Some people love Christmas. Others get excited about their birthday. But my favorite holiday is far less traditional and one you might not hear about on the local news. The holiday I look forward to each year is World Vegetarian Day and just happens to be today!
Each year I make it a point to celebrate by getting my community involved and educating others about the benefits of a plant-based diet. This year I’m excited to report that I got over 1,000 people on Facebook to commit to a meat-free diet for 24 hours.
While vegetarians come in all shapes and sizes, colors and creeds, most of us have one thing in common: a story of how we made the connection. Today I’d like to share mine with you.
I was born and raised in Tampa, Florida in a family that, while focused on healthy eating, still consumed their fair share of animal products. As I got older I began to consume the same kind of junk food that many of my peers were eating. Not surprisingly, by the time I was seventeen years old I weighed 255 pounds and was absolutely miserable.
I still remember taking frequent trips to my favorite restaurant where I’d order a half-pound burger topped with bacon, cheddar cheese, mayo and a four-ounce patty of fried mozzarella on top. Of course I’d upgrade to the onion rings and get plenty of ranch dressing for dipping. Was I aware that I was hurting my body? Absolutely. But what I didn’t understand was how my choices were affecting the planet.
I had no idea that animal agriculture creates more methane and nitrous oxide omissions than any other industry in the world. Nobody ever told me that if every American exchanged one meal of chicken per week for vegetarian foods, the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off of U.S. roads. I hadn’t yet learned that raising animals for food is the greatest contributor to deforestation and generates a catastrophic amount of land and water pollution.
And what about the cruelty of it? How could I support an industry that brutally slaughters over 10 billion farm animals each year for something that isn’t good for the planet or necessary for my health.
I decided to give vegetarianism a try – just a try – and see how I felt. Never in a million years did I think I would keep it up, let alone become vegan one day. But as I began to eliminate animal products from my diet, I noticed that something pretty miraculous was starting to happen. The acne I had struggled with throughout adolescence disappeared overnight. My eyes got brighter. My body felt stronger. I started to feel good, really, really good
Almost nine years later and 85 pounds lighter I still feel fantastic. I have what seems like an unlimited amount of energy, and wake up each morning knowing that I’m making the most responsible choice for my planet, my body and my fellow creatures.
Making the connection between what we consume and how it affects the world around us was perhaps the greatest discovery I’ve ever made. Nobody wants to be unhealthy or raise children in a polluted world. I can’t think of a single person who would knowingly choose cruelty over kindness. Going vegan taught me that I had the power to make positive change simply by eating in a different way.
Today on World Vegetarian Day I look back over the last nine years and feel fortunate that I had the support and guidance to look deeper and the courage to take action. I’m thankful for the pioneers of this movement who stood up when others refused and sacrificed their own well-being for the sake of the greater good. I’m appreciative to the millions of local heroes across the globe who work hard everyday for the advancement of a compassionate society and a more sustainable way of life. And I’m grateful to all of you who read my words and recycle them into your own kind of meaningful activism.
Today on World Vegetarian Day I stand proud to be a part of a thriving movement of coconsciousness and pledge a lifetime commitment to the cause I find so deeply important. Happy World Vegetarian Day. everyone!