I’ve been thinking about this entry for a while now and what I finally realized was my deep-seated inspiration, was my father. Let me preface this by saying that I loved my dad dearly, and what I’m going to say is not intended to show him any disrespect, but to make his unfortunate destiny a learning experience.
Years and years before he became sick it was clear to me that he would not live to be an old man. I would plead with him to change. He had some very bad habits as many others did from that generation. But despite his bad habits there were other elements that I believe additionally hurt him. His diet consisted of very little vegetables, legumes, fruit, and grains. He rarely drank water and was essentially sedentary. I knew that if he didn’t start moving around, he was telling his body he didn’t need it. His destiny was four very sick years, starting with a liver transplant followed by an incurable case of lung cancer.
A decade later, I watched my mother-in-law die from pancreatic cancer. While she did not drink, she heavily smoked and ate poorly as well. She did garden for many years which I think may have helped her live longer. Coincidentely my mother-in-law and my father were both born in the same year, she lived to be 72. I believe in my heart that both of them would have been around today if they chose healthly lifestyles, were active and ate better. Maybe I’m wrong, but what if I’m not?
The curious thing is that people who drink and/or smoke don’t necessary die from it. Is it just a crapshoot? My grandmother on my father’s side and my husband’s grandfather on his mother’s side both smoked well into old age. She lived to be 87 and he lived well into his 90s. They both were active, and ate less for pleasure.
Enough about the sad stuff. Two summers ago, I came across a book called “The China Study” by T. Colin Campbell. If you don’t know the book it looks at the relationship between food and disease, mainly some cancers, heart disease, brain disease, osteoporosis, and diabetes. In a nutshell, it stresses that eating a plant based diet can stop the progression and sometimes reverse many of these diseases while eating an animal based diet will fuel them. (I’m not going to review the book, but if this is interesting to you, either read it or watch “Forks Over Knives” on Netflix to get the Reader’s Digest version.)
My ears perked up! I’m listening. I thought, huh, this could explain why things that are bad for you don’t kill all people? Maybe if the plant based diet was a lot higher in percentage than the animal products this could account for some shift? At this point I decided to eat meat and dairy a whole lot less, maybe a few times a week. But alas I was human, I liked food, how could I give it all up?
I was starting my yoga teacher training last January. I was already convinced that eating animal products wasn’t a good idea. I decided at that point I was going to honor the classical tradition of eating a vegetarian based diet the duration of the training. No eternal commitment here! While during these first few months I have to admit I didn’t know what the **** I was doing, I did it anyway. At the end of my training a shift had happened. I began to see things differently. I know this is going to sound hokey, but I started to think, does anything need to die for me to have dinner?
So I decided to stick with it. It gives me the opportunity to be reminded of my goals at each meal. Suprisingly I realized that I wasn’t giving everything up. I was opening up to many differently foods that I had never tried before. And they’re good! I’m currently about 90% vegan, but a girl needs to have pizza once in a while.
What is your experience? Have you tried a vegetarian diet and has it changed you? Do you know people with many vices who stay active and eat well who are relatively healthy? Let me know in the comments.