This post is a part of an ongoing series entitled MIP (Man In Progress).After my 25th Birthday I decided to improve three aspects of my life, my physical well-being, my romantic relationships, and my writing career. My philosophy is that a writer’s work and his life are irrevocably intertwined and in order to improve one, we inevitably have to improve the other.
Our story today begins with Xanthan Gum.
A few months back, I saw the ingredient “Xanthan Gum” on a food label on the back of one of my food packages and wondered out loud what it was.
“Wouldn’t it be cool,” I thought, “If someone did a documentary about what Xantham Gum was, and what all these other unpronounceable ingredients on the back of all my food package labels were?”
But just as that thought came to my mind, it passed, and I was distracted by something else.
To be honest with you, it never occurred to me to look up what Xanthan Gum was myself, and I never revisited the term “Xanthan Gum” until very recently when I learned that not only were various ingredients in our food suspiciously misleading—but that some of our food industries practices were actually downright evil.
The Perpetually Chubby Writer?
For most of my life, I’ve been thin. Yes, I am one lucky bastard. For a very long time I could literally eat whatever I wanted, and my body weight would not change.
It was not until after college, when I started gaining weight, that I realized that my ability to eat whatever I want and not gain weight was not normal.
The truth is that most people who do not watch what they eat, gain weight. Those people who do eat whatever they want and don’t gain weight, well, they have a freakishly good metabolism. Maybe its genetics, maybe it’s not, either way, most people’s bodies do not function in this way.
Now, recently, I shared with you that I worked with a nutritionist and trainer to lose 13 pounds. And it was great… for sometime.
For those of you who’ve been struggling with your weight your whole lives, you know very well what the phrase “for sometime” truly means and you know what I’m about to say next:
I gained all the weight back.
This puzzled me to no end: not because what I did to lose the weight didn’t work, it was the fact that I reverted back to all my old bad habits—habits that I knew would make me regain all the weight.
It’s not that I kept exercising and kept eating healthier and just rebounded randomly, it was that I stopped exercising and stopped eating healthy altogether, knowing what would happen as a result.
I was chubby again but it’s not because I didn’t know how it happened. I knew exactly how it happened. And I had let it all happen anyway.
So what happened? What went wrong?
First of all, I’m learning that losing weight and keeping that weight off are two very separate and distinct skills. Losing the weight can be a tremendous endeavor for many of us, but we do not end the journey there: we have to keep that weight off the rest of our lives.
Losing the weight initially is its own laborious, exhaustive feat of mental will and physical might but having to repeat the process every single day of our lives—well that’s a whole other enchilada. (Mmmm… enchiladas. Dammit!)
On my journey to become more physically healthy, I am learning that just losing weight for weight’s sake is just not enough to change you for your whole lifetime—the most it will do for you is shift you for a few months.
So, I am learning that a far much more holistic approach is needed. What I am talking about is an extreme and radical way of viewing food must be introduced in order for us to not only lose the weight—but keep it off.
I knew that what had gone wrong wasn’t that diet and exercise had failed me, I knew that what went wrong was that my reasons for losing weight were simply not motivating me enough.
I needed a bigger, more far-reaching reason to live a healthier lifestyle—a reason that would not just make me lose the weight for a few months, but keep it off for the rest of my life.
So, through some research and “Clockwork Orange”-type binging of no-holds-barred truth-telling documentaries about food, I have uncovered the motivation I was looking for.
And then some.
What I discovered was not pretty.
In fact, it was shocking, disgusting, horrifying, upsetting, and downright outrageous.
After all my research I have concluded that we have seriously been taken advantage of and abused by various players in the food industry and that our weight problems are far more complex than just our own efforts to lose weight. What we are experiencing is an unhealthy and greedy systemic hijacking of the way we consume food.
The obesity epidemic is a symptom of a much larger problem that is on par with global warming and the depletion of our natural resources.
“Ollin, you’re starting to sound like Morgan Freeman in ‘Deep Impact.’ Is an asteroid gonna hit earth?”
No. But if am starting to sound dramatic and foreboding, that’s because this issue deserves it.
In a nutshell, through my research, here is what I uncovered:
What we are eating is poisoning us physically by increasing our risk of contracting diet-related diseases, it is making us more tired, it is making us more emotionally sick, it is making us unconscious addicts, it is making us spiritually sick by perpetuating immoral practices against other living beings (including humans), it is making us psychologically sick by affecting our confidence and self-esteem, and it is slowly destroying our natural environment, making the way we eat on a daily basis unsustainable in the long run.
Yes, this is as much of an “inconvenient truth” as climate change was back when Al Gore raised himself on that infamous fork lift and told us about the melting polar ice caps in that drab, Ben Stein-like voice.
Let’s call it an “An Inconvenient Cookie.”
9 Reasons I’m Becoming Vegan (And Why You Should Seriously Consider It, Too.”)
The reasons why I am changing my diet to a plant-based only, or vegan diet, are based upon my individual research.
I, myself, am no expert. Nor do I pretend to be one.
