P. tells me that you have decided to go vegan. I applaud your choice. It is definitely a lifestyle decision and you will probably find out that it will end up being more than about what you eat but also about the health of your entire environment in which you live and potentially work. In an earlier e-mail, I mentioned a few pointers. I would like to reiterate them again. As I have mentioned before, T. has been a vegetarian since she was 18 and she is 37 now. She has learned a lot of things a long the way, a lot of which she has shared. The difference between being vegetarian and vegan is that some vegetarian do eat milk products as well as fish. T. does not eat fish and she has since gone the way of other sources of non-animal protein for her “milk” needs; such as tofu. So, as you acquaint yourself with this new lifestyle change you are going to find out that everyone who has stopped eating meat and claims to be either a vegetarian or a vegan are not necessarily eating the same things. There are shades of gray like anything else in life.
One of the first things she noticed was she started losing her hair. A lot. Another friend of hers told her to take a protein supplement. These are easy to find. You can even now find whey protein, which you can add to a beverage, in the vitamin section at Wal-mart. It is not cheap though. None of the “health” supplements are. So, if you go for the “bald look”, then maybe this might be something you won’t mind.
As I mentioned before, I would really research as many resources as you can. If your public library has a good selection, I would start there but if you have a kindle or nook (I know how you like electronics), you probably can download a lot of really good books on the subject. I personally love Amazon.com and I routinely purchase second hand copies of most books. I also have gotten into the habit of reading the reviews. I also have been a contributor as well on books that I have read. If enough people say “save your money”, I look elsewhere.
I would also strongly encourage you to join an online “foodie” group. I joined 3fatchicks.com in 2007 and although I don’t regularly “check in” at this time in my life; I have learned so much about food, nutrition, etc. It is a free online diet support site. It has sub-groups that cover every imaginable “diet” and lifestyle change (related to food and nutrition) that is “out there”. There is nothing like a peer-to-peer chat room to learn about “what works and what doesn’t”: I would just do a “Google search” and see what is out there for vegans. I really feel like in the early stages of any changes having and knowing people who have “been there, done that” will really help you get you off to a good start and lay a good foundation that will encourage you, rather than discourage you. Why re-invent the wheel?
Another thing that you might want to “invest” in is a couple of really good vegan cookbooks. One author that is highly recommended is Isa Chandra Moskowitz. I have her cookbook“Appetite for Reduction“, which came highly recommended by a friend of mine. Another cookbook Isa has written is “Veganomicon”. Vegan food tastes different because they do not use any animal fat by-products even when baking. When T. graduated from college in 2009, P. and I traveled to Philadelphia to see her graduate. I bought her, on her wishes, a vegan cake. Did I like it? It was good but it did taste different. I was not aware, until T. told me this years ago, that most processed baked goods that are on your supermarket shelf use animal fat by-products. Little Debbie line of “cakes, etc.” (which I just love) do use beef tallow. I am not sure if you were aware that McDonald’s used to use beef tallow when frying their famous french fries. Now, you know why theirs tasted different than the rest. Vegans and vegetarians filed a class action suit a few years ago and I believe McDonald’s et al did change the oil they used.
This is just the tiny bit of information about the tip of the iceberg with the food we eat and how it has been altered to cause us disease and obesity. If you wish, you may contact T. and I am sure she would be glad to answer any questions you have or steer you towards some useful sources where you can get all of your questions answered.
Again, I applaud the action you are taking for your health. I am fortunate that I have a grown child who has taken such a strong and positive desire to eat and live in a healthy way. She has been informative without being proselytizing about it. I will say that don’t be surprised though as you learn more and more about our food production system along with all of the “crap” in our food, that you might channel your political inclinations in that direction. It does seem like many who are non-meat eaters follow suit.
Since I joined 3fatchicks.com in fall of 2007 I have been making changes in my own personal diet. I have shared with P. what I have learned but not “forced” him to do what he didn’t feel comfortable doing. I have a saying ” Eating healthy is my assurance that I won’t need to use health insurance (which we don’t have)”. P. agrees with me on this. You either pay at the grocery store or you pay at the doctor. We choose to pay at the grocery store. Speaking of which, you will probably notice a slight increase in your grocery bill. Remember, if you aren’t filling your cart with a lot of junk food (which costs as well) it will even itself out within a couple of months.
Also, don’t be too hard on yourself at first. I have come along way but I am not perfect. I have made some great strides but I still know there are changes that I need to give another “try”. Some changes P. has embraced and some I don’t think he ever will.
Finally, I feel there is also a spiritual side to this that is somewhat overlooked. I did initially begin changing my diet because I wanted to lose weight but then I began to discover that some of the newly-emerging health issues I had were a direct result of the way I was eating. So, then I was faced with the prospect of going the “traditional” route and medicate myself with pills for the rest of my life or to make some serious dietary changes. I also couldn’t help noticing that I had been “using” food as a “medicine” in an attempt to heal old hurts, wounds and my resultant character defects as well. Needless to say, that discovery opened a whole new can of worms that I have been working on ever since. In conclusion, I am a “work in progress” on this.
The spiritual side of treating our body as “the temple of God” is something that I didn’t always adhere to until I noticed that people who are really spiritually sound are also ones who do not have a weight problem and usually do not have any major health problems. On the flip side of this same coin, I have also come to realize that as the Bible states, “our days are numbered” and He controls both the day we are born and the day when we die, so that brought me back to the “reasons” why I was doing what I was doing. It is not enough for me to live longer if I am not actively contributing to the “betterment of the environment in which I live.” Did I ever think losing some unsightly fat and gaining health would lead to this? Not in a million years.
There is a strong argument that Jesus puts forth when he told the Pharisees that “it is not what we eat that makes us unclean but what is in our hearts and minds.” So, while it is good to be concerned with our physical health it also has to be tempered with making sure the rest of our health is equally attended to. Our life here on earth was created and meant to be transitory. We are “just passing through”. We were created to manifest God’s love and to love one another. The final answer is LOVE. However, if treating ourselves well allows us to treat others well in the process, then whatever method we choose to gain that end is worthwhile in reaching for. So, I say, GO VEGAN!