The real title should be “How To Become A Vegan In A Culture Where Eating No Meat Is Offensive”. You may wonder now what culture I am actually talking about. I want to elaborate on this a bit because this is a fact which everyone eating vegetarian, vegan or plant-based will come across this at one point in their lives because globalization and traveling around the world is such a big thing.
Reducing meat as a New Year’s resolution in 2015/2016
So I was already wondering about this for a whole year, actually it was my New Year’s resolution for the year of 2016. I only had one resolution, and that was to reduce meat in my diet. And I did a great job by cutting it down from every day (multiple times a day) to only 1-2 times a week. Because I decided that at home, when I was the one in charge of cooking and doing groceries I would just leave it out and save my “cheat days”for days when I went out for dinner with friends, went on vacation in countries where it was not easy to leave it out, or visit my turkish/arabic family!!!
No one could tell I was not consuming meat in those amounts anymore and they were pleased I ate everything they served me and that going out for lunch or dinner was not a big issue. But the truth was I distributed it very well so I still ate really small amounts of meat and fish.
It is the end of November now, and I am proud of myself. But I feel this is not enough, I am still putting unnecessary fuel in my body, too many anymal products and proteins. Fuels like unhealthy sugars, processed and highly refined foods, and tons of proteins (meat and dairy) even though I am lactose intolerant. Why do I still eat dairy even though my body obviously tells me that I do not need it and it even makes me sick? Instead of cutting it out I supplement with lactase pills. Is that the way someone who got educated to become a doctor should handle things? Shame on me!
“Plant-Based Diet Infused Vegan” as a New Year’s resolution in 2016/2017
I do not want to focus on meat only, because meat is not the only villain. Most things in our diet is processed food, we consume too much salt, eat not enough veggies and fruits, we consume way too much simple sugars (choclate, Coke, sweets etc.) and proteins (eggs, meat, etc.).
Are we really that ignorant? Don’t we care about our health? Do we really want to die earlier than needed?
So I decided to go a step further and cut out meat, fish, eggs and dairy which would mean going VEGAN! My body does not need antibiotics put into meat, or toxins from fish in the sea. My body does not need an overload on proteins, it does not need any hormones added by industries, and I do want my cholesterol levels to be low.
However, what I also do not need are simple sugars, bad calories which do not do me any good. The only thing they are doing is putting weight on. Furthermore, processed food such as refined flour, oil etc. I will try to reduce. So this way I am adding the PLANT-BASED part to my diet/life.
I decided to love my body because it is the only body I have and I want it to last as long as possible in a as healthy as possible state. Therefore I decided not to be a plant-based infused vegan.
Plant-based diet vs. veganism
People who eat a vegan diet do not eat animal-based products, including meat, dairy, eggs, or animal-derived ingredients, like honey. This lifestyle extends beyond excluding food and ingredients made from animal products and is carried over to everyday life stuff. Shoes, clothes, accessories, makeup, shampoo—anything made with materials that come from animals, like leather, silk, wool, gelatin, beeswax, lanolin, etc., is off the table.
Just like the vegan diet, people who eat a whole food plant-based diet avoid animal-based products, including meat, dairy, and eggs. Unlike the vegan diet, processed foods, including oil, white flour, and refined sugar is not part of the diet. This way of eating is based around unprocessed or minimally processed veggies, fruit, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
Here’s the easiest way to remember the distinction between the vegan diet and the whole food plant-based diet: people who are vegan can eat Oreo cookies (yup, by some weird glitch, Oreos aren’t made with animal ingredients), and people who are whole food plant-based cannot eat Oreos (well, they can, they just choose not to).
Of course I also do not support the cruelty to animals but my main motivation is egoistic.
I want a healthy life.
So, soon it will be 2017 and I am already preparing myself for this new, healthy and plant-based lifestyle. I will not go all in and cut everything out for 100%, but I will be around 90-95% Plant-Based Infused Vegan. I will still keep my cheat days because these are important in order to keep peace between me and my family. “Luckily” I live 600 km far away from my family and I only get to see them a few times a year which makes it easy to stick to my own diet without them knowing about it. And everytime I go there I will still try to eat as little of those bad foods as possible but will try not to make them sad.
Cultural differences influencing health
Me, a daughter of two loving parents, grew up in a household where mainly arabic/turkish dishes were cooked. Everyone who has visited Turkey or any other arabic country knows that meat and fish is the main ingredient. We use saussages and minced meat even for our scrambled eggs at breakfast. Meat is big, and meat is important, and is thought to be very healthy and good for you, which is definitely not true.
Looking in other especially asian cultures, such as the Japanese cuisine, Vietnamese cuisine etc. you can see that meat is just something you can add to your dish but it is not the main ingredient.
There are many studies looking into the health of populations. There is significant evidence that our western countries (USA, Europe, Australia, Turkey etc.) are doing really bad. Not only is obesity a big concern, but also diseases which come with unhealthy eating patterns. Countries where meat is consumed less, score way better then the rest of the world. So how is it possible that we see those differences, there is a lot of evidence for it, we get sick, and become overweight and still are not able to stop eating what makes us sick? Why is moderation so difficult for most of us?
Offensive food choices
Why would they be sad you think? If I tell my mother or anyone else from that culture that I do not want to eat the dish she prepared with all her love, she will feel offended. Even if I tell her that it has nothing to do with her cooking but the ingredients, I will end up offending and upsetting her. And this is not true for all ingredients. She would not be as offended with any other ingredient as with meat. Meat is so important to them that the fact that I do not want to eat meat is making them very sad. In order to keep peace I will eat what I get from mummy and try at least to eat less of that – finding a compromise.
I know this is nothing personal or something only mothers do, once you go to Turkey and try to find a place to eat vegetarian or vegan you will see that, this concept does not really exist. Once you try to ask questions about the menu and if there were dishes without meat you will get a surprised look back and you will be adviced to just stick to the salads because except of that there are not many options. I do not know why people feel offended in those cultures but it is a fact. There are cultures where it is easier to follow a plant-based diet than others.
So that brings me to my last rule. I will be more flexible with what I am eating while traveling. Not every country is made for plant-based eaters! You eather have the opportunity to cook yourself or you adapt to a certain degree.
I would advice a documentary called “Food Choices”. It gives you extra motivation with scientifically proven facts from specialists about our diet nowadays.