I do not, and do not even recommend, that you take everything I say at face value. The reason I am sharing all this information is because I hope that it will inspire you to do your own research into the food you are eating and feeding your family. Feel free to come to your own conclusions about what the research and data says. Even if you are inspired to prove me wrong.
Most importantly: I also follow the rule of listening to my body. My body is my best judge as to what is good for me and what it isn’t. I also find that it will tell me what is good for me if I pay attention to what I feel after I eat my food. I recommend you do the same, whatever diet you choose to follow.
At last, here are the reasons why I’m trying to be vegan (and why you should consider it, too):
1. Animal Protein is bad for you
The food we eat on a daily basis is making us sick.
It doesn’t matter whether it is “organic,” “grass fed,” “all-natural,” or “cage-free.” It is the animal protein itself that is not good for us. Studies have shown that it leads to cancers, diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease in the long-term. The more animal protein you eat, the more likely you are to get these diseases.
2. Animals are being tortured, enslaved, abused, and nearly forced into extinction to produce meat and other animal products for the human population
The food we eat is making us immoral.
“Cage-free,” “humane,” no matter what the label says—just don’t believe it. If you are going to rely on those labels then call up the companies themselves and find out what it really means when it says “cage-free.” Chances are these “cage-free” animals are not being raised in that much better conditions than other animals being raised for mass consumption. The truth is that chickens are being pumped with hormones to make their breasts so large they can’t even stand up straight. Cows are being forced to be perpetually impregnated to make the milk you drink. Fish are being farmed to near extinction to help meet global demand. The unfortunate thing is that the meat and dairy industries simply do not care about the animals they are killing, nor do they care about our personal health: they only care about profit.
Think about it: the suffering these animals go through by being enslaved and slaughtered is being consumed by you on a daily basis. Do you really think that this has no effect on your spiritual well-being? Even if you do not think so, it is good to test it out. I have for myself tested this out and I have found that this is so for me.
I know: I’m just like you. At first I, too, wanted to look away and force myself to be ignorant about the pain these animals went through. Meat and cheese were just too delicious to give up, I thought. But, after some time, my conscience simply couldn’t let me do that any longer.
I guarantee you that if you look at those videos of animals being slaughtered yourself, you couldn’t either. Even if you want to say: “I know how they are treated—but I still don’t want to see it.” Even if you say that, make yourself see it anyway. See their pain, see their screams and cries, their anxiety, their fear, the terror in their eyes. Raise your level of awareness: you and the animals you eat deserve this at least.
3. Animal products are bad for the environment
The food we eat is harming our environment.
Far worse than oil and gas, the production of meat and dairy is actually one of the leading causes of climate change. How is this so?
Well, it’s because of cow farts.
No joke: animals raised for meat consumption release enormous amounts of gas and waste that has to go somewhere. Well, it does go somewhere: the gas goes into the environment increasing CO2 levels making the earth sick and the waste gets into our other food and ground water making us sick. All the news stories about E-coli in everything from yogurt, to meat, to even spinach is the result of the massive amount of cow and pork waste that has reached such large proportions that it is contaminating our other foods and our ground water.
Added to that: massive amounts of the Amazon rainforest is being destroyed to make room not for more freeways and gasoline stations: but for animal grazing. You would help reverse climate change simply by eating less meat than by buying a hybrid car.
4. Soda Companies, Sugar Companies, and the Meat and Diary Industries have gotten so powerful, that they have even got the government to declare pizza a vegetable and hide the true potency of all those added sugars to our food
The food we are eating is being sold to us as if it’s good and healthy for us—when it is anything but.
Our increasing struggle with weight as a culture is no coincidence: it has been engineered by 3 big players: Big Soda, Big Sugar, and the Big Meat and Dairy industries. The companies that produce most sodas, sugary drinks and snacks, and the animal food we eat are incredibly powerful and exert great influence in our government. For instance: the reason why Congress recently declared pizza a vegetable was to ensure that our children would still be served pizza at schools, and so that this industry could still turn a profit and keep their customer base.
This is soooooo wrong.
(As I write this post, the news is now reporting that Frito-Lay has convinced schools to denote Red Hot Cheetos as a “healthy snack.” Ugh. Have they no shame?)
Secondly, the reason that so many of us are focused on losing calories instead of avoiding all the added sugars we are consuming in the food we buy is entirely due to Big Sugar and Big Soda. For instance, a cup of almonds and a cup of soda may contain the same amount of calories, but the soda will have so much more sugar per calorie, ensuring you will get fatter than if you ate that cup of almonds made up of the same amount of calories.
Big Soda and Big Sugar don’t want you to know this: they want you to keep focused on losing calories. This is what our current fitness system is based on, and is probably the reason why so many of us just don’t lose the weight even when we exercise more and watch our calories.
5. We’re all addicts
The food we eat is making us psychologically sick.
