Deborah writes: My family and I began to eat a vegan diet when hubby and I were about 30, and our daughter was a toddler. If I could have, I would have made that change when I was 7, when I had my ethical awakening.
My father had been hunting and shot some ducks. I was old enough to help, so he gave them to my friend and me to pluck. I remember how beautiful they were as I sat with one of the ducks on my lap. Their feathers in shades of beige and brown, perfect prairie camouflage, were soft and smooth.
I bonded with the ducks, who seemed to me to just be sleeping. We tried to pull out some feathers, but it felt wrong somehow, so we stopped and went out to play. Later, when I sat down to eat dinner with my family, one of the duck's legs was on my plate, golden brown, topped with a sauce my mother had made.
Even though that was half a century ago, I still remember the jolt of horror that went through me. It was the Moment of Recognition. I had not known what meat was or where it came from until that moment. That day, my eyes were opened, and I burst into tears.
I could eat nothing on that plate and was excused to my room to "learn my lesson." As my passion subsided, my stomach relaxed, and my hunger returned. As I struggled to figure out what lesson I was supposed to be learning, my beloved dad arrived and explained gently that my body required meat to grow strong and healthy. It was devastating news for a sensitive little girl to accept. I wanted to grow strong and healthy, I wanted my parents to be proud of me, so I prayed to be forgiven for doing what I had to do.
Five years later, my father died suddenly, his arteries packed solid with cholesterol from all the meat he had eaten because he believed it was good for him. My confusion returned. How could the food choices required for his good health, have killed him? Without any way of resolving that conundrum at the time, I continued doing what I had been taught and was often ill. I assumed my problems were due to having a "weak" immune system.
After hubby and I married, still eating lots of meat and dairy, he developed serious stomach pains and consulted the doctor. All the tests came back negative, and gradually, the pains subsided, although he continued to suffer off and on.
A few years later, we had our beautiful daughter. It had been an exceedingly difficult labour/delivery, and still eating a diet heavily animal-based, my recovery was complicated. Hubby's tummy trouble had worsened, and our daughter was struggling with chronic ear infections. Both of their doctors were recommending surgery.
In desperation, I sought healthier answers. I found out that consuming dairy products could be causing some of the symptoms we were having. While it seemed extremely dangerous to eliminate them because of the indoctrination I had received all my life, I was desperate enough to take the risk.
We all experienced a little improvement, limited by the quantities of other animal products and processed foods we were still consuming. Once more desperate, we reluctantly decided to go further and give up refined and processed foods, including sugar, white flour, and alcohol. By the end of that first week, we were all feeling better than we had in years!
Within the following month, hubby's tummy settled, our toddler's ears cleared up on their own, my joints stopped aching, we were all sleeping better, the chronic depression and bronchial cough I had been suffering for 2 years completely resolved, hubby and I were enjoying increased energy and began to lose excess weight.
Inspired by our success, I began to read what was available at the time about optimal nutrition. After reading the early works of Dr. John McDougall, we gradually phased out all remaining animal products.
Once we became vegan, we continued to explore options within that range. For 2.5 years we ate 100% raw. When our daughter started school, we returned to including cooked root vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. Subsequently, I discovered that I am sensitive to gluten and dried corn, which I avoid. We began supplementing with vitamins B12 and D. Despite the concerns of the public health nurse about raising our daughter vegan, she grew up into a strong, healthy, beautiful, creative, intelligent young woman.
Hubby and I have been eating a vegan diet now for over 35 years. As seniors, we are a rarity, requiring zero medication, and despite having had so many aches, pains, and illnesses before, have rarely even had colds in all this time. We have followed the recommendations of the "masters:" Drs. McDougall, Greger, Esselstyn, Barnard, and others who recommend avoiding oil, salt, and sugar, and limiting high-fat foods in favour of low-fat whole plant foods.
It has been wonderful to see veganism gaining in popularity! Knowing that this is the kindest and most sustainable diet environmentally, we have consistently chosen a vegan diet. However, the increasing availability of delicious vegan junk foods high in fat and salt, faux-meats, dairy-free ice creams and cheezes was tempting us to indulge in too many processed foods.
This culminated in weight gain and hubby developing stage 3 colorectal cancer. It was another desperation moment, which motivated us to clean up our diet, immediately. Thankfully, we already knew what to do, we just had to return to doing it.
Within one year of, once more, eating an optimal diet of 100% oil-free, low-fat, whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes, hubby's tests showed full remission. His doctors were astonished because the only medical treatment he accepted was a course of radiation, declining surgery and the high-dose chemotherapy they had predicted would be necessary.