Plant-Based Pause No 52: Imagine a World Where Everyone Lives Plant-Based

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.

‘I’ll go anywhere as long as it’s forward’ – David Livingstone, Missionary and Explorer

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This post marks a whole year of these plant-based pauses. I can’t believe that I’ve actually kept up with them and posted one every week. For someone with the attention span of a goldfish, that’s pretty good.

I really hope that these posts help at least one person to learn something new about the food they eat and how they can lead a healthier, happy life that impacts the environment as little as possible.

My dream is a world where everyone lives plant-based. Can you imagine what that would be like? No food shortages, no war, very few cases of cancer, type 2 diabetes eradicated, no obesity…

The full list is a very long one. Unfortunately, it’s highly unlikely to happen in any of our lifetimes. Making it happen needs to be more than just a dream, though. For the human race to survive, this must one day be reality.

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Plant-Based Pause No 51: Pay It Forward

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.

‘We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.’ – Albert Schweitzers

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Since I first read Catherine Ryan Hyde’s book of the same name, I’ve been a huge fan of the Pay It Forward movement. It’s such a simple idea, and yet so brilliant. And it could change the world. When you do something for someone, rather than expecting them to return the favour, you instead ask them to pay it forward and do something to help someone else. In the book, you have to help three other people, which creates a ripple effect and inevitably the favour ends up coming back around to you. Even if you only pay if forward to one person, though, it has a great effect. And, on the flip-side, why stop at just three people?

Since turning plant-based three years ago, I have paid it forward by sharing my knowledge and experiences of this great lifestyle with anyone who’ll listen. At first I expected a lot of hostility and kept my mouth shut as a consequence. However, apart from the odd (unfunny) joke, I have had really positive responses. Even the most committed meat-eaters have lots of questions to ask me and listen intently to my answers. I’d love to be able to tell you that they are all now committed plant-based vegetarians, but sadly that isn’t the case. I’m happy to say, however, that a lot of them think differently about the food they eat and have made changes to their diet and lifestyle.

Writing these plant-based pauses is one of the ways that I pay forward the tips I have learnt to live a healthier and happier life. I’d love to think that you will continue the movement by passing them on to your friends and family too.

Plant-Based Pause No 47: Spread the Word

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.

‘If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.’ – Antonie de Saint-Exupery

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There’s nothing more annoying than a vegetarian who’s constantly trying to convert the world. As much as I would love it if everyone lived plant-based, they even annoy me. Having said that, I do spread the word about the advantages of living plant-based whenever possible, I just don’t shove it down people’s throats.

When I meet someone for the first time, I don’t announce myself as a plant-based vegetarian. I find that I don’t have to, because most of the time they ask me questions about my diet and lifestyle when they start to get to know me. They’ll notice that I’m not eating the same meal as them, or I’m choosing not to get involved in an event for ethical reasons. I receive their questions with a smile, answer them the best I can and share my knowledge.

There are also other, sneakier, ways that I convince people that living plant-based isn’t all eating lentils and drinking soya milk. In the office where I work during the day, I am quite often asked to bake. My chocolate brownies are a particular favourite amongst my colleagues. When I first started making the brownies, I was a regular vegetarian who ate dairy and eggs and I baked the brownies using eggs. Now that I no longer eat animal protein, I also don’t want to cook with it even if it’s not me who’s doing the eating. However, I don’t like to disappoint people. So, I made a few changes to the recipe and had a go at baking plant-based brownies. When I first presented them to my colleagues, I was nervous that they wouldn’t like the changes. However, all I’ve received are compliments that my chocolate brownies taste better than ever. Switching the eggs for xantham gum makes them denser and stickier, and people are loving them. My chocolate brownies are one of my most powerful weapons in convincing people that plant-powered is the way to go.

Plant-Based Pause No 45: Don’t Be Afraid of Where Your New Lifestyle Will Take You

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.

