Friday, 29 September 2017

Fuck Your Pineapple: How I Went From Meat-Only Pizza to Full-Blown Veganism in a Few Short Years

     TRIGGER WARNING: Vegetables.


      You know how everyone hates when vegans talk about veganism? I'm about to do a lot of that.

The only Slaughterhouse I'm interested in supporting.
      Seems to me standard omnivores, when they talk to vegans, are a lot like hetero, cis-gendered
white males when they talk to...well, anyone else, which is to say, they know everything about someone else's experience and what's best for them without actually accepting any outside information at all.

      I get made fun of by customers at work for being "preachy."

      I have never, and I mean literally NOT ONE TIME EVER, opened up the topic of my diet. They wouldn't even know if they didn't just have to make a comment about me eating a pepper or drinking a smoothie. Everything I've ever said was in response to them, whether their earnest questions or their bullshit chirps.

      I had deliberately intended to never directly address this topic as, seriously, average people really hate when vegans talk about veganism, and the cause doesn't need anymore bad press.

      But average people think average thoughts and do average stuff.

      So I gave my head a shake. Imagine me giving a shit what anyone thinks? I came into this bitch making friends the hard way, I'm not going to switch it up now.

      However I find it incredible how little time it took me to move from one side of that line to the other. In 2013, I wrote this article stating that vegetarians were assholes for not wanting meat on their pizza. Okay, it was a little more nuanced than that, and semi-parodical, but the point is, I'd have laughed in my own face if I could go back in time and tell me I would be a vegan one day. I didn't want to hear any of the shit I'm about to write.

[Worth noting: I still believe that the single person who makes an entire group of people order a vegetarian pizza is an asshole. While I have some wonderfully respectful and frankly, frickin' cool relatives and friends who enjoy cooking for me, I never, ever ask that anyone cater to me (and usually insist that they don't, but your Grandma is gonna win that argument 11/10 times, friends).]

      While it's a little less than idealistic to admit, I did not go vegan for the animals. Here's the progression.
  1. In early 2013, I start really working on my kitchen game. I'm 25, and want to eat well. 
  2. I notice meat is really expensive. Look into alternative protein sources. Introduce quinoa and black beans as staples.
  3. Over the next 3 years, primarily as a matter of economy, I whittle meat out of rotation, except for the occasional fish at home, or whatever a friend is cooking.
  4. By early 2016, I haven't bought beef, bacon, or chicken in any memorable amount of time. Salmon remains, as does the carte blance on meals out. 
  5. In October of 2016, I chance upon a truck hauling pigs, likely to slaughter, at a highway rest stop. Now, at this point, I don't really eat pork anyway, but I had no reason besides just not liking it. I also know how intelligent pigs are. Timidly, knowingly, I approach the trailer...and the veil rends. The recognition in their eyes of me as another creature was enough. I don't know why this specific event was so much more powerful than any other, but it hit me like...well, a truck. 
  6. Spent the next 8 months or so on a vegetarian diet. Dairy was gradually troubling me (both physically and psychologically) more and more, but I didn't imagine I'd ever cut eggs or cheese because of breakfast, and love, respectfully.
  7. I cut eggs and cheese.

      This all started because I was cheap. I can buy a pile of vegetables and a couple bags of grains or beans that will last me weeks, for the same price as three days worth of meat. For the same money, I now get so much more. Then I realized I was actually feeling better. Then I researched the health effects of meat and dairy and cut the cords to each.

      I feel that I have the knowledge and resources to effect positive change in the world. I value my life selfishly, but I also value it in service to others. Therefore, I want to take the best care of myself. So after I knew my finances were straight, my biggest reason for going vegan was my personal health.

      I found a website called Cron-O-Meter that allows you to input your basic body metrics as well as your workouts, and most importantly, food. My fears for my diet say the least, unfounded.

The target I missed was water, because I didn't enter the 9000 glasses I drink per day.

Average day.

      Once I knew I'd be okay, my priority shifted to the planet, or rather, our existence on it. Livestock farming has bulldozed natural ecology. We can't live without that. I do not believe the planet needs us to take care of it. The planet will be fine; we're a blink of time to Mother Earth. However if we want to survive and thrive, we have to shape the fuck up.

