By Marcella Silva, HoneyColony Original
Read one woman’s food journey from broccoli to bone broth.
As a child, I loved nature and often lunged with abandon for the flora and animals around me. To my parents’ horror, I would often torment my grandmother’s delicate potted plants or pull on the tails of our unsuspecting house cats. Eventually, living rooms were reorganized to keep me away from grandmother’s traumatized ferns, and feline pets learned to hide under the bed until I had left the room.
Though I was, in my liveliness, tough on animals, I loved them dearly, and I nearly always had my two favorite stuffed animals in tow: a pig with a curly tail tucked under my right arm and a white horse with long movable legs under my left.
As I approached middle school, it dawned on me that I, too, had an effect on the lives of the animals I cared so much about, and that I could make a difference by changing my habits. I became an advocate for the fair treatment of animals and started following PETA, an organization with a strong message and no middle ground. I was shocked to learn the realities of commercial farming. Footage from PETA’s secret vault is forever burned into my memory; thousands of hopeless animals victimized by deep trauma and physical pain.
Through these videos I also grew to understand that animals are intelligent and acutely aware. Upon my awakening to the horrors of factory farming, I lost all faith in the images of quaint country farms in which I had once so naively placed my trust.
After considerable research, which consisted of me trolling PETA for hours, I decided at age 16 to abstain from meat, a vow that lasted five years. As I started my journey toward veganism, I armed myself with what I thought was the ideal vegan diet: whole grain for carbohydrates, fresh fruit and vegetables for energy and vitality, and meat replacers like beans, nuts, and seeds for protein.
But as time went on, the amount of veggies I consumed shrunk and I found myself constantly craving refined carbohydrates. Willpower did not work. In retrospect, I realize the problem was lack of protein and fat in my vegan diet. My low-fat, low-protein vegan killed my cravings for healthy vegetables and jump-started my sweet tooth.
During this time I developed several health issues. First came mild acne followed by the worst ever eczema flares. As far as weight loss, I initially lost a few pounds by abstaining from meat, which was encouraging, but the refined carbohydrates I subsequently gobbled tipped the scale quickly back in the wrong direction.
The most detrimental were the changes in my menstrual cycle –especially to my social life. Premenstrual migraines, constant mood swings, disabling cramps, and excessive bleeding kept me confined to bed for a week, every month. I learned to never leave the house without sunglasses, painkillers, and maxi pads—and sometimes a full change of clothing!
To add to my woes, I found out, thanks to a blood test, that I had become anemic. I also guessed that I was low in vitamins B,D and A since I know that malnutrition can contribute to heavy periods.
When I approached vegetarianism, I was searching for a humanitarian lifestyle, but instead got a life of chronic pain and anxiety. My body was trying to tell me something. But how could I break my vegan vow? I found myself in a moral headlock. Choose my own body or that of thousands of innocent animals.
I reached a turning point at age 19 when I signed a $39,000 contract to enter culinary school in Pasadena, California. I made a pact with myself to break with vegetarianism for the next 15 months until I graduated. Then I would return to meat abstinence with zero guilt.
One of our first assignments was to assemble a 200-foot table, which consisted of a themed breakfast buffet with French toast, eggs Benedict, and slices of fried bacon. (Our homework always felt more like we were planning a major event like a wedding as opposed to simply cooking.) During that assignment, I ate a piece of bacon. Tasting bacon was a scary first step but an easy gateway drug for any vegetarian convert. Chefs call it “candy meat” because it is smoked and full of fat. The fat and flavor connection was a clue to where my health journey was leading.
I never did go back to vegetarianism after that day, and yet I also never stopped fighting for my beliefs. My real health a-ha moment came when I first started ingesting cod liver oil, bone broth, raw butter, and other nutrient-dense foods. I instantly started feeling better and realized that eating animals is not always evil, especially when it improves your health and consists of quality sourced meat.
After culinary school, I learned that my issues of greatest concern were broader than animal welfare, and encompassed farming practices, the quality of our food supply, and essentially our environment. Today, as a passionate food advocate, I find most people to be resistant to the notion that our government does not have our best interests at heart. Yet, I have come to accept this fact, based on experience and knowledge. For me, this realization is akin to the that first moment when a child first understands that her parents don’t always know what’s best.
The government laces our water with poisonous fluoride, our meat with hormones and antibiotics, and the rest of our food with pesticides, additives, preservatives, and genetically modified organisms, all of which are detrimental to our health. The government’s promise of safety rings hollow. We can no longer trust labels such as “natural,” “fresh,” or “farm-raised,” which are used as gimmicks for the health-conscious consumer.
Turning A New Leaf
Today, you would never know that I dabbled in veganism. I slather everything with raw butter and honey; I buy bones to make broth weekly, and I know how to take apart a whole pig in less than an hour. Introducing nutrient-dense foods to my diet was as important as removing the toxic ones.
The bone broth I make is rich in minerals such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, and gelatin. And it healed my intestinal lining. Raw butter is packed with vitamins A, E, D, and K, selenium, iodine, lauric acid, antioxidants, and conjugated linoleic acid. This built my muscles and boosted my immune system. And it’s a potent anti-cancer agent, too!
Instead of blanketing all meats as evil, I have turned to products like grass-fed beef and other animal products with quality sourcing that I can trust. At social gatherings, I often hear conscientious consumers loudly proclaim they are vegetarians, as if it were a badge of honor.
When I hear people boast about what they eat, I feel like a seasoned traveler of that beaten path. I’ve learned that what goes into your mouth should be no one’s business but yours. Your life choices, including your diet, will always affect others. But you can control what that effect is. One’s journey toward healthy eating is singular, personal, and constantly advancing.
Photo by rsj211/Flickr.