For the last thirty-two years, I have belonged to one of the smallest minorities in America. I am a vegan 99.9% of the time and even when I’m not a vegan during that 0.1%, I don’t eat red meat, dairy products, chicken or turkey.
Colorado State University reports, “Today, in the United States, there are an estimated 4.9 million people who identify themselves as a vegetarian. … About 1.4% of the US adult population is vegan.”
That means, I am one of about 4.3 million Americans with a vegan lifestyle, which is about equal to the gay population in the US. By contrast, there are 47 million Hispanic/Latinos, more than 37 million Black Americans, and 13.4 million Asian Americans.
There is only one minority smaller than vegans and gays, and that is Native Americans numbering 2.4 million.
Then recently, I left a comment on Glenn Pendlay’s Blog and someone identified as Sarah Balfour called me a fool in a comment, because I am a–rare–vegan.
Sarah’s exact words were, “Lloyd Lofthouse: – you are a fool. A Deluded gullible FOOL! Being vegan – or fruitarian – is one of the unhealthiest lifestyle choices ANYONE can make!”
Is this an example of discrimination of a minority?
There was more to Balfour’s emotional, opinionated rant. If you want to read the comment, click on the link.
However, I wasn’t always an alien vegan. Up to about age 36, I ate the average American diet and was just like every other tubby bear of a fat guy.
I loved HUGE barbequed steaks, giant VW van-sized baked potatoes filled with sour cream, melted cheese with chives, pizza and beer, hamburgers and French fries, washed down with beer, Pepsi or Dr. Pepper (by the liter—the hell with water) followed with cakes, pies, candy, etc.
I was a true, dedicated cheese-head for sure.
Oh, and I loved throwing a big drunk: beer, wine, vodka, gin, whisky, scotch (a mixed drink with Coke or straight with no ice). A week didn’t go by that I wasn’t a dirty skunk of a drunk. The heavy drinking started in 1966 after my combat tour in Vietnam and continued until 1981 when I was forced to confront my inner demons and dominate them or die a painful, early meat eater’s death.
It’s amazing that I never added cigarettes, cigars, and pipe tobacco to my average American lifestyle and why not, even today, it is estimated that more than 43 million American adults smoke including President Barack Obama.
However, my life changed in 1981 when I met a cute vegan—a married, cute vegan with the creamiest, clearest skin I’ve ever wanted to caress and an incredibly pleasant voice—she was always in a good mood and never sick. It was disgusting (not the vegan part or the fact that she never caught a common cold). The disgusting part was that she was married and off limits.
All I wanted to say to her was what Romeo said to Juliet, “Let lips do what hands do.” I never had a chance.
In 1981, before I became a vegan, I stood six-foot-four and weighed 215 pounds and I did not follow an exercise routine. Due to daily headaches, joint pain, shooting pains throughout my body and indigestion after almost every meal, I carried painkillers and anti acids on me at all times.
If I wasn’t drunk, I was in pain.
I was killing myself with my lifestyle choices and I was so ignorant that I didn’t even know I was responsible. To me, since almost everyone I knew lived the same lifestyle, my life was normal.
Prior to converting to veganism, I came down with annual common colds and flu. Then in 1981 when I was working two jobs, teaching English days in a public middle school and working weeknights and weekends at a nightclub-restaurant combination called the Red Onion in West Covina, I worked with an alien vegan.
In my thirties and single, I was a player and a party animal. In fact, among the Red Onion employees, I was known as Disco Lloyd. Alas, those frantic, dirty dancing days are behind me now.
The cute young vegan I worked with never preached about her lifestyle. In fact, I had no idea she was a vegan until the day almost every employee in the restaurant was sick with the same common cold: the cooks, the hosts, the managers, the maître d (me), the bartenders, waitresses… we were all sick except her—an injustice for sure.
I’m sure many meat eaters will crow “fowl”—that isn’t fair.
Late one night, I asked why she with the “perfect skin” was the only employee that didn’t catch “that” common cold we were sharing with all the customers, and she told me it was because she was vegan. At first I thought she was claiming to have come from Venus, but she explained and cleared up my confusion.
Next, she introduced me to her husband, who was raised as a child to be vegan by his parents. Too bad he was such a nice, likable guy. In addition, he had a fourth degree (or higher) black belt in Kung Fu—move over Jackie Chan.