      [I'm a tree hugger. I have literally hugged trees before. I'll do it again. Trees are fuckin' dope. If you've never stopped to contemplate a tree, I invite you take this moment to ponder your own insignificance. So let's stop cutting down trees for livestock land. We don't need anymore.]

      You know what's a crime, a real humanitarian issue? When we have enough food to feed the world - and I do mean the entire world - today, but most of the grains and produce grown in developing countries feed livestock for developed countries to eat. That is wrong. There's no way around that, besides cognitive dissonance.

      There is ALREADY a fresh water shortage throughout a large portion of the world, and I don't just mean in the desert. Try North America.

       If you don't care about animals, fine. Care about people.

      Because for me, the animals came last. I'll spare you the slaughterhouse images. I don't think they work anyway.

      I've always been an animal lover, which is immediately difficult to square with an omnivorous diet (I'm specifically a dog person, but I've always lived in awe of whales and birds. They're just cool as hell.).

You know what I like? Being alive.
      What I realized was that I was, at least to a point, a speciesist. Specieism is the philosophy that being highly evolved creatures entitles us to the resources of the rest of the world, including the other creatures. As a human living on a planet in a merciless and indifferent universe, I have to push back for my existence. I have to tread on some things. I value myself, and I value humans in general. I think our lives our worth living. So I accept a degree of the wrong that we do.

      We're all speciesist, to an extent. We use the planet for our gains. Therefore we intrinsically acknowledge, even by doing something thoughtless, or seemingly harmless,  like using electricity or wearing clothes, that we are more important than someone or something else. I recently took up rock climbing - my search for the right shoe was the first time I've ever thought to investigate what my clothes are made out of.

      [But did you know that synthetic fibres are also polluting the oceans? Not nearly to the degree of livestock farming, which would get you the leather, but they aren't harmless either.]

      No matter how much I love the environment and other living creatures, pretty much by existing, I am treading on something. I had to square that with my own goals and happiness. I also had to see how far I could scale my speciesism before I had a real issues.

      Veganism isn't a perfect reconciliation with that, but it cuts out the vast majority of harm done. Obviously, you aren't killing anything to eat it. You aren't supporting any industries that do. You've cut out the primary source of climate change and ocean toxicity. That gets you (and society, on larger scale) out pretty far ahead, and if you don't have the moral high ground, you're at least a couple paces farther up the hill.


      While all vegans are living the life for all of these reasons, everyone has a primary priority. So, to be clear, here were mine when I came into this journey:

  1. Vegan (vegetarian) for my wallet
  2. Vegan for my health
  3. Vegan for the planet
  4. Vegan for the animals
      It's not that I didn't worry about animals, or acknowledge the horror show. I just felt they were inevitable because I didn't understand a different way of being. And after accepting new information, fixing my mentality, and finding how good it feels to feel good, here's the new ranking:

  1. Vegan for the planet
  2. Vegan for my health
  3. Vegan for the animals
  4. Vegan for my wallet
      Which is not to say I think non-vegans are necessarily immoral, just because they lack these priorities. In the same way most people don't think about what their diet does to them, they especially don't think about what it does to the world. That information is rarely presented, which is, I would guess, a big reason people balk so hard when the truth gets thrown at them. It's shocking, and seems insurmountable. So why bother?

      Because your diet isn't killing the planet. The planet will be fine,very, very fine. It will change, and then wipe us off and carry on.

     By being the largest contributor to the ruin of the global ecosystem THAT WE NEED TO SURVIVE, your diet is killing you.

      It's not "your grandchildren," and it's not "we'd better act soon or else maybe," it's now. This problem exists right now. It's too late. There's no longer a threat of cataclysmic ecological upset, it has begun. The west coast is on fire. The east and south coasts are underwater. Indonesia is a swamp. Puerto Rico, Barbuda, and St. Martin are in ruins. Ancient diseases are awakening from under the ice. And we still talkin' 'bout "soon." NO. Now it's too late. The climate has CHANGED. Now, we adapt, or die.

