Let’s start with a riddle:

A heavy-set man walks in to his doctor’s office carrying a bucket-o-chicken in one hand, and a Mountain Dew in the other. He has high cholesterol, high blood pressure, poor circulation and eczema. He walks out with prescriptions for a statin, diuretic, a beta blocker and an anti-inflammatory cream. A sample of Viagra is included as he is cleared for sexual activity. Exercise and dietary changes are recommended.

Find the elephant in the room.

For two and a half years, I have been completely vegan. And as I continue to discover new ways to clean up my diet and lifestyle, I literally feel better every day. Sure, there is the stress of four kids and all the laundry that goes with ’em to occasionally get me down, but I am happier and healthier than I’ve EVER been. In my life. True Story. And I expect the upward momentum to continue. I live well because I eat well.

Learning to live this way takes effort, but it gets easier. And it is so much easier than living with the discomfort, disorders and diseases that so many people blindly accept as the downside of being human. Once you realize that the way you feel and even look is a mostly a choice, it’s no longer about saying “no” to meat and cheese. It’s about saying “yes” to life!

And really, the only reason being vegan is difficult in the beginning is because it’s different from the norm. Rejecting the same food everyone else is eating makes other people anxious. It highlights the fact that indeed, there are choices and options available. Justifying the hotdog and French fries with “Darn! That’s all they have…” gets uncomfortable when placed next to a home-cooked meal packed with veggies.

You will quickly find that others take your food choices very personally. And bullies are bigger and bossier in the adult cafeteria than any middle school locker room. It takes thick skin to learn to stand your ground. And it takes a monumental effort to STOP APOLOGIZING for eating in a healthy and environmentally responsible way. And it’s damn near impossible to insist your kids not be handed foods filled with sugar and spice and absolutely NOTHING that’s nice at every turn of their day.

It’s time to connect the dots. There is mounting scientific evidence that a lifestyle based on high quality, plant-based foods can prevent, treat and reverse many major diseases. There is equal evidence that meat, dairy and egg consumption increase risk for disease. And processed and packaged foods filled with chemicals, whether “vegan” or not, are simply slow poison all around! (Can’t give up animal products? Fine. Reduce consumption and just give up boxed and bagged food—you’ll still be way ahead of the game. Pretzels, canned fruit and diet dairy products are NOT health foods!)

People in our society would prefer to take pills with side effects, blindly exchanging one problem for another, than put down the chicken wings and Diet Coke and learn to like vegetables. Because it’s work. And we’re busy. So we look to our physicians to fix us, to find that magical combination of medication that can counter what we eat and how we live. And maybe it will for a while. Pills can ease symptoms; they can’t, however, cure disease. In the end, we’re robbing Peter to pay Paul. And if we don’t find the source of the problem and fix the root cause, the consequences will only compound like the balance a credit card we don’t pay in full.

We naturally gravitate towards people who reinforce our beliefs. And the more friends that you have, the more birthday cake to which you’re entitled. It’s the herd mentality. Primitive instinct prompts us to seek safety in numbers, hence the two-hour wait at Outback Steakhouse and long lines at concessions.

If we all do it, then it’s ok, right?

Failure to accept the truth doesn’t negate it’s effect. Eat well, live well.

Wake up.

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