy cows, which is one of the causes of global warming; the fewer eggs you consume, the less male baby chicks have to be ground up alive for minced meat because they're useless for laying. All of these are very real and valid reasons to consider switching to a plant-based lifestyle, but what is it like firsthand?
Image: Forks Over Knives
My journey with plant-based living started shortly after my 19th birthday when I watched the trailer for a documentary called Earthlings (I have to warn you that it's really graphic). Not to sound dramatic or anything, but that video literally changed my entire perspective. Because even after almost five years, I haven't touched meat, and I haven't looked back. And.. I also haven't mustered enough courage to watch the whole documentary -- the trailer was traumatic enough.
Of course, the journey wasn't always smooth sailing. I'd tried going vegetarian a few times before this, but it never stuck to me because quite frankly, I didn't have a good enough reason to. After watching the Earthlings trailer, I knew in my gut (quite literally haha) that I never wanted to touch meat again. It took a little bit of getting used to in the first few weeks, but I had to constantly remind myself of the purpose of being vegetarian. With having that strong reason made it a lot easier to say no to temptation—I think the horror of it far outweighed the temptation. After awhile, it just became second nature, it became a habit and part of my lifestyle and now the idea of eating meat is almost foreign to me. Like, I don't even think of it as edible, if that makes any sense.
I often say that deciding to give up meat was one of the best decisions I've ever made. Physically, it's made me feel lighter and improved my digestion a lot. I've also noticed a significant change in my emotional and mental state as well; though I've always been a calm and happy person, not eating meat has seemed to clear my head a lot. It’s also given me peace of mind I hadn't experienced before.
I learned more about myself and how I could influence the people around me
By making the decision to not eat meat anymore, I also became more aware of what I was eating, which up until that point hadn't been very healthy. I started to learn more about what eating a healthy and balanced diet meant and made a conscious effort to eat better. My horizons expanded to include different types of fruit, vegetables, nuts, legumes and grains I had never tried before, to make sure I was getting the nutrients I needed which I used to get from meat.
I discovered that I loved cooking, which made eating a variety of good food a whole lot easier and more fun. The absence of meat was easy to adapt to, not just because I had a clear reason and motivation for not wanting to eat it anymore, but also because it turns out vegetarian food is just as and so darn tasty!
With my lifestyle and belief, my father also decided to start on a plant-based diet a few years ago after having a heart attack and he achieved much more dramatic results than I'd experienced personally. The whole family watched with a happy surprise as my dad gradually reversed his diabetes and hypertension through diet and exercise alone, a feat many doctors would tell you is impossible. My grandpa, impressed by this achievement, decided to join us in ditching the meat as well. We were further amazed to see how much his new plant-based lifestyle improved his health over the next few months. Where he had been frail and unsteady before, he now walked straight and tall and was full of energy and good cheer every time we went to see him.
Overall, my stand on plant-based living is that everyone should give it a fair shot. My experience with this lifestyle has been a very positive one, and it's something I'm happy to share with anyone who asks. Since I went vegetarian four-and-a-half years ago, I've been joined by my parents, sister, grandfather, cousin and a couple of friends, while others have been inspired to eat more healthily, cut down on their meat intake and include more fresh produce in their diet. I've seen my loved ones benefit greatly from this lifestyle, and hope more people will jump on the bandwagon with us.
However, it's important to note that there's no such thing as a one-size-fits-all diet. You're going to need to experiment with your food intake to find something that works for you.
Find Your Purpose
I've been vegetarian for over four and a half years now, five in February. In that time I spent about two and a half years completely vegan. I experimented with being pure vegan for about two years but found that my physical and mental health didn't respond to it as well as it did to a 90% plant-based diet, like the one I follow now. A little bit of good quality dairy and the occasional egg alongside my rainbow of plant foods keep me feeling my best, while also keeping the environmental and ethical impact of my consumption to a minimum. You will need to take the time to figure out what works best for you, as it may be very different from what works for me. As long as you’re giving plant-based whole foods more of a priority than anything else, you’re on the right track.
If you've been thinking of starting this journey, it will be easier to begin by finding your own reason to believe, for yourself and the world around us. This goes for any decision you make in life, as well. The stronger your beliefs are, the more of an effort you'll make to stick with what you're doing. But in my experience, it does get easier, and eventually, you won't even feel like you have to try. As I mentioned, it's become second nature to me and I don't even consciously think about it anymore unless I'm in a social setting or someone else brings it up.
With that, I wish you all the best on your journey with plant-based living. I hope it brings you just as much, if not more, of the health, positivity and peace it has brought me!
You may find out more about Shanita on her Instagram too.