Could you try vegan for a week? As a self-confessed meat lover and chicken nugget obsessor, I’ve always been guilty of eating meat and dairy and trying not to think too much into the consequences.
My sister is vegan and despite constantly sending her memes and making fun of her for talking about it 24/7, I do respect her choice to be ethically and environmentally responsible.
“Veganism isn’t just about diet; it’s a lifestyle. It’s about treading lightly on the earth and causing as little harm as possible to sentient beings.” – a quote from my oh-so-wise sister which I think sums veganism up nicely.
I’ve always been aware of the horror stories around meat and dairy farming and the shocking impact beef farming has on the environment as a result of methane emissions; I have tried to cut out beef this year (admittedly I’ve failed several times when drunk and stumbling into McDonalds for a double cheeseburger – I am weak), but I have purely been too selfish to cut everything out completely.
A few weeks ago, I watched ‘What the Health?’, which got me thinking about another side to meat and dairy that I had never even considered before – something beyond the ethical reasons that drive veganism. For those of you who may be avoiding watching it, the documentary explores in detail with many health ‘experts’, the supposed dangers of all meat (not just processed!) and dairy products to our health. Don’t get me wrong – it’s very obvious that the film is extremely biased and I’m sceptical about some of the sources; at one point it claims that eating one egg a day is as dangerous to our bodies as smoking 5 cigarettes, which is just ridiculous; but it did open my eyes to things I’d never even considered such as the chemicals and hormones and all sorts of other gross things that are fed to / pumped into animals before us humans eat them. Specifically, what I discovered about milk made my stomach turn (seriously – if you really don’t want to be put off dairy, do not watch this film!).
It got me thinking about my current diet and the amount of animal products I actually consume in order to stay ‘healthy’.
But am I actually as ‘healthy’ as I think I am?
This is where it gets confusing; there are too many conflicting beliefs, and they are broadcasted and contrasted all over social media. I spent years of my life religiously following Joe Wicks (@thebodycoach on Instagram) and his motto that a diet rich in animal proteins and fats and lower in carbs is the best way to stay lean and healthy. This way of living allowed me to lose 35 pounds in weight, however further research has allowed me to realise that the single most important factor to my weight loss was the fact I was eating less calories than my body burned (and not really anything to do with the fact I was eating less carbs at all).
Then there’s other famous Instagram icons such as Deliciously Ella, who have completely different views on diet and health. When Ella was younger she was diagnosed with a disease called Postural Tachycardia Syndrome which was crippling to her health – when she cut meat and dairy from her diet completely (alongside processed foods) she was able to control the symptoms of her illness and suddenly felt full of life. All the recipes she shares are completely plant-based – a complete contrast to the Body Coach’s love of meats and cheeses that are included in his lean plans.
Obviously, every body is different, and Ella had very unusual circumstances, but it is concerning to see what ill effects meat and dairy can have on some people’s lives. So, I decided to switch off my mind to the information overload from social media, documentaries and Google search, and try a completely plant-based diet for a week, to see how it would make me – as an individual – feel.
How I felt
I’m not going to lie – I felt mostly anxiety for the entire week. Being used to a diet so high in animal proteins, I became that person that vegans hate – that “where the hell do you get your protein?!” person. The realisation that plant-based protein sources are also generally carb-loaded made me internally panic and imagine instantly turning back into my past chubby self.
To make things worse, I found that my stomach really doesn’t agree with pulses, grains and soy products; I spent the entire week looking mildly pregnant and feeling quite miserable about it.
Selfishness (, ridiculousness) and lack of guidance got the better of me, and I’ve still been left wondering what is right or wrong when it comes to diet and health. And the fact that my body was physically rejecting some of these plant-based or vegan foods caused even more confusion.
What I learned
It’s not all doom and gloom. Despite feeling like a bag of potatoes all week, I really did enjoy the taste of the food I was eating. Cooking without the ease of meat and dairy caused me to be more creative in the kitchen, and use spices and ingredients I wouldn’t usually explore.
I may still be learning about what is best for my health; I have since done a lot of reading on ‘What the Health’ which debunks the studies and shows they are not reliable. But, from experimenting with different foods and doing some of my own research, I’ve found the motivation to alter my diet to at least be slightly more ethically and environmentally conscious.
Although at the moment I don’t think I could completely cut meat and dairy from my life, I’ve decided to try more vegan and meat-free cooking / dining. For those who are thinking of trying the same, here are some meals that I surprised myself enjoying:
Breakfast: Vegan Chickpea scramble
Dinner: Mamalan – spicy tofu noodle soup
The past week hasn’t caused me to ‘see the light’; more shamefully it has caused me to realise that I am driven by my own vanity and selfishness (bit deep for a Friday?), but I am willing to admit this and at least try to now ‘do my bit’ in my own little ways.
Perhaps one day I’ll re-explore veganism, but in the meantime, I hope that some minor changes will make at least a small impact, and maybe inspire some others to consider doing the same.
Now let me go wallow in self-guilt and eat chicken wings, won’t you?
If you have any questions about me, my writing, or how I controlled my fried chicken addiction, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.