As a man of science, I live by the following principle, ” I am never right, I am just not wrong right now”. Therefore, my responsibility is to constantly further my knowledge to ensure I am never running on outdated information.
Using this way of thinking, I took up a vegetarian life for almost a decade under the craziest conditions and the lessons I learned are extremely difficult to relay. But as they say, “Here goes nothing”.
Setting out to be an asset to animals and my health many years ago, I gave up eating meat and later on seafood. Learning more about animals and the fact that they are more like us than we comprehend, I did not want to contribute to killing sentient creatures for the sake of my life. This strange dynamic, I believe, hits people once they submerge themselves in the agricultural process of animal farming and the insane treatment of our furry or feathered relatives.
There should be no distortion around the fact that mass scale farming is harsh and treats animals like numbers in a war prison camp. To know that your cheap cut of easily obtained flesh from the local retailer held a story of an animal living in horrible conditions before dying, really does change your outlook on meat consumption. But as I came to learn, this does not change the fact that as omnivores, we still need to consume meat.
Nevertheless, I submerged myself in literature, documentaries, and pretty much any research based content I could get my hands on about living a vegetarian life and the benefits therein. Thanks to this research, I learned how through a vegetarian diet, I could live a healthy life at no expense to conscious, emotion driven animals, just like us.
I learned that I could meet my body’s calorie and macronutrient requirements with a bit of help from vitamins and supplements, living a normal life as a born and bred meat eater.
But, after years of commitment and giving up my love of Biltong and Rump steak amongst others, the lifestyle began unravelling for an array of reasons. If I did not buy vitamins or supplements to support my omnivore evolution, I ended up living on carbs and feeling like rubbish, day in and day out. Bread, pasta, peanut butter, and potatoes became the humdrum baseline of my eating habits with my other half going out of her mind to create vegetable dishes to keep my palate alive.
After all, living in a small town in South Africa didn’t exactly provide a king’s banquet of options for this tailored lifestyle. I would go to local shops and ask for vegetarian options only to have the person behind the counter either laugh or not understand my request. It would get awkward at times.
As a result and eventually just giving up on constantly fabricating vegetable dishes, I settled for whatever would fill me up. Yet, I cooked delicious, meat filled meals for my family, opting to rather make whatever for myself once their dinner was served. This depressive way of eating became a noise in my head and impacted so many people and relationships in the process, something I had never banked on.
I would arrive at a braai and pull out a vegan patty all to have the hardened meat eaters rip into my way of life. This of course, only motivated me even more as they were stomachs over the belt, loud mouth muppets who held zero education on the food they were consuming.
They ate buckets of meat, drank litres of booze, and responded like children on any worldly topics.
Through these types of encounters, I came to learn how closed off or simply put, ignorant people were about what they called food. It is an education that will sit with me for the rest of my time on this planet, as every person would say, “How do you not eat meat, it tastes so good”, without understanding that they had not obtained meat in its true form, but rather a product from a retailer, if you get what I mean.
Just on the subject, speaking on behalf of numerous vegetarians and vegans, we know it tastes good, it’s the moments before the taste that bothers us.
Yet, thanks to my ridiculous level of stubbornness and in the face of constant challenges, I committed to saving animals’ lives, and every year that went by, I knew that I had saved the lives of various animals, or so I thought.
Throughout the years, I took bodybuilding seriously, but, where others were eating chicken I was eating soya powder—a god awful tasting product that would clump and turn to a paste when mixed with water and milk and left to stand.
Running exclusively on carbs, coffee and plant based proteins my progress was hindered dramatically. This is bearing in mind that I was one of the biggest guys in the gym, despite my terrible diet. But no one trained harder than me, no one put in what I put in, not even close.
Things like actually competing in the sport became impossible as I carried around carbohydrate weight or bloat, being a huge stumbling block. Terms like lean eating were just as impossible as how could I obtain protein filled foods by ingesting whole foods like grains and legumes or a bunch of green leaf veggies without ingesting all the carbs they brought with them.
