Live lovingly

What it means to live an authentic life {Part three}

If you believe in peace, act peacefully; if you believe in love, acting lovingly; if you believe every which way, then act every which way, that’s perfectly valid – but don’t go out trying to sell your beliefs to the system. You end up contradicting what you profess to believe in, and you set a bum example. If you want to change the world, change yourself.”
― Tom Robbins

This is the third and final part in my series on living life in alignment with your values. This is a stand alone post but feel free to go back to catch up on part one and part two.

Every one of us only has one life and we all want our lives to be extraordinary, we wish for our life to count, to be remembered, to be significant. I believe that we can make our lives extraordinary by challenging popular beliefs, questioning the status quo and by fearlessly being yourself, by making bold choices even if they’re hard or uncomfortable. (However, this does not mean that we need to go against popular beliefs just for the sake of it – but to be critical and to make informed choices).

I have previously written about my decisions to get married and to be part of a church plant and today I want to talk about the third big change I made in my life in 2016: I became vegan.

When I tell people this I usually get a bewildered look and the question: “Why?!”

To be honest, if someone had told me 10 years ago that I would be vegan  I would have laughed and not believed them. I have never been an ‘animal person’, most dogs used to scare me, I perceived most pets as dirty and did not really see a problem with killing animals so that humans could eat them.

Furthermore, I felt that before we invest in animal welfare we should reach out to help the millions of people on our planet who suffer famine, sickness and poverty.

Vegan for planet and people

In my late teens I started to become more aware of the environmental problems we are facing and that climate change is not only a problem because some of the beauty of our planet is destroyed but actually because it threatens the very livelihood of billions of people. Climate change has a variety of impacts that can already be observed, for example a rise in global air and ocean temperature, widespread melting of snow and ice and a global rise in sea level. Profound changes in ecosystems and the number and spread of plant and animal species are expected with severe implications for biodiversity and food supply. Coasts will be exposed to greater risks, and many coastal areas and their populations will be vulnerable to flooding. Many people will experience deteriorating health or mortality due to malnutrition, extreme weather events, and changing patterns of disease. Furthermore, climate change is expected to exacerbate stresses on water resources.

I was shocked to learn that one of the main contributors to climate change is animal agriculture. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) animal agriculture is responsible for at least 15% of global emissions, more than the combined exhaust from all transportation. Furthermore, animal agriculture is responsible for 80%-90% of global water consumption and livestock or livestock feed occupies one third of the earth’s ice-free land. These figures are staggering especially considereing the fact that millions of people die from starvation and lack of clean water on a daily basis.

These facts alone convinced me that the consumption of meat and other animal products is unsustainable. Especially for someone like me who lives in a wealthy country with access to a variety of foods like fruit, vegetables, seeds, nuts and legumes that can provide me with all the nutrients my body needs, there is no need to consume any substances that have such negative impacts on our planet and the people who live on it.

I would strongly recommend watching the documentary cowspiracy (available on netflix or DVD) for more facts and figures and a deeper discussion of this matter.

Vegan for the animals

After making the decision to cut out meat, dairy and eggs from my diet I started to research veganism further and learned more about the facts surrounding the treatment and slaughter of animals. Despite not being a big animal lover, my heart broke when I saw they way in which cows, pigs, sheep and birds were tortured and killed just so we can have a glass of milk, scrambled eggs or a piece of meat on our plates. TV adverts and labels like ‘free range’ try to disguise the fact that animals who are considered ‘livestock’ do not live happy lives. I let you do some of your own research on that matter, but be aware that there is a lot of footage online that is not for the fainthearted.

Vegan to be healthy

According to a study conducted at the Southern University of California diets that are rich in meat, eggs, milk and cheese can be as harmful to health as smoking. The consumption of animal protein is linked to a fourfold increase in the risk of death from cancer or diabetes. Furthermore, recent discoveries show that heart disease, the number one cause of death in the United States, the UK and Europe, is mostly diet-related – diets high in animal products. This might seem very shocking, however, on many levels it is hopeful news as there are more and more plant-based doctors who are able to reverse diabetes and heart disease by transitioning their patients to plant-based diets. Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, one of the world’s most respected nutrition experts, has been able to make patients who were suffering from clogged arteries virtually “heart-attack proof” by putting them on healthy vegetarian diets and getting their cholesterol levels down below 150. The average vegan cholesterol level is about 146, while the average vegetarian cholesterol level is 177. And the average meat-eater’s cholesterol level is 194. William Castelli, M.D., director of the Framingham Heart Study, the longest-running clinical study in medical history, says of the heart disease epidemic, “If Americans adopted a vegetarian diet, the whole thing would disappear.”

A significant amount of evidence suggests that not only heart disease but a whole array of other diseases prevalent in the Western world, like Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure and Parkinson’s disease can be prevented and reversed by adopting a plant-based (vegan) diet.

I personally do not suffer from any of those diseases (thank God!) but I have noticed a number of positive effects on my healt. Since I have adopted a vegan diet almost six months ago my skin has cleared up, my IBS has almost disappeared, I sleep better, I feel more energised, my weight has gone down and I have not had one cold since (which is amazing considering that I had a constant cold for the 12 months prior to becoming vegan).

There is an amazing documentary called ‘Fork over Knives‘ which I would highly recommend watching for more information on the health benefits of a vegan diet.

Vegan to live an authentic life

For me, the choice to go vegan was almost inevitable once I was confronted with the facts about its impact on climate change, the cruelty towards animals and the health benefits linked to cutting out animal products from my diet. I want to lead a life that minimises harm to the people around me but also the ones living on the other side of the globe. I want to be authentic and show compassion to all beings – humans and animals alike. And I want to be kind to myself, I want to be the best version I can be, and therefore feed my body with food that will increase health and wellbeing so that I can be a blessing to others.

