Elise Rome

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Elise Rome

Since the beginning of 2012, when I watched the food documentary Forks Over Knives, my beliefs about food have changed. I have become almost as passionate about whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables as I am about romance novels. (I can’t believe it, either!) If you haven’t seen it yet, Forks Over Knives is a documentary based upon the science of why a whole foods, plant-based diet is best for you, and how the typical American diet is killing us (or, if you eat a diet similar to the typical American diet, which includes lots of meat and dairy and processed foods). (Note: Did you know that the acronym for the standard American diet is SAD?) Anyway, I digress.

I was born and raised in East Texas, where meat is the center of every meal, and a meal without meat just doesn’t seem right. It’s not normal. In fact, after watching Forks Over Knives in February, when I told my dad that I was becoming a vegan, he laughed. Not in a mean way, just in a that’s-such-a-ludicrous-idea-that-anyone-would-want-to-give-up-meat-and-dairy way. =) He also said something to the effect that “he meant to enjoy his life”; i.e. a life without meat and dairy would be no life at all.

I never met one vegan or vegetarian in East Texas. There may have been some out there, but if they were, it’s possible they were keeping it a secret from all the rest of us. Again, such a lifestyle just isn’t considered sane. It’s not about people wanting to hurt animals by eating them. It’s just an entirely different culture.

So as I sat down to watch Forks Over Knives with my husband in February, I never thought that I would come out on the other side with the intention of becoming a vegan. I’d already seen Food, Inc. (also recommended; a documentary about modern farming/food industry practices) when it came out, and although I hated what I saw, there didn’t seem to be enough of a personal application to make me motivated to do anything. I definitely can’t say the same thing about Forks Over Knives (henceforth FOK).

I’m not going to quote the documentary or book itself (I’m giving away a couple of copies of the book today so you can read it for yourself, or you can visit the website here), but some of the things that stuck out to me were:

1) The protein in cow’s milk promotes cancer cells (we’ve switched to Silk Soy Milk since April 1st and haven’t gone back)

2) The standard American consumes too much protein through a meat diet; the excess protein leaches calcium from our bones, which can cause osteoporosis (so much for milk’s preventative qualities)

3) Consuming dairy and meat products can lead to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer (among other diseases), whereas eating a whole foods, plant-based diet can reverse these (yes, sometimes even cancer!)

These are just a few of the reasons why I decided to become a vegan after watching this film. Now for my journey.

For two months I ate no meat, although I did continue drinking milk. Then I went back to eating meat because, since my husband cooks most of the meals in our household (I know, how lucky am I??), I was basically eating “sides” the entire time. I felt a little discouraged, but I was on a schedule where it made more sense for him to cook at the time. (Note: Although my husband was affected by the film, it hasn’t meant as much to him as it did to me.) Then we cut out milk entirely for our household, and only drink soy milk now. I still believe in the reasons why I made this decision to begin with, though, so I’ve been collecting some amazing vegan cookbooks and recipes from the Internet. My husband has agreed to let me be the cook for an entire month (in September), and I’m excited to discover together how delicious vegan foods can be. (I plan on keeping a record of my recommendations.) In the meantime, I’ve been focusing on eating more plants, whole grains, and beans, and reducing my consumption of cheese (still haven’t given that up) and meats.

As you can see, my conversion from a meat-eater hasn’t happened overnight, and I’m okay with this. After all, I’ve been eating one way for all of my life, and I don’t want to set myself up for failure. My goal right now is to be completely vegan by the beginning of 2013. The most important thing to me–while I can appreciate the environmental impacts of certain lifestyles–is how eating this way vs. the Standard American Diet will affect my health, my daughters’ health, and hopefully my husband’s health. “Diet” has become synonymous in our culture with something you go on for a few days, weeks, or months in order to lose weight. While it would be nice to lose weight–I’m not going to lie–that’s not the purpose of this. Unlike my dad, I want to enjoy life AND be healthy. There are too many people in my family who “live to eat”; I want to be the first one who “eats to live.”

Here’s the thing, though. I know that what I say isn’t going to make one heck of a difference to you without you seeing the documentary or reading the book and coming to your own conclusions. I’m not trying to get on any pedestal, social or political, but I’m passionate enough about this to want to share it with you, just as I’d want to share any fantastic romance novel. Just as I know that not every reader will enjoy the same book, I know that not every viewer/reader of FOK will get the same from it (but I’m hoping you’ll at least find the knowledge useful). I’m giving away two copies of the FOK book today (winners to be announced on Sunday), either digital or paperback (winner’s choice), and the giveaway is open to international readers.

