Vegan-ish: 18 Months In

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Vegan-ish. 18 Months In...

It was sometime in February 2017 that I went 100% plant-based. I thought it was time to do an update after the honeymoon period ended.

There are certain “facts” that the vegan propoganda machine is keen to report. One of those is that you can get adequate amounts of protein with the vegan diet. I spewed this myself in the very early days of becoming a PBMF.

This is a yes and no fact. Theoretically, yes you can BUT that protein does not have the same bioavailability of animal-derived meats. In layman’s terms, this means that your body will not assimilate as much of the protein. For someone who lifts weights, this has proven to be problematic.

There are also several vitamins, minerals and amino acids that the vegan diet does not provide or, if it does, they are in micro-doses. Of course, this is easily remedied through supplementation but an awful lot of this is expensive, and you need an awful lot of it. Take Branch Chained Amino Acids, for example. These are normally made by extracting the amino acids from human hair or bird feathers. Pretty gross, if you ask me, but it is a cheap process. As a vegan, you need to find fermented BCAAs which are about twice the price. They are better quality and, hopefully as more and more people demand BCAAs manufactured under this process, they will become cheaper. But, for now, they are still twice the price.

I recently did a health DNA test and found that my body naturally does not synthesise vitamins A, E, B12 and B6 very well. This is a problem as vitamin B12 is not found in the vegan diet and vitamin e is scarce. Again, this can be covered with supplementation but, again, this adds to the expense.

So, what has this all meant for me? Well, apart from emptying my wallet, it has left me with a much decreased ability to recover along with a much increased amounts of aches, pains and muscle tears. The size of my muscles has decreased, along with my strength. I also do not have the energy to get through a decent workout.

Now, a lot of this is my fault. I am trying to be as keto as possible on a vegan diet. As my DNA test proved, I do not metabolise carbohydrates well so put on fat quickly if I eat them. So a lot of the Really Good For You vegan staples – beans / legumes – are out for me. I have tried them and became soft. But it is what it is. For my own mental state, I need to keep my body lean as I have body dysmorphic issues which are problematic.

Another thing I noticed – and was quite surprised about – what that the quality of the skin on my face decreased. I must admit, in my ignorance, I assumed that the masses of fruit and veg would make my skin glow but, nope, it lost plumpness and wasn’t as taught. OK, I am 46 now, but I’m a pretty good 46 whose skin belies it’s years. A bit of research and I discovered that the vegan diet provides zero collagen. As collagen is the second most abundant substance in the body (after water), this is not good news. Further research lead to me discovering that a mixture of vitamins (A, C & E) along with some amino acids (proline, glycine, lysine) will help support existing collagen levels, but it will not replace lost collagen or boost the levels of it. Only collagen will do that, and collagen can only be found in animals.

The above has been difficult for me. I was delighted to switch to becoming a PBMF but, as time went on and I researched further, I felt like I had been duped a bit. Like many, I have seen “Forks Over Knives” and “What The Health” (among others), but have since learned that the facts are very skewed and, of course, as they are trying to prove a point-of-view, there is no opposition. They are documentaries with an agenda. Far more useful would be a documentary made by a neutral party that looks into all facts to come to a more accurate conclusion.

I don’t enjoy aches and pains. I don’t enjoy slow recovery. I don’t enjoy low energy levels. I don’t enjoy a saggy face.

Vikki told me about bi-valves. Mussells, oysters, scallops. Aquatic molluscs with a hinged shell. There is much debate among the vegan community as to whether they are vegan or not. This may sound strange on first hearing but, the reasoning being that there is no centralised nervous system so they cannot feel pain. They also do not have brains and no sense of conciousness. This sounded a bit like a cop out but I was getting desperate.

I dwelled on this for months. I do not want something to die to sustain me, if I don’t need it. And that last bit is the point. Whilst I don’t want to be anything other than 100% plant-based, I do have to take my own health into consideration. We all have genetically different levels of nutrient absorbtion, recovery and so on and, clearly for me, what I was ingesting was not enough. So, a few weeks ago, I took the plunge and got some scallops.

Still, I wasn’t sure if I would go ahead. I tend to be a black and white person and scallops represented a shade of grey. But I did it and had some.

Next day, I felt quite different. Harder, more alert, more energetic. Not believing this could be true, I figured it must be psychosematic. But I had more and continued to feel better. I then decided to get a collagen supplement. There is no getting away from it, there are no excuses, there are no caveats: the collagen comes from fish scales. However, with my mum hobbling around on bad knees and hips, the retainment of collagen is not strong in my family. You know what? Again, I felt better. My skin regained plumpness and tautness and, best of all (and unexpected), a shoulder that has given me constant pain for a year or more is almost pain-free.

This is where my line in the sand is. Scallops are sustainable so ethical in that sense. The collagen comes from sustainable sources and is a bi-product of fishing so, again, it could be worse. It doesn’t sit well with me, but I cannot deny the results. I have come to the conclusion that the HEALTHIEST diet is probably vegan, but with added fish. I know a lot of people out there won’t agree with me – which is fine – but for millennia man has always built communities by the sea first (then extended inland) so the body will have adapted to a diet high in fish.

Having said that, I have no plans to add fish to the diet. I am vegan-ish. For what it’s worth, I don’t think that bi-valves are vegan. It may not feel or think, but it is an animal. There are no excuses for the collagen, other than I am fixing a broken body.

As vegans, plant-based motherfuckers – whatever – we each have to determine our own lines in the sand. I think that a true 100% vegan lifestyle is impossible. There are so many things that have animal products in that you wouldn’t even think of, I am sure even the most strident of us ingest a little something, or buy a little something, that breaks our own rules – but we shouldn’t beat ourselves up over it. We don’t want to be the dietary equivalents of the Christian Scientists who eschew all medical intervention then go around dying all over the place unneccessarily. Speaking of medicine, I am willing to bet that 99% of it is not vegan, as much of a shame that that is. However, we cannot change history.

So don’t beat yourself up. If you feel beaten up and broken and think that a small step back might help – do it. If it does nothing to help, stop doing it. I have had positive results, if I hadn’t, I would stop.

It’s like an ex-smoker having the occasional fag; it’s not ideal, but it’s much better than it could be.

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