As a young child I was always an animal lover, with many furry friends, ranging from mice to horses. We always had a dog around and 1 cat, despite my father’s allergy to most cats (for some reason, this one never gave him an issue). I always had a connection with each of our animals that was unspoken and compassionate. I understood them and they me.
I also had some health complaints that our doctor felt were “growing pains”. Even as a child I understood that although some of the pain I was experiencing in my body might be explained by growing pains and the physical trauma that I had from an accident, but certainly not all; stomach & bowel pain had nothing to do with growing. I knew my body well and even though I was only a child I was becoming more familiar with how my body worked. I began making associations between the food I was consuming and how it would make me feel. I knew that something just wasn’t right. I began to eliminate certain things from my diet. At the time, much to my mothers’ dismay, which would eventually become an assignment, a thesis of sorts. She wanted me to prove to her that I could stay healthy and I needed to prove that I could. “How I’m going to be a healthy vegetarian”.
My dad also had a few health issues of his own. He had a love of sweets. He was chronically stressed being self-employed with a strong sense of commitment to his family; by employing all 3 of his younger brothers. Eventually he developed type 2 diabetes. My mom made the necessary changes to the food we ate. At the time it was a healthy diet. I know now it was only the start of a healthier lifestyle and one that would continue to evolve as my knowledge did.
As I entered the 9th grade our English class read the novel Lord of the Flies. There it was, I was now no longer eating pork. I just couldn’t stomach the idea of it after reading this rather graphic “hunting of wild pigs”. It wasn’t long after that that beef came off my list. It had always given me such pain anyway, with plenty of time spent crying on the toilet with extreme stomach and bowel pain. Not more than 6 months later I was petting our cat and as I stretched out one back leg, took a long look and realized I was pretty much looking at a chicken drumstick…. There goes chicken and turkey folks.
For many years thereafter I was almost sickened by the thought of meat. I was willing to cook it as long as I didn’t have to touch it with my bare hands. I was young, still quite set in my mind that meat was bad and let’s face it, I was naive. As time passed, I moved out of home, began to grow up a little, was engaged and it didn’t take long before four legged friends made our house a home. Not long after I got married, my father passed away. Not from diabetes, but from what at the time the cardiac surgeon told us “Other than having high blood pressure, his heart was relatively healthy. I’m sorry to say that the likely cause of this problem was the long standing stress that his body has endured”.
It was a very sudden passing and needless to say I was a bit stunned. For many years after I was in what I now like to call “auto pilot”. I made many decisions during my auto pilot time, some good and some not so good. I must admit that one of the best decisions I made was to take my desire to learn more about the body, how it functions, why it breaks down and how to enable it to heal. At the time I was already well into what I now know will be a life long learning journey. I was a Certified Aromatherapist, Canine Massage Practitioner and had dabbled in herbology and energy healing, among many other paths. I had decided to become a Registered Holistic Nutritionist.
From my years of study I recognized that food was the primary key to health and healing. We are after all, what we eat, assimilate and absorb.
I realized that not only should I be feeding myself better, I also furry friends better too. I started with my cats. I was determined to get them eating a raw diet. 1 cat loved it, while the other was stubborn. Luckily, I was more stubborn than him. It took a few days, but eventually he succumbed to hunger and nibbled. Pretty soon he could barely contain his excitement for his supper time each day. I never looked back. Not long after that I brought a great dane home from a raw breeder. She would became my greatest yoga teacher.
My years of training, research and devotion to maintaining a healthy body were paying off. This love for my animals allowed my understanding to grow and evolve. I was a vegetarian, elbow deep and animals bit and parts (insert vegan gasp here). Eek, something only a few years prior would have made me vomit. It was now not only something I could only tolerate, but actually felt a desire to do.
What I soon began to understand was that I was acting with ahimsa, for the sake of my animals needs instead of my own opinions of what ahimsa meant for me. I knew what my pets needed to keep them healthy and I was more than willing to forgo my current understanding to ensure they were getting what they needed. They are carnivores. If I were to deny them the biological need of meat consumption, I would actually be causing them harm. Uh-un, no sir, not now, not ever. Hmm, ahimsa.
And to this day, now with 2 cats and a very spry pup, all three healthy, happy, fit, and thriving on a holistic raw diet; hopefully for many, many years to come. 24 years after deciding to become a vegetarian I can proudly say that I’m healthy, happy, fit and will continue to be for many years to come.
As well as being an active yoga teacher, Jo-Anne is also passionate about all things food. As a Registered Holistic Nutritionist she prides herself on finding creative ways to maximize nutrition through healthy food preparation. She focuses on local, and whenever possible organic ingredients to nourish the body, mind and spirit. When she is not doing or teaching yoga, she will frequently be found in the kitchen either cooking or baking. This is of course when she’s not knitting, crocheting, playing ultimate frisbee, soccer or simply joking around having a good laugh.