Who I Am

Annie OliverioAnnie

Website: An Unrefined Vegan
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Like a plane trying to land at O’Hare during a blizzard, I circled veganism for many years before bringing it in for a landing.  My first seemingly unconnected step was to forsake refined (white) sugar and flour.  Then I gave up eating chicken, beef, and pork – thanks to the book by Eric Schlosser called Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal – but I still ate fish, seafood and dairy occasionally.  When I’d encounter the rare vegan (there are reportedly between 1-2% of us out there in the U.S.) I was both puzzled and fascinated.  Puzzled because I couldn’t get my head around the idea of giving up burgers or feta cheese, not to mention milkshakes and gyros – and fascinated about what it really meant to be vegan.  Was it hard?  How could anyone sacrifice so much?  What did a vegan eat?  Could I do it??

The more I read and learned about nutrition and what really works for our bodies, the more I came to understand that eating plant-based was the pathway to optimal health, wellness and fitness.  Not only that, by going vegan, I could give truth to my words, “I love animals.”  Not consuming part of a cow, chicken, pig or fish was the surest way to demonstrate my respect for these beautiful creatures.

The clincher came when my brother was diagnosed with Stage IV Glioblastoma Multiforme, a terminal brain cancer.  I got myself a copy of The China Study by T. Colin Campbell, PhD. and after devouring it was certain that if I could get my brother to give up eating animal products his life – if not saved – would at least be prolonged and the time he had remaining would be enhanced.  I wasn’t able to convince him, but I did clean up my own act.  In a way, I owe my brother for that amazing gift.

I’m now three years in and I will never look back.  The energy, strength, and vitality that I feel thanks to the way that I eat are too dear to give up.  I’ve never felt better nor been more fit in my life.  My goals are to stay out of hospitals, to stay off of medications and to keep running well into my twilight years.

And by the way, I’m still circling.  The way that I eat constantly changes – exploring raw foods, sampling nutrient-dense nuts and seeds, experimenting with different spices and finding new, animal-free and creative ways to enjoy my old favorites.  I seek out the like-minded and learn from them.  There is nothing boring about eating a plant-based diet.

One last thing.  Unlike many folks who have given up eating animal products, I am not afraid to use the words vegan or veganism.  In fact, I get quite a lot of pleasure out of saying those words.  Maybe it’s my contrary nature.  I know that some find those words off-putting or somehow superior-sounding.  Neither is true.

The term plant-based is fine – it’s great, in fact.  But for me, it doesn’t tell the whole story.  For me veganism goes beyond how I eat.  It’s about more than eating healthfully.  Veganism encompasses my love and respect for the living creatures around me, big and small.  It guides me in making decisions that feel right and true, that lessen my impact on the planet and with any luck, helps me to remain humble as just one living being among many.