By Larry Rosenberg
For years I was aware that important people to me were becoming vegetarians. Some gave the explanation of better health (or less weight and disease), better for animals (who will now be more at ease with you), or better for the Earth’s sustainability. I also realized that the definition of a vegetarian was flexible, sometimes strict in banning non-flesh foods or even eggs and dairy, and other times more inclusive.
As I have aged (I am now 66), I have recognized that the path to optimal health and longevity involves diet, exercise, stress management, relationships, environment and life purpose/fulfillment – or what I call the “Agenda of Six.” Over the decades, I have observed that many people I know are not aging well and even “crashing and burning” – getting diseases as immune systems weaken, losing mental clarity and memory, declining in energy and joy in living, and drifting without life purpose and vision. I have been doing my best to enhance my Agenda of Six to live well and long (with my goal being a modest 100).
Slowly my diet has improved over the years. But I came to realize, from friends and websites, that I was risking my health with some risky eating habits. Among them were comfort foods (wheat bread and pastas), white sugar (in pastry), prepared foods (full of unpronounceable ingredients), and chicken and fish (raised under questionable circumstances; I had given up red meat long ago).
I was also told of the vitality gained from raw foods and how they deprived prospective cancer cells of fuel (too many people I know have suffered from cancer). As my mother was such a bland and cautious cook, when getting my first apartment at 23, I have been dedicated to being a gourmet cook, which meant I prepared foods from exotic ingredients and in diverse combinations – too often of dubious health value. I also became conscious that I compensated for unconscious-based emotional swings by eating too much of this or too rich of that – with bloated, tired and gaseous results.
When I learned that America’s average health span ends seven years before the average life span, I declared that I wanted to be healthy – in body, mind and spirit – until the day that I passed on. I decided to take the Big Step – and undoing an eating style of decades is a Very Big Step – and become a vegetarian! But my own version of one.
I believe in the benefit of ritual, and saw the value of clearing out the old (past) before transitioning to the new (future). The result was my seven-day cleanse – including digestive herbs in pill and powder form, fruit and vegetable smoothies, and a series of colonics (using water to flush the “gunk” out of the intestines and adjacent organs). While not an easy regimen to follow, this preparation nicely readied me for a new way of eating.
I am now happily my own model of a vegetarian. I said good-bye to fish and chicken. I prepare more raw foods, especially salads (created from 20 or so ingredients in my refrigerator). I buy virtually all-organic ingredients. I avoid wheat and dairy products. I reject food in cans. I make soups from fresh and organic ingredients. And I cook up healthy grains, some from Peru and Ethiopia, which until recently I had never heard of, adding various spices, soy sauce, nuts (soaked overnight to aid their digestibility), and vegetables (especially onions and garlic).
I was aware of the wise saying, “Sometimes you have to feed the wolf to save the sheep.” To me this means having occasional eggs, which I adore; and enjoying raw chocolate, which I now make myself and amaze others with its deep, natural and alive taste – it is simpler to whip up than I ever imagined and fits into my passion for creativity. And I reserve the right on special occasions to consume – in very small quantities to avoid shocking my body – that are no longer on my acceptable list, such as pumpkin pie with fresh whipped cream.
If you are considering becoming a vegetarian, let me share this advice with you: Do a seven-day digestive system cleanse to make the transition from old to new eating habits. Find an expert in the vegetarian, raw and healthy cooking realm to teach you how to genuinely enjoy, not just cope with, this new world of eating. Come up with your own definition of being a vegetarian – what you give up, what you follow, and what treats you will allow yourself (in moderation). Remove the forbidden foods from your larder (donating them to food banks), and stock up on fascinatingly healthy foods, such as Himalayan salt and coconut oil.
Select restaurants that have several vegetarian options on the menu, particularly exciting salads. When invited to meals in people’s homes, gently explain to them in advance what you now can and cannot eat; be somewhat flexible to consume in polite moderation foods placed in front of you that are now off your list. When people ask you why you are a vegetarian, respond with diplomatic precision and brevity, and without boosting and judging their old-paradigm foods.
So go ahead, consider becoming a vegetarian – to boost your health, control your weight, love farm/ranch animals, or save the planet. Plus, learn to creatively prepare foods from the Earth’s garden that contribute to your joy of life!