Reluctant vegetarian: my journey from meat-loving to plant-based

Hi there, everyone. I'm Jared. And I'm Zenita. We are your hosts of Record Live, a podcast where we talk about church, faith, and living well. We believe as followers of Jesus, faith is more than just a set of beliefs. It's a way of life, something we put into practice. Let's go live.

    All right. Welcome back to record live. It's great to have you with us again.

Now, Juliana is our assistant editor, mainly working on record on our news and our website. And today we have Juliana and we're going to talk a little bit about your story I'm very grateful that you're willing to come on and talk about that today, but also I guess the cultural phenomenon that is vegetarianism in Adventism.

It's quite a widespread, , part of our Adventist message of our Adventist lifestyle. And many of us are vegetarian or, are quite exposed to vegetarian through church or through school or wherever. but let's kick it off, I think, Juliana, by just briefly, if you can introduce yourself a little bit about yourself, , how you came to work at Adventist Record, and then we'll get into the topic for today.

Oh, if I explain how I came to work here, I think it'll take a while. Time because it's a crazy story, but we can talk about that much more specifically another time So I'm originally from Brazil. I came to Australia in March 2019, And I came as a volunteer for the North and South Wales Conference.

, I was working for the church in Brazil previously. I'm graduated in journalism by the, Adventist University of Sao Paulo. , and then, , we decided to have a change of scenery. So my husband and I came to Australia and yeah, we volunteered at the North and South Wales Conference in the communications department for two years.

And then the third year, we ended up coming here. So yeah, it's good to be here.

It's great to have you here and Juliana, I guess today's conversation comes from an article that you wrote for signs of the times in some ways, about, your health journey, your, I guess it's, it's A testimony of yours and and your life.

But we've titled today's episode a reluctant vegetarian and you were a reluctant vegetarian. You did not want to. Become vegetarian. Now you are. And so first of all, I think it'd be great to know what happened. You know, there's going to be a lot of angles to that story, I suppose, but just tell us a little bit about.

Firstly, why you were so reluctant to become a vegetarian from the outset?

I think I start my Signs article with that sentence, like, I never wanted to be a vegetarian or something like that. And that's true. , in Brazil, we have a very strong, , culture of eating meat. , and even in the church, there are, well, at least when I was living there, there used to be very few vegetarians.

And usually the mentality is that why would we deprive ourselves from eating something that we enjoy, because I think it's like we lack a little bit of education on the effects of diet on our health., and even though we know about the health message, I think we don't take it very seriously because people always say that it's not a matter of salvation and if we eat meat, we'll still go to heaven.

So yeah, I think, you know, We don't take it very seriously there. And, my husband

I guess, Juliana, all that is true. Like, it's not a salvation issue for Adventists. But, it's probably more common in the Adventist group than it is in any other cultures. And so what you're saying, I guess, is that in Brazil, there's a lot of culture around meat. . I had a South American friend talking about, I guess the barbecuing culture there, it's very, very strong. And so you were like, why would I deprive myself of something I enjoy and give myself difficulty? I guess there's a difficulty in there's a social element to it in social occasions a lot of the social occasions are built around.

Grilling , and barbecuing and having meat as, so, so I guess that's how it's socially. Sorry, in, in town,

especially in the south of Brazil, where I grew up, we have the Brazilian barbecue, , which is made like on open flames. , and it's really yum. Like I don't eat it anymore, but it's, it's, it's tasty.

So yeah. And usually families gather. , on Sunday for lunch and they grill meat in their own house. And sometimes friends come over. So it's like a, like an event, a Sunday event and all the families gather and , the man will, , like the fire early in the morning to have like the perfect temperature for the meat.

, and then the women will stay in the kitchen, , doing the side dishes like rice and potato salad. So, yeah, it's a very social thing for us to have meat.

I think, in my wife's culture from the Pacific Islands, there's a similar sort of,, thing they'll do on the weekend. They often have underground ovens or rock ovens.

, they'll cook the meat and the fish and the, , taro leaves, , the root vegetables, taro, cassava, tapioca,, different, different kinds of root vegetables. We have cassava. I'm quite partial to some cassava with a little bit of salt, fried in a pan. My mum used to do it when we were kids.

, very, very nice. But I guess, so, so, to become a vegetarian in that culture, there's a cost. There's a social cost, potentially, and there's a, a taste bud or appetite cost that , you might be paying, but tell us a little bit about why you eventually made the decision or what led up to your decision to, to become a vegetarian.

