Name: Erica Veal
Occupation: Vegetarian Chef and Yoga Student
Location: Brooklyn, New York
How long have you been vegetarian? And what inspired your journey?
I’ve been a vegetarian for 2 years. I’ve always loved food and been in the restaurant industry as an event manager for over 8 years. Once I started taking yoga studies and contemplated sharing my love by teaching, the yama characteristic of Ahimsa (non-violence/non harming) was something that I was trying to resolve within myself and how I could apply it to my life. I made a conscious choice to not eat meat for one day. One day turned into two, then a week, and finally, nine days. At the end of the nine days, I decided not to eat meat for one week out of every month. That night a foodie girlfriend and I went out to dinner at one of our favorite spots and shared our meal, which consisted of meat and fish. The following day, I was violently ill. Fearing food poisoning, I called my friend, who was fine. My body was rejecting the meat, it had become foreign to me. I gave it up that day and have not looked back since.
Has vegetarianism enhanced your health? Why or why not?
I thought I was a pretty knowledgeable about various types of food and their health benefits, but after converting to a vegetarian diet, I’m constantly reading and researching whole foods, letting food be my medicine so to speak. I do feel that my spirit is lighter, I have more energy, and my adult acne has cleared up!
In retrospect, how do you feel about meat? Or do you have any thoughts on America’s meat industry?
I can’t imagine happily preparing meat to eat. It’s funny because I meet so many parents who tell me that their small child does not like meat. They do not like the texture or taste, two things that, as adults, we enjoy most about meat. Most of my friends eat meat, I don’t judge them, because this has been my personal journey. I will not cook meat, and I’ve introduced both family and friends to meals that are just as delicious and satisfying as those with meat. Some, including my mother, have adopted a more plant-based diet.
The meat industry is a huge money generator. In today’s economy you don’t want to see someone lose their livelihood (kind of like e-books and the bookstore industry- but that’s another subject for another time). What I hate is how they try to keep us in a constant fog about what we put in our bodies. Children developing at 7 and 8 is not normal, the obesity in our nation is not normal, the rise in food allergies is not normal. Several years ago, the trigger word was organic, then sustainable, farm to table, and now, free range and humanely killed meat. How is a living thing humanely killed? Is it done swiftly, so the animal doesn’t have the chance to have fear? I could go on, but again, this was a choice that I made for my life. I just wish that I would have done it years ago, but I always imagined it being difficult. In contrast, it’s been so easy and exciting!
Was there a community of black women that helped you along your meatless journey? And if not, what are you doing to change this for others?
Honestly, I’m encountering more women of color who are making changes in their diets, many in the direction of plant-based. But the numbers are still few and I live in New York! When I travel home, Mobile, Alabama, I see so many of my old high school classmates who are overweight, have diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and have just accepted it as part of getting older, or part of our culture. They often remark how I’m still skinny or haven’t aged. Yes, I always had a high metabolism, but I also have always been active. The fountain of youth is how we respect and treat the bodies that we are given. That comes with what we put in our bodies and what we do for our selves, for our spirit (through mediation and/or prayer). Once I finish my yoga teacher training, I want to share what my lifestyle, a combination of yoga and vegetarian dieting, has given me. It’s so great seeing the changes that my mom has made in her life, as well as friends and other family members, due to what they’ve seen in me- guess the proof is in the soy pudding!
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