A true vegan, from what I understand, would be more fixated on that factor of it. If I was a vegan by the classic definition of the term, I wouldn’t wear leather or take you to the zoo.
That’s because I’m what is being referenced to as a “new wave vegan,” a phrase I learned from Mike Thelin, the co-founder of Feast Portland, when he spoke to Forbes:
“The new wave of veganism is more about health than animal welfare. For better or worse, this is why it will have more staying power.”
I jumped on board (with the help of documentaries on Netflix and YouTube including Forks Over Knives, Hungry For Change, Vegucated, The Beautiful Truth, Dying To Have Known, Supersize Me, and Food, Inc.) for health reasons alone, not animal rights.
Another way of labeling me is to say I eat a plant-based diet.
However, I don’t like the word “diet” because it could be construed that I am trying to lose weight or get other people to.
Weight loss is a natural side effect of being a new wave vegan, but by no means has it ever been my motivation.
Granted, I did lose over 35 pounds (from 178 to around 142) and 3 pants sizes (from 34 to 31). Actually, that part of it for me was sort of annoying and expensive because I had to buy a new wardrobe.
Another thing I do differently than a traditional vegan is that I’m not simply not eating animal products; I’m also not eating non-food products, as well.
One example is cellulose, which is actually wood pulp that is non-digestble by human beings. It can be found in bread, cheese, powdered drinks, spice mixes, and maple syrup, and a lot of fast food items; just to name a few sources.
And if food is not organic, either, I’m led to believe it contains traces and effects of pesticides, which are not plant-based food sources either.
I think something else that sets apart a true vegan from a person who is plant-based (or a new wave vegan, like me) is that while I am happy to explain my lifestyle to those who curiously ask about it, I have no desire to convert the free world.
By no means do I think I’m better than anyone else because of what I do or do not eat. Therefore, I’m very deliberate in attempting to not sound condescending when I talk about this.
Honestly, I don’t think a person like me could get the approval of PETA. I mean, sure I care about animals’ rights, but I care more about human rights.
I care about humans having the right to know the truth about avoiding cancer and disease, but only if they ask me about it or are curious to read an entire article I write about it.
Or at least watch any or all of the following documentaries on Netflix: Forks Over Knives, Hungry For Change, Vegucated, The Beautiful Truth, Dying To Have Known, Supersize Me, and Food, Inc.
While I’m already witnessing on the Internet a wave of criticism for his decision to try out, and possibly stick with, the vegan lifestyle, I happen to be one of the few to actually have some good advice for Jay Z.
Because when it comes to being a vegan, I know what I’m talking about.
I’m not a heckler in the crowd who mocks veganism by saying, “We’re all going to die at some point, right?” Instead, I am a living science experiment for everyone to see.
This very week makes 9 months that I’ve been a vegan (an extremely strict one, too: no honey!) and 2 whole years since I’ve been a vegetarian.
Of course, my dive into the plant-based life was several years in the making, since I started out 5 years ago by going kosher (no pork or shellfish).
And that journey led me here.
So, if by some chance Jay Z happened to read this letter I am privately writing to you today, what would be my best advice for him?
It’s not about what you “can’t” eat, it’s about what you can.
I break it down into the 6 “Vegan Food Groups” or what I call, “The Big 6″:
Vegetables, fruits, beans, grain, nuts, and seeds. As a vegan, you can eat as much of those 5 things as you want. And it doesn’t take long before you realize that those 6 things are so full of protein, fiber, “good fats” and “good sugar” that you aren’t left wanting for more.
Basically, and this is only my theory, being a vegan means your cholesterol intake is more than 0% (from good fats, like avocados, cashews, coconuts, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, etc.) but less than 1% (because of no animal fats). I think part of the reason vegans feel so much better after nixing animals products is because they are no longer experiencing another living (at one time) animal’s cholesterol and fat running through their veins.
Based on how much better I feel after having become a vegan 9 months ago, I believe the human body functions perfectly on more than 0% but less than 1% of the daily allowance for cholesterol. (One large chicken egg alone equals way more than half of the daily allowance.)