This is not forgetting my protein shake replacement, that glass of disgusting soya powder I mentioned earlier.
Unless I had hours to allocate to sourcing the ingredients and then cooking these heavy meals, I would be back to carbs. Eventually stepping out of the sport with numerous niggly injuries, I turned to boxing and MMA, a far more intense form of training. However, as per before, without a correct, balanced omnivore diet, I would get exhausted and the only way I could get through training sessions was on sheer grit.
Most vegans and vegetarians do not realise that although your intention is good, your survival is imperative and your evolution dictates your needs—a lesson I had to learn the hard way.
But, every year that passed, I believed I was saving animals’ lives and was thus being an asset to life itself on some cosmic level.
Turning to packaged foods like no meat chicken or vegan mince, I thought that I had found a way around the whole balanced diet problem. However, in reality, these products were highly processed and were by no stretch of the imagination good for me. Apart from this, I started learning about how farmers had to pretty much sterilse fields of all living creatures so I could enjoy soya chicken strips. From rabbits, mice, birds, lizards, and frogs to every other creeping and crawling creature, they annihilated them all to grow these crops. This kill free life, as I learned, was anything but free from death.
In reality, my GMO soya burger, processed and horrible for my body, was the result of brutal farming. Where a cow would be consumed by a person over a year, being a single death, my meat free life was wiping out countless animals so I could sleep better at night.
So if the mega farming of animals and these vegan base foods was all bad for life itself, what was left?
I have always respected hunting as it ensures you not only obtain a pure source of food but are connected to every piece of meat that comes off of that animal. You walk for kilometres, tracked through crappy weather and harsh terrain all to keep your nerve and take a life. Watching Steve Rinella, a professional hunter and journalist speak on this subject, a valid point was made. This whole vegan/vegetarian diet system is new to humanity. As he pointed out, we have been hunting for thousands of years, and not eating meat is an entirely new experiment for the human race.
Therefore, to think that we can simply remove this intimate part of our evolution, being meat eating, is a bit juvenile and a strange dynamic still to be understood. The problem is that as humans in this very liberal world, we want to live “sin free” and not have blood on our hands. Taking a life for our consumption does not fit this outlook and for this reason, we became ignorant and just ate what was sold at the local store.
But, death is jointly a part of life and in our case, is a burden we all have to carry in order to survive. Accepting this harsh truth was something our ancestors knew all too well and to counter it they looked after nature through the conservation of their surroundings. They worked with life and death in harmony, accepting each as irreplaceable elements of our existence.
Today, most people have never seen the start of their meal and ignore the reality therein. Because people do not walk through nature hunting for their food, they do not care about their impact on the natural world like our ancestors once did.
This disconnect from our history has resulted in people treating meat like an endless product that they do not have to concern themselves with as it comes in a packet.
This is one of the reasons why a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle holds merit, as you wake up to this understanding and see how disgusting people are towards life and death.
People have no idea that a steak or piece of delicious biltong breathed life, felt, and then had to meet its end at the hands of a human, distressed before dying. Disconnecting from our food and the effort therein has resulted in mass farming and disrespect for creatures, and what they give up, unwillingly, for our survival.
Once I wrapped my head around all of this, realising that we cannot avoid this inevitable fate cast upon us, things started to change. Knowing that I had to choose from the lesser of two evils, while thinking of my health, eating meat became a life and health choice I had to make. This burden of carrying death to live was something each one of us, including the other animals on this planet, had to come to accept at one point or another.
From a health perspective, I also learned that my blood type was not meant to be on such a diet and needed to be on meat based regime, explaining the constant fatigue and never healing injuries. I also learned that my stomach could not live on vegan foods alone. As anyone who has been on such a diet for years will attest, eating lentils and beans every day will ruin your stomach and your social life, as they turn you into the planet Jupiter, a gas giant.
Maize, on the other hand, a product so far modified from its original strain, teosinte, a type of grass 10 000 years ago, is now so unhealthy due to its modifications over the centuries. Yet, these products form the base of vegetarian and vegan diets worldwide.
