I am a vegan. This means I don’t eat meat, dairy milk, cheese, fish, or eggs. I try to avoid anything that comes from animals. For many people, this is strange behaviour, and that’s why I’ve kept it in the closet for a long time, but eventually people started to notice me not eating meat and they start to wonder.
I’ve been coming out of the closet slowly, telling various people. They are mostly fine about it. I was concerned about people hating me for it, but because I am trying not to care too much about what other people think about me, coming out of the closet is a great way to practice what I preach.
There are many dogmatic vegans out there who feel pretentious and smug about their diet and bully other people who have different diets. I think this is the wrong approach. Such behaviour will only make others defensive. Belief perseverance is a normal psychological response by people when something they have invested in (like a diet) is under attack.
In fact, five years ago, I was a hardcore meat eater myself. Eating meat just seemed normal. A vegetarian girl encouraged me to avoid meat and I would cruelly say that I loved the taste of meat. I loved the taste of meat much more than the suffering of animals. I could see in her response that I had offended her. She didn’t say much afterwards. Had she argued with me, maybe belief perseverance would have made me an extreme meat eater.
Back then, I was on the Atkins diet, believing that carbohydrates were the enemy. I believed that eating protein and fat was the key to good health, and I believed this could only be achieved by eating meat since meat was mainly protein and fat.
Over time, little doubts in my head built up. I read articles about animal cruelty. I even saw a video on the internet of a lamb being cut in half by slaughterhouse workers using a saw. I also went to the doctor who told me I had high blood pressure, lots of fat, high cholesterol, and even slightly high blood sugar. My liver was also working more than normal, probably because of all the protein I was consuming. Because of my meat and dairy consumption, my estrogen levels were also quite high. My doctor was not happy with my diet, telling me to dial down the meat I was eating and the protein supplements I was taking.
I dialled back my meat consumption. I still believed in the Atkins diet and was now on the Eco Atkins diet, which is a vegetarian version of the Atkins diet that focuses on eating more nuts and seeds for protein and fat.
When I stopped watching regular TV and started watching YouTube only, I subscribed to vegan channels like durianrider, Happy Healthy Vegan, and Henya Mania. There are many healthy, strong, muscular, and fit vegan bodybuilders such as Ed Bauer, Billy Simmonds, and armwrestler Rob Bigwood. Being immersed in the vegan community really helped to keep me motivated to be vegan. About 90% of my food now is from plant sources. A little bit of animal product creeps in here and there, mainly when I eat out or when others who don’t know that I am a vegan cook for me. I aim to slowly become fully vegan.
Being a vegan is a lot of fun. I love learning about the health benefits of plant foods. Furthermore, having a moral position, I find, makes me stick to eating more vegetables much moreso than a selfish desire to improve my health.
I must repeat that it is important for vegans to never be dogmatic and bullying. Most vegans were once meat eaters themselves. It takes time to transition. The best way to promote veganism is to lead by example. Make sure you eat healthy, go to the gym, eat vitamin B12 fortified food, and people will see that you are a tall, muscular, successful, educated, and passionate vegan, and they may convert themselves.
Something else that is important is to not be a perfectionist. PETA explains this best in their Dining Tips for Non-Vegan Restaurants: “DON’T harass the waiter about miniscule animal ingredients. You may be asking, ‘Are there any monoglycerides in the hamburger bun?’ but what your waiter and your friends are actually hearing is ‘Being vegan is hard. Oh, and vegans are annoying as hell.’ DO take one for the team. Sure, the possibly animal-derived “xyz” in that hamburger bun may be gross, but you’re sending the message to your friends that being vegan is hard, meaning that you’re actually hurting animals instead of helping them on this one. Remember: Being vegan isn’t about purity—it’s about reducing animal suffering.”
Being a vegan will not make you protein deficient because there is plenty of protein in beans, nuts, and seeds. Whatever your weight is in kilograms, that is how many grams of protein you should have in a day. I am 85kg, so I should have about 85g of protein per day. One cup of chickpeas contains 40g of protein already. The only deficiency that vegans need to be wary of is vitamin B12 deficiency because vitamin B12 is not found in any plant-based food. Vitamin B12 is usually injected into animals, which is how meat eaters get vitamin B12. Vegans must eat food that is fortified with vitamin B12, such as Marmite, Vegemite Salt Reduced, Braggs Nutritional Yeast, Soylent, and Berocca. Just read the label.