After I shut down a business I owned, I proceeded to participate in an emotional escapade I like to call The Holiday Gorge of 2003.
I ate everything in sight from Thanksgiving to the Epiphany. It wasn’t pretty, and when all was said and eaten, I felt like living hell.
I had been a semiconductor broker, which was impossibly volatile and stressful like a constant kick in the guts, so when I took my next job, I wanted something as far from that as possible. I became a cashier at a health food store.
Every day from my register, I stared at the produce section, which was illuminated by hanging halogen lights. I thought, ‘This is what perfection looks like.
I knew fresh food had to be part of my healing and ultimately, my plan for optimal health. I decided to try being vegan for one month. Though I went cold-turkey vegan then, I had been weaning off animal products most of my life.
In 1980, at age 13, I stopped eating red meat, a choice made from a very limited knowledge I had of the meat industry then. Foods like chicken, fish, eggs, and milk were already a bit gross to me. Eating vegan, even in the beginning, never felt difficult. It felt natural and right. I didn’t feel depraved.
During that first month, as I felt increasingly better physically and mentally, I read in detail about the ethical side of being vegan. When I learned exactly how living beings were treated for overproduction and overconsumption, my stomach hurt. My heart hurt. That month, February 2004, became a lifelong dedication.
Though I’ve never had a desire to go back, my advice to those starting on a vegan (or simply a more meatless) journey is to explore the science, read up on anecdotes, and then put on your own lab coat to find what works best for you.There are so many vegan options now, and there are many philosophies within being vegan; it will be hard not to find something that fits you personally.
I’m often asked if I would eat meat if it came from a seemingly humane source, or if I’d eat eggs from a small farmer. Being vegan will be a life-long adventure for me. I treat my decision as an across-the-board boycott of all animal products, no matter more-humane claims. In the simplest of terms, I don’t want an animal to die or suffer for me. In our day and age, I don’t feel it necessary. And I don’t feel deprived in the least because of it.
As an athlete, I’ve also been asked if eating animal products could guarantee me personal gains or much better performance, would I do it. Even if that were true – maybe it is, maybe it’s not – I don’t feel that a short-term and very specific gain in one aspect of my life is as important as my foundational stance of compassion and a broader-scope connection to all things — including the environment and the people who work in that industry .
With all that said, I don’t judge others for personal decisions. We all have our own road of discovery, growth, and evolution. I live according to what drives me and what is important to me. And I only wish wellness and awareness to others for a more fully-lived and joyful life.