A little over seven weeks ago, I went plant-based. Yep, that’s right. I’m one of those “weird vegans” now. And although I prefer the term plant-based, I think a lot of people view plant-based and vegan as the same thing. There’s a few differences, but for the purpose of this post, I’m not going to get into that; the main point is that I stopped eating meat, dairy & fish.
I’ve thought about making the switch for a few years now but I was always hesitant. I’ve followed several vegan bloggers and influencers for years and they always inspired me to give up meat; however, I always gave myself excuses as to why I couldn’t do it. I wouldn’t be able to get enough protein, I can still be healthy while eating meat, I don’t want to inconvenience others with my diet, etc.
I’d previously tried going vegan for a week before and failed miserably. I was way too bloated and all I wanted to do after a long day was sit down and eat a tub of Ben & Jerry’s. (This was before their dairy-free options.) So what changed? Why, after years of thinking about it, did I finally bite the bullet and give plant-based living a try? Well, several reasons factored into my decision that I’ll go into depth about below.
1. First, and probably my biggest reason for going plant-based, was my love for animals. I am and always have been an animal lover. It was the reason I went vegetarian in college (and unfortunately only lasted 6 months due to the lack of options at the cafeteria), the reason my dream job was to be a vet when I was younger (although I quickly realized that I’m squeamish) and the reason I’ve dreamed of owning a farm with a bunch of animals. The truth is that I never really gave it much thought when I would eat meat. We’re so far removed from the whole process when we buy meat at a grocery store that it’s pretty easy to distance an actual animal from the meat in front of you. I limited my intake of red meat because of how much I love cows specifically. To be honest, eating chicken, turkey, fish and eggs didn’t bother me as much as eating beef because they’re not as cute (I know that sounds horrible but it’s true.) Anyway, over the years I got more and more grossed out by the thought of eating meat and eggs. I started thinking about the horrible living conditions these animals live in and how, cute or not, I didn’t want to contribute to that.
There was just something inside of me that started to think about it one day and it finally clicked. God made animals to live with us, not for us to eat. When Adam & Eve sinned, God allowed them to kill & eat animals, and for most of our time on earth, we needed to eat them to survive. People had to eat what was available to them and a lot of times that meant meat. That being said, we now live in a time where IMO eating meat isn’t necessary. We can drive 5 minutes to the grocery store and get almost any fruit, vegetable, grain or legume in the world. We have things like tofu and seitan and almost any type of vegan meat imaginable (hello chick’n and the impossible burger). We also have supplements that we can take if we’re not getting enough of a vitamin or mineral. This lead me to decide that I want to live WITH the animals, and I want to treat God’s creation with love and respect and do my part in helping them live a happy life.
2. I think the biggest misconception about giving up meat is that we won’t get adequate protein. Most people see meat as our primary source of protein and think that without it we won’t get enough. I too thought this was the case. I started lifting weights 5+ years ago and researched a lot about building muscle. A big part of building and maintaining muscle is eating enough protein. While the DRI (dietary reference intake) of protein is .36 grams per pound (46-56g on average per person), most people in the body building world recommend at least 1g of protein per pound. This is what I aimed for and was eating around 130 grams of protein per day. I had been taught that meat & dairy products were the best source of protein and was hesitant to give that up. I quickly found that while animal protein sources had significantly more protein, there were plenty of other plant sources I could use instead and that I just needed to plan it out. Instead of eating 130g+ of protein per day, I’m eating around 70-80g by adding in beans, legumes, quinoa, tofu, protein powder and other high protein plant sources. I’m still lifting weights and have not seen any significant decrease in my muscle.
3. My third reason for not wanting to go plant-based is because I thought you could be healthy without giving up meat & dairy products. There is so much information out there about whether eating meat is or isn’t healthy and it can be confusing. I am not a doctor or health professional but from my research, my opinion on this is the same as before I went plant-based. I think you can still be healthy if you eat meat & dairy products; however, I think a lot of people eat too much meat, dairy & processed foods which makes it unhealthy. For me, I found that when I ate meat & diary, I ate significantly more processed foods and when I’m eating plant-based I make better decisions on what to eat.
4. As a people-pleaser, one of the big reasons I didn’t want to go plant-based is because I didn’t want to inconvenience others. I didn’t want to make my mom go out of the way and make me something I could eat when my husband and I went over for lunch. I didn’t want to ask people if there would be something vegan at the barbecue or wedding we were going to, etc. While I still don’t like inconveniencing others with my dietary restrictions, I’ve found that it doesn’t have to be that way unless you make it. If we’re going over to my parents for lunch/dinner, I offer to make something vegan for everyone to enjoy. I’ll bring a vegan option to the bbq or bring my own snacks and food to a wedding if I’m not sure. Most people don’t mind if you ask politely or offer to bring something too. Overall, I decided I didn’t want to continue doing something that I didn’t feel right about (eating meat) just to make it more convenient for others. I think this is important not just in diet but in other areas of life too. You have to stand up for what you believe in even if others don’t believe the same thing as you.
5. My fifth “excuse” I always gave myself was that I would start being too restrictive and fall into disordered eating. I had read a lot of testimonials about girls going vegan because it gave them a reason to be restrictive of what they ate and fall back into their ways of disordered eating. As a recovered binge eater, I knew that if I restricted what I ate I would end up binging later and I didn’t want to go through that again. While I do think that some people may go vegan because of these reasons, I found that personally I have significantly more freedom when eating plant-based. I’m less concerned about the calories and I’ve finally found that I can enjoy food again. When I ate meat & dairy products, I was always worried about how much I was eating and how many calories I consumed. I was never fully satisfied and constantly felt hungry unless I ate 3000+ calories. Now, I don’t worry about the calories because I know the food is full of micro nutrients, when I’m full I actually feel satisfied and I genuinely enjoy eating plant-based.
6. My sixth and final excuse I gave myself was that I would be deficient in vitamins. I think this is a pretty common one that a lot of people have and it can be true. Just like you can be healthy eating meat & dairy products, I think you can also be unhealthy as a vegan. If you live off foods like Oreos, vegan protein bars, and vegan meat substitutes, you’ll likely be lacking in essential micro nutrients for good health. It’s very doable now-a-days to get all your vitamins and minerals on a plant-based diet and you can always take supplements if you find you’re sufficient in something. Plants have a lot more micro nutrients than they’re giving credit for like calcium, iron, etc. There are also many plant-based items that are fortified with vitamins and minerals to help get your daily intake like almond milk with B12.
Wow, that was long! If you made it to the end, congrats! And thank you for reading why I gave up my excuses. There are so many misconceptions about a plant-based diet and I wanted to shed some light on a few of them. I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments below. Stay tuned for my blog post on why I stayed plant-based and the pros and cons of doing so!