I’ve just finished reading “Skinny Bitch.” It’s potty-mouthed and veganism-pushing, but it also contains a lot of eye-opening information. (Disclaimer: This post will undoubtedly be longer than usual. I’m going to try very hard not to preach, but this is a topic I care a lot about so I apologize in advance if I sound like I’m standing on my soapbox. I truly do not mean it that way; I’m certainly not an expert — far, far from it — and I don’t meant to sound like I think I am.)

So, vegans don’t eat any animal products. Unlike vegetarians, they don’t eat eggs or dairy. This is hard for me to consider, since I love eggs and dairy. I honestly don’t care that much about meat (except bacon. Oh my, do I love bacon), but eggs and dairy are top choices for me. Having read several books about food and diet in this country, a lot of what the authors had to say wasn’t new to me. But some of it was. For instance, this was the first time in my life I’d ever read anything saying milk was bad for you. My initial reaction was that that was ridiculous. I mean, milk? It does a body good. We all know that. But as they went on to explain their reasoning, I started to question my own blind acceptance of the dairy industry’s advertising campaign. And believe me, as the daughter of a former dairy farmer, that was a big leap for me. I’m not ready to say I’ll give up dairy just yet, but it definitely is food (pun intended, sorry) for thought. They raise several key points which I think merit consideration: 1. Humans are the only species which drink the milk of another species, and the only species that drink milk past infancy; 2. Milk and dairy products come from cows, and therefore have all, or at least a fair amount, of the disease-causing potential of ground beef, and 3. Milking is not the painless process we think it is for cows (and cows aren’t actually meant to produce milk all of the time, but only when they give birth — much like humans).

Of course they talk a lot about the conditions that exist in factory farming. This wasn’t news to me. I’ve read other books about it. It’s horrible, and it’s already caused me to cut way back on my meat consumption. That said, I do think animals were intended for human consumption (if you read the oldest books in existence, e.g. the Bible, you read accounts of meat-eating humans). I don’t, however, believe we were ever meant to consume nearly as much meat as we consume. And I think it’s a vicious cycle. Because we’ve become conditioned to believe that we should have meat at every meal, and that we can’t get enough protein without it (nonsense), the meat industry is pressured to keep prices artificially low. In order to do so (and to of course generously line their own pockets), they use truly horrific practices in their plants — both for the animals and for the consumers of their product. I don’t think I’ll be giving up meat entirely, but I do think I’ll be cutting back even more, and making every effort to know where my meat is coming from and to buy meat that has been humanely raised and killed. That will definitely be more expensive, but I’m hoping that in eating less meat, that will free up more money in my food budget to buy better meat.

This book makes no bones about the fact that the FDA and USDA do not truly have the best interests of the people at heart. To put it bluntly, it’s politics as usual. They’re beholden to special interests, in bed with the meat, dairy and processed food industries. If you read Michael Pollan’s books, he talks about how doctors/experts 30+ years ago advised the government to revise the food pyramid, greatly lessening the emphasis on meat and dairy, but after being pressured by the lobbyists, the government backed down. Wow.

I think the biggest thing I’ll take from this book, though, is to try to eliminate processed/artificial foods from my diet. I knew they weren’t doing me any good nutritionally, but I don’t think I fully realized the harm they were actually doing. We’ve all heard talk about trans fats and partially hydrogenated oils, and frankly I thought it was mostly just a bunch of hooey, but I’ve read enough at this point to think there’s truth there. For me, the bottom line is this: If it doesn’t occur in nature, it’s probably not a good thing to put into my body.

I know buying more natural food will cost more, and will definitely require more time spent preparing and researching food. The time will be a challenge, for sure. The money will be challenging, too, but I’m fortunate enough to be able to spare a little more money to spend on food. Not a huge amount, but enough to make a difference, I hope. I know not everyone can say that, and I certainly don’t judge anyone who just can’t swing it. We all have our own unique situations to consider, and we can each only do the best we can. I just happen to believe that, personally, the best I can do is better than I’m currently doing.

To sum it up, this book isn’t for the faint of heart. But if you can tolerate the language (and it is amusing at times, in all honesty), and if you don’t get too defensive about the whole veganism thing, there are lessons to be learned here.