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23 comments, In Series: Conscious Eating as Activism, Vegetarianism, Veganism, Letting go of meat

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Starting the Conscious Eating, Meatless, No Animal Product Activist Journey

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I'm far from an expert on nutrition or cooking or vegetarianism or veganism. But I AM on a journey, shifting from being a meat eater to being somewhere along the road to being a vegan. That means I am far from being a pure vegan, not even a pure vegetarian. But I'm working on eating less animal products, eating healthier and in a way that is gentler on the planet. 

This is one of a series of articles I'll be writing about my experience. I've learned that becoming a conscious eater is a kind of activism that impacts the environment, spending that formerly went to big bad corporations, including Big Agra, Big Pharma, fortune 1000 producers of processed foods, personal health, fitness and connecting locally, just for starters. Conscious eating is a major non-electoral way to walk your talk and make a difference. 

I just got an email from Politico, a newsflash that the FDA is trying to get meat producers to cut back on the use of antibiotics:
" The FDA will issue two major proposals  on Wednesday  in an effort to cut back on antibiotics used on farms that can spur drug-resistant superbugs, making a final push to limit drugs fed to animals before they're turned into steaks and pork chops.

Got that? Superbugs, spurred by the use of antibiotics in meat.  Now that is reinforcement for me. I've been on my journey, attempting to become meat and animal product free for at least six years. It's not easy. I'm not perfect, but I'm getting better at it. 

Back in 2004 I volunteered as a driver for Dennis Kucinich when he was visiting Philly and running in the presidential primary. He asked to have some vegan items for his travels. The idea of becoming a vegan was not in my mind at all, at the time. But I did respect him for his practice. 

A year or two later, Hal, a Canadian colleague who's a vegan, took me to a vegan restaurant in Montreal. I not only survived, but I liked it. He persuaded me to start avoiding, at the least, chicken, which he said had the most antibiotics and drugs in them. So I cut back on chicken, way back. It was pretty easy, especially since I took a flexitarian approach and would occasionally indulge. 

In a way, cutting out chicken as a step towards becoming vegetarian or vegan was similar to the way I quit smoking cigarettes. I'd smoked from about 1968 to 1976-- from age 17 to 25. I finally quit be gradually cutting out situations where I smoked-- driving to work, talking on the phone, after a meal. That way, I didn't just stop immediately. I'd gradually reduced the collection of habits of smoking doing different things. Starting with chicken and getting used to not eating it made it easier for me, down the road, to ratchet back my consumption of all meat and dairy products. 

Over the years I've learned that a pound of meat is profoundly more costly in terms of environmental footprint than plant-based food. A big part of global warming comes from meat production. 

Then there are the health factors. Generally, health experts say that meat should be eaten as a side dish, occasionally, not as the main part of a meal. There are all kinds of studies which show that if you a lot of meat, you are at greater risk for cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and more. Just cutting out meat, if you have any of those diseases can help to heal you. 

If you're not clear, a vegetarian doesn't eat meat but may eat animal products, like eggs, milk and cheese. They're called ovo-lacto vegetarians. Some people will not eat meat from critters with legs but they will eat fish. They are sometimes called pescatarians or ovo-lacto pescatarians. 

Vegans don't eat meat or any animal products... and don't wear clothes made from animals, like leather.

There are all kinds of in-betweens. I'm trying to be vegan as much as possible, but go flexitarian every now and then-- a pizza with cheese one week, fish (wild caught, not farmed) a few times a week, egg whites once or twice a week (like in Pad Thai and bakery items, like brownies) and meat, preferably organic, free range, without any drugs or antibiotics, every few weeks. On rare occasions I'll break down and  have some barbecue. I haven't found a place that offers free range barbecue brisket yet. 


While I'm at it, I also try to eat organic, and am careful, if not eating organic to wash fruits and vegetables very carefully. I used to think organic was too expensive but I've found that it rarely adds more than two or three dollars to the cost of a grocery trip. 

