And the lessons I’ve learned…
Since 2012, I’ve been eating less and less meat and I eventually stopped completely. Throughout this duration, a lot of changes happened. Physical changes, mental changes and how I see things.
Now, I don’t classify myself as a vegan because I’ll sometimes eat eggs, honey, and occasionally eat a baked good that contains dairy, but I would say I “eat vegan” majority of the time.
And then there’s the whole animal rights thing, and to be honest I don’t really care about it that much #sorrynotsorry. I don’t like that animals are bred and killed in factory farms. However, I’m aware that what I eat isn’t 100% locally grown either. Around the world, there are people slaving away in the hot sun planting and harvesting plant-based food for pennies. People are animals too, right? We can act high and mighty about being a good person for caring about xyz issue all we want, but at some point, we’re all doing something at the expense of someone or something. That’s life.
So if I don’t give two hoots about the animals, why did I stop eating them?
A good percentage of it was intuition and the remainder was how I was presented with the idea of being meat-free. Growing up, I really never liked a lot of meat. I didn’t like pork or bacon (shocking….I know). I never really drooled over beef that much. I remembered that it always felt oddly heavy in my stomach, plus I didn’t fancy the taste unless it was a burger where it had condiments, vegetables, and bread on it. My mom dabbled with pescetarianism and vegetarianism for some time when I was a child, so I learned to enjoy fish and certain types of seafood. Chicken was okay for me if seasoned well. Any other type of animal that I’ve tried (turkey, goat, shark, lamb, veal) was basically a one and done thing (maybe two times for some). I have never been a huge fan of dairy (not confirmed, but I’m probably lactose intolerant). I only liked cheese if it was on pizza (but it couldn’t be too much cheese). When I would put milk in my cereal, I would just eat the wet cereal and not drink the excess milk.
In college, I made some friends who coincidentally are vegetarians and vegans. I watched how they ate (in both a healthy and unhealthy way). I decided to eat more meat-free meals and then later went on to explore more about eating plant-based vegan via my the database in my school’s library plus Google, YouTube and Netflix University. I’ve watched documentaries like Fat Sick & Nearly Dead, Vegucated, Forks Over Knives and Food Matters. I’ve listened to what some vegan YouTubers had to say and learned about different types of vegan eating: fully raw, raw till 4, gluten-free, starch solution, whole food plant-based, etc. I didn’t agree with everything but it all seemed interesting to me.
After digesting all of this information, in 2014, I did a week of eating fruits and vegetables (or fruit and vegetables until dinner). There were no immediate changes other than feeling very light from eating foods that digest quickly in the body, but I easily adjusted to having meals like this. When I started my off-season training for track and field, I felt amazing, probably because I could eat some fruit and run shortly after without feeling like I was going to vomit. From then on, I started experimenting more with meat-free cooking like I was a mad scientist and over time, I no longer craved meat. Honestly, I don’t even know my “veg-iversary,” because I’ve gone some time without realizing that I stopped eating meat. When I went back to eating meat, it didn’t taste that good anymore (and at some moments, my stomach wasn’t happy), so I decided to drop it altogether.
So here’s what happened and what I’ve learned since realizing I’m a somewhat accidental herbivore:
#1 I eat A LOT
Full disclosure: I always had a big appetite. I was still a collegiate track and field athlete when I made the change. I noticed that I was losing weight and getting leaner, but I was confused because I felt like I was eating so much (more than normal). Out of curiosity, I downloaded MyFitnessPal to track my calories and I was eating between 3000–4000 calories a day! Sure, there may have been miscalculations with my guesstimations, but eating an abundance of fruits and vegetables, plus beans, potatoes, grains, avocado, hummus, peanut butter, nuts, seeds adds up. I was eating like a pregnant woman having twins. It’s true that a lot of plant-based foods are low calorie, but I guess my body hasn’t been properly fueled for a while because it seemed like I was scarfing daily. Because of this, I aimed for eating more calorically dense foods.
#2 I expanded my horizons
Since eating plant-based, I’ve started eating a much larger variety of foods. I used to think that dates looked like roaches, now they’re my favorite snack. I never really liked eating beets or celery, but now I found ways to mask the taste when cooking or making smoothies. I didn’t know much about quinoa (or how to pronounce it); my grain of choice was always rice because that’s what my Jamaican mother would always cook. Cooking and experimenting with foods became fun for me. I even had an Etsy store, where I sold homemade snack bars and plant-based candy. Cooking plant-based meals and treats became my way of being a scientist experimenting in the kitchen. Plant meals aren’t boring, you just need to expand your palette and upgrade your spice cabinet. That’s why Indians have some of the tastiest vegetarian dishes. Their seasoning game is strong!
#3 I just keep going and going
Basically, I’m an energizer bunny. My energy level is through the roof. I feel like a 5-year-old child that is always running around the house. I never really had a problem with waking up early without an alarm clock, but I’ve noticed that my body took it to the next level. I can go to bed at 2 in the morning and still wake up at dawn on my own. Now that may not necessarily be because of my diet (I never had trouble waking up in the morning). For some reason, my body just hates sleeping in.
