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Vegetarianism - Why?
By Rae Schlecht [email protected]
Why would anyone want to be a vegetarian, or even worse, a vegan? You have problems going to a restaurant -- you have to ask the waiter all kinds of questions about whats in the dishes being prepared. Your friends are annoyed with you; having dinner at their home they have to prepare something special just for you. Your family thinks youre bonkers, in fact, most every one thinks youre bonkers. You take so much longer to shop because you have to read the labels, cant eat that, its got whey in it, cant eat this, its got cassein in it. Holidays are a real drag, at times down right painful... so why?
Let me take you on my journey from being a rare roast beef, lobster, ice cream lover to a total Vegetarian. We will be going on some super highways, some avenues, some paths, and even some dirt roads. Listen carefully, perhaps you can relate to some of the events.
Our lifes journey including our eating habits and our personalities starts at infancy, but for today my journey will start when I was 55, 55 and a half to be exact. Yes, my completely new life began at 55 and a half.
For over forty years, I was a heavy smoker. I started when I was about 14. Every one smoked in the 1940s, you smoked in the movies, in the church social halls. William Powell, in the Thin Man movies always had a cigarette in one hand and a martini in the other while driving his car down the street. All the glamour girls smoked and drank martinis. This was true sophistication. And I had to be part of it. Nobody told you it was bad for you. Even doctors said it was good, calmed your nerves, they said. The medical profession including the A.M.A. even endorsed cigarettes. My father died from Emphysema, a horrible disease, you can hardly breathe. Even in those days (the early 60s) the medical profession did not admit this disease came from cigarette smoking.
By the time I was in my 50s I could hardly walk up a flight of stairs without huffing and puffing. Many of my friends were dying off at such young ages. I decided I was going to quit for sure. I had tried many times. I went through hypnosis twice and many clinical workshops and programs -- nothing worked. I tried one program that went into addictions and found out I was totally addicted to nicotine. I learned so much about addictions in that class... Most of us go through life with many different addictions. Some of us are more prone to be addicts. I have an addictive personality, thats the reason it was so hard to withdraw. But even that program, which was the best, didnt get me off cigarettes at that time.
I finally worked out my own plan and on Dec. 31st 1985 I smoked my last cigarette. Eating habits were changed. I gave up foods that contain nitrates because I had learned in some of the clinics I had taken that nitrates trigger the need for nicotine; so I said good-bye to bacon, cold cuts, hotdogs and beef. Little did I realize then that I was on my way to being a Vegetarian. Exercise was added to my daily life. I enrolled in a health club, but found it boring. I cant really remember what made me buy a bicycle, but I thought it would be more fun than the health club. I got a girls three-speed Schwim; it was pathetic. Going around the block was a big deal. I was so scared of going down hill, any little hill, I would get off the bike and walk down. But somewhere, along the way, I began a love affair with the bicycle. I traded the three-speed Schwinn for a 12-speed Motorbecane and eventually moved up to a mens 21-speed Specialized. I could do 30, 40 and even 50 mile rides with ease. I joined a bike club. I went to bike ralleys. At the ralleys there were always nutrition workshops. I got interested in foods that would get me up those hills and enable me to ride longer distances. The more I studied and the more I read, I came to the conclusion that if you get more energy for a sports event by eating pasta and veggies, why not have more energy all the time.....so....thats how it all began, in 1987 I became a vegetarian. In 1991 I rode my first Century (100 miles within 12 hours), when I was 60 and continued to do the Century 3 years in a row. I learned the importance of aerobic exercise. It was wonderful to experience a runners high and the feeling of getting your second wind. The shiniest moment was when someone came to me and said I was an inspiration; the many phone calls I got after a newspaper article was even more fulfilling.
I continued to study nutrition and exercise. The more I studied the more amazing things I learned about the human body,
Last year I got a computer, (what an amazing machine the computer is ) but it is nothing compared to the human body. If we were a machine, we all would be completely broken down by now. The body can repair itself, the body can defend itself, the body can communicate with itself. Most of us know more about , and take better care of, our machines, our cars, our homes than we do our own bodies.
This country spends more on medical care than any other country in the world, yet we have more sickness than any other country in the world.
Yes, the body is truly an amazing thing. Lets just take the circulatory system. Every minute of our lives the heart pumps 10 pints of blood -- thats more than a gallon every single minute. The heart pumps even more during brisk exercise. This blood then travels through 60,000 miles of arteries, veins and capillaries. When you eat animal products you consume cholesterol -- only animal products contain cholesterol. So when potato chips say cholesterol free its misleading -- since potatoes dont have cholesterol in the first place. Along with cholesterol you are also consuming saturated fat -- both plug up your arteries so that blood cant move along as it should. When the artery is completely plugged the blood has no place to go -- so it bursts. Thats how you get a stroke. Poor circulation can cause many many problems, including the need for men to take Viagara; all Viagara is , is a pill to help circulation. O by the way, studies have shown, vegetarians, both men and women, make better lovers.