      Aside - I recently had a conversation with someone who accused me of being a doomsayer because I said it is already too late. Me, the bicycling vegan who wears his clothes until they turn to rags and sorts other people's recycling for them. I'm out here making all these fuckin' positive changes because I'm a nihilist? He obviously did not grasp that I meant it already too late to use those old methods, and those old ways of talking about the problem. It is important to understand the facts for real. This is a current issue. This is now. This is us.


      Compared to moving from a standard North American diet to vegetarianism, the jump from vegetarianism to veganism was much, much easier. I was already on the train, I just had to ride it to the next station. Dairy was pretty easy to cut. When I finally axed animal flesh, my dairy intake went up. I thought it was a good source of protein, which it is, but the wrong protein. I was much, much gassier (and stinkier) on account of all the rotting milk and eggs inside me. Yogurt, cheese, whey proteins, and lots and lots of eggs were all just waiting to be released. My stomach hurt often.

      I have no shame in admitting certain pop-media like What The Health and Forks over Knives put me on to the horrors, not just of the dairy industry, but of dairy's impact on your body. Since I don't take anything as canon solely on its own merits, I read some more, and watched some more, and felt things out. What I noticed was that on days I didn't eat eggs or yogurt especially, I felt much better. Soon, I knew what I had to do. It took a little longer than I'm proud of, a few weeks instead of a few hours, but I did it.

      I have a few friends who feel it is their right as intelligent primates to eat meat, and I'm a lot more comfortable with this simple, bold (albeit, wrong) and honest position than I am with all the excuses made by otherwise compassionate humans. Sure, they're mostly fueled by ignorance and driven by convenience, but ignorance is a choice in the information age.

    IV. (Common Excuses)

      "Go vegan? I would, but..."

      I had a friend who went vegan and almost died.
      Right, no one who eats meat ever got sick.

      You don't get enough protein/iron/B12 in a vegan diet.
      Congratulations on receiving your degree in nutrition the moment you found out about my diet! How coincidental. Do go on?

      This is the kind of dumb shit people say when they can't be bothered to slice a fucking cucumber.

      But seriously, because of those concerns, I had a heavily increased focus on nutrition, when I changed my diet. As a result my protein, iron, and B12 levels are all higher than they were a few years ago, and much higher than the average. The simple truth is that most people don't pay much attention to what they eat past the taste and if it fills them up. A simple B12 supplement, which is made from the same microorganisms that the animals we eat get them from gives me more than enough. Check this Cron-O-Meter diagram.

      The meals are bland/flavourless/unfilling.
      Tell it to my Instagram feed! Such a lazy and ignorant criticism. You know what's fucking bland? Chicken.

      It's an extreme lifestyle.
      Vegetables. Vegetables are extreme? ...vegetables?

      Here are some of the extreme consequences I've suffered:
  • Skin clearing up like it never has before (I have always had big pores and oily skin, but somehow avoided full blown acne. Still, I think this is one area where we all want better).
  • drop in gas and bloating
  • big boost in workout recovery
  • no mucous/phlegm
  • Potential reduction in migraines? Because migraines aren't well understood, it's hard to say what causes them. What I can attest to is that the recent humidity swings that usually cause me absolutely punishing migraines, have not done so. Normally, I live in perpetual fear of drastic changes in atmospheric pressure because they shut me down for days. I won't trumpet that one too loudly yet, though. We'll give it a few years. 
      It's hard.
      I realize this may be a HAIR easier for me as a happy healthy vegan to say, but, it's not hard. At all. You just haven't done it. You haven't even tried. It may be a little tricky to eat out depending on your locale, but I've been able to make it work. Here is a far-from-comprehensive list of things that may be difficult if you've never attempted them:

  • walking
  • tying your shoes
  • riding a bike
  • reading Shakespeare
  • reading anything
  • shooting a gun
  • yoga
  • running a marathon
  • running a half marathon
  • running anywhere at all
  • driving a car
  • driving a nail
  • driving sales
  • sailing
  • playing Starcraft 2 against a 17 year old South Korean
  • making falafel
  • dental surgery
  • running a multinational conglomerate
  • training a dog
  • teaching French
  • learning French
  • kissing French  (most of y'all still haven't really learned this one correctly)
      And some of the aforementioned are so necessary that we teach every single child how to do them. Stack that up against the difficulty of:
  • chopping some vegetables
  • boiling some grains in water
  • throwing some spices on it
  • masticating 
  • swallowing
      I believe in you!

