Last weekend, I was out to a luncheon to celebrate my oldest sister’s birthday. My middle sister always takes personal responsibility to find places that offer vegan options, so we can all enjoy a meal together. For those of you who have not been exposed to veganism, that is not an easy feat. In fact, eating at restaurants is such a challenge that I usually just don’t. My middle sister travels a lot for work, so she is always open and willing to try new things, and is open to having meatless meals occasionally. I am very lucky to have her, honestly.
As I was looking at the menu, my mother and older sister were pointing out salads that I might be able to have. I have learned that people in general tend to be uncomfortable with what they don’t know or understand. I try to be gracious, and thank people for pointing out items that I can eat, but there is one simple fact…I hate salad. I mean, I don’t HATE IT hate it, but I certainly don’t love it. It’s boring. Plus, have you ever really looked at the salad selection on a menu? It’s almost like they can’t fathom a protein source without animal flesh or cheese.
Another strange thing happens when I eat around non-vegans. “I eat salad every day!” “I almost never eat meat!” “I only eat chicken anymore!” Then, when the meal order is taken, it’s a cheeseburger and fries. Of course, as with any group of people who subscribe to a particular lifestyle or choice, there are always people who give everyone else a bad name. The vegans I know aren’t chastening meat eaters for eating meat, aren’t attacking them for their choices, aren’t throwing fake blood on them and yelling ‘MEAT IS MURDER!’. The VAST majority of us want nothing more than to live harmoniously in the world, and answer questions to demystify and normalize the choice to not consume animal products.
I wasn’t always a vegan, and for the record, I call myself ‘veganish’. I am not perfect. I eat pizza once in a while. I do my best, but I am by no means perfect. Growing up, and well into adulthood, I was under the impression that you have to have meat at every meal. I didn’t understand that ‘meat’ meant protein. Looking back, that seems really dumb. The fact is, we learn things and accept them as unquestionable facts as children. For instance, I loved tuna sandwiches as a kid, but I hated fish. I didn’t know until I was 14 years old that tuna was fish. My parents never told me that “Tuna is fish”. It was just, “Do you want a tuna salad sandwich?” Needless to say, I had great empathy for Jessica Simpson with the whole “Chicken of the Sea” debacle. It wasn’t until I decided to learn about food and what we need to eat and why that my mind started to change.
After I lost 100+ pounds, I became very invested in understanding first, what do I need to eat and why, and second, what works best for me. A major revelation to me during this crusade for answers is that there is nothing but conflicting information on diet. Did you know that the low fat diet was actually due to members of the US Congress dropping dead at alarming rates from heart attacks? During the 60’s and 70’s, eight congressmen died in office from heart attacks. So what did they do? According to Alison Aubrey of NPR, the government introduced dietary guidelines based off of hearings in the senate. Scientists thought that foods high in cholesterol affected blood cholesterol, but did not know why. Hence, the idea that fat is bad and carbs are good was introduced. Unfortunately, as is demonstrated in the current statistics of American health, this was flawed logic. 68.8% of adults in the United States are overweight. 35.7% of those are obese. 1 in 20 are considered extremely obese. 74% of men…MEN…are overweight or obese, all according to the National Institutes of Health. Not only that, recent statistics show that 10% of the world’s population are overweight.
If you remember the ’90’s, you remember the Atkin’s diet. Eat all the protein and fat you want, and restrict your vegetables and carbs. This was a dream to many people! I can eat bacon and eggs every day and be healthy??? Well, sorry, but no. And then South Beach. And then Ephedra pills, which oops, that was speed. And then. And then. And then. Make no mistake, misinformation in the diet industry is big money. We need stop looking to companies to decide and tell us what is healthy and what is not. “Low fat muffins”…HA! The secret to good health has never been a secret. It’s just not as easy as we would hope. Eat fresh foods, eat a balance of good fats, good proteins, and good carbs. Good fats? Think avocado over Big Mac. Good carbs? Dates over muffins. Good Proteins? Nuts over bacon.
Anyway…how did I get from there to here. Well, the truth is, I’m not entirely sure. I remember one New Year’s Eve. I was making roasted potatoes and asparagus, and Wave was marinating rib eye steaks. I looked at him, and I said, “You know, I don’t know why we bother eating meat. All we do is season the hell out of it so we don’t actually taste the meat, and then I don’t sh*t for days.” We kind of looked at each other, and just decided that was our last omnivorous meal. Believe it or not, the transition was easy. The hardest part was the questions. It took me a while to learn a bit of grace and patience.
