PAWS Magazine

Issue 41, Spring 1999

Meat makes you strong...yeah, right

PAWS member Tom Wilkenson explodes myths about "weak" vegetarians

PAWS member Tom Wilkenson, a captain with the Port of Seattle’s Police Department, has climbed Mt. Baker, Mt. Olympus, Glacier Peak, and Mt. Rainier. He has ridden in the Seattle-to-Portland and Seattle-to-Vancouver bike rides. He runs 12 miles a week. He lifts weights three times a week.

And he’s been a vegetarian for 20 years.

Whether they admit or not, many non-vegetarians harbor assumptions about vegetarians: they are scrawny and weak, or they don’t get essential nutrients and vitamins. But don’t tell this to Wilkenson. "I don’t eat meat of any kind," says Wilkenson. "The only thing that I’ve continued to do is eat a little dairy and eggs, but I don’t think you even need to eat them [and be healthy]."

Wilkenson’s department encourages its officers to get yearly physicals. "They tell me I have absolutely no problems," says Wilkenson. "In fact, I was specifically told to ‘change nothing,’ [because I was in such great shape]."

This is welcome news for Wilkenson, considering his family history includes high blood pressure and high cholesterol. "My dad even had two heart attacks," says Wilkenson.

Besides making Wilkenson stronger physically, becoming a vegetarian has strengthened his spirit. "It was a decision based on my compassion for the suffering of animals," says Wilkenson.

Wilkenson offers encouragement for people considering going veggie. "It was actually very easy to give up meat," says Wilkenson. "There were no withdrawals, and I found that there was plenty to eat. In fact, I have to watch what I eat so I don’t put on any extra pounds!"



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