As someone who loved eating his share of meat, chicken, eggs, cheese and so on, deciding to switch to a vegan lifestyle was quite a shock to everyone -even myself!-. And believe me, I used to be one of those saying “I’d never go vegan, I could never do it”. As a matter of fact, all vegans once did. I thought that it would be a longer transition. It’s been a year now and I do have one regret: not doing it earlier.
Rolling your eyes yet? DON’T!
I had two options: cut off all animal products at once, or slowly decrease the intake over time. Here’s what happened:
I fell down the Netflix vegan rabbit hole.
Cowspiracy, Food Inc., Dominion, Forks Over Knives, What The Health, Earthlings, The Game Changers, etc., -I’ll elaborate on them on a later post-. These documentaries expose the ugly truth behind the meat and dairy industry. I kept an open mind. Did a crazy ton of research and reading. I started feeling overwhelmed, so I reached out to people I knew were vegan and asked questions and advice.
The rationale behind my switch can be summarized in what I like to call the trifecta of reasons:
1. The animals.
“If our own health depended solely and exclusively on eating animals, then there could be an argument for violence against animals (serving nutritional purposes) being necessary. But that’s not the case. We’re not inflicting horrible suffering on animals in order to preserve our own health and thus prevent our own suffering. We’re inflicting suffering on billions of animals in order to get a ‘little more culinary pleasure’ at most”.
Quick distinctions to consider:
–Vegetarians: those who consume dairy products and eggs, excluding meat, seafood, and poultry (disclaimer: there are some sub-variations such as lacto-vegetarian, ovo-vegetarian, etc., that I will not be touching on)
–Vegans: those who stick to plant-based foods, excluding all animal products.
So, why couldn’t I just start as vegetarian before transitioning to vegan?
Well, the reason is because all animal-based foods inherently involve exploitation of animals. One of the most shocking facts I learned was how the dairy industry operates. For example, I always thought that cows were meant to naturally produce milk, all the time. But no, they are forcibly impregnated by someone, shoving their arm inside the cow’s anus while she’s caged, and then injecting her bull semen. After giving birth, her calf would be taken away from her and killed. If someone tried to tell me before about how animals where farmed and treated, I’d make a joke about it or come back in a defensive way with a random fact that would –somehow– justify my food choices. Either way, I used to avoid looking at reality in the eye.
Animals get bolt gunned in the head, shackled upside down, have their throat slashed open; if it is not that, they’re put into a gas chamber to stun them, then they get their throat slashed open, or they’re electrocuted. However this is, it is unnecessary and unjustified violence. Animals are all sentient creatures that have a right to life and freedom, and what we are doing to them is just beyond egregious. The sad truth is that all living creatures, even those labelled ‘free range’, ‘organic’, ‘cruelty free’, ‘humane’ or however you want to name it, no matter how they are treated when alive, they all experience the same fear when it comes to slaughter. Those labels can only go so far in the attempt of making people feel better about their choices. And you know what? I made a personal choice: I no longer want to be a part of that.
2. Health & Fitness.
At first, I was quite concerned about my protein intake. We are all taught that animal protein is the only good and complete source of protein, containing all the essential amino acids, being “biologically superior” by all means to plant-based protein. This notion also goes further, by asserting that if we stopped eating animal foods, we would become nutrient deficient. But such ideas couldn’t be more skewed. After being raised in a meat-normative society, and constantly bombarded with the multimillionaire marketing of the meat and dairy industry, such paradigm is clearly hard to break.
I reached out to two friends of mine that I knew were vegan to ask for their advice and expertise; special shoutout to one of them, an old friend from high school, she is now a YouTuber and has also an amazing Instagram feed: @vegan_nia! Turns out, there is an overwhelming amount of groundbreaking scientific and peer-reviewed studies and research out there (more and more coming out as we speak) that show how plant-based diets are not only good for our health, but actually prove how much reliant upon plants we actually are -and have always been-. Both the British Dietetic Association and the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the largest organizations of food and nutrition professionals, state the following:
“An appropriately planned vegan diet is healthful, nutritionally adequate and may provide health benefits for the prevention and treatment of multiple diseases. These diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, older adulthood and for athletes. Plant-based diets are more environmentally sustainable than diets rich in animal products because they use fewer natural resources and are associated with much less environmental damage. Vegetarians and vegans are at reduced risk of certain health conditions, including ischemic heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cancer, and obesity.”
