You read that right. At this point in my “vegan life” I’m beginning to wonder if I haven’t been completely brainwashed. With all of the documentaries, books, and veg magazines I’ve tuned into for the past year, it’s like I’ve become hooked and I can’t seem to get enough of it. I’ve also become completely turned off by the way the majority of our country chooses to eat. It doesn’t upset me, or make me want to lecture anyone, but I could never imagine going back to my old way of living. But how did this all happen? It seems like just yesterday I was gnawing away at meat from the bones of poor defenseless chickens. Maybe I needed some mental adjustments?
Growing up in the land of the free is a privilege and a curse at the same time. While we may be free to do, say, and eat what we want, companies have this same freedom. And with a free tongue and deep pockets, they can place their ads (like the one below) on every station across our great nation.
With advertisements like these, parents who don’t know any better, and restaurants that have menus filled with animal-based (calorie-dense, nutrient weak) foods, how would I know any better? I wouldn’t.
Throughout my childhood (and most of my young adult life), much of my learning came from: magazines, newspapers, TV shows, books, and the Internet. And most of these sources were (and still are) riddled with ads put there by megacorporations. In essence, they decided what I learned about food and nutrition. They infiltrated my brain long before I knew anything about veganism. To make things worse, the shows and movies I watched portrayed beach-bodied actors and actresses chowing down on burgers, fries, and milkshakes. I wanted to look and be like them. If they can do it, I can too. Right?
Unfortunately, I fell victim to this mass marketing and “entertainment.” And by the time I was 25 I was smoking a pack of cigarettes a day, weighed 240 lbs., felt like crap, looked like crap, and had NO energy. This state of “being” (if you will) led me to become depressed; I started drinking heavily, and taking medications to deal with my troubles. But I never felt any better. Below is a picture that I’ve never shared before. I never wanted anyone to see me like this. But I feel that my message is more powerful than any negative attention that I’ll ever receive from one photo.
|Me (on the left) the day of my father’s wedding – 4/19/08|
Now, many of you may be thinking, “That’s not all due to bad nutrition. He said he was drinking a lot.” And I agree with you completely. I believe that there were many factors that led to this overweight and sick version of me: alcohol, drugs (both prescribed and not), depression, lack of exercise, and poor food choices. I’ve taken many steps to get myself out of this mental (and physical) rut, and today I feel better than ever. But possibly the biggest contributor to the way I feel today is the way I eat. Yes, maybe more so than running.
The vegan lifestyle that I live today gives me a freedom I never knew. It’s more than just feeling and looking better. It works from the inside out – mind, body, and spirit. And I have a sense of compassion today that I would have never attained had I not “slipped” upon this lifestyle. That’s why I try and share the benefits with everyone I know; it’s my way of paying it forward. Perhaps I could give someone the information they need so they can avoid becoming the person I used to be. And if their life is anything like mine was, they could use a little “brainwashing.”
For the record – I’m not bashing America. I love the country in which we live. But we certainly have our flaws. Today’s children will be the first generation to live shorter lives than their parents. Obesity and disease run rampant in this country despite our funneling in billions of dollars each year for clinical research. As a runner, I’ve personally supported causes that teach children about proper nutrition and pay for cancer research. Unfortunately, nothing changes if nothing changes. We can’t rely on our government to fix everything. We must take action for ourselves.
Want to learn more? Grab my free ebook to learn more about my transition into plant-based eating. And if you have any questions, please feel free to shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.