Why I’m Going Plant-Based

Why I'm Going Plant-BasedA few months ago, I wrote a post about how I’ve been *slowly* transitioning towards a plant-based diet. (In that post I talk about the judgement I often feel in doing so—if you’re interested in reading it, click here.) In that post I didn’t dive into why I’m going plant-based, so that’s where we’re going today. It’s happening EXTREMELY gradually, with the process starting years ago and animal products slowly dropping from my diet as they stop being appetizing to me.

I suppose it’s a little odd to write this post now because as of last week, I was still eating eggs and occasionally fish. I never put any pressure on myself to eliminate things from my diet, and it’s just happened naturally. Last week, for whatever reason, I was ready to part with eggs and fish. I sat down to eat avocado toast with a runny fried egg on top and just thought, “You know what? Eating eggs no longer serves me.” Maybe this post is a bit premature, but I feel myself continually being drawn towards a 100% plant-based diet and know in my gut that whether it’s now, or I eat scrambled eggs tomorrow and it doesn’t happen for another month, I’ll eventually be there.

I’m not a dietitian or nutritionist and therefore not qualified to give specific dietary guidance. That being said, this is a health and fitness blog, and even if I’m just sharing my personal experience with these things, I know that many readers take it as advice. For this reason, it’s really important to me that I emphasize that I do NOT think a vegan diet is necessarily the healthiest diet for everyone. We are all different, and there is no one-size-fits-all way to eat. I think plants should make up the bulk of each meal, but I also believe high-quality animal products can be part of a healthy diet.

As with all things health and fitness, you need to find what works for your body. You need to tune into what makes you feel your best, notice what foods don’t agree with you, and get better at listening to your body and getting to know yourself.

For that reason, you’ll notice that “health” is missing from the list below of reasons why I’m going plant-based. Do I feel great eating this way? Yes! But would I also feel great eating mostly plants and occasionally eating animal products? Yeah, probably! I flat-out don’t like meat, but if it weren’t for the moral and environmental conflicts I have with it, I’d probably continue to eat fish and eggs.

Because this transition to a plant-based diet has been so gradual, I honestly can’t tell you I’ve noticed much of a difference in my overall health as I’ve eliminated animal products. I’ve been blessed in that I’ve never had any major chronic physical issues in my life. My skin is better without dairy and I don’t experience bloating as often as I used to, but other than that, I don’t have miraculous tales of physical improvement to share with you all.

What I can say is that eating plant-based just feels right for me. Emotionally, morally, physically—it works. I feel so good about it and the direction I’m moving in, and all signs point to this being the right fit for me. I see going plant-based as one component of a larger shift towards a more mindful lifestyle. How are my choices affecting the world around me?

Why I’m Going Plant-Based

When I started cooking for myself, meat became increasingly unappetizing.

When a steak comes cooked, beautifully prepared and served to you on a dish, you’re getting an end product that’s far removed from the state in which it started. Meat was never my favorite food growing up (I was a pasta kid), but I would regularly eat it. We had venison a lot, chicken dishes, the occasional pork tenderloin. But my mom did all the cooking and I just saw and ate the finished product.

When I stared to cook for myself in my 20s, meat became a lot less appetizing. The smell. The slime. The blood. The globs of fat hanging off the chicken like boogers. The texture of that raw chunk of meat as you cut it up. It all totally grossed me out! At first I just stopped cooking it but would eat it on occasion at restaurants, but eventually I couldn’t separate the raw, slimy cut of meat from the cooked dish. I don’t have this reaction to fish and shellfish—probably because I’m accustomed to eating them in their raw form anyway.

The older I get, the more I love animals and feel morally conflicted in eating them.

You guys. The whole “biological clock ticking” saying is TOO REAL. As I approach 30, I’ve found that I just fall apart at the seams with emotion when it comes to babies and animals. And oh man don’t even get me started on baby animals. My hobbies these days include watching @thedodo videos and sobbing—it’s getting out of control. BTW this is not me dropping hints that I’m going to have a human baby any time soon, but I should probably adopt a dog like yesterday (lollol). Anyway …

The morality of eating animals is a complicated topic to breach. There are a lot of layers to it, but I want to start out by emphasizing that I don’t see people who eat meat as morally corrupt animal-haters. I have a couple items in my closet made from leather, I have a cow hide rug in my apartment—I’m really not one to talk! I’m conscious about buying animal-friendly products now, but I don’t necessarily feel bad about wearing these products I’ve bought in the past.

