When I went vegetarian for the first time for any real length of time, it was March 1, 1994. I was 24 years old, and doing so was an accomplishment for someone who thought he had no discipline about food choices. But for 3 years, 11 months and 9 days, I was a very faithful and strict vegetarian. One of the biggest regrets of my youth was giving up my vegetarian diet in 1998.
When I look back as to why I gave it up, it had to do mainly with my health. To be blunt, I wasn’t feeling well, and I blamed my diet. My blame was partly true. It WAS my diet, but it was not my vegetarianism per se, I now realize, that was making me sick. It was all the cheese and dairy I had been using to replace the meat I had given up in 1994. But in 1998, I was still under the impression that dairy was not a bad thing.
Sadly, if I thought I wasn’t feeling well in 1998, I had no idea what was in store for me. Four years later, of course, came my cancer diagnosis. I do believe my diet had something to do with my cancer. But those realizations would only come much later, after much more trial and error.
Over the years I would go back to be a vegetarian, following the same patterns: give up meat, eat more cheese and dairy. Ethically, I still did not think that eating dairy was an issue. I was still living under the impression that cows needed milking, so partaking of milk and cheese certainly doesn’t hurt them. And, although I always felt slightly better as a vegetarian than as a meat-eater, I still believed that any issues with my health had little to do with my diet.
Three years ago I decided finally to give up meat for good, after several years of struggle. Meat was just no longer tasting good for me. I found myself suffering minor bouts of food poising (or suffering from symptoms like food poisoning) more and more often. And my body just wasn’t able to take it as it used to. So, after coming home from my annual Florida vacation, I had one final chicken burrito (of which I ate only a few bites). That poor chicken was the last meat I have eaten since.
It would take me another nine months or so to finally decide that it was the dairy that was making me feel somewhat rotten. Only then did the whole diet start coming together and my health improved drastically.
But, for now, I celebrate this first step down that road to health. I am thankful for this day and all it holds for me.
The big anniversary, of course, will happen on January 11, 2017, when I will make it past that 3 years, 11 months and 9 days threshold I didn’t make it to in my twenties.