Speak Vegan To Me

Cut out the meat and dairy and clue in to veganism.

A few months ago, my stomach was bothering me. I couldn't figure out why, since I already follow a gluten-free diet (after years of stomach pain and discomfort, I was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2008). I thought my days of upset stomachs were over. So what was wrong? And then I read that cutting dairy out of my diet might help, since many people with a gluten allergy are also lactose intolerant.

Anyway... I wasn't feeling 100 percent, so I decided to try giving up lactose. And then I thought, "I might as well go all the way and became a vegan. Why not?" So I decided to eliminate all dairy, meat and animal products from my diet. Immediately after adopting a vegan diet, I felt better. My stomach began working again like a well-oiled machine. My skin cleared up. My mood improved and my PMS improved greatly as well.

As I researched vegan living I was led to Mark Bittman, a food writer for the New York Times whose column is entitled The Minimalist. Bittman has adopted an interesting approach to vegan eating — he follows a vegan diet all day and then when 6pm rolls around, he switches back to carnivorous eating and milk drinking. One meal a day (usually dinner), Bittman eats whatever he wants. From morning till that meal, it's no animal products whatsoever!

In his most recent book, "Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating With More Than 75 Recipes," he advocates consuming more fruits and more vegetables and eliminating processed foods. His book looks at how an American diet filled with meat and simple carbohydrates affects not only our nation's obesity epidemic, but also plays a role in the health of our environment.

According to Bittman, any physical ailments he had before adopting his "vegan before 6pm" strategy have vanished (borderline high blood pressure and cholesterol, 35 extra pounds and sleep apnea). What I admire most about Mark Bittman is that it was unrealistic for him to adopt a vegan diet all the time — he's a food critic! He knew he had to be healthier and he knew he couldn't be perfect ALL the time, so he made it work for him.

So now, five months later, I am still pretty much a vegan (95 percent of the time). Like Bittman I am not perfect, but I do aim to eat (and live my life) in a way that makes my body look and feel its best. Maybe becoming a vegan isn't your thing. I certainly didn't think it was mine. But after a few months, just like Bittman, I feel better. I also feel a huge sense of accomplishment knowing that my food choices are not only impacting my health in a positive way, they are also impacting the health of the planet in a very positive way.



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