The Sugar, Soda, Meat and Diary industries have all managed to infiltrate our minds, our communities, and our culture with such ferocity and cleverness that meat, dairy, soda and sugar are so hyper-prevalent that any attempt at avoiding these foods is a Herculean task even for the most “strong-willed” among us. Not only that, but they’ve made it so these foods are highly addictive.
The truth is that overweight people are not “weak-willed:” we are addicts. And gaining weight back after you’ve lost it is not a sign of “weak willpower:” it’s an addict’s relapse. Just like an alcoholic might relapse and start drinking again, even after being sober for months, and even though he knows alcohol is slowly killing him, so does a food-addict revert to bad habits even though he knows this habit is bad and slowly killing him.
We actually can’t help it: even if we know the food we eat is bad for us, we still eat it, and thus, this is why many of us end up re-gaining the weight after any successful diet.
We’re like a heroin addict trying to quit the drug but who is still bombarded by heroin products, advertisements for heroin, and surrounded by other heroin addicts and a heroin-addict-friendly culture everywhere he goes.
In that environment, even the most strong-willed heroin addict would likely go right back to ingesting heroin after only a few months. Wouldn’t you in such a situation?
So it is with people addicted to unhealthy foods.
And as if that wasn’t all: it gets worse:
6. There is more sugar in our food than you think
The food we eat is not what we think it is.
Remember Xanthan Gum, the strange word on the back of one of my food’s packages that started this whole story?
Well, through my research I finally learned what it was: and it turns out that Xanthan Gum is just another form of high fructose corn syrup: which you may already know is a sweetener derived from corn. If you didn’t know, high fructose corn syrup becomes sugar in the body, so Xanthan Gum really is just a another fancy word for MORE FRAKKIN’ SUGAR!!!!
(Dammit! This is getting more scandalous than the entire first season of Empire. Luscious Lyon: you are one crazy bastard.)
As we know, too much sugar in our food is what leads to weight gain, much more than calorie intake. This is because the way your body deals with sugar is that it turns it into more fat. This is why we all struggle so much with weight nowadays: not only does our food have added sugars, but they also have OTHER UNDENOTED added sugars that we can’t see because they are labeled by these other names like “Xantham Gum.” In fact, most of the other unrecognizable names we find on the back of food labels are just different variations of high fructose corn syrup. THEY ARE JUST DIFFERENT NAMES FOR SUGAR—WHICH IS JUST ANOTHER WAY TO SAY “FAT.”
And it doesn’t matter if the food is labeled “Diet” “Low-fat” or even “Non-fat.” Why? Because when the food industry takes out the fat from the food, all they do is replace it with—you guessed it—MORE MOTHER-FRAKKIN’ SUGAR!!! Which is why buying “diet” products doesn’t really help you lose weight, either.
7. A whole foods, plant-based diet with minimally processed foods increases health and longevity
A vegan diet improves health and longevity.
Study after study shows that eating more plant-based foods and avoiding meat, dairy, eggs and processed foods helps people lose weight, avoid contracting major diseases like heart disease, cancer, hypertension and diabetes. Also, studies and research have shown that people with vegan and vegetarian diets live longer, have better sleep, better skin, and even better sex lives.
8. A Plant-based diet helps you lose weight because it contains less added sugars
A vegan diet is honest and straightforward.
The reason vegans lose weight and feel healthier is because there is no added sugars in a plant-based diet: meaning more weight is lost.
9. Being vegan is good for the environment by decreasing animal waste and gas, it discourages the immoral practices of the meat and dairy industry by NOT supporting those industries, and, finally, it reduces the emotional distress and pain felt by the animals being killed for their meat, and of the humans who abuse and slaughter these animals.
Deep Impact 2: Asteroid Made of Broccoli and Carrots Falls To Earth
In the end, through all my research, I realized that the best diet for me that will be good for my physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and communal health is a plant-based diet with minimally processed foods.
That is a vegan diet.
I have been on this diet for a week now, and I am amazed at how much more energy I have, how much more peaceful and alive I feel, how much more healthy I feel, and how much better my creativity is because my mind is so much clearer and sharper.
In about a month, I’ll write about some tips about how to become a vegan, but for now I just wanted to share with you all the reasons I have found for moving to a plant-based diet.
If you’re a vegan or have tried being a vegan before, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.
In the meantime, feel free to dig deeper into the “Inconvenient Cookie” issue and make up your own mind about the food you eat.
much vegan love,
Today’s Courage Exercise
Do your own research: learn about what you put in your mouth and how it affects your body. Learn about where this food comes from and how it’s prepared. Read the food labels on the back of every product you buy and look up what all those hard-to-pronounce ingredients really are. (For instance: do you really want Xanthan Gum in your body?)
You have every right to know how your food is prepared, what’s in your food and whether it’s good for you. After that, it is your choice whether you want to keep eating it.
Finally, watch documentaries like Food, Inc., Vegucated, Forks Over Knives (all now playing on Netflix) and Fed Up.
Or read books like Quantum Wellness, The China Study or The Omnivore’s Dilemma.
Maybe this will start to get you more motivated to change your eating lifestyle and not just lose the pounds, but keep them off for life.
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