Yet, I don’t believe everyone should “go vegan.” It’s something you have to want in your heart, especially after having watched any of the following documentaries on Netflix:
Forks Over Knives, Hungry For A Change, Vegucated, The Beautiful Truth, Dying To Have Known, Supersize Me, and Food, Inc.
Also, it’s important to listen to your appetite. If you’re craving a big, fat, juicy cheeseburger, ask yourself what your body is actually craving.
A large cheeseburger contains a lot of (and by that I mean way too much!) protein and saturated fat.
So, out of vegetables, fruits, beans, grains, nuts, and seeds, which have a lot of protein and fat?
The other thing I love is that there’s enough people in America who demand real food (that doesn’t contain mysterious and potentially harmful chemicals) so that a brand like Annie’s can be this successful.
This is such a beautiful case of supply and demand.
But most of all, the best part of this story for me is, you love Annie’s enough to mention it at school as one of the necessary staples that you like to buy at the grocery store.
You’re as passionate about Annie’s as I am! (Okay, so maybe you just like the way their food tastes and looks, and you’re not really aware of Annie’s “no GMO” policy, but still.)
That gives me one more reason to be so proud of you.
I should start off this letter to you with what I have as my current status on Facebook:
“In the past 5 years, I have completely and successfully given up pork, shellfish, processed sugars, then meat altogether, then dairy, eggs, and honey; more recently, all alcohol and carbonated drinks (which I only had in moderation anyway)… and all of that, was NOTHING… compared to my newest current challenge: Caffeine (and therefore, coffee). I have officially survived Day #1. I heard the first 5 are the worst. This is misery; suffering both physically and psychologically. Caffeine is a highly addictive, easily accessible, completely legal and unregulated drug that has got me in a powerful state of withdrawal right now. I shall overcome…”.
Yeah, that about covers it.
Our family drove home from buying groceries at Whole Foods today and all I could do was collapse on the floor once I walked in the door. You started to run over to me as if to tackle me. I had to say, “I’m sorry, Son. I can’t wrestle with you tonight. Daddy isn’t feeling well.”
You kept asking me why I wasn’t feeling well. How do I explain to a nearly 3 year-old that, without realizing it, Daddy has been addicted to coffee (in the form of one to two cups a day at work, then at least one Starbucks over the weekend)?
The story included this pictogram which pretty much clears it up for me.
Part of the difficulty that comes with removing certain food and drink staples from my life, being that I could now be labelled as a caffeine-free, alcohol-free, soda-free, kosher vegan, is the nostalgia I have to let go of. And that definitely is the case here with caffeine.
After all, the friendship between Mommy and me, that eventually led to us dating, was first nourished in a weekly Sunday night meet at Starbucks; which didn’t simply include coffee, but more importantly, caffeine.
I’m not banning Starbucks as a company or a brand. I admire their cleverness. They have found a way to capitalize on one of the most addictive and unregulated drugs in the world and get people to pay at least 4 dollars a pop for it. I respect that, as a Libertarian capitalist.
But as for me, I plan for that half a cup of coffee I drank at work Friday morning to be my last ounce of caffeine for the rest of my life.
I just hate the thought of being at the mercy of a food, drink, and/or drug. Instead, I’d rather discipline my body and bring it into subjection (Biblical reference); especially knowing that the process of detoxing from caffeine makes me feel like a drug addict.
That is how I feel, by the way. I am a drug addict going through a baptism-by-fire withdrawal period. It is brutal.
I can feel my nervous system under attack right now. I’m a little freaked out by it, to be honest.
While I am so happy to have you and Mommy here with me now, I have to admit it feels like the Smoke Monster from Lost is trying to win this battle with me this weekend. That is how I am portraying my withdrawals from caffeine addiction.
I wish I could be fully present with you this weekend in mind, body, and spirit, but I know I’m not me right now.
From what I learned thanks to the girl in the tea aisle at Whole Foods today, who is now caffeine-free, having been through this herself, it takes a solid 10 days to recover from a caffeine addiction, but the first 5 are the worst.