BY GARY LINDSTROM, Guest blogger
I am not a vegan but some of the people I love the most are.
I spent 16 years not eating meat or meat products but I was not very careful. After that I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease (intolerance to Gluten which is found in Barley, Rye, Oats and Wheat) so I decided to go back to a more normal diet and began eating meat and meat products again. Sometimes even one cross is difficult to bear.
When I was trying to stay on a plant based diet I would eat large bags of bagels and huge amounts of flour tortillas. For a while I thought that I had simply overloaded my system but much later I found that Celiac Disease is congenital and it is like insanity, you get it from your family.
I was born and raised in an agricultural community in Iowa, spent four years in the Air Force, several years in the New York City Police Department before I moved to Colorado for jobs in Law Enforcement and in Education as a College Professor.
For twelve years I was a County Commissioner and another four years as a Colorado State Representative. I say all of that because as a Commissioner and State Representative I was served, on average, three free meals a day none of which I could eat. Imagine being asked to attend a dinner with former President Bill Clinton and not being able to eat anything. That actually happened to me.
I felt sorry for the poor wait staff. Most of the time I was offered extra salad as an alternative.
I was at a picnic last summer in honor of the local LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered) community and sat next to a very interesting and articulate waiter from a local restaurant. He asked why I was not eating anything and I had to tell him that I was a Celiac. He responded by telling me that he thought that all “Gluten Free” and “Vegan” customers at his restaurant were phonies and that they had only assumed those mantels to get attention. He did not believe that anyone had any food allergies or wanted to not eat animal products on purpose other than to draw attention to themselves.
Nice segue for me to try to explain my allergy and the choice that many make to not eat meat products. I had to give him the ten minute presentation about Villi in the intestines that normally shed an enzyme that breaks down gluten. When the Villi is not there serious problems for the Celiac can occur. I went on to explain that Vegans make a conscious decision not to eat meat or a meat products because a plant-based diet is so much healthier for everyone. After about thirty minutes of questions and answers I think he walked away a changed man.
Being Vegan is not a decision, it is a lifestyle. It is not as if you decide to drive to Miami one weekend. It is as if you change your diet and your life in order to protect yourself from illness and an early and untimely death in some cases.
I think that it is very selfish of some people to continue in a life of taking chances with their diet and not considering their friends, family and other loved ones. In some respects it is a decision that leads to death not unlike suicide which I believe is a very selfish act. “I am not happy so I will kill myself and not consider all of the innocent people who will be impacted by my death.”
Eating yourself sick is much the same decision. You might say, “It is easy for him to say because he is not a vegan.” Good point. But even that should not keep you or anyone else from trying to change. The next time you meet a Vegan or anyone else who has made positive changes in their diet for better health let them know that you are proud of their decision. Also let them know that you understand that making those changes are not easy.
Gary was born and raised in a small farming community in Northwest Iowa. Fifty three years ago he enlisted in the Air Force where he served as an Intelligence Specialist and Staff Writer. He eventually joined the New York City Police Department in the 1960s and was a patrolman and Staff Writer for the NYPD Magazine. He moved to the Colorado High Country and continued in law enforcement. He wrote a weekly opinion column for many years in the local daily paper. He was elected County Coroner, County Commissioner and Colorado State Representative. He has five college degrees and is currently a college professor at three colleges and universities in Colorado. He has five children (one of which is The Meaty Vegan), eight grandchildren and one great granddaughter.