By Leah Berger
In the wake of Earth Day, it is interesting to look back at the things we do to help the environment. There are many positive reasons to adopt a plant-based diet. Many people want to save the planet, some feel bad for the animals, some feel good without animal products, some do it because it is trendy and some need to adopt the diet for health reasons. I have always been an environmentally conscious person, but I can’t claim that it is the reason I decided to go vegan.
For many years I tried to go vegan for the environment and I never stuck to it. It would always end with a sneaky chicken burger after a night out or a cheeseboard at a cocktail party. After many attempts, I settled that I would eat a majority plant-based diet and have my sneaky cravings now and then. But, soon every once and a while turned into every week and before I knew it, I was back to eating eggs for breakfast every morning. And that is also okay, I reduced my meat consumption drastically which can do a lot of good for the environment. I knew that by not eating meat I was still doing my part to help the environment as meat farming contributes to 30% of all greenhouse gas emissions.
However, almost six months ago I decided to try one last time to maintain a plant-based diet. This decision came after I had a health scare. I remember the nurse on the other end of the phone delivering terrifying results to me. My hands were shaking and I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I was praying she wouldn’t ask me a question because I had no voice to answer. When the biopsy result came back and the nurse told me I didn’t have cancer I collapsed into my chair in relief. Something about that call stood out to me though. I remember the nurse saying that I need to eat immunity-boosting foods. She told me to eat plants that are good for our bodies, superfoods and greens. I decided then and there that it was time to attempt veganism one last time.
I wanted to transform my life and my health for the better and now was my chance. That same day I went online and ordered my first batch of super healthy groceries. In my determination and excitement, I chucked all sorts of things in my basket, with no idea how exactly I was going to use or cook with those things. I threw in some hemp milk, special seed mixes, all of my pasta was spinach pasta because I needed to get in my greens. I got some spirulina and moringa, some protein powder and all sorts of other stuff. Half of it is probably still sitting in my cupboard.
I learned my lesson the hard way. Perhaps the easiest approach to plant-based eating is just using whole foods. Buy vegetables and use them. Use them to make big beautiful meals and then after that you can think about where you can add protein powders and what would taste nice with seeds. Everyone is different and it is all a big learning curve.
My first impression of veganism was that it is easier than it seems. There is also a lot of judgement about what you eat and whether or not it is ‘vegan’ enough. But, veganism doesn’t have to be this big exclusive club. You can still be vegan and slip up once or twice, just move on and start again the next day. It can often seem hard when you see people all over the internet doing these complex recipes with so many substitutions, but, if you stick to the vegetables it will all be smooth sailing, you can figure it out. The best advice that I was given is that if you find your favourite food or favourite meal and make it vegan then you’ll be fine and you’ll stick to plant-based eating.
The next thing that I noticed is that I had so much energy. There is some truth in the saying that eating badly makes you feel bad. Eating foods that were good for my body made me feel more energetic and even happier. Suddenly I was able to wake up in the morning when my alarm went off, and I was awake the whole day, not that horrible lethargic zombie feeling I used to have.
Something I learned along the way is to do it in moderation. If you do everything in moderation then you probably won’t fall off the horse too bad. If you like cake, eat some cake. Just maybe don’t eat cake every day. This helped with my love for croissants. I was really sad when I first started the plant-based diet and I thought I wouldn’t be able to eat croissants anymore. But, then I found the cafe down the road from me that makes vegan croissants and then I knew that I had my perfect treat whenever I needed it.
Overall, you don’t need to be the perfect vegan to help the environment. Reducing your meat consumption alone is a huge step and I applaud anyone who does. It isn’t easy giving up a diet that you’ve had and relied on your whole life, but it is also not as hard as it may seem. Giving veganism a try has taught me a lot about myself and my self-discipline, my drive and my ability to conquer obstacles. And reflecting on this has made me proud and even more driven.