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Why I Chose to Become A Vegan

Updated on May 22, 2014

Delicious vegan falafels

Example of delicious vegan food, falafels.
Example of delicious vegan food, falafels. | Source

Why Become A Vegan?

Some people might have noticed that my profile picture changed from ribs to the Mexican I have now (as of today, June 18, 2012) about a month ago. Well, that's because I decided to become a vegan in mid-April of this year.

I don't know how it went for any other vegan/vegetarians out there, but it wasn't an easy decision for me. I love food and think meat is delicious - but I don't regret making the decision.

Besides, being vegan hasn't damaged my food obsession at all. In fact, right as I'm typing this, I'm enjoying a perfectly ripened banana with a peanut butter-jelly-kimchi sandwich. If your face just contorted, I offer you my mother's sage wisdom: don't judge it till you've tried it. I save my leftovers, and the Korean take-out tastes great with my peanut-y classic.

Yeah, sometimes I carry myself into tangents, especially about food. Back on topic now.

I've gotten a lot of questions from friends, family, and complete strangers about my sanity, my health, and the why behind it all. Why would anybody sane subject themselves to veganism? Before I dive into what will be the majority of this hub, the why behind the decision, let me save some time and summarize how the first conversation usually goes. This following semi-hypothetical conversation is with a hypothetical typical person with normal questions. (If you're interested, here's a link to a hilarious hub by kerryg detailing some offbeat questions.)


Example of First Conversation

Person: A variation of, "Why aren't you scarfing down ridiculous amounts of meat like usual?"

Me: "Oh, I've decided to be vegan."

Person: *Insert confused or skeptical look* Either, "What?! Why?" or something like, "What? Does that mean you don't eat meat anymore?"

(Assuming the 2nd) Me: "Yeah, and I also don't eat animal products either. So no milk, no cheese, no butter, no eggs."

Person: Either, "What?! Why?" or "Can you even survive without meat?" Assuming the latter, about half of the queries are about health, with the other half being about "you" as in me.

(Assuming the 2nd) Me: "I've been doing alright for over a month now, and the FDA and other vegans say that as long you're careful, you can be perfectly healthy on a vegan diet. Plus, there are centuries of people like the Jains and Eastern monks who have done okay. "

Person: Either some dispute about health or a variation on, "Yeah, okay. But why would you choose to be vegan?"

That's the question that usually takes some time to answer, especially the person isn't someone Taoist, Buddhist, Jain, or just someone with a hippie spirit who's satisfied by, "You know, just for the animals and the lives."

I live in the Bay Area, so sometimes I just get, "Oh, that's cool, man," but more often I get additional questions or, on a couple of occasions, something that resembles an interrogation.

In this hub, I'm going to explain as best I can why I decided to be vegan, which is the question that usually takes me longest to answer. So if you got this as a link from me, congratulations! I wrote this after being inspired by your questions.

Example of A Vegan's Fridge

Example of what I eat most days, with some rice, beans and sometimes tofu. By the time you read this, this food is probably gone.
Example of what I eat most days, with some rice, beans and sometimes tofu. By the time you read this, this food is probably gone. | Source

Summary of Possible Reasons

The reasons why someone might want to become vegan are many and varied, and I in no way claim to speak for all vegans or vegetarians in this hub. So first and foremost, I'm going to list a few reasons why someone might want to be vegan.

1.) Health. Many choose to be vegan or vegetarian for their health. I've been told that vegetarians usually have lower rates of heart problems, due to less fats and cholesterols in their diet, along with some other positive things. Cool. This wasn't a big factor for me, but it's good to hear of benefits.

2.) Religious reasons. Some religions, like Jainism and some branches of Buddhism, forbid eating animals and/or microorganisms as much as possible. I'm not familiar with the specifics of the religions as I'm not religious myself, but I've met many vegans with religion as their motivation. The cultures they come from also have delicious food that vegans can eat, so I've met people through that connection as well.

3.) Just to try it, or as a trend. Being vegetarian or vegan, along with other trends like "going raw", have gained a lot of popularity at least here in the Bay Area. I'm quite certain that the trends were started by people who are vegan or vegetarian for other reasons, but some are now just testing it out for fun, or just to see if they can do it. I admit, a part of my motivation was just to see if I could do it. And now I've been at it for about a month, and I plan to continue into the foreseeable future. [Update: One year anniversary!]

4.) The environment. (Credit to commenter Anne for the suggestion.) I frankly don't know much about this, but a web search for "environmental impact vegetarian" will turn up the basic benefits touted. When I find some time, I'll see if I can actually link to some resources.

4.) For the animals. This was the main reason for me. If you're wondering why I also don't eat things like unfertilized eggs and milk, let me briefly explain. The hens and cows who produce eggs and milk need to be kept in captivity, and also need to keep birthing in order to keep producing eggs and milk. The male offspring is either eaten or slaughtered. The females go back into captivity.

And of course, there is also the reduced lifespan and cruel conditions of animal factories, which I won't go too far into. I don't have any stats (which are controversial anyway), but even with just common sense it's quite plain that it likely isn't very pleasant for the animals.

There may be other reasons that I missed, and please feel free leave some in the comments. This is just a quick list for those new to vegetarianism and veganism.

My Story of Becoming A Vegan

A quick disclaimer: I don't think eating meat is a bad thing. I don't think it's horribly wrong. Not only do I respect the rights of others to eat meat, I also don't try to "convert" them or even give my reasons unless they ask. Personally, I'm happier now that I can enjoy my delicious food without reflecting on the lives it cost, so I take away my demand from the market. But I respect the rights of meat-eaters out there to continue enjoying meat.

Now with that made clear, here's how I became vegan.

Like I said above, my main motivation was the animals. I've always liked cats, dogs, and birds, but didn't have any personal pets until about 4 years ago, when I got my cat. And even then it didn't make me question my meat-eating, as here in California, cat is not a common dish - as far as I know, anyway. (By the way, if anyone is curious, my cat is doing just fine, enjoying the sun on my dining table while trying to edit my hub.)

Of course, many meat-eaters are excellent pet owners and have very close animal companions, and I, unlike some vegans, see no contradiction in this. But my cat did play a role in my decision, though that came later.

I had questioned the ethics of eating meat years before, but only on an intellectual level, without any personal pull to stop eating meat. Without any serious motivation, plus the inconvenience of changing my entire diet, I never pursued vegetarianism or veganism meaningfully.


Llamas at Machu Picchu

Shot of llamas at Machu Picchut.
Shot of llamas at Machu Picchut.

South American Influence

The first time I started to consider vegetarianism was on a trip to South America, a couple of years ago. While we were spending a couple of days next to Machu Picchu, we had the opportunity to spend some time with llamas and alpacas. These guys are incredible creatures. I've been with horses before, but for some reason I felt much closer to these llamas.

They're intelligent and playful, and, according to my tour guide, are also relatives of camels. Definite plus. My tour group spent an entire afternoon at a llama ranch, taking pictures of llamas, feeding llamas, and just watching the llamas hors- um, llama around.

We returned to the hotel and rested briefly before dinner. Having run around at high altitude all day, I was starved by dinnertime. I thought I was ready to eat anything - until the menus came out. Why? The first main course listed was roasted llama. Yep. That was a little discomfiting.

I wasn't the only one who felt a bit squeamish at that. Most of the group joined me in ordering the beef, which was delicious. The experience, however, made me question my carnivorous tendencies, and I chewed rather more thoughtfully on my cow flesh than usual.

Confession time, though: with the tour going on, I quickly forgot about my carnivore's dilemma. (In my defense, the next day we visited Machu Picchu, which truly is one of most beautiful places I've ever seen.) So when we returned to the States, I returned to my meat-eating ways, though I think in hindsight that I never truly removed the experience from my mind. Later, when I began questioning again, I reflected back and remembered.


Source
Source
Boy getting up on a camel in Morocco.
Boy getting up on a camel in Morocco.

Experiences in Spain

What really veganized me was my trip to AndalucĂ­a this year, 2012. AndalucĂ­a is beautiful, and my family and I had a fantastic time. There was a great deal that I gained from the trip besides my perspective change on meat, but in this hub, I'll focus on the things that affected my veganism.

First, there were the bullfights in Madrid. I wrote a couple of hubs detailing my distaste for them. (You can read the rant here and the more thoughtful version here.) By themselves, however, they didn't change my attitude all that much. I include them here because I see them as the beginning, because the experience softened me up for the rest of the trip.

