While most teenagers do not yet possess the frontal lobe development to recognize an alarm clock or their parent’s incessant pleas to Grow Up! Glen Merzer was way ahead of that curve. Case in point – at just 17, all of Glen’s grandparents had already passed - three before he was born and one soon after. Most of the men on his father’s side of the family died in their fifties, and his mother’s two brothers died very young as well. Not to mention, three aunts; all with heart disease.
All things considered he took stock of his family’s health history, or lack thereof, and decided as a teen to adopt a vegetarian lifestyle. Suffice it to say, as a young man he clearly embraced the adage: “the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.”
So, in 1973 on the first day of summer vacation after his junior year of high school, Glen became a vegetarian. He remembers his first vegetarian meal, a breakfast, consisting of an English muffin with jam. Proud of his new lifestyle choice, he immediately shared his decision with his friend Dave who happened to call that same morning. He also remembers Dave laughing at him a response most vegans know all too well. But for Glen, the laughter was all he needed to hear to strengthen his conviction.
Born in 1956 to two very well-meaning left-wing parents, he grew up during the antiwar movement and actually attended anti-war demonstrations. This is where he may have caught the activist bug, but let’s not skip ahead.
Growing up in a middle-class home in the town of Bellmore, Long Island, his family, as most did, followed a standard American diet. As a youngster, he became a fan of the late comedian Dick Gregory. Gregory himself had become a vegan very early on in his life, spending most of his time teaching how to improve one’s life expectancy through nutrition and diet.
At this point in his life, Glen didn’t think of himself as a “health warrior.”
“I was just a kid who didn’t want to be middle-aged at 25, I didn’t want to die young.”
Glen was also not in the least bit interested in converting others to vegetarianism and hardly ever spoke about it.
In his immediate family, nobody was obese but everyone else was just a little overweight. His father developed Parkinsons at 75 and died at 88. His mother had heart disease since her early fifties, but because Glen shifted her towards vegetarianism and made her a vegan in her eighties, she lived to almost 99.
A Shocking Discovery
When Glen reached his mid-thirties he began experiencing sharp heart pains. He was intent on avoiding the doctor and instead intuitively stopped eating cheese; of which he had been eating considerable amounts since his shift to vegetarianism. Cheese was Glen’s answer to the “Where do you get your protein?” question. Now at 36, he was prepared to up the ante and go vegan. While cheese had been the only form of dairy he was consuming, after removing it from his diet, his chest pains quickly disappeared and never returned.
Today Glen is an ethical, healthy, and environmental vegan all rolled into one. This process was gradual, crediting each work project as a milestone, leading him further down the path of righteousness.
Majoring in creative writing and dramatic literature, he initially tried his hand at comedic playwriting. For many years he spent time in NYC attempting to convince well-known theatrical producers and directors to produce his work. One of his plays Amorphous George was later produced, winning him the National Comedy Award of the American College Theatre Festival. This was his ticket to Hollywood, where he would become a writer for various primetime sitcoms. His credits include Boy Meets World, Parenthood, Weird Science, and St. Elsewhere. His most well-known – the TV show Blossom, an American sitcom that aired for five seasons on NBC from ‘91 to ‘95. Blossom starred Mayim Bialik, also a vegan, who is also very outspoken about her lifestyle choices, being a mother of two vegan boys.
In 1996, Glen was approached by Howard Lyman to co-write the book, Mad Cowboy. Lyman, born into the dairy industry, was a fourth-generation organic dairy farmer who later became a champion for the animal rights movement. When Lyman took over his family’s dairy farm, he modernized it into a non-organic industrial dairy farm. However, when Lyman learned he had a spinal tumor that could paralyze him for life, he vowed to return to non-chemical means of farming if he beat cancer. After surviving an operation to remove the tumor, he set out to transform his land into an organic farm and transformed himself into a vegan. You may remember Howard Lyman and his infamous appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Lyman’s remarks on the show led to Oprah’s renouncing hamburgers. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association sued both Oprah and Lyman, however, both were found not liable in 1998.
After writing Mad Cowboy with Lyman, Glen began to emphasize the environmental angle of veganism.
He now uses his platform to speak about this topic with great passion and urgency.