      It's unnatural.
      Could you please remove your clothes, catch the measles, walk everywhere you ever go, unstraighten all your teeth, uncut your hair, uncircumcise yourself, throw your phone away, and go live in a forest when you say that? I eat a bunch of plants and I'm out of touch with nature. You drink neon green energy piss and you are the authority on evolutionary biology. Okay. Okay.

      Even if a vegan were protein/iron/B12 deficient, that does not automatically mean that it has anything to do with avoiding meat - have you ever even heard of someone with a protein deficiency? But iron and B12 deficiencies are so common they all have their own names, and very much affect meat eaters. In fact, I don't have any anemic vegetarian/vegan friends. Sure, that's anecdotal, but it's a pretty good anecdote. Plus, healthy vegans are likely to have an abundance of other vitamins, minerals and micronutrients in their system that the careless eater does not.


      As of this writing I'm just a year shy of my last meat meal, and only a few months since dropping dairy (it has crept in a few times with sneaky ingredients) but I cannot imagine going back. This is so easy. It feels so good. I love it. That's amazing to me! No cravings, not for bacon or cheese or even salmon. Had the best poutine of my life a few weeks ago in Ottawa - yepper, it was vegan.

      Since I began paying more attention to what I eat, I've experienced so many positive changes. My body looks and feels better. My priorities, both on small and large scale have changed. I no longer have to deal with being part of the grinding machine that is industrial livestock, which has done absolute wonders for my mental health. It's given me a pebble-sized concrete foundation to stand on, a place to say this is me.

      I'm not brave. This was a well-worn path by the time my feet found it, and the O.G hippies who did all the real work for us deserve our respect and appreciation. I can go to the store and buy vegan cheese, butter, ice cream and protein supplements, and find simple (or not) recipes online to make just about any dish I want. The stuff I can't, I don't worry about.

      And as with anything else, I don't count days. That doesn't matter to me, and I think it makes it harder, especially if you're craving. Trying to "stay on the wagon" is an awful mentality. Instead,
      a)eat well and
      b) enjoy food;
      c) a lot.

      Life is a game of percentages, and this is the same. I'm not fixing the world by going vegan. There are still many problems. I bet I contribute to some of them. However, if I make a lifestyle change in the right direction, that helps! Imagine if everyone went vegan tomorrow. The number one cause of greenhouse gas emissions disappears overnight. That's right friendos. Not cars. Cows.

      So do you accept facts or don't you?

      If you have honestly considered all of the consequences of a standard diet and they don't bother you, that sucks, but hey, at least you're consistent. Hopefully close-minded people like you will go extinct before we as a species do. But if you are at all disturbed, and don't know where to begin - just start! Don't order extra bacon. Eat a salad. Make guac. Cook some beans. Try a veggie burger, they're fucking delicious. Don't make a hard shift if you can't, just play around with your options.

      The number one way I am able to live this life is BECAUSE I ENJOY IT. Let me state again in case you can't re-read that. I LOVE EATING LIKE THIS. I don't feel restricted, at all. My cooking is delicious. My body is lean muscle. My compost breaks down quickly. My poops are great!

      Worth noting - every time I share vegan meals with non-vegans, they tell me two things: how great they feel, and how great they pooped. Who knows, maybe switching up your diet is the answer to that shotgun-blast trumpet (or leaky faucet) of an asshole you've got there. I'm not a doctor, I just hear about my friends' bowel movements a lot.

      So don't treat it like someone put cuffs on you, ya fuckin' drama queens. Imagine you just walked through a door with a great feast laid out before you...and fucking eat! I don't recommend everyone throw all their eggs and cheese out right now. On the contrary, I think that's wasteful, and is worse than the original sin. But maybe, juuust maybe, try a pizza without meat next time.

      But not pineapple. That shit is just wrong.

Don't make me make a vegan fitness Instagram page. I'll do it. 

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