And if you have Netflix, FOK the documentary is streaming right now. Believe me, it’s worth the watch.

Have you seen the Forks Over Knives documentary or read the book? What did you think? If you haven’t seen or read FOK, does the culture where you’re from think that not eating meat or dairy is crazy, too?


20 thoughts on “The Conversion of a Meat-Eater

  1. Connie Fischer says:

    Hi, Elise! No, I haven’t watched FOK, but my husband and I have always tried to eat a good diet. We add lots of grains and beans. Black beans are my favorite and Bush’s canned, low sodium ones are the best. Quinoa is a fabulous grain and so very versatile. I recently found a new thing at Costco called truRoots Sprouted Rice and Quinoa Blend with brown rice, germinated red rice and wild rice. It’s delicious and one can add some sliced almonds and dried fruit like apricots and/or raisins. I admit that I have not given up all meats or fish but we eat less of it and try to go for organic. Just teaching your children at a young age how to eat right is one of the best things you can do for them and for yourself. Congratulations!!

    1. Elise Rome says:

      Wow, Connie, you’re making me salivate over here, lol. =D I’ve been meaning to try quinoa for a while and a few recipes–that’s one of the ones I’m really excited about trying. I have to admit that besides my health, one of my main motivations for eating this way is to, like you said, set up our kids to eat healthfully and be healthy for their lives. Thanks for visiting with me today! =)

  2. catslady says:

    I’ve thought about it but I’ve always said I’m too lazy – for one I’d still have to cook meat for some of the others in my family and I know I’d have to come up with a lot more new recipes. My nephew has been a vegetarian for almost 30 yrs. and my sister for 15 or 20 so for large family gatherings we always plan for them but in smaller get togethers it can make things more complicated. I do cook a lot of vegetables and never deep fry anything and rarely even fry foods. We don’t have meat at every meal. I’ve cut back on processed foods and haven’t had milk for over 15 years. I enjoy whole grains but my husband is stubborn so I usually give in. And fast food is no longer something we do although we do take out sometimes. I think it’s the cruelity of the animals that bothers me the most.

    1. Elise Rome says:

      Hi catslady! It sounds like you’re already doing so much more than the standard American! I know what you mean about cooking for others. I’ve been on the other end, where my in-laws have to figure out what to cook for me; I usually just volunteer to bring something over. As for my family, my husband is very supportive (thankfully!) and has said he’ll just cook something for himself if he doesn’t want what me and the girls are having. It’s nice for us, but I know there are a lot of families where the husband is still dependent on eating whatever the wife cooks (my stepdad is the same way).

      1. Connie Fischer says:

        I always enjoy chatting with you, Elise! Congratulations on being such a good parent.

        1. Elise Rome says:

          Same here, Connie. =) And lol, thanks so much–trying to be a good one!

  3. Karen H in NC says:

    I’ve got the film in my Netflix queue and just moved it to the top and no, I haven’t read the book either. I’ve been watching lots of food related documentaries lately and it has changed a little in how I eat. I will never make a good vegan. I’m not interested in giving up meat. That said, I do try hard to consume only non-certified organic or organic grass-fed beef. I don’t agree with all the added hormones and antibiotics added to our meats. I try to buy more organic fruits and vegetables whenever possible. I belong to a home delivery food service where all the products are locally grown, within 100 miles of my home and are organic for the most part.

    I still use processed foods in the form of frozen entrees mainly because I am a single person and while I can cook, eat and freeze leftovers, it still cheaper, and easier, to buy the smaller frozen entrees offering me a wider variety of items. I do try to limit them to dinner only and I’m trying to reduce the number of entrees I use in a week.

    I am a firm believer in all things in moderation and portion control. I don’t always live by my own advise and therein lies my weight problem! But, I’m working on it. I’ll get there eventually.

    1. Elise Rome says:

      Hi Karen! =) It sounds like you’re making some great decisions already! I know what you mean about the difficulty of giving up meat (or the desire not to). I’ve thought about just giving myself a once-a-week freebie day to eat whatever I want, but to be honest I’m such an all-or-nothing person that it motivates me more to NOT do that. Of course, there will probably be times when I’m a little lax on other things. There are a couple of CSAs close to my house, too, and it’s something I really want to do next year. Wasn’t able to this summer, but I’d love to support local farmers–plus, I heard the food tastes better, too!

  4. Fedora says:

    Haven’t seen this yet–thanks for the recommendation. Did read Fast Food Nation years ago, and that made us rethink our eating habits for sure. I did spend a year or so as a vegetarian in college, and it was incredibly hard. I am not sure I could ever go completely vegan, although these days, it is far easier since there is a much wider range of vegan products available, far more easily. I am not sure I feel the need to become vegan or even vegetarian, but I do believe we can/should eat less meat and up our intake of less processed foods. It’s not an easy change, especially with the proliferation of convenience foods!