“The planet will not survive if we continue to extract all life from the sea, and if we continue to destroy those few forests we have left in order to allow animals to graze. The animal-based diet has already destroyed much of the earth (starting with the Sahara, which was forested before agriculture was invented and grazing began); we are destroying the Amazon now, and there is neither enough of the planet left nor enough time left to continue the destruction before we will all die. So, it’s not a matter of choice, unless the choice is framed as live or die.
We have 60 years of health data that supports the case that a whole-food, vegan diet is superior to all other diets. On every health metric—longevity, blood pressure, inflammation, BMI, etc—the whole food, low-fat, vegan diet prevails. It is the only diet that can reverse heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. It is the answer to the true deficiency that plagues America—the fiber deficiency.”
When it comes to the now, well-known, climate component, he would add this as its own category. Glen believes this is now the most urgent reason why the world must go vegan.
The way animals are treated has always seemed horrible to him, and emotionally upsetting, and he has certainly made some references to animal cruelty and the horrors of slaughterhouses in his books.
Glen strongly recognizes the struggle we all encounter in trying to persuade others to share that sense of horror and outrage. It’s for these reasons that he emphasizes matters of health, environment, and most recently climate.
In his autobiographical book Own Your Health Glen narrates his own journey to health and tells the stories of how his parents saved each other’s lives and how his wife Joanna overcame the symptoms of the autoimmune disease, lupus.
Two is Better than One
Glen and his wife Joanna, a visual artist from Poland, met on vacation in Calgary, a city in Western Canada. At the time, Glen was living in Santa Monica. Joanna, although an omnivore at the time, was intrigued by Glen’s vegan lifestyle. As a teenager, she did consider vegetarianism, but this lifestyle was very unusual and hard to sustain as a young person in Poland. However, she was fascinated by and accumulated a vast knowledge of herbs, so she did understand the magick that plants embodied as well as the symbiosis humans shared with them.
While visiting Joanna in Canada, Glen convinced her to be a vegetarian. Within their first year of marriage, she joined Glen in his veganism. Although both vegan, they still were not eating what Glen would now consider an optimal diet. They were eating processed vegan foods – hot dogs, french fries, ice cream and more. It wasn’t until they both adopted a whole foods plant-based diet that Joanna, who had a very severe pre-existing condition, and Glen could reach a level of health enabling them both to heal.
Glen’s other book projects include Unprocessed and The Secrets to Ultimate Weight Loss with Chef AJ, No More Bull with Howard Lyman, Food Over Medicine with Pam Popper, Better Than Vegan with Del Sroufe, The Plant Advantage with Benji Kurtz, Off the Reservation, and more recently, Food is Climate .
Glen attributes his healthy physical state to his whole-foods plant-based lifestyle. At 65, aside from a few antibiotics when absolutely necessary, he has no need for pharmaceutical drugs. He also believes and writes about his emotional and spiritual health and how they have improved by eating this way. “My diet causes no suffering, and I don’t have to strain to justify and apologize for it,” says Glen.
Being Vegan Isn’t Enough
“I know enough about health to know that there is a large segment, probably the majority, of the vegan community that is not eating anything close to an optimal diet. There’s too much vegan junk food out there and too much celebration of vegan donuts and unhealthy meat substitutes. Too many vegans consume foods fried in oil or prepared with oil, and coconut oil is treated by many as a “health food” when it is in fact full of deadly saturated fat.
Too many processed vegan foods are made with oil and most egregiously coconut oil. Unhealthy vegan food is a big improvement over animal-based foods for ethical and environmental reasons, but I think we should all want to set a good example as vegans, and that means becoming healthy vegans.
When I gave up oil about ten years ago, I lost ten pounds that I didn’t even know I needed to lose, since in this overweight country I was considered skinny.”
According to Glen, humans are currently destroying over 80% of the earth to obtain 18% of our calories. We are also destroying the 70% of the earth that is ocean, the 37% of the earth’s non-ice land surface that is grazed, and the 6% of the earth’s non-ice land surface used to grow food for animals.
