As a child, I can remember sitting at the dinner table with a plate of BBQ pork chops in front of me. I can remember the color and groove of the plate, the design of the BBQ sauce bottle, and how much I did not want to eat the meat on my plate. I didn’t like it– it was chewy, and at a young age I already knew the only reason it had any flavor was because it was smothered in sauce. I was grossed out and sad; sad because regardless of the fact that I didn’t like the meat, I had to eat a decent portion of it to satisfy my stepfather. I don’t believe he was forcing me to eat it to punish me– he was probably just trying to make sure that I got enough protein so that I could grow into a strong and healthy adult.
I don’t remember the exact moment I made the connection between the food on my plate and the cute piggies I surely loved, but it happened and I became vegetarian throughout most of my childhood. I loved animals and I didn’t love the flavors or textures of eating them, so it made sense to my pure mind to keep them off my plate. But then I grew up and let that purity slide out of my hands in exchange for a hot dog, and a chicken finger. I can only imagine that this happened at an age where I was more concerned about myself, and what others thought of me than anything else.
I became vegetarian again later on in life when I finally stopped caring about what others thought, and I had a pretty firm grasp on who I was. This time my reasoning was that I loved animals and felt guilty about eating them, but I still concluded that “animal protein is superior to plant protein”. At this time I still lived in the paradigm that most of us live in– Animal protein might not be necessary, but it is superior, and we need large amounts of protein to grow, heal and be healthy.
Luckily my last vegetarian run stuck, and I stayed vegetarian for three years; during which time I did much growing, and realized that one day I would absolutely be vegan! It turns out that I had been wrong about plant proteins’ inferiority to animal protein– yet, I still had no clue about how horrifically the animals were treated– animals that I had always claimed to love.
I had learned from scientists, teachers, parents, the media, friends and medical professionals that eating animals is a necessity and protein is always needed in large amounts. It’s safe to say that most Americans had learned this as well, thus we have all been operating in this protein paradigm for as far back as we can remember. It has shaped our diets, how we view other species and our world, advertising, what we view as healthy, and even what we view as gross when it comes to food (i.e. when someone says vegetables are gross but they’re literally eating a dead bird). Paradigms are ideas that we, over time, accept as truths and, they, good or bad, shape our realities and how we operate and view the world. Because of this, it is incredibly tough to accept ideas and information that prove to poke holes in our realities.
I can now look back and recognize where my paradigm began to shift. As I learned more about true health, I started to seek out more and more science-based information. I started to watch those dreadful documentaries where you see all the things you hope you can ignore for the rest of your life. I started reading books, following doctors, listening to podcasts, learning to cook elaborate and healthy plant-based meals, and I began to see that the lens in which I viewed the world was not the right prescription and needed much adjusting. For many, all of this might have been frightening–admitting that maybe the way they have lived the majority of their lives wasn’t actually right, and then taking on the task of a complete life makeover. But it brought me to life, or more accurately it restored me. As a child, I was an animal lover, and as an adult I became passionate about nutrition and health, thus learning that a plant-based diet and a vegan lifestyle was my new path allowed me to honor who I truly am.
It’s important to recognize that we view the world through a lens that we did not create on our own. We listen to our elders, our superiors, our peers, the supposed experts and the media. And we accept the ideas that the majority presents as truth. Any good scientist will tell you that science does not ever truly prove anything, it simply attempts to prove or disprove something that we already believe, or hope to be true. Thus, we must not be so eager, or even lazy, to just believe what we are told, as later on down the line we will learn that the consequences may be hard to swallow. Accepting the readymade truths that the world around us offers and living our lives according to these so-called-truths may drastically hinder our ability to grow and be our true selves.
I am grateful that after years of learning, contemplation, and growth my paradigm had finally shifted. And in my new one, eating large amounts of protein is not, at all, necessary and can actually shorten lifespan if too much is consumed. And animals are my friends and eating them is bad for my health. And that is not, ever, hard to swallow. I only wish that I had checked my worldview prescription sooner.
Love always + live well
Another view I have worked to change is how I see rodents and insects. I have always been squeamish and viewed insects as pests, but was not excited about having to kill a bug to eradicate the problem. At some point, I realized that a bug stuck in my house has a purpose on earth; different than mine, but no less important. So, I started to appreciate and respect them. Previously I would have killed a cockroach or a fly, but now I take a moment to recognize the little life in these beings and I trap and release. It’s no longer an anxiety-filled experience full of chasing around a bug, smashing it, making sure it’s actually dead and then holding my breath and as I clean up a mess of blood and guts; rather it’s a small, calm and connected rescue mission. Learning to view insects and rodents as beings living their lives has allowed for more peace in mine. We can always work to change our perspectives and paradigms. What views have you changed lately, and how have they positively affected your life?