19 September, 2016
After nearly 20 years I have decided to no longer be a vegetarian. (I was actually more like a partial vegan). (In the same breath, however, I’ve basically gone gluten free and nearly sugar free, so I’m still on the special dietary requirements for camps and conferences!!)
Losing my Religion
It’s been a gradual process over the last few years. I’ve grown up in a strict vegan household, so in all seriousness, in a lot of ways it feels like losing your religion. While I have the utmost respect and love for my family, I have reached a point in my adult life where I’ve simply made my own decision to do things differently. I’ve formed my own views around food, nutrition, ethics and the environment. I’ve also formed my own views on spirituality – I suppose the supreme irony is that I’m actually the religious nutbag in the family.
I don’t mean any offence to the vegetarian or vegan community. I simply don’t believe any more that eating this way is the healthiest, most ethical, or most environmentally friendly way to live.
The goal of my blog is to recognise when things aren’t working for you, and be willing to try new things that do work.
Health as a vegetarian
For most of my life I have been eating a diet high in fruit, grains and processed vegetarian substitute foods, and eating very little fat. And for a long time my health hasn’t been too great. Vegetables were the biggest staple in my diet, which was a plus, but there were still a lot of minuses that I didn’t understand at the time. Chronic fatigue aside, it wasn’t normal for me to feel or look particularly healthy (being skinny doesn’t mean you’re healthy).
Now, within the space of a month I’ve gained significant energy and focus, I have lost a lot of extra fat and gained muscle mass through very little exercise. (While I still have chronic fatigue, the diet certainly hasn’t hurt. It’s just made things that much easier). It has primarily been due to adding more fat, and removing gluten, as well as minimising sugar.
This is just one anecdote, and it doesn’t explain why I would start eating meat, rather than just give up gluten and sugar. While that is one of the biggest changes I’ve made, the more I read, the more I’m realising how deprived my body has been of healthy fats and proteins.
Fat is my friend
I don’t claim to be an expert, but from what the experts tell me, saturated fat is my friend – fats like butter (from grass-fed cows), coconut oil, avocado, eggs and animal fats are all very good, and actually don’t make you fat at all. (A great book to check out is Christine Cronau’s fantastic book, The Fat Revolution, which I’m reading at the moment. Don’t be put off by the cover, lol.)
Of course, health is my goal, and not weight loss. What is fascinating though, is how important healthy fats really are to our health, and how deceptive the health authorities have been in advising us to eat a low fat, high carbohydrate and high sugar diet. This means that we are malnourished, even while being overweight.
Why not vegetarian?
I used to believe that being vegetarian was not necessarily the most morally superior way to live, but that it at least had the high ground of being the most healthy, and kind to the environment. Now, however, I don’t even believe that.
I think this quote from Christine Cronau summarises it well:
“Years ago, I became vegetarian because I was against animal cruelty in the meat industry, but I became ill and discovered that my low-fat, vegetarian diet was the culprit. I can certainly understand why many people choose to be vegetarian. Can we get away with it from a health perspective? I personally believe that just like wild cats and other meat eaters, we too were designed to eat, and thrive on meat and animal fat…Combining grains and legumes to replace first-class proteins isn’t adequate, and pure plant-based (vegan) diets are extremely unhealthy…”
While she does say it is possible to be a relatively healthy vegetarian, I personally don’t think that it is ideal, or superior in any way.
She summarises one of the biggest concerns well:
“I found it distressing eating meat after years of vegetarianism, but the more I am exposed to nature, the more I see it as part of the natural cycle of life…We can, however, do something about animal cruelty by purchasing pasture-fed, organic meat, and not supporting the commercial meat industry.” (p.56).
Lastly, a big concern I have now with veganism or vegetarianism is the substitute foods that are marketed as “healthy” alternatives to the (in fact) very healthy fats and proteins we eat. Things like margarine, vegetable oils, soy and tofu, as well as breads and grains. These, as well as sugar, including fructose sugar in fruit, are what contribute most to weight gain, as well as a host of other health issues.
All of us have strong attachments to food, as well as our lifestyles. Our identity can be tied up in how we live and what we eat. At the suggestion that we need to change, many of us will become defensive, and even aggressive. (Having grown up in a passionately vegan family, I am not new to this reality.)
A few years ago I would have become quite stand-offish at the suggestion that my diet was, in fact, unhealthy. Getting bullied for being a vego throughout high school has made me stick to my guns, like Lisa Simpson. But now, the older I get, I am more willing I am to admit when I simply don’t have the right answer.
Of course, I’m not saying you can’t be a vegetarian, or a vegan. I’m just raising some thoughts to consider, and what my experience has been.
I’m not one to start a fight over diets, I simply want to be as healthy and happy as I can. I’m not an expert, but if it works, it works. And it’s working for me.
Give it a go
If you want to, give it a try for two weeks and see how you feel – eat more butter (grass-fed), avocado, meat (grass-fed), and eggs (free range), and cut out all bread and grains, and sugar (including fruit). I am quite confident that you’ll have a huge increase in energy, mental clarity, and you will feel better in every way.
Disclaimer – All of this is my subjective experience. I’m not an expert. It’s simply something I’m trying and it’s working for me. If you would like more detail, check these podcasts out at your own pace:
180 Nutrition – http://www.180nutrition.com.au
The Bulletproof Exec – https://www.bulletproofexec.com/
The Wellness Guys: – http://thewellnesscouch.com/category/twg
The Bulletproof Diet – Dave Asprey
The Big Fat Surprise – Nina Teicholz
The Fat Revolution – Christine Cronau
They are just a starting point. If you have any books or resources that you firmly believe in that say otherwise, and for good reason, send them my way. 🙂
Grace for Failures is the blog of Carlin Doyle to encourage and inspire people who have gotten life wrong for a long time, and want to try and do things a little differently. Click here for more info, and here for more posts.