It was Perfect Skin’s husband that taught me what a healthy vegan diet was and guided me through the year-long conversion. During that year, my weight plummeted to 160 pounds and then slowly returned to 180 where it stuck—give or take a pound or two—for the next twenty-three years.
During the conversion, my skin even turned a bit green and then orange—because I was drinking lots of organic carrot juice.
Yes, vegetarian/vegan diets may be unhealthy if an individual does not discover what it means to eat a whole-food vegetarian/vegan diet. Iceberg lettuce salads, carrots, lima beans, ice cream, milk, cake, pie and eggs does not do it.
Colorado State University offers a fact sheet of healthy Vegetarian Diets. If you are interested in converting, I recommend starting there to educate yourself.
That day more than thirty years ago when I decided to give the vegan lifestyle a six-month trial run, I said to my lifestyle conversion coach, “If it doesn’t work, I’m going back to my cheese pizza and beer, hamburger, French fry, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper diet.”
At the time, I believed the vegan lifestyle wouldn’t work and my lifestyle had nothing to do with my pain and health problems, but I thought, what the heck. Give it a try. It can’t hurt.
And, it was only for six months.
Needless to say, converting to veganism worked and I never looked back. The headaches went away. The indigestion vanished. The shooting pains in my body and joints left and have not returned. My energy became more constant without the ups and down that come with a high-sugar, animal-protein diet.
In fact, I haven’t had a common cold or the flu (although I understand that vegans do get colds and the flu) since 1982. I did have a number of sinus infections over the vegan years but those infections were linked to a severe exposure to formaldehyde, one of the top ten carcinogens, in the early 80s that led to sinus surgery—I almost died on the operating table as the doctors carved and scraped inside my head for about three hours.
“After years of delay due to intense pressure from the chemical industry, the government finally added formaldehyde and styrene, two of the world’s most widely used chemicals, to its list of known and probable carcinogens. Formaldehyde is widely used in plywood, particle board, mortuaries and hair salons….” Source: Natural News.com
In addition, have you ever heard of Oprah’s Mad Cowboy, a fourth generation Cattle Rancher that, to save his life, became a vegetarian and gave up—GASP!—meat. If you haven’t, let me introduce you to Howard Lyman. (If you are still a meat eater, you DON’T want to click on this link and “meat” Howard Lyman—You also do not want to watch the following “Mad Cowboy Documentary”.)
WARNING! If you take time to watch this video, the odds say that the way you think of “meat” and “dairy products” will change for the worst.
Regardless of what you might hear from the Sarah Balfours of the world, more than one reputable study proves that vegetarians live longer, healthier lives.
The Huffington Post reported, “The most impressive data arises from a study of 1,904 vegetarians over 21 years by the German Cancer Research Center (Deutsche Krebsforschungszentrum). The study’s shocking results: vegetarian men reduced their risk of early death by 50%! Women vegetarians benefit from a 30% reduction in mortality.”
More recently, medical research has found that a properly balanced vegetarian diet may, in fact, be the healthiest diet. This was demonstrated by the over 11,000 volunteers who participated in the Oxford Vegetarian Study. For a period of 15 years, researchers analyzed the effects a vegetarian diet had on longevity, heart disease, cancer and various other diseases.
The results of the study stunned the vegetarian community as much as it did the meat-producing industry: “Meat eaters are twice as likely to die from heart disease, have a 60 percent greater risk of dying from cancer and a 30 percent higher risk of death from other causes.”
In addition, the incidence of obesity, which is a major risk factor for many diseases, including gallbladder disease, hypertension and adult onset diabetes, is much lower in those following a vegetarian diet. According to a Johns Hopkins University research report on 20 different published studies and national surveys about weight and eating behavior, Americans across all age groups, genders and races are getting fatter. If the trend continues, 75 percent of U.S. adults will be overweight by the year 2015.
The American National Institute of Health, in a study of 50,000 vegetarians, found that vegetarians live longer and also have an impressively lower incidence of heart disease and a significantly lower rate of cancer than meat-eating Americans.
In fact, even back in 1961, the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that a vegetarian diet could prevent 90-97% of heart diseases.
I wonder how many former U.S. Marines that are, who are Vietnam combat veterans, that do not drink alcohol but do follow a vegan lifestyle? Maybe that puts me into even a smaller minority to be discriminated against by the Sarah Balfours of the world.
Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).
His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves
Honorable Mention in Biography/Autobiography at 2014 Southern California Book Festival
Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).
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