By: Shelley Tidmore,
Holistic Nutritionist and Certified Health Coach
Founder of Prana Living
With over 150 dietary theories, and even more opinions about all of them we can first deduce that each dietary theory is not a one size fits all formula based on our biological individuality. That is to say, we can’t assume that what works for one person will work for all people. Even if it did, food and eating is highly emotionally connected, social, environmental, health related, and in many more ways influenced externally as well as internally.
That said, veganism is becoming more and more popular for a number of reasons. I’ve written research papers on veganism in college, and even one in high school (a number of years ago) which persuaded class mates to pick up the torch of sustaining the environment, socially responsible, personal health integrity focused veganism. The Vegan Society defines a vegan as, “someone who tries to live without exploiting animals, for the benefit of animals, people and the planet. Vegans eat a plant-based diet, with nothing coming from animals – no meat, milk, eggs or honey, for example. A vegan lifestyle also avoids leather, wool, silk and other animal products for clothing or any other purpose.”
Most vegans start slowly, as I did at age 17. I just cut out meat, all meat, cold turkey so to speak, but I was still buying leather, and other animal by-products for clothing. Admittedly, I still wear leather, and other things like this, myself, but again, your choice in consuming less meat products and byproducts is a highly personal choice, and one which varies in the level at which you adhere to veganism. It is like anything else, an evolution. If you fall off the horse, forgive yourself, laugh at yourself, and then get back on to enjoy the journey! It is never about the destination. It is ALWAYS about finding enjoyment in the journey. Forget the “what ifs” the “what nows” and get in the saddle as best you can!
A few quick facts about meat that you may not know about:
- 70 percent of the grain and cereals that we grow in this country are fed to farmed animals.
- It takes between 16 pounds of grain to produce just one pound of beef.
- Fish on fish farms must be fed up to 5 pounds of wild-caught fish to produce 1 pound of farmed fish flesh.
- It takes more than 11 times as much fossil fuel to make one calorie from animal protein as it does to make one calorie from plant protein. Raising animals consumes massive amounts of limited resources of energy.
- Not eating meat saves far more environmentally than driving a Prius. You can drive a Hummer and be vegan and still save more energy than a person who drives a Prius and eats meat!!! Imagine a steak house loving SUV driver and the energy they gobble!
- Simply add up the energy-intensive stages of raising animals for food according to PETA:
(1) grow massive amounts of corn, grain, and soybeans (with all the required tilling, irrigation, crop-dusters, etc.); (2) transport the grain and soybeans to feed manufacturers on gas-guzzling 18-wheelers; (3) operate the feed mills (requiring massive energy expenditures); (4) transport the feed to the factory farms (again, in gas-guzzling vehicles); (5) operate the factory farms; (6) truck the animals many miles to slaughter; (7) operate the slaughterhouse; (8) transport the meat to processing plants; (9) operate the meat-processing plants; (10) transport the meat to grocery stores; (11) keep the meat refrigerated or frozen in the stores until it’s sold.
- Over half the water in the US goes to raising meat: More than 2,400 gallons of water is required to produce 1 pound of meat, while only 25 gallons is required to produce 1 pound of wheat.
- You save more water by not eating a pound of meat than you do by not showering for six months.
- According to Greenpeace, all the wild animals and trees in more than 2.9 million acres of the Amazon rain forest in Brazil were destroyed in the 2004-2005 crop season in order to grow crops that are used to feed chickens and other animals in factory farms, with the most enormous crop being soy- the soy used to feed farm animals originates in the rainforest. Domestic soy is grown for use in vegetable based (tofu) products in the US, not the Amazon.
- What do we get from all that grain used to raise meat for our insatiable taste for meat?? FECES!! That’s right, our water gets a nice big dose of cow, chicken, and pork feces, running off farm land directly into our water systems from our appetite for meat. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the runoff from factory farms pollutes our waterways more than all other industrial sources combined.
- Animals raised for food in the U.S. produce more excrement than the entire U.S. human population, roughly 89,000 pounds per second, all without the benefit of waste-treatment systems.
- According to Oregon State University agriculture professor Peter Cheeke, factory farming constitutes “a frontal assault on the environment, with massive groundwater and air pollution problems.
