After summer was over and my muscles had shrunken significantly, I decided college wasn't for me and rejected a scholarship to the University of Arizona, resolving to fulfill philosophical fancies I'd had since age sixteen to live in the wilderness and learn how to survive with nothing and need nobody.
I ended up in central Arizona as a farm intern at the Reevis Mountain School of Self-Reliance, a living, working homestead eight miles deep into the Superstition Wilderness. It was here that my foray into alternative health and healing began (and my muscles continued to shrink). Despite the fact that the founder of the school, Peter Bigfoot, was a former vegetarian of 30+ years -- fully fruitarian for one of those years -- and was unabashedly eating plenty of meat when I arrived, somehow (possibly from the media and word of mouth) I got the bright idea that vegetarianism was the healthiest diet to consume. Now for the downward spiral.
As I got deeper and deeper into wilderness survival following my time at Reevis, I also got deeper and deeper into simple vegetarian staples: amaranth, quinoa, oatmeal, peanut butter, raisins, beans, huge salads with olive oil, and other "healthy" whole foods. I also got more and more interested in restricing my food intake -- maybe someday I would have to eat so little that I could survive in the mountains all by myself and be a hermit! Wouldn't that be nice? Oh, to be 19 again.
The skinnier I got, the healthier I thought I was becoming. Anyone that ate the typical American diet became a glutton and destroyer of the earth in my eyes. After all, it was the problem of over-consumption that was bringing the planet to an early demise, and food was one of those products that was almost certainly abused and taken for granted. So I was going to be better than that. Yes, I was going to be a low-calorie vegetarian, save myself and save the planet.
Now, not only was I a vegetarian for health and survivalist reasons, but I also had the entire world's suffering behind me to rationalize my choice. I ate less and less. I fasted. I dumpster-dived. I ate wild edibles and garden veggies. I harvested citrus in Tucson over the walls of neighbor's yards. I learned to survive in a brutal, unforgiving, and unethical world. I felt empowered, independent, free. Yeah, I weighed 155 pounds and looked gaunt and sickly -- so what? I was healthy! Wasn't I?
It took about 3 years of that behavior -- that way of relating to myself and the world -- to finally give meat a try again. I was at my body's breaking point. I felt dizzy when I stood up, fatigued and weak. Daily yoga two or three times a day was all that seemed to keep my limbs, joints, and muscles feeling relatively pain-free. My lower back was worn and aching constantly. Anything physical became a chore. My libido was completely shot -- I hadn't thought about being with a woman for years. Then came the miracle.