I was listening to my body to have eggs and dairy and that sort of stuff. . .
Only 2% of the population are vegan according to most of the stats I hear quoted. Then, I heard that 10-12% of the population were ex-vegans and ex-vegetarians. Is this true? I tend to think it is, but I am open to being corrected. What we can say is this. The plant based lifestyle is a difficult one for people to follow. NutritionFacts.org recently had a video on the Kempner Rice Diet which was an early study on the effect of a plant based diet in treating disease. The interesting thing was that Dr. Kempner had a hard time getting his patients to stick with the diet, so he resorted to whipping them. I have had two friends who were interested in my plant based diet agree to my two week challenge to go meatless. They reported weight loss, high energy, and feeling great. Both returned to being meatheads. The lesson from all of this is that the vegan lifestyle will always be an unpopular one. People would rather die than stop eating meat, and that is exactly what they do.
The science is firmly on the vegan side. A low fat vegan diet is the healthiest way to eat. It prevents and even reverses heart disease. It cures Type 2 diabetes. It does wonders in treating cancer and even multiple sclerosis. If you could take all the benefits of the vegan diet and put it in pill form, it would be the greatest drug ever invented, and its inventor would be hailed as a savior of humanity. But it doesn't come in pill form but in the form of whole foods, starches, grains, fruits, and vegetables. The science is indisputable at this point. Study after study reaches the same conclusions. And if that weren't enough, I tell people to try it for themselves, and they can tell a positive difference in as little as three days. I have been vegan for over a year now, and I feel awesome. It is the best thing I have ever done for my health, and it has given me hope where I had resigned myself to getting diabetes and having a heart attack at age 50.
Would I ever go back to being a meathead? This is unlikely as the smell of meat nauseates me now. I love the smell of a Chinese restaurant but a steakhouse makes me want to retch. My brain has switched from associating that smell with food to associating it with what it is--roasted flesh. It's sort of like how firefighters don't want to eat pork cracklings. Dairy and eggs are also not a big deal for me as I was always a take it or leave it person on that. My only real slip is that I will allow myself a chocolate cake on my birthday which is made with eggs and butter. I am OK with this as famously vegan Dr. McDougall allows himself a few boiled eggs on Easter. At my worst, I am merely a vegetarian.
I don't find being vegan that onerous or hard, but I think this is because I developed a strategy when I started. I am a creature of habit, so I took the habits I had and modified them. I ate cereal every morning, so I switched out the milk for almond milk. Now, I eat oatmeal as I find it more filling and gives me more energy. Likewise, I stopped eating hamburgers for lunch and started packing my own lunch. Dessert got switched from ice cream and cake to fruit. I found that as long as it is sweet then I am satisfied. As for dinner, I do vegan burgers, pasta with vegetables, vegan pizza, and other modified menu items. Becoming vegan isn't a radical change but just a collection of slight changes. I have to remind people that they already eat a vegan diet. It is just buried under animal flesh, cheese, and eggs.
The social aspect of being vegan is hard because no one understands or cares about your diet. Restaurants don't care. Friends and family don't care. No one cares until you decide you don't want to hang out at Quaker Steak and Lube with them. Then, you are the offensive one, the radical, and the extremist trying to push your diet on them.
I am vegan for health reasons and not ethical reasons. I understand the people who find factory farming and animal cruelty to be despicable. I am not so understanding of people who refuse to swat mosquitoes. The difference between me and the ethical vegans is that I eat honey. Honey is great. As far as I know, it is healthy and better than sugar. And I don't give a damn about "bee cruelty." When a bee stings me, I swat the thing.
This brings us to the ex-vegan. Ethical vegans go nuts over these people even going so far as to start a shaming website where they posted names and personal info so that these people could be harassed for leaving veganism. I don't agree with this. It is stupid and ridiculous. For the ethical vegan, leaving veganism is a sort of religious apostasy. This is because they have elevated animal rights to a religion. I already have a religion, so I'm not going to turn my diet into a religion. I don't think it is a sin to eat meat. This is because Jesus ate meat and fish. Even if you love animals, you will still feed them animal flesh. The ethical vegan position is not a viable position especially when these people encourage harassment and violence against human beings. Plus, I could never understand how many of these same people are pro-choice on abortion. It is a sin to eat a chicken nugget, but it is quite fine to abort your unborn child. This is stupid. One of the many blessings of being Roman Catholic is that it gives you back your common sense.
I can understand the ex-vegan who succumbs to temptation and starts eating cheese and hot dogs again. I get it. People are weak. They give in to temptation. It happens. Maybe these people will return to being vegan when they get tired of gaining weight with each meal or having chronic intestinal issues and smelly gas. At least they know better. The vegan apostate is another creature entirely.
The vegan apostate is that ex-vegan who abandons that lifestyle in favor of becoming a meathead for claimed health reasons. Naturally, these health reasons are all anecdotal. They will claim that they did it for their body, and that eating steak "feels right." They may even buy into the snake oil of the paleo crowd. This is willful self-delusion. I have no sympathy for these people. It is one thing to know the truth and fail to live up to it. It is another thing to deny the truth and bring it down to your level. The vegan apostate is a person who shuts off his or her brain for the sake of their stomach.
The biggest vegan apostate I know is former president Bill Clinton. Clinton ate the Standard American Diet and suffered for it. He had bypass surgery on his heart. He was knocking on death's door. Then, he discovered Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn and stepped back from the brink of death. His health improved dramatically. He lost weight. He felt great. He sang Esselstyn's praises. Now, he has rejected Esselstyn in favor of the paleo diet. What a fool. It's like a Roman Catholic who becomes Mormon because the Latter Day Saints have better business contacts.
The paleo diet is pure dietary heresy with virtually no scientific backing. It is all ad hoc stuff. I see it merely as a rebranding of the Atkins diet which was a disaster for Dr. Atkins as he died obese with clogged arteries. Vegans and paleos go at it all the time, and the vegans always win the debate. This is because scientific truth beats pseudoscience. But the paleo diet has something the vegan diet does not have. It is easy to stick to a paleo diet. Anything that tells you to stick with your bad habits is always going to be easier and more popular than something that tells you the truth.
Now, I am no vegan fundamentalist. If science shows otherwise, I will follow what it recommends. But, folks, the science is not on the side of the paleo crowd. I wish it was because I'd like to see people eat crap and still be healthy. The world would be a better place if this were true. Unfortunately, it isn't true. As Flannery O'Connor put it, "The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it." In the case of diet, this is literally the truth.
It isn't the failure to show discipline that annoys me so much as the lying. I can't bash on someone for being weak because we are all weak. But it is especially evil when someone deludes themselves and others when they know better. The vegan apostate is one of those people because they know better. A big part of the reason I did not become vegan for many years was because of the misinformation these liars put out there. If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes confused with the truth. There was so much conflicting information and advice out there that I had concluded that it was all crap and that people didn't know anything about nutrition. Then, I watched Forks Over Knives which cut through all of that crap with solid scientific truth and information. The movie is bold, unapologetic, and relentless. I was convinced, and I changed that week. Sometimes, the truth needs to be shouted a little louder than the lies.
I am very disappointed that former vegans like Bill Clinton and Anne Hathaway have chosen to turn from their healthy diets to paleo garbage. They contribute to the confusion that is out there and confirm people in their poor diet choices. Just be honest and say that you don't have the self-discipline to be vegan. But don't lie to yourself and to the world and say you did it for your health. You did it because you like to eat crap. Give me an honest sinner any day over a lying saint.