Three Reasons to Go Vegan and Three Tips on How to Do So
Ellen DeGeneres, Moby, and Alicia Silverstone share more than their celebrity status. Veganism has spread to be up to 2.5% of the US population as of 2016 (Nordgvist). Once thought of as a diet consisting of gross rabbit food, veganism is now somewhat appealing to at least 47% of Americans (Mavean). Part of this growth relies on the allure of fame and the inherent perfect gloss painting celebrities’ lives. Way back in 2008, I was a vegetarian who came across veganism through a celebrity online. I started researching and PETA videos came up. I haven’t looked back (much) since. Ten years later, I am sharing my three reasons and three tips to ease into a vegan lifestyle.
Do you know any vegan people in your life and/or in the media?
Reason to Go Vegan #1: The Animals
Many people assume that vegans are militant animal lovers. That is not true. Caitlin A-C reflects on her own relationship with animals and her veganism. She parses out a distinction: she does not think vegans love animals more than non-vegans. Instead, vegans tend to see animals as equals, not subservient beings. Pondering on our huge ego as humans, she writes, “We tend to think of ourselves as above every other species because of our intelligence and high functionality. […]The truth is that we share this planet with species that have fought just as hard in their own ways to survive and stay afloat amid evolution’s tireless tests.”
The numbers of animals killed to sustain the popular omnivorous diet are staggering. The ASPCA website includes statistics on the most popular animals used for slaughter or for their secretions. For instance, “Approximately 8.5 billion chickens are killed for their meat every year, while another 300 million chickens are used in egg production.”
If you were to go vegan, what would be the most difficult food to give up?
My Own Experience with Animal Suffering
One of the most crucial turning points for me was seeing and hearing the fear an animals experiences before slaughter. When this happened, a shift occurred because I couldn’t pretend that animals somehow did not know what was coming. The truth is, animals don’t get treated well over the course of their lives. Whether they are used for dairy or eggs, animals live in terrible conditions. Pigs are crammed in unclean stalls, with high levels of ammonia (“Factory Farms”). To make things even worse, pigs (and cows) are separated from their mothers at a very young age. It’s the saddest noise to hear a mother cow call for her child as it is taken away from her right after birth.
Advice #1: Make Small Changes and Start Slow
The biggest regret I have with veganism is that I tried to make the change overnight. It led to an overwhelming amount of stress. Do your research, not just about the horrifying nature of factory farming and using animals for profit. As the Vegan Society points out, “Like any other lifestyle change, going vegan not only takes getting used to, but it takes time to determine what will work best for you. It's not a one size fits all experience and there are numerous approaches you can take” (“How to Go Vegan”).
In a Reader’s Digest article, Perri Blumberg features a collection of vegan authors who share their advice on maintaining this lifestyle. One of them is Victoria Moran, who suggests that new vegans transition from being vegan at home mostly, to vegetarians in public spaces to reduce the pressure of being perfect at it. Another advice in the article is from Mark Bittman, who recommends a “vegan before six,” as a transition step (Blumberg).
Most importantly, use this transition as a way to take better care of yourself. One of my favorite vegan geniuses ever is Terry Hope Romero. Her recipes are always on point. She says, “Relax and learn to love to cook, explore new cuisines, and be adventurous with food. Most importantly, be easy on yourself. Don’t view a vegan lifestyle as the finish line, but as an evolving process of conscious eating” (Blumberg).
Reason to Go Vegan #2: Health
One of the benefits of veganism, when done right, is improved health. In her classic book called The Kind Diet, Alicia Silverstone begins the book with a discussion on meat’s effects on the human body. She references Dr. William Castelli, who noted that people with cholesterol levels below 150 have a much smaller chance of getting heart attacks (Silverstone 18). Many types of meat have high levels of fat, which can then increase levels of the bad cholesterol in a person. Plus, the same thing can be the case with whole-fat dairy (“Are Eggs, Meat, and Dairy Bad for High Cholesterol?”).
Veganism can be a good way to eat healthily and be strong. One of my favorite nutritionists ever is Kimberly Snyder, who wrote The Beauty Detox, a book all about how our diet affects our appearance and our internal well-being, too. She writes, “The gorilla is a natural vegetarian, and 86 percent of its diet is composed of green leaves […] with the other 14 percent made up primarily of barks, roots, flowers and fruit.” She then notes that the gorilla is among the strongest animals on our planet.
“The gorilla is a natural vegetarian, and 86 percent of its diet is composed of green leaves […] with the other 14 percent made up primarily of barks, roots, flowers and fruit.” Kimberly Snyder
You Can Be Vegan and Strong
There are plenty of examples of vegan athletes. My favorite has to be Rich Roll, an Ultra-athlete, which, no, isn’t a self-appointed title. Mark Lenlinwalla’s Men’s Health article mentions one of the events Roll took on, “Last September, the 51-year-old ultra-endurance athlete, and best-selling author ran 40 miles and swam six miles over 26 islands of the Stockholm Archipelago off Sweden as part of the grueling Ötillö Swimrun World Championship.” (Lelinwalla).
