My return to a more vegan way of dining
Some who know me well may vaguely remember me as a vegan two years ago. I don't remember the exact reason why I decided to adopt a vegan lifestyle then but I did it for over a year. I didn't have the knowledge I have now and eventually fell back to eating animal products after a trip to Kazakhstan for a mountaineering expedition. That was way prior to the release of the Game Changers movie and being vegan was not an idea that was widely accepted by my peers back then. Dining out and socialising with friends over meals generally required massive planning on my end to avoid the vegan stigma.
So what made me decide to return to a more vegan way of dining and living again? Wait a minute, you may ask what do I mean by "a more vegan way". I do not seek to eat meat nor animal products, but there are occasions when I may unconsciously consume or consciously accept some amount of eggs, dairy and animal products when dining out with friends.
Some staunch vegans may raise their forks in protest and yell at me, "It is either you are a vegan or you are not". To that I say my dietary preference is a personal choice and none of anyone's business but my own. I encourage my non-vegan friends to also try changing their dietary preference to skew towards a more whole food plant based (WFPB) in their own ways. From starting with "meatless Mondays" to not cooking with animal products at home, what's important is to make changes in a sustainable manner that becomes part of your lifestyle instead of seeing it as a deprivation or restriction.
This time round, I could articulate my reasons for embarking on my own almost vegan journey when being asked.
1. Health And Nutrition
I fully subscribe to the adage of you are what you eat. I have tried several diets and saw how my body shape and energy level changed accordingly to what diet I was following. Right now, what works best for me is an almost whole food plant based diet. After a year of eating what I want with the excuse that I can burn off the calories with my ultra endurance training, I truly experienced first hand that not all calories are created equal.
With a WFPB diet, I lost 5kg in 5 weeks without having to be on a restrictive diet. Yes, I even allowed myself to have carbs now. I used to think carbs will make me fat but I will save that story for a future blog post. I was not even fat to begin with but I could lose some weight to get back my more athletic frame after a South African holiday. My weight loss was primarily fat loss and my muscle tones became more defined.
These days, I don't feel bloated after meals and am more energetic on a daily basis. By cutting out dairy and eggs, I also cut down my consumption of junk food in the forms of pastries and confectioneries. I ensure I am getting my nutrients by eating a wide variety of whole foods and not simply relying on solely popping vitamin pills or drinking protein shake, which should be supplementary and not the primary source.
2. Athletic Performance
I always joke that if you want to be like a Ferrari, you got to give your body the best fuel and not some cheap diesel. WFPB works well for me by giving my body clean fuel so I could run lighter on my stomach and reduces the risk of GI (gastrointestinal) issues that can affect even the best runners.
The most amazing benefit that I personally experienced from the change in my diet is my fast recovery after a hard training. Other factors such as adaption, sleep, and strength training do come into play to affect the rate of recovery, but I am addicted to how my body feels after eating a vegan meal consisting of whole foods and with minimal or no processed ingredients.
3. Compassion For Animals
As a dog lover and dog welfare activist, it never occured to me back then that I could love certain animals and fight for their rights, while eating other animals and wearing their skins and fur. It was only this second time round that I learnt about the concept of carnism, a word coined to describe the invisible belief system that conditions people to think it is normal to eat certain animals while it is wrong to eat other animals. For example, why eating dogs would outrage many people but eating chickens, lambs, cows and pigs are perfectly normal and not seen as cruelty.
Personally, after cutting down my consumption of animal products by 95%, I developed a new sense of mental well-being and inner peace. Without trying to sound like I am dishing out some modern Zen bullshit, it is like the CALM switch has been turned on inside me. I always believe in the concept of karma, trying my best to do no harm to others as much as possible. The easiest way for me to do this on a daily practice is to choose not to eat and consume animal products as much as possible, especially when there are so many vegan options available to us these days.
4. Environmental Impact
I won't be screaming "how dare you" at anyone for eating animal products or not trying to be more vegan. As I said earlier, it is a personal choice and the decision to switch will come (if ever) to everyone at a different time. We just need to be mindful of how our daily dietary choice is affecting the environment in a small cumulative way. Climate change is real, so is the delusion of the many who refuse to acknowledge and make a change.
Even though I may not live to see the day of the apocalypse by humanity's doing, I do wish to reduce my personal contribution of harm to our environment. As the Dalai Lama said, "If you can, help others; if you cannot do that, at least do not harm them".