Sunday, May 29, 2011

I've been a Mormon all my life.  I've been a vegetarian for a month. I had my last bite of meat the morning of April 28th. I had leftover chicken for breakfast because I was in a hurry or I didn't feel like making oatmeal or I just wanted to taste the yummy chicken I had made the night before.

After eating, I went downstairs to do my treadmill workout and tuned my computer to a lovely site full of documentaries that was recommended to me by a friend. I jumped on my treadmill and powered it up, settled my headphones down around my ears, and spent an hour and 35 minutes listening to Joaquin Phoenix narrate the truth about factory farms, slaughterhouses, and corruption in the meat industry.

The documentary is called "Earthlings," and is not for the faint of heart.  If you don't want to see scenes like pigs beings boiled alive because they didn't bleed out and die before the conveyor raced them to the vat of boiling water, you probably shouldn't watch it.  Ditto if you can't stomach the corruption of the factory farm industry that has grown like the bacteria colonizing the guts of their cows.  I spent the better part of my workout that day alternating between tears and anger.  I stepped away from it a vegetarian.

Now, the veggie lifestyle isn't new for me.  I was a vegetarian in high school for 3 whole days.  Unfortunately for high school students everywhere, parents are the people who usually buy the food in the house.  This is not to say that my parents weren't supportive.  They discussed the issue openly with me and listened to my concerns about meat eating.  We read through scripture so I could better understand where my religion stood on the issue.  They were willing to see me through the decision.  In the end, it just seemed too hard, and I went reluctantly back to the typical American diet.

Nearly 20 years later, the typical American diet has lost me a gall bladder and gained me 100 extra pounds, Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome, and a fatty liver.  Heart disease?  Oh, you can bet it's already started.  Diabetes? It's a when, not an if for me.

Well, it was.

So, here I am, Sarah Clark, the vegetarian, and I have to's not nearly as difficult as the 15 year old me thought it would be.  Does it help that I buy the food in the house?  Sure.  Does it help that I've already spent the last six months eating healthy meals?  Absolutely.  Is it still a little hard? Sometimes.

Vegetarianism takes a lot of planning.  Trying to eat a PCOS diet, with its need for good proteins to pair with good carbs, and a vegetarian diet takes even more planning.  The good news for me is that I'm the type of person who likes to plan.  I already shop with a list and a menu.  I already plan my meals before I eat them.  Planning, I can do.

Planning means looking online for good recipes and then taking the plunge and preparing them.  Planning means understanding that cooking real food, good food, whole food means I sometimes have to start the night before.  Planning means looking ahead at restaurant menus and bringing my own patties made of eggplant for a family member's barbecue.  It takes some thinking and a little bit of time, but it works.

Just like my first attempt at this, I checked out relevant scriptures to make sure what I was doing was in line with what I believe God wants for me.  See, we Mormons are a little picky about what we ingest.  We live by a scriptural code of health we call the Word of Wisdom.  It's why we don't drink coffee or tea, we don't use alcohol or tobacco, and it's why we eat very little meat to begin with.


The Mormons in my readership may be shifting uncomfortably in their chairs.  Truth be told, we're not so good about the meat, at least, that has been my experience.  The Word of Wisdom specifically states that meat is ordained by God for the use of man to be used with thanksgiving, but to be used sparingly.  Most people in my church stop there and find their own interpretation of what a sparing amount of meat consumption is.  I'd wager for many, if not most, it's the same as the average American, which is not sparing at all by my own definition.

However, the very next verse in the scripture states that it is pleasing to God that it not be eaten, except in times of winter or cold or famine.  That same sentiment is expressed again a few verses later, reminding the reader that meat should only be eaten when there is a famine or excess of hunger.  As far as I'm concerned, what those scriptures are telling me is that when things get so bad that I would consider eating my cats, that's when it's okay to eat meat.  For every other day of my lifetime, when I can hop down to the local grocery store and fill my cart with vegetables, whole grains, and lean dairy products, there's just not a need.

When I mention these feelings to my fellow Mormons, they usually send me to another chapter and verse that says it's not okay to command men not to eat meat.  How telling them what the Word of Wisdom actually says amounts to my commanding them not to eat meat is something I don't quite understand, but I nod and agree with them and say that I know my lifestyle is not for everyone, and we all have to pray for our own answers to questions such as these, and far be it from me to command anyone into a love affair with Boca Burgers.  (Suggest?  Sure.  Command? Not so much.) 

On the meat eating thing, I'm willing to agree to disagree with many members of my church.  Their interpretation of scripture is different from mine, and that's okay with me.

Now, because I really do believe I should not command anyone to become a vegetarian like me (but really...don't you want to?  You know you want to.  What are chicken substitute?), I am not requiring my children to go completely meat free.  About 2 dinners a week in our house contain meat for the kids while Richard and I substitute a different protein.  The other five days, the kids have been getting to know the wonders of legumes and other good sources of proteins, and so far, we haven't had many complaints.  Falafel?  New favorite of everyone.  Tofu? Loved by Cate, anyway.

While I am willing to prepare meat for my kids, I am still strongly opposed to the practices employed by factory farms, so I'm studying to find the kinds of meat I can feel good about preparing.  It won't be easy, and it will likely be expensive.  Ask me what I'm paying for cage free eggs when you get a minute.  But if I'm going to feel good about the life I'm living, I have to consider free range, grass fed, humanely grown meat worth the price.

This post was probably not what you were expecting from a Mother Load post, and I hope that's okay.  A month into this new life, I feel light, open, connected, and truly good.  While I can't command someone else to feel this way, I can't help but share that I do.

The fact that my stomach doesn't hurt anymore and my skin is clearing up and my total weight loss is up to 26 pounds?  Well, that's just a bonus.


Nonny said...

Sarah-I found this blog post so refreshing! We have been back and forth vegetarians for a couple of years now. We recently recommitted because it's the only way my husband can loose weight and lower his cholesterol and because it's the only way my body can function. It keeps my hormones in balance and keeps my fibromyalgia in check and stabilizes my heart. Isn't it interesting that following the word of wisdom really does bring us to the health God wants for us?

Kevin said...

It's awesome that you have taken the leap into vegetarianism! I have been vegetarian for 4 years now and it has been amazing! I don't know if you are on Facebook but if you are I thought I'd invite you to the Mormon Vegetarians group on Facebook at this link: I haven't followed your blog but I'd love to hear from more mormon vegetarians especialyl those who live in the salt Lake area, because I want to start some kind of Meetup group for Church members who are trying to follow the WoW more closely, you can contact me at

Anonymous said...

I have been mostly vegetarian for 11 years. I started for other reasons, then I realized what the Word of Wisdom says. I rarely tell other members of the church that that is now a big reason why I am mostly vegetarian, it has been my experience they usually don't like to hear that. Were you referring to D&C 49:18? If you have an old D&C published before 1979 there is NO footnote changing biddeth to forbiddeth. That completely changes the meaning of the verse.

Skepticalthayne said...

I like your blog. I just posted some historical information about eating flesh and the Word of Wisdom on my blog. Your readers may find in it something to think about.