I started this post in response to the common question I often get about going Vegan – Will going vegan help me lose weight? And the common question I get from Vegans – do people who go Vegan for health reasons, stay vegan… Here are my thoughts. (a lot of them)
When I first discovered the health benefits of a plant-based diet I was completely sure that this was the ONLY way to live my life. I didn’t see it as much of a choice. Animal based foods were killing me, plant based foods were not killing me. It was pretty simple, right?
I’ve noticed some people going plant-based, calling themselves vegan and then stopping the entire life-style. A lot of people become upset by this. I have many friends who are passionate vegans who do not understand how people can go back on something that is such an obvious black and white issue. So I thought I would shed some light on it – the best I know how to at least.
Overcoming Food Addiction
I struggled with food addiction for many, many years. I would try diet after diet after diet. The pattern would go something like this:
- Hear about new diet in some magazine for women. Or on some morning talk show.
- Buy all books, products related to that diet.
- Go shopping for new food.
- Never actually check the SCIENCE behind the diet.
- Read somewhere that it’s ok to allow myself little “cheats”.
- Tell myself that because I cheated, I would just eat whatever that day and start again the next day.
- Or maybe the next day?
- Or maybe the day after that??
- Get bummed out that the diet was ”too hard” and that I wasn’t losing enough weight.
- Quit and decide that I’ll find something else that works better for me.
- Rinse, repeat.
The trouble with diets and with people who follow diets – is that most are food addicts. Now, I won’t say ALL people who go on diets or are on diets are food addicts, but I have been in enough weight loss support groups to know better… we’re mostly addicts.
There are plenty of plant-based nutrition books out there, that spell out exactly why someone should be on a 100% plant-based (vegan) diet. They go through great lengths to explain the 30 + years of studies behind why eating ONLY plants is the way to go, that animal based products will give you cancers, heart disease, diabetes, MS, you name it – and oh yeah, it’s what made you fat to begin with. They do all of this, lay it out for you, tell you detail by detail why there is absolutely NO reason to ever consume animals or animal secretions again. And then the fatal error: they say something to the effect of “animal products should be consumed on a very rare occasion” or “animal products can be consumed 10% of the time” or “consume animal products on special occasions.”
And this is where many of the people in plant-based science get it wrong. They give a little bit of room for ‘cheating’ and meanwhile they do not give all of the other MANY reasons to never consume animals or animal secretions ever again.
Because, for many people, and I speak from experience and from knowing some people who start off on the plant-based life with good intentions… Just hearing something like “every so often” or “10%” or “special occasions” is a reason to eat foods that come from animals. Addicts don’t hear “10%” we hear “EAT IT”. And what happens after that is usually a spiral out of control and all sense of being plant-based is lost.
I am not just talking about obese people or even people who have of weight to lose. I’m talking about the general population who are heavily addicted to the food and lifestyle they are a part of. So many read/listen/study about the benefits of a complete plant-based diet, and that moment when they have a slice of cheese or that one special occasion turkey meal for Thanksgiving, their efforts, education, and willingness, go out the window. Their addictive brain kicks in and all of a sudden that one time thing becomes an every day thing until at some point where they are posting a photo on their facebook page of some meat sandwich drenched in cheese, and leaving everyone to question what the heck happened.
I think that the journey to Vegan can start with an interest in health. But I really believe that staying the course requires something bigger than that. Being plant-based will result in BIG health changes – you will lose weight, reverse T2 diabetes and heart disease, you will prevent a lot of cancers, most Alzheimer’s and strokes. But sadly, most people at the sign that something is not causing them to lose HUGE amounts of weight, will drop the way of eating for good and go on to the next diet scam (like the current all meat, revised Atkins killer diet).
Being Vegan is not a diet. It’s an entire way of life that stretches far beyond what is on your dinner plate. I think that the health benefits are clear. I am thankful to the doctors who have spent their lives dedicated to research behind plant-based nutrition. There are no doubt thousands of reasons to be plant-based. But what about being Vegan?
Soon after I went plant-based I became vegan. I make this distinction when and where I can. I was plant-based for my health, and then became educated about what it meant to be Vegan. It all started with a news story about a man who went to jail for abusing his dogs. Something, in that moment clicked with me – why were his dogs any different than the millions of animals who are tortured, abused and killed for food? If the man would have packaged his dogs and sold them at the grocery store, would that have been any better?
Making this realization was crucial. All of a sudden my food choices were no longer just about ME anymore, they were about deciding that I would not participate in such a gruesome and horrifying practice.
Prior to making this realization, I didn’t think much about cheating on my diet, I figured that when I wanted something I would just have it – no big deal. By understanding that my food choices were a big deal – on a much higher level, my desire to ever even think about ‘every once in a while’ completely went out the window.
Most diets are about being selfish. They are about losing weight and not thinking about anyone or anything else but yourself. Being Vegan is not about me or you – it’s about the creatures that are being spared from a lifetime of torture and hurt just to end up in a slaughter house being ripped apart, so that people can indulge in their addictions some more.
