After three weeks of valiant effort; our vegan experiment officially came to a close this past Friday night. Having not prepared a meal or recipe ahead of time that night we soon found ourselves up the creek without a paddle. As I prepare for the inevitable round of “I told you so” comments from friends and followers I can only look back with some regret and disappointment. I’m not disappointed in Veganism if anything the past three weeks actually opened my eyes to a whole new way of eating and consciousness about what goes into my body and dispelled most of the myths and falsehoods I have heard about vegans and vegetarians over the years. I’m disappointed that I could not make it work. I am a creature of habit and the fault in the end is mine. Although Dairy is still out, along with pork, and most beef I will still be consuming wild caught fish and locally raised chicken from my local farmers market and Whole Foods store. In the end it came down to a question of convenience, cost, and benefits and I couldn’t justify it.
First let me set the record straight as far as it relates to my own personal observations. You can eat well and eat healthy on a vegan diet. We had and found literally dozens of awesome recipes and ideas for vegan cooking many of which were amazing in taste and ease of prep. There is also plenty of protein in vegetables, grains, and legumes to keep any person satiated. Now the disclaimer for this is that I found it hard to find enough protein to support my needs as a weightlifter trying to add mass without supplementing. Within the first week, despite increases in strength and ability I noticed my muscles losing size. This could be attributed to water loss and overall body fat loss. I cannot say for sure but it did get more noticeable as time went on. I am trying to add size for an upcoming project and found it nearly impossible while conforming to a strict vegan diet. This was my own personal experience though and I hear that many athletes have no such issues. On a side note I also found that most pre-packaged and processed vegetarian and vegan foods found on the shelves of grocery and whole foods store are just as bad for you and filled with chemicals and weird ingredients as any other food. They also rely primarily on soy for protein, soy that has been over-processed, sprayed with chemicals and pesticides and mutated so far beyond its original intent that its unrecognizable. If you’re contemplating vegetarian or vegan foods go organic its the only way.
Second; while vegetables, bulk grains, beans, and nuts are themselves cheaper to buy than most meats, the overall cost per meal was higher as a vegan due to the actual number of ingredients that must go into most vegan meals to build something satisfying and filling. Our average grocery cost went up by nearly seventy-five dollars a week. On the flip side of this though many of the bulk items we bought such as Quinoa, Rice, and beans will last us for weeks to come and will continue to play a large role in our future diet. Despite the overall costs we will continue eating many of the vegetables we tried during our experiment and have eliminated most if not all processed foods from our diet. We have begun making our own bread, sauces; pesto’s, butters, and spreads. I like knowing with complete certainty what exactly is in the food I’m eating. Going vegan opened my eyes wide to the crap, fillers, and poisons that food manufacturers are stuffing into the things we eat and purchase every day.
The single biggest realization I brought home from the last three weeks is just how damaging dairy is for the human body. I cannot believe how much what we as consumers take for common knowledge on its supposed healthy benefits; has been invented by advertising and studies paid for and sponsored by the dairy industry itself. Even more disturbing is how much the FDA and USDA know about the harmful effects of dairy but remain silent under the influence of corporations and kickbacks worth billions of dollars. More than three-quarters of the budget spent by the USDA goes to the dairy and Meat industries, despite the fact that its charter states that its function is to protect and promote agriculture and small farmers.
The fact remains that no other adult species in the world consumes milk after its young grow teeth, and they certainly don’t consume the milk of other species. Think about it; if milk is so healthy and good for us then why aren’t we consuming human milk as adults, after all it is genetically made to be compatible to our diet. That milk producers must add proteins and enzymes to milk just to keep we the consumer from vomiting it back up says enough about its suitability for consumption to me. Not to mention the fact that Casein the most prevalent protein in milk is actually a recognized carcinogen according to the FDA. I won’t get into the way dairy consumption creates an acidic imbalance in your body leading to serious and ongoing health issues in even lactose tolerant adults.
I’m not here to bash the meat industry beyond to say that they can’t be trusted. The evidence of their misinformation, invented health benefits, and deceit involving ingredients and standards is too overwhelming to deny. The fact that so many do deny it and ignore it is just sad, and bodes ill for the intelligence and personal accountability of many so-called responsible adults. That the meat industry is pumping our food so full of hormones and chemicals that young children are entering puberty before their teenage years and succumbing to cancers and diseases that until recently only affected the elderly and aged is disturbing to say the least. That the FDA after eliminating all other potential conduits of contamination except for meat still refuses to connect the above issues is shameful and insulting. I’ll be getting my future meat only from sources I know and can be sure of. If it’s not raised the way nature intended then it will not be going down my throat.
I like meat. For its satisfying qualities, ease of protein absorption, and flavor it cannot be beat. I have no illusions about what goes into putting the chicken on my plate. I grew up around farms and livestock and accept the process involved. But I refuse to accept the way business is done in slaughterhouses and feed lots. I have no issue with hunting and killing it is the way of the natural world, but the torture and excesses need to stop. I don’t know if humans were ever meant to eat meat and looking at our biology I could certainly see the proof saying we weren’t. However looking at the evidence of our own history and that of similar species like the bear I don’t think you can deny that eating meat certainly helped us grow and prosper on this earth. All things change and those that accept and utilize adaptation and flexibility the most live to carry on their species. The ability to survive on meat and a wide range of vegetables, grains, nuts, tubers, and legumes, meant that our ancestors didn’t starve.
I have also learned though that at any given time most of us are in fact consuming a mostly vegan, albeit processed diet. Meat should never be the staple of a diet, just part of the cast. Our portion sizes here in the US are much too large when it comes to meat and our vegetables much too low. Were the rest of the world to eat as much meat as we did there simply would not be enough room on the planet to raise all the animals we would need. Added to the fact that most of the corn, grain, and soybean grown across the world is actually used to feed animals and not humans and you start to see how skewed this process has become.
Balance is the key and I will keep this in mind when eating meat and remember to keep the vegetables and fiber high and let meat do what it does best flavor my foods; not be the main attraction. Cutting dairy from my diet has been something I have felt and noticed dramatically. Also during my three-week experiment I could actually see the body fat around my midsection melt away even though I didn’t change my workout intensity or schedule at all. I have learned a lot during this experience and will continue to implement many of the changes I made these past three weeks to build a healthy and supportive diet as I move towards my ultramarathon and Obstacle racing goals.