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Why I went plant-based: An honest look at motivation

Mac’s latest post, Veganism and Disordered Eating, brought up so many reactions in me that I felt compelled to write a mirror post. And in the process, I had a breakthrough.

I asked myself Mac’s three questions to see how I measured up to my well-adjusted offspring.

Question 1: Is eating animal products causing me more or less emotional and psychological distress than not eating them?

Once you know something, you can’t un-know it. The runoff from animal agriculture waste in the Heartland drains into the Mississippi and straight into the Gulf of Mexico, where it has created an annual dead zone bigger than the state of New Jersey. I can’t un-learn that and a thousand other inconvenient truths about animal agriculture. Sars. Covid. Both stem from from our consumption of animals.

I have contemplated whether I would return to eating eggs or milk or meat in the Zombie Apocalypse, as one does. (This is how my mind works. You’ll get used to it.) I concluded it's apples to oranges. It would be an entirely different set of circumstances with an entirely different set of consequences. People might have to eat whatever we can to ensure the survival of the human species. If we're into that sort of thing.

Today, in our arguably pre-apocalyptic times, eating animal products the way we currently do ensures just the opposite.

“Even without fossil fuels, we will exceed our 565 gigatonnes CO2e limit by 2030, all from raising animals.” –Richard A. Oppenlander in the documentary, Cowspiracy

I can’t un-know that. We could go 100% electric vehicles tomorrow, and still not be able to meet the “do or die” climate goals our world's governments have set. And they know it.

And now I know it.

Question 2. If I went vegan and gained ten pounds, would I still be happy with my decision?

I gotta be honest, here, I’d be petty pissed. That was my initial, knee-jerk reaction.

Mac challenged me here to dig deeper. Why would I be pissed? And it's a great question to ask myself. Why would I be mad if I gained ten pounds and glad if I lost ten pounds? Ten pounds is not going to make a huge difference in anyone's health. Why do I, why do women in our culture celebrate getting smaller and abhor getting larger? Where did that even come from?

Is this part of our old cultural programming that says women need to be quieter, more polite, less confrontational, less fussy, less bother, less opinionated, less loud, just less, in every way, including size? And doesn't every bit of that translate into the same thing? Less powerful. Less of a threat.

Venus of Willendorf

One of the most ancient goddess images we've found is the Venus of Willendorf. She is 30,000 years old and was discovered in what is now Turkey (though I call it Tofu.) She was most likely an earth and fertility goddess, and she ain't no size 2.

This photo is of personal copy of the original.

The antler and snakeskins were shed, not taken. Sometimes nature offers me a gift. I always accept it as a magical treasure in keeping with my spiritual practice.

Somewhere along the line, things changed. About the time we went from a cooperative species to a competitive one, and from a pictorial alphabet to a symbolic one (which is significant, but not our topic) we also changed from a society balance, to a patriarchy where the men were in charge, and the campaign to shrink women and our power was on. It's good to recognize that this is likely where lot of our current thoughts about size began, so we can understand that by reclaiming our body autonomy, we reclaim the power of goddesses like Willie.

I’ve spent way too much of my adult life trying to be physically smaller for what I thought were healthy reasons. I am so done with all that. There is no other part of my life where I have ever tried to be less.

But this change, the change to plant-based living, wasn't about that at all. I didn’t make this change to lose weight. I made it to save my life.

My personal bugaboo

Mags' Mom, holding little Mags

Unlike Mac, I was very much motivated by health concerns. My mother died at 60 of pancreatic cancer. Her sister died of the same disease. I am 59. I look like my mom. I share a lot of her quirks and tendencies. I see her in the mirror sometimes. Did I mention I'm 59?

It’s a far different thing to contemplate one’s physical mortality from a distance than it is from right up close, staring into its headlights.

When I saw the science, the ability of researchers to turn cancer genes on by increasing animal protein in the diets of lab mice, and then turning it off again by reducing it, that was it for me. That was a choir of angels singing and a light streaming down from heaven upon a field of vegetables and grains, through which someone had mown a path that spelled out “Here’s your answer.”

Since eliminating animal proteins from my diet, I feel empowered, like I’m doing something about it rather than just waiting to see whether and when it’s going to get me.

I believe that eating plant-based is pulling my body into harmony and balance. Everything is shifting and rearranging itself right now, into the perfect, healthy, and balanced form for me, inside and out. Wherever it settles is fine. I don’t need to control or direct it. All I need do is live in harmony with nature, stay spiritually aligned, and eat whatever I want whenever I feel like it.

Question 3: Am I coming to this decision from a place of joy or fear?

Mac nailed me with this one, because it’s a mom-quote. I am always saying the way to make every decision is to base it on love, not fear. I also say that what we fear is what we create.

I’ve done a pretty good job of keeping my fear of my mother’s disease at bay. I stay aligned, I focus on what’s good, I live in the moment. I meditate. I’m pretty positive and pretty zen. I don't have stress. My vibe is consistently high. But my personal demon has been there lurking like a monster in the closet, all the same. Mom was barely seventeen when I was born. When she died, I changed my entire life, fearing a might only have seventeen years left. So this monster has been with me for a while.

Making the change to a plant-based lifestyle reduced my closet monster down to the size of a tiny little fear demon that can be easily squashed. (Buffy reference!)

I suppose it could still get me, but it just doesn’t feel as likely anymore. That’s huge for me.

Mac's Rules

I agree with Mac’s rules, too. In fact her first rule, “Honor my desires 100% of the time” was my New Year’s resolution, and not just regarding food. My wording was, “This year, I will follow my bliss in absolute confidence, knowing beyond any doubt it’s the most direct path to whatever it is I am wanting. I will take fearless leaps of faith."

I no longer want to eat animals. Not mammals, not birds, not fish. I don’t want to eat their eggs or drink their milk. I don’t miss it, I don’t crave it. I wouldn’t go back to it even if they found a way to make the farms environmentally friendly. So that's done for good.

I’m thoroughly enjoying using other sweeteners instead of white sugar and it’s a grand adventure trying various wholegrain flours instead of white flour. I am not the least bit afraid to use white flour or white sugar in a pinch, but I prefer not to. I do use oil in my cooking, but a lot less of it. I’m eating more, cooking more, and enjoying it more than ever before. And I feel better about it. I feel like I'm actively healing my body.

As I have said, I eat whatever I want now. It’s what I want that has changed.

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