The Vegan Experiment

I really want to answer the question, what is all the hype about?! Cancer, growth hormones, pesticides, PETA’s exaggerated propaganda about how most animals are treated. I’ve seen enough facts about the dangers of meat and dairy… yadda, yadda, yadda. If someone can’t show me an immediate and obvious side effect to eating meat and all that is God given and natural, then sir, I’m going to keep right on eating everything I feel like, especially the steak. But what if?

Today I decided to become a vegan. This means consuming no animal products.

What if eating meat does not serve us best? What if a balance between veganism and sushi is the magic combination for humans? What if Jesus got it right with his menu of fish and bread? I know one thing right now; continuing on a path of meat & dairy consumption will tell me nothing new.

My decision contradicts mainstream veganism because I’m perfectly OK with people killing and eating animals. Most vegans are not down with exploiting animals for food.

I have different motives. I’m curious if eating meat and dairy products is based in truth. Meaning, does eating meat serve us best mentally, physically and spiritually? Some people will say yes, because for as long as we’ve known, we’ve seen healthy people eat animals. Duh. It’s overwhelming empirical evidence. But vegans can argue the same point- they were raised that way. So who’s right?

Much of my adult lunch hour has been spent creating and surviving the infamous food-coma. What a waste of time and energy. But what can I really do to change this?

To combat the food-coma, over the last six months I’ve changed my meal timing and portions. I eat six small meals per day, usually with servings the size of my palm.  This drastically reduced my number of food induced nap-times. But I still always get a lingering feeling of “my body is still digesting that chicken” feeling, even after small meals. Some people aren’t even consciously aware how much their diet affects their life. What if I could get rid of food-comas entirely?

Equally important, can a person live a healthy life on fruits and vegetables and not be malnutritioned? I realize there are many reliable sources on both sides stating their case, but the scientist in me knows that there’s only one way to find out. She needs to discover the truth for herself. I’ve knocked vegetarianism for as long as I can remember, but I’ve never tried it. I used to knock the look of a Gibson SG too, and we know how that turned out.

One of my main concerns with going vegan is if I can maintain my current muscle mass and overall health. Will I wake up in 30 days from now, a pale and skinny postmodernist-vegetable-junkie?

For those of you that don’t know me, I’ve been blessed with a hyper-active metabolism. I currently have a 10% body-fat with a meat based diet. I mainly eat chicken and rice, but also beans, skim milk, legumes and minimal fruits and veggies and whatever else makes it’s way into the cupboard. I intake on average 3000+ calories per day. I’m always eating and snacking. Can I survive workouts without the condensed protein energy in chicken? If I’m not getting my usual 50+ grams of protein per day specifcally through chicken and lean meats, will I lose muscle mass? How will this new diet affect my sex life?

Is it a coincidence that Benjamin Franklin, Leonardo Da Vinci, Isaac Newton, Thomas Edison, Mahatma Gandhi, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and Voltaire were all vegetarians?

There are a lot of “what if’s” floating around. Over the next 30 days I plan to turn these what if’s into darn sure’s.

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7 Responses

  1. Jon says:

    Hey Matt! I think it’s awesome that you’re ignoring all of the mis-information out there (on both sides) and just trying things for yourself. I went vegetarian for health reasons: the processing, chemicals, and disease running rampant in the factory-farming industry really caught my attention; I was about 10 pounds overweight, eating two meals a day in huge portions, and suffering food comas daily. Flash forward a few years, and I can’t believe I ate how I did for as long as I did. I now have so much more energy, and rarely have to deal with food comas. I don’t think I’ll ever go back to eating meat. I don’t miss it. My hunger and weight are easier to control, my skin looks better, and overall I just feel less weighed down. I’ll be curious to see what differences you notice.

    I am a little shocked you went from full-on carnivore to full-on vegan; that’s quite a challenge. I transitioned over about 2 years, cutting out red meat, then pork, then chicken, and finally lean turkey. I still occasionally eat fish, mostly sushi.

    Some tips for you that I’ve found helpful:

    * Stick with grain-based over white/flour-based anything … wholegrain pasta, multigrain bread, whole wheat pita, whole wheat hamburger buns, brown rice, etc. This will help cut down food comas.

    * Avoid iceberg lettuce and stick with spinach, arugala, romaine, spring mix. Generally, the darker the color, the better

    * There are some really good, healthy, vegan dairy substitutes. Soy milk, soy cheese, tofu cream cheese (Tofutti), soy butter (Earth Balance), soy mayonaise (Vegenaise). I like Earth Balance better than real butter, and Vegenaise better than real mayo. The great thing about vegan foods is there is NO cholesterol.

    * Chips and salsa (if made with natural ingredients, very healthy), hummas with pita, Kashi bars, unsalted nuts, granola, and edemame (tons of protein) are really great snacks.

    * There a lot of meat-substitute products which make meal planning and creation much easier. They also have tons of protein. Morningstar, Boca, and Quorn make veggie burgers, chicken patties, chicken nuggets, chicken cutlets, etc. I only look for vegetarian ingredients, so I’m not sure which of their products are actually vegan. Many veg-opponents think non-meat food made to look and taste like meat is a silly idea. I think it’s a wonderful idea. It allows you to make meat-based meals (like chicken pot pie), use meat-targeted condiments (like barbeque sauce), and use meat-targed accessories (like hotdog and hamburger rolls). The key to any meat substitute is to cook it like you would real meat. Burgers and steak should go on a grill (we use a George Forman electric in the winter), chicken nuggets in the oven. Never microwave unless it’s an actual microwave meal. The second key is to always eat them while they are hot. Luke-warm meat substitutes get slightly hard and slightly soggy at the same time (didn’t think that was possible).

    * I would head to a bookstore and flip through some vegan cookbooks, and then head over to Whole Foods and just browse around. You’ll find there’s a lot more for vegans/vegetarians to eat than salad, fruit, vegetables, and nuts (although those are all great), and Whole Foods’ house brand (365) is very affordable.

    * I’m all for your experimentation, but if you find that you can’t stick to it, or finish and come out the other side not sure that you can continue, backing off to vegetarian/pescetarian is a much more manageable alternative, especially when dining out or grabbing a quick bite on the run. Veganism is much more about the animals – bees and cows aren’t killed for their honey and milk, but we exploit them for our benefit. If chemicals and/or cruel treatment of animals becomes more your angle, some good options are organic milk and cheese from grass-fed cows (no factory farming), organic eggs from free-range chickens, wild-caught fish (no fish farms), etc. In my opinion, the small premium in price far outweighs getting a dollar-menu burger pumped full of chemicals and growth-hormones from a cow who was raised in conditions set up solely for quantity of beef rather than quality of life.

    Good luck!

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