Please understand, that if you grow your own vegetables and fruit, thereby knowing what goes into them, it changes the dynamic.
You then have control over what goes into your body without paying the price of mega agriculture and its byproducts. Try to grow a soya crop naturally or a field of black beans, it’s no walk in the park unless you take extreme measures. The mass production of fruits and veggies, to ensure crops, notes ridiculous chemicals used to prevent damage and obtain high yields, most of which, make it onto your plate at the end of the day.
This all means that I was living an idea of a healthy life but in reality was eating what a corporate company, worried about its bottom line, had deemed a healthy meal.
I came to learn, that marketing drove everything in this mega food industry and health was last on the list. Take Canola oil, for example. It was never used in foods. In actual fact, it was used to lubricate engines and machines during World War 2 and was inedible. The oil is made from Rapeseed and is so highly processed it is just ridiculous (Google it). Yet, you think it is the healthy option, thanks to brilliant marketing.
Nevertheless, I learned that this whole vegan and vegetarian life is only tangible if you have a mass amount of time and money on your hands and can obtain a chef to guide you. This is not forgetting all those great vitamins needed to supplement your omnivore evolution, replacing certain elements only meat can deliver.
Please do not take this as a dig at this lifestyle, but rather an honest, almost decade’s worth of living it through good times and hard times. Yes, there are immense health benefits to these eating habits if done in cycles and with the help of professionals. It is no secret that when done correctly you can aid your body in many ways.
But, when the average person sets out on this journey for an extended period of time, we have nowhere near the knowledge required to flip millions of years worth of evolution onto its head and shake the nutrition tree, consistently.
What ends up happening, like in my case, you end up starving, inducing health issues, and living off of vitamins. It is the same as taking our closes relative, the Chimpanzee, and depriving it of an omnivore diet for years, only giving it processed foods. The results would be dire.
By the end of my 8 year journey, my joints hurt, I healed at a slower rate, had bruises last months, and suffered headaches every day.
Taking that first bite of meat after all those years, I can never explain the taste and how my brain and body responded. I literally felt joy! It is a moment that will sit with me for all my life and I have my beautiful misses to thank for that first step, as she, worried about my health, stuffed that unforgettable bite of food, into my mouth.
It is not to say that I have forgotten the lessons learned but rather have taken them and applied them to who I am today. If you are not willing to kill it and prepare it, you are not worthy of eating it. If you do not grow it or raise it, then do not buy it. Unless it’s from a true organic source.
Lastly, nothing trumps your life, ever! You are your world, you are the choices and the decisions, and without you, well none of this matters.
Eating meat and eating like a glutenous mass, are not the same thing. A healthy life is a balanced diet, not a 500g rump with 300g of prawns, rice, store bought veggies, and a canola based dipping sauce called lunch, which you do not even finish and give to the dog, how disrespectful.
To be human you must behave like a human and you cannot ignore your biology. We can create all the justifications in the world and my goodness, as people we can justify anything. But this does not change the facts.
Science is fact and belief is fiction. You do not go to a Specialist and argue that your cancer can be treated with Vicks because your grandmother said so. Your body is the result of generational hunting and gathering and if you cannot accept this, you are in for a hard road health wise.
I am just one person who has lived at both ends of the scale and I hope that before you embark on any form of extreme health changes you educate yourself through factual scientific research. Thereby, ensuring your knowledge is not outdated and you can care for yourself to the best of your ability and resources.
Knowing what I know now, I would have just cleaned up my diet of all the junk, got to hunting my food and grown or bought all organic foods.
To say this has been an experience that will sit with me for the rest of my life is an understatement. I can say, that it has forever upgraded my view on food and reconnected me to how valuable each bite is. I will never take for granted what my food is or where it comes from again. And, I will definitely never make extreme decisions before obtaining all the information required and not just the information I am looking for before committing to a life changing path.
If you have any thoughts on this, feel free to share them in the comments section below.