‘Veganism’. What a powerful word. To be perfectly honest, the idea of a plant based diet frazzled me for the longest time. I could never differentiate what facts about veganism were true, false, passion driven, extremist, etc. And I think I always wanted to know if a vegan diet was truly healthier than an animal based diet. It has taken me almost 8 years to finally come to a conclusion or opinion of my own on this matter. I thought I would share my vegan/not vegan journey with you.
Before you comment, I ask you read this whole post before judging. I know this is a controversial topic and the following is how I truly feel after years of trying to come to a conclusion on this matter.
As someone who cares deeply about their health–both mentally and physically–I always take information on ‘diets’ with a grain of salt. I do this because I refuse to be a brainwashed victim of capitalistic driven propaganda. After witnessing any documentary, podcast, article or other source of media, I always follow up with research to provide an educated opinion.
Here is what I’ve come to conclude:
There is no black or white answer when it comes to health information. There are a million shades of grey. Because there are no real answers, there are only opinions. In this capitalist society, companies will drive millions of dollars into research to get the results they want in order to sell their product. For example, a dairy farm such as Dairy Land will spend countless amounts of money to provide research that proves cows milk and cheese are good for humans…. Just like companies such as PETA (cruelty against animals) will spend dollars and dollars on studies that will prove a plant based diet is healthier than a meat diet.
I refuse to be a passive consumer and believe everything the media says on a topic such as health–when my life is at stake. I work in the media business and I know how it unfolds behind the scenes. I’ve learnt how to create documentaries that manipulate facts to ignite passion and emotion–for the sole purpose of bringing a call to action–or to create change.
What I have come to decide is– the secret to true health above all information in the media — is finding a diet that works best for you. Not everyone. You! A diet that makes you feel like your very best self. There are 8 billion people out there and not a single person is the same. Ultimately it comes down to research, trial, error, and balance.
I have tried a fully plant based diet two time in my life. The first time I committed, I was struck with pneumonia. The second time I went fully plant based, I somehow managed to get mono, which took me 6 months to get back on my feet. It was at this point, I came to conclude a vegan diet was not deemed ‘healthiest’ for MY body. While eating 100% plant based, I felt weak and queasy all the time. And to note: I did make a slow transition both time and I also made sure I followed exceptional nutritional guidelines (i.e. eating enough iron, protein, zinc, you name it).
It was only in late 2015, when I watched many documentaries such as Cowspiracy and a couple Ted Talks, that I started to see veganism as something other than ‘a health choice’. Like I said before, at this point in my life, I had already concluded a plant based diet was not the ‘healthiest’ diet for MY body–which is why after seeing these documentaries and Ted Talks that were telling me ‘a plant based diet was better for the earth’ really threw me.
I started to question if maybe a vegan diet was a sacrifice I needed to make for the earth, not my health. I have always cared deeply about our beautiful planet Earth…. The truth is, yes, the rates in which we humans are consuming animal products is simply unsustainable. That thought stuck with me every second of the day. The inner humanitarian inside me put a lot of pressure on myself to do ‘the right thing’.
So I started to do my research. “Can a vegan diet be healthy,” I would type into google and many other library search engines. Maybe I was doing something wrong last time, I tried to convince myself. I slowly started to cut animals products out again, but this time I was doing it for the earth. Again, I began to feel ill, nauseated, constantly hungry… I should probably note, I am slightly anemic and prone to hypoglycemia due to medication I take. My body is very sensitive to change–more so than others.
Continually feeling like crap on this 100% vegan diet, I started to beat myself up. “How could your body be so selfish and weak Emma. Do this for mankind and for the animals”. The mental game was completely and utterly exhausting. Then things started to dwindle. I started to recognize I had been down this restricted road before. As a former orthorexic and highly anxious person, I had a good sense of what was coming if I kept living in such a negative mindset. The battle in my head todo ‘the right thing’, became more mentally damaging to my health than it was physically. This is where I had to draw the line. A 100% plant based diet was not going to work for me and I had to learn to accept that. Alongside this realization came a whole lot of shame, guilt, and frustration. A lot of the time, I had to try hard to convince myself I was still a worthy human being while consuming animal products. When other vegans would ask me, “are you vegan?” I would feel embarrassed replying no. I didn’t want anyone to think I didn’t want what’s best for the animals and the planet–when it was all I could think about. Some vegans (not all), can be so opinionated and judgmental, that once I said “no” to that question, they already had their speech prepared for me before listening to my plant based journey. That was always difficult.
