I get asked a lot why I am vegan. I have been vegan for the last 6 years. It’s definitely not something I’ve ever forced upon, or even suggested to, anyone else. I am an animal lover but to be completely honest my choice was first and foremost about health and not about animal rights or environmentalism or anything like that. I’ve never really written anything about it so here is my story for those interested.
I became interested in nutrition and veganism after reading a book called “The China Study” by respected nutrition and health researcher, Dr. Colin T Campbell. The book details the connection between nutrition and heart disease, diabetes and cancer. It also examines the source of nutritional confusion produced by powerful lobbies, government entities, and opportunistic scientists. The New York Times has recognized the study (China-Oxford-Cornell Diet and Health Project) as the “Grand Prix of epidemiology” and the “most comprehensive large study ever undertaken of the relationship between diet and the risk of developing disease.”
As soon as I read this book I knew I had to make a change but I didn’t know how. I couldn’t cook and I didn’t know what to eat. I didn’t even like salad very much. Around the same time Ethan Pringle and I visited the North coast of California for some bouldering in Lost Rocks and limestone sport climbing at Trinity Aretes. It was there I met Dru McCasland, an old friend of Ethan’s. Dru was vegan and a strong climber. We got to Arcata late in the evening and arrived just in time for dinner at Dru’s house. It was an amazing, delicious dinner prepared by Dru’s girlfriend Juliet of grilled organic veggies, organic black beans, organic cilantro, homemade salsa, guacamole, organic rice and organic tortillas. For the rest of our trip we ate delicious vegan food prepared by either Dru or Juliet. I also got to see what kinds of vegan food and snacks they packed for climbing. I was impressed with how good vegan food could be, I had NO idea. We also visited some vegan restaurants in Arcata and I was impressed there too. I began to notice, after a week of climbing and vegan food, how healthy and happy I felt. The trip was a life changing experience not just in terms of my food choices but also in terms of my climbing (more about that here).
After that trip I decided that I had to eat vegan and get into healthy living. After being inspired seeing how other people do it I knew I could do it too. I read 19 different books on veganism and nutrition and educated myself. I was particularly influenced by “Thrive” by Brendan Brazier. Brendan Brazier is a professional Ironman triathlete, bestselling author on performance nutrition, a two-time Canadian 50km Ultra Marathon Champion and a long time vegan. After reading this book I wasn’t worried anymore about “where would I get my protein?” and “how will it affect my climbing?” I knew exactly how to make sure I was getting enough nutrients through my food, especially as an athlete.
I learned a lot about diet, nutrition, cooking, food politics, animal rights, farming, the meat industry and hunger through my reading. Ever since then I have become healthier, more informed and way better at cooking. My main reason for remaining vegan is still mostly for health reasons but some are now somewhat political and ethical too. I try to eat fresh and local veggies, fruit, beans, nuts and seeds for the most part but I still like to indulge in a good vegan dessert every now and then. I’m also lucky enough to live two blocks away from the best natural foods co-op anywhere, Rainbow Grocery. I don’t see myself going back to eating animal products and refined food.
Most people respect and understand my choice to be vegan and are open minded about it even if they aren’t vegan, or even vegetarian, themselves. Everyone I’ve ever cooked for has absolutely loved what I cook for them. There are still some haters out there though. It turns out, for people who aren’t even remotely close to living the way I do, they sure seem to think they’ve got it all figured out. I have no interest in arguing with someone who would be too abrasive to ever be worth a justification of my choice. However, I’d like to share a few words from “Vegan’s Daily Companion” to explain the definition of being vegan.
The word vegan was coined in 1944 by British activist Donald Watson (1910-2005), the founder of the first vegan organization. Watson crafted the word vegan from the beginning and end of the word “vegetarian,” because he was frustrated that the word vegetarian had come to include dairy products and eggs. He defined veganism as “a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude- as far as is possible and practical -all forms of exploitation of and cruelty to animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose.”
See how I put “as far as is possible and practical” in bold font?? That’s a really important thing that some people can’t seem to understand. The idea doesn’t mean going to every extreme length possible to the point where you can’t ride your bike because you might run over an ant. It means that you’re doing everything within reasonable means so that you make the most positive choice you can. It’s not about being 100% pure in every direction possible to the point where you cannot even exist.
This is probably one of my longest posts ever. Thanks for those of you who read the whole thing. I’m not trying to push my lifestyle on anyone, I’m just trying to put it out there for anyone who might be interested since I get a lot of questions about it.
Here are some resources if anyone is interested:
Diet, nutrition, disease
Ethics and politics
Food, hunger, society
Other Vegan Athletes
Other Vegan Food Sites