So my bones are intact, my muscles haven’t shrivelled, I don’t have a B12 deficiency, and I’m not anaemic. I’m one year into veganism and here’s my summary of the year.
NOTE: This isn’t an activism post.
If you made it this far it means you weren’t deterred by the image and title of the article so thanks for not judging. I merely want to tell you about my experience in the last 12 months.
I want to start by saying some years ago a vegan activist called Gary Yourofsky was arrested for freeing 1452 Minks from a fur farm in Canada. He was kept in a maximum security prison, banned from Canada and many other nations including Britain and labelled a terrorist. He laughs about the incident now claiming if he’s a terrorist, ‘somebody who incites terror’, for freeing the Minks, then what does that make the animal agriculture industry or the farmers that were ready to kill and exploit these minks for their fur? I have to say I would ask the same question.
The reason I bring this up is that I receive my fair share of hate for the decision I took 12 months ago in November 2015. I did so for ethical and environmental reasons mainly but can’t deny there was some health and business benefits to the decision too. What I’ve learnt is people don’t react to you if you do something deemed as normal, like consuming meat or dairy. Once you go against the grain and make the mistake of posting it out there, then people are like WTF?
“You don’t consume dairy? No meat? Then you must be on steroids. I mean where do you get your protein? You just built your body using meat and now you’re maintaining using salads. You’re a vegan faggot. Vegans and feminists are the scum of the Earth. You’re stupid, you killed an ant today.”
*Deep breaths before my head explodes*.
I’ve found myself on the end of such statements in person and online for doing something which I thought was the right thing to do after lots of reading, watching documentaries and listening to my intuition. I’ll finish this little rant prematurely. I just think people love siding with what seems to be the norm and veganism will never be fully accepted until:
- Your favourite star you look up to turns vegan.
- Meat consumption and animal agriculture industries are really limited by law.
My experiences (apart from the hate)
Generally my personal experience has been one of a more positive note. My gym gains are up, I feel sustainably energised throughout the day, I get better pumps, my cholesterol is down, and I’m learnt to cook some amazing dishes.
I will be getting a full blood check done to make sure everything is in working order very soon. As of the beginning of November it has been a complete year. My check up at the 3 month stage showed everything was amazing, my resting heart rate was down and so was my cholesterol. Seeing though as there’s no cholesterol in a vegan diet, this was expected.
I’m going to be completely honest in this post because I’ve also learnt that people appreciate honesty. I don’t think it’s been more expensive on a vegan diet, probably because a large part of the food I eat comes from grains which are cheap. Vegan protein powders cost slight more than whey based products and meat alternative products are more expensive than their meat counterparts. But these don’t make up much of my diet at all.
The biggest downsides for me are the convenience. Let me explain. I work mainly from home meaning I have full access to my kitchen, when I’m peckish and want a big meal I can’t go into the fridge and make a great sandwich which works for my macros as easily as I could on a vegetarian or omnivorous diet. Preparing a great vegan meal takes effort and sometimes I’m lazy.
The other inconvenience and definitely the main ones are family gatherings and eating out. I’m definitely limited when eating out until vegan restaurants and places to eat are a norm. The easy solution to this is packing my own food I guess.
It can also be tough at weddings/events where yoghurt and butter are put into most Indian dishes and I don’t intend on starving. Salads and channe zindabad (long live salads and chickpea curry).
Another negative – most vegan cheese varieties are not tasty. This is definitely one area where companies need to get their act together. The macros are quite poor as well.
Another downside is the level of fiber in foods. Consuming in excess of 4000 calories daily on a vegan diet means I’m getting in a lot of fiber. Generally I don’t mind, but excess fiber also happens to bloat me (and most people) up. I don’t feel hungry as well as I used to which is a concern for my current goals as I’m just trying to pack on some mass. If I’m bloated and feeling full because of fiber then I won’t be able to consume my meals which actually have nutritional value – fiber doesn’t have any. It just helps food pass. I’ve only learnt what that truly means since going vegan if you know what I mean.
I guess that takes me onto the positives. Best and most regular bowel movements ever. So fiber isn’t all bad. Another thing fiber does is escort excess estrogen out of the body. I’m hardly 40 years old but I do feel 18 again. Yes I’m talking about testosterone levels.
Other great benefits are that I became aware of a whole new world of foods. I’m forever looking around supermarkets at labels and seeing what I can or can’t eat. There’s that element of it but also the fact you start learning to cook yourself. I trying new things all the time. Plant-based foods taste great, they’re rich and very appealing to the eye. I’ll usually get a wok, start with a standard thorka (a conventional way to start Indian cooking with oil, chopped onions, ginger, garlic and turmeric) and then add whatever I can find. I might end up with 20 different ingredients in there and the end result is always amazing. I’ve learnt about a lot of products and ingredients in shops and markets which I would otherwise walk past. I can say I’ve learnt somewhat about nutrition this way too.
It’s quite funny how being limited to poor sources of iron and certain limitations can make you more attentive to various sources and quantities of vitamins and minerals, and take an active interest, whereas previously I’d just pop a multivitamin pill.
Just the other day we made some delicious kale crisps! Stir fry’s are a regular and I’m always looking for ways to make Sunday paronthe (filled chapatis) interesting too. I’m thoroughly enjoying food right now. In architecture school we used to say that limitations inspire creativity. This is definitely true with plant-based cooking.
All in all it’s been a great year. I’ve opened up my understanding of health and nutrition, got some great gym gains, and had some great conversations and debates with people.
The world trend is definitely going towards veganism or at least a lot less meat consumption, because the current model is clearly unsustainable.
To sum up, my strength has gone up, my markers for cardiovascular health have improved, the pumps are great, and I recover a little quicker. It will be interesting to see what another year brings – when I can cook more than just rice and beans.