Game Changer

2013 has been a year of epiphanies for Carrie Steele. Here’s why.

christmasCHRISTMAS IS ALWAYS a time of reflection. The 12-month turnaround since we last put up the Christmas tree seems to lead most of us to evaluate the measure of the past 12 months. For me, it always leads to thoughts of Christmases to come, the yet unknown changes that I know are inevitable, and not least of all, the people who really matter to me.

This year I won’t be bothering about cooking a turkey or ham for my extended family. I am a guest not a host and hubby and I will be enjoying a ‘very vegan’ Christmas, hallelujah! In the past 12 months I’ve made massive progress in that I’ve not cooked a single non-vegan dish for anyone. Those who want to eat non-vegan bring their own, or we eat out – and it’s ‘Thai way or the highway’ as we really haven’t found any other vegan-friendly establishments locally.

As my quest for better health and a healthier world continues, I’ve signed up on some informative and thought provoking websites such as the Institute For Responsible Technology, GM Watch, Friends Of The Earth and of course, the Food Revolution Network which keeps my inbox hot with links to eye-opening information (albeit, mostly American, but still very relevant).

What have I learnt? Basically, that little has changed for the better since 1962 when Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring was published (and serialised in the New York Times). The smoke screen may have got thicker, but the planet is still being poisoned with chemicals, these just have new names. As predicted then, we now have ‘superweeds’ that withstand the most lethal chemicals, and GM crops are only adding to the problem, with ‘Roundup ready’ seed that in itself should be classified as a pesticide.

Monsanto and the junk food industry recently teamed up to dump more than $22 million into Washington State to defeat GMO labelling. Why, if it’s so safe, aren’t people allowed to know what they’re eating?

Back in the 60’s Dutch scientist CJ Briejèr summed up the indiscriminate use of pesticides rather succinctly, saying that “once again we are walking in nature like an elephant in the china cabinet”. More than 40 years later, we’re still smashing the best china.

The oceans are still over-fished and the forests and jungles of the world continue to be bulldozed to plant crops to feed livestock to ensure there is enough meat for wealthy dinner plates, while others go hungry.

Book coverImagine that, we still have starving people in the world not because we can’t grow enough food, but rather because growers choose to plant specific crops to feed animals that are destined for the abbatoir – that’s where the money is. It’s hard not to get depressed thinking about these things, so I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s super-important to find some positives to dwell on, stuff to be grateful for.

This Christmas, with a heart full of gratitude, I’ll be looking back and thinking about Paul. Three months after I became vegan, we received the gift of a book, just on Christmas time. It was called The China Study. If you haven’t read it yet, I urge you to do so. Paul had received a terminal cancer diagnosis, widespread and fierce. He had begun to read a lot of books. You’d really want to try and help yourself at that stage, wouldn’t you? Paul thought this book was so important, that he bought a number of copies and posted them to members of his extended family. My hubby’s family received a copy and I was the first person to read it. The information provided me with validation that the vegan lifestyle I had begun to pursue was indeed the way to better health, and a healthier planet, not just another one of my kooky, hippy notions as those around me seemed to think it might have been.

In our ‘modern’ world, we face a daily battle to hold onto our health. What could be described as ‘progress’ exposes us to risk 24/7. For instance, we are constantly surrounded by electrical fields, from the alarm clock that sits by our head at night, the cellphones we carry on us at all times, the computers most of us spend hours a day using, the microwave oven, and on it goes. It’s entirely possible that the extent of our exposure to that stuff isn’t that flash for us. Then there’s the chemical spray residue on the produce we eat, the antibiotics pumped into meat, farmed fish and poultry, the ‘frankenstein’ processed foods that are sold to us as ‘convenience’ items. All these things have an adverse effect on our bodies. It is impossible to avoid all risk, despite our best efforts.

But here’s the really good news, what we can do is minimise our risk. The China Study clearly and believably explains that it is possible to achieve better odds, simply by adopting a whole foods plant-based diet. Cancer, heart disease, Type 2 Diabetes, autoimmune disease and senile dementia: are all topics addressed in the book. If you thought there was something you could do to minimise your risk of developing any of these diseases, would you do it? This is not a book you should think about reading one day when you have time. Read it now. Read it for Paul. I have a sneaky suspicion that if you do, you’ll find yourself in the same camp as me: you’ll know too much to go back and pretend.

I didn’t know Paul, but by all accounts, he was an active, positive go-getter who loved the outdoors and lived what he believed to be a healthy lifestyle. His cancer diagnosis provided him with another challenge which he faced head on, and proactively. Following the principles he adopted (a whole foods plant based diet) Paul surprised his doctors and lived a good couple of years longer than was expected. He continued to explore the outdoors he loved, ran a business and enjoyed precious extra time with his family. With his best efforts he bought time, he lived with cancer, he didn’t just sit back and wait to die. Sadly though, by the time he discovered what he believed was the answer to improving his odds, the answers he found in The China Study book, Paul’s cancer was already way too advanced to expect a total regression. He passed away on the 29th October this year.

This Christmas, and every Christmas to come, I know that I’ll be thinking about Paul. And I will forever be grateful to him for sitting down that Christmas and writing letters and posting books, when I’m sure he could have found a lot of other things to do with his limited time that would have been more instantly gratifying, like taking a walk in his beloved outdoors, or had he been a lesser person, just sitting in a corner and licking his wounds.

So while you’re ordering your copy this Christmas, why not get another for someone else’s stocking, especially if it’s someone you really care about. The China Study by T. Colin Campbell is available on several websites that retail books. Reading it could literally change your life.

This is for Paul: son, brother, husband, father, my game changer.

Merry Christmas to you all, keep safe, and be thankful for all you hold dear. CARRIE STEELE

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