~

There is much more information that I could have cited above but this would have made this post (unbearably) long. I will list a couple of good sources below if you would like to know more.

  • 30 minute video on animal cruelty, environmental impact and health considerations (very good summary!)
  • Peer-reviewed research on the health benefits of a vegan diet
  • List of documentaries surrounding veganism
  • Guardian article about the impact of the meat industry on climate change
  • Article on whether our teeth indicate that we are “made to eat meat”
  • Article on why humans are biologically plant-eaters
  • Academic paper on the negative health impacts of eating fish
  • Video: Eggs vs. Cigarettes in Atherosclerosis
  • Article by the Physicians Committee on the adverse health impacts of dairy
  • Article: Fight Climate Change by going vegan

 

Credit cover image: Josua De

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18 Comments

  • Reply Megan Ogden November 21, 2016 at 4:49 pm

    I love this. I have really been thinking about changing my diet by taking out red meats. My whole family eats meat so I think it would be easier to limit my meat at first before completely cutting off animal products.

    • Reply Britta November 21, 2016 at 6:01 pm

      Wow that is great to hear! Yeah a slow transition can be good but I found it easier to go ‘cold turkey’. But whatever suits your life! 🙂

  • Reply blathnaid November 21, 2016 at 9:49 pm

    This makes me really want to be a vegan…. the slow transition might be a more do-able way of going vegan! thanks!

    • Reply Britta November 22, 2016 at 8:38 am

      Yeah a slow transition can be easier! Some people try and cut out different things at a time or have a couple of vegan days a week. I also know a few people who are vegan at home and eat anything when they’re out at a restaurant etc. Just find what’s best for you. But I promise you won’t regret it!

  • Reply Ana De- Jesus November 22, 2016 at 12:36 am

    I have IBS too, I really respect and admire your courage and honesty in sharing your reasons to become vegan. For me I don’t eat masses of dairy anyway but because there are so many foods I can’t have I don’t think it would be good for my health if I cut it out completely. Interestingly put though.

    • Reply Britta November 22, 2016 at 8:47 am

      Yeah it can be tough. Maybe do like a 30 day trial – it really has done wonders for my gut to go vegan. But it is up to you obviously 🙂

  • Reply Elizabeth O. November 22, 2016 at 1:59 am

    I have nothing against what people prefer to eat, although I do lean towards vegan recipes and dishes because it’s healthy and I adore fruits and vegetables! I just appreciate food and I love trying different recipes as i go along in life.

    • Reply Britta November 22, 2016 at 8:39 am

      Yes fruits and veggies are amazing!

  • Reply Claudia Blanton November 22, 2016 at 4:09 am

    my daughter is Vegan, and my son is Vegetarian, so I can understand your commitment and applaud you. I have too many health issues to transition right now, but will change that in the future. I am already cooking mostly vegan for everyone else anyway, lol. Blessings

    • Reply Britta November 22, 2016 at 8:39 am

      Haha do it! 🙂

  • Reply Carrie November 22, 2016 at 8:18 am

    I give you props for doing what you feel is best. That isn’t always easy. Becoming a Vegan isn’t something I consider while I understand many of the points above I feel like there are ways to combat animal cruelty and the changes to the environment while still eating meat and animal products. For example buying local grassfed free range products. Also there are arguments on both sides of the coin about the health benefits of meat (properly sourced) and the health benefits of being Vegan. It truly is a difficult and personal decision to make.

    • Reply Britta November 22, 2016 at 8:40 am

      You should really check out ‘cowspiracy’ – it explains really well that environmental problems can’t be solved unless there is a drastic reduction in global meat consumption. It is really informative!

  • Reply Nina November 22, 2016 at 11:41 am

    I was a vegetarian for nine years and also had several vegan friends in college. My brother is currently a vegan right now. I’ve read books like “In Defense of Food” and such. I have lots of respect for those like yourself who do it and always love eating vegan food!

    Nina
    aworldofdresses.com

  • Reply Joanna November 22, 2016 at 1:43 pm

    I admire your commitment to a vegan lifestyle. I don’t eat a lot of meet and I could give it up without too much struggles (I would miss the beef steak though), but I don’t know if I could only be able to eat vegan. My body craves for basic foods like eggs and milk and no matter how much I would try, i don’t think I could give them up.

    • Reply Britta November 22, 2016 at 5:11 pm

      I used to think that – eggs were my favourite thing and yogurt but I don’t even think about them anymore. After a few days or weeks your tastebuds reset and your body craves only whole plant-based foods. Try 30 days and see how it changes!

  • Reply Celeste SunDragonLady Burgess November 27, 2016 at 11:15 pm

    I’ve been slowly cutting down on the unhealthy foods that I eat. I am still a work in progress, but my awareness has gotten much better. Thank you for this post to educate others on being a vegan. 😉

  • Reply Ilse Daniëlle November 30, 2016 at 7:06 pm

    This is really an interesting read! Thanks for sharing and creating awareness! I will definitely watch the Cowspiracy docu on netflix, and reading all this makes me consider going vegan too.

    Your blog looks really neat btw, love browsing through it 🙂

  • Reply Helen November 30, 2016 at 10:12 pm

    This post is amazing. Very well written 🙂
    I need to watch Cowspiracy but these programs make me so angry with the human race. I am vegetarian but trying very hard to transition to vegan. Currently I eat vegan 80% of the time which is better than none but I want to make it 100%.

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