If you had told me a few years ago that I would be eating a vegan diet in the future I would have laughed. In my eyes vegans were tie-dye-wearing, tree hugging hippies. Not that’s there is anything wrong with any of those things …just that it wasn’t me!
My change wasn’t overnight like some people’s… Mine was very gradual. It happened over a few years as I informed myself about nutrition and health. Below I have outlined my reasons for going plant-based in the form of a timeline of my journey from carnivore to herbivore.
Meat, dairy and cancer
It started with my father reading The China Study around four years ago. This was the largest study ever done on nutrition and it showed that animal protein promotes the growth of cancer. My father, who has had numerous skin cancer patches removed, decided to go more plant-based in his choices after this and recommended I did the same thing. Having had a throat cancer scare myself, a few years back, I took his advice seriously.
This study made for very compelling reading, however all nutritional studies only show probabilities and can almost never assert any findings for ‘sure’. Amongst other issues, this is principally because:
- people often lie about what they eat; and
- there can be so many other external influences on the results that are found.
I also started to read more studies on the dangers of milk in promoting the growth of cancer. Milk is essentially a mega powered, growth hormone designed to grow a 60 pound calf to a 580kg cow in just a few months so as you can imagine it plays havoc with cells in our body!
After reading the study and doing some further investigation into the health impact of milk, I cut out milk totally and cut down the amount of meat I ate.
My own chronic illness
In 2013 I was diagnosed with PoTS. A chronic illness that affects your blood pressure and causes headaches, fatigue, nausea, fainting and dizziness.
As you may have seen from my Instagram page (@kedavison), I am a keen follower of the chef Deliciously Ella, who also had this condition. She found that excluding, meat, dairy and refined sugar/grains had helped her.
At the same time, I was having trouble with some major joint pain and digestive issues so my doctor suggested that I excluded any foods that had potentially high toxic loads, such as processed foods or foods containing antibiotics and hormones, and items that were harder to digest such as meat and dairy. I was also seeing another doctor about my acne and she had recommended I cut out dairy as she said it was often related to acne.
So, then I tried to eat less refined/processed foods and went back to being mostly plant based (but still ate eggs). I had better digestion almost straight away. In fact, all of my stomach issues improved. I also cut out cheese and my skin condition cleared up in just over a week. I did however still eat some animal products every week but I struggled to digest it and invariably felt unwell afterwards.
In 2015 I watched Cowspiracy, which is all about the sustainability of the animal industry. It is a very good film that puts the facts in a clear way, painting a compelling picture that our current eating habits are unsustainable for the planet. My favourite fact was that just to make a single burger patty we use 660 gallons of water which is the equivalent water use of showering for two months!
The meat and dairy industry uses one-third of earth’s freshwater supplies. In a world where charities like Wateraid are desperately trying to enable access to safe, clean water for many people, and where wars are being waged over access to water sources, the callousness of our meat eating habits is stunning.
Moreover, the huge share of crops that are grown to rear animals for meat, rather than feeding humans, despite the continued existence of starvation in some parts of the world, is a terrible injustice. The realisation that people in the world are literally starving just so that I could eat meat made me reflect a lot on my habits.
Animal agriculture is also responsible for 91% of the amazon destruction, both for land for animal grazing and for the growth of soybeans which act as their main feed supply.
It is now a commonly known fact that the meat industry is worse for global warming than cars.
Although this was strong evidence against eating meat I felt that going vegan wouldn’t make much difference, so I was mostly plant based but I still sometimes ended up drifting back over to the world of bacon, fillet steaks and cheesy pizzas.
After a year of flirting with living a vegan life, a vegan friend of mine started to open my eyes to the horror that we inflict on animals in order to eat them.
At this point I had never had a special affinity with animals and would not have labelled myself an “animal lover”, however two videos opened my eyes to the suffering that we inflict upon animals for the sake of meat eating. Specifically, after watching Earthlings and Dairy is Scary on YouTube it became quite apparent that what we are doing to animals is just wrong, whether you’re an animal lover or not.
I don’t think anyone actively supports killing animals in slaughter houses. But most of us, including myself for the vast majority of my life, simply ignore that unpleasant reality. Not only are we killing a sentient being that wants to live, but we are killing them so early in their lives and often keeping them in horrific conditions for their vastly shortened life. The majority of animals we eat live only for a few months despite them having a natural life spans of 8-20 years. In terms of quality of life, the average reared chicken will never see the light of day, and even if they are called “free range” it only means they have the ‘space of an ipad to move around in.
When my husband brought his dog, Megan, into my life I started to have much greater compassion for animals. I adored her and I found it very hard to imagine her suffer as some of these animals do. Let’s not forget pigs are cleverer than dogs.
Many often ask me… where do you draw the line? Plants are living beings too.
I think it is quite simple really. The line should be drawn when a being has an emotional reaction to pain and suffering. All living things have a physical reaction to pain or fatality, as even single cell bacteria will try to adapt and survive when threatened but it is not emotional; they are not upset or distressed by it. Interestingly insects do not have an emotional response to pain as they will not feel upset about it later as humans and animals can.
