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I’m honored to share my journey today, one that began nearly 27 years ago when, at the tender age of 9, I made a choice that would define my relationship with food forever. Unlike many, my decision to go plant-based wasn’t influenced by trends or fads; I didn’t know anyone who lived this way. I had never even heard of the terms vegetarian or vegan. This choice was an innate understanding that certain things weren't right for my body. It came from within me and luckily I had a mother who empowered me to listen to my intuition. She dedicated herself and even after long days of working in an office, she would come home and cook two meals. A plant-based meal for me and a meaty meal for the rest of my family. It’s easy to romanticize this but to be really honest, my step-dad would often eat his meal alone in his room while watching TV. I would take my meal onto the back porch and share it with my dog and man. I didn’t realize that sharing this story would stir thoughts and memories now seem so sad. I didn’t realize then how broken it must have felt for my mom. To work so hard to meet everyone's desires to be left alone in a dirty kitchen. Becoming a mother really changes how you see your own mother, doesn’t it?
Anyway, I have always been this way. Much like the same reason I have never once in my life had a soda, my choice to become plant-based is grounded in a deep knowledge of what's truly nourishing and what's harmful. And luckily, despite the brokenness of my childhood upbringing, I had a mom who believed in me. And she fought like hell to support me.
As I grew older, my aversion to certain foods didn’t fade; it transformed into a steadfast conviction, an unwavering belief that my body deserved pure, cruelty-free nourishment. I didn’t care what my friends were eating, I didn’t care that I was different. To be honest, I didn't even pay attention because I knew so deeply inside of me that this is how I was supposed to live. I was never and still to this day am not on a mission to change anyone else but to simply live what I know is best for myself.
But why? Over the years I have dug into this and I know you can relate on some level. You have something in your life whether it is the way you mother, your religion, something that you believe that is so intuitive that the question of why doesn’t even matter? And when you hear or learn new information it is so obvious because you already knew inside?
Well on the first morning of college I met the man who would soon become my husband. He was the first person I had ever met who fully accepted me. He was the furthest thing from being a mindful eater but he showed interest. Instead of questioning my diet choices he took me on a date. He never once asked me why I didn’t eat meat. And if you can believe it, that date he took me on was the first time I had ever eaten at a plant-based restaurant. I remember when he invited me to meet his family. They used to have dinner every sunday and I brought my own meal. Still to this day, we do this. We always pack our own food. It’s who we are and how we honor our family values while engaging in special gatherings.
Anyway we got married when I was 19 and at 22 we unexpectedly got pregnant with our daughter. This is the first time our different eating choices came into question. Up to this point I happily cooked Ty his meat and dairy meals alongside my plant-based meals. Exactly the way my mom did for so many years.
I never expected Ty to change. Just as he never expected me to change. But we both agreed that it was important for us to learn all we could so we could make an aligned decision of how we would raise our children. This is when we dove in. When we started reading and watching documentaries and what we learned completely transformed our lives in ways we could have never imagined.
I read a book called Skinny Bitch Bun in the Oven by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin. Ty read Skinny Bastard by the same authors. These books woke us the heck up. Skinny Bitch Bun in the Oven is based on 300 sources, there are more than 500 endnotes, a registered dietician vetted the book for accuracy, and the forward is provided by a pediatrician and an OBGYN. I highly recommend looking up all of the Skinny Bitch books because there is surely one that meets you at the life stage you are in and for the same reason Ty and I read them, simply to empower yourself with knowledge so you can make your best choices.
I am just going to read you a little snippet of the book:
Hmm . . . dead, rotting, decomposing flesh of carcasses. Doesn't sound like something you'd want to eat, huh? Not to mention the pesticides, hormones, steroids, and antibiotics. Oops! We almost forgot mad cow disease, bird flu, salmonella, E. coli and mercury. Well, no wonder Americans are suffering from obesity; cancer; liver, kidney, lung, and reproductive disorders; birth defects; miscarriages; and nervous system disorders.
You can call it steak, tuna, bacon, or chicken. No matter how you slice it, it's a piece of decaying, decomposing carcass.”
Got osteoporosis? Researchers at Harvard, Yale, Penn State, and the National Institutes of Health have studied the effects of dairy intake on bones. Not one of these studies found dairy to be a deterrent to osteoporosis. On the contrary, a study funded by the National Dairy Council itself revealed that the high protein content of milk actually leaches calcium from the body. These findings are consistent with many others that blame milk not only for osteoporosis, but also acne, anemia, anxiety, ADD, allergies, asthma, obesity, heart disease, diabetes, autism, and multiple cancers.