Glen is intent on getting the message out about what we need to do as humans in order to survive the future. He is working on expanding his YouTube channel, as well as a book which will include healthy comfort food recipes. You can learn more about how food is truly affecting our climate and the planet by reading Food Is Climate, which includes a forward by Philip Wollen, and by visiting the website of Dr. Sailesh Rao at climatehealers.org and Glen’s own site glenmerzer.com.
When you consider the fact that during the recent COP26 Summit, an acute understanding of the climate emergency, animal agriculture, the leading cause of climate change, has been completely ignored by most of the leading climate activists and environmentalists, you begin to realize what we’re up against.
To get educated about the benefits of a plant-based diet, Glen recommends Eating Our Way to Extinction, available on Prime Video, which “gets most of the facts right but understates the greenhouse gas contribution of animal agriculture,” according to Glen. He also highly recommends Seaspiracy and Cowspiracy, both available on Netflix.
The climate argument seems to be the easiest sell for the vegan diet, Glen explains. Even for those who don’t seem to care about their own health or about the treatment of animals, they may love their children and grandchildren enough.
Glen believes being a healthy vegan is setting a good example. He says there are too many people who go vegan for the animals but seem to be content living on vegan junk food. Even if your only concern is animal welfare and rights, consider that, for the sake of the animals, you should want everyone to go vegan. And more people will go vegan if the vegans they encounter are slender and healthy. So set a good example with your own diet and health.
According to Peter Goldstein of WeDidIt.Health, who has created a Life Scoreboard to provide actual evidence that there is a real solution to chronic diseases without pharmaceutical drugs and dangerous invasive procedures; there are over 100,000 studies proving that a whole-foods plant-based diet is the optimal lifestyle.
Meanwhile, Glen has dedicated his life and career to inciting a change in human consciousness. Those of us who truly love animals understand this. Our movement is calling for an awakening on behalf of those who simply cannot speak for themselves. Every human must comprehend the profound short-and-long-term effects we have on the surface of our planet and those who live on it.
“Health is a battle between science vs. culture.”
“It’s particularly animal agriculture that gets left out of the conversation; those that preach prefer to talk about ‘agriculture’ and lump together real agriculture (the growing of food) with animal agriculture (the wasting of food and the growing of heart disease). I don’t know to what extent they know the truth or are merely serving economic interests, and to what extent they have been fooled by industry propaganda or by a closed system of thinking.
If you simply assume that humans must eat animals, then you don’t question land use. You don’t question the reality that more than 40% of the non-ice land surface of the earth is absurdly dedicated to raising our levels of heart disease and cancer—that is, it’s dedicated to grazing animals for slaughter. It is unthinkable folly—and they don’t think about it. They don’t question ocean dead zones and the destruction of the oceans because we must extract all life from the sea to eat fish.
So, they don’t factor opportunity cost into the equation. Opportunity cost can only be factored in if you realize that humans don’t have to eat animals, so all that land can be freed up to be rewilded and much of it reforested, and the oceans can be protected to serve as a healthier carbon sink, while restoring phytoplankton populations and sea forests. Opportunity cost is the potential carbon sequestration that is foregone when we rape the planet for animal foods.”
The True Cost of Freedom
Two of the meat industry’s “Freedom Fighters,” The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the American Seafood Distributors Association stomp their feet and cry each time any individual or organization even implies we skip a meat-centered meal. “You are taking away our freedoms,” they shrill.
They slither alongside organizations like the Center for Consumer Freedom, a nonprofit organization claiming to promote personal responsibility and “protecting consumer choices.” All the while they present the public with phony studies and claims of how their products are healthy, but what they are really fighting to protect is their wallets and bank accounts. They even go beyond and slam any company that tries to create a healthier version. There’s a word for that: hypocrites.
Their so-called freedom is to use animals as chattel, chop down forests for grazing, cast pasture maintenance fires, raise animals on feedlots and create lagunes of manure. ALL of which are associated evils committed by the industrial agriculture sector that are literally destroying our planet.
Glen Merzer has made it his life’s mission to educate the world on how we can remove these global threats by simply changing our diet. A whole-food plant-based diet, he says, is our best and quite possibly our only option.
Subscribe to his YouTube channel
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“Own Your Health is the funniest book on diet you’ll ever read. And it’s the diet that’s right for the planet!”—Ed Begley, Jr., actor, environmentalist.
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