So, it was suggested to me that I should write a blog about why I became vegan. I've found that since becoming vegan, I've been explaining myself - a lot. Either defending my protein intake, excusing myself from eating certain things, ensuring that I'm being "healthy", defending my choice, and just about every other wild and crazy debate and discussion you can think of.
Here's how it went:
Firstly, I "became" vegan unintentionally. After a visit from Matt over two months ago where I had eaten entirely too much meat and dairy (on his last night in Montreal we ate for two hours at an all-you-can-eat Brazilian restaurant that served 12 varieties of rotisserie meats), I decided to do a cleanse. I'd be vegan for a month to detox my system, give it a well-needed rest, and reduce the bloating I was having from all the dairy and salty foods I'd been eating.
My first week of being vegan was a little challenging, but bringing food to work with me helped and I started researching and trying new recipes instead of just eating salad and quinoa. What I started realizing was that I actually enjoyed the hunt - I liked looking for new recipes, making alterations based on my taste and trying new things. I really liked cooking - a lot.
During the next 4 weeks my energy levels increased, I lost a couple of pounds (probably mostly in water weight), I stopped craving salt like I used to, I felt happier, was sleeping better, and felt like I was getting into a natural rhythm. The only thing that became difficult was continually defending my decision, but usually when people found out I was only doing it for a month, they relaxed and stopped bothering me.
On my 28 day mark, I was to arrive in New Jersey for a visit with Matt and the end of my vegan cleanse (since all we do is eat new food while we're together). For the next five days I gorged on waffles with whipped cream, pulled pork taco sliders, ice cream, and just about anything else I could get my little Canadian hands on. And in return I had severe stomach pains every day and nightmares every night. I felt lethargic, had no motivation to go to the gym or work out, and was sleeping 9+ hours a night.
It became clear to me exactly what was going on. My body was happy with the way it was under my new vegan regimen, and was rejecting the old chemical-, hormone-, preservative-filled foods I was pumping into it again.
When I got back to Montreal I started reading Alicia Silverstone's book The Kind Diet. This book touches upon a wide variety of reasons for becoming vegan, and just one of these reasons is the inhumane treatment of animals in industrial food production facilities. I say this because for the vast majority of non-vegans that I've crossed since making my choice, most of them raise their eyebrows and make some snide remark about me wanting the save the cute little cows or chickens or whatever. While I disagree with the way animals are treated in mass production, unethical facilities, I've gotta admit that my reasons for deciding to stay vegan were a lot more selfish than that.
In Alicia's book, she touches on the way animals are slaughtered and how it actually effects the meat itself - this is what got me. When an animal is in a slaughterhouse, it's aware of what's going on around it, and when it's time to go under the knife, the animal knows it's about to die. All animals possess a fight-or-flight impulse that will help any creature to survive a threatening situation. When an animal goes to slaughter, it's fight-or-flight impulses and stress hormones kick in, causing the chemicals adrenaline and cortisol to spike in production.
Now, in humans, adrenaline is produced naturally, which can give us a rush and make us feel good, or in too-high doses it can cause aggression and anger (this is the "fight" part of the fight-or-flight impulse). Cortisol is naturally produced by humans, too; when we get stressed out, our cortisol levels increase and this has been linked to weight gain and a variety of other stress-related ailments (this biological reaction dates back to the caveman days when "stress" meant "food shortage" so our bodies released cortisol to store fat for famine, even though this is no longer the case). So, consider this: animal secretes adrenaline and cortisol moments before being slaughtered, therefore, those chemicals are released into the blood, which pumps through the muscles, which then get packaged and sent to grocery stores and bought by people who cook it up and eat it, so those chemicals get passed into us! If these chemicals are already proven to negatively affect us when we produce them ourselves, then what do you think is going to happen when we consume more when we eat foods that are laden with it? Cortisol and adrenaline overload = angry, fat people! That's not good for anyone!
And not only that, but because the FDA doesn't enforce slaughterhouse rules as tightly as they should, we have cases of food contamination. Do you want to know why that happens? You probably don't, because it's going to ruin eating meat for most of you, but I'm going to tell you anyway. When they string up an animal for slaughter, slaughterers go at it with knives, usually while it's alive, slashing away all willy nilly! In the process, sometimes internal organs are pierced, like colons, which are full of shit - literally. What does this mean? Escherichia coli, or E. coli, which is responsible for 20-30 deaths, countless food recalls and over 70,000 illnesses every year. Fluids from the liver, pancreas and gallbladder can all make their way into our meats, too, filling us with all kinds of nasty toxins. Milk isn't safe either. Cows are often over-milked, causing inflammation and infection in their teats, which translates into puss in your milk, cheese, butter and yogurt. YUMMY!
To top it all off, these poor animals are fed nutrient deficient food and pumped full of hormones and antibiotics, which all (you guessed it!) gets passed onto us in their meat. And we wonder why we're living in an increasingly aggressive, anti-biotic resistant, messed up, cancer-ridden world.
Also, the anti-establishmentarian in me loathes the incestuousness of the industry and government. These industries pay government parties and officials millions of dollars every year to promote legislation that will keep them on top, and they spend even more promoting their "staples" as absolutely necessary to human survival. Let's get one thing straight: until refrigerators were invented, meat, dairy, eggs and cheese were rarely eaten at every meal. It's was impossible. They couldn't be stored for long periods of time like they are now. Yet, somehow, people still survived. How could this be?! Well, I know it's hard to believe, since the dairy, egg and meat industries have brainwashed us into believing that their foods are the only complete forms of proteins, calcium and other nutrients available, but you can get all of those things from other sources - and they're even better sources than meats, eggs, and dairy!
Our bodies use a huge amount of energy to digest these nutrient-deficient, hormone-filled, antibiotic-laden foods. So, a plant-based diet - one that includes other sources of protein, like beans, lentils, dark greens, and sea vegetables if you're so inclined - is going to provide you with all the vitamins, nutrients, and amino acids (these make up proteins) that you'll need to life a healthy life. And you'll likely find that you're naturally staying away from preserved foods, which are often extremely high in sodium, and junk foods that have dairy products in them and are often high in fat and refined sugars. Just what the doctor ordered!
Whodathunkit?! A natural diet makes us feel most human - not so shocking when you really think about it. And vegan diets have been proven to reverse a plethora of medical conditions - even cancer!
Now, I'm not writing this to tell people to become vegan or vegetarian, though it would be nice if a few did. I'm writing this because most people just don't know about this stuff - I know I didn't! But in order to make a change in your life, you need to find a reason that will work for you. If that's thinking about the cute furry animals and not wanting to be responsible for hurting them anymore--cool. If it's the reasons I listed above--cool. If it's jut wanting to make a healthy change for yourself and the environment (don't get me started on the waste that's produced and the water that's used for raising livestock!)--COOL! Whatever your reason is, you've gotta believe in it.
If you still want more information, hit up the interweb. There's so much information online. Go to www.sprword.com for some mad chill documentaries on food production and other cool stuff. Read Alicia's book The Kind Diet, or find another book that you are more drawn to. And even if you don't go vegan, at least educate yourself and stop making yourself look like an ignorant asshole when you talk to me about how "unhealthy" I am for being vegan. What's in your food that makes it healthier than mine? Don't know? Then go find out.