Just like human milk is for baby humans, cows' milk is for baby cows. We're the only species on the planet that drinks the milk of another species. We're also the only species on the planet that drinks milk as adults. It's not only gross, it's creepy. We've been totally duped by the dairy industry and their hundreds of millions of advertising dollars. And now we're totally addicted to their disease-causing products.”
Okay. So Ty came to me after reading Skinny Bastard and said he never wanted our children to eat meat and that he would never touch meat again. This was the beginning of his vegetarian journey and the beginning of me learning from outside sources what I always knew deep inside of me even as a young child.
Our midwives were very supportive and when our ten pound daughter was born into a beautiful bathtub they marveled at how my placenta was the healthiest they had ever seen. Maybe they boost every mama's confidence with this, but I was their first plant-based mama and took pictures because it was stronger than any they had ever seen.
From the very beginning we have been really open with Luna about our lifestyle choices. This has always been her way of living and there is a passion that was born in her. When she was three years old I made dinner one night. Lu and I were completely plant-based but Ty continued to eat the cheese that he loved so much. There had never been a conversation about the difference in our meals but as we sat at the dinner table, Lu took Ty’s hand in hers and said “daddy, the planet and animals and your body would be so much healthier if you didn’t eat dairy”. Both me and Ty’s eyes welled with tears. He responded “you are absolutely right and I need to change. From now on, I will contribute to the health of the planet, the animals and my body.” And this was the beginning of his fully plant-based journey. That was ten years ago now and what an amazing experience it has been.
We have since introduced three more 10 + pounds at birth, passionate plant babes into our family. Is it hard? No. It never has been because what you look for you see. This lifestyle isn't a sacrifice. It is the way we are supposed to live and showing up for it provides us with the most satisfied and rich life imaginable.
Now I want to dive into some of the shadows. Into the stark realities that no one talks about.
The multibillion dollar dairy industry often promotes milk as a healthy and natural food choice, encouraging daily consumption. However, when we examine the reality of milk production and consider the research, it becomes clear that this image is far from accurate.
All milk from mammals contains somatic cells, with "somatic" referring to "body." While a low somatic cell count doesn't necessarily mean pus, udder infections (mastitis) are widespread among US dairy cows. Mastitis leads to significantly higher somatic cell counts, with over 90 percent of these cells being neutrophils, inflammatory immune cells that form pus.
Due to the prevalence of mastitis, the dairy industry strives to maintain high allowable somatic cell counts in milk, with the US having one of the world's highest limits. Some countries, like Australia, have no limit on somatic cell counts in milk. This means that the FDA allows at least 20 percent of milk in the US to contain pus, as one in six dairy cows suffer from clinical mastitis.
Beyond consuming pus, dairy consumption has been linked to various health issues, including bone fractures, skin conditions, and cancer. A significant portion of the world's population, especially in Black and Asian communities, is lactose intolerant and cannot digest dairy properly, leading to lifelong digestive issues.
Cows in the dairy industry are forced to produce more milk than is natural for them. They endure repeated pregnancies without rest, which places immense strain on their bodies and shortens their lifespans. These cows often suffer from reproductive organ infections and anal prolapses while confined to milking pens, yearning for contact with their separated calves. Which brings up an entire side of the dairy industry that most people don't even know exists.
Dairy cows are forcibly impregnated, and once they give birth, their newborn calves are taken away so that their milk can be sold. As a mama, I cannot begin to imagine the anguish of my baby being taken away from me after birth. And you better believe these cows feel. They scream and cry for their babies for weeks, even months after. This is the energy being put into that milk. Whether it is conventional or organic. That milk is full of pain, fear, and the deep yearning of a mother for her child. The emotional trauma these cows experience is imprinted in every drop of milk they produce.
The suffering doesn't end there though. Typically, the female calves are taken to a different area where they are raised to replace their mothers in the cycle of milk production. Separated from their nurturing environment and denied the natural bonds they crave, they are subjected to a life of confinement and repeated pregnancies. Meanwhile, the male calves are thrown into veal crates where they endure a life of unimaginable suffering. Confined to tiny, dark pens, these young calves are deprived of every instinctual behavior that is natural to them. They cannot move freely, turn around, or even stretch their legs. Forced to sit in their own waste, they are fed an unhealthy, undernourished liquid diet. And after several months they are sent to slaughter for humans to feast upon the tender meat of their suffrage.
The cruelty continues at the slaughterhouse, but I don’t have the heart to go there. Animals are treated as commodities, not as living, feeling beings. And again, all the fear and pain directly impacts the energy of their body. The influx of hormones that surge when fear and pain are high impacts the quality of the meat.
We all have the idyllic vision of animals enjoying themselves on vast green hillsides but the truth is that in US industrial farming, over 99 percent of farmed animals spend their lives on factory farms. For cows, chickens, turkeys, pigs, and other farm animals this means a life spent indoors, or confined to barren feedlots alongside thousands of others.