That was a long journey. , it started in Australia, definitely, , because in Brazil, my husband used to approach me a few times, , asking, if I would consider going vegetarian or at least cutting a little bit the meat consumption during the week. , but I was like, no,

does he, was he vegetarian at this point or just more vegetarian?

Was he looking to get some support to make that decision for himself? Why was he approaching you

I think it was more because of his mom., she She doesn't eat red meat. She used to eat chicken just because of, like, the social side of things, you know, like when she goes to a place where there's, that's the only option, she would have chicken and fish because it's very strong in the culture there in his state, which is a state with a big river called Amazonas, and,.


thought you may have heard of

it. , and, he approached me a few times, , just, I think because he considered it, but , not because he, you know, he was vegetarian or, I don't know. Yeah. And then,, I never wanted it because I,, I didn't see the point. I, , as I said before,, we lack a lot of education in the impact of health, , of diet on our health.

And then when we came to Australia, we made a lot of friends in the church that are vegan, vegetarian., like healthy vegans. And they started to influence us a little bit. And it was interesting in the beginning, they were never, , they never made us feel bad about eating meat, which was good. But we would go to their house in the weekend, and they were like, Oh, just take this vegan muffin with you for the week. I'm like, No, that's okay. And they're like, No, just take it. And then I would come to the office on Monday and be like, go to a, I don't know, a co worker that was vegan. I was like, I have this vegan muffins.

Do you want it? Because I'm not vegan. I'm not gonna eat it.

Get rid of it.

Yeah. So I didn't really want to get into it, you know, like become a vegan or tasted. Cause,, I don't know. I had a, like a bad perception. I don't know why., but then, exactly. And then tasting their food a little, little by little, the time went by and then I started to enjoy it.

And then we did a trip to the Outback, which I wrote an article about it, also for record. , and in that trip, we had to eat vegan for 20 days, because what can you bring to the Outback, , to the middle of nowhere, without a fridge that, , won't go bad, you know? So we had to eat, , vegetables, canned vegetables, and things that Wouldn't, go bad and then make us feel sick.

So bring any meat or dairy. And during those days in the Outback, I noticed that I could do it. Like I could have a vegan diet. And when we arrived, I remember I was like, I want to go have a burger. And on the way we were going to grilled and on the way to grilled, I was like, I remember we stopped the car at the red light and I was like, Oh, I haven't had meat, in like 20 days.

Maybe this is the time to try the Beyond Burger. Yeah, so then I did and I liked it and then a few days later, my friend approached me about doing the CHIP program and then my husband and I did it and we really enjoyed and the thing is that when we started the CHIP program, we, did the blood tests, the initial blood tests to see how we were going and before we left Brazil, we also did some tests And the doctor said that we had high cholesterol amongst other problems.

, and I've always been like skinny and I never assumed that I would have that kind of issue. But, I had high cholesterol and then we came to Australia and we started changing our diet little by little. And then when we came back, , I started the CHIP program. I did the blood test and I still had high cholesterol.

So I was a bit frustrated because I was like, oh, maybe I am, destined to have high cholesterol. I will never have more cholesterol. But then we did the CHIP program and three weeks later, our cholesterol was back to normal. We were healthy again. I was feeling great. Had a lot of energy. because we had been following the CHIP diet, which is a whole food plant based diet.

And it was great. Yeah. So that's, so then when we received the final blood test results, my husband came with the mail in his hand and he was like, that's it. We're becoming vegan. I'm like, what are you talking about? And he's like, you need to see this. And then we saw the results and it was all good. So yeah, it was very positive.

So for anyone that's watching that doesn't know that CHIP is, complete health. What is it? Complete Health Improvement Project?

Yes, program,

I think. Program? Project program. it's,, it's very, very good. It gives you a lot of information and cooking demonstrations and things. So you did the full, was it 10 weeks or something , or,

I don't remember the full length, but, we did a blood test three weeks after, because, then I think we go,


yeah, because, I think we focus on diet on the three first weeks and then we go into exercise a little bit at the end.


Yes, but your results were really good. What about your feeling? Like, did you feel it or did it just show up in tests as in, I think I remember in your science article, maybe tell us a bit about if you're comfortable, some of the health, things you had been experiencing or how you felt, I guess, on the new diet.

Oh, I felt really good. , I felt like I had a lot of energy. which was really new for me because I used to feel sluggish and tired all the time. , and yeah, cause I always, I've always been a night person and at that time I didn't have to wake up so early, so I would always go to bed late and then wake up feeling so tired and I didn't have energy during the day.

