Think Before You Eat: Hailey Weinberg at TEDxPineCrestSchool (Full Transcript)

Hi, I’m Hailey. We wake up, and some people grab a protein bar on their way out. Some have a quick bowl of cereal before they go to school. And on weekends, people go out with their families to treat themselves to pancakes. But, have you ever stopped to think, “Where is this food coming from? What exactly am I eating and putting into my body?” Plenty of people would ask, “Well, why does it matter? I was hungry, and now I’m not, so problem solved.”

But when someone eats, there are so many factors that contribute to what goes into their bodies. It’s not as simple as being hungry to being full. Previously, diets had been a trend, and now complete lifestyle changes are becoming prominent. There are low carb diets, pescetarians, people who don’t eat meat but eat eggs, people who eat eggs but not meat, vegetarians, juice cleanses, fruitarians, kangatarians, people who eat only lettuce or chocolate. The list is endless. I happen to fit into a lifestyle as well. I’m vegan.

And, hold on. Before you groan, and decide to tune me out — listen, because maybe you’ll find something interesting. Being vegan means that I don’t eat meat, dairy eggs, or any animal products. Plenty of people may call it a “fad”, but this so-called “fad” is actually having huge impacts — environmentally and health-wise. Plus, there’s the moral aspect to consider too.

For me, being vegan was originally about health. I’m very competitive with myself, so I said, “Let’s see how long I can go without eating things like dairy and eggs, while focusing on raw foods like vegetables and fruits.” And wow! It was quite difficult. It took time to understand what I needed to consume daily. I’d see pizza and needed to have it.

After realizing that there’s a lot more to vegan than just eating vegetables, I did research, and that definitely gave me the kick. I needed to find where I fell in this lifestyle. But, plenty of people can argue that veganism isn’t healthy because, well, Oreos are vegan, Frosted Flakes are vegan, along with many other sugary foods. But my daily calories are mostly vegetables, fruits, carbs, and proteins while consuming very little fats. When I ate everything and anything, less than 20 to 30 percent of my diet was fruits and vegetables. But now, over 50 percent are fruits and vegetables.

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I learned to love Brussels sprouts and green beans. I’ve opened my eyes to new combinations like adding spinach to smoothies. And I’ve noticed changes, physical changes. I feel so much lighter. I’m not weighed down by thick, rich foods like milk or cream.

My skin cleared up so much. And aside from my personal experience, there are proven facts that being vegan has tons of health benefits. Heart disease kills one out of every three Americans. One out of thirteen people in America have diabetes. And 21 percent of 12 to 19-year-old Americans are obese.

Eating vegan reduces how much saturated fat, animal hormones and cholesterol one eats. By decreasing these aspects of your diet, you can reduce the risk of cancer, diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. Plus, up to 80 percent of food poisoning cases are due to infected meat. According to the American Dietetic Association, vegans and vegetarians show lower blood cholesterol, lower blood pressure, lower chances of getting cancer, and a decreased chance of heart disease. It gets a bit repetitive, but just in case you missed it, taking meat out of your diet is good for you.

The common question after informing someone I don’t eat meat is “what about protein?” And I really don’t like that question. We have lentils, tofu, black beans, quinoa, soy milk, green peas, artichokes, hemp seeds, oatmeal, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds and umami, spinach, broccoli, asparagus, green beans, almonds, chickpeas, and my personal favorite — peanut butter; as compared to the meat version of protein: chicken, fish, turkey, pork, and beef.

Now, like I said before, vegan does not only benefit health-wise, there are environmental aspects to consider as well. Documentaries, like Cowspiracy and Earthlings, have shed light on the environmental effects animal agriculture has on our earth. One, animal agriculture water consumption ranges from 34 to 76 trillion gallons annually.

Two, agriculture is responsible for 80 to 90 percent of US water consumption. And three, growing the feed crop for livestock consumes 56 percent of the water in the US. Imagine how efficient it would be to use that water to make food. But rather than feed it to animals, feed it to families who are starving. Besides for land animals using resources, marine life is greatly affected by humans as well.

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And this is where we can circle back to where your food is coming from. Certain areas of the oceans are ruined, reefs are depleted, and species are nearly extinct. And that’s not just because animals just disappeared. People eat fish, and fish, and more fish. Did you know that 63 billion pounds of fish that are caught globally are discarded? And along with that 63 billion pounds of discarded fish, according to the Animal Welfare Institute, 40 to 50 million sharks get killed by getting caught in these lines.

To compare, from 1958 to 2014, there have been 548 fatal shark attacks, as said by the International Shark Attack File. Forty to fifty million sharks killed by people annually, compared to 548 people killed by sharks in 56 years. And to top it off, we could see fishless oceans by 2048. So, all of you fish lovers out there just the heads up. And for me, the most influential reason I went vegan: the moral side of it.

What I say may be a bit graphic, but just understand that this is what’s happening every single day. Companies have turned the circle of life into the circle of money. It is the circle of life when a lion hunts for hours to find a meal for the entire pride. But where’s the circle of life in the mass production of your chicken nuggets? Going to the grocery store to buy them, or heating up the oven to bake them? Through research, I’ve seen such horrible and scary images of these so-called free-range or cage-free companies. These massive corporations put up a wall so that people cannot truly see how appalling these processes are.

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