When I grew
up in New Jersey, I always enjoyed eating vegetables and was influenced
by my mother, who believed in the importance of a healthy diet even
though we ate meat regularly because my father wanted it. At the
University of Houston I ate meat and tried to control my weight
the wrong way-by skipping meals. Frequently I would skip breakfast,
eat a light lunch, and then have my fill at dinner-just before I
went to bed. Not only is skipping meals the wrong way to diet, but
the way I did it is the worst way because your body needs four hours
to digest its food before you go to sleep.
May of 1990 I decided to change the way I ate when I realized that
controlling my weight by skipping meals was not good for me. Within
the space of a few weeks, I met two men who changed my way of thinking
and eating. The first was Jay Cordich, the Juice Man, whom I met
at the Houston radio station where I worked in the early morning.
He was there to talk about his juicer, which makes fresh juice from
fruits and vegetables. He said that drinking at least sixteen ounces
of freshly squeezed juice each day will increase a person's energy,
strengthen the immune system, and reduce the risk of disease. A
few weeks later while doing publicity for a track meet in Minneapolis,
I met Dr. John McDougall, a medical doctor who teaches about the
link between good nutrition and good health and was promoting his
latest book. Dr. McDougall challenged me to make a commitment to
eating a vegetarian diet and then to just do it.
I remember vividly
making the decision in July of 1990 to become a vegan. I was competing
in Europe and ate a meal of Spanish sausage on a Saturday and on
the following Monday started eating vegan. The hardest thing for
me was changing my eating habits from skipping meals to eating throughout
the day-which is much healthier. I also missed salt and so substituted
lemon juice for flavor.
In the spring
of 1991-eight months after beginning to eat vegan-I was feeling
listless and thought I might need to add protein from meat to my
diet. Dr. McDougall, however, explained that my listlessness was
due to my needing more calories because I was training so many hours
each day, not because I needed more animal-based protein. When I
increased my calorie intake, I regained my energy. I was drinking
twenty-four to thirty-two ounces of juice a day. I ate no dairy
products. And I had my best year as an athlete ever!
You have total
control over what you put in your body. No one can force you to
eat what you don't want to eat. I know that many people think that
eating a vegetarian diet-and especially a vegan diet-will require
sacrifice and denial. Jannequin Bennett demonstrates in this book
that eating vegan does not have to be tasteless and boring. As she
says, "vegan eating is a truly indulgent way of life, as vegans
regularly partake of the very best foods that nature has to offer."
Here are recipes that will excite your taste buds. By the way, a
few of my own recipes are included.
Keep in mind
that eating vegan does require a commitment to being good to your
body and to acting responsibly toward the world around you. Most
of us are not aware of how much damage we do to our bodies and to
our world by the way we eat. I challenge you to write down everything
you eat and drink for one week. You will probably be amazed at the
amount of snacks you eat, the different ways in which milk and cheese
are a part of your diet, and-worst of all-how much fast food you
such as cookies, chips, candy, French fries, or soft drinks are
highly processed foods that have lost many of their useful nutrients.
Worse still, most of these foods are loaded with fat, salt, and
chemicals. For instance, a 1.5-ounce bag of barbeque potato chips
has the same number of calories as a medium baked potato, but 70
times the amount of fat and 20 times the amount of salt. Cheese
and other dairy products are loaded with artery-clogging saturated
fat and cholesterol. Most cheeses get 70 to 80 percent of their
calories from fat.
You have to
be especially careful when you eat in fast food restaurants. As
the consumption of unhealthy fast food has increased, so has obesity,
which is now second only to smoking as a cause of death in the U.S.
Eric Schlosser reported in Fast Food Nation that the rate of obesity
among American children is twice as high today as it was twenty-five
years ago. Moreover, it seems that wherever people eat unhealthy
fast food, waistlines start to expand. Between 1984 and 1993, for
instance, the number of fast food restaurants in Great Britain roughly
doubled. And so did the obesity rate among adults. Overweight people
were once a rarity in Japan. Fast food restaurants arrived there
thirty years ago, and today one-third of all Japanese men in their
thirties are overweight.
Your body is
your temple. If you nourish it properly, it will be good to you
and you will increase its longevity. Being good to your body, however,
requires diligence and determination. I began eating vegan for health
reasons and continue primarily because of that. Others eat vegan
for ethical or spiritual reasons. Whatever your reasons are for
eating a plant-based diet, Very Vegetarian will help you
do it with style and taste.
info and to purchase the book, visit Rutledge Hill Press