But during the cheap program, when we were having the healthy diet, it felt like I was like drinking coffee all the time. Cause I was energized, you know,

yeah, I wasn't like, feeling sleepy during the day at work, so it was great. And also. I also had a lot of like regular issues that people have, like headaches and, you know, I have, scoliosis. So I tend to have lower back pain. And also I had sinus and some hay fever. So after I changed my diet, all that went away.

And these days it's really rare for me to have a headache, for example. So, yeah, I feel really good after I changed how I eat.,

I guess, some people might be saying, oh,, that's good, but , it's so hard to, what was the sort of tricks or the, the process that you went through to, to make that transition?

Okay, so the trip, the chip program was one thing. So that, that, that gives you education, it gives you demonstrations, but in terms of then implementing that in your life because. All of that information could be available to people out there on the internet in books and nutritionists, there's, there's information, but it doesn't necessarily make us change.

So what were some of , the practical things that you were able to implement in your own life to, to be able to make that transition? Cause it can be quite hard for people to make that change or that take that journey.

Yeah, I think, I think the advice I give to people that are considering changing their diet and their habits, it's just start slow.

, I didn't change from one day to the other. , I did it very slowly. It was a, a long process,, started with my friends influencing me. And then I think the first time I stopped to think about, stopping to eat meat. It was when Greger. He's an Adventist doctor from the U. S. He's the author of that, , New York Times best selling book,, How Not to Die.

And he, He was talking about the impact of meat on our body and how it causes inflammation and all that. And then I started realizing that I should maybe stop, but it was a process. That was the very first time I considered stopping having meat. And then, Yeah, with a little bit of education and also with friends that weren't judging my diet.

But the thing is that in Australia, or at least in English speaking countries, there are so many resources online. in Brazil, we didn't really have access to that because It's not part of the culture. It's starting now, with the internet and everything, but, yeah, people have no idea there and here there are so many food blogs and, YouTube channels that you can go into and find recipes that you can try.

And you can maybe like find choose one day from your week to go vegan, for example, and try, , some, healthy recipes. And then. Your, your taste buds are going to change little by little. Cause in the beginning I didn't really like vegetables. , I didn't enjoy having them. That's true. And now I'm like, this broccoli is amazing.

I really, I really enjoy like broccoli and cauliflower and all vegetables and things that I didn't like, like peanut butter, for example, I didn't like peanut butter. Now I love it. So it's a matter of, you know, trying and yeah,

putting some effort.


one thing that I guess I tried and learnt and it's part of what you're saying in terms of the spectrum or the little by little approach is I guess the idea of substitution.

What can I swap? So, for example We prefer brown rice to white rice just because we had to slowly start implementing that in into our diets and that sort of thing. So, yeah, I think there's some some really good advice there. You mentioned, your friends weren't too judgmental. One thing that I think.

people sometimes struggle with in this whole conversation is that, there's some very militant, sometimes pushy people who are vegans or who are very health conscious that, I don't know, make the rest of us feel bad, push that guilt trip on us. How can we As Adventists and Christians, how should we approach communicating the important health message that we have to other people in a respectful, useful way?

What are some ways we can do that, do you think?

I think it's the same way we try to share the Gospel with people, you know? We can't be so, like, what is the word, abrupt? Is that a word? Um, you have to be kind to people and, for example, with, um, healthy eating, you can invite someone to come to your house for dinner and then serve them a good, healthy vegan meal.

Or bring your neighbor some, healthy brownies, for example. So I think you can always like, , there are resources in our church as well. Like the, what is that little booklet that the literature ministry has for sharing, I forgot the name, but , I think it's a taste of food as medicine. The name of the small book that, uh, we can share with people. And it's so. It's, it's like a nice approach, you know, do you, are you trying to, , build, healthy habits, here's something you can try.

There are really good recipes in here, and in the booklet, , people can also find,, other ways, to keep, , getting content from our church. So yeah, I think it's more a matter of how you approach people.

, you were mentioning that there's a lot of English, English content stuff, but I guess with reflecting on your health journey, you've started doing some, is it food blogging or at least Instagram, menuing for Portuguese audience.

Do you do most of it in Portuguese?

Yeah, it's all in Portuguese. , when I was, when we went into lockdown for the first time, I had this idea that I really wanted to share this new thing that was happening to me and with other people, so I could help more people because I know that in my country, people are not aware of the impact of what they're eating.

