I've mentioned before that I have become a vegan. It's now had such an impact on my life that I'm going to write a whole post explaining why on earth I'd become a vegan, and why I'll be a vegan for life.
First, I should say that the term "vegan" isn't great. It's usually associated with freakshows who are so against killing animals that they won't wear leather. While I'm not going to frequent cockfights or go hunting, I have no problem with animals being killed. I like leather stuff, and animals dying is part of life with or without humans.
Another problem with the term "vegan" is that many vegans eat an unhealthy diet. They cut out meat, but don't add vegetables in their place, so they tend to eat a lot of refined grains. Doing that is more unhealthy than just eating meat.
I used to be a huge fan of meat. I would eat at Whole foods every day, and would get either a turkey sandwich or grilled salmon. At home I would drink milk and eat huge quantities of yogurt.
Then one day my friend Hayden loaned me the book The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-term Health. I wasn't particularly interested in the book as I had no desire to cut out meat. I thought that lean meats were perfectly healthy, and that anyone who disagreed was a hippie.
Just to be clear - I was against veganism on principle and was not considering switching to it. Evan always ate vegetarian when we'd have lunch together and I would make fun of her for being a vegetarian. I don't want people to get the impression that I am some sort of hippie, or someone prone to being influenced easily.
I read The China Study in one night, and it was fascinating. It's written by one of the scientists who led the most in depth nutrition study ever. He himself was born on a farm and was an avid carnivore. Over 80,000 people were studied, and the researchers discovered that animal products were absolutely responsible for causing cancer, heart attacks, diabetes, and basically anything else that people in first world countries die of. I started the book as a skeptic and finished it as a believer. I am now totally confident that eating a diet with little/no meat and lots of vegetables will significantly increase anyone's overall health and life expectancy.
I thought that switching to being a vegan would be difficult, but I got lucky. I found a restaurant in Austin called Casa de Luz. I can not possibly say enough good things about Casa de Luz. They serve perfectly balanced vegan meals using in season and mostly local produce. 99% of what they cook is organic, and it is so delicious that a lot of my meat eating friends like to go as well. Best of all, you can eat as much as you want. Because it's a non profit, meals are extremely cheap, only $12 including soup, salad, hot and cold tea, and of course the entree and several side dishes.
I now eat at Casa de Luz at least once every single day, and find it to be the most pleasant eating experience I could possibly imagine.
For two months I ate totally vegan without a single exception. My skin cleared up completely and I lost more weight. I'm not happy about the 10-15 pounds I've lost, but it is mostly fat. I dropped the initial weight quickly, but since then have plateaued. After a week or so I never desired, let alone craved, meat. As time passed it seemed less appetizing.
At the end of two months I had a cruise which I planned before going vegan. Because 5% of my diet can be meat, I reserve that time for when I'm traveling since being vegan and traveling is very inconvenient. I decided that for the cruise I would eat whatever I wanted with reckless abandon.
Shortly after getting on the cruise I ate some bread with butter. I won't lie to you - it was delicious. I ate beef, chicken, and fish.
The dishes were good, but commercial food has a secret.
Food preparers have found there are certain tastes that make us think food tastes good. These are primarily salty, sweet, and fatty. As if it's a cold war arms race, every food manufacturer adds massive amounts of these flavors to their products so that consumers will continue to buy them. The problem is that we adapt to these new levels, which drown out other more subtle flavors, and we must continue to eat similar foods to appease our tastebuds.
When you eat less processed more natural foods, your taste buds adjust, and foods develop an incredible complexity to them. The food on the cruise was pleasurable to eat, but seemed boring to me - each dish was a blast of fat, salt, or sugar.
I felt seasick on the ship, which was odd. I've never felt seasick before, even on a small boat in a very rocky ocean. On day five I was sick of eating the unhealthy food and I tried to eat the most healthy offerings the ship had (not too great). The next day I wasn't seasick anymore - I never was... my stomach was just revolting at the processed food.
When the ship finally reached the shore again we drove the four hours from Houston to Austin and immediately went to Casa de Luz before we even went home. The food was so delicious that I had three plates of it. When I left I was happy and felt fantastic. I was worried that I would crave the meat and unhealthy food, but it was the exact opposite - I knew for sure that I would never go back.
To wrap this up, there are a couple things about my transition to veganism that I really want to stress :
I don't expect many people to do it, but I really hope that people consider trying a vegan diet out. If you're going to do it, you should first read "The China Study" and possibly Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever. Each of these books precipitated a lasting instant overnight change in my motivation and diet.
Next, scope out some restaurants. Find one that has a lot of different vegan dishes and doesn't use any refined sugars or flours. If you're serious about trying to be vegan, I will even help you find them. In Austin your best bets are Casa de Luz and Mother's (try the tempeh enchiladas!). If you don't have some good restaurants to go to, you probably won't actually switch. If you like to cook, get some vegan cookbooks. I'd recommend doing the restaurant thing first so that it's as easy as possible.
Commit to trying it for 45 days. I am convinced that anyone who does it for 45 days will never go back. The desire for animals products completely disappears and is replaced with a mild revulsion for them. This is a very short period of your life that could easily have a huge effect and help you live for decades longer. I consider it to be one of the best choices I've ever made, along with the earlier choice to cut out processed and unhealthy foods.
Being vegan is easy. But even though it is easy I still crave meat and fing myself eating meat while I sleep. Is there anyone that can help me?
