The third official check-in for “The Vegan Challenge” and the verdict still stands:
We are living a vegan lifestyle that is evolving more holistically every day.
For more than three months, my wife and I have sustained our selves with a vegan diet. Our initial concerns dealt with health and breaking the cravings associated with lifelong omnivorous habits. Our concerns quickly faded as the physical benefits manifested themselves and cravings dissipated into the ether of dogma. For me, effectively speaking with others about veganism has been the biggest challenge. Eating vegan is easy; communicating the reasons why is a different story. It is not as if there is not a foundation of information to reference and share with the inquisitive; that is plentiful. When many non-vegans try to empathize with what you are telling them, there is a moment when you can almost see their eyes glaze over as they realize the implications of personally investing in such a lifestyle. The next part of the conversation is predictable and it goes something like this:
But wait, you are telling me you do not eat any meats? Not even fish? Or cheese??? What do you put on your eggs? What, no eggs?
Light bulbs begin to flash, logic comes full circle, and the conversation goes either one of two ways:
- They agree to the positive implications of such a lifestyle, but respond that it would just be too hard because…
- They are not open to the idea of change, that the ideas hold no value, and/or feel that their way of living is being personally attacked.
In the first instance, the sentence is most often finished with:
- “I need animal food products in my diet for health”
- “I do not think I could give up a particular animal product.”
- “It would be to hard to integrate that type of change into my family and social dynamic.”
The people that respond in this manner are well intentioned and I know they are not trying to hurt my feelings. Learning that they can get all of the nutrients they need from a plant-based diet, that with time and patience they can change any habit, and that there are countless options to family/social dilemmas would show that it is actually possible to go vegan. The one thing it comes down to is choice. To make that choice, there needs to be an event that changes the perception of the person. The person has to then acknowledge that there are other options to the standard western diet and that the benefits of change are of higher value than continuing the status quo.
In the second instance, more often than not, I hear something along the lines of:
- ”MMMMMM, bacon.”
- “Can I have some bacon with that vegan sandwich?”
- Or even, “I am going to barbeque me some veal, wrap it in bacon, and make sure I am wearing leather for good measure.”
In my experience, these retorts are nothing more a defensive posture (much like the bark of a fear-aggressive dog) for the persons actions as a consumer . Either the person is uniformed or they simply do not hold any value in their arterial health, the ethical treatment of animals, or the environment. In this case, there is little more to be intelligently said. Continuing the discussion at this point usually leads further down a spiral of defensiveness where nothing positive is going to come out of the conversation.
Mind you, I do not push a vegan agenda on anyone. If someone asks, then I will answer any questions they have. In both of the above cases, the one positive thing I can do is point anyone interested or that wants to further refute any claims I make to several different sources. There are an ever-growing number of documentaries available to those choosing to further investigate plant-based living and veganism.
Forks Over Knives, Cowspiracy, and Earthlings are some great options. In the order that they are listed, they also become harder to watch. For anyone with a shred of empathy, Earthlings is stomach turning, but will certainly cement any convictions developed prior to viewing it; viewer discretion is advised. Each has a slightly different take on the matter, but they all fundamentally educate the viewer in regards to:
- Exactly where your foods come comes from.
- The effects of eating a typical western diet on health and the environment.
- And the inhumane suffering that takes place in order to put meat on your plate.
The internet is an overwhelming resource of information as well. Vegan Youtubers are spawning at a seemingly exponential rate. As in any population, there are some who are more viewer-friendly, informed, and have better developed content. Filtering through the options can be a daunting task. To take some of the guess work out of your search, let me guide you to a trusted favorite (though there are many more I will reference in the future): Bite Sized Vegan. With more than 91,000 subscribers and 6 million views, Anita’s channel is a great stepping point, and valued resource in the vegan community; check it out!
In the three plus months since Thanksgiving 2015, I have lost 15 pounds. As I stated in past check-ins, I have not modified my workout routine in any way. The nutrition is solely responsible for the change in weight and body composition. Based on my past experiences with diet and weight loss as a bodybuilder, I believe that this will be the extent that I drop in weight. At 170 pounds, I am at the same weight, but more lean and muscular, than when I was running 35 to 50 miles per week; the difference is that I am not currently doing any running. I feel great and am happy with the way my body looks as a result eating vegan. Another effect of going vegan is that we all look forward to dinner. Our son, age six, told my wife this week, that she has been “cooking the best meals ever”. I have to agree. I am not sure if I can attribute this to veganism, however we have recently migrated from the couch back to the dinner table for evening meals. Whether it is a coincidence or not, it is nice to have the family enjoy meals together that are delicious, and that we feel good about.
Are We On Course
For planned meals, we are on course. As previously mentioned, our children still eat a plant-based, but omnivorous diet. That means that there inevitably some table scraps left-over in the form of meals made with cheese. I certainly do not go out of my way to eat it, but I am not going to let food that has already been purchased and cooked go to waste. For a short period we also found that when we became lazy, we would fall prey to vegan junk food binges. Poor planning was/is the culprit for such an offense and the solution is to make sure that healthy options are always readily available. As far as ethical veganism, I have recently sworn off wool. It did not take much research to convince me of this, especially when there are so many vegan options available. I will not throw the wool I have away, but I will not be making any future purchases to support the industry. To sum it up, we have nutrition aspect down; the challenge is aligning my everyday actions with a more comprehensive approach and follow thru.
Unless I am faced with a situation that requires me to consume animal food products in order to survive, I will continue to be vegan. There are no wavering questions in my mind. There is no evidence to show that I need them, but there is overwhelming evidence to show that my health, the environment, and the animals will be far better off as a result of veganism. I have been asked, “How do you know you will be able to stick with it for the long haul?” My explanation can be expressed in two analogies that reference the film “The Matrix.”
- Just as the machines are harvesting humans for their own gain (energy and processing power within the matrix), we too harvest food animals in much the same fashion. In the film, human perception through the lens of the matrix is just life as we know it; we experience happiness, sadness, and the obstacles we must overcome to survive in the built environment. This would be akin to the life of a “free range, organic, and cruelty free”(humanely raised) food animal. Through our perception, life is good and normal, but we are still being used as means of profit by the machines. The people and organizations that that profit in the real world lead us to believe that if we give animals a certain quality of life, then it is ethical to enslave the species for our benefit. The argument is moot in that there is no such thing as the ethical killing of animals in the food industry. To humans, the food animal is nothing more than a commodity, that when ripe for profit, will be harvested. Even if you firmly believed that “humanely” enslaving and killing a species for food was within your moral compass, then there is the problem that less than 1% of food animals are raised in humane environments; the other “99% of farm animals in the U.S. are raised in factory farms”.
Once you have watched Earthlings, there will be no more argument concerning the ethical treatment of food animals. Any questions about the impact on the environment will be addressed in Cowspiracy. And finally, learn about the consequences of consuming animal products in regards to your health, in Forks over Knives. If you feel compassion or are passionate enough to argue against the points I highlighted, then I urge you learn about where your food comes from and the consequences of being a consumer.
- In the Matrix, the main character, Neo, is given a choice:
After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill—the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill—you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.
Upon learning how deep the rabbit hole actually goes, I knew there was no turning back. It surely would have been more personally convenient to remain blissfully ignorant, but I am not, and feel compelled to act ethically and morally appropriate as a result. To learn more, whatever your motivation, please follow the links provided. Future check-ins will feature additional sources of inspiration and information. If you enjoyed the content in this post, then please subscribe at the bottom of the page. Feel free to connect through the comments section or contact form. Until next time, be well.
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