In November 2011, I made the decision to progress towards a plant-based diet and lifestyle. Since then, I have learnt so much about where our food comes from, and what it does to our bodies and the environment. Along the way, I have encountered many obstacles and challenges. I have also been asked lots of questions, most of them valid and a few off them more than a little odd. One of the aims of my blog is to chronicle my experiences as a plant-based traveller. So, hopefully these Plant-Based Pauses will provide a little more explanation and maybe answer some questions that my readers may still have.
‘Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.’ – Albert Einstein
Just over two years ago, I made a change in my life that has had repercussions I never would have expected. I decided to go plant-based. Having been vegetarian for over 18 years (not eating or wearing anything an animal dies to produce), I thought I knew a lot about the food I ate and where it came from. How wrong I was.
Whilst looking through the listings for a local independent cinema, I came across an advert for a showing of Planeat. Watching that one movie would change my life forever. Since then, I have almost completely cut animal protein out of my diet. Apart from the occasional pizza base or soup that contain milk (I’m also allergic to gluten, so sometimes I have to take what I can get, even if it means eating a tiny bit of dairy), I no longer eat animal milk, cheese, yoghurt or eggs. The only animal product I do buy on a regular basis is honey, and I make a point to buy local honey that is ethically sourced. In fact, all the fresh produce I buy now is as local as possible, preferably organic and from the farmers market in my neighbourhood. If I do have to buy from the supermarket, I always buy British.
As a vegetarian, when I first decided to go plant-based, I suppose it was easier for me because I was already halfway there. I’d always said that I couldn’t give up dairy and be vegan, but now that I almost am I can honestly says it’s not as scary and difficult as it sounds.
So, what do you do if you’re thinking about trying this plant-based malarkey? You’ve heard about these strange people who only eat plant-based, whole food as close to the source as possible, and how their back-to-basics diet is curing cancer, heart disease and diabetes. You’ve maybe even seen a few testimonials of people who have tried it and lost weight, got healthier and found a new lease of life. However, completely changing the way you eat and how you think about food is daunting. Don’t fear, though, there is lots of help out there, and from people a lot more qualified than me. The best place to start is to watch Planeat or Forks Over Knives, then have a browse through their websites to learn more. Twenty years ago, when I first stopped eating meat, we didn’t have the benefit of the internet. Announcing that I was a vegetarian made me feel very alone and socially awkward, and I had little support against the critics who told me it was just a ‘phase’ I would grow out of. Nowadays, we have a whole network of friends and supporters online around the clock.
There are lots more people out there who are intrigued by the plant-based lifestyle. I know this because of the amount of questions I get asked, and you wouldn’t have read this far if you weren’t the least bit interested. Most people are just scared to give it a try because it is so far removed from what the majority of us have been taught is healthy. A common question I get is ‘What do you eat?’ After years of eating meals with meat as the base, people are genuinely perplexed at how to form a meal around vegetables and whole grains. I promise you, though, it is not as difficult as it sounds. Give plant-based living a try and after a couple of months you’ll wonder why everybody doesn’t live the same way, and you’ll be the one confidently answering those questions.
My last piece of advice is to go in with an open mind, you’re going to hear and see things that will throw what you know as ‘the truth’ out of the water.