I am not exactly sure of the exact date I stopped eating meat, but it was around the beginning of November, two years ago, so I will dub the beginning of November as my official Veg-iversary! November 1 is also World Vegan Day, and kicks off the beginning of World Vegan Month (I had no idea!) So November seems like the absolute perfect month to celebrate.
The last time I ate meat, I was in Chicago, and my friend’s mom cooked us a few amazing meat filled traditional Mexican dishes. I revisited Chicago this past summer, to attend the Chicago VeggieFest, which I found quite amusing considering this was the very last place I had eaten meat, and it made me stop and take a few minutes to think about how far I have come in those two years, and I realized that I found mental clarity, mindfulness, and inner peace, which are all results I had definitely not expected from my meat-free experiment.
When I gave up meat those long two years ago, I had no clue that I would be vegan today. It’s actually pretty weird considering I hated animals, and ate meat, and dairy on a daily basis, probably at every meal. The only time I wouldn’t have meat was on Friday’s during lent back when I was Catholic, and even then I struggled to find something to eat then and always felt like something was missing. I also worried that I wasn’t getting in enough protein on those days. My, how times have changed.
So, why did I do it then, why did I give up meat? I intended to try not eating meat for a few weeks, as a detox “diet.” I wanted to lose some weight. I also had just returned from nine months living in Europe, and meat and dairy in the States just tasted different, and honestly not good. So I went meat and cheese free for two weeks, and after those two weeks, I never looked back! So much has changed for me these two years, and I can whole heartily say that I am happier, healthier, and full of more energy than ever. I also lost 50 pounds, and have put an end to much of my childhood asthma, allergies, and the chronic month long cold I used to get in the winter.
In becoming vegetarian, there have been so many positive changes in my life, but I think for me that one of the most important lessons I have learned is that the mind and body are connected and if we would like a healthy mind, we must have a healthy body. Abstaining from meat, and now all other animal products, and partaking in a whole foods diet has provided me with mental clarity, increased mindfulness, and peace from the inside out.
Before becoming vegetarian, I didn’t realize it, but eating meat, and overloading on sugar in various forms were causing stress to not only my body, but also to my mind. I was full of anger, and could easily be upset. I had trouble falling asleep at night, and I struggled through the day mentally as my body was tired. I was sick often, which left me unable to think, or attend class, or go to work. In class, my mind was often unfocused, and distracted by issues of the body such as a stuffy nose, stomachache or headache, or simply being too tired.
And then, the problems I had with focus and mental clarity that I struggled with years before disappeared! About 6 or 7 months after I stopped eating meat, I noticed my attention span was longer and I was able to better focus on the task at hand. I was able to think about stressful topics with far less emotion, and I no longer became emotional over the irrelevant actions of others. My thoughts were less scattered, and my time was put to better use overall. The mental clarity I gained is one of the big reasons I advocate a meat free diet, and think that it should be more widely discussed. I didn’t know it before I gave up meat, but what my body and mind were suffering from before could be avoided, through proper diet, and that it was possible to live a healthier, more productive life.
Through research, and a lot of trial and error, I learned how to heal my body, and therefore heal my mind and my emotions. When your body is ill or unbalanced, in any way big or small, that lack of balance affects your mind, because you are living with a small, constant distraction. Until you get down to the root of that distraction and solve it, your brain cannot fully concentrate on what you want it to focus on such as work or school.
I began my journey to health by cutting out meat and cheese, and adding in as many organic, whole plant foods, as I could. And trust me, I didn’t like many of them at first, I just kept trying. If I had told the old me I would be craving lentils, falafel, and seaweed crackers, I wouldn’t have believed it. But through the process of cooking my own food, and reading labels at the grocery store, I became instantly more mindful of what I put into my body, and how those food choices affected both my mind and body. I started to care where food was coming from and how it was produced.
After investigating more aspects a vegetarian lifestyle, I became aware and mindful of the way animals were being treated in slaughterhouses. It made me happy to know my money was no longer supporting the type of treatment animals are subjected to in this country. As a meat eater, I avoided listening to or talking about the treatment of animals, because hey, I was still enjoying their taste. But after I did listen, and understand what was happening, I mindfully decided never to support those companies torturing and slaughtering animals for the pleasure of my palette ever again.
Mental clarity and mindfulness brought me peace, a peace inside myself that only now exists because I am making positive choices for my body, and for the bodies of the animals I could be eating. As a former animal dis-liker (I would say hater, but there were a few animals I used to like a little), I cannot believe I do not eat animal products and feel this way about animals in general, but changing your diet really changes your perspective on life and what is important. It’s incredible! Now, I realize that all life is important, in all forms, whether it is my life, or the life of those raised in farms for our consumption, or the life of soldiers in battle, or the life of a homeless person on the street. I find peace in knowing that I am doing my part in not harming others, and am now mindful, and cautious of all of my life decisions, and the consequences those decisions could have on others.
Overall, I can say that I am happy to have gained this new mental clarity, mindfulness, and true peace inside myself by making some sincere, yet simple changes to my diet. I look forward to this year as a vegan, and can only imagine how great I will feel then!
If you are not ready to make the leap to totally cutting out meat or dairy, that is ok. Clearly I advocate for a meat-free, plant based diet, but I know that that may not seem reasonable, or plausible, for just everyone just yet. But adding more vegetarian and vegan meals into your routine can be of benefit anyone on any diet. Being mindful of how the meat and dairy is produced will encourage producers to make changes. Eating less meat is wonderful for the environment, and really does make a difference in the resources used in your home country. Plus, veggie food is healthy and tasty, and will provide you with lots of nutrients you may be missing when you are eating meat based dishes.
So, if you have made it this far, and are still reading, I would like to hear your story. How long have you been vegetarian or vegan, and what has changed for you?