Before I write this post I want to make a small disclaimer that I am in no way trying to preach or force a particular lifestyle on anyone. This is what works for me – health wise and morally. I’m simply here to share my story and perhaps open a new window of curiosity. I also want to warn that this will be a longer read but I promise it will get you thinking.
Throughout my life, my relationship with food has been a mixed one. From being a picky eater and barely finishing my meals as a child to eating whatever and whenever as a teen, I was never particularly interested in knowing what went in my body – especially not if it hardly impacted my overall weight.
In 2014, my mom was experiencing some (luckily treatable) health issues and sought a naturopath who performed a series of food allergy tests and quickly opened her eyes to the effects of one’s diet. He so vigorously stressed that almost all health related issues stem from the food you eat. I remember within the hour of my mom coming home from her appointment, the three of us raided our fridge and cupboards and got rid of everything processed. It was a drastic change for sure but on that day, we had made a personal vow to ourselves to become as informed as possible about what we eat. Soon after, my family adopted an organic lifestyle which included buying things like free run eggs, fresh chicken from a local farm, kefir, goat milk instead of cow milk, fermented kombucha and so on. None of us had any clue about veganism at this point.
I have to say though, living at home and being able to consume the foods my parents were purchasing was a massive plus because boy let me tell you, organic products are far from cheap. I felt a hard hit financially when I studied abroad in Paris and I definitely felt it living in Prague – although healthy food is something I don’t ever mind spending more money on. This is a common misconception about veganism though. Eating plant based isn’t necessarily more expensive than consuming animal products. The money you’re spending on meats, cheeses and other animal products is allocated to more greens, fruits and protein based grains and legumes. Whether you’re an omnivore or a vegan, it’s the organics that shake up your wallet.
Between 2014 and a few months ago, I genuinely thought I had it all figured out in terms of living the healthiest lifestyle possible. I thought organic was the way to go. My grandparents grew up eating locally grown foods, my parents did too for more than half their lives and I was under the impression that despite Canada being a sponge for processed foods, I was making the right choices. That was until I tapped into the Pandora’s Box of veganism.
Fast forward to March 2017, I was at a place in life where I was (and still am) open to anything and everything new. During this time, I also met an awesome sustainability-driven individual who introduced me to pescetarianism. “Pesce-what?” I said. Pescetarianism is just fancy terminology for vegetarians who don’t consume meat but still eat fish. He explained his dietary choices from a sustainability point of view – agriculture being the #1 cause for climate change issues. Although I’d poke fun at him every time we’d share a vegetarian dish, his approach definitely inspired me to think twice. He recommended watching Cowspiracy – a documentary I’d heard about but avoided like the plaque thinking oblivion was bliss. That exactly, was the problem.
After watching Cowspiracy, I immediately went vegetarian and so did my parents – without slight hesitation. To anyone who hasn’t seen the documentary and thinks it’s purely about slaughter houses (like I did) you’d be surprised. The documentary’s main premise lies in the idea of sustainability and the effects the meat and dairy industries have on the environment. It sheds light on how much information about such things our governments and large environmental organizations such as Green Peace or WWF hide from us, in the interest of protecting their multi billion dollar profits from these industries. I’ve known for a long time that our dietary recommendations are funded by large corporations who hold vast interests in promoting whatever sells (aka food-like food) in affiliation with pharmaceutical companies (cough mafia cough) but before I start to get too passionate and deviate, my point is that if you’re in any way interested in sustainability in conjunction with what you put in your body, Cowspiracy is a must watch.
As Howard Lyman, an animal rights activist, perfectly summed it up, “you can’t call yourself an environmentalist and eat meat. Period.”
The reason we initially went vegetarian and not vegan was purely because of FOMO on cheese. I thought, there is no way I could ever give up Parmesan pesto or fresh Slovak sheep cheese. However, I did believe that by cutting out only meat I would still be able to live sustainably while making a positive impact on my health and the environment. This again, was before I had any idea about the horrifying effects of both meat AND dairy consumption.
After a week of going vegetarian, I had come across a follow-up documentary released by the same producers of Cowspiracy called ‘What the Health’. One Sunday afternoon, after indulging in my mom’s mayonnaise potato salad, we had decided to watch it. This documentary is all it took to go vegan. I mean that without any exaggeration. It was that easy to rewire the way I thought about food. If there is ever something I wish I could gift not only my close circle of friends and family, but also the world with, it’s easily the information presented in this documentary. It changed my entire life.
Unlike Cowspiracy, What the Health focuses more on the health impacts of meat and dairy consumption – how it leads to cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, ovarian and prostate issues, and anything you can possibly think of that people die from unnecessarily. Of course there are hereditary illnesses, but 7/10 of them can be prevented with a plant-based diet. This was a huge revelation for me. Learning about the benefits of a plant-based diet – increased levels of energy, healthy mind, healthy BODY, sustainable and ethical living and so on – made me realize that there was no way I could ignore the control I was given to thrive in and for life.
Going vegan was hands down one of the best decisions I’ve made. Not only for myself, but also for the environment, the animals and the people around me who have been so wonderfully open to listen to my thoughts and engage in fair and interesting discussions. When I first moved to Prague and introduced the idea of veganism to my paleo-enthused uncle, he chuckled and said it’s something he’d never do himself. Fast forward to now, he’s been meat-free since the summer. As someone who was in his shoes less than a year ago, it’s absolutely amazing to see how those you care for most transform for the better. My intention is never to preach, but rather inform, share my insight with others and let them decide for themselves. At best, they will join the journey.
Combining an organic lifestyle with a plant-based diet has been the most rewarding route. I sleep better, have so much more energy and feel empowered to tap into other areas veganism encompasses, such as ethics, spirituality, sustainability and environmentalism. Although veganism isn’t a lifestyle that can be dived into head-first overnight as it requires research and proper planning, the decision to begin the plant-based journey can take effect even in the smallest steps.
I’ve always pictured vegans as these frail hippie individuals who munch on mangoes all day long but man, was I wrong. The community is filled with incredibly compassionate, strong and kind individuals and I’m so excited to tap into the other 97% of what veganism entails.
If you’ve read up until this point, thank you. Hopefully this post proved to be insightful in some way and made you think just a tad.
Positive energies always.
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” – Hippocrates