The ‘V-word’

Four weeks ago, I accidentally became a vegan.

There I was – minding my own business – when my husband asked if I wanted to watch a Netflix movie called, ‘What the Health.’

Sure – why not. “What the health!” I said. It was a Friday night, the kids were in bed, I’d just poured myself a glass of crisp white wine and I was so happy about all of the above that I would’ve said yes to just about anything. I had no idea what the movie was about, or what sort of changes would ensue. Only in hindsight did I realize that I was on the eve of something big.

If you had’ve told me the movie would lay out an argument so compelling and logical that I’d forgo my beloved cheese, I would’ve questioned your sanity. I’ve seen Food Inc. before – and do you know what happened? Nothing! I was over it by happy hour. Um, did I tell you that I almost opened a cheese shop once? Cheese and dairy products in general (full fat, thank you very much) were my thing.

It’s not that I was ignorant to the fact that veganism existed, I just didn’t get it. It seemed so strict, complicated, joy-depriving and sometimes even a bit uppity. I chose to plug my ears and roll my eyes at anything that would jeopardize my little slice of pleasure.

And really – was veganism even healthy? What about protein? What about calcium? And B12! How could any responsible parent not give their children milk? And could we revisit pleasure? Did I tell you I wrote to Starbucks after it discontinued my egg and gouda artisanal breakfast sandwich because it was depriving me of my Friday morning joy? First-world problem, right?

Wrong.

In many ways, what’s happening today is a first-, second- and third-world problem. It’s a planet problem too.

What the Health opened my eyes to the fact that by adopting a plant-based diet, I could become significantly healthier, help my family live longer, help our exhausted earth and waters, and be kinder to our fellow mammals and creatures that also inhabit this planet.

Now, I can’t do the movie justice – you really have to invest 90 minutes and watch it on Netflix or online to learn more – but here are the facts. And don’t disregard the research because much of it is American; Canada isn’t far behind. What really stood out of me was the link between meat and dairy to cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. I had no idea that animal agriculture is responsible for 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions, which is more than the combined exhaust from all transportation. That doesn’t even count the water it takes to grow the grain, the water it takes to feed the animal, or the operation of the feed mill, the farms, the slaughterhouses or the meat producing factories. Not to mention how we’re treating animals. I feel lonely in admitting I’m not really an ‘animal lover’ but I know cruelty when I see it. We’re producing and raising so many of these animals, that we’re adding to the pollution of our waterways because we need a place for their poo! If we were to divert half the food we use to feed the animals we eat to the world’s hungry, there would be enough for everyone. We never used to eat this much meat.

I also hadn’t made the connection that many of the animals I was eating got their protein from…plants. And I don’t need as much protein as I thought. And cow’s milk is made for, like…baby cows, that will grow into ginormous cows. And B12 is a bacteria that we used to get through water, but in today’s super-sterile world, we need to take it in a supplement, and yeah, I’ll make sure our family gets it in a supplement. No big whoop. And oh – some of the world’s fittest, healthiest ultra-men and women athletes get their strength, endurance and overall super-health from plant-based diets.

By the end of the movie, I wasn’t grossed out; I was gob-smacked. With saucer eyes, I slowly turned to my husband and said in slow-mo, “I think I just became a vegan.” I’m so glad he felt the same. It would be difficult to make a significant change without having the support of those closest to you. And if my husband – grandson of dairy farmers who grew up with a side-of-cow in the deep freeze at all times – could do it, anyone can.

We made a commitment to try out a plant-based diet. Since then, I’ve been experimenting with new recipes from Oh, She Glows, Forks Over Knives, The Physicians’ Committee 21-day vegan meal plan, DIY Vegan, The Kind Diet and Peas and Thank You, to name a few. The library is stacked with all of these great reads.

We hosted our first vegan dinner party and it was a hit! So much fun to try out new recipes and see how others can find the deliciousness of it too. And guess what? Nut cheeses taste amazing! So does cashew cream (better than sour cream), homemade almond milk – I even made fermented nut cream cheese today! There are so many great non-dairy options that don’t sacrifice heavenly taste.

Each week we’ve been discovering more related Netflix movies that have helped validate our choice: shows like Cowspiracy, Vegecated, Forks Over Knives, Food Choices and Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead.

We’re infusing our diets with more vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains. I almost can’t wait to get my next set of blood work to see how my readings have improved. Even the kids are enjoying it! I’m amazed at how many new recipes they’re trying. Our little square-foot-garden is helping too. And we continue to let the kids have choices: we’ve been buying plant-based foods to have in our house but if we’re out or they’re at a birthday party and want pepperoni and cheese pizza, for example, it’s their empowered guilt-free choice.

Best of all, I feel awesome! I had no idea what it was like to wake up and not feel bloated. I didn’t even know I was bloated …like, 24-7! Now, I just feel good. I highly recommend checking out some of these Netflix documentaries, vegan cookbooks and giving plant-based eating a whirl. You might be surprised at how much good can come from this sort of shift.

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