I recently transitioned to a whole-foods plant-based diet. If this is a topic that triggers you, I can sympathise. I used to be massively triggered by it myself, too.
I distinctly remember a news article a few years back, outlining why even organic meat wasn’t a decent enough choice. At the time I prided myself in only occasionally eating meat and, if so, it was organic, of course. What else would a responsible consumer eat?
But this article didn’t let this pass and consequently really rubbed me the wrong way. Is there nothing I can do right any more, even buying all organic?
I forced myself to keep reading as my resistance grew and grew with every line and argument. The article clarified how little better off the animals were under organic production conditions and that there were in fact no differences at all when it came to slaughtering procedures.
Now that, well, how am I supposed to avoid that? After all, there was no “kinder” alternative I could purchase.
It didn’t occur to me at the time that I could simply stop purchasing meat altogether. So I didn’t. Nor did I give up other animal products. I kept telling myself that buying organic was all I could do. I did make sure, though, to only buy eggs from farms that also raised male chickens from then onwards. In all honesty, I simply wasn’t ready to give up the sensory pleasure I got from consuming animal products.
This all changed when I came across the YouTube channel of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. I was drawn to it for health reasons. The channel features interviews with expert physicians only. So there is a certain reliability to the information they present. I started learning about the health benefits of a whole-foods plant-based diet. That it could not only prevent but reverse heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, certain types of cancer and a whole range of auto-immune conditions. Evidence-based.
Now, I don’t have any of those health scares, fortunately. But I don’t want to in the future either. So I listened ever more intently. The evidence provided was astounding, even though I was, of course, aware of the general health benefits of eating your greens, vegetables and fruit.
It was the magnitude of change that could be achieved by an act as simple as changing your diet that hit me like a brick. Most major health-related causes of premature death in western society do in fact not need exist. And I had a major say in how healthy I would be in my years ahead.
I still wasn’t fully on board, though. I was considering to sneak in a few extra helpings of legumes and flax seeds and oats. But to go all in? Nah. Until I watched one interview with Neal Barnard, the founder of the Physicians Committee. He delivered that one line that sent me down the rabbit hole of learning ever more about and finally dipping my toe into the whole-foods plant-based diet.
He said that he understood people’s need for a slow transition. After all, they’d have to give up part, or a even a lot, of their usual diet. Yet, the full benefits of changing your diet would be best observable if you went in cold turkey. Even if only for 30 days. This is how long it takes for a number of health markers to change noticeably. And for your taste buds to adapt.
Now, I could do 30 days, could I?
So I did. And since I don’t do things half-heartedly, I also dropped coffee and alcohol that same month, together with meat, fish, eggs and all dairy products. Might as well do a general detox.
I knew it was going to be hard. After all, I was a dedicated hobby chef and pretty set in my cooking ways. So I armoured myself with a few books and some documentaries to strengthen my resolve. You know, the animal rights and health classics, as well as some plant-based cookbooks.
To cut a long story short, what was planned as a 30-day trial ended up becoming my new normal.
By the time I finished the experiment I had actually lost much of my appetite for coffee (not quite for a good glass of whine, though) and acquired a taste for more healthful foods. I also felt better, slept better, had shed some of my Corona pounds, and my skin, my ever problematic skin, had cleared up.
If that wasn’t enough to persuade me, the books and documentaries that were meant to help me through those 30 days in fact ended up cutting off my way back. I had learned so much about the atrocities done to animals in the name of food production that I could no longer pretend to not know. And most importantly, I had also eventually come to realize that animal agriculture accounts for more CO2 emissions than all of worldwide transport together, a staggering third of global CO2 emissions, that is.
I had always considered myself climate-conscious and tried to do my bit, while really feeling quite powerless about it. How much of a difference could I as an individual make in the big picture of things?
Well, it turns out that eating an organic whole-foods plant-based diet is not only good for the climate, it’s also good for the restoration of biodiversity, the healing of our soils, the healing of our bodies, the solving of our healthcare crisis, as well as combating water scarcity and world hunger. It might not be a panacea for all of today’s most pressing challenges but it certainly is a very simple and effective way to do your bit on an individual level and treat the planet more gently. It’s the huge elephant in the room.
So now I sit here, ten month after going plant-based, writing a blog post that I myself would have resisted reading a few years back. I cannot help but see the irony involved. So this entry most likely won’t change your diet, the same way the aforementioned article didn’t change mine. But maybe you will remember it once something else does, whenever it does.
And since you have come this far, might I just as well suggest you watch this new documentary I discovered today? It’s very digestible, I promise. It spares you attention-grabbing, stomach-turning images of animal torture. Those alone certainly never persuaded me, as I felt they were deliberately showcasing the worst of it.
What this documentary does is to simply and quietly show the effects of animal agriculture on the ecosystems we as humans rely on. In numbers, in some beautiful and some not so beautiful images. Narrated by the wonderful Kate Winslet.
It’s something even a sceptic could watch.
Feature image Pixabay.com/Clker