I also grew up in a family of outdoorsmen and bow hunters. Great preparation, skill and patience would go into the scouting and hunting process. The entire deer would be utilized, nothing going to waste. These family members love nature, are way more in tune to it than I have ever been, and feel the most at home when they are living—to a certain extent—in sync with this natural world. I have a lot of respect for that.

The point I’m trying to make is that this isn’t about ranking morality based on what you eat. Depending on how you see the world and your place in it, your view on eating animals will vary.

For me, I look at a hamburger and see a cute cow in a field and feel sad. I see bacon and picture a momma pig surrounded by cute little piglets and lose my appetite. It’s harder and harder for me to separate the living being from what’s being served on my plate.

Again, I see my hypocrisy (i.e. leather shoes). But instead of calling out each other’s hypocrisy (we’re all hypocrites to some degree, let’s be real here), I choose to focus on progress. It’s not about perfection. It’s not about the route chosen, the speed or the number of roadblocks you hit—it’s about the forward movement. I can feel good about where I am now and want to get better at the same time.

That’s one of the reasons why I love the Rich Roll Podcast and find it so inspiring: He advocates for a plant-based lifestyle without judgement, shame or scare tactics. He honors where everyone is in his or her journey. Highly recommend listening if you’re interested in going plant-based or just overall wellness in general (he has non-vegan guests on, too!).

I want to reduce my negative environmental impact.

Like with my previous point, there’s some admitted hypocrisy on my part here. I’m sure if someone came to my apartment to assess my carbon footprint, there’d be a laundry list of things I could improve. While eating less (no) meat is just one of the many ways I can live a more environmentally-friendly life, I do think it makes a difference.

The livestock industry accounts for a big percentage of greenhouse gas emissions (yes, there is actually some substance behind all those cow fart jokes), and biodiversity has been affected by the changing landscape for food production. This is a great article from BBC.com on the subject. It discusses the environmental benefits of the world going vegetarian but also acknowledges the negative effects it would have on developing countries and certain climates which rely on livestock to survive. It concludes by saying a reduction of animal consumption (particularly red meat) rather than complete worldwide vegetarianism is the best solution, which I find encouraging.

When it comes to the environment, it’s easy to feel discouraged that your individual choices won’t make an impact. What’s the point of little ol’ me recycling when massive factories are continually spewing pollution?! But you can and do make a difference. And you don’t have to be perfect!

The way I see it, I’m privileged to live in a developed country, in a bustling city that offers lots of plant-based options, and I have the financial means to not stress about buying food. I can eliminate animal products from my diet without any great inconvenience to my life, and in turn will be doing my part (albeit small) to reduce both my carbon footprint and contribution to animal suffering. So why not?

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I think what it all comes down to for me is eating more mindfully. When I stop to really think about what I’m putting in my body, the process it underwent from its original form to my plate, and the impact of my food choices on the world around me, I no longer want to eat animal products.

I’ve heard stories of people going vegan for years and eventually going back to eating meat citing low energy or other health issues from it. I’ve been eating very little animal products for years without such negative effects, so I don’t foresee this last little step in the plant-based direction to change that. That being said, I’ll continue to listen to my body and if I ever feel that my diet is negatively affecting me, I’ll make some changes. I think people tend to overcomplicate going plant-based (OMG you’ll never get enough protein!!!!!! The horror!!!!) but I also acknowledge that, as with any way of eating, you can’t be lazy about it if you want to feel your best.

If you guys have any questions for me or thoughts on the topic (dissenting opinions always welcome, too!), leave a comment!

Comments

  1. I haven’t eaten meat for 10+ years and people always want to know WHY?? And I actually feel sort of the same way about meat as you but even cooked meat really grosses me out. I don’t eat dairy either because I went full vegan for a while and made myself lactose intolerant. I do still eat eggs and fish for various reasons but I find that eating fish tends to make people resent me just a little less than when I was full vegan. It just kind of makes eating out with a group MUCH easier–though I tend not to eat it when left to my own devices and decisions.

    The worst for me is when I’m at a restaurant and people start pointing out things that I can eat… like, yes, I’m 28 years old and I know how to read a menu and can feed myself. I know it’s all good intentions but after 10 years I’ve experienced it a whole freaking lot.

