Do you sometimes wonder how some people only eat plant-based foods? I used to all the time. I was born and raised in NYC. I grew up eating homemade Dominican food mostly made up of rice, beans, and chicken. I would go the groceries with my mother and we never EVER looked at ingredients. Every week we would buy the same brand of bread, cheese, bologna, etc.… We rotated in a cycle that was familiar to us and as a kid why question it. Our parents have the best intention when feeding us, putting food on the table was an accomplishment on its own. Eating for pleasure vs eating for survival is the culture in my community. Coming from a Hispanic background the only time you hear the word diet is when someone is trying to loose weight. The only time we focus on our health is after a health scare. Our lifestyle is to be reactive to disease vs proactive to avoid it. My mother always told me “Nosotros vivimos para comer, no Comemos para vivir” Which translates into “’We live to eat, instead of eating to survive” -Elsa Garcia
My family like many other families that come to the U.S for a better life loose sight of real foods being surrounded by low cost convenience food. With the abundance of these foods it becomes overwhelming to make the right food choices for a healthy lifestyle. Back in the Dominican Republic our people eat with the seasons as the land naturally provided what was needed. Today we’ve been westernized to where our food system has become mechanical, where we can eat any food we want on demand at any time of day and fast! With that kind of availability why would any family want to change their diet? Everyone that I knew ate the same, and no one could describe the difference between vegetarian, pescatarian, & Vegan. You would almost have to be crazy to want to give it up.
As a young 17-year-old finding myself into adult hood I was seeking changes in my diet. I wanted to be skinnier and more fit. I started my journey by researching at a local book store to see what books were available. I came across a book entitled “Skinny Bitch” by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin. The title caught my attention and so I decided to purchase it. Little did I know it was all about a purely vegan diet, factory farming & animal cruelty all in vulgure context. As I read the book I felt like I was being spoken to directly. I was reading information I had never heard of before. They would say things like…
– “Whenever you see the words “fat free” or “Low fat” think the words “Chemical shit storm”
– “Milk=Fat. Butter=Fat. Cheese=Fat. People who think these products can be low fat or fat free=Fucking Morons”
– “So, your junk food has a shelf life of 22 years and will probably outlive your fat sorry ass”
– “Every time you consume factory-farmed chicken, beef, veal, pork, eggs or dairy, you are eating antibiotics, pesticides, steroids, and hormones”
I couldn’t put down the book, everything sounded logical but I was also confused as to why everything I had known to be true was now not, according to this source.
So, what comes next?!
Well, I had to share the news of all of the reasons why we shouldn’t be eating meat. I talked about it with my brother, my mom and other loved ones. I literally changed my diet overnight. At this point without further investigation on the topic I stopped eating meat mainly because I was disgusted by all of my new learnings.
Little did I know some of the challenges that would be ahead, like family gatherings, holidays, dinner parties anything affiliated with food. I will always get the question…. Why aren’t you eating meat. It was as if i was wrong. As if I was turning my back on my religion. All because I didn’t eat meat. Started with one book and went on to research other books, spoke with nutritionists, listened to podcasts, & watched documentaries. The more I learned the clearer it was, that the little book with all the curses in it was really on to something. This book was the start of countless books and research on nutrition. Through all of these learnings my confidence grew in standing up for what was right in a plant-based lifestyle. I wasn’t getting the same excitement that I was feeling from my loved ones because the truth is that no one wants to stop eating what they love and they rather turn a blind eye and live ignorantly in bliss.
Changing a life long habit does not happen overnight. It happens overtime.
Stay curious and explore your foods!!
–Miss Rehab Ramdass
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