‘My body will not be a tomb for other creatures.’ – da Vinci

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The lifestyle I live now is radically different to the one I was living before I committed to becoming a plant-based vegetarian, and certainly totally different to the one I thought I would be living. About 95% of my meals are now cooked from scratch at home, with fresh ingredients that I have bought locally. Every action I take, from choosing an item in a supermarket to throwing away plastic wrapping, is done with the question of how ethical and environmentally friendly I am being in the back of my mind. It’s a far cry from the days when I survived on whatever convenience food I could get wherever I was, and I produced over twice as much waste without a second thought. I feel ashamed of how I used to live. It feels like my eyes have been opened to the real world that we live in, and I want to help others see that too.

Although I was vegetarian, albeit an unhealthy one, for many years before I switched to plant-based, animal welfare wasn’t something I got involved in. I considered myself someone who cared about animals, which I realise now was hypocritical as I still ate dairy and eggs. I knew there were people out there who campaigned for animal rights, and although I didn’t always necessarily agree with their actions I always thought it was good that someone was doing something. Since becoming plant-based, animal welfare is something that has become more and more important to me. To be honest, I don’t think you can avoid it when you decide to stop eating animal protein. Things that I once accepted as fact now seem ridiculous. I read an article the other day written by a man who’s transitioning from omnivore to vegan, and one of his eye-opening moments was when he realised that cows only produce milk when they’re pregnant. That’s basic biology, so why do we believe that cows just pee milk for us to consume?

I’m still not at the stage where I’m actively campaigning for animals, although I’d definitely consider it in the future, but I now keep animal welfare in mind. I was horrified to learn that a lot of charities here in the UK waste thousands of pounds of our money on unnecessary animal testing. I’m not talking about testing that results in saving human lives here, this is a whole industry based around experiments that are never expected to get any useful results. This year, I have refused to donate money to any of these charities. Instead, I choose to support charities that don’t test on animals instead. Animal Aid produce a really helpful list of charities that do and do not experiment on animals, and you can also contact charities direct and ask them if you are not sure.

Who knows what kind of lifestyle I’ll be living this time next year, or in five years time. Maybe I’ll even be the one stood out in the street leafleting and educating others about animal welfare. I know one thing, though. Wherever this life takes me, I want to embrace it with open arms.

Plant-Based Pause No 32: Don’t Go Anywhere Without Your Re-usable Waterbottle

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.

‘Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.’ – Alexander Graham Bell

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Very early on in my plant-based lifestyle, I visited a nutritional therapist. Not particularly to help me with the plant-based part of my diet, but because I knew I had at least one food allergy that I couldn’t pinpoint. One of the many great pieces of advice she gave me was to drink at least 2 litres of water per day. I’d already been told this before, but for some reason when Arwen told me it seemed to stick. She also told me to wait 30 minutes in between drinking and eating to avoid heartburn. As I’d suffered with heartburn most of my life, this bit of information was greatly received.

Since then, I’ve stuck to Arwen’s advice and I now drink plenty of water everyday. However, the environmentalist in me hates wasting plastic unnecessarily. So, disposable water bottles and the horrible little plastic cups stacked up next to our dispenser at work are out of the question. Instead, I found my new best friend.

Nowadays, I carry my re-useable water bottle with me virtually everywhere. It comes to the gym with me, it sits on my desk at work everyday and it usually finds itself caked in mud and bugs in the community garden at the weekend.

In my office, I unfortunately sit right next to the fridge, water dispenser and the coffee machine. Every day I sit there and listen to the clunk-clunk-clunk noise of people repeatedly throwing disposable plastic cups into the bin. I hate that noise, because I know that every time I hear it another piece of plastic has been used for barely more than a few seconds yet it will take years to decompose, if at all. If every colleague in my office uses two of these cups each per day on average, by buying a re-usable bottle we could save over 100 cups each per year. And that’s not including all the disposable plastic bottles that they buy from the vending machine.

I appreciate that a 1 litre water bottle isn’t the most convenient thing to carry with you in a nightclub or down the shops, but my advice is to invest in one and keep it with you whenever you can.

