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Sandy Warf
To balance compassion for animals
with nutritional needs

Sandy is a schoolteacher and former chair of EarthSave Orange County.

Copyright © 1998 by Sandy Warf. All rights reserved.
Contact author for permission to republish.

My parents brought my brothers and me up to love animals and to treat them with the greatest kindness and respect. But we were not vegetarians. Of course, I knew where meat came from intellectually.

It wasn't until 1971 during my mid-twenties--my hippie days, when I was out walking one beautiful morning in Katmandu, Nepal--that I got this knowledge emotionally. I came upon two men who were in the act of slaughtering a water buffalo calf. (Not everyone in Nepal is a Hindu.) With a pained, bewildered, and beseeching look, this beautiful calf looked directly into my eyes as he died. I felt I'd been hit hard in my stomach, and in my heart.

I ran sobbing back to my hotel, and to my boyfriend. I immediately stopped eating meat and stayed on my vegetarian diet for some months until we returned to Europe where we settled in Denmark. For 18 months we made leather goods there, and I taught English to adults. There was no support for my vegetarian diet, and fresh produce was scarce so I returned reluctantly to meat-eating.

1978 found me married several years later to a wonderful young physician, and the lucky mom of two beautiful, healthy children. My husband and I read Diet for a Small Planet, by Francis Moore Lappe, and Let's Feed Our Kids Right, by Adele Davis. We decided the whole family needed to become vegetarians. The children were three and four, and took the change very well given the aspect of compassion for animals.

Vegetarian meat substitutes were hard to find. We drove out to Loma Linda, a Seventh Day Adventist community, and bought all types of canned meat alternatives. We ate lots of dairy products and eggs for several years until I realized that fish and chicken were lower in fat than most dairy products. For a year or two my husband, son, and I (but not our daughter) began eating fish and chicken again until my reading on the ethics of vegetarianism prompted me to again give up all meat.

Reading further, I became a vegan (losing about five pounds) in 1990 along with my daughter, and with more reading became a natural hygienist in 1991. I've been lucky. I've been quite slim, energetic, and healthy my entire life no matter what my diet has been. With a hygiene diet of about 80% raw fruits, vegetable, nuts, and seeds (the remainder cooked grains and tubers), I very quickly lost another five pounds until I weighed about 105 pounds (I'm 5'4"). Unfortunately, after three years as a vegan, I was not only quite thin but had severely low vitamin B-12 levels, complete with enlarged, deformed blood cells. My HMO considered this an emergency situation. Supplements helped the numbers on my tests but taking supplements seems so artificial to me.

All around, people in my life started saying how thin, gaunt, and even ill I now looked. I felt well enough, though, until mid-1995 when I began getting colds or the flu every six weeks. I knew something was not right. And I could not gain weight on my whole, natural, mostly raw-food vegan diet. (I refuse to eat junk food even from the health food store, and don't think it's healthy to eat lots of cooked food.)

So in the fall of 1996 I added some raw goat and cow cheese to my diet, then some free-range eggs, and then even began eating fish. Finally I was able to gain some weight, about 8-10 pounds, and the colds reduced in frequency dramatically. My nails became stronger, small wounds healed more quickly, my hair grew faster, and I felt more energetic.

But there were problems. I had unremitting nightmares that I was a fish suffocating as I was being pulled from the water. I waited six months for these awful dreams to stop and they simply got worse. I stopped eating fish and the dreams stopped. I found the cheese made me feel stuffed up, plus I am all too aware of the link between dairy production and the production of veal, so I stopped eating dairy products.

At the moment, my diet consists of raw fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and honey, some cooked whole grains and tubers, plus some lightly soft-boiled free-range eggs. I feel good, it's been months since I've had a cold, and though I've lost some of the weight I managed to gain eating dairy, I still weigh 112 pounds and that's fine.

It's been, and still is, an adventure discovering what diet works best for me. I am trying to balance compassion for animals with my own nutritional needs. Ethically, I would like to return to a completely vegan diet, but am concerned it may be unnatural and nutritionally deficient. I used to think a high-carb vegan diet was the best one for everyone. It may work well for many, but I have more respect now for people's individual differences and needs. I hope my personal tale will be of benefit to others who are searching for their own personal optimal diets.

--Sandy Warf, Summer 1998

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