Tag Archives: fad diets

15 Years of Being Vegan

Screenshot from 2016-06-06 16:08:28.png

It’s official! I have been a vegan for 15 years. Looking back through the mists of time, I vaguely remembered that I wasn’t sure I’d be able to function at all for a year as a vegan, let alone eventually thrive and joggle sub-4 hours marathons. It wasn’t easy at first, but after about 6 months I got used to it and there was no turning back. My going vegan doesn’t change the fact that billions of animals are still getting slaughtered every year for meat, for fur, and in labs, but it’s my own small way to not contribute to this endless horror and hopefully help move things in the right direction.

If you are interested in going vegan, here’s some resources and advice gained from being a vegan for 15 years: First, check out Vegan 101: Planning Healthy Vegan Diets so that you’re up to speed with what you need to know to be a healthy vegan. Not sure what you’re going to eat every day? Then here’s a 21-Day Vegan Meal Plan from the PCRM. Oh She Glows also has tons of vegan recipes so that you never run out of ideas. It’s an exciting time to be a vegan, with so many options out there and growing.

When people come to me for advice on being vegan, I give them advice that is practical, easy to follow, and science-based. Practicality does not mean sacrificing nutrition or flavor, it simply means making the diet and lifestyle easy to stick to for people with busy lives. Rice and beans, pasta and vegetables, oatmeal, and peanut butter(or tahini) and jelly sandwiches are what I commonly eat. I admit I sometimes overdo it with the peanut butter. Tofu is a great source of protein and very versatile.

Whenever possible, buy food in bulk to save money, cook in bulk and don’t believe the fear-mongering about microwaves. You don’t need to buy organic. You don’t need to learn the origin of every food ingredient overnight to see if it is vegan or not, so don’t stress yourself out over this. Take your time learning about these ingredients.

Take a B-12 supplement. You may also require iron, zinc, iodine, calcium, and vitamin D which you can get from some vegan supplements or enriched foods. You can get omega 3s by eating flaxseeds and walnuts. In my experience, people who fail at veganism were probably deficient in one or more of these vital nutrients. They either weren’t supplementing or they weren’t eating enough nutritious, well-balanced meals.

A little over 10 years ago I came down with anemia for a few months, even though I regularly ate high iron plant foods. An iron supplement quickly reversed this and I was back to my regular rigorous athletic activities. Keep in mind that plant iron is much more difficult to absorb than animal derived iron and that vitamin C helps you absorb more iron. Consult a doctor or dietitian before taking anything to ensure you are getting the proper dosage from a reputable source.

Last but not least, ignore the fads. Fad diets come and go, but veganism at its essence is no fad. These overly restrictive diets make it so difficult to stick with the lifestyle that they greatly increase your chances of becoming an ex-vegan, and believe me, I know a lot of ex-vegans. What fads am I referring to? I mean rawfoodism, “clean” eating, paleo-veganism, macrobiotics, gluten-free, alkaline diet, oil-free, “detox” diets, as well as countless hybrids of these pointless distractions. Also, don’t buy into the hype about “superfoods”. My 10 Things That Aren’t Necessary For Being a Healthy Vegan goes into detail about why these diets are nonsensical and potentially harmful.

If you are eating a balanced whole food vegan diet, these fad diets do nothing to improve your diet or make you healthier. By and large, these diets, which have nothing to do with veganism, are based on pseudoscience and virtually no reputable health professionals recommend them. Ignore, or better yet, laugh at the pesky food police on social media who are quick to castigate anyone for adding olive oil to food or eating processed food or nuts in moderation. The gurus who promise perfect health are best avoided.

By following the advice offered above, and embracing science and critical thinking, you shouldn’t have any major issues adjusting to a vegan lifestyle. This is really all you need to know to get started. I hope you found this information useful. If you think I left out something important, please leave a comment. If you have any questions please post something in the comments or email me, I love to help people transition to a more cruelty-free lifestyle.

 

Screenshot from 2016-06-06 16:10:13

I took this a few weeks ago during an 18 mile joggling run. The water is the Long Island Sound.

 

 

Advertisements

Say goodbye to olive oil? No way!

Huile_d'Olive_Tanche

It seems there’s always something you must eliminate from your diet if you really want to be healthy. Or at least, that is something a certain sub-group of the vegan/plant-based community who supposedly have a monopoly on truth and perfect health want you to believe. For many, it’s gluten, for others, it’s soy, but what gets demonized the most nowadays are oils, including and especially olive oil. Oil-free veganism is all the rage these days, with some advocates of this approach getting frustrated whenever they run into skeptical vegans like me who disagree with them. Although they eschew all oil, olive oil is usually the main target of oil-free proponents because of the common, largely accurate idea that it can be healthy in moderation.

Where did this bizarre notion that olive oil is bad for you come from? A group of plant-based doctors have been pushing this idea for years now, based on some flawed studies that don’t always have control groups. To say that there is room for skepticism based on their research is the understatement of the century. Besides the inherent flaws of these studies, another reason I am very skeptical is because I prefer looking at the totality of the evidence, not just what a small group of researchers are saying. Overwhelmingly, the evidence from the wider scientific community doesn’t agree with them. The idea that all fat is bad is something the scientific community repudiated a long time ago.