Next: Camels in Morocco. Morocco is only twelve miles away from Spain over the Strait of Gibraltar, so we thought it would be a shame not to visit. Culturally speaking, it's really a different world. I felt like I was truly in the Middle East (disclaimer: I've never actually been to the Middle East) and had a hard time remembering that I was only a few miles away from Europe.

After a tour of the city, we were left with a couple of hours before our ferry was due to leave. A guide recommended that we ride the camels on the beach. Yes, it's touristy. In our defense, we were tourists, and also first-time visitors to Morocco. We decided to screw our off-the-beaten-path self-image and just grab our cameras and Hawaiian shirts.

I love camels. They are just fantastic. They've got attitude and they spit and when they get to their feet you feel like they're going to pitch you off, but they're fantastic. Camels have this intelligence and wry attitude that's really very easy to love. If you've ever met any, I think you'll know what I'm talking about. They really have personalities.

The sky was full of racing storm clouds - the kind of scene that makes you feel small, but also very much a part of nature, and the world.


Gibraltar (Same trip as Spain)

By the time we got to Gibraltar, I was in a very happy, one-with-the-world mood. This tiny island was the place that I became a vegan.

For readers that don't know Gibraltar very well, it's a very small island that guards the ocean entrance from the Atlantic into the Mediterranean. As it's at such a crucial juncture, historically it's been contested by several different countries. Today, it belongs to England as a semi-autonomous region, though Spain is not terribly pleased with that. On a relatively clear day, if you're on the right side of the island, you can see two continents (Europe and Africa) coming almost together with only the Strait of Gibraltar separating them, as well as both the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. The winds blow so hard umbrellas are murdered, hats escape, and you feel like it's a good idea to keep a hand on small children. I could feel the world's history echoing at that spot. Also, Gibraltar has many historical buildings, ancient stalagmite caves, the distinction of being the home of Miss World 2009 (as stated on a billboard as you enter), and... a monkey sanctuary!


Barbary monkeys of Gibraltar

A shot of the Barbary Monkeys by someone who is unfortunately not me. Damn cameras.
A shot of the Barbary Monkeys by someone who is unfortunately not me. Damn cameras. | Source

Monkeys of Gibraltar

The Gibraltar monkeys are called Barbary Apes, but, as I was informed more than once, they are actually monkeys. They climb all over the island, and it seems that their population is thriving. The apes have grown very accustomed to humans, due to their protected status on the island, and will come right up and even sit on you.

As we were entering the stalagmite caves, we encountered a troop of monkeys playing and lounging about on a row of bicycle racks. There was already a decent gathering of tourists taking pictures, and many of the younger monkeys were happily jumping onto them, sometimes to the better-dressed tourists' dismay. As I searched for my camera, only to discover it was out of battery (Bah), I felt a sudden weight on my head and shortly after, a second weight on my shoulder. Yep. I had a couple of monkeys using me as a playground. Damn cameras, always out of battery just when you need them! The two sat and rested for a bit until a call from what I assume was their mother brought them back to the bicycle racks.

Call me crazy, but I swear the mother looked straight at me and gave me one of those reproving glances. You know, the ones you get from the playground parents that think your irresponsibility in letting your kid slide down the big slide will rub off onto their little angel. With one last look at me, she herded her two children to about 10 feet away and only then allowed them to continue swinging off the bicycle rack.

As I watched a couple more young monkeys join their play, all under the supervision of Mom, it really struck me how similar monkeys are to us. The children even got scolded with a soft whack with a tail when they were misbehaving! A few more youngsters joined their play, and I could see the warmth of their interaction. And when I looked back to the monkeys that were playing with the crowd of tourists (sitting on their heads and shoulders, stealing their hats, etc.), having a great time and getting a fairly good meal out of it, I could feel that we really aren't so different after all.

When I returned to the States, after about a week of reflection, I made the commitment to becoming a vegan. Fast forward a month or so of reading labels and research, and you basically get to where I am now, mostly adjusted to a vegan lifestyle.

I'd like to write more on my adjustments in becoming a vegan and also about veganism in general, but I've save those for other hubs. It seemed like some out there were curious about vegans, so I wanted to show a more personal side of why someone might choose to be vegan. Hope you enjoyed this hub! Free free to share feedback, comments, and any stories you might have if you're vegan in the comments section. Thanks for reading.

