“… you just don’t know where it’s going to take you.”
Colleen Partrick-Goudreau, The 30 Day Vegan Challenge
Before getting into the challenge proper, The 30 Day Vegan Challenge by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau (know henceforth as 30DVC) spends several chapters on set up. For the most part, 30DVC assumes its readers already know why they are going vegan, and instead focuses on providing information and perspective on how to go vegan successfully – the reason why I am reading the book.
Over the past six months, I have done a lot of random trial-and-error research. I am hoping that this book will pull it all together into a more cohesive, foundational whole.
Chapter 1 – Welcome to Positive Change
Going vegan is about change; serious, long-term, life-altering change. The 30DVC emphasises two significant changes – physical changes (you will be healthier) and “a sense of ethical congruency”. It should be noted that the emphasis in the book is on a whole food plant-based diet. A vegan diet can be terrible if you choose to do it wrong, but wonderful if done right. In many ways it is less convenient to eat a plant-based diet; you have to go out of your way (and often pay more) to be unhealthy. (At least, that has been my experience so far.)
A wholefood plant-based diet changes your nutrient consumption. You are going to eat significantly “more fibre, more antioxidants, more folate and more phytochemicals”. You are also eating significantly less saturated fat (unless you eat more coconut – oil, butter or milk), heavy metals (these collect in the fatty tissue of all animals, including us), most foodborne illnesses and trans fats.
You are also going to lower your risk for all kinds of lifestyle related diseases from breast cancer to arthritis to osteoporosis. [The American Institute for Cancer Research lists the three key cancer preventions as weight, diet and physical activity. They assume everyone already knows about smoking.
“People tend to lose weight when they remove fat-and calorie-dense meat, dairy and eggs from their diet because fat-laden foods have more calories than protein-and-carbohydrate-rich foods”. I have definitely noticed this myself. I had put on quite a bit of weight, but slowly over the past few months, almost without me noticing it, the weight has been slipping away. I would love it if this continues until I am once again within a healthy weight range. Apparently, vegan diets also lose you allergies, severe PMS and menopausal symptoms, along with certain skin and bowel disorders.
30 DVC has a strong emphasis on the health benefits of a vegan diet. For me this is a very, very fortunate side issue. Going vegan is, I feel, the only sane, rational, ethical (possibly even moral) response to learning, or allowing yourself to honestly look at the truth of animal agriculture. In the book this is described as “ethical congruency”. I have really started to feel this. I love that this is framed in such a positive way. It is too easy to be weighed down by the horror and to feel helpless in the wake of global ignorance, indifference and in some cases deliberate cruelty. Yet, as I feel the weight crushing me I also feel myself reconnecting to deeper, kinder, more empathetic parts of myself. I like this person. How much of this change is due to diet and bio-chemical, physical changes and how much is about me living more directly in line with my values – less subconscious stress and effort to avoid the facts (cognitive dissonance).
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
Being vegan is empowering. It is an injustice I can do something about directly; every time I buy flax seeds and tofu instead of eggs, every time I don’t buy a block of cheese, every time I go food shopping, every dollar I spend on local fruit instead of processed, highly packaged snack food, every time I buy and use plant-based cleaners. Every day I am rejecting one economic base and embracing another – a kinder, more sustainable one.
Before I started going vegan I thought it was about ‘giving things up’, but once I become aware of what I was giving up I no longer wanted it. What I give up is trivial, compared with what I am gaining. If you had told me this before I started I would never have believed it. It’s like I walked into a wardrobe and found myself in Narnia.