Another factor I consider is GMO food. Labeling is not reliable. You can't trust if an item does not say GMO that it is not GMO. Some do, and organic food is much more likely not to be GMO. Just about all soy and corn products are GMO. If you want to learn a lot more about GMO, here's a brilliant article: How Monsanto and Friends Put the Frankenstein in Frankenfoods

So.... if you're already on the reduced or no meat path, please add your comments with tips for newbies. I can use all the help I can get. 

If you're thinking about starting on the path, pick a meat to cut out or dramatically decrease in your diet. Start treating meat as side dishes rather than the main attraction. 

If we all did this, the climate change problem would be much less, more poor people could afford to eat, people's health would improve and the rates of cancer, heart disease and diabetes would drop. 

Here's something to chew on-- an excerpt from a Mayo Clinic article on health impact of eating or not eating meat:

A plant-based diet, which emphasizes fruits and vegetables, grains, beans and legumes, and nuts, is rich in fiber, vitamins and other nutrients. And people who eat only plant-based foods -- aka vegetarians -- generally eat fewer calories and less fat, weigh less, and have a lower risk of heart disease than nonvegetarians do.

Just eating less meat has a protective effect. A National Cancer Institute study of 500,000 people found that those who ate 4 ounces (113 grams) of red meat or more daily were 30 percent more likely to have died of any cause during a 10-year period than were those who consumed less. Sausage, luncheon meats and other processed meats also increased the risk. Those who ate mostly poultry or fish had a lower risk of death.

If there's a single point I'm trying to get across here, it's that you can make a big difference for your health and the environment, without getting religious or extreme about it and quitting meat and animal products altogether. You can just ease off on the gas pedal when it comes to eating animals. There are always other options on the menu. At home, they are generally easy and fast to cook and you will also be buying less processed foods from big billion dollar corporations that donate to ALEC and to politicians who protect big corporations. 

Ideally, buy local, eat local and avoid stuff with a lot of ingredients, especially the ones you don't know how to pronounce and don't know what they are. 

Next article, I'll write about how to maintain adequate nutrition, protein and the like and to continue to enjoy some of the aspects of meat while staying off meat. In other words, I'll be talking about plant-based and not meat substitutes. 

I know that there are many other folks on this journey who read here. It would be nice to develop a conversation corner to discuss and explore it together-- from getting started to recipes and articles. One great source of information is Martha Rosenberg, author of Born With  Junk Food Deficiency. 

So, please share your experience, recommendations of food, books, videos, websites. And absolutely, consider writing about your experiences.



 

Rob Kall is executive editor, publisher and website architect of OpEdNews.com, Host of the Rob Kall Bottom Up Radio Show (WNJC 1360 AM), and publisher of Storycon.org, President of Futurehealth, Inc, and an inventor . He is also published regularly on the Huffingtonpost.com

Listen to over 200 of Rob's Podcast interviews here.

Rob is, with Opednews.com the first media winner of the Pillar Award for supporting Whistleblowers and the first amendment.


With his experience as architect and founder of a technorati top 100 blog, he is also a new media / social media consultant and trainer for corporations, non-profits, entrepreneurs and authors.

Rob is a frequent Speaker on the bottom-up revolution, politics, The art, science and power of story, heroes and the hero's journey and Positive Psychology. He is a campaign consultant specializing in tapping the power of stories for issue positioning, stump speeches and debates, and optimizing tapping the power of new media. Watch me speaking on Bottom up economics at the Occupy G8 Economic Summit, here.

See more Rob Kall articles here and, older ones, here.

To learn more about Rob and OpEdNews.com, check out A Voice For Truth - ROB KALL | OM Times Magazine and this article. For Rob's work in non-political realms mostly before 2000, see his C.V..

And here's a one hour radio interview where I was a guest- on Envision This, on 10/23/13. And here is the transcript. 

And Rob's quotes are here.

