Jennifer Santiago by Jennifer Santiago, Emmy-nominated reporter for the CBS affiliate in Miami. She is an attorney and Emmy-nominated reporter for the CBS affiliate in Miami. Her articles have appeared in The Miami Herald and Ft. Lauderdale Magazine.


Retired running back Ricky Williams is, once again, in the headlines. As the sports world and its followers debate the likelihood of whether Miami Dolphins’ number 34 will make a return to the gridiron, ad nauseam, the most interesting thing about Ricky isn’t being discussed with the fervor it deserves. The man who weighed a whopping 250 pounds when he played for the New Orleans Saints is now hovering somewhere around 200. In a world where thin is in and billions are wasted on lose-weight-now-without-lifting-a-finger plans and pills, doesn’t anyone want to know Ricky’s weight-loss secret? Well, here it is: Ricky doesn’t eat meat.

There was a time when Williams would shuffle the aisles of Wild Oats on South Beach, brushing an errant dreadlock from his eyes to get a good look at that perfect rack of pork. His one-time dietician, Sari Mellman, who formulates specific eating plans for athletes all over the NFL by testing their blood, advised a fat and fumbling Williams that holding onto the pigskin would come easier if he, well … consumed pig skin. (Note to the Ricky-haters: Insert “you are what you eat” snide remark here.) But—once compassion and enlightenment came to Williams in that now-infamous marijuana-induced moment of lucidity that he experienced while meditating in an Australian tent—he not only forsook football, he gave up eating animals.

“Not even chicken?” I ask, having tried to convert him to vegetarianism years ago.

“I wouldn’t eat a chicken,” Williams says, “if it dropped dead in front of me holding up a sign that said, ‘Eat Me.'”

There are hundreds of reasons not to eat meat. Let’s roll the highlight reel:

  • Every year, more than 25 billion animals are slaughtered for food. These living, breathing, pain-feeling creatures are often confined to filthy, cramped quarters and endure unspeakable pain and suffering.
  • The idea of eating a dog is repulsive, right? Well, consider this—pigs are a lot cleaner, smarter, and more social than “man’s best bud.”

If compassion isn’t your game, then here are health reasons to become a vegetarian:

  • People who consume animal products are 40 percent more susceptible to cancer and are at increased risk for many other illnesses, including stroke, obesity, appendicitis, osteoporosis, arthritis, diabetes, and food poisoning.
  • Meat contains accumulations of pesticides and other chemicals up to 14 times more concentrated than those found in plant foods.
  • Children who grow up getting most of their nutrition from plant foods rather than meats are less likely to develop weight problems, diabetes, high blood pressure, and some forms of cancer.

Don’t care about your health? Here’s the coup de grace: Paris Hilton pitches for Carl’s Jr. Burgers. If that doesn’t make you lose your appetite for meat, what will?

So as we await the arrival on the football scene of the elusive and enigmatic Williams, who has made a career of baffling his adoring public with seemingly destructive decisions, let us applaud his one selfless undertaking to live cruelty-free. Now it’s your turn to give that blood-soaked steak the stiff-arm.

See if you’ve got what it takes to get the meat out of your diet. Take the Veg Pledge and see how much better you feel, mentally and physically. You won’t be sorry.