After fully understanding what animals went through I found I no longer had much enjoyment from eating any meat. I knew it was wrong and thought my taste buds were not worth the life and suffering of an animal. I started spending time to find replacements for all the things I enjoyed as animal products, such as pizzas, burgers and ice cream. To my shock many of them were as good, if not better. I couldn’t help asking myself why I had not tried them before?
The animal industry uses numerous toxins in growing farmed animals. Animals are often injected with antibiotics as a prophylactic measure; i.e. to prevent disease rather than just as a cure when a disease breaks out.
They are also given high doses of hormones to increase their growth which when ingested by us has a significant effect on our mental and physical wellbeing.
Fish are also now being closely linked to heavy metal toxicity in humans. This can cause all sorts of problems for us such as digestive issues, mental disturbances, nausea and vomiting.
Science has also shown us that when we are stressed we release harmful chemicals into our blood, which often lodge in our muscles. These harmful chemicals are thought to cause disease and illness. Stress is one of the biggest killers. So, I can only imagine how toxic it is to not only have our own stress in our body but the stress hormones from the animals we eat which have just gone through the horror of the slaughter house.
At this point I started getting very interested in nutrition. Was my diet really the healthiest? Was I missing out on anything with a plant-based diet?
In 2016 I enrolled on a Nutrition and health course at Wageningen
University in the Netherlands, a leading institution on food and nutrition.
For more on vegan nutrition and what I learned on this course, please check out my blog post titled, Is Vegan healthy? The facts.
This course deepened my understanding of nutrition and what combination of foods we need. One of the most interesting things I learnt was that in the developed world one in two people suffer from heart disease in later life. Heart disease is directly related to too much cholesterol in the blood. Cholesterol is only found in animal products, with the highest levels found in eggs.
It was at this point I stopped cooking with eggs totally.
My concerns for protein and missing vitamins
The most interesting thing I learnt from studying was how little we actually know and how much contradicting information there is out there. It is also important to understand that everybody is different and what works for some won’t necessarily work for everyone.
However through the course I did learn of numerous benefits of a plant based diet and that my greatest concerns with being a vegan, such as lack of protein, were really not major issues. A lot of people are worried about protein intake on a plant-based diet but protein deficiency is extremely rare and many plant based foods that are very high in protein (including; wheat, broccoli, soya, lentils, quinoa, nuts and beans) so this really should not be a concern. Protein deficiency is usually only ever found in children in developing countries or people suffering with anorexia and in both cases, they are typically deficient of other macronutrients too.
I was, however, made aware of other potential deficiencies in a vegan diet, namely Omega 3 and B12.
After doing the maths, it seemed that to receive adequate amounts of Omega 3 and B12 I would have to eat around two portions (about the size of my fist) of lean white meat and one portion of oily fish per week.
I tried doing this, but I wasn’t happy because I knew that with the much needed B12 and Omega 3 came unhealthy cholesterol, high levels of salt, toxins and a great deal of animal suffering.
So… I looked into supplements.
I now take sublingual B12 every few days and I found some wonderful algae-based omega 3 pills which I now take weekly. I also found out that certain foods are fortified with B12 such a coconut milk and nutritional yeast (which vegans often use thanks to its cheesy flavour).
So, in 2017 I am now fully plant based in my meals.
It is almost impossible to know for sure if a plant based diet is truly the healthiest option available … but what I can be sure of is that when I have cut out the processed foods and animal products I feel so much better! It is also clear that plant-based diet is the kindest and most compassionate way to us all to eat.
I do understand that it is not always easy to eat fully plant based …. especially when eating out. But if we could all try to start cooking more plant-based meals at home and buying fewer animal products in our weekly shops it would be a huge step forward for our personal health, the environment and the lives of countless animals.
You may have already noticed a movement is happening. More and more people are interested in plant-based foods. There is clearly a reason for this. A plant-based diet is:
- More sustainable for the planet
- Better for your health
- Kinder for the animals
- And a big step towards relieving world hunger, drought.
The strangest thing with my journey in becoming a vegan is that it has not just changed my food…it has changed me. I feel it has changed the way I look at the world and myself.
To be honest at first going vegan made me feel quite sad. I was saddened by what we do to innocent animals that cannot speak out against the atrocities committed against them, sad about people’s ability to turn a blind eye to what is happening and shocked at our collective apathy towards what is best for our health. I also started to feel sad at the wider world injustices, and how we as humans are doing so much wrong. I felt small and powerless. But as time passed I realised we are not powerless, we can all make a difference with what we buy, eat and say … this is our power!
Going more plant-based has been the beginning of my personal evolution, from ’brain-washed existence’ to the start of living more mindfully.
My increased awareness of the origin and meaning of the food on my plate has raised my awareness of the value of life itself and led to me trying to live with more love and compassion in everything I do.
I now feel stronger and happier in my body and mind, and have more passion in my heart, than ever before. Eating more plant-based food has started me on a mission to be the best version of myself …and I am loving it.
This is why I started my blog and my Instagram account, @kedavison (plant powered Katie) not to suggest everyone goes vegan, but to try to encourage people to eat more plant-based meals and start to live with more vitality, happiness, consciousness and love.