You may remember that I wrote an article a few weeks back sharing my reasons for eating a whole-food plant based diet.
The response was pretty positive, and the article was featured on the Teen VGN Blog, so thanks for that!
One thing you may have noticed in that article, and in others, is that I usually refrain from using the term ‘vegan diet’. In the grand scheme of things it doesn’t really matter, but I thought I would just clear things up.
Yes, the diet I eat is vegan, but I thought I’d explain today why I lean towards describing it as ‘whole-food plant based’. It’s mainly to do with health implications and accessibility, which I’ll expand on hopefully in a non-preachy, non-high-horsey sort of way…
MY WHOLE-FOOD PLANT BASED DIET
Just to recap, my diet consists primarily of whole, plant foods.
Fresh fruits and veg, organic if possible; with some wholegrains, legumes, nuts and seeds thrown in as well. For the most part, I stay away processed foods. And at the moment I don’t eat anything that comes from an animal, as I’m pretty sure you can get the majority of the benefits found in animal products, via plants.
As I mentioned previously, I began experimenting with this way of eating in order to be healthier, and to become a better athlete.
Today I’m much more aware of the ethical and environmental impacts of my food choices, but originally I was in it for selfish reasons.
For those of you who might be unsure, a vegan is someone who doesn’t consume any animal products – no meat, dairy, eggs, or honey. Nothing at all that comes from an animal. They also don’t wear leather, fur, and wool
in some cases.
Don’t get me wrong, I think the vegan movement is great.
Any lifestyle and dietary choice that eliminates suffering and significantly reduces our impact on the planet is a big step in the right direction. I have no beef with anyone who is in it just for the ethical and environmental reasons.
My main concern however, coming from a health and performance standpoint; is that a vegan diet doesn’t necessarily have to be one that promotes lasting wellness.
French fries, oils, fake meats, oreos, fizzy drinks – these are all vegan friendly foods. You could base your entire diet on them, chugging down all the oils and salt you want and never touching a fruit or veg, and still proudly claim to eat a vegan diet. But it doesn’t mean you’re gonna be healthy, or a better athlete. That’s a bit of an extreme example, but you get the jist.
Some of the foods mentioned above can be great transition foods on the path to a plant based diet, but some vegans just get stuck on them, and convince themselves that they’re still healthy because they’re not eating any animals.
And this is where the danger lies. When the message spreads that any vegan diet is healthy, we could potentially end up with a lot of nutrient deficient people munching on oreos and fries and believing it’s good for them.
Veganism is all about compassion. But I think to be truly compassionate, you should show compassion towards your self, as well as the other species you’re protecting. This includes eating a diet that will nourish your body, and give you the best chance of being healthy.
Compassion is also about caring for the needs of other humans, not just yourself and other species. Whilst you could argue that eating a junk food vegan diet is humane in that no animals are harmed from it; what about the factory workers who slave away for long hours in unhealthy conditions to make your processed foods?
For compassion towards yourself and all living beings, you could choose a whole-food plant based diet, absent of processed foods, and animal products too. And go local and organic whenever you can.
It’s health promoting, and it just so happens that it can fall under the category vegan as well (in a dietary sense). In this case, you could be a very healthy vegan, and still contribute towards the ethical and environmental causes too.
My other slight issue with using the term vegan to describe the way I eat, is the appeal to the average person.
I really wish it wasn’t the case, but for many people the word vegan conjures up the image of an unhealthy stereotype – the elitist, tofurky eating activist throwing paint on old people wearing fur. This negative connotation signifies the extreme – both in behaviour and dietary choices.
Whether this image is generated by media portrayal or false beliefs, unfortunately I think it sometimes turns the average person off finding more about the vegan or plant based diet.
They believe it’s like a a cult, or just another crazy fad. Veganism is quickly dismissed, and the person never gets the chance to find more about the health or performance benefits that are possible if it’s done the right way. They don’t get to see that eating a plant based diet can be just as easy as it is delicious.
If something seems hard or out of reach, the average person is less likely to conform. Most people respond better to a gradual change and a bit of flexibility, which can be done with a plant based diet; whereas the word vegan signifies a big shift and strict rules. They immediately start to think of the things they cannot eat.
If you instead follow a whole food plant based diet, you are defining your eating habits by what you do eat, rather than what you choose not to. To me it just sounds more accessible, and that’s the key to helping people establish healthy habits and make lasting changes.
I still use the ‘v word’ from time to time out of convenience and habit. However, because the food we eat has such a powerful impact on our health, we may need to be careful not to mix our terms too much.
There’s already enough confusion in the world of nutrition, and it turns people off. If it seems too hard or too complicated, they will continue to settle with what they already know, and get no closer to reaching their health goals.
I want to make nutrition as clear and accessible as possible, so the maximum number of people can benefit and realise their full health potential.
Yes my diet is vegan, I don’t eat anything that comes from an animal; but I mainly eat whole foods. I eat lots of plants. I do it because it’s healthy and I enjoy it, and it’s simple to start implementing, whatever stage of the journey you’re at. Maybe it could work for you too?
What’s your view on the whole-food plant based / vegan debate? Does it matter? Could you benefit from including more whole plant foods in your diet?
EDIT: Less than a year on from writing this article, things have changed quite a bit. Both my personal views, and the big picture.
You may have noticed lately on the blog, I’m pretty much using the terms vegan and plant based interchangeably. There’s a few reasons why.
It’s partly because I feel much more connected to the food I eat. It’s less about me now, and a bit more about how my choices can make a difference on a larger scale. The sustainability and ethical implications of my food choices have become increasingly important, just as much so now as health and performance. I’m much more about the vegan lifestyle, and I’m gradually phasing out any animal products altogether, including clothes and bathroom products.
Looking at the big picture, the vegan movement has gathered so much speed over the past year. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like it’s becoming much more mainstream, which is awesome to see. I think the word vegan is less associated with that negative stereotype, and more people are aware of what it means. There’s less stigma attached to it, and I think it’s less off putting than it was just a few months ago.
So yeah, that’s where I’m at right now. The article above still holds true though to some degree. I still maintain though that although being vegan is a great choice, being a healthy one is even better, for everyone. But I think it’s easy to get caught up in the details and minutia.
[section background_image=”https://www.heromovement.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/HERO-MOVEMENT-HERO-ACADEMY-BACKGROUND-compressor.png” text_color=”FFFFFF” background_color=”#3F3F3F”]
JOIN THE MOVEMENT
AT THE HERO ACADEMY
Resources to help you eat, move & live better. Healthy eating plans, strength and mobility workouts, habit changing guides, giveaways and much more.
[button text=”GET FREE ACCESS TODAY” url=”https://www.heromovement.net/hero-academy/” background_color=”#d94848″ text_color=”#ffffff” style=”lt_flat” size=”large” icon=”” open_new_window=”true” rounded=”true”]