And then from the knowledge that I got from, my friends and all the resources I had access in Australia. I started an Instagram account to share my favorite recipes with my, my friends in Brazil., it's a bit neglected now. I haven't posted in a while. I have friends that are like, please, you have to keep posting, but I don't have time.

But yeah, it's something that I really like, because I know how beneficial it was for me. So I really wanted to help more people, in that area.

I guess something that I've noticed, in the past few years, vegan and vegetarian is becoming more popular, , more available in our supermarkets., My family.

was vegetarian growing up., so I've been a lifelong vegetarian. So we, we have had access to vegetarian products, but not as many. I've noticed in the past few years, the range of vegetarian options is just so much more in the supermarkets, and yet it does seem, or does it seem, I guess I'll pose the question that way.

Do you think that Adventists take the health message for granted or even,, are moving away from that health message while the world seems to be more moving towards it, more people in the broader community, or do you think it's a bit more complicated than that?

That is a good question, I don't have, I don't have a good perspective on Adventists in Australia.

I don't really know how that works, but, I know that in Brazil, people in Adventists in general, they used to be, even though we were aware of the,, health message, we used to be very reluctant,, Yeah. , going to lunches at church and at church you have to have vegetarian lunch, at least in Brazil, like no one can bring meat and people would be like, why?

, but I think now with the pandemic, , people are becoming a bit more aware, more conscious of, the impact of what we eat on our overall health and our immune system., yep. So I can't really say about Australia, but I can see that in general, people like not just Adventists, people in general want to be more healthy.

And that's another thing to bring into this conversation as we're talking, like,, you know, I wrote a piece many years ago for record, for World Vegetarian Day,, lamenting My, my poor vegetarian choices sometimes, , I've been a lifelong vegetarian, but it doesn't always mean that my health has been very good either.

When I, when I did the CHIP program, , it was really good. And I've had years at a time where I've been vegan , or fairly careful with my diet, with my exercise. And there's been other times. Looking at the pandemic where it's been a lot harder to maintain, and, and so just being vegetarian, and I think this is a trap that we fall into as Adventists, just being avoiding certain foods, avoiding pork and unclean foods and, , avoiding, things that,, even meat or dairy products as a, if we're, if we're vegan, partly because of our faith, it doesn't mean we're healthy


You know, I know one challenge that I have had as a vegetarian, right, is you go to a party or a friend's, birthday, wedding, that sort of event and. There might be nothing vegetarian to eat for the main course, but all the dessert is vegetarian. It may not be vegan, but it's, an option. And so I know a lot of vegetarians who have quite a sweet tooth.

, they, the sugar and the sugar is probably just as dangerous, if not worse than some of the meat, like a lean organic meat product or a, some other kind of, animal products. So, I guess there's the need to be aware that vegetarianism isn't necessarily the, it's not a ticket to heaven.

We already mentioned it's not really our salvation, but it's also not something that we can just set, you know, I don't eat this and this and this and I eat that and that and that and just all of a sudden have amazing health. It's something that's a bit more nuanced than that. We have to actually choose to be vegetarian for health.

We can choose to avoid harmful substances for religious reasons or for cultural reasons. , but if we want to do it for our health, we can't just set and forget, I guess., Yeah., we've got a comment here from Charlie Perth. Thanks for joining us again today, Charlie., he says my friends who are vegetarian.

Well, vegan are motivated by caring for the planet and not exploiting or abusing animals. I think a lot more people today are taking that, approach. Three Angels health message had spiritual foundations they just don't understand. We don't really talk about our role as stewards of creation, but that is a connection that we could be making with people.

I think that's a really important point., I've always, When I think about creation care, you know, stewarding our earth, I can't get away from that verse in Revelation that says, I will destroy those who destroy the earth. God, God is speaking. We mentioned the Amazon rainforest earlier, the area of the lungs of the earth, it's been called, and the deforestation, the death of animals, it is a sad circumstance to see God's creation, you suffering from that.

And so I think there's more reasons that people are vegetarian now. It used to be just a obscure, here's what Adventists do. And there's a lot more good reasons to do it, but I guess we can't just avoid certain things and expect that it will be some magic ticket to wellness and to, to long life and to heaven eventually. I don't know. That was sort of a rambling. There wasn't a question necessarily in there, but I wonder if you've got some reflections or thoughts in that space.

I think my main motivation is my health, but ever since I started my journey, I became a little bit more conscious about conscious about the environment.

And yeah, now we try to reduce our waste, like. Plastic and we try to recycle as much as possible and,, take specific, , waste to specific places that recycle them. You know, using, , baking paper that is compostable, so like we've been doing these little changes and I think that all started with our change of diet as well.