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    • Bob Zermop profile image
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      Bob Zermop 3 years ago from California, USA

      Anne - You're right, I completely forgot about environmentalist vegans. I know too little about the relative impact of vegan vs. omnivorous diets to comment much (briefly Googled for resources but couldn't find any well-researched pieces), but certainly here in SF it's touted as a great reason to reduce the amount of meat in your diet. Thanks for stopping by!

    • profile image

      Anne 3 years ago

      Hi Bob,

      Thanks for the interesting read. I know you wrote this post a long time ago but I feel like you missed one big reason for choosing a vegan/vegetarian lifestyle! That reason being ecological/sustainability concerns. It takes a lot of pounds of fodder to produce one pound of edible meat, with the exact ratio depending on the kind of animal. Bigger animals are less effective in transforming their food to edible meat. Cows, for instance, are fed at least 25 times the weight they'll eventually produce. A large amount of animal food is made of crops like soy and corn. That's what the South American rainforests are being burned for: not to grow soy for stuff like tofu but for fodder. This is just not a sustainable way of food production.

    • profile image

      whowas 5 years ago

      Hi Bob,

      Sorry it has taken me so long to get back to you, it's been busy here.

      Thanks for your very interesting perspective. You know in many ways I think we are more in agreement than not. However, I don't see this so much as an argument between deeply opposed views as a sharing and exploration of ideas.

      'Dictionary definition' vegans are, of course, extremely rare animals - everybody makes their own rules to live by and their own exceptions no doubt. So, you would be an egg-eating 'vegan' if you could get decent eggs and you're happy that my chickens are happy and all's well on that front.

      Over the last few decades the purpose and practices of zoos have evolved and changed immeasurably. I wonder how many zoos you've visited recently? There is an internationally co-ordinated effort to transform the zoos (and it is working) into what Gerald Durrell, naturalist and founder of the modern zoo movement, called 'stationary arks.' He wasn't a religious man but he was alluding to places of safety and protection for species against the flood of global environmental destruction.

      Modern zoos exist solely for the purpose of conservation of species who are so at risk in the wild that there is no alternative but to try to sustain their genetic diversity by captive breeding in the hope that one day sufficient natural habitat can be saved or restored to re-introduce them into the wild.

      When Gerry Durrell was asked what he wanted to do with his ultra-modern, animal welfare focused zoo, he answered, "I'd like to knock it all down."

      "Why?" asked the interviewer, incredulous.

      "Because," Gerry answered, "if I could knock it down that would mean there was no more need for it."

      The truth is that no-one wants to see lions and gorillas in zoos - even in the specially developed 'environmental enclosures' that modern zoos spend tens of millions of dollars creating (cages are a distant memory) but the sad fact is, the modern conservation zoo has become an essential factor in the effort to save species from extinction.

      So two good reasons to support the modern conservation zoo are that it is necessary if we want these creatures to survive into the next century and the more people visit these zoos, the better educated they will be and they will no longer choose to accept a zoo that has dubious motives of poor practices. In fact, in the UK, most of Europe and I would hope North America, the modern conservation zoo is now the norm.

      Please take the time to check out this website as thoroughly as you can:

      http://www.durrell.org

      With regard to factories and production methods for both vegan and meat based foods, I don't buy your tit-for-tat argument at all. The fact that vegan mass production and non-vegan mass production methods are both environmentally destructive doesn't justify either of them. The argument is a non-sequitur.

      As we already said, I am as opposed to mass production, factory farming and all that darn plastic packaging as any right-minded person.

      So I'm fussy about my meat. And I'm privileged to live in a rural place. I have my birds and I only eat beef, for example, that has come from local, free-ranging, grass-fed cattle stock. Most of what ends up on my dinner plate I have known personally - or at least by sight. Also, the pasture that the cattle graze is an essential environment for ground nesting birds and feeding station for migrating waders. If the cattle weren't there, it would be destroyed and the ecological knock-on effects would be disastrous. It would either turn to forest (not every creature's preferred environment) or it would be planted with crops - disastrous for these rare birds.

      What the future holds, the future holds but I agree with you that better farming methods, roof gardening, alternative energy production and so must make a large contribution, if the outcome is to be positive for the well-being of living things.

