I first went meat free for my health. I had read someplace, and I’m not sure where or if it’s even factual. But I had read that decaying meat doesn’t clear the colon for years. Again, I am not sure if that’s true or not. I sort of doubt it today. Then I read that Martina Navratilova is a vegetarian. She was the best female tennis player on the planet. I also found out that baseball manager Tony La Russa is a vegetarian, as were Paul and Linda McCartney.
Along the way, I met meat-free colleague. Their meat-free ways intrigued me. How does one go a day without stopping at McDonald’s and grabbing a couple of hamburgers after work? Or to KFC and getting a couple pieces of the Colonel’s original recipe? I saw that as a challenge. I started small — no red meat, but I could still visit the Colonel, but not the Golden Arches. Besides, Wendy’s had and still has baked potatoes.
I read about Howard Lyman, the former cattleman who was sued along with Oprah Winfrey after he appeared on Winfrey’s show. I read Lyman’s book Mad Cowboy: Plain Truth from the Cattle Rancher Who Won’t Eat Meat. Lyman’s story opened my eyes. Still, it was years before I stopped eating all animal products.
I found early on that it was too easy to be a part-time vegetarian. It’s OK when I’m fixing my own food, but when I went out with friend, eating a basket of chicken was fine or grabbing a burger while traveling or eating a bit of turkey on Thanksgiving. I was compromising my ethics.
It was a slow evolution. I think it was when I went to a local family style restaurant that when I realized vegetarian options were far and few. I ordered a tuna salad sandwich. It was in March of 1998, and it was the last time I knowingly ate animal flesh of any kind. (I’m sure I’ve ingested it since. I used to eat this soup that I later came to realize had pork in it.) After the meal, I called the restaurant’s main office to complain. The owner said something to the effect: “What do you people want? We have salads.”
I soon met my wife. Before our first date, I told her I was a vegetarian. She was fine with that. My brother’s wife is also a vegetarian, and they had a vegetarian wedding reception. Meat needn’t be on the menu. When I got married, we also had a vegetarian reception. I never heard a single complaint about the food. No prime rib, no roast beef, no chicken.
Eventually, we became parents and we decided to raise our son vegetarian. He recently celebrated his ninth birthday and has yet to taste meat (though he did have a piece of turkey put on his Subway sandwich recently but took it off before eating the sandwich).
Today, I eat a vegan diet. Or as I like to say, borrowing Rip Esselstyn’s phrase, plant-strong. I’ve noticed great changes since giving up all animal products. I haven’t had a migraine headache and stopped drinking coffee. After a I run or bicycle, my recovery time is amazingly quick. I ran a half-marathon at the end of last month and I felt I was getting stronger as the race went on. I was definitely getting faster.