Recently, I attended a conference held for my profession so that I could fulfill the continuing education requirements needed to sustain my professional license and increase my knowledge of specific, personally chosen topics. I took several interesting courses, including a course on white privilege and another on parental rejection of LGBTIQ youth after coming out, and thoroughly enjoyed being in an academic setting once again. But despite my thirst for knowledge and the tantalizing subject matter, there continued to be a gargantuan elephant in the conference, mainly one eating pastries and drinking coffee.
Let me preface this by saying that I’m a raw vegan, meaning that I eat mostly raw foods (fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds) and aim to abstain from all animal products, alcohol, refined sugar, and caffeine. My reasoning for what some would call an “extreme” lifestyle is because I was diagnosed with a “progressive and incurable” neurological disease at 23 years old and have been reversing and managing the symptoms with this particular lifestyle ever since, which is clearly a personal choice and may not be suitable for everyone. At the time I began these changes, my parents purchased a wheel chair for me, and I could not stand up for longer than a few minutes at a time on the most potent narcotics. Now, I am medication free, have a Master’s Degree, and am applying for a Ph.D., something I never thought I would be able to do.
During one of the conference’s plenary sessions, the speaker was suggesting that self-care is extremely important, but I couldn’t help but notice that the majority of the individuals in the room were only consuming pastries and coffee ( the only food choices offered) before a full day of learning. I bring this up, not with judgment because those foods are certainly delicious (and I always pack my own food as someone with an alternative lifestyle), but with concern for the amount of education provided concerning diet and lifestyle and how they are extremely important tools in self-care. If I can manage and reverse the symptoms of a progressive disease, imagine what someone facing less grave conditions and feeling run down from an emotionally demanding profession like social work can do! Energy increases naturally without the need for stimulants, skin glows, the body detoxifies, emotions and weight balance, amongst other wonderful benefits.
I do take it one step further myself and view animals as part of vulnerable, oppressed, and disenfranchised populations, populations we pledge to advocate for as social workers in our Code of Ethics. I would be thrilled to excitedly open the brochure for next year’s conference and see courses offered concerning diet as self-care and animal advocacy. Until then, I will continue to do what I do best, advocate for all sentient beings and heal others by healing myself, mind, body, and spirit.