On NOT Being a Vegan
Although 99% of my blog entries involve cosmetic surgery, I occasionally write about more personal issues. About a year ago, I wrote a blog about being a vegan. I had just read “The China Study” by Colin Campbell at the recommendation of about every cardiologist and cardiothoracic surgeon I know.
I was impressed by the medical evidence in favor of a plant based diet so my wife and I decided to take the vegan plunge for 365 days to fully evaluate the benefits. The good news is that my cholesterol dropped a whopping 50 points, which is pretty amazing. My doc still recommended my staying on a statin for beneficial anti-inflammatory effects.
I have never been a junk food person and have always eaten pretty healthy, low carb and low fat, but did eat lean meats and fish. Going vegan meant no animal products, no meat, no dairy or cheese, no fish. Pretty much sounds like a prison sentence for the average American.
The switch over was pretty seamless as we shopped at health food stores and substituted much of our previous diet with soy alternatives. Actually it was sometimes hard to tell a difference. The main problem with the vegan diet is the difficulty of keeping carbs low and protein high; the opposite of my diet for the last 3 decades. I, unlike many people, actually gained a little weight which I attribute to the increased carbohydrates. Did I feel any better? The answer is somewhat disappointing no. I never felt bad before the diet and did not feel better on the diet. Having said that, you cannot feel “prevention” so it was not like I expected some huge boost.
There is no doubt that the biggest problems with a vegan diet were boredom and inconvenience. If you grew up with a typically omnivorous diet, it is tough to totally eliminate animal products for the rest of your life. If you were raised on a plant based diet it would be much easier. Also, variety is important in any diet and the options are much decreased with the vegan diet. I missed sushi, fish and turkey, but never craved it and never cheated for a full year. The inconvenience is probably the biggest issue. First of all, shopping is difficult because not all stores carry vegan items. They are also much more expensive and much to my surprise very heavy laden with sodium. Perhaps the worst inconvenience is eating out. This is twofold. One problem is finding vegan items on typical restaurant menus. Many have them, most will do something special and some ask what is a “vegan”? Akin to this is the fact that the “veganites” become the center of attention which inevitably slows down the ordering and service and creates a hassle factor, as the server has to leave the table and speak to the chef, etc. Secondarily is the kidding and harassment from your friends. People are always willing to bash those whom are different and this is a great opportunity! My carnivorous pals would whip me unmercifully about being “veggie boy” and the usual diatribe inspired by meat eating hedonism. Gotta’ have thick skin to be an out of the closet vegan.
In any event, I gave it an entire year, 365 days. I eased back into (as Jimmy Buffett would say) my carnivorous habits. I did maintain some vegan vestiges such as soy or almond milk and vegan chili but added back fish and white meat poultry. I missed it, but did not crave it.
So………….bottom line, being a vegan is rigid and difficult and I applaud those who are able to do it permanently. I gave it a good go and really did not notice any outward differences, but appreciated the cholesterol improvement. We all realize the benefits of a plant based diet and I feel that it is important to lean that way but I also believe that lean meat and fish also have benefits and using moderation is perhaps more important that severely limiting diets.
To learn more about cosmetic facial surgery by Dr. Joe Niamtu in Richmond, Virginia visit www.lovethatface.com
Joe Niamtu, III DMD