Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food. — Hippocrates, father of medicine, 431 B.C.
I am vegan.
No wait… before you roll your eyes and close this web page let me explain.
Honestly, I was never in the slightest bit interested in this ‘weird’ lifestyle and the ‘restrictive’ dietary choices it posed. Those that know me well knew I was the McDonalds, Desserts, and Coke man. Fast food, high fat, high sugar, and high processed ‘food’ was a large part of my diet – an all too often feature of the typical Western diet.
Then one day, oops, I found I was a vegan. Things shifted in my mind dramatically (I actually mention some of this in my second book – Stillness at the Edge of Time) at the end of 2012. I had had enough.
If I put it simply – I wanted to be kind to my body and make sure it is kind to me. Is that so silly? I don’t think so.
I was tired of waking up tired every morning and having no energy. I was tired of constant headaches (nearly every three or four days). I was frustrated at being overweight and wanting to change, but nothing ever seemed to work. I was tired of my ballooning clothing size floating around XL, XXL and beyond (now I fit comfortably in an M, and sometimes even an S). I was tired of looking in the mirror and seeing a big belly protruding far and wide. I was even tired of struggling to tie shoelaces!
So I made a decision to respect the ‘temple’ I was given. I believe if you put good fuel in the car it will go a lot further with a lot less engine trouble. The body has an amazing way of correcting itself (take a simple cut on the finger – it heals naturally!)- it was designed that way. I like what renowned food expert and journalist Michael Pollan said in 2007: “Eat Food. Not Too much. Mostly Plants”.
That’s right, I no longer eat meat, chicken, seafood, dairy or eggs and I am discovering a fantastic variety of food that I never knew existed. Moving to a plant-based diet was the best dietary/lifestyle choice I have ever made, fun too! In just over 3 months I lost 27kg (59.5 lbs) and I have never felt better!
Eat plants. Those two words are the best things I’ve learned about being vegan, and if you stick to that, you’re likely be pretty healthy. On a recent trip to the USA where before I would have returned overweight and unhealthy ‘trying all those fatty and sugary delights’ – but being vegan meant healthy food choices! I came back from that three week trip (I live in Asia) without gaining a single pound – I was still my ideal BMI weight.
“But Steve, what about exercise?”
I never really liked exercise, probably because I was feeling so exhausted and tired all the time. I also found the gym such a ‘boring’ place to be. So I had to find something that I could connect with. So now I walk. Not ultra fast, but nor do I dawdle – I simply walk.
I walk between 5-7km a day (around 30-35km per week). There is a hill near my apartment in Penang and every morning I use this time to reflect, wonder, listen, pray, and find that place of stillness and tranquility. I am not in a marathon or trying to work up volumes of sweat (though my pulse does rise on some of the steep inclines). That is my regular form of exercise now – physical and spiritual.
[Update: Since writing this article the walk has often turned into a 5km run – who would have ever thought that! I am also taking up cycling with my wife.]
The benefits of a healthy vegan diet are too many to name in one post, but they are many and they’re powerful. I feel strong and alive, and I have not been sick (not even a headache) since December 2012! That’s got to be a plus in my books!
Some Further Reasons
- The consumption of animal products has risen in the last 40 years. So has the incidence of heart attacks, diabetes, blood pressure, and many forms of cancer. There is enough medical evidence linking these and other issues (such as obesity) to what we eat. Today, my weight is great and well within my BMI for my age and height!
“People who ate more red meat were less physically active and more likely to smoke and had a higher body mass index, researchers found. Still, after controlling for those and other variables, they found that each daily increase of three ounces of red meat was associated with a 12 percent greater risk of dying over all, including a 16 percent greater risk of cardiovascular death and a 10 percent greater risk of cancer death.”
- The livestock industry is responsible for 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions. This is more than the entire transport sector (planes, cars, buses, trains, etc..), which produces 13.5% of the emissions. Plant-based diets only require around one third of the land and water needed to produce a typical Western diet. So switching to a plant-based diet is an effective way for an individual to reduce their eco-footprint.
- Animals have to eat up to 13 pounds of grain to create just 1 pound of meat. This grain could be used to feed the world’s hungry: 70% of all US grains feed livestock instead of people. How could I stand in front of the poor in India, Nepal, or Burma, fat and overweight and speak of love and compassion only later to return to a hotel room to gorge on a thick juicy steak? I did not want to contribute to that system of conflicting interests any more.
- Many of these animals are sick. For example, approximately 80% of antibiotics produced in the U.S. are for animal agriculture. This overuse leads to weakened immunity, digestive problems, allergies, food sensitivities, and overgrowth of yeast/ Candida in the consumers.
- I can eat a healthy diet with lots of protein and have a ton of energy without killing animals. I don’t need to kill animals, even if they taste good (sorry, bacon and sausage, I miss you, well not really!). Oh, by the way, where do cows, gorillas, elephants and rhinoceros (some of creations slightly larger animals) get their protein. From a plant-based diet.
- Studies in the past decade have taken nutritional research beyond protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals. Chemicals in the plants called phytochemicals have been a specific focus in the past decade, offering benefits such as cancer prevention, cholesterol reduction, and hormone regulation, to name a few. So I figured – the more plants the better!