    1. Elise Rome says:

      Hi Fedora! =) I agree that it’s definitely not easy, although you should check out some of the recipes on the Internet now–they’re amazing! =) I think the most important thing is simply for people to be educated–and not just by one source. If someone told me to become vegan because it would be healthier for me, there’d be a very little chance I’d pay any attention to them. But hearing/seeing the information for myself and coming to my own conclusions is something entirely different, and that’s what I would hope for others. My husband told me today he saw a statistic recently that there are 7 million Americans who currently have diabetes and have no idea that they do. While that statistic is horrifying, to me that is just a symptom of the health issues the USA is facing.

  5. Kanriah says:

    I’ve never seen it but the things you mention are intriguing. I’ve heard a few things here & there but all reasons to not eat milk/dairy have always been about animal welfare etc. I think I will take a look at that show this weekend if I can or see if my library carries the book. I’m sure my husband will be fascinated since he’s long been a believer that too much dairy (something I drink/eat a Lot of) isn’t good for me.

    Thanks for the recommendation. I’d love to win a copy but I believer I’ll look into it either way.

    1. Elise Rome says:

      Hi Kanriah! Thanks so much for visiting with me today! It’s been a NYT Bestseller, so even if you don’t win (good luck!), you should be able to find a copy at your library. Before this, I was the same way about milk. It was my comfort drink, my go-to drink. In fact, I remember when I was a child and I told my mom that I had a “milk headache” because I hadn’t had milk for a few hours. I delayed quitting milk for a couple of months, but I’ve been surprised by how I really haven’t missed it. Hope you enjoy the book/movie!

  6. Shana Shana says:

    Very cool! As you know, I’m a vegetarian and have been for years. It is so much healthier and after awhile it becomes second-nature. Go, Elise! Do people think I’m crazy? Not anymore. I got a lot of that when I was younger, but it’s become much more common and accepted.

    1. Elise Rome says:

      Hi Shana! =) Thanks for your support! I’ve heard that a lot of people have become vegetarians or vegans after watching FOK, so I bet you have a lot of company even in Texas now. I’m glad to hear it’s changing. =) We’ll have to get together sometime and exchange recipes!

  7. Larisa says:

    I haven’t read FOK, but other food documentaries have made me very grateful for eveloping food allergies to dairy, then gluten, then corn in the 1990′s shifted my diet to a whole organic foods. Those allergies basically deleted all packaged products, fast foods and chain restaurants from my life. I eat vegan five days a week and have a meal with meat from hunter friends the other two days a week. Hard to beat elk and venison as organic, free-range.

    Growing up in a meat-potatoes-veggies with a glass of milk environment made older relatives very skeptical of my food allergies (even with anaphylaxis) and still completely unwilling to eat anything different.

    Creating meals, and desserts especially, that are so delicious-decadent that people don’t realize they are gluten-corn-dairy free is one of passions.

    Plus vegan dark chocolate is amazing, beyond all premium brands. http://www.sweetearthchocolates.com/ 65% bittersweet chocolate chips make crazy-good chocolate chip cookies!

    The Flexitarian Table is the best cookbook I’ve found for families of mingled vegans & omnivores.

    Enjoy your food adventure!

  8. Larisa says:

    Forgot: Water Course Foods restaurant in Denver. *Divine* Esp their Scout Cookies.

  9. Elise Rome says:

    Hi Larisa! Thank you for the awesome recommendations! I’m looking forward to all three. =) And I just recently realized that there was a Native Foods restaurant in Boulder–can’t wait to try that one out! It’s amazing to me how much of our illnesses have to do with the food we eat. On the other hand, it seems so simple that we should have this figured out by now. =) I’ve always been more inclined to wait out an illness rather than take medication (I attribute that to pure stubbornness), but now I think I’m going to try to start treating illnesses with nutrition–and avoiding certain foods, like you’re doing–to see if that helps. =) Thanks for commenting!!

  10. Elise Rome says:

    Also, congrats to the random winners, Connie Fischer and catslady! The official announcement will go up later today, but I wanted to let you guys know who won. =) Thanks to everyone for commenting!

  11. catslady says:

    Thanks so much, Elise, and congrats Connie. I am sure this is going to be very helpful :)

  12. Connie Fischer says:

    Thank you so much, Elise! I know that I will thoroughly enjoy this book. We all need to improve our eating habits and this is going to be a great help!

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