Why I went Vegan?
My name is Andy Thomas, and I’m a vegan.
That is a sentence I thought I would never, ever have typed.
My younger self would be laughing at me for being so ridiculous and would simply find the notion of abstaining from meat and dairy inconceivable.
I’ve been on this journey for a little while now, but officially decided to change my diet and lifestyle to being fully plant-based on 1 November 2019.
I haven’t looked back, and this is my story.
For the first 38 years of my life, I essentially lived a carnivore lifestyle.
For anyone that knows me, they’ll confirm I was a big meat eater.
All my favourite meals contained meat, and copious amounts of it.
I loved steak, ate a ton of sausages and chicken every week, and always opted for a baked camembert when I saw one on a menu.
My favourite restaurant was Casa Brazil, where you were endlessly served varying meat options until you were physically unable to fit any more in your mouth.
I would eat vegetables and fruit, but was never a real fan.
I would NEVER order a vegetarian meal; I would have seen this as a complete waste of a good meal out.
I didn’t see anything wrong with this lifestyle, and plenty of football and walks ensured I never really gained too much excess weight.
I felt like a relatively healthy mid-30’s man who didn’t have any health concerns or worries.
That was until I had a complete body health check last Summer.
It was a free service offered by the company I work for, and I was quietly confident I would nail this, and therefore be smug at how fit and healthy I was for my age.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Whilst my weight and BMI were fine and my heart rate good, my blood pressure was through the roof.
Not just high, but at the top of the chart; with a note letting me know I should seek emergency medical advice…
Being a typical bloke, over the next couple of days, I did the test four or five times as the machine must be faulty.
It wasn’t, and I decided I needed to speak to a Doctor.
Long story short, after a month of reducing salt intake, removing caffeine altogether and trying to limit any stress, my blood pressure was still extremely high for my age, weight and fitness levels.
The Doctor couldn’t work out why – and told me I would have to go on pills, for the rest of my life.
He listed the side effects, and I wasn’t too keen.
This was the point where I properly started looking into alternatives to taking the pills, and where I discovered the amazing and numerous health benefits from switching to a plant based-diet.
What is a plant-based diet?
There are varying terms and definitions out there; but essentially a plant-based diet is one that limits eating animal products – so very little or no meat & dairy products; and puts a focus on eating wholegrains where possible.
Veganism takes this one step further, and someone following this lifestyle choice wouldn’t never eat animal products, wear leather, or wool, or any other animal-based product.
Veganism is much more about the ethics and cantered around animal rights, whereas plant-based is more about individual health. I’m probably somewhere in the middle.
A good guide can be found here: https://www.forksoverknives.com/wellness/plant-based-diet-vs-vegan-diet-whats-the-difference/
Since I changed my lifestyle 10 months ago, I have seen numerous health benefits.
Most importantly, my blood pressure has dropped from an average of 180 / 110 to 120/80.
To this day, I still can’t get my head around a simple change to what I put in my mouth has had such a remarkable impact on something so important.
I’ve also lost 8kg of excess weight.
I have a lot more energy, and hardly ever feel lethargic.
My skin feels better, and I feel the fittest I have ever been.
I also haven’t had any migraines, or caught any colds, viruses or stomach bugs during this time, which for me is unheard of.
Alongside health improvements, I’ve discovered there are many environmental benefits of a plant-based lifestyle.
Whilst this wasn’t the primary reason for my change, it has now become a fundamental part of why this isn’t a fad diet for me, it is something I will follow for the rest of my life.
For years, I have known that large parts of mass-animal farming isn’t a great industry.
Like most people, I have seen pictures of the horrible conditions endured by poultry, cattle and pigs in factory farms.
Yet somehow, I was able to put those images to the back of my mind when buying, ordering and eating food.
It didn’t seem important enough to me, to override my want for a nice bacon sandwich, or roast dinner.
I was also increasingly aware that that a meat-heavy diet is bad for us, and that it is linked to many of the health problems we see today; such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and some forms of cancer.
What I hadn’t quite realised was the scale of the devastating environmental effects of animal farming.
I remember one evening reading an online article about a WWF report that drew attention to the huge scale of the damage inflicted on the planet by the production of food for farm animals: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/oct/05/vast-animal-feed-crops-meat-needs-destroying-planet
The study found that “60 per cent of global biodiversity loss is down to meat-based diets”.