#4 Athletic performance
When you’re an athlete or do vigorous exercising like lifting weights, “protein” is the magic word that is often thrown around because we put a lot of stress on our bodies and need the proper fuel to build and repair muscle. When you stop eating meat, people always ask about protein, now imagine being an athlete where your nutritional demands are higher than the average person. My athletic performance never took a dip. My mile and 5k time down went down, and I continued to set PRs in my maximum squat, bench press and hang clean tests.
Nowadays, I don’t train like my collegiate days, but I’m still maintaining muscle mass and endurance through other types of exercising.
#5 Other people made changes to their diet
People usually feel some type a way about vegetarians and vegans because some can be quite evangelical and dogmatic. Some people say they’re worse than radical religious people.
There were people who didn’t even know I was vegetarian because I didn’t make a public service announcement on Facebook to anyone. “Hi guys, I’m now a member of x diet camp,” just sounds weird to me. People only knew about my eating habits when they asked me (or they were observant). Leading by example has always been my preference when trying to (intentionally or unintentionally) prove a point to someone, and as a result, people in my life made changes (big and small) to their diets because of me.
My brother gave up meat for lent two years ago; he even sent me pictures of what he ate during this time. My meat-loving father gave up meat for a week, and will sometimes eat meat-free meals (even though he jokingly calls it “a poor man’s meal” haha). My mother eats meat-free a couple of days of the week. My cousin and her husband did a Daniel Fast for a month. My boyfriend eats mostly vegan like me. Some of my friends recommend vegan/vegan-friendly restaurants to me even though they themselves have not adopted a meat-free lifestyle.
I’m not an expert, but maybe some evangelical vegans would be taken more seriously if they applied the “show don’t tell” rule to their lives.
#6 Don’t listen to some of these YouTubers & influencers
For starters, most of the popular vegan YouTubers aren’t even doctors or nutritionists (and they don’t cite their claims) so that should already be a sign to not take in everything they say without question. And this goes for any cult-like eating community (Hey, paleo, keto, and carnivore peeps, I’m looking at you too). I like the “raw till 4” idea popularized by Freelee the Banana Girl. I usually eat a lot of fruit in the summer because my favorite fruits are in season, but I’m not going to copy her 100% and add date sugar and syrup to an already sweet banana-based smoothie for the sake of packing on the carbs or fearing avocados and peanut butter because they are “fattening.”
If YouTube was your only exposure to vegans, then I can see why it would look ridiculous because some of them are so evangelical about their extreme vegan diets. It’s no surprise that some of them have health problems or are no longer vegan.
You don’t need to be fully raw, raw till 4, high carb low fat, starch-based, gluten-free, vegan keto/paleo or a junk foodie. There’s no need to overcomplicate it. YouTube is great for finding recipes and meal suggestions, but don’t take everything as gospel (and that goes for any way of eating).
Here are some level headed vegans YouTube where you can find good recipes/or find a cited information in their video description (and proof that you can be fit and without eating meat): HealthyCrazyCool, SweetPotatoSoul, Rachel Ama, MicTheVegan, Unnatural Vegan, Thriving On Plants, Tess Begg, and Simnett Nutrition.
#7 I don’t like the taste of meat
“Do you miss meat?” is a common question I get. Honestly, I don’t crave it at all, and I haven’t found a reason to eat it. Since major companies are now commercializing and capitalizing on the veganism wave, we have tons of vegan alternatives that are available for people who miss eating meat and dairy. I don’t care for the impossible burger, Daiya cheese, and other processed food that mimic something else. Read the ingredients of those foods. Health-wise, you’re better off eating the animal it’s mimicking.
#8 A lot of mainstream diet rules are BS
Them: Sugar is bad
Me: eats a bunch of bananas, mangos, sweetsop, dates
Them: carbs make you fat
Me: eats all the carbs (fruits and vegetables are carbs if you didn’t know) and loses weight
Them: Adult women should eat about 2000 calories a day
Me: Eats nearly double
I’m not saying you have to eat like me, but a lot of information that people regurgitate isn’t exactly truthful. There’s no one size fits all diet. The ideal way of eating depends on your lifestyle, environment, and genetics (which may or may not include animals).
#9 Supplementing doesn’t necessarily mean that your diet is bad.
Any way of eating can be flawed if it’s not designed for you or if your diet lacks variety. For example, there are people eating omnivorous diets that have nutrient deficiencies and to most, that’s the most balanced way to eat.
Since we have little control over our food a lot of key nutrients have been compromised (in both animal and plant-based foods). This is especially true in the United States. I get bloodwork done every year (So far, all good). When I remember, I take a multivitamin.
It’s best for everyone to have a doctor check your levels and supplement and/or make dietary adjustments accordingly.
#10 My life stayed the same
I didn’t have to find a whole new set of veg friends or quit sports. Life went on.
Source : Medium