Seeing how many bodybuilders and elite athletes have switched to veganism and plant-based lifestyles, thriving and staying away from all animal-based foods after seeing how it boosts their overall performance and speeds up their muscle recovery, is absolutely remarkable. Being vegan today is much easier than it used to be 10 or 20 years ago, because of all the available substitutes. You can always dive into those mock meat products, and then over time, you may grow tired of “meat” version foods as your vegan diet evolves into a more whole-foods plant-based one.
I’ve had blood works and it is amazing to see how your internal biochemistry changes for the best. All my markers, including my Iron and B12 levels (for which I was told I would become “deficient”) are just astonishing. And suffice it to say that my IBS has not been bothering me whatsoever. When you are more aware of what you’re eating and putting in your body, your body becomes a much more efficient machine. My energy levels have gone up dramatically, my skin cleared up, I recover quicker from my workouts, and I am actually gaining lean muscle while losing a lot of body fat altogether. In a nutshell, I immediately started feeling like I could go and kick ass!
And last but not least,
3. Environmental Sustainability.
In January 2019, I started working on a research project in college about sustainability on campus. At that time, I was completely uneducated about recycling, upcycling, composting, food systems, sustainable transportation, water consumption, green energy, and many other sustainable practices that aim to tackle climate change and our footprint on earth. I started learning so much that it became a passion, and the more I knew the more I wanted to do and give back. Humber’s Office of Sustainability read my research project and recruited me as their Sustainability Ambassador as a result. Six months later, I chose veganism, among the other reasons explained above, as the single biggest way to reduce my environmental impact.
See, animal agriculture produces more greenhouse gas emissions than all the cars, trains, planes, and other forms of transportation around the world combined. Yet, the mainstream discussion is still based predominantly on fossil fuels, shifting the focus away from the meat industry. Plus, factory farming is responsible for 65% of worldwide nitrous oxide emissions, which is a greenhouse gas with almost 300 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. Animals eat very large quantities of grain, soybeans, oats and corn, yet they only produce a comparatively small amount of “protein” in return, making the whole industry so inefficient and unsustainable. The data goes on and on. Studies have shown that going vegan cuts your carbon footprint in half, HALF!
And yes, our sole existence as human beings do have an impact on earth, but that doesn’t justify us going all-out on the planet. The purpose, at the end of the day, is to live and thrive causing the least possible damage, learning, unlearning and relearning whatever we need to.
Ya, I know what you’re thinking. “But meat, eggs, bacon, chicken, are so delicious”. Indeed, no one ever denies it. Having sex is delicious too. But that doesn’t mean we’ll go around raping people.
Would you be able to eat all the meat, chicken and fish you’re eating if you had to personally kill all these animals?
If yes, do you actually need to?
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Campbell, T. C., & Campbell, T. M. (2006). The China study: The most comprehensive study of nutrition ever conducted and the startling implications for diet, weight loss and long-term health.
Fresán, U., & Sabaté, J. (2019). Vegetarian Diets: Planetary Health and Its Alignment with Human Health. Advances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md.), 10(Suppl_4), S380–S388. https://doi.org/10.1093/advances/nmz019
Ha B. (2019). The Power of Plants: Is a Whole-Foods, Plant-Based Diet the Answer to Health, Health Care, and Physician Wellness?. The Permanente journal, 23, 19-003. https://doi.org/10.7812/TPP/19.003
McMacken, M., & Shah, S. (2017). A plant-based diet for the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes. Journal of geriatric cardiology : JGC, 14(5), 342–354. https://doi.org/10.11909/j.issn.1671-5411.2017.05.009
Satija, A., & Hu, F. B. (2018). Plant-based diets and cardiovascular health. Trends in cardiovascular medicine, 28(7), 437–441. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tcm.2018.02.004
Tuso, P. J., Ismail, M. H., Ha, B. P., & Bartolotto, C. (2013). Nutritional update for physicians: plant-based diets. The Permanente journal, 17(2), 61–66. https://doi.org/10.7812/TPP/12-085