Moving forward–where am I now?
I have accepted I am not selfish for valuing my health above anything else. All of the worlds problems are not on my shoulders. Now, I like to call myself a flexiterian. I eat animal products when I feel like my body needs it–and only when it needs it. I eat a lot more tofu now as well; as a substitute. As for the rest of my diet, I eat pretty close to 80-90% plant based. I have switched the majority of my daily foods to plant based alternatives. For example, I now use homemade cashew milk for my coffee and pea protein in my smoothies, versus whey. I track most of my nutrients and macros so that I know what my body needs everyday. I know I’m receiving a majority of the benefits of a plant based diet because of this. That being said, I’m also receiving the wonderful benefits of eating real free-ranged organic eggs on the occasion I eat them. And I’ll be the first to admit I do have Menchies Frozen Yogurt cravings every couple months–it’s so good!
It is with this diet, I feel my best. I never feel deprived or lethargic. I’m the type of person who shoots out of bed in the morning full of life. I am receiving the proper amount of zinc, iron and protein that I felt was missing at times in my strictly plant based diet. I plan to stick with this diet. Is this to say I won’t maybe transition to being a healthy vegan in the future…? Who knows. But above all, I am putting my body first. The key is just listening to what it has to say.
A lot of plant based activists say that animals products ‘clog your arteries’ and ‘create heart problems’. But in my opinion, that’s is only if you eat meat in large consumption every day. What I will continue to preach is eating a diet plentiful of earthy wholesome products: high in good fats, high in plant based proteins, lots of vegetables and legumes. But I also will continue to preach living in the moment and indulging 15-20% of the time; because this short life is so precious.
So… “Is a vegan diet healthier?”… It depends! It depends on what makes you feel your best.
Do I believe one can live a healthy 100% plant based diet? Yes! In fact, if you have never tried a fully plant based diet before, you should try it sometime! You may find you are one of those people that can live a full healthy and happy vegan life. You may feel empowered and more energetic! To some degree, I think I’ll always slightly envy those people that can support their bodies that way and benefit the environment at the same time. But instead of hating on myself, I enjoy posting many plant based delicious recipes to inspire others to make gradual switches as well.
In my opinion, there are a couple of keys to being a healthy vegan. Those include:
– Reduced fruit and natural sugars (even though it’s natural, it’s still sugar. I do not support those people that eat 20 bananas a day.)
– Eating enough plant based proteins (pea protein, legumes and beans)
– Eating a healthy amount of good fats (not too much)
– Checking in with your doctor every year.
You can be vegan and live off potato chips and super fattening sugar filled granola–and that is not good for you in the slightest. Also, don’t believe every ‘vegan’ label means healthy. I think if you choose a fully plant based diet you need to be extra diligent; just like someone that eats a lot of meat and fast foods should be extra diligent. For example, if you’re vegan it’s important to eat Vitamin C with your iron so the iron absorbs better. If you ever wondered if vegans get enough protein, yes they usually do. Iron and zinc deficiencies are a more common problem. Be educated and aware to be a healthy vegan. Now if you’re a huge carnivore you also need to do a lot of research. Are you getting enough Vitamin C, D and fiber? Do your homework if you want good health! That’s really all it takes.
To sum everything up, being a flexiterian but 80-90% plant based is the best diet for me. That being said, I never judge people’s diets because not one person’s health journey is the same. I think a lot of the time, people feel they need to be 100% in or out with a plant based diet… But I want to change that thinking. One more ‘vegan-ish’ person in the world is one step closer to a healthier Earth.
I think sustainable eating is a conversation that is not being had enough… Do yourself and the Earth a favour by educating yourself on sustainable eating… Then educate your friends and family. Even the simplest of cut backs can benefit our precious earth. You don’t have to cut out your favorite foods to make change. You just have to make a decision to start making baby steps everyday.
Be good to yourself and be good to the earth.