What Does Vegetarianism mean in 2020
I’ve said that in the last 20 years there has been an upsurge in vegetarianism in the US. In this instance, our country is getting in touch with the rest of the world, where a plant-based diet is often the norm. There are a whole lot of people out there who do not eat animal flesh and therefore are technically vegetarians, but they don’t live anything resembling a healthy vegetarian lifestyle.
If you live on bread, pasta, French fries, and ketchup, then yes, you’re technically a vegetarian—one who will certainly develop a host of health issues as you age. To eat a vegetarian diet does NOT automatically mean that your diet is a healthy one, and that is NOT the brand of vegetarianism we are promoting in this book. Healthy vegetarian eating means getting the host of nutrients that your body needs into your body.
This is the first step, after elimination. To do this, you need to eat the full range of fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, seeds, and nuts available to you. Some might eschew peanuts and pistachios, for example, because of their acidic pH, but that is another discussion.
And as long as these people are eating other nuts, they’re fine. As an example of a population of people that eats a vegetarian diet that is primarily an unhealthy one, take India, which contains over 1.2 billion people (roughly 17% of the world’s population).38 The number of Indians who are thought to be vegetarian ranges from 20 to 42%.39 The Indian society is, perhaps, the largest collective of vegetarians on the planet today because of their native religion of Hinduism, which deems the cow as a holy animal and therefore not to be eaten.
While these numbers and ones we would find in other less-developed nations dwarf those in industrialized nations, even in the latter the number of vegetarians is growing. A 2000 Zogby poll found that 2.5% of Americans were vegetarian, while a 2003 Harris poll put the figure at 2.8%.40 Today, a reported 16 million Americans are vegetarians or vegans, which is about 5% of the population. You will see studies later on in the book that speak about the number of “vegetarians” who do consume meat from time to time.
However, my optimism about the growth of this movement is hardly dampened by this. Americans are now starting to get the message: If you want to decrease your risk of developing any one of the so-called “lifestyle” diseases (heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, etc.), eat a plant-based diet; you will begin reaping the benefits almost instantly.
As the number of vegetarians grows in the West, so does a vegetarian support system, including restaurants offering gourmet vegetarian entrees, meatless cookbooks, even radio shows and magazines produced specifically for vegetarians. Plus, dieticians across the nation are now increasing their support in rising numbers.
From these facts alone, we can glean that eating a plant-based diet will only continue to increase in popularity. We’ve even invented other names for people partially on the path, such as “flexitarian.” This, indeed, is a sign that our population is becoming more aware of the benefit of a plant-based lifestyle and desire to be a part of it.
Still, there is a lot of confusion about what it means to be a healthy vegetarian, let alone what it means to lead a healthy lifestyle, all of which will be addressed within the pages of this book. First, we will take a look at the physical component.
It is, perhaps, the easiest and quickest way to become healthier and more vital. I have seen this first-hand in coaching people for decades. When you give the body the essential nutrients it needs to function well, through foods that it can readily assimilate, you will be surprised and maybe even shocked about what is possible for you, in terms of healing symptoms, improving sleep, gaining vital energy, promoting positive thinking and emotional balance, and feeling alive and well in general.
The body is incredibly resourceful and responds rapidly to good, properly applied nutrition. Some people realize significant benefits in their bodies in as little as three weeks.
After we address the physical aspect of health and healing, I will be spending time in the last two chapters of this section addressing the mental, emotional, and spiritual components of wellness.
The American Psychological Association reported that studies show that your mind and your body are strongly linked. As your mental health declines, your physical health can wear down, and if your physical health can wear down, it can make you feel mental “down.”41 Along the same lines, Professor David Goldberg of the Institute of Psychiatry, London, UK, reported that the rate of depression in patients with a chronic disease is almost three times higher than normal.
To support the importance of this aspect of health, I turn to the APA, once again. This time, the study, led by author Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D., of the University of California, Riverside, upended assumptions that success makes people happy. Instead, the study found that happiness leads to success via positive emotions.
The report notes: …happiness does lead to behaviors that often produce further success in work, relationships, and health, and these successes result in part from a person’s positive affect.He explains, “Depression and chronic physical illness are in a reciprocal relationship with one another: not only do many chronic illnesses cause higher rates of depression, but depression has been shown to antedate some chronic physical illnesses.”42
Furthermore… a person’s well-being is associated with positive perceptions of self and others, sociability, creativity, prosocial behavior, a strong immune system, and effective coping skills, and… that happy people are capable of experiencing sadness and negative emotions in response to negative events, which is a healthy and appropriate response.
Much of the previous research on happiness presupposed that happiness followed from success and accomplishments in life, said the authors. “We found that this isn’t always true.” Positive affect is one attribute among several that can lead to success-oriented behaviors.
Other resources, such as intelligence, family, expertise and physical fitness, can also play a role in people’s successes… and happy individuals are more likely than their less happy peers to have fulfilling marriages and relationships, high incomes, superior work performance, community involvement, robust health and even a long life.43 It is important to note from the above studies that all of them speak about some aspect of physical health.
So, as we bring wholeness to our personal experience, we build on our opportunity to affect the health of those closest to us, perhaps others around the globe, and the planet at large.
To this end, we will start first by asking ourselves: how do we heal the physical body? Once we detail the answers to this, we will discuss emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being within the context of the vegetarian lifestyle, and how to put that to work in your life for the greater good of humanity and the planet.
The blog comes to you from a piece of Dr. Gary Null's book Saving The Planet One Bite at a Time. You can order it now below.
- James Robinson