The word vegan has been around for over 70 years, and was coined by the founder of the Vegan Society Donald Watson. It’s interesting that a word that has been around for so long is finally gaining traction. People are finally hearing this strange and possibly unfamiliar word after it has been around for so long. So, what is the vegan lifestyle?
Definition of Veganism
Veganism is the lifestyle of abstaining from all animal derived products as practicably as possible. It means compassion and nonviolence. It means that if we don’t need it to survive, we should not put the suffering of sentient beings above our wants.
One of the very few examples that I can think of is medication. If you are on a drug regimen that keeps you from being bed ridden, or suffering severe consequences, and you have tried every vegan option out there, then it is not practicable for you yourself to suffer when the medication is there to take.
Which Aspect of the Vegan Lifestyle Makes the Most Impact
There are many different aspects to the vegan lifestyle, so which one will make the most impact to reduce the suffering of innocent beings, help the planet the most, and turn your life into something even more positive? Food is the answer to that question. Everything we do revolves around food. Holidays, anniversaries, birthdays, even, shockingly enough, breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Now, for a vegan diet that means no meat, including seafood, no dairy, no eggs, and no honey. I will go further in another post about which you should cut out first as you transition from an omnivorous diet. You might be surprised by it. Also, gelatin is not vegan either, as it is made from boiling hooves.
Did you know that eating vegan saves 1,100 gallons of water, 45 lbs. of grain, 30 square feet of forest, 20 pounds of CO2 equivalent, and 1 animal’s life per day? You would have to take an almost 5 hour shower to go through that amount of water!
So, in the year I’ve been vegan I have saved 401,500 gallons of water. I have also saved 16,425 lbs. of grain, 10,950 square feet of forest, 7,300 lbs. of CO2 equivalent, and 365 animals’ lives in the year I’ve gone vegan.
Food isn’t the only thing, but it is the most prominent, and could do the most good.
Differences in Vegan Diets
Now, you might think it’s that simple, but there is no one universal vegan diet, much as there is no one universal omnivorous diet. Will you become a frugivore? Someone who eats mainly fruit? Or a starchivore, which is someone who eats primarily starch? Will it be a fully raw diet, or simply a raw til 4 or noon? Will a high carb, low fat diet be pursued? Could it possibly be that you just want the standard, western, vegan diet?
Now, there’s a simple way to determine which way you want to go, as long as it is appropriately planned. I would suggest speaking with your doctor, but I can’t tell you what to do, and I certainly can’t lead by example as it was 5 months after going vegan that I finally went to see a doctor to make sure my blood work came back okay.
This simple way to determine is . . . wait for it . . . experimentation! When I started I planned on making fruit the main staple food, and I tried that, but it didn’t last long, so I chose the route of the starch. Potatoes, rice, beans, and pasta make up most of my daily intake of calories. Then I tried high carb, low fat, and I think I took it too far. I do admit that I love my non-dairy ice cream a little too much to give it up.
I am trying to eventually go high carb, low fat, and have started with removing added oils from my food, which is beneficial in ways that I will talk about a little bit later. I have never gone with a partially raw, or fully raw diet, as I love potatoes too much to ever give them up. Currently I’m on a standard vegan diet, and while I love it, isn’t giving me all the benefits that a true high carb, low fat diet would.
Benefits of a Vegan Diet
Now, on to the benefits! The health benefits that is since we already talked about the environmental benefits. Veganism reduces blood sugar, reduces plaque build up, stops, prevents, and reverses 3 main killers, which are heart attacks, stroke, and cancer. It can help us lose weight, we become more regular, have more energy, and the best part is that we can eat more food.
Many whole foods are high in nutrients, but lower in calories, meaning we need more to continue to fuel our body. It’s an amazing thing to eat more of the things we can come to love! I know that I was not a fan of salad before I went vegan unless it was covered in cheese and ranch. Now, I’m the girl who gets teased because I eat romaine plain.
If you want to learn more of the health benefits of being vegan from an actual doctor who knows his stuff then check out the book “How Not to Die” by Dr. Michael Greger.
Going Further than Food
I can hear you say “Yes, but food isn’t all there is to a vegan lifestyle, is it?” You are quite right. If it were just about food then it most certainly wouldn’t be called lifestyle. Strange as it seems to me, but companies are going on about being cruelty-free, and yet they have animal products in their merchandise.
So, we will start with clothing, or anything that happens to have fabric, which is quite a lot of stuff, from headphones to furniture. What isn’t vegan: silk, wool, leather, fur, and down. I actually purchased a cute wool hat when I was just getting started with being vegan and it really upset me. With leather you have to be careful since it is everywhere.
Shoes are probably the biggest struggle for me. I like boots and heels, but it is so hard to find the perfect shoe with no animal products. Even after it says that there aren’t any that’s just the material that the shoe is made out of. Is the glue vegan? I try my best, and it’s not possible to be perfect all the time.
Just remember that protein leather, or pleather, faux anything, and even the term leatherette are all vegan friendly terms.
Cosmetics is another thing that you have to watch out for. Cruelty-free simply means they do not test on animals, but doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s vegan. Beeswax is a common ingredient in most lip balms. Tallow and gelatin are two other common cosmetic ingredients. These are just a few, so before going to the store do your research and make sure the products you are purchasing are truly vegan.
I also personally stay away from petroleum jelly, or petrolatum, simply because the thought that I’m putting something that came from the bottom of an oil drum is not appealing, no matter how well it’s purified.
As for medicines and vaccines I would talk to your doctor about that. I’m not a professional and I will never claim to be one.
Alcohol should have probably been put up with the diet stuff, but I don’t consider it as something that’s a necessity. This is something that will also require further research as some alcohols are strained through fish’ bladders.
Those are the basics, and what people most often buy. Those are certainly the things that I’m most worried about, and as more people choose the vegan lifestyle, the more the little things will be changed so they are more accessible to those who have chosen this lifestyle.
The Three Pronged Approach
To many, becoming vegan is a three pronged approach. You have the health side: what going vegan will do to better your health, and how you can overcome illness with a vegan lifestyle. The environmental approach, which is how the vegan lifestyle will benefit the planet. And then there is the ethical side, which is what we are doing to the animals, and how we can prevent loss of life.
The ethical approach isn’t one that I have touched on really, and for good reason. It is very disturbing, and most of the time quite graphic. However, to have a full understanding of what vegans are fighting for, or why your vegan friend gets so upset sometimes, all three need to be explored.
If you would like to learn more then please check out my Three Pronged Approach to Veganism post. In it you will find a video that goes into a combination of all three sides that make up the vegan story. You will find it at the bottom of the post linked above. I ask that if you are so inclined to watch this video that you watch all of it. There is a short segment with graphic imagery, and I feel that should be watched to get the full effect.
There are many other YouTube videos out there that will help better your understanding of the vegan lifestyle. There are also 2 movies that should be on Netflix that should also be watched. They are “Forks over Knives” and “Cowspiracy”.
If we all started the journey to veganism, we could do anything we wanted! We could end world hunger! We could live healthier, more compassionate lives.
If this helped to better your understanding of the vegan lifestyle, or if you have any questions please comment and I will be more than happy to elaborate!