A true vegetarian has no issue getting protein. I know that the first thing you want to ask me is “Where do you get your protein”, or you may be wondering “Are you getting enough protein?” To this, I would ask you, “Are you?” I would like to assure you, the ominivorious, that we are ok. In fact, did you know that vegetables have protein? Check this out:
I finally understand that your questions about protein are because you probably were raised like me. You have to eat meat at every meal. I challenge you to change the word ‘meat’ with protein’. I would also ask, do YOU know how much protein you need, and are YOU getting enough? It’s super simple. Take your body weight…your REAL weight, not your driver’s license weight, divide by 2. That’s the number of protein grams you need per day. Take that number, divide by 3. That’s how much you need at each meal. Simple, right? AND, now you know, you are getting protein from many sources, not just meats!
When I switched to vegetarian, I think I saw a minor weight loss, less than 5 pounds. I didn’t do it for animal rights or saving the planet or any other reason that I didn’t like the taste and what it did for my digestion. Everyone has their reasons, and it’s safe to say asssuming their motives is proabably not safe. I stayed vegetarian for a few years. I still had stomach aches. I felt like I was digesting food much better, but still had some issues. Further investigation was required.
I decided to get tested for food allergies and sensitivities. So, what is the difference? A food allergy can kill you. A food sensitivity, though very unpleasant, will not kill you. It will cause indigestion, stomach aches, IBS, constipation, diarrhea, fatigue, irritability, and possibly acne. But not deadly. Turns out, I’m sensitive to casein (cow’s milk protein) and eggs. So, basically, if I want to not have the afore mentioned symptoms, I need to avoid them. By avoiding them, I become a vegan. Now, before I am corrected, I understand that a true blue vegan wears vegan clothes, carries vegan bags, wears vegan shoes, and of course avoids leather and furs. I would say that I 95% fall into this naturally. But I don’t know that every thing I own is animal friendly. I do my best, and I think that is good enough. There is no vegan tribal council. I won’t be brought up on vegan charges.
I often hear, “I think I could be a vegetarian, but I love cheese! I can’t give it up!” Well, that’s ok!! I think that this world could be a better place if we all just accept who we are and what we are willing to do, and stop judging everyone else. Maybe you want to try vegetarianism for one day a week and see how it feels. Maybe you learn that even going vegetarian helps our environment. Mass meat production contributes more greenhouse gasses that either transportation or industry, according to Scientific American. For some people, their concern for our environment is enough to make small changes to their diet. Most of us accept that climate change is real and is happening, but don’t know how they can contribute. This is a major way to help. Meatless Monday. What do you have to lose?
Some people tie their masculinity or toughness to meat eating. Why? What does eating meat have to do with any of that? You are not more or less of a man or a tough person. There are many successful vegan athletes and body builders who compete with omnivorous athletes and body builders. We are foolish if we think that how we get our protein determines our fortitude. I also want to address the idea that becoming vegan will give you a running PR, or an advantage over a carnivorous competitor. I would give a word of caution. You can be a junkatarian or a vegetarian. The quality of food will help you, but will not overcome the quality of your own training and commitment to your sport. Will it make you drop weight? Maybe. It depends on the quality of your food choices. When it comes down to it, Fritos are probably vegan and Dorritos and nachos are vegan. Does this give you a competitive advantage? Um…no. Does it make you lose a TON of weight? Maybe. It depends on what you currently eat. If you consume fast food and garbage now, then consume only nuts, seeds, beans, vegggies, fruits, of course you are going to drop weight. But if you are a pretty clean eater now, you won’t see much of a change.
Make no mistake, vegan can be hard if you rely on packaged foods. The best way to go vegan is to stick to vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, and real foods. The more you can control the inputs, the easier it is. There are milk and eggs in almost all convenience foods. The internet is a great tool. Research vegan meals. The variety of foods I eat now as a vegan are far greater than I ever ate as a carnivore. Why? Because the fear of eating salad only for the rest of my life forced me to try new things. Who knew that you could make a nut meat that mimics the taste and texture of ground beef for tacos? Or that there are vegan baking cookbooks? Or even full on vegan cookbooks? You’d be surprised!
To the naysayers who continue to say that long term veganism is not healthy for you. I say, maybe try it. Maybe, before you poison people against a choice, understand that there are entire populations who are vegan and vegetarian around the world that are far healthier than our American meat and cheese culture. Open your mind. Try something new. It certainly will not kill you. It may make you feel better. You may find that meats and cheeses never agreed with you in the first place. You may realize that you always felt like hot garbage juice but never recognized it before. You have absolutely nothing to lose by trying it. I would encourage you to find a trusted vegan or vegetarian and get some advice. Ask for recipes. Ask for restaurants where your can try a meal. Or, ask me! As always, I am available to you. You can contact me through the ‘Contact’ form here, you can DM me on Instagram. I am here for you! This doesn’t have to be scary, or cause anxiety. Your vegan and vegetarian friends want nothing but for you to find peace in your diet, and within yourself. We are not judging you…well MOST of us are not judging you.
You may feel that even considering this is lunacy, but I assure you…You are probably NOT crazy!!