 

Plant-Based Pause No 31: Learn to Compromise

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.

‘150 years ago, they would have thought you were absurd if you advocated for the end of slavery. 100 years ago, they would have laughed at you for suggesting that women should have the right to vote. 50 years ago, they would object to the idea of African Americans receiving equal rights under the law. 25 years ago they would have called you a pervert if you advocated for gay rights. They laugh at us now for suggesting that animal slavery be ended. Some day they won’t be laughing.’ – Gary Smith

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I love this quote. It’s what I’ve been thinking for many years, but I’m not quite as eloquent when I try to put it into words. I truly believe that, one day, living plant-based will be the norm. I do, however, understand why a lot of people around me think I’m crazy for even suggesting that. As Gary Smith said, that would be as crazy as ending the human slave trade, giving women the vote, allowing gay people to marry…oh, wait a minute…

As much as my family and friends think I’m a nutter for following this strange and unnatural lifestyle (their words, not mine), they do their best to support me in their own way. They don’t, however, always get it right. And that means that sometimes I have to compromise.

There have been a few occasions when people have proudly presented me with a gluten free, dairy free cake that they’ve baked ‘just for me’. But what have you used to bind the ingredients? I ask. ‘An egg’. Great.

I’ve also settled for eating cauliflower cheese, gluten free pizza bases made with cows’ milk and grated cheese on my tortillas. That last one was actually my own fault, I was so tired one night in my favourite restaurant in Cardiff that I forgot to ask for the vegan version of the dish.

I do my best to stick to a completely plant-based, whole food diet and I certainly don’t like eating dairy. But, sometimes I feel that I have to compromise just a little. Whether you agree to the plant-based lifestyle or not, we all have to share this Earth and by tolerating and understanding each other that healthy, cruelty-free future that we dream of might just come that much sooner.

Plant-Based Pause No 30: Be Prepared for Arguments

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.

‘Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.’ – Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Be warned. When you tell people you’re a plant-based vegetarian, a lot of the responses you get will be arguments. You can feel like you’re being continuously attacked, and may even start to bow to peer pressure and think it might just be easier to go back to being an omnivore. These pressures can even come from your own family. I first turned vegetarian when I was nine, but thanks to incorrect advice from our GP my parents forced me to eat meat for another four years. When I cut it from my diet for the final time, my mum loved to tell people that I was attention-seeking, had an eating disorder or was ‘going through a phase’. She still does it now, although in my defence the ‘phase’ has been going on for over 20 years. My family members also seem to like bringing up things from the past. ‘You might say you’re a vegetarian, but when you were six your favourite food was ham.’ Yes, when I was six. My favourite TV show back then was Rainbow, but people and things change.

Even after twenty years of getting dragged into arguments that I really don’t want to, it still grinds me down sometimes. I just keep telling myself that argument is simply a natural human defence. When we are faced with something different to what we know that we don’t quite understand, our instincts tell us to stand our guard and defend our truth. I’m sure that when Christopher Columbus first suggested the Earth wasn’t flat he met a similar reaction.

The best way to smoothly slide your way out of these situations is to know more about the subject so that you can counter their argument. For example:
Them: ‘Humans are meant to eat meat because we have canine teeth.’
You: ‘Actually, the canine teeth we have are similar to those of apes and are for use as a threat when a predator gets to close. You’d need lots of sharp teeth very close together, for example like a cat, to eat meat efficiently. Don’t believe me? Try eating a chicken leg using only your canine teeth.’
I have amassed a whole back catalogue of these responses over the years. Thankfully, as the world becomes more aware of the impact we have on the planet, people are more educated about food and the environment nowadays. As a result, their responses to hearing the words ‘vegetarian’ or ‘vegan’ aren’t as dramatic. It’s been a few years since anyone has asked me why I’m scared of catching CJD. I’m still confused about this one as I turned veggie well before the CJD scare and, as the disease spread in the 80s, if I was going to get it I would already have it regardless of what I ate now.

