When Oprah Winfrey asked Thich Nhat Hanh why he eats a vegan diet, he replied simply, “Because we know mindful eating can help save our planet.”
Initially, I changed to a vegan diet to improve my health, but after I made that change and was no longer eating animal products, I was able to look at the impact my food choices had on the environment, on world hunger, and on animals. I could think about how abusive factory farming is to the animals slaughtered and prepared for food, as well as what it does to the environment. When I was eating animal products, I couldn’t allow myself to consider those things—it was too painful to think about the animals’ suffering, and I didn’t want to think about how my food choices were related to the destruction of the rainforest and the melting of the polar ice caps, to the diversion of grain for feeding food animals instead of feeding hungry people. Once I was vegan and no longer participating in all that, I was able to stop shielding myself from knowledge about it. Whereas before I needed to stay disconnected from that information, now it motivated me to continue eating a plant-based diet. I was not only eating for my own health but was also contributing to the well-being of the planet and to those we share the earth with, and that felt good. Eventually it dawned on me that I had begun practicing enlightened eating.