Hey guys – welcome to my vegan story.
I have to admit that before I would never have imagined that I’d have chosen to go vegan. I believed the stereotype about vegans – that they were annoying people who shout you down for eating meat and dairy products – that they were extremists and that their lifestyle was lacking in vitamins and minerals, and that they got sick easily from malnourishment. Also… I loved chicken. And chorizo. And prawns….
What a complete turnaround, right?
So why the heck did I become one, you might well ask. Well, it’s a long story – but here are some of the main points.
So I’ve always loved animals, especially horses, and I’ve always kind of cared about the environment too – I have an eye for fine colours and details in nature, and as a Christian yeah, I have those moments where I stop and take a second to just thank God for the beauty and downright cleverness of the world and its ecosystems functioning silently around me. Things like road kill always used to make me sad, and when my family’s cats brought in dead animals or killed mice in the garden, this always used to shake me to the core, even if I never shared these private and intense feelings with anyone else at the time.
Fast forward a few years to when I was 14 and starting to take more of a healthy (at this point) interest in what I was eating and what foods would make me feel good and give me better nutrition. I began to make changes, switching out yogurt coated fruit flakes and cheese strings and hoola hoops for fruit in my lunch box, and cycling to school pretty much every day. At this point, I didn’t really know much about what it meant to get fit and really be healthy… so this, unfortunately, went a bit wrong! I don’t want to go into too much detail about my eating disorder yet, as it’s still sensitive and in my recent past, and although I (thankfully) no longer turn to those old coping mechanisms, my body is still recovering, and this could take a few more years, so please respect my withholding the story at this point. Basically, my initial interest in living healthily went downhill, due to many factors/pressures at the time and some underlying issues with self-esteem etc. For the next 2 and a bit years my diet wasn’t healthy in the sense that I was restricting, and I didn’t really have the brain power to care about people around me or the world or anything. There have been many times when I’ve looked back and been amazed that I managed to get the grades I did at GCSE and A-Level…. And the fact that I’m at uni now is another miracle in itself!
Fast forward again to my last year of A-Levels and I was experimenting with Paleo… but I was never satisfied with my meals and was eating so much food and so many calories because of all of the coconut oil and meat. I remember a strange moment eating a steak and the blood was dripping out of it, and it kind of made me feel sick. I think it was a bit ‘rare’ as it was super chewy and just tasted kind of weird. This was the point when I began to doubt that Paleo was as great as it had seemed at first.
I stumbled across Nina and Randa’s youtube channel one night, and saw how happy and glowing with health they were, and they happened to recommend the Starch Solution in one of their videos. I bought it cheap online and read it once it got to me… and it all just made so much sense. In the book, Dr McDougall has worked with so many people and seen them cured of major diseases by eating plant foods. Diabetes, cancer – people had managed to rid themselves of horrible things such as rheumatoid arthritis or something…. Crazy right?
I watched a recent documentary also recommended by Nina and Randa on their channel called Cowspiracy – it really opened my eyes and I was shocked about just how much the meat and dairy industries are affecting the environment and how world hunger isn’t a matter of lack of enough food – but poor distribution of it. We have plenty of food – but we feed so much of it to cattle. It blew my mind. I also watched Earthlings (it’s free on youtube!) and this shocked me to the point of feeling sick when I saw what conditions animals were living in and just how and how many were being killed every day, every year. It really struck a chord… if I love animals, why do I eat them? Why do we love cats and dogs and horses, but eat pigs and cows… and baby pigs and cows too?
So I guess what I’m trying to say is – it was a mixture of wanting to benefit the world, save some animals, and better my health and fully restore what had been lost during that difficult time in my life. I learned that veganism isn’t this scary thing where you’re deprived and you get sick. In fact, it was the opposite. People think that it’s not a meal without meat, but actually they don’t know just how wrong they are! That’s just what they’ve been brought up to believe their whole lives, and society has been conditioned to see it that way. You don’t need meat to live! There are famous people throughout history who have shown this – intelligent people with lots of wisdom, not just celebrities (although many of these and models turn to veganism because its a sustainable lifestyle!) I had come to realise that the way I’d been eating before wasn’t sustainable for me long term – I would always be having to restrict calories to lose weight or maintain my weight. But I like to eat now! Eating plant based showed me that I could do just that. There is so much variety to choose from too: fruits, vegetables, potatoes, rice, beans, legumes, chickpeas, avocado, olives, coconut… you name it!
