Years ago I reviewed vegan and vegetarian restaurants for a local paper in my old home town. One stop I made was at a small dive bar known for the PBR beer, loud music, and amazing vegan food. Of all the restaurants I visited, this one stood out because the staff wasn’t the friendliest. They were quick to throw out judgement, but reeled when it was handed back. Not a great attitude to have when you’re working to spread your name.
Ignoring the tension, I interviewed the woman in charge of making the vegan food anyway, because it was my job. And after it was made it clear we would never be best friends, she commented that her technique was ‘controversial,’ and I took a deep breath and said, ‘everything vegan is controversial.’ Because it is, even now–nine years later.
She was a certain type of vegan. A radical Vegan. The Vegan who attacks first and asks questions later. I am not that vegan, but that’s the thing with veganism, like so many other facets of life, it’s not so simple. This series of posts are intended to help show those different facets of veganism without prejudiced. To help you find your footing on your plant-based journey.
And the best place to start is the beginning:
A MINI-VEGAN HISTORY
In 1944, Donald Watson co-founded the Vegan Society in England. A society that still exists to this day. The word “VEGAN” was coined, because of the bastardization of the word “VEGETARIAN.” To be a vegetarian means you only eat vegetables, but over many years, little by little, the meat industry snuck their products into the term. “You don’t have to kill chickens to eat their eggs! They’re vegetarian. You don’t have to kill a cow to drink milk and eat cheese. They’re vegetarian, too! And bees… are they really animals?”
After years of this, people like Donald Watson were fed up, and started a new movement–veganism. Now, here we are 74 years later and new terms and definitions are forming again.
WHAT TYPE OF VEGAN ARE YOU?
The militant vegans are easy to pick out, but that’s not what I’m referring to here. When I ask ‘what type of vegan are you’ I mean: Do you eat processed meat substitutes? Are you a whole food vegan? Are you only temporary vegan to lose weight? Are you vegan for health, or the animals, or both?
First off, there is no wrong answer. Why you’ve decided to walk a plant-based path, entering the world of veganism, is a personal choice. One we must respect in ourselves and those around us.
Second, always remember yelling only makes the world loud, and loud makes it hard to hear. Listening goes a long way.
Here is the first part of my list of different walks in the world of Veganism:
- WHOLE FOOD PLANT-BASED VEGAN: Please don’t confuse the term “whole food” with the grocery store. And always remember, Whole Foods isn’t a health food store, they are a major grocery chain who has a health food section. In the label above, WHOLE FOOD PLANT-BASED VEGAN means you only eat all natural whole–never been processed–food.
When first starting out, the idea of becoming a Whole Food Plant-Based Vegan can feel and sound daunting. After as many years living as an omnivore, you’ve removed all animal products (dairy, eggs, meat, honey) and with them, you’ve removed almost all the recipes you’ve ever known how to make. BUT, the feeling will pass. We feel like this because we’re under prepared. Luckily, its 2018. With the information age at hand, we can hop online and find solutions to these problems.
My very favorite WHOLE FOOD PLANT-BASED VEGAN resource is FORKS OVER KNIVES. This documentary rocked my world, and I was already vegan at the time. Released in 2011, the FOK film explores the world of obesity and disease, and how it can be fixed by eating whole, nutritious, plant-based foods. [You can watch Forks Over Knives on netflix or place a copy on hold at your local library.] This documentary is back by facts, and if that isn’t enough, their website (and app) are incredible–AND FREE.
- JUNK FOOD VEGAN: And what I mean by “JUNK FOOD” is, “I like meat substitutes.” Well, I’m not going to sit here and pretend eating processed food is good for you–even if it says PLANT-BASED in bold green lettering on the package, but this is also a type of veganism. One that should be done in moderation.
Like I said in the last section, making a leap from what you grew up on into the unknown world of Plant-Based Living, is hard. So, don’t beat yourself up if you slip and go eat meat. Look at it as a transition. And that is when meat substitutes come in handy. They help bridge the gap from your old life, to a new, plant filled, new one.
What you need to understand about processed food is, PACKAGING! Oh, isn’t that shiny? That is what marketing is. Don’t be fooled by all the promises. 0% Fat or No SUGAR, translated to high sodium, low to no nutritional content. ALWAYS READ THE LABEL. Unless you’re buying a head of broccoli, read the label. One-third of a vegan pizza has 670mg of sodium. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a frozen vegan pizza, but I could eat a whole one in a single sitting–that’s 84% of your daily sodium intake in one meal. Processed food is made to sit on shelves for years. The longer the shelf life the better.
Does this mean I don’t eat a vegan hot dog from time to time? No. I do. I like vegan hot dogs… But I eat processed food in moderation. You’re main diet needs to be filled with whole natural foods. A wonderful resource for TRANSITIONING into a healthy vegan lifestyle is THE ENGINE 2 DIET. Yes, there is a website, but unlike Forks Over Knives, it’s not free. That said, Rip Esselstyn wrote a book, which has a plan to help you get from the beginning to the end. He also participated in a Ted Talk, where he discusses his whole process.
The many levels of veganism will take more than one post to cover, so please come back next week to learn more about the world of the Ethical Vegan and Dietary Vegan. There is no wrong way to start on the Plant-Based Vegan Path, but it is nice to have the tools to maintain the lifestyle you want to be in.
Thanks for reading, and always remember, be the change in your life. You deserve it.