    • I TOTALLY relate. Fish was like a crutch for me all summer because it made going out to dinner so much easier and allowed me to avoid the “Wait, why don’t you eat that?” conversations.

  2. Beautifully written and thoughtful. I gave up eating animals about a decade ago for ethical reasons. The amount of mental gymnastics I had to do to morally justify what was both an ingrained habit and a degree of gustatory pleasure became overwhelming, and I gave it up overnight. I would make no claim that it is healthier for me to not eat them, but it is certainly healthier for the planet and, arguably, the maintenance of an ethical consciousness. If you want to read what I think is probably the best and most impactful meditation on the subject, check out David Foster Wallace’s Consider the Lobster. It’s exquisite.

    http://www.columbia.edu/~col8/lobsterarticle.pdf

  3. Good for you! been an ethical Vegan for 2 years now and I love it!
    was vegetarian since I was 6 years old so was never a meat eater and never had an nutritional problems.
    good luck
    http://www.libertylife.me

  4. Well articulated article! I’ve been moving back to a vegan diet, not there perfectly but progress not perfection… my hubby is not only a full-blown omnivore but actually takes it rather personally when I or kiddos don’t want to eat meat. Yes, he has admitted this, I’m not assuming. So, it is a balancing act at times… left to my own devices, I could be 100% in the blink of an eye.

  5. Thank you for this! I think a lot about food and the politics behind it but it’s really hard to have substantive conversations about dietary choices because it’s become such a controversial topic. It’s even been challenging to read about food politics because many books/articles are so heavily bias in one direction or the other. It was really refreshing to hear your point of view without there being any indication that you resent people who eat differently from you. I’ve been contemplating writing something similar on my blog and because of this post, I just might get the courage to sit down and do it soon.

  6. Loved reading this as I’m gradually going through a similar transition for mostly the same reasons, although for me it started out as cutting dairy for health improvements and then went from there. I relate to the feeling of at various times simply knowing that dairy, meat, seafood, etc. wasn’t working for me anymore, and I feel so much more at peace when I see animals (i.e. I don’t have that conflicted, “you’re so amazing, but oh I eat you” feeling). Again, thanks for sharing in such a thoughtful and well articulated manner. Really nice to relate to others on this topic.

  7. Great post – thank you!! We’re all works-in-progress, and I really enjoyed your thoughtful take on the subject!

    PS, I’ve been reading your blog for a while and really enjoy your articles! I’ll be visiting Boston in a few months and would love any fitness tips you have! Maybe a post on your fav classes/workout options for tourists?

  8. So great! I agree completely. It’s not about judging one another to see who’s ‘better’, just do what’s right for you! I still own leather shoes too but it seems worse to just get rid of them at this point when they’re still functioning. Gotta pick your battles

  9. Tracie Kendziora says:

    I love how you’re approaching this transition – slowly and mindfully! And I fully appreciate your attention to how you feel. I think we get so lost in eating the “right way” that we forget there’s no one size fits all. We need to learn to listen to our bodies and eat in a way that fuels us. Thanks so much for this thoughtful post, and best of luck on your journey!

  10. I love this and found myself nodding as I read it. I’ve made the slow transition to plant-based (99% there) over the past 2 years for health reasons…but now that I’ve done more reading and learning, I find myself drawn into the ethical reasons as well.

  11. These all sound like great reasons to go a plant based diet! I transitioned to pescatarian a few years ago. Plus, I don’t eat dairy. I have always thought that I could go to strictly plant based but a girl loves seafood. So we will see! It only becomes difficult if I’m traveling and have to pick up food on the go. It’s so hard to find healthy options that follow with my lifestyle. I mean how many fried fish sandwiches can I eat?! LOL

    https://bluelabelsboutique.com

  12. Great post! Thanks for sharing your reasons. Keep up the plant-based recipes and posts!

  13. Great post, Nicole! The environmental and humane causes really get me too. I eat a ton of plants, but still consume fish, eggs, chicken and occasional dairy. I feel a little better by doing things like purchasing eggs from my friend in my neighborhood who raises chickens, purchasing sustainably raised fish and chicken/ at the local farmer’s market. I’ve tried to be 100% plant based and it really does NOT make me feel my best (which is unfortunate). That being said, I really try to watch portion sizes, pay attention to hunger cues and still consume my food in a mindful way 🙂 Different ways of eating for different people, but I love your reasons and your recipes always look delish!

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