I am a vegan, but no, I am not a member of PETA. In fact, the word “vegan” has such a loaded connotation that I generally want to tell people that I eat a plant-based diet instead. Except that the word “diet” has such a loaded connotation too. Well shit, I guess I just can’t get away from labels.
Several years ago, my wife could accurately order dinner for me at almost any restaurant we went to – a bacon cheeseburger. Even after my wife decided to switch to a vegetarian diet, and then a vegan lifestyle, I still happily chowed down on my burgers and steaks (just not at home!).
Before I go any further though, I’ll answer the question that almost always gets asked. No, my wife did not make me change my eating habits. She made the change in her life based on a knowledge of factory farming & animal issues. I always joked that I was far too selfish to change for the animals sake.
I had never exactly been the healthiest guy around. At 22 years old, I had blood pressure over 200/120 (I can’t remember the exact number, but it freaked the nurse out!). Not that long after, I was considered “obese” by BMI standards (and no, I did not have a lot of muscle to compensate for the weight). I had long ago acknowledged that becoming a diabetic was not a matter of if, but rather when.
And then I read ‘The China Study‘ by Dr. T. Colin Campbell. I went from meat-eater to vegan in no time, and have happily been eating plants ever since. The thought that what I eat affects my health is so basic, so simple, and so obvious. Yet, I ignored it for many years. The link between diet and heart disease & diabetes is painfully obvious, and the link between diet and cancer is remarkable.
I consistently run into well-intentioned people who question my decision to avoid eating animal products. While I appreciate their concern, constantly answering the same questions does get a little old. ”Where do you get your protein from?” From the same place that cows get theirs from, plants. ”Without milk, where do you get your calcium from?” From the same place that cows get theirs, plants (most people neglect to notice that calcium is an element, and can’t be magically created inside a cow before being milked).
To ensure that I have not made a foolish decision in my quest for health, every year I go to the doctor and have a ton of bloodwork done. I have my calcium levels checked, protein levels, B12 levels, iron levels, cholesterol, potassium, creatinine, … – basically anything and everything. My labs have always come back with good results.
But the lab report doesn’t really matter that much. What’s important is that I feel so much better than before. And since I’ve been able to complete a 100-mile ultramarathon on a plant-based diet, I know I must be doing something right.