This is something I’ve been thinking about for awhile and contemplated whether to share or not. I’m not quite sure where to begin.
Growing up, I’ve always loved meat: beef, pork, chicken, turkey, lamb, you name it and I would eat it. Also growing up as an active person and [now] a gym regular, protein is a staple in my diet. But now I’m beginning to wonder if animal-based protein should be the centre of my meals.
For many, the decision to go plant-based stem from injustices and cruelty that are far too common in the meat industry. And fair enough – a lot of the videos are graphic and make my stomach churn. But I have to say, it’s never impacted my decision to consume meat. I compartmentalize meat that we see in the grocery store (and would therefore consume) from the animals themselves. Yes, yes I know my steak was that cute cow, or that my pork chops were once a really smart animal but when it comes to eating it, something just doesn’t click.
Whenever anyone would talk about being vegan, I kind of brushed it off. “Why would you do that yourself? Why would you willingly give up cheese, ice cream, steak?” I have plenty of vegan/vegetarian friends but I just wouldn’t engage with the discussion. Period.
What honestly got me thinking about making the switch to plant-based eating was actually the environmental impacts that the meat and dairy industries play. I consider myself to be an environmentalist, or at least I try to live my daily life accordingly. I avoid unnecessary plastic, use coffee mugs instead of paper cups, try to reduce the amount of waste I produce, take public transit etc. But there was one line from Cowspiracy that really got me: “You can’t call yourself an environmentalist if you eat meat.” And that one line just sort of hit me. After this, I dabbled with the idea of transitioning to being plant-based but it never culminated into anything substantial. But it was always something that was in the back of my mind.
Fast forward a few years…
In January, I started taking my health and fitness goals a lot more seriously. The latter half of 2016 was spent figuring out how to eat “clean” and I got into some great habits. My cooking skills vastly improved and I started really enjoying experimenting with new recipes. Now, I’ve come to cringe whenever I hear (or say) “clean eating” because it has come to mean so many different things. It seems that “clean eating” has become a lifestyle fad that looks down upon those who don’t “eat clean”. So the opposite would be what? Dirty eating? Lazy, sloppy, death-by-unhealthy food? The whole clean eating craze took over social media with all the different hashtags designed to make you feel like shit if you’re not eating clean. For me, when I say that I eat clean, it comes down to the original concept of the terms: I avoid processed foods, try to keep what I ingest as natural as possible, and I try to source high quality foods. I completely understand that this a luxury that many can’t afford – I am grateful for what I have.
Back to the original point, the beginning of 2017 marked the start of a new phase for me. I started training with a personal trainer twice a week, and committed to going to my gym the other 3 days of the work week. I’ve always kept weekends for myself and that won’t ever change – it’s all about balance! Anyway, as I got more into my new lifestyle, I started looking for foods and supplements that are as natural as possible. The first thing I wanted to find was a good protein powder and eventually, BCAAs. There are so many products to choose from! But most of them contain unnecessary fillers and colour – seriously, who needs their BCAAs to be a certain colour?? With this mindset, I started looking at the foods I was consuming and moved away from all pre-packaged, canned and processed foods. I should make a point here and say that I follow my lifestyle plan (I won’t call it a diet because it’s not; I’m in it for the long-haul) 100% Mondays through Fridays – I give myself a bit of wiggle room on the weekend, especially if we’re going camping or travelling.
A few months into my program, I realized how good my body feels. For once, I’m actually in tune with my body. If I eat something my body doesn’t like, I’ll feel it pretty quickly; my skin, hair and nails have all changed for the better too. This connection has allowed me to figure out what works best, and once I was able to do this, the weight started coming off and I started to feel like my old self again. Scratch that – I feel better than ever!
What does this have to do with going plant-based? Well in my quest for living a healthy-as-can-be lifestyle, I read articles, blogs and spoke to friends who had recently transitioned into veganism and they say that they feel heaps better than they had before. So I thought about it: if I’m trying to eat clean, free of additives, why am I consuming commercially mass-produced meat that could be injected with hormones, steroids or what else? So I made the decision (along with my husband) to switch our way of eating.
Now, the issue is how far do we go? We aren’t prepared to go 100% vegan, nor would I want to pass up a steak every now and then. That’s the trouble I’m having with labels – labeling oneself as a vegetarian or vegan, I find, is too constricting given the reasons we are making this switch. Once in a while I get cravings (and I’m not good at denying said cravings) and I don’t want to be in a position where I can’t have it. I know, it’s a sacrifice I should make, but why?? I’ve found Jillian Harris‘ blog to be really helpful in guiding and shaping my approach to this.
So what it comes down to is this: we are plant-based people – meat is no longer the center of our meals. In fact, it’s not really there at all. The past week, we’ve had salmon. And the week before, I made homemade falafels. So when asked, no we’re not vegetarian or vegan, we’re plant-based people who occasionally eat fish and seafood. Here’s the kicker: if I want to eat meat, we’ll be getting it locally from an ethically sourced market. I really like Pasture to Plate because they work with local small-scale producers and oversee the process from pasture to plate (no kidding). Same for seafood – we will only buy wild-caught and sustainable fish and seafood. This pretty much means that we won’t buying our meat and seafood from large grocery stores anymore.
All in all, I’m quite happy with the decision to go plant-based. Maybe it’s because I know that if I want to eat meat, I have an option and it’s a healthier option than what we were doing before. Another challenge of this, however, is that I’m currently on carb-backloading program where I eat most of my carbs (from grains, starchy potatoes, legumes) in the evening after I’ve trained. There’s only so much veggies and salad I can eat during the day…every single day. I’m still trying to figure this out but the backloading is working really well for me so I’m reluctant to give up on it.
Will update eventually.