Since going vegan, I’ve noticed several things which have been really significant to me personally.
1. I really do genuinely care about the environment. I actually remembered back to an RS lesson we had (GCSEs) where there was a chapter in the text book about stewardship of the world God has given us. At the time I didn’t think much of it… how can I, one small person, do anything significant for something as big as the environment? How could I look after the world, when, with my money, I was supporting it’s destruction by buying animal products (which come with way bigger carbon footprints than other groceries, not including the huge amounts of water that go into their production). If I was in this world to care for it and its people and appreciate it, then I couldn’t support these processes that are so damaging to it anymore. This was the primary reason I decided to adopt this lifestyle.
2. I love animals. We have a cat. *edit* now we have two cats! I have always wanted a dog and a horse my whole life. Horses have always been my favourite animal since I could say the word, and dogs have always come second. You can actually have a relationship with animals. They are smart, they have feelings. So they aren’t humans that can read and write and have a religion…. But they are creatures which we are commanded to take care of in the Bible. This point is disputed a lot as in the New Testament there’s a bit where Peter (the Apostle) has a dream where God tells him that no food is unclean in his sight and they can eat animals etc. (Acts Chapter 10 verses 9-15), but something that sticks out to me personally is how this happens after the fall, in a fallen world, full of sin. Before this, in Genesis (Chapter 1 verse 29), God gives ‘every seed-bearing plant … and every tree that has fruit’ for food. You might not agree with me on this one, but it makes sense in my head anyway. In the Garden of Eden, in Genesis, that’s when people were perfect and ‘without sin’ – and interestingly, plant foods are better digested by humans than meat, which takes hours!!
3. I want to be healthy, free and happy. The balance of your hormones is so fine and complex, and I really messed mine up… for years! A plant based diet is free of added hormones (in dairy products) and antibiotics and acidic protein (meat) and low in cholesterol. This is why so many people have managed to reverse and prevent horrible illnesses on it!!** Personally, I’ve experienced a lot of healing eating this way, and I have never had so much energy – I’ve never felt so satisfied after meals – my brain has enough glucose to function properly for once! I don’t have energy crashes during the day… and the best thing is I get to eat all of my favourite foods – oats, chickpeas, rice, potatoes, pasta, fruit, veggies, peanut butter…. Even Oreos and chocolate (85% and up usually)!! (Some things are accidentally vegan!) They are all nutrient dense foods that make you feel amazing. I’ve felt much more positive too – maybe because the high amounts of fibre have helped sort out my digestion! (TMI maybe but I really struggled with gastroparesis and IBS). There was a recent program on TV that said the best way to age gracefully was to adopt a vegan diet and there was even an interview with a vegan heart surgeon who retired at something crazy like 90 years of age!
So yeah, there we go. I could go on for ages… but that would be boring. If you’ve read this far and still want to know more, then I really recommend you look at some of the videos on This Girl Audra’s Youtube channel (especially if you are suffering from an eating disorder), but also if you have any doubts about the nutrition etc. then there are registered plant-based dietitians who go into more detail about requirements and things for every stage of life ( see this link for more details: http://www.theveganrd.com/about ). Even the NHS website (UK) has things about veganism! Oh and if you are interested, watch documentaries like Cowspiracy and Earthlings and Forks over Knives. It’s cheeky but most of these are available free on YouTube. You can thank me later 🙂
This is my vegan story so far. You may not agree with it, and I’m not asking you to, although I would encourage you to at least get a bit more information before you come to your decision. I’m not doing this for you anyway! I’m doing this for the world. I’m doing this for the animals. But I’m also doing this for me. Wish me luck!
**N.B: I am not saying that a plant based diet can cure everything… but it has been shown to help prevent the risk of major illnesses and there are testimonies from people who have managed to reverse some of their illnesses by adopting this lifestyle 🙂
Links to the resources mentioned above:
This Girl Audra’s Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCauKhWPdXJ0TROojjzoJdWg
NHS on veganism: http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Vegetarianhealth/Pages/Vegandiets.aspx
Cowspiracy is definitely on Netflix so even get a free trial if you don’t have it and watch it!
Earthlings – this is really graphic, just to warn you. The free one I found on YouTube in this link has Deutsch subtitles: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M6BBc6Hrr3E
An explanation of Carnism: http://www.carnism.org/carnism
Registered Dietitian Virginia Messina’s website debunking myths about veganism: http://www.theveganrd.com/about