There are no meaningful federal guidelines to regulate how factory farms treat, store, and dispose of the trillions of pounds of concentrated, untreated animal excrement that they produce each year. This waste may be left to rot in huge lagoons or sprayed over crop fields; both of these disposal methods result in runoff that contaminates the soil and water and kills fish and other wildlife. The concentration of parasites, bacteria, and chemical contaminants in animal excrement can wreak havoc on the ecosystems affected by farm runoff and can sicken people who live near these farms.”
- Many of the millions of pounds of fecal matter and body waste produced by farmed animals spill into surrounding waterways and kill massive numbers of fish and other animals.
- The EPA reports that beef, pork, and chicken excrement has polluted 35,000 miles of rivers in 22 states and contaminated groundwater in 17 states. When 25 million gallons of putrid hog urine and feces spilled into a North Carolina river in 1995, between 10 million and 14 million fish died as an immediate result. In West Virginia and Maryland, scientists have discovered that male fish are growing ovaries, and they suspect that this deformity is the result of factory farm runoff from drug-laden chicken feces. The massive amounts of feces, fish carcasses, and antibiotic-laced fish food that settle below fish farm cages also contribute to water pollution and have actually caused the ocean floor to rot in some areas.
- A Consumers Union study in Texas found that animal feedlots in the state produce more than 14 million pounds of particulate dust every year and that the dust “contains biologically active organisms such as bacteria, mold, and fungi from the feces and the feed.” The massive amounts of excrement produced by these farms emit toxic gases such as hydrogen sulfide and ammonia into the air.
- When the cesspools holding tons of urine and feces get full, factory farms frequently dodge water pollution limits by spraying liquid manure into the air, creating mists that are carried away by the wind. People who live nearby are forced to inhale the toxins and pathogens from the sprayed manure.
- The California State Senate reports, “Studies have shown that [animal waste] lagoons emit toxic airborne chemicals that can cause inflammatory, immune, irritation and neurochemical problems in humans.”
So maybe you’re thinking, “But what about the health reasons for me? What if meat is the best for me? Why stop eating it for my own health benefit?”
Here are the top reasons I believe a vegan diet is better for your health:
- LONGEVITY: Vegetarians live 6-10 years longer on average than carnivores. Healthy vegetarian diets support a lifetime of good health and provide protection against numerous diseases and the three biggest killers – heart disease, cancer and strokes.
- WEIGHT MANAGEMENT: Vegetarianism is the ultimate weight-loss diet. About 31 per cent of urban Indians are either overweight or obese, but only 2 per cent of vegans are obese. A vegetarian diet is the only diet that has passed peer review and taken weight off and kept it off.
- REDUCE YOUR RISK OF CANCER: According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, “Vegetarians are about 40 percent less likely to get cancer than non-vegetarians, regardless of other risks such as smoking, body size, and socioeconomic status”.
- MORE VARIED DIETARY NUTRITION: Vegetarians report that when they adopt a vegetarian diet, their range of foods explodes from a limited selection of centre-of-the-plate meat items to a wide range of grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables that they didn’t even know existed.
- ALKALINE VS TOXIC ACIDIC HEALTH: A vegan diet means more alkaline dietary nutrition. Meat is highly acidic and is linked to chronic health issues where alkaline foods such as a wide range of vegetable and fruits are linked to a pH balance in the body encouraging high function and thriving of the body systems.
- SPIRITUAL INTEGRITY THROUGH SOCIAL CONTRIBUTION: You can help socio-economic poverty!! While there is ample reason for indignation at the 100 million tons of grain used for biofuels, more than seven times as much grain (760 million tons) is fed to farmed animals so that people can eat meat.
- FEEL GOOD THROUGH SPIRITUAL INTEGRITY: On today’s factory farms, animals are crammed by the thousands into filthy windowless sheds, wire cages, gestation crates and other confinement systems. These animals will never raise families, root in the soil, build nests or do anything that is natural and important to them.
- NO BIRD FLU FOR YOU! The World Health Organization says that if the avian flu virus mutates, it could be caught simply by eating undercooked chicken flesh or eggs, eating food prepared on the same cutting board as infected meat or eggs, or even touching eggshells contaminated with the virus.