I'm 15, I was vegan for 4 months but I live at home and didn't get much support. No I didn't crave animal products whatsoever but it was very hard preparing separate meals and making sure I had options to eat at school. I wasn't getting nearly enough calories and would often have to skip meals. I became weak and fatigued, was losing way too much weight. Now I'm back on a regular diet but I feel like a hypocrite knowing how awful all these things I'm consuming are for me. I want to go back to being vegan but I could really use some help on knowing how to survive in an omnivorous home and at an omnivorous school. Please email me if you have any tips
Don't worry about being vegan. I believe it's actually healthier to eat meat, as long as it's well raised. The most important change you can make to your diet is to not eat sugar, flour, white rice, or other refined carbohydrates. This should be the #1 priority for anyone's diet.
If you can't completely avoid these things, because of family or school meal options, just limit them to as little as possible. Once you're on your own, you can step up your diet to be even more healthy, but for now just focus on the most important things.
I know this post is getting old and moldy (food humor), but you also seem to have quite responding to the comments here. However, I hope you're still reading. I am curious as to what your (or Evan's) response to this article or book would be. It just makes me utterly confused when there seems to be so much contradictory evidence on both sides of any particular issue, such as this one. http://www.proteinpower.com/drmike/lipid-hypothesis/the-vegetarian-myth/
I started reading your blogs here and for Life Nomadic a while ago, and I've since become compelled to keep reading them. While I enjoy your crazy adventure stories, it was especially nice to read an article with which I could so closely relate. I, unlike you, was not instantly converted from a carnivorous to vegan diet (I had a lengthy vegetarian in-between phase). The transition for me to vegan eating came via macrobiotic guidelines, which in turn steers me away from being one of those vegans with imbalanced, heavily processed diets. (Plus, I have a "sensitivity to soy," which makes most processed vegan items quite unbearable.) I loved reading about your vegan conversion experience, as it so closely mirrored my own fairly recent one. As for the sugar thing...I will never forget the disbelieving look my mother threw me when I explained the sweet delight I now get from eating brown rice. And that applies to all fifty chews per bite-simply marvelous.
Anyhow, it's nice to know someone else has had similar experiences, and that I'm not as crazy as my mother would suggest. Thanks so much for doing this blog, especially this article. You keep writing, I'll keep reading.
Yes, eat less/no meat!
My Medium-Rare Rib-Eye Steak would be cheaper since there would be a lesser-demand.
I made the decision to cut out meat and dairy from my diet two years ago. I used to have stomach problems and take prescription medication for them. I would like to say that before I was vegan, I also ate healthy meals and obstained from processed and fast foods. Since I've cut out meat and dairy I not only feel healthier and have more energy but I no longer need the medication I was on. I do not suggest that a Vegan or Vegetarian diet is best for everyone but I do know it has been beneficial for me. I do wish to caution those who would like to try it to please research and ensure you are eating a variety of fruits and vegetables as well as supplementing all the vitamins you used to get from meat and dairy. These are found in other foods but you need to know which foods these are and make sure you consume enough of them. If you can't afford to eat out as suggested in the article, don't worry. I cook all my meals at home and through smart shopping manage to spend around the same as my meat eating roomates on groceirs. There are lots of great recipes online as well :)My family and many of my friends have been supportive of my decision but a lot of friends and acquaintances question my decision to not eat meat on a daily basis, whether it's joking around or in all seriousness. One of these friends read your post hwever and sent me the link. He told me he understands me a little better now. So I just really wanted to say thank you for voicing some of the benefits of eating this way so eloquently :)
Ok, I officially LOVE raw food. I started eating raw about five weeks ago, and have been 99% raw since (my trespasses? a tiny brownie, a few sprouted grain english muffins, and a stupid eggplant pizza). Let's do the math on this baby :
First I ate 100% of whatever I wanted. I loved fried foods, desserts, and pizza. Thanks to miraculous metabolism, I never gained too much weight. Then I read Fantastic Voyage : Live Long Enough to Live Forever, hacked away at my diet, and cut out probably 70% of the foods I used to eat. Later I researched more and cut out 90% of those foods, leaving me eating about 7% of what I initially ate. I wrote a book called The Skinny Snob about that. Going raw eliminated at least 70% of those foods, so now I'm down to about 2-3% of the foods I ate a year ago. Based on my daily diet I would consider that wholly accurate.
Now... that is a wild change. Especially coming from me. I would constantly mock anyone trying to go on a diet and explain that you should just eat whatever you wanted. No amount of logic would get me to change. What did get me to change was my inclination to try things for 7 or 30 days, and the accompanying drastic results.
On Tuesday, I explored the life of a vegan by, well, being vegan. It was only a one day pursuit, and I plan on returning (for a longer period of time) in the near future. This is part 1 of my explorations as a vegan.
When I went vegan for a day, I didn’t have any lofty expectations. One day without meat and dairy is not a difficult task, even to someone who regularly consumes animal products. That in mind, I was not particularly surprised with the results of my day as someone who doesn’t subjugate helpless animals.
The key to being a vegan is knowing what to eat instead. For over a decade meat and dairy have been staples of my everyday diet, and so not having a burger or sandwich for lunch or dinner seems strange and out of this world. It isn’t insurmountable, I can survive perfectly fine without missing them, but it begs the question: What do I eat?
Again, it’s not about a particular love of meat. Steak is great, but I can live without it. The issue I’ve faced is finding enough alternatives that consist of variety.