Be Radical. Buy Broccoli.
Eighty-six-thousand-four-hundred-forty(ish) meals: this is my conservative estimate of how many meals the average person will eat in his or her lifetime. Every time we sit down to dinner, take a trip to the grocery store, choose a restaurant, or open the fridge, we can be revolutionaries simply by choosing to eat plants.
I switched to a plant-based diet because I wanted to run faster and qualify for the Boston Marathon. Spoiler alert: It was magic. Worked like a charm. I dropped roughly eighteen minutes off my marathon time, and I was hooked. Now, I'm approaching my two-year veganniversary.
Having grown up in Nashville, hot chicken capital of the U.S., I'd been a milk-loving, barbecue-eating, carnivore type for my whole life. "I could never give up cheese...or ice cream," was my go-to line in any conversation that touched on veganism. Plus, animal rights seemed like a goofy thing to get hung up on with so many human rights violations to attend to first. Plus plus, I reused my ziplock baggies, took short showers, and always turned off the lights, so mother nature and I were already on super good terms.
Veganism seemed like an unnecessary and kinda judgey route. Isn't it extreme to cut all meat out of your diet? And frankly inconsiderate? Are you really going to show up to Thanksgiving dinner at your grandmother's house and not eat the turkey? Food is about family and community. Don't rock the boat. Are you really going to burden everyone around you with your elective dietary restrictions? Cutting out milk, cheese, ice cream, butter, eggs too? Geeze. Well, that just seemed downright radical.
But if you take a step back, shrug off the social norms, and consider the bigger picture, you might start to see it the other way around. (How have we normalized industries that create literal lagoons of animal feces?) Consider that factory farming:
- not only kills but tortures animals
- abuses its workers
- poisons its customers
- exacerbates social inequalities
- burdens our crumbling healthcare system
- threatens our long-term food security
- is ruining the earth
Frankly, if we're talking about extremes, this seems like an extreme trade-off for the luxury of eating cheese burgers. What's so crazy about opting out?
I adopted a plant-based diet for the sake of vanity and athletic ambition. And then I woke up: I've stayed plant-based for animal rights, workers' rights, mother nature, global food security, and environmental justice. No matter what your entry point is, every vegan meal you eat makes this world a kinder and more sustainable place. We each get at least 86,440 opportunities. Let's be radical. Let's buy broccoli.