Aloha friends! And I want to start off by apologising for taking so long to write this third post about Challenge 22.
It’s been a roller coaster of a few months and it is far from being over, but more on that when things will become more concrete for me.
In the meantime, I’d like to finally pay my due and update you all on how the challenge ended for me. If you want to know why I tried or how the first days went, please check out my previous posts, Part 1 and Part 2.
Vegan English Breakfast
Truth is: Veganism is hard AF and taking the challenge made me realise I needed to make a choice between taking the risk of getting seriously unhealthy to save animals, or doing my small part to make a difference without taking it too far and putting my body at risk. So I’d like to put aside the fact that it was a lot of fun experimenting with new ways to cook food and playing around with recipes, to focus on the more health-related aspect of this experiment. Here are my learnings, I hope you find them useful for your own journey…
Learning #1: if you want to be a Vegan, then you have to be in the right conditions to do so. And by that, I mean the right environment. Trying to become a Vegan in November was probably a very good idea as it made me understand just how hard it is to cope with the lack of sun and warmth when your protein intake has changed from a bit of animal to fully plant based. The effects weren’t felt on the physical level for me – i.e. I didn’t get a decrease in muscle mass – but rather on the mental level. I have no idea how both are linked, but let’s put it this way: I was frustrated and depressed and kept thinking about eggs and fish. Which leads me to my next point.
Learning #2: your body is extremely wise and knows what you need to function properly. It’s no coincidence that I kept thinking about eggs and fish. I have vitamin D and Omega deficiencies because of where I live, up in the north of Europe. I read recently that in the whole month of January 2018, the cumulated hours of sun in London represented only 16 hours! To give you an idea, a whole month is on average 730 hours long. This literally means that 98% of the month was spent without sufficient light. And the body needs sunshine to produce Vitamin D. As for Omega, they are naturally deficient in the body and need to be sourced through food. So essentially, my body was telling me that it needed Vitamin D and Fatty Acids to function properly. And these needs manifested as an obsession for fish and eggs in my head. So coming back to my first point, it became quite clear to me that it’s much easier to become Vegan when living in sunny Sydney than rainy London.
Veggie Noodle Soup
Learning #3: mother nature knows very well what she is doing and makes sure to provide us with the food that we need depending on our geographic location on earth. I am increasingly becoming a firm believer in locally produced, organic goods. I believe that in certain areas of the earth, human beings need certain plant products to survive, and mother nature delivers those to us. That is why we have seasonal veggies. To me, the same goes for animal produce. In the north pole, humans hunt and eat fatty fish, because otherwise they would die from lack of pretty much anything else except root plants. They would develop deficiencies and wouldn’t survive. It is the same for any other human being on earth.
Lesson #4: It is fine to eat animal products, but just make sure to do it respectfully for your body. There is only a certain amount of protein that the body needs per day. And that amount is extremely low. In the Western world. we tend to eat way too much meat and that is in no small part to blame on the food industry and some very well thought-out marketing. But as I mentioned in learning #2, our bodies are very wise and they know just how much we really need. This is why Challenge 22 was so good for me. It helped my body to reset to zero and start over, with new basics for how much I really need. Reintroducing meat in my diet, I realised just how little I needed to feel good, and just how quickly my body rejects it (indigestion) if I eat too much of it. Now I know better than to force feed my body with protein all day long. My digestive system is like new and my energy levels have never been higher. I’ve not lost any of my muscle mass, I am leaner and my skin glows much more than it did before. Learn to really listen to your body.
Ratatouille with Rice
Lesson #5: It is fine to eat animal products, but just make sure to do it respectfully for the environment. Just because I am backing up the concept of eating animal protein doesn’t mean you will find me at the local supermarket buying hormone-infused chicken thighs. I’ve seen the documentaries, I know how these poor things get treated and under no circumstances am I to be ok with that. Not to mention, the environmental impact of mass farming on deforestation, ocean pollutions and so on. I have therefore made the very conscious choice to eat meat two meals per week MAXIMUM (sometimes 1 and sometimes even 0) and I source my meat from this one local farmer whom I know very well and who grows his animals “organically” i.e only with the grass from his own field, the fruit from his own trees etc… and who lets his animals run freely throughout their entire life. There is no disrespect and I know so by the incredible taste of his produce. As for fish, I don’t go beyond twice a week either and only buy wild. At the end of the day, I just listen to my body and what it is telling me, because it knows better. Some weeks it won’t crave any form of animal protein whatsoever, some weeks it will ask me for eggs. And I will oblige, again, with ethically sourced products.
Lesson #6: Vegan protein substitutes are in my opinion, absolute poison. I went through a rather exhaustive list and did not find one powder that didn’t have either excess sugar or excess chemicals that I’ve never heard of. Not only do I not want to increase my chances of developing a weird cancer from all the chemicals, but I am also not sure how environmentally respectful it is to produce these powders either. So really, there is no ideal solution to the problem of environmental protection. Which brings me to my last point.
Lesson #7: Veganism is about making an informed choice. I am all for animal protection if it doesn’t mean killing myself in the process. I am a firm believer that true balance is only found if every ingredient is added in moderation. But unfortunately it is our burden as humans to always want more and to always reach out for the extremes. Veganism / carnivorism are no exceptions to this very unfortunate rule.
Sweet Potato Fries with Vegan Mayonnaise
I want to say a big thank you to the Challenge 22 organisers for a great experience digging more into myself and learning about my body and my coping mechanism. I feel I know myself so much better after this and I have adapted my diet in a way that suits me perfectly for this season of my life, which wouldn’t have been achieved so meticulously without the challenge. This has also sparked my curiosity and resulted in my new interest in Ayurvedic dietary practices. I am starting to teach myself about these principles and will be sharing more of my journey on this platform, for those who are interested.
Until then, I hand the choice of health and protection over to you. What do you want to do? Choose wisely. Go.