I went vegan several months ago for very distinct reasons.
I read a book (Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer, the novelist-cum-investigative journalist whose second novel, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, has been made into a movie starring Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock) that turned me off on the animal cruelty that occurs in the so-called “factory farms” that generate the lion’s share of the animal products we eat in the U.S. today.
I learned separately that the way we raise today’s animal products makes them inflammatory in our bodies, and that this may be the real reason that consumption of animal products is correlated with heart disease and cancer, rather than its purported effect on cholesterol levels. (I won’t get into more detail here but I’ve discussed it previously on this blog.)
And so my decision to go vegan was one of visceral disgust at today’s methods of animal husbandry and of concerns about the healthfulness of modern meat.
But since going vegan several months ago, I’ve discovered an entirely ulterior benefit of veganism that has nothing to do with my feelings or health. It has to do with the way I view my daily activities.
I hesitate to share this with you, because it may be more likely to turn you away from veganism than to turn you toward it, and that’s not my intent at all. But I will share it because, though it doesn’t sound like one, I’ve found it to be a great benefit in my life.
Food can be delicious. And on days where I’d engage primarily in mundane tasks, I’d often look forward to my meals. In fact, if food is nearby, I’d often start eating before or after meals, as well as during them.
This didn’t, as you may suspect, impact my body weight. I found that as long as I stayed away from refined carbohydrates, I wouldn’t typically gain or lose weight from one day, week or month to the next.
But what it did do was distract me. I spent too much of my day thinking about, and nibbling on, food, and it notably detracted from everything else I did.
But with veganism–particularly when combined with my longer-standing avoidance of refined carbohydrates (white bread, white pasta, white rice, sugar) and heavily processed foods, my diet is extraordinarily restrictive. And repetitive. I tend today to eat few different foods, and the foods I eat, I eat over and over and over again. You can imagine the dulled excitement of doing this.
This sounds like a bad thing. And in a sense I suppose it is. I no longer delight much in food (though to be honest I can enjoy the perfect grapefruit as much as my neighbor enjoys Rocky Road). Often, I simply don’t feel like eating, and will put it off until my stomach cries uncle and I’m forced to sit down and scarf.
But, as I’ve said there’s a benefit. And the benefit isn’t lost weight–I haven’t lost a pound since going vegan, despite my periodic fasts. It’s that the delight I used to reserve for food has now shifted to life’s other pursuits. There’s a sort of enjoyment of the moment today that I didn’t have back when I ate whatever I desired, and would spend much of the day looking forward to my next meal.
Don’t get me wrong–not every day was like this in my pre-vegan era. There were certainly always days where I was excited about what I was doing, where I wouldn’t give a second thought to food, where I got great excitement and enjoyment out of my daily activities. But let’s face it, no matter what you do, not every day is like that.
Until, of course you go vegan. Give it a try sometime. Cut out animal products, refined carbohydrates, heavily processed foods. And see whether you get bored enough with the daily redundancy that food is no longer a longed-for pleasure but an irritating task, like washing the dishes or throwing your clothes in the hamper. See how much everything else you do all day becomes that much more exciting.