Bring on the bacon, burgers, hot wings, steak, ribs and bar-b-que. Oh yeah. All the staples of summertime. Don't forget the southern tradition of pot roast on Sunday after church. My husband and I were meat lovers. So trust me when I tell you that the idea of giving these things up seemed CRAZY...at first.
Our goal was to completely eliminate meat from our diets. Why, you ask? There were a few of driving factors that led us to this decision:
1. Ethical Dilemma
2. Spiritual Discernment
3. Health Benefits
Let me break it down for you, starting with our ethical dilemma.
1. I mentioned in a previous post "The Food Awakening", about recognizing the fact that I did not know where the food I ate on a daily basis originated from. I purchased items, generally animal products, without a thought as to what it had to go through...maybe even suffer, to get to me.
The fact is, whether many of us want to admit it or not, there are businesses out there in the food industry whose ethical compass' have been broken for some time now. Their practices are ugly. I mean, "you want to cry" it's so ugly. Obviously, when we eat meat, we know that an animal has to die in order for us to eat it. Got that. That's not what I'm talking about. What I'm talking about is the "factory farm" treatment of these animals. Where living creatures are packed into an environment like sardines, literally one on top of another, health conditions appalling. I could go into more detail but I think it's better coming from a more authoritative source. Do your research! There is so much information available to us now that we have no excuse for being ignorant on this topic. Seriously. Just google "factory farms". See what you come up with.
For those of you who have done your research and consciously make your food decisions based on that knowledge, thank you. There are many businesses out there that are excellent stewards of the environment and treat animals humanely. If you can say that you buy your meat from one of these companies, then great! If it happens to be local and organic, then even better. But if you can't say, for a fact, that you know you are purchasing an ethically responsible product, don't buy it.
I came across this really helpful tool called the Eat Well Guide. It is a database of "sustainable food", which is defined as:
"a way of raising food that is healthy for consumers and animals, does not harm the environment, is humane for workers, respects animals, provides a fair wage to the farmer, and supports and enhances rural communities."
THAT's the kind of food I want to eat. By spending a little extra time and effort to know about what you consume and how it got there, you can help ensure a more sustainable future...for everyone.
Now sure, my husband and I could feel more comfortable purchasing "sustainable" animal products but there's more to the story. Reason number 2...Spiritual Discernment.
2. For those of you who are Christ-followers out there, this section will probably speak more loudly to you than those of you who are not. Either way, I'd love for you to read on. My husband and I try to make it a goal of ours to read the bible together every night. Sometimes it's structured with a list of passages we take turn reading, other times its not. This particular time, we decided that we were going to start at the beginning in Genesis. Through the creation story, into the garden of Eden, then the fall of man, and the story of Noah. It was all very captivating, but we've read it countless times before. What more was there to learn.
Then there it was. A passage that I never really took notice of before. Genesis 9:2-3...the flood waters had receded, Noah's family and all the creatures on the ark had survived and were stepping out on dry ground. God made a covenant with Noah that never again will that kind of destruction take place. He then blessed Noah and his son's saying,
" “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. 2 The fear and dread of you will fall on all the beasts of the earth, and on all the birds in the sky, on every creature that moves along the ground, and on all the fish in the sea; they are given into your hands. 3 Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything. "
Whoa, whoa, whoa...hold up. "I now give you everything"? How is now different than before? We quickly flipped the pages back searching for some answer as to what had changed. Before Noah, before the fall, the Garden of Eden, the creation story....there. We found it. Genesis 1:29-30. After God had created man and woman, he spoke to them.
"29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so."
My husband and I looked at each other, then back at the passage. So let me get this straight. Before Noah, before the fall, before even the scene in the Garden of Eden, God's original design for us and all creatures was to eat plants? I laughed out loud. It seemed so silly. Just imagine a lion gulping down some leaves and feeling satisfied. Ha. But God did say all, which means...yep, you and I too.
Now of course, a few things changed from the time of creation until the time of Noah. Ok, everything had changed. When sin entered the picture, the separation from God turned creation upside down...eventually to the point where a flood was sent to, in a sense, "start over" or "wipe the slate clean". Noah's family was spared as well as two of every creature. I can try to imagine the scene when they first stepped out of the ark. Their once green, lush earth was now all but washed away. The plants that they had before relied on for food, were hard to be found. The impression I get from this scene and the passage above is that because of the destruction that took place, the Lord now gave man an additional food source in order for him to survive. That new food source being "beasts of the earth", "birds in the sky", and "fish in the sea".
Yes, God gave us animals to eat. It's OK to be a meat-eater. But that was not the original intent...not what we were originally designed for. That new realization hit us. Could we go back to being Genesis 1 eaters, especially now since meat was such a huge part of our every day lives? We wanted to try.
Then came reason number 3...Health.
3. Mine and my husband's family health history is not pretty. High blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis...cancer. Can I tell you how much I hate cancer? It's just plain stupid. While we could hope that these diagnoses would not become a part of our own future, we didn't want to just sit around and do nothing about it. So we started doing some research.
I came across an author, Dr. Joel Fuhrman, who provided some really great information on the topic of a plant-based diet. He is one of many nutritional scholars out there, but a friend recommended me one of his books called Eat to Live. It focuses on building your food consumption around nutrient rich food sources which are primarily fruits and vegetables. By making these your primary source of nutrition, and cutting out meats and processed foods you could expect increased energy, decreased weight, optimal health, and reduced risk or even reversal of common chronic diseases (heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, cancer...).
Dude. That is LIFE changing. Not only would I look and feel awesome with this type of diet, I could literally turn the tide on what I perceived as my inevitable health future. I just had to do it!
You may be thinking to yourself: protein, protein, protein. How on earth are you going to get enough protein? That's one of the first questions I was faced with when throwing around the idea of going veggie. And to be honest, at first I wasn't sure. I had always been taught that meat was the ultimate source of protein...hence why every meal is centered around it. Without it, what were we left with....a bunch of side dishes?
Just ponder on this a moment. You know, the animals that we readily eat... much of them are herbivores. You got it. Cows, Deer, and Chickens (aside from the occasional bug or grub). Pigs seem to be more varied in their diet, but just think about it. How is it that we have to come to believe that protein equals meat when the source of our meat gets it's supply on a plant based diet? Check this out for a break down of the protein in green vegetables compared to meat.
It was time for me to retrain my brain. After looking at all the data, switching to a veggie/plant-based diet was indeed the best decision for our health. It also would serve our convictions in the areas of ethics and spiritual discernment as mentioned above.
So our journey into going veggie began. Continue...