Interesting. It's almost like it makes you care a little bit more. It makes you a bit more conscious. You're thinking about what you're putting in your body, but you're also thinking about, what's around you. church lunches, vegetarian for main course, sugar and pastries for sweets. The Adventist health message, has it changed?

I guess you can have the two extremes, can't you? You can, some churches you go to, um, every dish I've noticed, every main course dish has cheese in it. It

might be

vegetarian, but it's,, not necessarily healthy., and I've always enjoyed a good vegetarian lasagna. So, I'm not throwing stones in glass houses.

I can include myself here. But yeah, you can get the two extremes. You can get a vegetarian lunch at a church that is tasteless and bland and everything's very healthy, but nobody really feels like eating it. And then you can get a very unhealthy lunch. My favorite types of church lunches are the ones in between where there's a little bit for everyone,, it's very, it's not super healthy, but it's also not unhealthy.

It's, it's quite balanced., and, and you were saying, sorry,

my experience, , especially, , Because I studied in boarding, boarding schools, Adventist boarding schools in Brazil, where we have to live in the school and eat in the cafeteria. And, the diet in the school is vegetarian. , but it's like, it's not healthy at all because it's pretty much made of cheese and refined carbs.

, you know, in sugar, of course, like they have a lot of options and the students will always go to the unhealthy ones, but in general, there are not a lot of, you know, whole foods,, like whole grain bread, and I would never pick the brown rice. Um, but yeah, in churches, it happens a lot as well.

Sabbath lunches, for example, , having a lot of cheese and sugar. So yeah, vegetarian or vegan doesn't necessarily mean healthy,

right? There's a proliferation of vegan junk foods now, which I'm very happy because it means I can avoid the dairy and things that sometimes upset my stomach. But also,, still eat ice cream and things like that.

But it's a sometimes treat, isn't it? It's a moderation, because I think that's another part of the Adventist health message that we often neglect, is the idea of balance and moderation. And if you're going to eat something that's not that healthy for you, it doesn't mean you have to beat yourself up about it, but it's also not , and all the time after every meal sort of food, it might be a nice celebration treat for sabbath or something instead of, , an everyday, everyday food.

So I think that's another important principle that, we can be in danger of,, going too extreme and really neglecting that moderation principle or,, either side of the spectrum, both overindulging in terrible things or underindulging, not having anything nice ever, just having fairly bland food all the time.

, So what do we do practically, Juliana? What can we do as Adventist Church members about this whole situation? Should we be Helping, to spread that health message, how can we, , do that in a positive way? , what can we leave with our listeners today?

I think first we should read Ellen White's, , books about health and the impact of, , food on our health. She has really good advice, and we always neglect it. I feel like, In the church, we always focus on meat. Eating meat is bad, but as we were saying before, it's not just that. , so yeah, I think it's a matter of educating ourselves and starting first with ourselves and then trying to impact others ,

as you said before, sort of a, , there's ways to do that in a friendly, non confrontational manner. Sort of not telling people, you should do this, you should do that. But more like, , I guess modeling it in our own lives as well.

It's important to, , it can even be a talking point if you're at an event. Someone's like, hey, why don't you have this? And you say, well,, you can explain some of the rationale behind that.

The health ministries are a great, , door for people to get to know the Adventist message. I have a lot of friends that work with, the health ministries in the North and South Wales Conference.

And it's incredible to see how people that would never give, give a chance. to the church are now attending health initiatives run by the church. And going to the events and socializing, and that breaks the barrier, you know? So I think it's a really important ministry.

I would have to agree.

I think we can wrap it up here, Juliana. Thank you for your time today. We also encourage you to sign up to our record e newsletter, which Juliana helps put together every week.

We have some of our top news stories. We have a link to our record live videos on that e newsletter. So yeah, if you'd like to follow along with what records doing, get the latest news, the latest updates, you can go to our website and subscribe to our e newsletter.

And all of our social media platforms as well. We'd love to keep in touch with you , and , have you commenting and sharing and liking our content because That's what we do it for so we can engage with you and You know, even sharing this Juliana, could be a way to introduce maybe your friends to the concept of eating a more vegetarian diet, because, yeah, Juliana's seen the results in her life, and, yeah, someone might be interested or thinking about it, and this conversation might help them as well.

So, please do, think about how you can share some of this information.

Thank you for joining me . God bless you all. Bye.


Reluctant vegetarian: my journey from meat-loving to plant-based
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