To watch me on youtube, having a lively conversation with John Conyers, former Chair of the House Judiciary committee, click here Now, wouldn't you like to see me on the political news shows, representing progressives. If so, tell your favorite shows to bring me on and refer them to this youtube video.

Rob's radio show, The Rob Kall Bottom Up Radio Show, runs 9-10 PM EST Wednesday evenings, on AM 1360, WNJC and is archived at www.opednews.com/podcasts Or listen to it streaming, live at www.wnjc1360.com

Rob also hosted a health/mind/body/heart/spirit radio show-- the Rob Kall Futurehealth radio show. Check out podcasts from it at futurehealth.org/podcasts

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Rob This is EXCELLENT! Good for you. Meat is bad f... by Martha Rosenberg on Wednesday, Dec 11, 2013 at 10:07:16 AM
Congrats! I've been a vegan for 21 years. It's rea... by Amy Fried, Ph.D. on Wednesday, Dec 11, 2013 at 10:55:29 AM
P.S. My typical breakfast: vegan cold cereal w/soy... by Amy Fried, Ph.D. on Wednesday, Dec 11, 2013 at 11:20:12 AM
please tell me about vegan ketchup... by Rob Kall on Wednesday, Dec 11, 2013 at 12:18:11 PM
Vegan organic ketchup can be bought for $1.99 at W... by Sheila Parks on Thursday, Dec 12, 2013 at 4:44:00 PM
Book: John Robbins - "Diet for a New America ... by mrk * on Wednesday, Dec 11, 2013 at 12:10:51 PM
Congrats on beginning the journey to veganism. As ... by Diana Marmorstein on Wednesday, Dec 11, 2013 at 12:22:22 PM
I'm floored Rob and incredibly happy that you wrot... by Suzana Megles on Wednesday, Dec 11, 2013 at 12:50:02 PM
You have started on the same journey that many oth... by Ben Wofford on Wednesday, Dec 11, 2013 at 1:30:29 PM
I've been a vegan for 40 years, first because the ... by Eric Zuesse on Wednesday, Dec 11, 2013 at 3:07:12 PM
Excellent news, Rob. Here's a great site with more... by Mark Hawthorne on Wednesday, Dec 11, 2013 at 5:16:57 PM
Rob, I am pleased that you have charted the course... by M.I. Lee on Wednesday, Dec 11, 2013 at 5:54:20 PM
So glad to read your comment.  My 86 year old... by Cynthia Piano on Thursday, Dec 12, 2013 at 7:41:05 AM
Rob Here is another suggestion. Is there a Whole F... by Martha Rosenberg on Wednesday, Dec 11, 2013 at 7:55:09 PM
Martha, I shop only at Whole Foods. I have not see... by Sheila Parks on Thursday, Dec 12, 2013 at 5:00:36 PM
Whole foods and Philly does not offer vegan pizza.... by Rob Kall on Saturday, Dec 14, 2013 at 7:57:11 PM
Go Rob!  In my old age of 60, I am close to b... by Burl Hall on Thursday, Dec 12, 2013 at 3:05:40 AM
Hi Rob, I am so glad to hear this. I have not eate... by Sheila Parks on Thursday, Dec 12, 2013 at 5:44:38 AM
I have cut back a lot on my meat and other animal ... by Richard Pietrasz on Thursday, Dec 12, 2013 at 2:46:34 PM
Thanks, Richard. I was going to comment but it wou... by Daniel Geery on Sunday, Dec 15, 2013 at 10:50:02 AM
from what I've seen, while it's true we did evolve... by Rob Kall on Monday, Dec 16, 2013 at 11:23:16 AM
No argument here. I eat very little, and it's usua... by Daniel Geery on Monday, Dec 16, 2013 at 12:45:08 PM
I have been a vegetarian for about 20 + years. The... by BARBARA BF on Tuesday, Dec 17, 2013 at 5:38:50 PM