What the Health

Vegetables

Last night, I watched What the Health, a documentary about the state of American health and the American diet. It was well worth watching.

I’ve been a vegetarian for 17 years. I quit eating animals when I discovered how meat was produced in this country; back in the early aughts, the plight of factory-farm animals was still well-hidden and not part of the public conscience. I was completely shocked when I stumbled onto a book at the library and learned all about the abuse that animals suffered, and I realized it was quite hypocritical of me to be a devoted dog lover while also scarfing chicken salad for lunch. I became a vegetarian in a single day.

It shouldn’t be surprising that there are serious health benefits to eliminating animal products from one’s diet (I don’t eat dairy, either…but I do occasionally bake with eggs and cook them.) Or maybe it IS surprising, given the fact that the government is in bed with every single animal-product industry, and even our “health organizations” like the American Diabetes Association promotes the consumption of dairy and meat, even though consumption of each are well-documented via studies to increase a person’s chances for getting diabetes. Just when I thought I couldn’t be stunned, when I thought I’d seen and heard everything, I learned about government “check-off” programs while watching What the Health…the government actually staffs people to get fast food companies (KFC, McDonald’s, all of them) to use more more MORE animal products. This is why we have disgusting creations such as triple-cheese stuffed-crust pizza. And of course, the people at the USDA responsible for making our food pyramids and power plates and all the various recommendations for how Americans should eat? They all come straight from big food and big ag: Coca-Cola, Cargill, McDonald’s, etc.

It’s hard to watch something like this and not feel cynical, because our own government is just as corrupt as any other government we like to look down our noses at. It’s hard to watch this and not feel furious, because the government is helping Americans get sicker and sicker. One in three–ONE IN THREE!–people will be diagnosed with diabetes in the coming decade, and there is simply no reason for that. It is almost laughable that we’re watching a public health crisis unfold right in front of us, and it’s all completely preventable. Americans don’t want to hear what the World Health Organization has said, that their deli turkey and their bacon are Class I carcinogens, as harmful to their health as smoking cigarettes. But the information is right there, and the studies go back as far as fifty years. This shouldn’t even really be news! Except that, once again, it is, thanks to the meat industry and their powerful lobbies.

I am choosing, though, to feel inspired. And to feel grateful that I haven’t eaten meat or most animal products for a good stretch of my life. My children have never eaten meat, and they also (mostly) don’t eat dairy, either. Dairy in particular makes all of us sick with sinus problems, GI problems and skin issues. I’m grateful we don’t eat the suffering of living creatures, because that’s what eating meat means: eating suffering.

This morning, with my husband out of town, the boys and I went up to our farmer’s market and loaded up on peaches, zucchini, crispy almonds and cucumbers. Usually we get a lot more than that, but it was as much as I could handle with a double stroller and two kids in a very crowded market (I saw tomatoes, bell peppers, wax beans and tomatoes that I just couldn’t get to, it was so packed…this is a good thing, I think!). We had a wonderful time in the sunshine, and it felt good to support the same local farmers we see every summer, handing produce they’ve grown right into our hands. And it feels good knowing that we are nourishing our bodies with truly delicious, nutritious food. No suffering required.

Go watch What the Health. Be inspired.

About the Author

Amy Collini is a writer who lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband and two young sons. She's completed a novel, Now is the Hour, and is currently at work on a memoir-in-essays.

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