That’s right everyone, I am no longer plant-based…
Well, here’s the truth: I am no longer using the term plant-based to describe my nutrition. I am vegan, that’s my reality and that will always be me. I have been vegan for 7 years now, but for the majority of that time I always said that I was plant-based. In all honesty I said it as a way to “take the edge off” so that it wouldn’t cause any kind of conflict or aggressive reaction from others. People tend to hear the term vegan and think animal rights protests and extreme judgement of omnivores. So I decided to try to avoid that by using a different term and telling everyone that I was choosing to eat this way for health reasons. But, that’s really only half the story.
I stopped eating meat a decade ago and became pescetarian. The thing that prompted me to do so was when I was at a restaurant with my family one evening (a restaurant known for their ribs smothered in a bbq sauce) and so I ordered the ribs as usual, I always really enjoyed them. When my plate came and I looked down it suddenly occurred to me what I was actually eating. I placed my hand on my midsection and could feel my own rib cage and needless to say that was it. I realized how icky it was and had this sudden image of what it would be like if roles were reversed and this happened to humans. To this day I still get nauseated whenever someone talks about or describes a rack of ribs that they ate. That and pulled pork; I noticed that people tend to make a pulling/shredding motion with their hands when they talk about pulled pork. Usually I try to zone out and go to my happy place whenever someone talks about these things.
Three years later I transitioned to veganism all because of one book that I borrowed from my sister, The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone. It really spoke to me and opened my eyes to this way of life. I did think that part of it was intense and a bit overdoing it (like not using a microwave, or eating sea vegetables at most meals), but I was intrigued. This was also right around the time that I started fasting for lent where every year for 40 days you basically adopt a vegan diet (no food or drinks from animals at all). So I started reading up about the benefits of this nutrition not just health-wise, but on the environment and based on animal welfare as well. I tried out all kinds of funky recipes and started finding more and more reading material that inspired me to go even further. Once my fast for Lent was over I decided that going forward whenever I would prepare my own meals I would make it vegan and that if I found a vegan option at a restaurant I would always order that. It was great. I started ordering pizza without cheese at restaurants and asking servers for giant salads without the standard grilled chicken and cheese. Gradually over about 6 months I completely eliminated all animals from my diet altogether and I felt really great and I never missed anything that I “gave up”.
I got a lot of push back from pretty much everyone I knew. Some were just eye rolls or snarky comments like “Yeah, we’ll see if it lasts”, and some were horrible and aggressive. I remember one family lunch where every single person (apart from my husband, then boyfriend) was unintentionally trying to prove that it wasn’t going to work or that I was somehow wrong. I remember one person in particular shouting at me “HOW CAN YO NOT EAT CHEESE!”. It was awful, I took a real emotional beating that day. Not mention the more recent emotional beating/bullying that I took at a work event about a year and a half ago (you can read the article here). That was really bad. Then there’s the media where vegans are always portrayed as a laughing stock in television shows. Either the person is a “hippie” who is being mocked throughout the show and by the end is proven that their ways are wrong and they are shown stuffing their face with these super heavy animal foods as if they were some ravenous, starving, deprived lunatic. Or, they are portrayed as these super intense protesters screaming “meat is murder” all the time and by the end of the show someone seeks out vengeance on them in one way or another and they are again proven that they are wrong (if you’ve ever seen American Housewife then you know what I’m referring to). Why? Well it comes back to people attacking what they don’t understand and as a result, feeling the need to prove them wrong, which is really just their way of projecting their own fear onto you. Think about it, the majority of people are eating animal food all the time and the idea that it can be completely removed from the diet and that they could be healthier and happier is such an uncomfortable thought that it creates this super intense response and the need to prove that their way is right. It’s all that they know and have ever known, it’s what they’ve grown up with; drink milk for strong bones, eat meat for protein, eat fish for healthy fats, eat eggs for energy. Just the idea of veganism is enough to send someone into a tailspin because it is so far out from the norm, that it’s totally unfathomable and from their perspective, invalid. They try to resist as much as possible by pushing back and attacking with either aggression or so called “jokes”; it’s really just very strong resistance being projected onto someone else. So you can see why I would choose to shy away from using the term vegan or claiming that I’m only doing it for health reasons as a means to protect myself from some pretty nasty and unwarranted confrontation.
In the 7 years of eating this way, there have been only 2 people who were genuinely positive when they would first find out that I am vegan. One was a former colleague who said “Good for you! Do you feel better? Do you feel the difference from how you were before?”. In case you’re wondering, the answer to that is yes, without question. The other person is my aunt who immediately told me that she thought that what I was doing was fantastic. Later on my sister told me that she thought that it took a lot of courage for me to adopt this way of eating an of course the rest of my friends and family got on board and have been very supportive since. Not that I need external validation or anything like that, but it’s just nice to have some support from loved ones.
