It often boggles my mind to think that there is so much competition out there in the world between meat eaters and plant eaters. Why does it always feel like there is a never-ending battle between which side is better than the next??? This past Monday I had a conversation with my mother-in-law, which kind of carried a slight undertone along this subject line. I must admit it was a very funny conversation and she had me laughing a lot, but this constant battle of the diets was ever so present during our discussion. The constant struggle of eating a plant-based diet versus a meat-based diet, along with all the health benefits and disadvantages that go along with eating one or the other can be quite stressful on a person.
While the conversation with my mother-in-law was very funny, there was one main point that stood out to me and I would like to share it. Here goes… as a plant-based eater, it is a constant struggle to defend whether or not one is actually getting the proper nutrients. For example, when I used to eat meat no one ever really questioned whether or not I was getting the proper nutrients. Why is that??? In fact, I am now getting a taste of my own medicine. You see…I used to dish out these same questions to my sister, Candace. I used to ask her all the time and question her about whether or not she was eating enough calories/getting enough nutrients each day as a vegan. Well, the tables have turned, and now I feel like I am the recipient of these frequently asked caloric and nutritional questions. At times, I am a little reluctant to tell individuals (in particular family/friends) that I have now switched to eating a plant-based diet, out of fear of being judged or looked down upon as starving my family and myself. Okay, so let’s dig deep down so that we can get to the bottom of this subject matter. So…“Why does it have to be a competition???”
Listen, we are all individuals and entitled to make our own decisions on how we live, what we eat, and how we choose to raise our families, and etc. We should stop making each other feel bad for the decisions that we make—period. This is can be applied to all areas in a person’s life (e.g. – family, relationships, eating habits, and etc.). I have learned throughout the years (after many difficult lessons) to not judge other people. Yes, that individual may be making some unwise decisions, but if you really want to have an impact on them, just love them, and prayerfully seek how to intervene on their behalf. Getting right back on track… if a person wants to eat a plant-based diet then kudos to them, and if someone wants to eat a meat-based diet then kudos to you too! We all have to make the decision on whether or not we want to go after the most optimal health choices out there, or just settle for being okay, or in some cases being sick and unhealthy.
With that being said, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of the stereotypes that tend to follow each of these two categories—that I have came upon through my personal experiences.
For the plant-based diet community the following stigmas tend to follow us:
- Plant-based diet eaters do not get enough nutrients.
- Plant-based diet eaters don’t tend to look as healthy and plump as their meat- eating counterparts (this one really made me laugh).
- Plant-based diet eaters would choose animals over human beings all the time if given the opportunity (Aha! The infamous guilt trip).
In regards to my former meat eating community the following applies:
- Meat eaters tend to not be as healthy and are overweight.
- Meat eaters are going to die earlier than people who eat a plant-based diet (Gosh! This is so stereotypical).
- Meat eaters don’t care about animals—they just eat them (Really?!?!…Lol).
Even for me now, seeing such generalizations written down only solidifies just how silly they are. If we want to make the biggest impact, let us not make unproven allegations about dietary choices, but in a humble and supportive way showcase the benefits of living on whichever diet we choose to live on—through our actions and physical/mental/emotional states. If the benefits of eating one way heavily out weights the other, perhaps that is the time when you want to be open to the possibility of wanting/choosing a better dietary option for yourself and family.
As the conversation with my mother-in-law came to a close, it was evident that she had a general concern about our well-being and new dietary choices. I totally understand her position as it can be very concerning, especially when emaciated individuals (looking like they are two seconds away from blowing away in a mild wind, or looking like a dried up raisin in need of some hydration…Lol) walk around screaming at the top of their lungs, that they eat a predominately plant-based diet or better yet that they are Vegan.
In light of the meat industry and animal agriculture, it is a crying shame. The things that are being done to the animals, along with the diseases and bacteria that are festering within their bodies (due to their living/feeding arrangements) are very alarming. As a former person who loved dairy, chicken, and fish—it can be very difficult to give up eating flesh and/or flesh by-products because of ‘how good’ it tastes and ‘how good” it makes you feel. It just helps to trigger those good endorphin packed feelings of ‘yummy’ within our brains. A mild sense of addiction….hmmmm.
Long story short—as a public health professional, wife, and mother, I highly recommend choosing a simpler/cleaner diet to partake in. Additionally, for those individuals who have taken the challenging step to eat a plant-based diet, do your research. BE SMART about this change. It is a truism that plants do not have the same caloric weight as meat. Therefore, be sure to keep track of what is being consumed, along with their nutritional values. You do not want to have to embody the famished look. For those individuals, who eat meat, be WISE about where you are purchasing it. Be completely knowledgeable about the living conditions of the animals being eaten, it can truly save your life/and prevent both short and long term food-borne illnesses.
So the next time you find yourself in a heated discussion, or in the boxing ring corner of dietary options—simply smile and do not get all caught up in the hype. Instead, collectively and thoughtfully take the time to sit down and re-evaluate, which dietary options are the best for your overall well-being—and the health of all our families.