I never wanted to become “that guy,” or at least for the reasons I have become “that guy.” In 2012 I became a vegan – probably one of the most hated sects of the 21st century – and later a Christian – arguably the second; becoming “that guy.”
It’s a far cry from my past vision of fame and fortune, but an honest journey none the less. I was a heavy smoker in my late teens, and had no concept of good nutrition. It wasn’t until later that I became aware of the impact of a terrible diet and a lack of exercise. It began with a lack of motivation, then energy and constantly being lethargic.
After doing a bit of research I found an undiscovered link between nutrition and overall health, who knew? What first began with making wiser choices, moved on to replacing one of my meals with a smoothie, then on to adding juices to my diet, later to becoming a vegetarian, which then led itself to veganism. It was a difficult yet rapid journey.
Cornish nutritionist Latoyah Wilcock believes that if a vegan diet is done responsibly, there is no reason for a vegan to be at a disadvantage to a meat eater. In fact studies have shown that meat and dairy could be a contributing factor to increased risk of cancer and heart disease. However, Frances Paull – another Cornwall based nutritionist – explains to me that the primary concern for a vegan diet is their intake of B vitamins: “They are all notoriously difficult to find if you don’t eat meat. B12 for example is in liver, kidneys, mackerel, sardines, you will find a little bit in soya milk, a little bit in cheese, a little bit in marmite, and a little bit in yogurt.”
“Doing vegan properly”
During my time as a vegan I experimented with fasting. Fasting is a controversial and challenging discipline which promises great benefits to your health. A lifetime of three meals a day and an overworked digestive tract, means a great deal of junk gets lodged in the walls of your intestines. This causes havoc on your immune system as your body fights the dangerous bacteria growing on trapped rotting foods; fasting helps to tackle this problem. By allowing your body a break from digesting, it gives the body time to heal and tackle troubles not only in the intestines but other areas of the body also.
Fasting was an interesting experience, but unless you’re willing to devote yourself to an unconventional lifestyle of solitude for days on end for the sake of good health, it’s no good. It was during this time when I really felt the weight of not “doing vegan properly”. I recognised that though this way of life was supposed to be healthier, I still didn’t have the success I expected to. I actually felt weaker than I did as a meat eater.
By no means am I saying that you can’t be fit and healthy as a vegan, I know many people who have successfully pulled it off with great results. Sebastian, a vegan pornstar I interviewed in 2015, made it very clear that he attributes his strength and dexterity to his plant based diet, stating that he feels the best he has ever felt in his adult life.
I went through phases of commitment, alternating between being a vegan, vegetarian and meat eater. Andy, a colleague of mine and a fellow health enthusiast and vegan supporter, also found it hard to fully commit to the diet – choosing to instead identify himself as “plant based” as opposed to “vegan”.
Andy explained to me that much like myself, he feels that the vegan diet is great and would one day return to it himself: “There is no denying that it’s the right way to live, just do your research. It was challenging for me because I have a girlfriend and son, and at the moment my life has been a bit manic; but once I get things in order I will be going back to a plant based diet again.”
As challenging as the diet is, I believe that if you are disciplined and dedicated enough it is the broadest one step a person can take towards better health. I believe that my negative experience with the diet was more the result of poor preparation and an incongruent lifestyle, then a faulty practice. Feeling weak as a vegan because you’re not eating enough, is similar to becoming fat as a meat eater if you eat too many burgers – if you’re not on the ball it’s going to happen
“Like a hell-bent hipster”
Making the move from meat eater to plant based also helps in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. An Oxford University study, published in the journal Climatic Change, shows that meat-eaters are responsible for almost twice as many dietary greenhouse-gas emissions per day as vegetarians and about two and a half times as many as vegans.
According to a poll funded by the Vegan Society, as of 2016 the number of Vegans in Britain had increased by more than 360% since 2006. It’s believed that the trend has been driven by growing access to knowledge regarding the health benefits of the diet.
So why did I quit? Well much the same way as I struggle to be a squeaky clean Christian, I also struggle to be a faithful vegan. An unconventional lifestyle coupled with 20 years of unadulterated animal consumption, has made the step back to meat eater all too easy to take. Like most people, I can quite easily overlook some of the nasty goings on in the world if it means an easier more enjoyable lifestyle for myself – as ashamed as I am to say it.
However, I know that one day “that guy” will be back. As the late nights and dirty hangovers which encompass an ungodly number of days on earth as a student reduce; as I take the well-established western steps of maturity to becoming a respectable working adult; the day will come when, like a hell-bent hipster, the knives will be launched out the window and only the forks left on the table for me.