He is not the only one out there. In fact, I found out that plenty of athletes are either vegan or considering it (Berger). In her article as part of the Breaking Muscle online magazine, Melody Schoenfeld reflects on her veganism and her ability to pursue powerlifting competitively. She mentions that her diet and lifestyle offer her plenty of proteins, which is something many vegans are faced with when dealing with naysayers. For more examples of vegan athletes, check out Strong Vegans' page.
Advice #2: Find Healthy Vegan Alternatives to Your Favorite Foods
Learn about plant-based nutrition as you dip your toes into this lifestyle. A lot of people recommend replacing non-vegan food with vegan options, but, remember, not all vegan food is good for you. I like this piece of advice from Jenne Clairborne, the brilliant mind behind The Nourishing Vegan and, my favorite, Sweet Potato Soul. She says, “Crowd out less healthy, or non-vegan foods with a yummy vegan addition. For example, have a green smoothie before your usual breakfast, or some fruit before an afternoon cookie. By eating the plant-based food first you won’t have as much room for other stuff, and you’ll develop a taste for the healthier option.”
I urge you to do what I didn’t do: read about nutrition, educate yourself, track your nutrition on websites like Chrono Meter that help you get in all the macro-nutrients into your daily diet. Don’t get caught up in the elimination of all things. Do what is healthiest for you based on what is available.
Reason to Go Vegan #3: the Environment
Finally, going vegan has impact on the environment. Geriatrician and integrative medicine doctor George C. Wang penned his opinion piece on CNN. In it, he exposes terrifying numbers in relation to eating an omnivorous diet. For instance, he notes that the production of beef and lambs as factory farm animals has emissions that are 250 times higher than that of the production of legumes. Furthermore, he mentions that pork and poultry production emissions are 40 times higher than legumes. He writes, “A large amount of methane and nitrous oxide, gases that are more than 20 times and 250 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas, are generated through livestock-raising activities.”
In addition, Wang mentions a study in a publication called Nature that predicts an 80 percent increase in greenhouse gas emissions from food on a global scale. Wang says that such damage can be avoided if people ate “equal-parts mixture of the Mediterranean, pescetarian and vegetarian diets.”
Advice #3: Surround Yourself with Supportive Vegan Friends
As the Vegan Society website notes, remember to always be open and learn new things. There’s a plethora of information on veganism on the Internet. But, with that comes a warning from me: do not surround yourself with people who do not support you. I have seen a lot of judgment and pressure within the vegan community toward vegans and newcomers alike. Find kind people who support your attempts to do better for the animals, for your health, and for our environment.
A-C, Caitlin. “Veganism is not about Loving Animals.” Medium. 13 Oct. 2015. Accessed 22 Aug. 2018.
“Are Eggs, Meat, and Dairy Bad for High Cholesterol?” Health Line. 16 Sept. 2016. Accessed 28 Aug. 2018. https://www.healthline.com/health/eggs-and-cholesterol
Berger, Sarah. “NFL Players’ Surprising New Performance Hack—Going Vegan.” CNBC. 31 Jan. 2018. Accessed 26 Aug. 2018. https://www.cnbc.com/2018/01/31/why-nfl-players-and-other-athletes-are-going-vegan.html
Blumberg, Perri O. “How to Become Vegan: 12 Tips from Experts.” Readers Digest. Accessed 24 Aug. 2018. https://www.rd.com/health/healthy-eating/becoming-vegan-tips/
“Factory Farms.” ASPCA. Accessed 27 Aug. 2018. https://www.aspca.org/animal-cruelty/farm-animal-welfare
"Great Vegan Athletes." Accessed 18 Nov. 2018. https://www.greatveganathletes.com/all-strength-sports
“How to Go Vegan.” The Vegan Society. Accessed 26 Aug. 2018. https://www.vegansociety.com/go-vegan/how-go-vegan
Lelinwalla, Mark. “The World's Fittest Vegan Is a 51-Year-Old Ultra-Endurance Athlete.” Men’s Health. 19 Mar. 2018. Accessed 26 Aug. 2018. https://www.menshealth.com/fitness/a19460422/rich-roll-workout-vegan-diet/
Macvean, Mary. “Cutting Down on Meat for Health: More People are Trying it.” LA Times. 23 Jan. 2015. Accessed 26 Aug. 2018. http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-vegan-health-20150121-story.html
Nordgvist, Christian. “What to Know About Eating Vegan.” Medical News Today. 15 Nov. 2017. Accessed 26 Aug. 2018. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/149636.php
Schoenfeld, Melody. "Strong, Healthy, and Vegan? (Yes, It Can Be Done)." Breaking Muscle. Accessed 18 Nov. 2018. https://breakingmuscle.com/healthy-eating/strong-healthy-and-vegan-yes-it-can-be-done
Silverstone, Alicia. The Kind Diet. New York: Rodale Books. 2009.
Snyder, Kimberly. The Beauty Detox Solution. Ontario: Harlequin. 2011.
Wang, George C. “Go Vegan, Save the Planet.” CNN. 9 April 2017. Accessed 27 Aug. 2018. https://www.cnn.com/2017/04/08/opinions/go-vegan-save-the-planet-wang/index.html