Deciding to go Vegan

by Olivia Raynard


           Last year, during my freshman year at St. Lawrence, I attempted to go vegetarian, but noticed an immediate drop in my energy, which I coincided with lack of meat. Therefore, about a month after I started, I decided to stop and start eating meat again. Ever since then, I have been having stomach and intestinal problems, until recently, when I have started eating less meat and more fresh fruits, vegetables and carbs, that my body began feeling better. I feel that eating in the dining hall at school made it hard to be vegetarian let alone a vegan, because there were few selections available, and what was available wasn’t always sourced from very good places. Now, though, since I am working on the sustainability farm and get to eat vegetables that were grown on the land, I have noticed an increase in my energy as well as an increase in muscle production.

            Every day on the farm is physically and mentally demanding, and I thought that if I wasn’t eating meat that I would begin feeling weak or be unable to complete tasks. However, since moving into the house, I live with a vegetarian and a vegan, who have been teaching me a lot about nutrition. At the beginning of the summer, I would mostly eat vegetarian or vegan dishes that they made, but when I made dishes for myself, I would still go towards meat. This is because back home meat was typically the center of dishes and then vegetables were the side, which is pretty typical of most American meat eaters. However, I have learned, that we do not necessarily need as much protein as people think, therefore, all this talk about eating protein to build up your muscles is false. In fact, I recently learned that government sponsored programs such as the food pyramid or food plate advertisements which display a “balanced diet” are completely wrong. I learned this by watching the documentary titled “What The Health” which explained that these programs are built to support the meat and dairy industries, not because humans need these foods to survive. In fact, people can get all the proper nutrients and vitamins, except B-12 (which can be supplemented with pills or nutritional yeast flakes) from a completely plant-based diet.

            This documentary blew my mind because I didn’t know that health problems such as various cancers, diabetes, heart diseases, and overall bone and muscle strength, were so closely related to the foods we are eating. People often think that these health issues are caused by genetics because a relative before them had similar health problems, but eating the proper foods can actually be more powerful at preventing these diseases that they can actually trump your genetic background. I thought that eating the right amount of meats, dairy, grains, vegetables, sugars and fats was a healthy diet, when in fact some of these foods are actually causing more harm on your body than good. For instance, eating red meats and even chicken are linked to causing heart disease, high cholesterol, and come cancers, yet websites such as the American Heart Association, actually recommend eating these meats. There is also a direct link between dairy (milk, cheese, eggs, yogurt) and breast cancer because these dairy products are so packed with hormones and are meant to be used for an infant that is rapidly growing. However, websites such as the Susan G. Komen website promotes eating these foods and even has their pink ribbon on Yoplait yogurt cups. These associations are promoting eating these foods because they are sponsored by big businesses that sell these products, and therefore, they are promoting that people eat these foods that are in turn going to hurt their body and cause future health problems. I also learned from this documentary that processed meats such as, pepperoni, deli meat, hot dogs and much more actually contain carcinogen levels similar to cigarettes, yet we don’t see a general surgeon general labels on these meats do we? You also learn about the healing properties of eating a plant-based diet because your body is not being filled with unnecessary fats and chemicals, which can allow your body to actually grow stronger and heal faster.

            I’ve personally decided to go vegan because I don’t want to put these unhealthy chemicals and fats into my body, which could potentially cut my future short. I also want to lead an active, physically challenging life in the small-scale agricultural field. Therefore, I want my body to be in the healthiest form it can be, so I don’t face any crippling injuries or health problems, which could prevent me from living the life I want to live. I want to be conscious of what I am putting in my body and how it is going to impact the life I live, because smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol or even genetics won’t be what kills you, instead it is the stuff you unconsciously munch on every day that will put you in your grave sooner than you anticipate.