Disclaimer: The word veganism carries a lot of political baggage, and while strictly speaking it simply means one who does not eat / use animal (by) products, for others it can invoke negative connotations Thus for what it is worth, when people do inquire I don’t use this title to begin with, but rather call myself “whole foods plant based.” For the purpose of this post these are simply synonymous.
My journey into veganism began late last year. Stephanie had been nagging me for a while to watch this documentary called “What the Health” which I always said I was too tired for, or wanted to watch something different. She had been on and off with a whole-foods plant based diet a couple of times but indeed, without support would find herself back in the msg-laden Chinese takeout we loved to inhale, or steamy slices of dominoes pizza we usually gorged on every couple weeks. In fact, one night after downing two pizzas and a 2-liter of Coke, she actually brought up the documentary again, to which I said no…again. I didn’t know what it was about other than I knew it would probably about eating healthy, and in my shame (dominoes shame) and stuffed gut, I knew I couldn’t watch something like that in a food coma of embarrassment. I mean, I’ve always been a pretty skinny and active guy, but I knew I was far from healthy, and boy could I feel it. I basically lived off of Starbucks pastries for the past four years.
Well, we eventually did watch the documentary and I was simply blown away. I vowed right then and there with Stephanie: Babe, we’re going Vegan. I was literally so enthusiastic and even know I feel like I’m in the Calvinist-cage stage but for veganism. Again, the purpose of this post is not to preach a gospel but simply to share my story (which I will get to in a second). After the documentary though, I went and did more research, and was astonished that after the scathing and shocking truth the documentary presents about the absolute toxic and carcinogenic nature of animal protein, they pundits simply could not argue with the raw facts (much to the chagrin of the meat and dairy industries). Consider this piece in Time Magazine: not denying the information presented, the best they could do is argue with the analogy used in the movie that compares eggs to cigarettes. Not very reassuring, to be sure. Or consider this recent piece in the New York Times that took issue with some of the raw data presented in the film, but doesn’t deny the simple fact: a diet consisting of mostly animal proteins will in the long run lead heart disease and other ailments. We all know fruits and veggies are good for you, but I was–just like the majority of Americans–simply not eating them. Although I had disavowed fast food six years prior, I was anything but the model health child.
Since watching What the Health, I went on a documentary binge, so to speak, and got my and on everything I could find. Other notables worth watching include Forks Over Knives, Food Inc, Cowspiracy, Vegucated, Fat Sick and Nearly Dead I and II, and Food Choices. I’ve also read through some literature and can say I have learned a ton; I can now safely say I know difference between LDP and HDP, and even know what endothelium is! Notable reads are Finding Ultra by Rich Roll, How to Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, M.D., Whole by T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D. and the China Study by T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D., and Thomas M. Campbell M.D.
It has now been over a month since Stephanie and I both start this journey. I know many are quick to quip that there are unhealthy vegans too. Of course there are. In that spirit, let me share briefly what our diet consists of when I say whole foods plant based. We don’t eat anything processed. If it is wrapped up in a nice package it is not for us. Read labels, read everything! Most people do not know they are eating toxic chemicals like mono-sodium glutamate which literally does not even legally have to be listed as an ingredient individually on packaged food per the FDA. Packages that say any of the following can really signify MSG: monosodium salt, monohydrate, monosodium glutamate, monosodium glutamate monohydrate, monosodium L-glutamate monohydrate, MSG monohydrate, sodium glutamate monohydrate and even simply “natural flavor.” MSG’s are literally in everything from your cereal, to that bag of doritos, in all your lunch meats, deli meats, packaged food, frozen dinners. Like I said, literally EVERYTHING. Check your spice cabinet, your fridge, your pantry if you don’t know how to pronounce an ingredient and you don’t know what it is: DON’T EAT IT. Take a look at your average Hot Pocket ingredients. Tantalizing right? Wrong, this food is literally killing us, and it’s a damn shame that death by food is legal, even promoted by our own government.
