This was a message from a friend recently on Facebook when I told him the subject of my upcoming book Lonestar Salad. He promptly amended his statement with a halfhearted “Sorry.” But he didn’t need to.
Truth be told I don’t support many people being a vegan either. Le SHOCK!
And let me be perfectly clear: I believe with the right education and planning everyone COULD be vegan, I just know from experience that not everyone is willing to put that much thought and effort in to what they eat. Heck the information is so mixed up and contradictory that it can be a full time job figuring out what works and what flops!
While I wholeheartedly hope as the world awakens to the reality of our food sources, that everyone will strive to add more whole plant based foods to their diets, it is an unfortunate reality that a large number of people who might consider going (or have already gone) “vegan” do so for reasons that do not require a clear, informed approach to their daily diet.
Choosing to simply cut out all things with animal products in them because you are compassionate about the animal’s plight is insufficient reasoning. Not eating any animal products could, in some people’s books look like potato chips and iced tea, or apples and peanut butter every day, all day. Thinking dairy is an OK source of protein or calcium, assuming grain-based protein will suffice, overdoing GMO soy consumption–these things mean trouble from a nutritional standpoint.
Besides, focusing on a negative-based anything will not get you far. (Negative-based meaning what you CAN’T have or what you CUT OUT) It is far better to put a positive spin on changing your diet. What can you ADD every day that will improve your health. And since your ability to eat in a single day is finite, you will eventually be forced to replace the bad with the good, out of simple space limitation.
For example: add a salad, heavy on dark green leafies and nutrient dense goodies like avocado and pumpkin seeds, to every meal, before every meal, every day. (Fruit salad at breakfast with ground flax seeds and coconut oil! Mmmmm!)
You will have difficulty eating your full serving of animal based foods or sugary foods or starchy foods after that salad. You are half way full!
Another great way to really boost your nutrient intake is green smoothies and green juices. I always ALWAYS advocate that the first step anyone make in a new healthier direction with their diet is to ADD green smoothies. A simple one (spinach, banana, and water) is fast and easy , tastes great (I promise!) and will make dramatic improvements in your health and energy levels. And positive reinforcement is the key to long-lasting changes.
AFTER the green smoothie is a habit you can’t live without (usually 2 weeks and you will miss it that first day you don’t have it!) THEN I suggest giving up things like soda (shame on you!) and white pasta/rice.
There are other factors that many people do not take into account when making the jump into a plant based diet as well.
For example hormonal issues. If you have a funky hormonal thing going on that is making you hella unhealthy (gaining weight, losing muscle tone, losing hair, growing a beard–ladies) then that needs to be diagnosed and at least acknowledged before you try to make VAST changes in your diet. And then changes need to be made from your new informed position.
I say that with a caveat–your hormonal imbalances can almost ALWAYS be corrected with diet. I highly recommend two amazing books on the subject: Woman Code by Alisa Vitti and The Hormone Cure by Dr. Sara Gottfried. These cures advocate changing your diet–and that may mean dramatically if you eat crap.
The diets they advocate are whole-foods and include large amounts of plants/veggies and the holy grail of fats, the omegas in a religious way. They more closely resemble the Paleo Diet, which is lean protein (animal based, although both of these books say that a vegetarian protein is OK), high veggie consumption, high quality fat consumption of epic proportions (soooo many hormone problems can be solved with good fats!) and zero grains, sugar, or processed/refined foods.
You can do this without giving up animal products alltogether while you heal your body of the hormonal imbalance. This is going to be a better, easier option for the vast majority of people. And it is OK.
The bottom line is this: If you are unwilling to take the journey to better health through nutritional education and enlightenment, then don’t look for a bandaid approach in “becoming vegan.” You will end up worse off than you started, plus you give plant-based eaters a bad name looking all scraggly and unhealthy!
Do everyone a favor and first focus on what you can add to your diet rather than what you need to take out. The natural progression once you start insisting on healthy additions will lead you down a path of vibrant health as each new piece of the puzzle falls into place.
I do not want to discourage anyone from making what I feel is the healthier, more ethical, and more eco-friendly choice of going full out Vegan. But I do want to make it clear that it requires more than a “no more bacon” attitude and a few Tofurkey sandwiches. And if you happen to have a lifestyle that is physically taxing (heavy workouts, athlete, etc) then a vegan diet would look significantly different for you than it does for those of us that hit the gym the bare minimum of 3 times a week. Additionally if you wish to “bulk up” for the sake of aesthetics your vegan diet would be even more complicated and involved. I can only imagine the amounts of pea protein required to fuel a vegan body builder. But those products exist! And there are TONS of people online sharing their vegan athlete or vegan body building experiences.
Aaaaall this said… the number one rule when it comes to nutrition and our bodies, is to take a deep breath, show acceptance and open-minded interest, and believe in your heart of hearts that everyone is different, every path is different, and as long as a person is making choices based on their personal well-being and ethics, then that is all that is required. Release the need to preach your choices as the end all and be all, and find a way to pleasantly share your information and understanding in a loving, judgment free way.
More flies with honey, my mama always said…