I have had a lot of curiosity and questions being asked which I am happy to answer so long as the person isn’t coming at me from a place of aggression. The usual “where do you get your protein” in which I had to train myself to make a conscious effort not to roll my eyes and call the other person a dumbass. Then there are the questions of iron deficiency and calcium, which I will get to in a moment. A recent conversation with my in-laws left them stunned when I mentioned that I have never had any issue with an iron deficiency or come even slightly close to that. They were stunned and genuinely confused; the assumption was that since I am a vegan woman then I must be supplementing with iron pills which I am not and never had. Many people will ask “So what do you eat, just like vegetables and that’s it?”. That’s usually when I give some more info on how I eat and I always try to mention how cheap it is to eat this way. Seriously, after 7 years it still amazes me that many times I spend a whopping $5 on weekly groceries! Suck on that!
Ok, now that I got that out of my system, let’s get back to reality.
When we think milk, we tend to think of calcium. Why is it that cow’s milk is high in calcium? Well, cows are herbivores that are meant to graze and eat grass. Grass contains loads of calcium and when cows eat grass they get a higher calcium consumption that goes into their milk. Now this doesn’t mean that humans should eat grass, but it does mean that we should be eating more calcium rich plants instead of dairy so that we are not only getting calcium but other micronutrients along with lots of fiber.
Let’s do a little comparison:
1 glass of milk = 125mg calcium + 0g fiber
2 cups of kale = 188mg calcium + 5g fiber
2 cups of turnip greens = 394mg calcium + 4g fiber
½ cup of oats = 200mg calcium + 4g fiber
1 cup of firm tofu = 861mg calcium + 1g fiber
Another fun fact for you is that calcium from cow’s milk is not fully absorbed by the body as dairy is very acidic and once your body starts to digest it creates more stomach acid destroying a large portion of the calcium. The veg listed above (like all veg) is more alkaline making it way easier to absorb. And FYI, as you probably know, livestock is mainly factory farmed and their nutrition comes from a feed mix with added calcium to it, otherwise there would be know calcium in the milk that you buy at the grocery store.
P.S. humans are the only animals on the planet that consume another animal’s milk or any milk for that matter after being weaned off of breastmilk from their mama.
As for iron, well let’s compare again:
3 oz of ground beef = 2.2mg iron + 0g fiber
1 cup of lentils = 6.6mg iron + 16g fiber
1 cup of soybeans = 8.8 mg iron + 17g fiber
1 cup of collard greens = 2.2mg iron + 1.4g fiber
There you have it: eat more plants and get more nourishment without harming any animals.
You might be thinking that cows aren’t being hurt by the dairy industry, but cows like all animals only lactate and produce milk due to pregnancy. So cows are inseminated constantly to be continuously producing milk and once they stop producing milk, they don’t just get to live out their “lives”. Nope, cows are very expensive to feed and they eat a lot, so if they are not returning a profit to the farmers via they milk production then they are sent to the slaughterhouse, not to mention the fact that their calves are turned into, drum roll please: veal. Oh and it’s not just the animal welfare that comes into play here, but the environment does too and in a massive way. One fifth of the amazon rainforest is gone FOREVER due to deforestation to make room for livestock. What’s more is that 1 cow will produce between 70 and 120kg of methane gas per year and methane gas is 23 times more harmful to the environment than the effects of CO2. Apart from these horrendous facts, is the research from The China Study, where it was proven time and again that consumption of the protein casein found in milk turns on genes for cancer. This was not only tested in animals but humans as well, where they found that when milk was consumed, cancer genes where turned on and when subjects went vegan, they turned off.
I know this post is super long and may seem like a bit of an info overload, but to be fair I have been keeping this bottled up inside for the past 7 years. All of the articles that I post and the info that I share tend to be more towards the health side of veganism and bodybuilding and that’s what I intend to continue doing. That’s what I am passionate about and that’s how I serve, help and coach others. My reality is that animal welfare is what got me started here, but the health benefits is what sealed the deal for me. Yes, it is a bit coming from a place of fear; I’ve seen cancer and heart disease up close and it is terrifying and if this nutrition can help prevent that then I am all for it. It’s such a simple solution towards disease prevention that i can’t not live my life this way. No food is worth risking my health and my vitality. Even in those moments at the grocery store or at a restaurant when the thought crosses my mind about how easy it would be to just eat whatever without giving it a second thought or without having to ask the server what’s in this or that, I always go back to the animals. It always pops up in my mind that there’s an animal suffering for this, for nothing and I just can’t do that, I just can’t contribute to that.
Being vegan is a personal choice and one that I am proud of. I’m not walking around all high and mighty thinking that I’m superior to others or scolding people who choose to eat animals. FYI, all of that stems from deep passion for animal welfare and empathy for these living creatures. Instead what I can hope for is that people are aware of what they are putting into their bodies, where it comes from and how it affects their lives. The ultimate goal is to do the best you can each day, that doesn’t mean being “perfect” because that doesn’t exist. Just bring your attention to what foods you are consuming and maybe consider the occasional Meatless Monday or swapping cow’s milk for almond milk in your coffee instead.
If you are ready to dig a little deeper into this and get on the right path towards nutrition check out this Summer Special going on for the month of July. Spaces are VERY limited so reserve your spot today!
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