I spent years not caring about anyone else but myself when it came to diet. I consumed tortured animals, I consumed byproducts of animals who are put through the most disgusting acts, over and over again – just so that I could enjoy my addictions to food.
I never thought about what my food choices were doing to anyone else. And not just animals – my food choices had global consequences. My food choices meant that I could care less about the Earth, that I could care less about the people all around the world that were not able to eat because of the system I was feeding. My food choices perpetuated a system of disease, a system that caused cancer rates to sky rocket, type 2 diabetes to become the norm, obesity to be something that children have to fight.
What I have learned over the past couple of years is that my food choices were NOT just a personal choice that only impacted myself. So many people, when I tell them I am vegan, respond with something about how it’s their ‘personal choice’ to consume slaughtered animals or animal secretions. And I agree, we all make choices in our life. I can go out and choose to do whatever I want. However, most of the time, our choices have huge impacts on other people and other beings.
Most of us, especially in our society – do not want to think that our choices have any impact on anyone or anything else. And I believe that is one of the many reasons why we see the trouble that we do in our society. We have stopped thinking about how our choices might impact someone or something else, and we consume anyway. We think selfishly that no one will be hurt, when that is the furthest thing from the truth.
Our food choices can make a HUGE difference, and they can do so immediately. We might not be able to do much to change the world and all of the problems in it. However, we can decide to do something different about what is on our plates. And that decision will directly lead to a lot more peace, a lot less torture, a lot more goodness.
So can someone who goes vegan for health reasons, stay vegan? I believe that the question is, if they are really going vegan. Vegan is to eliminate as much from your life that causes pain and suffering to other living beings. It’s not just a diet, it is a way of thinking.
If you have stumbled upon the ‘vegan diet’ as a way to lose weight and get healthier, I think that is an awesome start. I would encourage you to go about this ‘diet’ in a way that you have never attempted before. Become educated from all fronts on what it is to be vegan.
Starting with your diet:
- Be sure to educate yourself about plant-based nutrition. Do not simply eliminate all meat/dairy/eggs with out learning about nutrition first. Read: The China Study, Preventing and Reversing Heart Disease, Eat to Live and books like it, to start off.
- Understand EXACTLY how animal products cause most cancers, T2 diabetes, cholesterol issues, heart disease, Alzheimers and more
- Have a plan. If you are going vegan to lose weight, you will not lose much if you are still consuming high fat, or processed foods. It’s not “being vegan” that helps people lose weight… It’s making healthy food choices that is the cause for weight loss.
- Do not think that you “can not” be vegan if you are fit/healthy already. You will get as many calories/fat/protein/carbs as you need being vegan, and yes *if you do it in a healthy way* you will experience health benefits. There are 1000′s of plant-based/vegan athletes who nourish and fuel themselves with out animal products.
- When you plateau or stop losing weight – it’s time to adjust and fine tune your diet, it is NOT time to find something else.
- Educate yourself on the lies of “grass fed” or “organic” meat. They are only SLIGHTLY better than any of the hormone pumped cheap meat that you find at McDonalds. All of the major studies done on health in regards to consuming animal products were done on organic, grass fed animals.
Learning about Veganism:
- If you are seeking out to become Vegan – learn the truth about what happens to animals. Watch “Earthlings”, “Meet your Meat” read as much as you can about animals, how they think, how they live and how they are treated.
- Get to an animal sanctuary! Meet animals, hang out with them for a day, start to understand that the animals that are slaughtered are NO different than the animals that people have for pets.
- Start to research and understand the impact of your food on a global level, find out why what we eat can directly impact people who are starving in other countries, find out why eating animals is one of the worst things we can do to the Earth.
- Understand the process and the myth of “humane” meat slaughter. Animals raised to be killed, still suffer greatly. There is no such thing as “humane” when it comes to slaughtering an animal.
- Stop purchasing items made from animals. Leather and fur products means that an animal was killed brutally for the sake of fashion. Find alternative fashion statements. *a lot of people have asked me about the Lady Gaga stunt on Sunday. And a lot of people have said “well it’s no different than wearing leather”. This might be true, but I can understand that many are ignorant to the story behind the leather they purchase in a store. Wearing raw meat is a blatant decision made on her part to show off the slaughter and torture of an animal with absolutely no remorse. To me, it was sick and uncalled for.
- Think before you buy. Above all, when you reach for the leather purse, or the package of cheese – THINK. Think of where it came from. Go through the process – the cheese comes from an animal that is forced to be impregnated over and over and over again, who more than likely had it’s baby ripped from her to be sent off to slaughter. That leather purse meant that an animal was killed, possibly skinned alive, in order for you to hold your belongings. Go through the process of each purchase, so that you can make better decisions.
When you decide to look into being Vegan, look from all sides of it. Understand why people are Vegan, who it impacts, who it helps. Make this diet about more than yourself, make it about something much bigger than you.
Going Vegan was with out a doubt the greatest choice I have made. It has changed so much about my life, but more importantly, it has changed a lot about those who were once impacted by my selfish addictions.