Sunday, June 5, 2016

Somehow I've Always Known

My entire life I have struggled with obesity.  Despite growing up in a large family where love was plentiful and acceptance was unconditional, I was burdened with an unhealthy self-image because I tended to be big-boned and plump. I still am. So what happened to change me from the self-loathing overweight teenager I was, to the happy plus-size woman I am today?

My mom and dad worked hard to make sure we ate well. Dad's long hours on the road and Mom's skills in the kitchen ensured we (a small army) had delicious food on the table.  Dad's biscuits and gravy became a Sunday tradition we looked forward to, on the weekends he was home to prepare them for us. One of my mom's signature meals was skillet-fried hamburger steaks and home fries -- I can still hear the sizzle and smell the aroma of the best meat and potatoes on the planet! We were blessed to grow up well-fed and well-loved.

Like so many American families, our holiday celebrations centered around food. At Thanksgiving and Christmas you would find three or four generations of our family seated around a large picnic table feasting Waltons-style on generous portions of traditional favorites served with a heaping side of love. To this day those gatherings are among my fondest memories.

Somehow, though, I've always known that as delicious as my diet was, it wasn't always a balanced diet. Long before the Food Pyramid existed I learned about the four food groups. Even though I realized that cookies, cakes, and ice cream were literally "off the chart" I consumed more than my fair share.  I learned that there was a correlation between how much I ate and my size, and that the choice to overeat was mine, and mine alone, yet that knowledge had little effect on my dietary choices for the first eighteen years of my life.

What I didn't know, however, is the animal cruelty that occurs and the devastating environmental impact of animal agriculture, just to put food on our tables.  What I didn't know was the direct correlation between a whole food, plant-based diet and better health.  Who knew, for instance, that all a person's protein needs can be met by eating whole grains, vegetables, nuts and seeds?   What I didn't know is that there are so many options available to us, not only for food but also for cruelty-free household and laundry products, personal care, and cosmetic items -- better options for our planet and for the animals that occupy it with us.

Now that I know these things I can't imagine going back to the status quo -- a meat-based diet heavy on calories but lacking in the nutrients I most need and reliance on other products at the sacrifice of creatures unable to defend themselves.  My choice to go vegan is about so much more than my physical well-being.

I wish I had a dollar for every time someone said to me, "I could never give up meat." Recently I attended two Memorial Day weekend gatherings, both which featured traditional cookout fare, and managed to find enough menu options (some provided by myself) to leave me satisfied without consuming any meat products. Much to my delight my hosts and the other guests didn't treat me like some two-headed alien from another planet. In fact, my choice to adopt a vegan lifestyle generated some lively conversation. And did I mention they loved the vegan brownies we took for dessert?

Somehow I've always known that I could do better for myself. For the first time, perhaps, I am hopeful that I'll also be able to some good for some of God's other creatures in the process.

Copyright 2016 by Dee Dee Wike and Joy Wike. All rights reserved.

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