Over the course of my adult life, five books have completely changed me, giving me new perspectives, a healthier lifestyle (directly resulting in feeling (a lot) better) and a good chance at living longer. Here are the highlights of those books listed in order of which I read them on my journey and who, in my opinion, they are best suited for.
Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin (for those who care about the animals) When people find out I’m vegetarian they always ask two questions: why did you go vegetarian and what do you eat? The first answer is simple: It was an accident! I was working as a spa coordinator and one of the reps from a product line that we carried came in and said she had gone vegan. I asked “Why?!” with slight horror at the thought. I could not fathom why anyone would do such a thing! She said she had read a book and now she can’t even think about eating it. “That would never happen to me!”, I laughed. She dared me to read it and continue eating meat and dairy. I accepted her challenge stating “I’ll read your book, but my favorite meal is filet mignon with mac and cheese so I’m pretty sure I’ll still be eating meat and dairy by Monday.” I read through the pages like a best selling suspense novel only putting it down long enough to sleep and grab something to eat. The author was hilarious, to the point and had a mouth like a sailor (my kind of gal). Her descriptions of what happens on commercial farms and slaughter houses were extremely vivid. Infected pus from the overworked teats of a cow dripping directly in the milk container and the way she called a spade a spade or more specifically the fleshy muscle fibers of pigs instead of ribs or bacon were things I had never even thought of or thought that way about. I was disgusted. I also felt naive that I only viewed meat products the way they are packaged in the grocery store never really giving any thought to how it got there or the animals that they came from. I was vegan by Monday. A side note to answer question two: I felt very limited in the beginning of my vegan journey. Now that my plate didn’t consist of a meat, starch and a veggie I wasn’t sure what to eat. After a ton of experimenting I now feel the opposite. I walk into the grocery store feeling like I was so limited before and now there are a ton of options even more than before. Let Pinterest be your guide!
The China Study by T. Colin Campbell PhD (for those who want scientific research, evidence based findings and like looking at charts and graphs) After going vegan for a year and then switching to vegetarian (I still wanted to consume honey and I did indulge my cheese cravings occasionally while out to eat) I found that when I told people about reading Skinny Bitch most of them seemed not to really care about the animals welfare enough to change their eating habits. Some viewed animals existence as food for the human race while others just simply said it tasted too good not to have. Totally understandable. No one here is denying the unbeatable flavor of pig flesh, I mean bacon. I also thought to sustain this new way of living for the long haul I would probably need more of a reason to abstain from eating meat and dairy as well. Enter The China Study. The China Study is the largest human study ever completed researching the link between diet and disease. The book reads more like a research paper than a novel, but for those seeking facts this is for you. They find fairly early on in the book that there is a 100 percent direct correlation between consuming dairy products and the growth of cancer cells. 100 percent. The book continues on making the connection between meat and dairy with heart disease and diabetes, the leading causes of death among Americans. My brother in-law read the book after I was talking about it and ended up going vegan for a time and now shares the same vegetarian habits as I do. This is the same person who “baaa’d” at me while waving a lamb chop in my face the year prior. He was certainly one of the last people I thought would turn vegan. He later shared that he met someone who was diagnosed with stage four cancer given four months to live who adopted the China Study habits and is still here, cancer free, six years later. He said it was thought provoking to read the book, but to actually meet a living example of what happens when you implement these ideas was life changing. He was hooked.
Meat Is For Pussies by John Joseph (for the dudes in your life that need you to give it to them straight) Even after I read Skinny Bitch and The China Study I still couldn’t sway my husband. He didn’t care that much about the animals and The China Study was a really long book and he’s not much of a reader. I bought him Meat Is For Pussies because it’s a short funny read and I am really subtle. It sat on our coffee table for over a year before he started it. The book is direct and funny combining both animal welfare and what meat and dairy does to your body. One day after reading a few chapters (that I might have read a few lines out loud from) he started ordering vegetarian or fish when we went out to eat. I took notice and he said he was fine not eating meat anymore. I chalked it up to possibly being a phase, until one day he went to a business dinner and ordered a steak. He came home and the entire next day told me how much he regretted it because of how it made him feel and that it wasn’t even tasting worth it anymore. Color me shocked.
The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan (for those who don’t really know where they lie between animal welfare and the affects of meat and diary on the body as well as those wanting an inside look at how the food on your plate gets there) New York Times bestselling author, top ten books to read of 2006 and on Time’s list of the 100 books you should read in your lifetime, The Omnivore’s Dilemma is a must have. Wanting to know how his food got on his plate, Pollan goes on a wild goose chase, no pun intended, looking for answers. The questions he poses to others and himself are insightful and what he finds will surprise you! Reconfirming my thought that you vote with your dollar every single time you are at the grocery store this was another angle that gives me further motivation to keep going down the rabbit hole and questioning the practice of commercial (government) agriculture and the affects it has on the world we live in.
How Not To Die by Dr. Michael Greger, M.D. founder of NutritionFacts.org (for those wanting purely evidence based studies of the affects both meat and dairy (short and longterm) have on the body) This is my most recent read and possibly my favorite. Dr. Greger’s sarcasm drips with every sentence discussing how we can eat our way out of the grave and into living a longer, better life. Being a mom of a son who has Autism, my mission is simple: Don’t die…ever. Totally realistic I know, but I’m certain I share the same sentiment with most other special needs parents that we feel the need to live longer than our children however impossible this seems. The title is a large part of the reason I picked up this book in the first place. I love how the book is laid out so you can really just flip to the chapter you want to read about. Broken into two parts and then sub divided into the top 15 leading causes of death among Americans, the book is easy to pass to anyone concerned about any of those ailments from heart disease to Parkinson’s. Once you read one chapter it compels you to read the rest. He presents studies that once changes in the diet have been made, positive results are present in as little as hours! Although similar, I like this book better than The China Study because of the ease to read and Dr. Greger’s sarcastic personality that gets you laughing out loud, but I will note that it still would have taken reading something as jarring as Skinny Bitch to kick start me on this journey in the first place.
I hope this makes you want to read at least one of these great books and I’d love to hear your thoughts after you do! Here’s to your health! Happy reading!