I was brought up on a fairly standard diet: a lot of animal protein, animal fats and a fair amount of sugary food, but with a quite rich diversity of vegetables and fruit. It wouldn't be called unhealthy by today's standards and I had great tasting meals (thanks to Mum!) But there is still a great discrepancy between what is conventionally considered to be a good diet, and what is actually the case.
Because of animal cruelty issues I became a vegetarian during my studies at University. As a source of protein, I would frequently cook meals with TVP (textured vegetable protein – from soya beans). I continued to eat large quantities of cheese. I got to know my 1st vegan at the time: a very thin, rather spotty red-haired girl. She was doing it partly for health reasons and partly as a moral stance. I was inspired by her ethical practice but was neither persuaded by her cooking – insipid, watery soups with overcooked vegetables – nor her health reasons. She simply looked ill! I then had of leading girlfriend who held the same position. Her meals weren't bad but there was something a bit insincere about it all, to me at any rate. Maybe I just didn't want to give up cheese, so I didn't follow her example, either.
Sometime after university, I reverted to eating meat, although only 2 to 3 times a month, and then only organic and free range, unless I was invited to dinner. This diet continued up until about 3 years ago, when I started a relationship with my present girlfriend – also a convinced vegan. She is not only a great cook, but highly knowledgeable on the subject of health and nutrition in general. She had been forced to go animal-free due to a long-winded allergy problem, so severe that she had to be hospitalised twice. She successfully healed herself from an array of ailments through changing her diet radically. At one point she was only able to digest potatoes, but it worked. I have learned more from her on this subject, as well as a great amount in my own personal development. I am very grateful to be able to pass on this enriching nutritional information based upon personal experiences and proven therapies around the world.
At the time of going vegan I was generally healthy and certainly physically fit. I rarely got colds or other viruses. However, I suffered from occasional dizziness, notable energy fluctuations, and also from a tendency to feel cold easily, apart from during vigourous physical exercise. This factor impinged upon my guitar-playing, as my fingers lost a significant amount of flexibility when cold. My girlfriend informed me how eating dairy reduces metabolism, which then causes coldness. This, and the other reasons were good enough for me to resist the temptation of further eating cheese, although I felt it would be sorely missed. Additionally, I reduced my sugar consumption by about 80%, in order to combat the symptoms arising from low blood sugar. I stopped frying food in oil, replacing it with a small amount of water in the pan, and adding any good quality olive- or sesame oil right at the end of the cooking process. Overheating oils has been linked to cancer. At lunchtime I often start with a large salad. Raw vegetables are responded to by the body normally, whereas when you eat cooked food on an empty stomach, it is treated as an alien substance: lymphocytes are produced, sometimes in abundance, and this also affects your energy-levels negatively. I also avoid eating sugary food and other highly soluble carbohydrates to begin with, when I am hungry, as this is a significant contributory factor to causing low blood sugar.
The results have been very positive: the coldness has gone down by about 80% and when I avoid sugar I have very stable energy levels. On the rare occasions that I go out to eat, I may consume a small amount of cheese. At the beginning of my diet change I had cravings for it but now I hardly notice its absence. In fact, I have gone off many of the softer cheeses altogether. Until about a month ago I would eat fish 3 to 4 times a year. I have now decided to ban all fish from my diet, which doesn't come from proven sustainable sources. I can't abide the way the oceans are plundered. This and the quota system with all its wastage, defies belief.
I have noticed an increasing sensitivity to the plight of animals in the food industry, and am pretty sure this has come from my diet itself, because I am certainly not more factually aware now of the destructive processes involved, than I was as a cheese- and meat-eater. The killing of animals in itself, is not an issue for me. It is basically the amount that are slaughtered for greedy and ignorant lifestyles, and the treatment inflicted on a powerless being that I find grotesque.
I don't try to force legalism down peoples' throats (!) But in view of the misinformation and fears regarding the subject of diet and health, and also the ignorance about the huge environmental cost associated with our animal-protein-rich diet, it is important to speak out about the hidden facts and lack of compassion. We have to stand up for the rights of all living beings on the planet. To put everything into an economic balancing act, in order to formulate policy or day-to-day decisions is frankly a sinister motive. As the limits of the world's resources are being approached and even surpassed as I write, it would be absurd for anyone interested in harmony, sustainability, fairness or animal- and human rights – not to look at the role of their own dietary choices in the context of health and responsibility.