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Are you hungry? I usually am. What to eat?

Like many people, I need to lose weight. I try to eat healthy foods, and I usually succeed. My biggest pitfalls are when I’m too busy to shop and cook; then it’s frozen pasta meals or pizza or takeout. I did a lot of that for several weeks when I worked all day and was in a dark theatre all evening. So, now several pounds heavier, I am conscious and conscientious about what I put on a plate.

My brother recommends juicing. I watched Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead. The weight loss stories and healthful lifestyle changes were impressive. I just wonder whose head I would snap off on a liquid diet of only fruits and vegetables during this summer grilling season of steaks and burgers and beer can chickens, which leads me to my next dilemma: eating meat.

When I was a little girl and discovered that chicken drumsticks were euphemisms for legs, I became a vegetarian, much to my parents’ chagrin. In a household where “Eat your meat” was as likely heard as “Eat your vegetables,” I was overruled and felt like an outcast. I ate my spaghetti sans meat sauce and with butter, Parmesan cheese, and pepper. I’d eat the potatoes and carrots and gravy and leave the pot roast. It wasn’t until I discovered tacos that meat became something I’d welcome on my plate.

Vegetables are another sticking point. So much produce we consume is genetically modified from the original form to something that is shelf-stable, aesthetically pleasing, and devoid of flavor and nutrients. Add pesticides and herbicides and I have to wonder if these super foods are partially responsible for cancers and allergies. While I incorporate more vegetarian options into my diet, I can’t seem to break my love of grilled meats.

I hate how we raise animals for consumption. Many of us have this idyllic picture in mind of cows happily chewing cud in a flower-dotted meadow, and chickens running happily about the barnyard, roosting comfortably in a barn with fluffy chicks underfoot. The reality is that animals are inhumanly crowded inside in cages, pumped with antibiotic to fight disease from overcrowding, and are slaughtered in barbaric conditions. I shudder and vow to eat less meat. I need to seek out local farmers who raise their animals like they were raised a century ago. Who has the time and resources for that?

Ideally, we should raise our own vegetables and fruits, eat less (or no, many would argue) meat. I like Mark Bittman’s VB6 — Vegetarian Before 6. It’s a start.

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