A month or so ago, I wrote about learning I have allergies to dairy and eggs. As a celiac, this was adding insult to injury. I tried a few weeks of avoiding those foods and after a time, I thought – hell, I’m barely eating any meat anyway these days, maybe I should try going vegan.
A pandemic is a fine time for what seemed like such a radical experiment. I had tried it a few years ago, but I severely injured my ankle shortly into it and became overwhelmed at the need to shop and cook differently. So I gave up. But in a pandemic, there is no tempting restaurant open to tease me with amazingly fresh sashimi or queso fundido. And there’s no social pressure to go to someone’s house for a meal and explain my ever-growing list of restrictions (hello, my name is Jess and I am a vegan celiac, I can eat only lettuce)!
The primary reason for the experiment was to see if veganism improved my health. There’s plenty of science on how it can improve weight, cardiovascular disease, cancer risk, and diabetes. As a sleep nerd, I was also intrigued to see a study on how it can reduce the severity of obstructive sleep apnea! One key point though – without supplementation, many vegans become deficient in vitamin B12 which can actually worsen insomnia.
But I was also fairly grossed out in reading about all the COVID-19 issues at meat packing plants recently. Many animals were being slaughtered not only for food, but because no one could process them. Worse, we’ve all learned more about the terrible and unsanitary working conditions within the plants for humans as well. Many of these plants are in my home state of South Dakota, and I remember hearing how for in the summers, both of my parents worked at a beef processing plant. They would tell stories of freaked out cows occasionally making a run for it and wreaking havoc on the line. Now, I was reading more about low-wage migrant workers packed in like sardines at the risk of their own health, just to produce some chicken nuggets. Somehow, meat just kind of became unappetizing.
A few friends and I had also been reiki attuned last year, and we were encouraged to reduce meat intake as it is thought to help “raise our vibrational energy.” It may sound a bit woo-woo, but the concept was still parked in the back of my mind. Sure, I am a lover of the animals, and it doesn’t take much reading to realize how terrible factory farming is for a range of reasons, but it just seemed too…hard. It took the health reasons (allergy tests and chronic inflammation), along with the ample downtime allotted by the pandemic to really make it possible to try.
So I went on a vegan shopping spree. Fake cheese, butter, milk, even eggs! Warning – going vegan will jack your stomach up! It’s usually just temporary, but if your microbiome has been used to consuming meat, dairy and eggs, it is quite an adjustment for your friendly little gut bugs. My acupuncturist buddy diagnosed a spleen qi deficiency and advised burning moxa for the stomach and shifting to a diet based heavily on congee (a convalescent porridge) to help support the transition, along with minimizing cold/raw foods and vigorous exercise until I perked up. To be clear, Chinese Medicine sees a place for animal meat in overall nutritional balance, so one really needs to be thoughtful about what you are eating to try to get all of your needs met. My research led me to adding spirulina (a type of algae) into smoothies and other dishes.
Results: Three weeks in, I have maybe had a bit less energy, but I’ve kind of leaned into it, doing more walking and gentle exercise than the usual high-intensity rollerblading or running I had been used to. Last week, I finally bought an iron and B12 supplement, and that’s helped enormously with energy levels. I’ve maybe lost a few pounds, but nothing too dramatic. I have felt generally more clear-headed and less stressed/inflamed. My body seems to feel happier and my taste buds have changed. I can get absurdly thrilled at a good veggie burger (my fave is here). Going back to that reiki energy, I have felt my qi gong practice has improved, and I’ve had a bit more overall calm state even without doing formal meditation as regularly. I haven’t had any real cravings for any of the old foods yet, more an interest to keep experimenting with new options.
Will I keep it up in the long term? I’m not sure. There will certainly be more temptations when the COVID-19 lock downs lift. I may take the approach of one of my friends who is mostly veg, but indulges in the occasional falling off the wagon when there is some major special occasion or dish prepared with love by someone.
Whatever I can pull off long-term, there is enormous value in learning a more plant-based approached to eating, even if you aren’t 100% dogmatically pure. And in these times when the meat supply is particularly at risk, it just seems like a no-brainer to keep going for now.
Have you tried any big changes to your diet lately (or before)? Leave a comment and keep the dialogue going!
Adventures in Food Allergies and Autoimmune Disease
My Reiki Journey: From Skeptic to Practitioner
Qi Gong is Meditation in Motion
Aromatherapy and Essential Oils- more than just a spa treatment
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3 thoughts on “Taking a Stab at Veganism”
Great read Jess, and what a perfect time to try! Somewhere in late January I started hydroponic gardening — what a fortuitous hobby of necessity now. Having fresh herbs, tomatoes, peppers & lettuce right in my home has made lockdown so much better. Even adding some fresh herbs to whatever canned goods you have in the pantry makes mealtime so much more lovely. Plus healthy green plants in the kitchen is uplifting so it helps with the covid blues too.