Our everyday eating habits are dominated by two powerful forces – craving and convenience, brought about by the industrialization of the food industry. Thanks to factory farms, our food is now being made faster, cheaper and more abundant. For malnourished societies, this is a godsend. We can now feed more people on our planet. But with this victory comes a price: our dependence on this system has created atrocious harm to the planet, and adversely affected our ability to taste and enjoy real, healthful food.
As described in his essay, “How to Escape The Pleasure Trap“, Dr. Alan Goldhamer explains how our desires for food are dictated by the high amounts of sugar, salt and fats (including oils) in everyday American meals and snacks. He states, “In just the past two decades, our caloric intake has slowly escalated by 650 calories per person, per day,” due largely in part to the high amounts of fat that are now found in animal products. Before industrialization took over the food industry, meat would contain an average of 15 percent fat. Nowadays, it can be upwards of 50 percent fat.
Food: Overcoming the Obstacles
Studies are showing that it often takes two to three weeks for a person’s tastes to change. The first hurdle is getting past the instinctive hand reaching for the candy bowl (or chip bowl or extra serving of meatballs). It is taking a deep breath and asking yourself if this is really what your body needs (or truly wants). Maybe you are just really bored. Drink a glass of water and see if you still feel hungry.
Stepping away from a meat-centered diet is the same kind of ritual. It is learning to find a new way of thinking about food. Craving no longer dictates your choices; your mind does. The smell of bacon, although enticing out of habit, is much easier to resist once you have found something much more important. Your belief in a cruelty-free world will always outweigh the desire for a few seconds of pleasure.
Food: Committing to Change
It does take genuine passion and dedication to become a lifelong vegetarian or vegan. When someone says removing meat from their diet would be difficult, they are usually right. It is a challenge to break a habit, especially one that is practiced by billions of people around the world. Meat or animal byproducts are in just about every recipe on just about every menu. But like any discipline, practice and repetition are the keys to success. After you have trained your mind, a vegan lifestyle will be easy and extremely fulfilling.
Once you have become dedicated to the cause, choosing a vegetable entree over a meat one is easy. You do not think twice about it anymore. Those who choose to be vegetarian to lose weight, start a detox, or as a spontaneous trend are less likely to become – or stay – committed. These reasons are perfectly valid for beginning a plant-based diet (even a week of being vegetarian is better than nothing!). However, the ones who stick with it are the ones who tell you that they realized it was a lot more than the food on the plate. It reaches into the consequences of that decision and how they affect the planet.