      But we really have to intervene. We've made a bit of a mess and we have the responsibility to clean it up - it's gone too far to just back off. That's one of the reasons why the modern zoo is so vital. And cattle grazing at least some land or we lose vital habitat. It's a vast and complex interconnected web. Our interventions should only be based on sound, rigorous scientific research or we risk making things worse through our good but ill-informed intentions.

      Have a great day. :)

    • Bob Zermop profile image
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      Bob Zermop 5 years ago from California, USA

      Hi whowas. Thanks for your comment. I really appreciate your response, and will respond in kind.

      I'm aware of unfertilized eggs, and unlike some others I consider those who only eat unfertilized ones still vegan. The reason I don't eat eggs is because "free range" eggs here in the supermarkets are not truly free range (small plot, a lot of chickens), and I personally don't wish to contribute to that market, not to mention the battery farming market.

      I know there are good alternatives (for example, I would have no problem eating the unfertilized eggs of your chickens), but none are really within reach for me. I don't have space to raise chickens, and to be frank, have neither the time for cash to drive far enough to find alternatives I could be happy with. Therefore, the lack of eggs in my diet.

      I have no problem with raising animals, either as companions or for eggs or whatever. Chickens, especially, seem to me to be the sort of animal that could be perfectly happy or even happier raised in a decently sized plot.

      However, I stand by my opposition to most zoos today, because (not to even mention the ones where animals are crammed into small spaces) many feature animals that seem to me would likely be happier with a much larger space, like tigers, lions, elephants, giraffes, and kangaroos. Though it's very true I don't know that they would be happier in the wild, there is also no reason for me to think they would happy in enclosures, and in fact many of the animals I see in standard zoos look hot, bored, and often rather pathetic. That said, however, I don't advocate complete separation between humans and animals (like PETA) and in fact think there is much to be gained from animal study and companionship.

      I understand your concern about the sustainability of veganism on a widespread scale. Most tofu and all polyurethane, both relied on greatly by most vegans, damages the environment a great deal. However, this could also be said of meat packaging plants, with their power guzzling machines and chemicals, as well as plastic, which is a widespread non-biodegradable curse not limited to vegans.

      In the long term, I believe veganism will be sustainable on a large scale. More efficient farming techniques (like valley tiering and large urban gardens, possibly on roofs) supported by factories on wind, hydro, and solar grids, would be better for the planet as a whole (no loss of energy through 1 cow = tons of grass) and, in my opinion, better for the spirit of humankind in general. I think most people who are aware of practices like battery farming and factory cow packing dislike it.

      Like I said in the hub, I don't have a problem with people eating meat, but I think when veganism becomes more viable more people will choose it, making it more mainstream. And when the market expands, I feel sure that tech that will make the lifestyle more sustainable will develop as well.

      Thank you again for the thoughtful comment; if there's anything I didn't explain clearly, please let me know. I look forward to seeing you around Hubpages!

    • profile image

      whowas 5 years ago

      Hi,

      First up I'd like to compliment you on your hub. It's interesting, personal yet informative and well laid out. It ticks those boxes and so have I, as well as voting up.

      Second, you have clearly had some experiences, got some information, reflected on it and made a decision about your lifestyle and diet. I respect that. And I can go a long way in understanding as I was a vegan myself for many years.

      I'd just like to share a couple of things, if you'll give me grace to do so. Not to change your mind, just one factual correction and one idea.

      The factual correction: birds don't need to breed and produce offspring in order to lay eggs any more than a woman does to menstruate. It's all the other way round. When a woman menstruates and expels the egg it is because it is not fertilized. It's waste matter and get flushed down the loo or absorbed into a panty-liner and thrown in the bin. If a chicken, for example, is not fertilized by a rooster it lays an unfertilized egg which it then disregards entirely. In nature it is almost always eaten by another animal. It's part of the ecology. If that didn't happen, all life on the planet would have drowned in a sea of stinky, rotting, unfertilized eggs long ago. It is terribly important to get the biology right. The details matter.