I’ll bet there are a few arguments out there that I am still to hear, but one thing is for sure – I’m ready for them.

Plant-Based Pause No 29: Find Your Motivation

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.

‘Become the change you want to see in the world.’ – Gandhi

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This week’s plant-based theme sounds like it could get a bit deep and philosophical, but don’t worry that’s not how it is intended. I believe that we should all understand what motivates us.

If I woke up tomorrow morning in a world where everyone had converted to living a plant-based life, I would be the first to celebrate. However, if we don’t understand why we’re making those changes and the results that they will bring then it won’t work. There has been some talk in the press recently about people converting to a vegan diet because it is fashionable to follow in the footsteps of vegan celebrities. Somer also wrote a brilliant post about this subject over at Vedged Out. Making a lifestyle change because you are copying someone else isn’t going to motivate you, and the changes certainly won’t stick. Instead, we need to educate people about the effects that eating meat and using animals for products has on our species and the planet. By approaching it this way, others will naturally make better choices for the right reasons.

Personally, my initial motivation for becoming plant-based was my own health. I wanted to be fit and healthy. That is still one of my top priorities, although other motivations have been added to the list over time. People tell me their various reasons for not eating meat or adopting certain aspects of plant-based living all the time. Some don’t like to see animals suffer, some want to reduce their carbon footprint and some just don’t like the way the meat industry has evolved into one big factory process line where you’re not even sure which animal you’re eating by the end of it.

If you’re going to go plant-based, don’t just do it because someone told you that you should. Find out why you should, educate yourself about all the great improvements you are going to make. Find your motivation.

Plant-Based Pause No 28: Out and About

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 ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome.’ – Samuel Johnson

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I’m not going to lie to you, this one is tough. My number one piece of advice to living plant-based is to be prepared. However, with all the will in the world, at some point you are going to find yourself stuck in a service station at 3am that only caters to meat eaters and junk food addicts. Trust me, I’ve been there on a few occasions. This is when you have to employ a skill that many humans in the modern world have forgotten how to use. You have to adapt. Vowing to live completely plant-based, whole food and organic is admirable, but there are times that you have to compromise. Fries are my usual go-to when I’m stuck with nothing suitable to eat and really hungry. They fill you up, and a lot of chain restaurants now also make them gluten-free. I’ve also been known to snack on questionable, lone pieces of remaining fruit in convenience stores and expensive packets of gluten-free pretzels from the pharmacy. In his brilliant book Finding Ultra, Rich Roll talks about resorting to fuelling up on take-out noodles when completing his epic challenges miles from the nearest health food store. It’s not ideal, but sometimes you just have to accept what’s available. And when you return home again, it makes you appreciate fresh veggies even more.

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Plant-Based Pause No 27: Visiting the Family

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.

‘Reach for the stars, even if you have to stand on a cactus.’ – Susan Longacre

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Whenever you make a big change in your life, your family and close friends will often find it difficult to deal with. After all, you’re changing the dynamics of your group and challenging what they think of as ‘normal’. For me personally, telling my family that I was vegetarian is one of the hardest things I’ve had to tell them. Seventeen years later, when I decided to convert to a plant-based lifestyle, I had to have another conversation with them. Although, as an independent grown adult, it was a lot easier this time, it wasn’t an overnight acceptance. In fact, I think they still doubt my choices even three years down the line.

When you make the change to living plant-based, it might take your family a while to accept you new lifestyle choice. After all, most of these people have known you since birth. They are the people whose job it is to care for you. They’ll be worried about your health, your motives and maybe even your sanity.

Just like any other person who doesn’t understand the plant-based lifestyle, your family will have lots of questions and you can teach them and show them why you have made the right choice. Although no other member of my family is vegetarian, I know that my vegetarianism has affected them in positive ways. I see them making small changes, such as eating less meat or using non-dairy milk, and I know that would have been unlikely without my input. It’s rare that my mum lets anyone else use her kitchen, but whenever I go to visit her now she always requests that I cook her some vegan food.