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13 September 2010

On Veganism/Vegetarianism

Part I

My apologies for not blogging in a while. I do hope to write here more regularly.One topic that comes up again and again in my life and circle of friends is the topic of vegetarianism/veganism. I have so many friends and people in my life who follow variations of these dietary philosophies.

From my early 20's to late 30's, I, too, considered myself a vegetarian and even a vegan for long stretches of time. I was motivated to follow this lifestyle for various reasons, some personal and some more planetary. I think I always had a great suspicion that I wasn't worthy to walk on this earth. I'd like to say it was a spiritual humbleness, but it was more of a self-loathing attitude. A philosophy in which I could deny my body something was instantly appealing as if doing penance for being born. I also had and have a great love and connection to/for all animals, so why would I eat something for which I had such affection? There was a great disdain for diary products among many of the authors and lecturers I followed back in the late 70's and early 80's, and these people made a strong impression on me as well, so a diary free lifestyle had its appeal. I was also convinced I was saving the planet, so why not go all out?

Of course, the idea of a strongly politically motivated diet/lifestyle had its added pull over my subconscious. Somehow I was screwing the oppressors (all oppressors) by not eating any animal products. Since I was off the charts left-wing during most of those years, life couldn't get much better than a garden burger at an alternative-type vegetarian restaurant!

I'll say my health was never poor during those years. In fact I was a semi-professional triathlete from my mid-to-late twenties and kept on seriously running into my early thirties. I think my only health issues would have been low blood sugar - it seemed like I could eat ten times a day and it wouldn't be enough, and I was also constantly cold. I got to the point of hating the winter and even swimming in the ocean lost it's appeal. Gradually, as my 30's arrived, I got more seriously into the vegan lifestyle. I ate a lot of soy products, too! Interestingly, while my sex drive never went away my ability to perform and even enjoy sex waned dramatically during the soy experiment. My thyroid function also declined almost the the point of needing medication. So I would say I was physically fit but not terribly healthy - defining health as simply feeling connected to life and being able to enjoy life. As I continued to push the workouts, I noticed my strength was declining. I just assumed (maybe) that one's body starts the long descent into whatever by the time one's mid-thirties come around.

Another thing I should point out during this time period is that I took massive amounts of vitamins and supplements. This obession started in my college years, as much out of experimentation as anything else, and by the time I hit my mid-thirties, I was spending hundreds of dollars a month and swallowing many pills a day. Anywhere I went I carried these pills with me. If I been unable to get to a health food store to keep up my supply, I wouldn't have been a happy camper. If I had thoughts of moving somewhere, I'd seriously think to myself, "do they have health food stores there?"

Around 2001-2002, I started to study herbal medicine with Susun Weed as a live-out apprentice. A great many things were going on in my life at the time, and I was very confused about much of it. I actually stared limiting the things I would eat period. In the summer leading up to 9/11, I lost about 30 pounds and probably weighed about 150-160. I'm 6'4" by the way, and my normal weight most of my life was about 185.

So what happens when I go to Susun Weed's farm? Well, I'm introduced to the most amazing diary products I've ever had - goat cheese and goat's milk from her heard, and I'm getting educated properly for the first time in my life about the benefits of some animal products, especially diary in my diet. Coupling this knowledge with herbal infusions, specifically Stinging Nettle, and my entire outlook was about to change dramatically. I would almost defy anyone to drink Stinging Nettle infusions on a regular basis and not know instantly what his or her body really needs! Nettle brings a grounded, yet powerful intuition as well as a keen sense of smell and taste, and a knowing right away "this is something I want to eat. . . this is something I don't". I can't describe it better than to say that everything I thought I knew for sure about nutrition was up for grabs. My infinite body was telling my limited mind what the deal was - and I started listening.

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