By Ally Bourelly

I never really thought about what I put into my body when I was growing up. For 17 years, my mom made almost every meal I ate, making sure my diet was healthy and balanced. It wasn’t until I began my education at Colorado College and started buying my own food that my eyes opened to the myriad of dietary possibilities out there.
One diet that stood out to me in particular was vegetarianism.
I never thought to stop eating meat completely before college for three major reasons. The first was that it would have been difficult for me to sustain vegetarianism at home in a half-Cuban-half-Haitian family, that incorporates meat into almost every meal. From beef-filled empanadas to pork Griol, almost all of our family gatherings were centered around meat dishes. How was I going to eat anything with my family if I followed a vegetarian diet?
The second reason was that my love for animals and eating meat were two completely different entities in my mind. I never connected the dots that the cute cows in our backyard in West Virginia would be turned into hamburgers, or that the pigs I saw at the petting zoo were sweet sentient beings, capable of feeling pain. Thoughts like these never crossed my mind, even as I got older and knew of their fate. The word “humane slaughter” came up frequently in my attempt to rationalize the act of killing animals for human consumption. News flash — there is no such thing as a “humane slaughter.”
Lastly, I was entirely unaware about the extent to which meat production and consumption negatively impacts our environment — accounting for a significant amount of methane and CO2 in our atmosphere. My own negligence made me complicit in consuming meat on and off for 21 years.
However, this summer as I embarked on my journey to become a certified yoga teacher, I decided it was time to practice what I preached. Yoga is about being at peace within yourself while maintaining inner balance and strength. For me to convey these ideals to my future students, I needed to become a vegetarian for good. But how?
Enter Matthieu Ricard’s book “A Plea for the Animals.”
Before stumbling upon this book, I had always tried vegetarian diets and failed miserably. I had no motivation to sustain the diet, feeling drained and frustrated after a few days, unable to see the bigger picture.
Ricard’s book completely altered my way of thinking, giving me the motivation I needed to pursue vegetarianism. It broke down all of my fears and anxieties surrounding vegetarianism, handing me a raw, unfiltered truth about the cruelty, long term health effects, and environmental consequences of animal exploitation in the meat, fishing, and poaching industries. For me, this book gave me the push I needed to stop eating meat once and for all.
I have been vegetarian for over a month now and see profound changes in my body and mind while practicing yoga. I feel more energized and alert, my balance has improved tremendously, my strength has significantly increased, and my overall mood is better.
If you haven’t already attempted to adopt a vegetarian diet, I urge you to try it for at least a week and see how it affects you.

Photo courtesy of Catalyst Archives

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