Anyway, back to our regiment. We only eat whole foods, so that means nothing processed, nothing packaged. Wait, nothing processed? That’s right. Our food is whole, and it’s plant based. We always buy organic, especially the dirty dozen. We eat food that is nutrient dense, fruits, veggies, beans, legumes, seeds, and nuts. We shop at our local farmers market around the corner or Trader Joe’s. So again, I’m sure there are “unhealthy vegans,” I mean you can eat taco bell everyday and be vegan if you wanted but it’s sure not healthy. There are people like that but we are not them. The transformation I want to share with you is strictly from cutting out all dairy, meat, eggs, cheese, etc and moving into a diet of whole-foods entirely plant based.
My health transformation has been incredible, and just in one mere month so far! In one month I have lost three pounds, and I don’t eat less, I eat more! Plant based food is nutrient dense, it fills you up in a way that processed corn cereal or a slab of meat cannot. Every day Stephanie and I eat as much as our hearts desire. We don’t count calories, we simply eat and it’s a wonderful thing. Not only that, but my heart burn has simply vanished! I used to get heartburn about 3-5 times a week. My medicine cabinet was stuffed with daily preventative Pepcid and stores of Tums. Since going to whole foods plant based I have not had heart burn once. What normally would keep me up at night has simply gone away. Related to heart burn is my GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease), this too has simply vanished! What’s more, my energy levels are high, and I’ve never felt so amazing throughout the day. Whereas formally I would become tired and lethargic by mid-day, especially after eating, now I have energy to last the entire day.
My sleeping also has improved so much, if only alone for the sleep benefits I would say that this lifestyle is worth it. I used to be stuck on sleeping pills, for years I relied on them to fall asleep. Since adopting this new lifestyle I have been falling asleep without any help from my sleeping pills which are now all in the trash! My sleep, moreover, has been outstanding and I no longer wake up feeling lethargic like my eyes are bleeding and I want to stab someone I’m so tired. C’mon you know that feeling? Rather, I wake up rejuvenated every morning and I actually feel well-rested. I even told Stephanie the other day I’m excited to “sleep-in” tomorrow, when I had work and still had to get up at 7:30am, but we decided to take a rest day and not go to the gym at 5:00am like we do a few times a week and have been getting up and sleeping so well I actually thought that was sleeping in!
Beyond that, my asthma has improved. Plagued with chronic asthma (mostly weather, dust/pollen, and exercise induced) my entire life, at one point on five different asthma medications, I have seen noticeable improvements in my asthma. Simply by cutting out all dairy, which either through allergens or mucus can actually induce or exacerbate the asthma in the lungs, my breathing has gone up and my wheezing gone down. Our family practice doctor told me about this connection between dairy and asthma and encouraged me to stop dairy back when we lived in Michigan last year and I thought he was crazy! I could never stop drinking milk or eating cheese I thought. Boy I wish I would have listened earlier!
One of the most exciting developments is that my eczema is going away! Something that is actually linked to asthma as well, I have been plagued with this since I was a child, although where it manifested on my body would always change. While when I was a child it was my mouth, my teenage years was the backs of legs, the past four or five years has been the knuckles on my hands. Remarkably in just one short month, the eczema on my knuckles is clearing up and is almost completely gone. Not only my hands, but my face is no longer oily or acne-laden, but it clean and clear.
There was a lot more that I wanted to talk about but this post is already long enough. Namely the environmental reasons to adopt a plant based lifestyle as well as the theological reasons. In fact, I plan to write a book about the theological foundation for this lifestyle in the future as my next project.
Also, if you’re wondering what we have been eating recently we have been hooked on Rip Esselstyn’s new cookbook Engine 2 Cookbook
If you have any questions feel free to email me or comment. I plan on doing a follow up blog post with maybe some of the developments of my own health, as well as some of the theological findings as I continue to study and research. This post isn’t meant to offend anyone, I just wanted to share how this has helped my health personally and encourage those interested in these results to research and give it a go.