Beyond just being skeptical, as an animal advocate, I don’t like placing any more restrictions on a vegan diet than is necessary(read Ginny Messina’s articles below for her take on this). Most people think a vegan diet is too restricted as it is. Why recommend eliminating something that science shows is okay or even healthy in moderation? Numerous studies show that people following a Mediterranean diet, which very often includes olive oil, have significantly lower heart disease risk. This isn’t to say that you have to consume olive oil, or that it’s okay to consume it in large amounts, it’s just that it shouldn’t be the big issue it currently is.

I’ll gladly give up olive oil when and if the evidence shows it is harmful in moderation. I tire of hearing “I’m giving up olive oil because I attended a lecture by the brilliant Dr. So and So and he convinced me it’s the most horrible thing ever”. I also don’t care for the often hypocritical whole foodist dogmatism that underpins this anti-olive oil stance and which forbids consuming anything that isn’t considered a “whole food”. For some, overly rigid whole foodism is a stepping stone to the even more extreme and pseudo-scientific world of rawfoodism. Sometimes it seems like there’s a bizarre kind of competition going on to see who can survive on the most restricted diet.

If you care about your health, completely eliminating olive oil from your diet is probably pointless(unless your doctor recommends you do so or if you have a condition that makes it difficult for you to metabolize fat); if you care about helping animals, this is pointless, a big distraction, and potentially a hindrance in vegan outreach efforts. While I follow and recommend a mostly whole food vegan diet, I am not overly rigid about it, though I was more rigid years ago. A little oil or a few sweets are going to harm the health of a healthy distance joggler like me? Really? To me, as a non-expert, it all comes down to what consensus science says, not just a few doctors or scientists with an extreme minority view. For this reason, you won’t see me making dietary recommendations on this blog that have little to no basis in science. I realize that my approach makes me a black sheep to much of the vegan community, but so be it.

Related articles:

  1. Olive oil, Health, And Advocacy
  2. Vegan Health: The Fatty Acids
  3. Mayo Clinic: If olive oil is high in fat, why is it considered healthy?
  4. Farewell, Low-Fat: Why Scientists Applaud Lifting A Ban On Fat
  5. Help Animals With Healthful and Practical Vegan Diets
  6. Nutrition Professor Says “No Broccoli Health Benefits. Ditch ASAP!”

Veganism adrift – Why we shouldn’t be so quick to praise “vegan” celebrities

1280px-thumbnail

Painting by Ludolf Bakhuizen

As a vegan, I am angry. I am angry because the word “vegan” has been diluted to near meaninglessness by weight-obsessed pseudo-vegan celebrities, and the cult-like adulation they receive from a large part of the vegan(or rather “plant-based”) community. It seems every time a celebrity goes on a mostly plant-based diet purely for vanity reasons, the usual suspects promote them as the ultimate vegan role model. As a way to promote veganism, this approach pretty much always backfires for the vegan community, at least for those who do it for the animals(as if there are other types of vegans; more on that latter). The foolishness of this spectacle is nauseating for vegans who know better.

It turns out that Beyoncé, the “vegan” role model du jour doesn’t just wear fur, she still still eats meat. A “vegan” who eats meat? Personally, I always thought the fur thing and the fact that she said she was doing it simply for weight-loss disqualified her from having anything to do with veganism. Still, this didn’t stop the vegan non-thinkers brigade from proclaiming Beyoncé as the new vegan idol.

Many vegan activists claim when celebrities go vegan or near-vegan, even though it is almost always temporary, insincere, and not for ethical reasons, this helps spread the word about veganism. I see things very differently. It’s already a lost cause if the veganism the celebrity is promoting is a temporary crash diet motivated purely by vanity or health reasons, since that isn’t what veganism is about in the first place. It’s not just a fad diet, it’s a lifestyle concerned with reducing animal suffering and is a life-long commitment. Or at least, that’s what it used to be about, before the plant-based health-nutters appropriated the term “vegan”. While I realize there’s a lot of overlap between health-conscious people and ethical eaters, this doesn’t change the meaning of “vegan”. Of course, if a celebrity does go vegan for ethical reasons, that’s great, and they could be useful for promoting the vegan lifestyle.

The only things these celebrity worshiping antics accomplish are confusion and further diluting the message of veganism. Ultimately, vegan celebrities make unreliable role models because all-too-often, they revert to their old meat-eating ways, giving the impression that veganism is difficult to stick to. And this isn’t just a hazard of health veganism, since some ethical vegans may also give up on veganism for whatever reason.

In the very least, I think the semantic issues could easily be resolved if people who go “vegan” exclusively for health reasons called themselves “plant-based” or “strict-vegetarian”; leave “vegan” for ethical eaters. It is, in essence, a word that describes an ethical lifestyle, not just a diet.

Related:
Does Beyoncé really understand what veganism is about? by SCOTT LAJOIE