Chapter Three – The nudge: On how I became a vegan

‘The Best Speech You Will Ever Hear’, declared the intriguingly flamboyant title. Google must know me better than I do – for some reason this video appeared in my recommended videos section on YouTube. Curious, I clicked the link while preparing myself for a disappointment by a clickbait. Turns out the title was not lying.

I couldn’t recognise the man standing in front of a college class, nor had I heard his name, which was shown in the beginning of the video. For starters he hits the audience with a heads up – one should be prepared for feelings of anger, frustration and guilt during the speech to follow. They would both love and hate the speaker along the way.

“Right now, I want you to think about how you would feel, if the moment you’re born, someone else had already planned the day of your execution.” … Okay, I think I know where this is going, but I don’t know how to feel about it.

The speaker goes on talking about the way animals are considered inanimate objects by the modern society, while actual material objects, such as The Bible and the American flag, stir up emotions. … Yeah, it’s a twisted world we live in.

Then the speaker finally introduces himself – Gary Yourofsky, a vegan animal liberation activist. He’s not there to talk about weather. The word of the day would be ‘vegan’. … Still, I was feeling strangely hollow. Like a part of me wanted to react somehow and say something, but the rest was fighting back, suffocating this voice.

As a definition, I knew what a vegan is, but I considered it an emotional response rather than a rational decision. At this point I should probably tell you that I’m actually quite an emotional guy myself [1], but breeding and killing animals had always been a ‘natural’ thing to me. Not that I had ever done it myself, but I thought that it’s the necessary evil for us to survive. I knew that animals are not treated ‘properly’, but that was just something I blissfully ignored. I had been taught to eat meat for protein, drink/eat milk products for calcium and protein, and eat eggs because they are a great source of certain micronutrients. And protein.

My decision at this point of the video is to give it a chance. I would’t be converted, but since I’m an open minded person I would like to see the arguments he has to present. About 45 minutes later I knew my animal eating days were most likely over. I had seen and heard enough – I wouldn’t give my money to these industries anymore.

So all of a sudden I found myself being extremely motivated to give this vegan thing my best shot. However, it would start out only as an experiment, as I was still not assured about the nutrition part. What if I couldn’t get everything I need from plants? However, instead of being scared for what’s to come, I was actually excited. Food is such a fundamental thing for all living creatures, that a change like this would be a new adventure.

Half a year earlier I had started going to the gym with my friend, and I was eating accordingly. Since I didn’t know too much about nutrition, I was of course doing what the buff people on the internet told me to do – to eat all the protein I could get my hands on and to cut down on carbs, they’d just make me fat. At worst, a day for me may have been something like:

  • a turkey sandwich + greek yoghurt with some fruit for breakfast
  • a tomato-ham omelette + cottage cheese for lunch
  • chicken breast + broccoli + brown rice for dinner
  • and of course the ‘bone strengthening’ 2-3 glasses of milk

The funny thing is, I actually thought I was eating like one’s supposed to, and that you can’t simply have too much of animal protein.

Most of what I was eating was coming from animals. Where should I start? I have to turn the whole ship around. I ate what was left of my future past in the fridge, and searched for some tips online. I found out you should find some food staples to rely on, while trying out new things and ‘veganising’ dishes you usually make. I already ate oatmeal quite regularly. I can eat that! There are plenty of milk alternatives to put in the oats. [2] Bananas and other fruits are great. More of those! I could replace meat in my food with legumes (beans and lentils). Bread is awesome.

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I may have occasionally overdone portion sizes, once I learned that I can eat a lot on this diet.

I was ready to roll. As I mentioned, I was already excited for this adventure, but the further I went, the more I got into it. I found things that I probably would have never tried out if I had stuck with my old habits. Eggplant/aubergine, tofu, butter beans and papaya are just some examples of things that I had never bought before [3]. Trying out the milk alternatives was an adventure itself. These ‘milks’ are made from for example almonds, rice, soy and oats, and each come with their specific tastes. I remember my first official vegan meal was glass noodles with beluga lentils and veggies. Perfection, if I may say so myself. From the start I was mostly eating whole foods, which I found to be the healthiest way.

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Everyone needs a salad every once in a while.

My friends weren’t really excited about the switch. Most couldn’t understand where I was going with this or why I was doing it. Was I turning into a hippie or something? However I stayed determined and didn’t let it bother me.

As I was experimenting with new kinds of foods, I read more into the topic. The video that initiated the whole thing for me, Yourofsky’s speech, covered mostly the ethical side, but as I did further research, I realised how much more there is to it. It’s absurd that we produce enough food to feed 10 billion people, but keep feeding most of it to animals. And when eating these animals we get a ton of cholesterol instead of all the fiber. But I won’t bother you with these things quite yet – I’ll get back to the ethics, environment and health related things I’ve found out, in later posts. There’s just too much to talk about right now!

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I was proud of this pesto pasta I made quite early on my vegan journey. I even garnished it with basil leaves, which is something I rarely do.

But let’s get back to my experiment. How was I doing? Well, it may have also been just psychological [4], but I felt phenomenal. Or at least noticeably better. I didn’t become superhuman or anything, but, among other benefits that I would notice later on, I was full of energy all day long and felt somehow more ‘complete’. Hard to explain. My performance at the gym didn’t take a hit, but actually improved due to all the energy. Without noticing, the experiment turned into a sustainable way of life.

So this was the story of how I went from a doubter to a full on vegan quite fast. I had always been a huge meat lover, and ironically had made jokes about my zero chances for going vegetarian [5]. I used to enjoy fancy cheeses and I ate eggs in some form at least every other day. Still, I saw that this was the right thing to do – for me, the animals and the environment, and that’s why I’m still on it. The game would be totally different if we were carnivores, but the fact is that we are facultative omnivores instead. We all have a choice and this choice for me was quite easy, once all the facts were on the table.

One more thing before I leave you with the video that got me thinking. Just a couple of months before me, one of my friends had gone vegan as a sort of a new years resolution. You know what I asked her? “But where do you get your protein?”


Notations:

[1]: But come on, what kind of monster doesn’t cry at the ending of Toy Story 3?
[2]: Water is the only thing we’re supposed to be drinking, you know?
[3]: All pure greatness!
[4]: I doubt it.
[5]: For some reason, I did this mostly during summertime.


A bonus video! Quite recently Sergi here did a 30 day vegan challenge, and he does a great job explaining his thoughts and conclusions.

I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts!