Cassie Wagler is from Iowa City, home to the University of Iowa, where she received her degree in International Studies/Global Resources and the Environment. Cassie switched to a vegetarian diet six years ago, “I felt meat, with all the other options available at the grocery store, was not a necessity to maintain proper nutrition,” she explains. She has also been experimenting with the vegan diet for the past two years, and now she rarely consumes any animal products.
“A vegetarian diet came very natural for me, initially as an effort to reduce my impact on the environment,” she says. It started when she studied corn production in the United States and how much of that corn was being grown to feed cows, pigs, and chickens. “Corn, being a very nutrient intensive crop is covering an enormous amount of the world’s most fertile acreage so that we can produce more meat for a society that as a whole, consumes by far more meat than necessary for nutritional purposes.”
Cassie is also concerned about the amount of chemicals used to grow and maintain these crops and how this affects our water supply. “Ultimately, upon allowing myself to realize and reflect on the harsh realities of factory farm meat production, I felt compelled to remove those acts of violence from my daily life and began abstaining from meat entirely.”
She also explains what made it easier for her to adopt and maintain a plant based diet: “I became more educated on the various health benefits of a vegetarian diet: increased energy, reduced risk of heart disease and cancer, and reduced exposure to toxins. It was nearly instant for me, removing meat from my diet made me feel better about my body, both physically and mentally, making a vegetarian diet very easy for me to adopt and sustain.”
“It always made sense to me to eat vegan, since the reasons that I didn’t eat meat applied to the eggs and dairy products she was still consuming,” she affirms. However, cutting these products from her diet was a much more difficult goal, as she had replaced meat with some of her favorite meatless alternatives, such as pizza and nachos, which did not align with the health principles she had subscribed to.
The turning point for Cassie was in India, after spending a month in an eco-village that practiced veganism. “Through this experience I learned how to cook both nutritious and delicious vegan meals and I was exposed to the teachings of Nandita Shah, an Indian doctor and educator who promotes the vegan diet,” she explains.
That lecture, coupled with a quick read through John Robbins’ Diet for a New America, left her unable to justify consuming dairy and she was finally able to cut the eggs and dairy from her diet. She highly recommends exploring Shah and Robbins’ work to anyone with an interest in a vegan diet.
Cassie also admits that she struggles at times to maintain a vegan diet and often misses many of her favorite foods. “Although, I have found I feel lighter and more energetic while maintaining a vegan diet, occasionally I stray away from my vegan commitment, usually when eating in restaurants. The few times this has happened, I almost immediately notice a difference in the way I feel as meals with dairy leave me feeling less satisfied and tired, and they often even upset my stomach.”
Although she feels tempted to keep it simple while ordering food at restaurants, she thinks of the post-meal feeling dairy leaves her with and that makes it easier for her to “refrain from the indulgences”.
“While I have waivered with veganism at times, I still feel strongly that it’s a diet that serves my body well, I simply feel best when eating vegan,” Cassie states.
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