- There are mouth-watering plant-based dishes from around the world: from India, vegetable curries and dhals; from the Asia, tofu stir fries; from Italy pastas and salads; from Turkey, hummus and tabooli; and from Mexico beans and tortillas… the list goes on! My favorites are India and Japanese dishes. Many familiar foods have vegan versions – vegans can enjoy pizza, vegan sausage and mash, casseroles and even chocolate cake! The variety of vegan food available in shops and restaurants is growing all the time – eating a vegan diet has never been easier.
- To me it is also one form of expressing a more holistic compassion. Public awareness of the conditions of factory-farmed animals is gradually increasing and it is becoming more and more difficult to claim not to have at least some knowledge of the treatment they endure. Sentient, intelligent animals are often kept in cramped and filthy conditions where they cannot move around or perform their natural behaviors. At the same time, many suffer serious health problems and even death because they are selectively bred to grow or produce milk or eggs at a far greater rate than their bodies are capable of coping with.
- Millions of calves and male chicks who are killed every year as ‘waste products’ of milk and egg production and the animals farmed for their milk and eggs who are killed at a fraction of their natural lifespan. Choosing a vegan diet is a daily demonstration of compassion for all these creatures that God created.
- Another factor is my appreciation for minimalism. Simplicity in spirituality is a byproduct of divine grace and love awakening us. For me this also translated into simplifying my food choices to a plant-based lifestyle. Just as our lives need a de-cluttering from religion, manipulation, and control – so did my body need a de-cluttering from a diet that only polluted the system – now matter how sweet or fatty it was on the outside! I see the connection in that last sentence to spiritual fads that pass as the next ‘most important thing’. Don’t you agree? (Read more on minimalism with some of my other articles: Why Minimalism? or To Decrease is to Increase.)
Please do yourself a favor and watch this video. It is informed, funny and very eye-opening! Death in America and other Western nations is largely a food-borne illness. Focusing on studies published just over the last year in peer-reviewed scientific medical journals, Dr. Greger offers practical advice on how best to feed ourselves and our families to prevent, treat, and even reverse many of the top 15 killers.
Some may argue, but they ate meat in the Bible and fish! And what about all the animal sacrifices in the temple? My response? That’s nice and God understands my decision (I am smiling) and I do not think he is too worried about it. Maybe it was the diet of Eden after all? Maybe in the future there will be a return to Eden? (please read some of the quotes below the second video.)
Am I giving you a new law of what you must do? No, I am saying these are some of the decisions I have made and they have helped me become a lot healthier – inside and outside.
Your vision of a typical meal will likely shift to account for a totally plant-based approach to eating, but a new repertoire of recipes will have you up and running in no time. I have come to really enjoy cooking (much to my wife’s delight -and she is also vegan). We like discovering all the fun things one can do with a vegan lifestyle!
I used to detest the humble mushroom, but now I eat them nearly every second day! I also used to be very afraid of dates, they always looked like big cockroaches with their legs sawn off! Now we have a whole cupboard full which I regularly use for making my own healthy vegan-bars.
You may also encounter some foods with which you are unfamiliar that may become dietary staples. It will be useful to shop around and familiarize yourself with these sorts of ingredients, like tofu, varieties of nuts and beans, unique fruits and vegetables, or quinoa.
You can see some of the yummy recipes on my Pinterest Vegan Board that I have collected.
Please, only watch the following video with this warning: it has some disturbing images. My question is this – does this show respect, care and kindness to all creatures great and small? Is the command ‘You shall not kill’ merely limited to the human species? If love and compassion are to rule the heart, then is what you see here an expression of that love?
Consider these Quotations…
“I am in favor of animal rights as well as human rights. That is the way of a whole human being.”
– Abraham Lincoln
“In the next ten years, one of the things you’re bound to hear is that animal protein is one of the most toxic nutrients of all that can be considered. Quite simply, the more you substitute plant foods for animal foods, the healthier you are likely to be.”
– T. Colin Campbell, PhD, nutritional biochemist, Cornell University 1983-1990
“Animals are my friends…and I don’t eat my friends.”
― George Bernard Shaw
“Lots of people talk to animals. Not very many listen, though. That’s the problem.”
– Benjamin Hoff
“Using a balanced, plant-based diet, I have dramatically reduced risk factors for heart disease in countless patients.”
– Terry Shintani, MD, JD, MPH
“A growing and increasingly influential movement of philosophers, ethicists, law professors and activists are convinced that the great moral struggle of our time will be for the rights of animals.”
– Michael Pollan
“To be a vegetarian is to disagree — to disagree with the course of things today. Starvation, world hunger, cruelty, waste, wars — we must make a statement against these things. Vegetarianism is my statement. And I think it’s a strong one.”
– Isaac Bashevis Singer
“I am finally starting to see that loving kindness, the ability to ease another’s pain, compassion, and mercy, whether it be toward animal or human, has a firm foundation in grace and spiritual freedom. Understanding is the essence of love and that love is in dire need of manifestation in this chaotic world of cruelty, violence, and abuse. Oh that all souls would deeply awaken and embrace the transformation of divine love…”
– Stephen Roberts
If you liked these quotes and want to see more check out my ‘Vegan Health and Wellness Quote Collection‘
Also check out my page of great resources (videos, links, and information) on Vegan Health and Wellness.