Almost a year ago, I decided to stop eating meat. I have stomach issues— problems with digestion that run in the family. When I eat meat or diary, I end up in the bathroom about an hour later. My mother heard about a plant-based diet from her hairdressing clients (Debbie Christofferson and Ilene Christensen), so we decided to go the vegetarian route.
About a year before deciding to go vegetarian, I started to be very interested in health and taking care of my body, so this decision felt like a natural next step. I felt it would help me. Then as we did some research, and I learned what it really means to be vegetarian and what it really means to be vegan, I decided why not go the extra step and be a full-on vegan? So I’ve been doing that the past year, and it has helped me a lot with my stomach. I don’t have stomach issues with food any more, which is a big thing.
I actually like eating different, more healthy foods. I like knowing there are different ways to eat. Probably the thing I like most is finding the things you can eat that you didn’t know about before and learning that they actually taste good. People think vegans eat dirt as their main food, but there are all kinds of things vegans eat. I like it.
I’m not hesitant to talk about my diet with others, but I don’t shout about being vegan from the rooftop. Friends sometimes ask me, “Why do you like that?” Most kids are not vegetarian, and especially not vegan, and for a guy it is really unusual. I tell them it helps me with my stomach, but that it is not just for my health—I do it because I want to. They don’t give me a hard time, but they think it is weird. Whether they like it or not doesn’t really impact me.
I’m not tempted by animal foods, but I do miss ice cream. My dad likes to tempt me. He says he is trying to make sure I’m walking the walk. He has learned that I don’t cave in no matter how much he tries to get me to eat things I don’t eat any more, and he is actually very proud of me for doing what I feel is right and sticking by my decision. He even told me that he looks to me for strength to make some health decisions he has to make. My dad actually does a lot of the shopping and cooking, so my diet has impacted him almost more than me. My 13-year-old sister thinks I’m crazy, but she knows this diet has been good for me.
If I am tempted to eat something not good for me, I just tell myself to not eat it. You have to have good will power. It is not easy. You have to understand it is not easy. You have to stick to it. I feel better when I stick to it. I feel gross when I eat sugar or things that I usually don’t eat because of the diet. I can just tell.
When people read the Word of Wisdom, they mostly focus on the drinking and smoking part and then go right to the “run and not be weary” part, but they don’t pay attention to the part about eating herbs in season and not eating meat as much and eating meat in times of winter or times of famine. They skip the 7-8 verses about eating healthy. I don’t think the Word of Wisdom says “don’t eat meat, don’t eat dairy,” but I think it goes well with being vegan.
Besides helping me to keep healthy, being vegan has helped me be more active. I feel I have more energy when I’m swimming. I also think it helps me have a clear mind, and possibly stay more in tune with the Spirit. I am definitely more in tune with what my body needs. Because I feel so good, I can concentrate more on what is needed during the day.
My mom is very proud of me. She is glad I’m learning to take care of myself now while I’m still living at home. She believes that after I leave home, when I pray about what I should eat and how to fuel my body, the answers will come quicker because I am more in tune with what my body needs.
Michael Anderson, 16, lives in Logan, Utah and is a sophomore at Logan High, where he is on the Logan High swim team. Michael plays piano and viola. He loves to spend time with friends, compose music, and talk to his lab, Libby.