How Mindfulness led me to a plant-based lifestyle
I grew up in an Italian family where cheese, eggs, dairy and meat were staples. Despite these being considered normal parts of every meal, I remember as a teenager thinking that it was really gross to see meat sitting in the fridge or being prepared. At 16, this thought moved me to declare that I was no longer eating meat. I didn't connect that milk, eggs, and cheese were also animal products.
Although, at the time I had never heard of the concepts of inner wisdom, intuition, or mindfulness, looking back now even at a young age my inner self and intuition knew something was not right about the consumption of meat despite not being able to understand the bigger picture.
My family thought it was weird but they didn't make a big deal about it and treated it as a food I just didn't like. I was a teenager so I am sure I was doing lots of things my family thought was weird. I often heard adults refer to me as a vegetarian because I didn’t eat meat and I thought sure, ok, if that’s what it’s called. Many were concerned about my protein intake or thought I would become anemic. The most common advice that I received was that I better load up on dairy if I wasn’t going to eat meat.
I had never met another vegetarian, never heard the term vegan or plant based. Understand this was a time before iPhones and every person in the house having a laptop. The concept of Googling something you didn’t know didn't exist.
As I continued through college and graduate school every now and then someone would ask me if I was a vegan, “No, I am not one of those weird people, I just don’t like meat” I would reply. It seemed being this so called vegetarian was bad enough, I didn’t want to be upgraded to a vegan. I was still not thinking mindfully about my food choices and had yet to meet another vegetarian or this other rare species called vegan.
Through my twenties, I considered myself a healthy adult- no medical problems, no weight problems, I went to yoga and the gym regularly and ate what I thought was a healthy diet. Even my family and friends would refer to me as healthy.
Then my inner wisdom and intuition came to my aid again in my early thirties, somewhere in the course of adulting it wasn’t just my food choices I was on automatic pilot about, I also worked in a career for over a decade that left me depleted of time and energy. When I got tired of being tired, I decided I wanted a lifestyle change. I would no longer tolerate jobs, relationships or daily things big or small into my environment that did not inspire and energize me.
I started asking myself WHY?
Why do I work the job that I work, why do I have the daily routines and thoughts that I have, Why do I use the products that I use and why do I eat the food that I eat. Just like I was curious about the energy that fueled my daily thoughts and behaviors, I became curious about the energy that created the products and food that I was using daily. I started reading labels of all the products I was using from food to hand soap and the common trend I was noticing was a long lists of ingredients with lots of words I couldn’t pronounce. Again without being able to put my finger on it like my 16 year old self I thought something is not right!
So like any intelligent adult, I went to google and Netflix for the answers.
This led me to viewing multiple documentaries and webinars, reading numerous books and attending confrences and workshops from leading researchers, MD's and experts in the field of plant based nutrition, listening to numerous plant based summits and podcasts, and completing the Plant Based Nutrition certificate from T. Collins Campbell, eCornell.
I was shocked at the tremendous amount of scientific research that so clearly outlines how eating animal products (meat, dairy, cheese, eggs) are so devastatingly damaging to our health and that our consumption of animal products are the cause of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, autoimmune disorders, and some forms of cancer. I was also disheartened that as a lifelong animal lover and cat mom that daily I was promoting and causing the abuse, suffering and death of animals by my food choices of egg, cheese and dairy. Our individual choices matter and affect others, other beings that we may never know or see.
Wishing that I had found this information earlier in life, this became the natural progression for me to take my background as a licensed clinical social worker specializing in holistic behavior modification to help educate and coach others on how to adopt a plant based nutrition lifestyle.
It’s easy to get caught up in our day to day to do lists, be distracted and confused by the large volumes of conflicting health information we are constantly bombarded with and have an out of sight, out of mind mentality when it comes to the abuse and suffering animals must endure. However, when we stay present and mindful, we are able to empower ourselves to take responsibility for our own health and happiness and realize how our daily choices matter and contribute in a huge way to the health and happiness of all living beings and the environment in a sustainable way.