My Attempt at Veganism
|Tofu Scramble... Yum!|
A little over a year ago, I decided to become a strict vegan. My doctor berating me for my blood work results, coupled with the death of my father a few years earlier due to a heart attack at the age of 62, made me determined to change my ways. I had recently read an article on CNN.com about Dr. Caldwell Esselstyne and his book “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease”. He makes a compelling case that a strict vegan diet that also eliminates all oils can not only prevent, but also reverse heart disease. Overweight and depressed about my health in general I figured I would give it a shot. Nothing helps a depressed person like giving up all the stuff they love to eat! But seriously, becoming a vegan shouldn’t be difficult. I mean really, how hard could it be to stop eating meat? As it turns out, being a vegan is way more complicated than that.
What Kind of Vegan are you?
The first decision you should make is to pick a label! Wikipedia defines veganism as: “the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products.” Of course people being people, this is not nearly exclusive enough. Let’s go ahead and divide ourselves up even further…
Ethical vegans reject the commodity status of animals and the use of animal products for any purpose.
Dietary vegans (or strict vegetarians) eliminate animals from their diets only.
Environmental vegans reject the use of animal products on the premise that the industrial practice is environmentally damaging and unsustainable.
At least I decided to go full vegan. Choosing a form of vegetarianism is even more confusing! You could be a pesciatarian and enjoy fish or a lacto-vegetarian and have milk with your veggies. Like eggs? Try being an ovo-vegetarian. You can mix and match as well, Lacto-ovo-vegetarian anyone? I actually came across one term, Flexitarian, which seems to mean you are vegetarian except when you are not?
I certainly seem to fall in the dietary vegan category. I was semi-prepared to eliminate animals from my diet, but not from my life in general. You see, it doesn’t say to abstain from animal meat, it says to abstain from all animal products. Big difference… There are a lot of vegans who don’t consider dietary vegans to be vegans at all. Basically, if there is not a moral reason behind your choice of food, then you can’t claim to be vegan. How do you like that! Just getting started and already voted off the island… So, how hard is it to be a “real” vegan?
Can you avoid all Animal Products?
This cartoon can be found on hundreds of sites across the interweb. Pro-Vegan and anti-vegan sites alike use this as proof to support their point of view. Anti-vegans will say that it impossible to live your life free of all animal products. The pro-vegan camp will retort by pointing out the inaccuracies in the chart and declaring the entire message invalid. Actually the whole vegan / vegetarian debate is pretty hilarious in its own right. They cover the whole gambit from environmental concerns to animal testing. They are concerned people making solid, reasonable arguments in support of their particular viewpoint.
Vegiegrl22: Is it okay that I eat a little locally produced honey to help with my debilitating allergies? The honey is harvested from wild bees only after we plant them a flower garden to provide them with extra nectar to help them replace the insignificant amount of bee vomit we acquired thru non-lethal means.
SgtV: No, you should really respect the bee’s right to keep their vomit. Stay indoors if your allergies are that bad. It is probably karma punishing you for a life of hedonistic honey overconsumption. Scum
Apparently the order of divisive subjects on the internet goes: Religion, animal byproduct derived wallpaper, politics, Kardashians. Seeing how I’m unlikely to give up felt anytime soon, I chose to stick with a more moderate animal product elimination plan (Flexavegantarian?). The fact that there is even such a thing as an anti-vegan group is pretty amazing. I understand that PETA can be pretty “in your face” with their message, but you have to give them credit for getting hot models to protest wearing nothing but a lettuce bikini.
Regardless if you decide to call yourself vegan or vegetarian there is one other thing you might want to consider. Is radically changing your diet going to have any adverse affect on your health?
Vegan Dietary Concerns
According to the American Dietary Association, appropriately planned vegetarian diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. The key phrase in that statement is “appropriately planned”. Much like skydiving, surgery, or telling your wife that her new pair of pants makes her look “big-boned”, proper planning is paramount. There are a few nutrients that most people attain through meat or dairy products. Calcium can be found in many vegetables such as dark leafy greens as well as calcium fortified soy milk. Iron can be found in instant oatmeal and potatoes (skin on please). One of the most important nutrients to supplement is vitamin B12. Naturally occurring B12 is exclusively of animal origin. Fortunately there are many B12 fortified cereals and milks. You can also get your daily recommended allowance by taking a B12 supplement. The bottom line is, although you need to put a little work into planning your meals, a strict vegan diet can not only satisfy your nutritional requirements but provide many health benefits.
Benefits of a Vegan Diet
Vegan diets have been linked to a reduction in cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and obesity. Many prominent physicians have stated that the standard American diet is the primary cause of many of today’s health issues and that a strict vegan diet can not only prevent but actually reverse degenerative diseases such as coronary heart disease and diabetes. People eating a vegan diet are reported to have lower body mass index than those following the average American diet. From this follows lower death rates from ischemic heart disease, lower blood cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and lower rates of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and prostate and colon cancers.
Whether you ultimately decide you are a vegan or a vegetarian, the decision to stop eating meat or animal products is a personal decision. As for myself, I lasted exactly nine weeks on a strict vegan diet. During those nine weeks I lost 23 lbs and actually felt great. Unfortunately for me, the benefits couldn’t overcome the fact that I love certain animal based foods. I eat far less meat now than I did before, but still enjoy chicken and fish with the occasional burger thrown in. I hope that if you are considering going vegan this article gave you some basic information to get started on your journey.