There I was in the fluorescent lighting of my Mom’s kitchen. The peach walls and red and white checkered chair cushions felt like forced smiles. The bullying in school was escalating. I responded by painting my eyelids black, and removing all color from my wardrobe. Emotions from earlier in the day were swirling inside of me. I stared at my plate of food on the white plate. The turkey was a pale pinkish color with some green herbs stuck to it. I cut it up into cubes. My dog, Lucky, sat loyally at my feet. I looked down at him and then back at my plate, then to Lucky. He sat there, always trusting I would not trip on him if I moved. I looked back at my plate.
This was the moment I became a vegetarian and eventually led me to veganism in my early 20s. There were so many lessons that I had to tackle with becoming vegan: remember to take B12, Oreos are not a food group, and your energy is everything.
The energy you choose can define your life. By wearing all black and listening to sad music, I was causing myself to continually suffer even after the bullies were gone which eventually turned into depression. Similarly, the choices we make about our plate can also carryover and affect our energy. People first recognize this when a mother is anxious; there is a theory that a mother’s breast milk can influence her baby. In 2012, a study was conducted to determine if a mother’s milk could affect her child’s temperament. First, the study tested the amount of glucocorticoids, the human stress hormone, found in breastmilk. They discovered that anxious mothers have more stress hormones present in their milk. Second, after testing the infants’ responses to various new experiences, it was found that higher amounts glucocorticoids could predict a more fearful temperament in infants (Grey, Davis, Sandman, Glynn 2012, 1178-85). Drinking breast milk doesn’t end after infancy through. Most children are transitioned to drinking cow’s milk and continue this practice into adulthood. Unfortunately, dairy cows are usually under extreme stress while lactating. When a dairy cow gives birth, the calf is immediately taken away because it would otherwise drink its mother’s milk. The mother cows have been reported to cry, sometimes for days, after the loss of their calf (The Dark Side of Dairy, 2018). In addition, as standard farming practices, dairy cows are also dehorned and have their tails cut without anesthesia. Dairy cows suffer and are producing milk throughout their suffering which is then packaged and distributed across the county. This suffering is being casually served with no research on how these hormones could be affecting humans, especially growing children.
Factory farm conditions for animals raised for meat are no less horrific. Animals undergo procedures without anesthesia, diseases, being overcrowded in pens, and more. Animals are often still alive and conscious during the slaughter process as their bodies are being cut up and broken down and they “die piece by piece” (Warrick 2001). Due to the controversy, there isn’t a lot of research on this topic, but there was an outbreak recorded in San Francisco during the 1920s where several people became ill. It was eventually traced back to the meat from one steer. Contrary to the initial hypothesis, this steer was not sick, but strong and healthy. He fought for his life with such fury the butchers recalled it took them an hour to kill him as he tried to escape. Physicians decided that his flesh was was so full of hormones from the anger and terror that it poisoned the people just as a mother’s milk can influence her child (Fillmore 1927). In 2004, a study proved that stress hormones can be found in the flesh of animals and furthermore the symptoms of this stress can affect the color and texture of the flesh itself (Foury, Devillers, Sanchez, Griffon, Le Roy, Mormède 2005, 4). By eating this flesh, a person is choosing to consume the emotions of another being. My mind was muddled as a teenager, often confused by my own feelings. I wonder how much my imbalanced brain was getting stuck on emotions that were not my own.
But the universe always allows an opportunity for balance and we can impart positive energy into our food. In Zen monasteries, only the most senior and advanced meditation monks are allowed to prepare food because they believe the intention while preparing food matters (Tuttle 2005, 139). This concept was tested in 2013 with a blind study in which 169 participants were given oolong tea in the morning and afternoon. Some participants were given tea blessed by monks, while others received tea that had not been blessed. The participants recorded their moods throughout the week. On the last day of the study, the participants indicated which tea they believed they were drinking. While the participants who believed they drank the “treated” tea did show elevated moods, that was only true for those who were actually drinking the blessed tea. Their belief and the “intentional enhancement” were both needed to show a positive shift (Shiah 2013, 355-60). Not only does it mean that it is important to have a good intention before eating or drinking, but our thoughts can also shape our reality.
It is often easy to feel like a victim of your own mental health especially when you don’t always have control over your environment. But you can choose what you put into your body. It is possible to make changes in our own energy by eliminating foods filled with suffering, and prepare food with love and happiness. You can decide the energy of that bite: are you eating to numb pain or with love and gratitude? Even when my head fills with despair, my heart always reminds me the kindness I do for the animals and myself. Veganism is not just a way to remove suffering from your diet, but consciously choose love.

“The Dark Side of Dairy” 2018. BBC.
Filmore, Charles 1927. “As To Eating Meat.” Unity Magazine.
Warrick, Jo. 2001. “‘They Die Piece by Piece.” The Washington Post Accessed on November 22, 2018.
Grey, K. R., Davis, E. P., Sandman, C. A., & Glynn, L. M. (2012). Human milk cortisol is associated with infant temperament. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 38(7): 1178-85.
Shiah, Y J, and D Radin. 2013. “Metaphysics of the Tea Ceremony: a Randomized Trial Investigating the Roles of Intention and Belief on Mood While Drinking Tea.” EXPLORE 9(6):355-60
Tuttle, Will M. 2005 “The World Peace Diet.” Lantern Books. 139.
Foury, A., Devillers N, Sanchez MP, Griffon H, Le Roy P, Mormède P. 2005. “Stress Hormones, Carcass Composition and Meat Quality in Large White×Duroc Pigs.” Meat Science. 69(4): 703–707.

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