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Vegan for the Holidays

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Vegetarians in Paradise
Vegetarian Essays

This month we introduce Karen Keaton, a registered nurse, who describes her conversion to vegetarianism. VIP would like to express our gratitude to her for permitting us to reprint her story that appears on her website. Karen's website ForVegetarian.com features benefits of vegetarianism, a reading list, links to other vegetarian sites, and her vegetarian survey, "The Quality of Life of Vegetarians and Vegans." Anyone interested in participating in her survey can find information on the website.

Converting to a Vegetarian Lifestyle

By Karen Keaton

My name is Karen Keaton. I've been a vegetarian for about 3 years and don't quite make the status of being vegan. I don't eat dairy products or eggs, but I am not vigilant about staying away from things like casein, which is a dried milk protein found in veggie soy cheese slices among other things. I do buy vegan cheese slices when I can.

I don't wear fur, but I do wear leather shoes. I don't eat honey mainly because I try to keep my sugar intake low. I've just started making my own tapestry purses in my attempt to get away from leather. I originally entered this lifestyle for health reasons and then learned about the plight of the animals being abused so we can eat and wear them. Now their well-being is as important to me as my own. I believe in doing what I can and not judging others for what they can or can't do. It's just easier that way.

I am a registered nurse with a master's degree in Public Health. My professional focus is on nutrition and weight loss. I have worked as a research nurse for the past several years doing clinical research in different areas of health care. While doing research in internal medicine, I was given the privilege of conducting my own studies. Weight loss was a strong area of interest to me. I also saw how eating the wrong foods contributed to so many illnesses, plus I had a weight problem myself I very much wanted to resolve.

I did extensive investigating into the problem of being overweight and conducted two of my own studies using different weight loss interventions. Neither study was very successful, but I kept coming back to the articles on vegetarian diet/lifestyle and the powerful effects both had on health. My health had been slowly worsening, but I attributed it to middle age. I was nearing 50 and experiencing mid-life changes such as decreased energy, joint aches and pains, and an elevated blood pressure.

Based on my knowledge and experience in conventional medical treatments for these afflictions, I knew I wasn't going to go that route. The medications are expensive and have side effects, and I didn't like how things were being done in health care. I didn't want to be part of the system anymore. I had to lose weight, but I knew diets don't work. It had to be a lifestyle change so I started reading everything I could find on vegetarianism.

I read Dean Ornish, Andrew Weil, Brenda Davis and Vesanto Messina, Erik Marcus, and Neal Barnard, but the one book that clinched my decision to convert was John Robbins' Diet for a New America. Not only was my decision to become a vegetarian a health matter, I could not in good conscience consume animal products knowing the abuses that were taking place in the factory farms he describes in his book.

It took a while to educate myself on what to eat, how to prepare it, how much protein I really needed, and where to buy my food. I chose to buy organic whenever I could and was pleasantly surprised to find I was actually spending less on food than I had when I was buying fast, convenience foods.

Slowly, I started dropping weight. Then amazing things started happening with what I would consider very little effort. My energy levels increased, so I actually sought out ways to be more physically active. My body craved movement. My blood pressure dropped and my aches and pains disappeared. I felt better physically and had more confidence. My thoughts were clearer. I attribute this all to my decision to stop eating animal products. I truly believe that when we make the right decisions based on our values and love, everything goes better in life.

So I've decided to concentrate my career in helping others achieve this peace and find their truth through compassionate living. Not only do I want to connect with other vegetarians/vegans, but I would like to provide support and information for those about to convert.

Through my web site, my Converting to Vegetarian Lifestyle classes, and my private coaching, I hope to help people into a more satisfying, healthy lifestyle. If you've interacted with our health care system lately, you probably know it's a mess. Stay as far away from it as you can. You can more easily achieve this through converting to vegetarianism. I hope my web site helps you. I would love to hear any feedback you have.

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