Obesity in this country is at epidemic proportions. Obesity causes diabetes and is a burden on the heart. Osteoporosis, so prevalent in this country, is caused by bone loss. Bone loss is caused by consuming too much animal protein, which leaches calcium from the body. Breast cancer occurs 3.8 times higher among women who eat meat and eggs daily. Actually, diseases which can be commonly prevented, consistently improved, and sometimes cured by, a diet free from animal products include, strokes, heart disease, osteoporosis, prostate cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, hypertension, ulcers, obesity, diabetes, hemorrhoids, asthma, constipation, gallstones, and thats just to name a few.
Another reason to stay away from animal products: Growth hormones and antibiotics are pumped into animals which means that when you eat animal products you are eating those growth hormones and antibiotics. Two side effects: girls are starting to menstruate at earlier ages, some even start at 8-years-old and men are getting large breasts. We are getting so many antibiotics in our systems that we are becoming immune to antibiotics. Dairy cows are pumped full of growth hormones and anitbiotics. Cows milk is meant for calfs not humans. Dairy does not do a body good. I had bad pains in all my joints (doctors told me it was Arthritis), I also had chronic ear problems. and a real bad case of cellulite. All disappeared a few months after I became a vegan. All disappeared when I stopped eating dairy.
About a month ago, at a fair a little north of Albany, an outbreak of e-coli caused the death of three and hospitalized over a 1,000. It came from underground water which had a run off from a cow farm close by. This is common. Environmental pollution is astronomical. Production of excrement by U.S. livestock is 230,000 lbs. per second. Water pollution , caused by U.S. livestock, including runoff of soil, pesticides and manure is greater than all municipal and industrial sources combined. Actually half of all the water used in the U.S. is for livestock production. Raising animals is not only detrimental to water pollution, it is using up our top soil from livestock grazing and completely destroying many rainforests.
E-coli and Salmonella poisoning is running rampant in this country today, hardly a week goes by that you dont read about another outbreak. E-coli and salmonella have the same symptoms as a flu ---diareah, headache, stomach cramps etc. I would venture to say, most of the time when you go to the doctor with these symtoms, he will say you have a flu, and will not test you for e-coli or salmonella. I am not even going into mad cow disease today, its still around. Howard Lyman, the famous Rancher turned Vegetarian activist says eating meat is like playing Russian Roulette. You never know when its going to kill you.
I never thought of animal rights in my younger days. I always loved animals. I was around a lot of farms and ranches. As I learned more about vegetarianism I also learned how farm animals are raised today in the factory farms. I also learned how they are killed in the slaughter houses. It is violent and horrible. They are not mercifully killed; they are slaughtered. It doesnt make sense to raise all those beautiful loving animals and put them through hell just so they can be eaten. I was, as many of you are, in denial about the meat on my plate. When the realization came to me, I cringed. Killing animals for food is wrong, You would not like to see dogs and cats slaughtered, so why farm animals? Perhaps its like the KKK thinking -- its O.K. to kill a black man. You are a human being regardless if you are black, white, red, or yellow. You are an animal regardless if you are a dog, cat, cow or pig.
Remember when they first started saying that cigarette smoking was bad for you? The same thing is happening today in the cattle and dairy industry. The great American Meat Out -- a day when people give up meat for the day, which was copied from the Great American Smoke Out has been successful for a number of years now. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and a number of other groups are working on a law that would requitre meat packages to carry a lable that reads, Eating this product may be detrimental to your health In the courts now, there are a number of prestigious doctors who are suing the United States Government for keeping the public in the dark about the dangers to our bodies from eating animal products. Yes, there is coming a time when the danger of eating animal products will be as well known as the dangers of cigarette smoking is now.
Unitarians have no creed. Each of us may have our own personal creed. Part of my creed, is that we have a duty to nurture, tend and care for the planet, and the animals that live on the planet. We should not kill animals for food, for pleasure, or for experiments. I believe it is also our duty to nurture our own bodies in a healthy lifestyle so we can resist disease, and have a healthier world for now, and future generations.
Somewhere down the line there came an awakening deep within me, an awareness that I found my mission in life to do some good.
Vegetarianism Why? There is the story of the blind men who were asked to describe and elephant. Each touched a different part so each had a different answer. Vegetarianism is like that, you must open your eyes and see the whole picture: The importance of good health, the environment, the animals, the ethics, the spiritualism. When you see the connection, then you are really in tune with yourself and the world around you, and it is a very good thing.
Habits are hard to break, but it can be done. It is never too late. I am a living proof of that. Today is the first day of the rest of your life.
I close today, on my 69th birthday, no medications, feeling better and healthier than I have ever felt in my whole life.
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