LIFESTYLE

VEGAN FOR LENT

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For me, there are three reasons to go vegan:

  1. Animal welfare. This is possibly the most obvious one for people. Anyone who’s ever loved a pet can make this connection. Why kill something that has feelings to eat it when we are already dreading the day our beloved cat will die. There are plenty of videos of slaughterhouse practices. Check out YouTube or any documentary if you can handle watching it. I’d really rather not, so I’m not going to provide a link here. I think we are aware.
  2. The environment. This was somewhat new for me. I had heard some stats here and there, but didn’t exactly connect the dots. After reading Cowspiracy, it seemed so blatantly obvious. Backed up by researchers, the author explains how animal agriculture and droughts, the destruction of the rainforests and the oceans, the extinction of species, and global warming are related. Both World Bank and UN reports rank animal agriculture as the number one contributor to climate change. More than all the transport together. It made me want to act. Veganism had always been inconvenient. Plus, my impression of vegans was on the negative side; people who kept telling me that I was eating the undeveloped baby of a chicken and drinking a baby cow’s milk. Which of course is true, but nobody had ever taken the time to explain the whole story to me. Making people feel guilty is not a great motivator. Knowing that you can do your part to not contribute to climate change kind of is.
  3. Health. I just started reading The China Study, which investigates the relationship between nutrition and popular diseases such as heart diseases, cancer and diabetes. The research shows that all of them can to a large extent be prevented and reversed by eating a balanced plant-based diet.

This has been my experience: I have lived mostly vegetarian all my life. When I decided to go fully plant-based for lent (just because it seemed like a reasonable time frame for a diet experiment), I had to remove dairy and eggs from my diet. Practically, this meant being more organised.

  • I had to prep my meals to take to uni/work.
  • Because of the lack of plant-based snacks around town, I ate less throughout the day (and lost a considerable amount of weight ⇒ more on that in next week’s post).
  • My (facial) skin cleared up.
  • In the first few weeks especially, I had severe headaches because of the diet change (and weight loss?). They’ve almost entirely stopped by now.
  • I felt less lethargic and more social (this might also be due to spring).
  • My portion sizes had to be bigger for me to feel full.
  • I stopped craving chocolate and candy.
  • I had to find some replacements for common animal products – my personal selection:
    • Butter ⇒ margarine (Alsan)
    • Milk ⇒ almond milk (I’ve been using this for about a year)
    • Yoghurt ⇒ coconut yoghurt
    • Eggs for baking ⇒ flax eggs
    • Eggs for scrambled eggs ⇒ soft tofu (Seidentofu) + turmeric + kala namak
    • Cheese ⇒ I do sometimes use nutritional yeast, though generally this is more difficult to replace 1:1. My tip is to question the function it has in the meal (add flavour/texture/etc) and find something else to fulfil this function: nuts, dips like hummus or pesto, herbs and spices.
  • I added tofu to my diet because it contains more protein than any animal product.
  • I started taking Vitamin B12 supplements and, placebo or not, I feel better.
  • I learned and keep learning more about nutrition and wellbeing because you need to explain yourself quite a lot.
  • I learned to listen to my body.

Today is Easter Sunday, which means the experiment is finished. Because the plant-based diet has had such an overall positive effect on my physical and mental health, I intend to continue on a plant-based diet with exceptions such as eating out, travelling and special occasions. To my big surprise, I don’t miss the cheese.

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