The UK food supply alone, it states, “is directly linked to the extinction of an estimated 33 species at home and abroad”.
I knew that mass animal farming was cruel, and I knew it was making us unhealthy, but I did not know that it was destroying our planet.
I started reading more and more about the environmental effects of animal farming, and the destruction it is causing to the Earth.
Becoming vegan is, I am now convinced, the best thing any individual can do to help our environment.
A recent Oxford University study backs this up here: https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/veganism-environmental-impact-planet-reduced-plant-based-diet-humans-study-a8378631.html
The report states how animal farming it is a major contributor to climate change, emitting more greenhouse gases than all the cars, planes and ships in the world put together.
And the gases in question are mostly methane and nitrous oxide, both of which are far more damaging than carbon dioxide.
Several recent studies have concluded that the only way the EU can achieve its emissions targets is through a substantial move away from a meat-based diet.
There is, however, some good news.
A further Oxford study published last year, modelled the effects on our health globally between now and 2050 of four different diets: meat-heavy, meat-light, vegetarian and vegan.
It concluded that if we ate less meat, five million deaths a year could be avoided by 2050; if we went vegetarian, the figure would be seven million; and a shift to veganism would save eight million lives a year.
So, yes, it would help a lot simply to eat less meat, but going vegan would not only be the best thing for the planet, it would also be the best thing for you too!
Despite this kind of evidence, some people worry that, even if it would extend their lives or help the planet, a vegan diet would make them feel worse.
Vegans are often stereotyped as having bad skin and being weak and lethargic.
I’m nearly a year into my new plant-based life, and this has not been my experience at all. As well as fixing my blood pressure issue, I have gained energy and vitality.
I’m much fitter than I was at 30, and I feel great. I’m missing sausages, bacon and eggs, but not as much as I thought I would.
Whichever way you look at it, for the sake of the planet, for the sake of animals, or for our own sake, veganism is an idea which is hard to argue against. (and yes, I get more than enough protein!)
So what do I eat?
I get asked this question a lot.
It can be daunting at first to come up with meal ideas without meat and dairy; but 10 months in, it has become a new normal, and there are so many amazing plant based food options out there, it really is quite easy – and super tasty!
There are also a lot of ‘fake meat’ options available now, which I have if I’m feeling lazy, but in general I try to stick to eating meals based on vegetables, fruit, beans, chickpeas, lentils, quinoa, wholegrain bread rice or pasta.
You can make endless fantastic meals from these ingredients, from fragrant curries to rich bolognaise, or a simple pizza or spicy bean burgers if you have a regular craving for ‘fast food’ like I do!
Some of my favourite recipes are at the bottom of the page, but please also check out some of these amazing Vegan Chefs on YouTube for some inspiration:
Avant Garde Vegan: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCF-ACPYNN0oXD4ihS5mbbmw
The happy pear: https://www.youtube.com/user/happypeargreystones
The Easy Vegan: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSC8SLylGt1v6lbrutdH9Bw
Spicy Bean burgers: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/user/682620/recipe/spicy-bean-burgers
Lentil and Chickpea Shepherds Pie: https://www.theeasyvegan.org/vegan-lentil-and-chickpea-shepherds-pie/
Vegan Omelette: https://www.theeasyvegan.org/simple-vegan-omelettes/
Thank you for taking the time to read this!
I have really enjoyed transitioning to a plant-based lifestyle, and personally have seen great results.
I fully appreciate this might be very difficult for a lot of people, but hopefully some of the info you’ve read might have inspired you to make some changes, even small things can have a big impact.
If you are interested in finding out more, please let me know.
In the meantime, I’ve listed some simple ideas below to help with some small changes that are easy to do:
Switching cows’ milk for one of the great plant-based alternatives – there are so many options available these days. Soy or Oat are my favourites.
Switching normal butter or margarine for a plant based alternative. Flora do a great one, and you won’t notice the difference.
Pick one or two nights a week where you ditch meat & dairy; it will force you to be creative with the veggies you have!
If you make homemade burgers, try switching the beef patty out for a bean burger. Simple, and super healthy too!