- DECREASE RISK OF OSTEOPOROSIS Studies have shown that too much protein in our diet causes loss of bone calcium. Meat eaters generally get far more protein than they need or can use.
- DECREASE RISK OF GALL BLADDER AND KIDNEY STONES: The calcium leached from the bones by the body’s efforts to neutralize the acids produce by too much protein intake can end up forming kidney stones and gall stones.
- FACTORY FARMED RAISED MEAT CONTAINS TOXIC CHEMICALS. Meat contains accumulations of pesticides and other chemicals up to 14 times more concentrated than those in plant foods. Half of all antibiotics used in the U.S. are used in farm animals and 90% of those are not used to treat infections but are instead used as growth promoters.
- DECREASE CHANCES OF HEART DISEASE. Researchers Dr. Dean Ornish and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn have a program that includes a vegetarian diet and is currently one of the few programs that has been proven to reverse heart disease. A vegetarian diet reduces cholesterol.
Now that you’ve read some disheartening topics on the pleasures of meat-eating, you may feel ready to take a baby step toward the direction of contributing to your life’s longevity, to the environment, and social economy around you.
The big one for me was getting to know a baby calf after being assigned feeding duties as a teenager. The ripple effect became evident sitting at my parents’ table for surf and turf dinner. I was given an internal choice, and it was hardly a battle of the wits internally. It did become a battle of the wits externally as my family couldn’t fathom passing a nice big juicy steak in lieu of the vegetable sides and salad offered. What was I thinking?? Am I going to be anorexic? Is this a phase? “She’s just being a hormonal teenager. This too shall pass.” Hardly! Many years later, with self study, mentors and guidance, it has been an interesting road of criticism, opposition, praise, support, trip ups, contamination, even some hungry days at my family’s home (even this past visit) where you had a choice of meat, meat or no meat at all and stay hungry! Yes- sometimes you have to bring your own food.
Not everyone understands, but when you’re a beacon of light to the world, you light a path everyone can see. Some choose to open their eyes. Some close their eyes more tightly refusing to see the truth in their choices. I encourage us all to stand firm in our integrity in meta-health (body-mind-spirit), stand strong in adversity, and stand up for the truth in our vegan lifestyles wherever you fall in that spectrum- remembering it is about your journey.
If you waver in weakness when someone has tested your strength, your light becomes more dim. If you stand strong in your integrity of lifestyle choices you shine brighter instead- you become an example of your belief.
How to start on your journey to a more vegan lifestyle:
1. Let knowledge become your first step as a Vegan enthusiast.
2. Work with a holistic nutritionist like myself or someone else to navigate your way, guide and hold your hand, ensuring accountability for your chosen path.
3. Self-study on your own as I did when I was a poor college kid.
4. Practice, and explore online resources, and health food stores.
5. Read and listen to podcasts. I strongly recommend reading anything by Tony Robbins (who left his family legacy in the Ice Cream Empire along with others of his immediate family in trade for spiritual integrity) and a really wonderful book by his grandfather, Diet For A New America. Skinny Bitch is a really fun read, but do remember, book are a great tool for knowledge- inward awareness is where we find the real momentum and motivation to achieve our goals. Cravings, emotions, external influences- all contributors to our direction in life, in very area, including food.
As founder of Rosslyn, Virginia based Prana Living, we offer health coaching and holistic nutritional guidance for individuals, corporations and groups with focus on the 12 food groups of life. Having studied more than 150 dietary theories, my niche has settled in food sensitivity elimination through various Prana programs, including juicing regimens, nutrition planning, life goal assessment and implementation, and meditation guidance for stress relief, energy balance, and relaxation. Prana subscribers enjoy online support, and community discounts.
I am reachable at Shelley@TryPrana.com or (202)566-3277 with questions and comments on this article or anything else health related. I offer free health history assessments for anyone interested in the benefit of healthful self-awareness and improvement of personal wellness. Typical goals of clients range from a desire for more energy and weight loss, to insomnia, stress, and adrenal health. A consultation request may be made online at http://shelley-tidmore.healthcoach.integrativenutrition.com/contact-prana-health-wellness.
Sessions are available for online booking at www.pranaliving.youcanbook.me. Sessions may be in office or in home. To learn more about Prana Living, visit, www.tryprana.com.