We are the energy of the food we consume.
In fact, the World Health Organization classifies meat and dairy as a Group 1 carcinogen. Yes, you heard me right. Meat and dairy share a category with asbestos and smoking. This is devastating. Just as the medical system is designed to medicate, the food system is designed to feed food that supports corporate financial gains over your health. The foods we have all been told to eat for our health is actually the source of chronic disease and without informing ourselves we are victim to the systems that don’t have our best interest in mind.
High intake of red and processed meats has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers.
But it is not just about us. Where lush forests once stood tall, you now find barren fields. Deforestation, driven by the demand for grazing lands and feed crops, robs countless species of their homes and exacerbates climate change. The Amazon, the lungs of our planet, suffers under the weight of our appetite for meat. Every burger, every glass of milk, adds to this environmental tragedy. Did you know it takes nearly 2,500 gallons of water to produce just one pound of beef?
There are several documentaries that I recommend and will link in the show notes. I am going to share some staggering statistics from them. You might have to listen, rewind and listen again to really hear this.
- Livestock and their byproducts account for at least 32,000 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year, or 51% of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions.
- 5% of water consumed in the US is by private homes. 55% of water consumed in the US is for animal agriculture
- Animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution, and habitat destruction.
- Did you know we are experiencing the largest mass extinction in 65 million years?
- Every minute, 7 million pounds of excrement are produced by animals raised for food in the US.
- More than 6 million animals are killed for food every hour.
- A farm with 2,500 dairy cows produces the same amount of waste daily as a city of 411,000 people.
- 80% of antibiotics sold in the US are for livestock. This goes into our water, our soil, our bodies.
- 82% of starving children live in countries where food is fed to animals, and the animals are eaten by western countries
- 1.5 acres can produce 37,000 pounds of plant-based food. 1.5 acres can produce 375 pounds of beef.
- Based on this proven information, everyday, a person who eats a plant-based diet saves 1,100 gallons of water, 45 pounds of grain, 30 sq ft of forested land, 20 lbs CO2 equivalent, and one animal’s life.
I want to finish this episode by talking about how humans have evolved faster than our evolution. Meaning that science and technology used in farming has modified our food in such a way that it is unrecognizable to our bodies. The animals raised for consumption today are a far cry from their wild ancestors. They're genetically modified, injected and medicated to a point that our bodies struggle to even digest them. The disconnection between modern animal agriculture and the human body is really an entire topic of its own.
Humanity has outgrown the limitations of the past. We’ve embraced an era where our knowledge of nutrition and ethics has surpassed the stories of our ancestors. We have access to lentils, unmodified grains, plants, and fruits, allowing us to tread gently on the Earth while deeply nourishing our bodies.
You may be wondering about meat from the cow down the street or raw milk from a local dairy. The truth is we don’t need these foods to thrive. In fact, we thrive best without them.
So often plant-based or vegan diets are visualized to be full of processed foods and fake meats. But this is not the plant-based lifestyle my family practices. Instead, we focus on whole, nutrient-rich foods sourced directly from nature. We prioritize a variety of vibrant fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds, creating diverse and delicious meals from these wholesome ingredients. Our approach is not just about what we exclude but about embracing the abundance of plant-based options available. From colorful salads bursting with flavors to hearty grain bowls, we savor the variety and nourishment that nature provides. We are absolutely not missing out.
But what about protein? And calcium and vitamin B12? What about folic acid, iron, choline and omegas?
When you focus on nourishing your body, especially while nurturing a balanced microbiome, it is effortless to get all the nutrients we need.
You may be feeling triggered and challenged. This is okay. This is the process of expanding.
And because my sole focus on this podcast and in my business ōNLē ORGANICS is about microbiome health, you may also be wondering if you need to be plant-based to heal your microbiome.
Adopting a plant-based diet can significantly benefit your microbiome health. The diverse range of fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds found in plant-based foods act as prebiotics, nourishing the beneficial bacteria in your gut. By contrast, animal products are inflammatory, feed the bad bacteria, and can raise the risk of many serious diseases, BUT. I understand that not everyone is going to become plant-based so it isn’t a matter of if you aren’t going to be plant-based you shouldn’t even try. Not at all. Start where you are. Do the Women’s and Children’s Gut Rebalance Kits and meet yourself where you are. Don’t set yourself up by creating barriers. Plant-based or not, your microbiome can be greatly benefited by supplementing.
In the end, it’s not just about what we eat but how we choose to live and coexist with our planet. It is about learning all we can and making decisions based on intention over convenience. Please leave a comment and let me know your thoughts on this episode. If it resonates with enough people and you want to learn more about the HOW of raising a plant-based family please let me know and I will gladly record an episode.