      Birds that are enclosed do not have to be caged. Battery farms are clearly plain damned wrong by every measure. But I can assure you that the flock of hens 'enclosed' (the truth is they could fly away any time they wanted but they know which side their bread is buttered on) in my extensive, chicken-friendly backyard - designed with trees and grasses, dust-baths and fresh water - are content, safe, well-fed and receive top-notch healthcare. There is no evidence that they yearn for 'freedom.' I eat their unfertilized eggs. They live in a state of safety and luxury that few wild animals can ever enjoy. We often sit about together. I lie in the long grass and they come and sleep on me, happy as the day is long. And they live longer, too. I eat their menstrual waste.

      My daughter would be a vegan (because she doesn't eat meat or dairy) but she does eat these particular eggs so that disqualifies her. It's a reasonable decision she's made.

      So that's the fact part. Now for the idea.

      If you become vegan - which strictly speaking means no meat, no dairy, no honey, no woollen clothes in winter, no leather shoes, no silk, no manure on the organic veg plot, no feather pillows or duvets, no wine and hardly any medicine, then please consider the wider picture of the whole ecology.

      Standard veganism and its reliance on soya products (cultivated at the expense of precious rainforest) processed in huge, energy-guzzling factories and plant manufacture of non-biodegradable polyurethane shoes and clothing, would be devastating to the earth as a whole if it was widespread.

      I understand and respect your decision. I mean that deeply, I really do. But be aware that by declaring yourself a vegan you are associating yourself with a movement that seems to be largely composed of folk who mean well but have very little understanding of nature and ecology. Most vegans are city-dwellers and almost certainly not ecologists or natural scientists.

      The heart is a vital organ. So is the brain. The yin and the yang. One extreme or the other upsets the dynamic harmony of balance. The middle way is the way of the Tao.

      Thank you for letting me use up your hubspace! By the way I responded to your comment on Tim Bridgeland's hub, just in case you hadn't picked that up.

      Peace to you.

    • Bob Zermop profile image
      Author

      Bob Zermop 5 years ago from California, USA

      Thank you for the compliment, tmbridgeland. Like I said, it's a personal choice, so like they say here, "It's all good, man." Will definitely check out your hub. Thanks for stopping by!

    • tmbridgeland profile image

      tmbridgeland 5 years ago from Small Town, Illinois

      By far the most rational argument I have read for Vegan eating. I don't buy into it myself, but for you, sounds like a good choice. I wrote a Hub relating to one of the points you made, about the health of animals in captivity. I basically contradict your point, but maybe you would like to read it. It is 'Fear Of Death'.

    • Bob Zermop profile image
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      Bob Zermop 5 years ago from California, USA

      Good to hear from another vegan, and from the West Coast at that! Thank you, and best of luck to you as well.

    • carozy profile image

      carozy 5 years ago from San Francisco

      You've nicely detailed a lot of the same reasons I became vegan. Wish you the best of health.

    • Bob Zermop profile image
      Author

      Bob Zermop 5 years ago from California, USA

      Yes, I do my best to avoid all products using animal. But i've only been vegan for a month, so I'm still in a learning process. I will wear out my animal clothing, like leather.

    • clairewait profile image

      clairewait 5 years ago from North Carolina

      So if you are a vegan for animal rights (essentially), then you no longer wear/carry/use any animal products at all anymore? No leather? No lanolin? No tallow?

    • Bob Zermop profile image
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      Bob Zermop 5 years ago from California, USA

      Thanks for the compliment, Act 3, and congratulations on your almost veganism. Please also congratulate your wife for me; I'm loving being vegan but it isn't easy!

    • Act 3 profile image

      chet thomas 5 years ago from Athens, GA

      Nice hub! I'm almost vegan! The occasional brick oven cheese pizza at a restaurant or cheese on a chalupa once a month or so are my shortcomings. My wife has been vegan for over 3 years.

    • Bob Zermop profile image
      Author

      Bob Zermop 5 years ago from California, USA

      Thanks for stopping by, CR Rookwood! Glad to hear you enjoyed it, and best of luck on your new diet!

    • CR Rookwood profile image

      Pamela Hutson 5 years ago from Moonlight Maine

      Great hub! I could relate to so much of what you describe, including not thinking eating meat is wrong and not wanting to convert anyone. It's been about a month now for me. I do eat cheese and yogurt, not lots, but some. Other than that, I'm mostly eating fresh fruits, veggies, nuts, beans and some grains (not wheat). I feel much better and I think I look healthier. Thumbs up!