When I was about eight years old, my mom picked up a copy of PETA magazine and soon switched our household to a vegetarian diet cold turkey. I kind of hated the new diet because it was forced upon me and I couldn't wrap my head around the animal rights rationale. I thought, pigs are cute and slaughter houses are cruel, but humans NEED meat. So, of course, as soon as I headed off to college, I fell off the wagon and immediately got hooked on the bad stuff:
Here's a picture of me circa 2006 showcasing my signature crisp bacon-eating move:
For about a decade, I chowed down on meat of all varieties with the strong opinion that not only was meat a necessary part of the human diet, but that I, a victim of Celiac Disease (gluten intolerance - whoa is me!) and its grain-limiting menu, DESERVED to eat meat. I can't eat the donuts, so I can go ahead and eat the bacon. I held on to that sense of entitlement until last year when I sat down to watch a little documentary in my Netflix queue called Forks Over Knives.
This movie kind of changed my life. The premise of Forks Over Knives (FOK) is that two scientists in the dairy industry did a ton of research to support the dairy initiative (COW MILK IS AWESOME FOR EVERYONE!) only to find the research was saying the exact opposite: cow dairy is actually linked to several cancers. Furthermore, meat consumption is linked to a slew of health problems globally.
But what about the protein? This has always been a big selling point for meat consumption for me. Ahh...but the truth comes out: 1) humans don't need nearly as much protein to function as we've been made to believe; and 2) all fruits and veggies, especially the dark leafies, are packed with protein. We can get absolutely all the protein we need from fresh produce.
The FOK film also proves that meat is overrated by showcasing a few macho vegans - one a body builder, the other a fireman. Both are super strong and healthy, eating entirely plant-based diets.
It's not so much that the film says anything provocative. Quite the contrary, actually. The material is presented in a very matter-of-fact format that keeps the cliche vegan hippie drama out.
The day I watched the film was the last day I ate meat. I haven't really had another desire to, either. I thought giving up cow milk would have been hardest. But I switched to almond milk and like it better. I was on the fast track to a vegan diet, finding everything easy to ditch. Until it was time to give up cheese. Specifically goat cheese. I haven't been able to do it. So today my diet is about 90% vegan with that extra 10% being goat cheese. I'm trying to wean off of it, but I just love it so. I eat it in such moderation that I'm not in a big hurry to write it off.
Do I think giving up meat and dairy is worth it? ABSOLUTELY. You know why? Because I feel AWESOME. I lost all my baby weight (40lbs) and then some in under six months without really trying and I've never felt so strong and whole in my life. You know what else is a really cool result of not eating meat? Foods taste more dynamic now. Instead of the meat dominating every dish, now the other ingredients can stand up and take center stage. If you've eaten any dish with bacon in it, you know what I'm talking about: they all taste like bacon. Now each dish has its own lead performer. So instead of my diet feeling more restricted, it ironically feels more liberated.
It may not change your life, but Forks Over Knives is definitely worth a watch. Find it in the Netflix streamer queue under Documentaries. And then, when you're ready to try your hand at vegan dishes, check out the Forks Over Knives cook book:
Will I raise Goose on this diet? Yes. But when she starts asking why or showing a desire to eat meat, we'll talk about it, watch a few documentaries and let her make her own decision. I don't believe a person can have a positive relationship with food if a diet is mandated. She's got to want it. Otherwise I might find her one day sneaking a side of bacon into her room.