For me, the choice to become vegetarian was simple. It really came down to two things: my health, and the health of the environment.
In all honesty, the documentary Cowspiracy made a huge impression on me. And no, it's not a video about cows being brutally slaughtered on factory farms! Cowspiracy is actually a very uplifting film, and it gave me hope and motivation. Finally, after years of learning about climate change from public school and throughout my undergraduate degree in biology... finally I felt like there was something I could do that would actually make a huge impact for the health of our planet.
After I learned about how harsh animal agriculture is to the environment, I felt like I could no longer call myself an environmentalist, and continue to eat meat. It felt contradictory for me. I understood that cutting out animal products from my diet, was the number one best thing could do to make a difference and do my part in preventing environmental disaster.
* I've have been wanting to share this post for a long time now, but I've been hesitant to post it. I don't like to stir up controversy, but I also believe in this lifestyle and have seen first hand the way that nutrition can change lives. Food is medicine! Please do not take offence if you disagree with my point of view, but try to read this with an open heart. This community that I have fostered is all about positive vibes and I only intend to share kindness and positivity. I am not judging anyone who eats meat. We are all on our own journey!*
Here are the facts [from Cowspiracy - view more here] that I just couldn't ignore:
- Animal agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the combined exhaust from all transportation. 
- 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. 
- Livestock is responsible for 65% of all human-related emissions of nitrous oxide – a greenhouse gas with 296 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide, and which stays in the atmosphere for 150 years. 
- Reducing methane emissions would create tangible benefits almost immediately. 
- A person who follows a vegan diet produces the equivalent of 50% less carbon dioxide, uses 1/11th oil, 1/13th water, and 1/18th land compared to a meat-lover for their food. 
If those facts intrigue you - or even if you aren't convinced, be sure to watch Conspiracy. I promise you, it is more uplifting than anything you're imagining, and you'll be left feeling encouraged that the small act of altering your intake of animal products can make a real change in the world. [ You can watch Cowspiracy in full on Netflix! ]
I Went All-In
Like every other decision I've ever made in my life - I did it overnight. I went all-in and never looked back. At the same time I began studying holistic nutrition, and began to learn about the many health benefits of eating a plant-based diet. I am the kind of person who never turns down a chance to support my health + wellness, and this was no exception!
From a Nutritionist's Standpoint
In short: the standard american diet is a recipe for chronic illness. Our society is very centered around convenience & fast foods. Even the foods you buy in the grocery store often come prepared and ready to pop in the microwave.
In contrast: a health vegetarian or vegan diet has been shown to prevent and even reverse many chronic illnesses.
The first question people normally ask me is "how do you get enough protein?" We have been lead to believe by the animal agriculture industry that we need animal protein (lots of it) for a well balanced diet. What I would like to point out is that too much protein is not good for you. Excess animal protein can contribute to heart disease, stroke, colorectal cancer, osteoporosis.... Where as protein-rich plant foods provide the body with protective phytochemicals that are not found in meat!
A well designed vegetarian diet can easily provide sufficient amounts of protein, and lower (but adequate) protein levels actually be advantageous. The RDA for protein is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (g/kg) - for vegetarians and meat eaters alike. Vegetarians can easily achieve this by including a variety of legumes, beans, nuts & seeds, quinoa, chia seeds, spirulina... the list goes on! The best way is to focus on eating unprocessed, plant based whole foods. With this attitude towards nutrition, it is easy to thrive on a vegan or vegetarian diet without going out of your way looking for protein sources. It has a lot to do with simply becoming more mindful of your diet.
I have personally met so many people who have reversed chronic conditions by turning to a vegetarian or vegan diet. These are people who were raised on meat and potatoes! I thought to myself "If they can do it, so can I"... and so I took a leap and went for it.
I'm not saying that everyone has to become vegetarian or vegan overnight. Not at all! I'm saying that if you slowly begin reducing your intake of meat and animal products; not only will you see a drastic change in your health, but you will also be doing the planet a huge favour. I have been eating a vegetarian diet for 2 years now, and am currently working towards vegan. It's all part of the process! For more inspiration on how eating a plant based diet can change your health, check out www.forksoverknives.com, or watch Forks Over Knives on Netflix.
I don't miss it.
Honestly! I don't. Vegetables have taken on a whole new life and flavour to me & I could eat beans every day. Eating plant based is such a great opportunity to open up and try new recipes. There are SO many amazing resources right now for healthy, plant based cooking. Here is a list of some of my favourite plant based food blogs:
 "Livestock's Long Shadow: environmental issues and options". Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Rome 2006
 Hyner, Christopher. "A Leading Cause of Everything: One Industry That Is Destroying Our Planet and Our Ability to Thrive on It". Georgetown Environmental Law Review. October 23, 2015.
 "Emissions of Greenhouse Gases in the United States". U.S. Energy Information Administration. March 31, 2011
 "Industry Leaders, including Energy Companies, Forge Partnerships to Advance Climate Solutions and Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants". Climate Summit 2014.
 Scarborough, Peter, et al. "Dietary greenhouse gas emissions of meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians and vegans in the UK". Climactic Change July 2014., Volume 125, Issue 2, pp 179-192
Gail D West says
Great, inspiring information Jasmine, thank you!
Jasmine Ouellette says
Thank you Gail! Knew you'd like this one. 🙂