How can you tell if someone is a vegan?
There was a rare but companionable lull in the conversation between my friend and I as we sat having lunch one sunny day. Both of us love people watching and we soaked up the opportunity for a bit of observation, until suddenly she said, “How can you tell if someone is a vegan?”
Ooh, this was interesting, I thought. I scanned the crowd, looking for signs that someone might be a vegan, but other than the obvious (and highly stereotypical) signs from their clothing, i.e. women wearing long, flowing, purple skirts adorned with tiny mirrors and bells or men with wild beards & hair sporting highly patterned shirts unbuttoned to the waist, I had no clue. There were no physical differences that I could see, so I was really intrigued as to how I could spot it. “I don’t know”, I responded.
“They’ll tell you.” she replied, “Loudly.”
I’ve written a couple of articles on intolerance from people who believe that they’re the ones with the only true beliefs or knowledge (Rights and Values and Don’t Call Me Names) and that the rest of the world needs to acknowledge their superiority and align themselves with their beliefs. And I hate to say it, but there are a fair number of Vegans who fall into that category.
Vegan vs Keto
A case in point: I go over to the UK to find that my brother, Alan, is pretty close to morbidly obese. He needs to lose weight fast and I suggest that he goes on a Keto diet. For those of you who don’t know, the keto diet consists mainly of meat and veg and is pretty much zero carbs. According to WedMD, “Ketosis is a normal process that happens when your body doesn't have enough carbs to burn for energy. Instead, it burns fat and makes substances called ketones, which it can use for fuel.” Keto is about retraining your body to use fat for energy rather than carbs, so as far as I’m concerned, it’s ideal for my brother.
Alan put up a post on Facebook, declaring his weight loss & lifestyle intentions, accompanied by photos of the food he’s just prepped (see photo: it looked amazing), openly sharing his journey with the world, something that takes a lot of courage. A Vegan Jedi friend of his (that’s what he calls himself, so don’t assume I’m name calling here), comments that Alan is going to kill himself, that Keto causes heart disease and stroke, that it increases his diabetes risk and suggests to Alan that he check that the person who’s told him about the Keto diet isn’t just trying to sell a book.
And, let’s face it, if Alan doesn’t lose weight quickly, he’s a prime candidate for all those things anyway.
What works and what doesn't
Here’s where my advice came from: 56 years of listening to my body, trying every lifestyle diet that there is and finding out what works and doesn’t work for me and my body. Since Alan and I are related, it’s likely that at least some of the things I’ve found are applicable to him.
But the first thing he needs to do is DETOX to find out what his body does and doesn’t like.
In other words, he needs to go on an elimination diet and cut out all but the most basic foods (i.e. meat & veg) eaten with the minimum preparation, then slowly reintroduce things to see what is causing his body aggravation. The most obvious way of doing that in a simple word accompanied by easy-to-find recipes: Keto.
In my opinion, and from my personal experience, the worst thing he could do is go vegan. The reason? Soy products have some serious side effects (check out this article here) and soy is one of the things that causes me the most problems.
Unleash the power within
A few years ago, we attended Anthony Robbins’ Unleash The Power Within weekend, including doing the firewalk. The whole weekend was amazing. Tony Robbins recommends a raw vegan diet, so of course, after a weekend like that and always being keen on feeling better, I put the entire family on a vegan diet. After six or eight months, I had to stop because my hair was falling out, my skin was awful, I was putting on weight, I was permanently on iron tablets, my sleep patterns were shot, and I felt weak and lifeless. If it was doing that to me, god only knows what it was doing to the kids.
I thought I’d be okay on a vegan diet because I’ve gone years at a time without eating meat since being young. Not because of any moral reason but because I didn’t feel I needed to eat meat, it wasn’t what my body required at that time. But somehow, after several months or years, I always ended up eating meat again.
Twelve months ago, after spending years trying to figure out why my digestion wasn’t working too well, why I put on weight after eating certain foods, why I couldn’t sleep, why I had no energy, I went on an elimination diet. It had some surprising (and devastating) results. My body doesn’t like/can’t process:
- Gluten – which is really annoying because I love baking and I love bread.
- Legumes (beans & peas), particularly soy products
- Nuts – particularly cashews & brazils (no more Chocolate Brazil Nuts!)
- Some seeds – for heaven’s sake.
- Fructose – I can tolerate fructose in small amounts, but more than 2 pieces of fruit a day and I pile on the pounds
- Mushrooms – the only thing I'm actually allergic to is mould and all things mould-related, up to and including penecillin.
- Lactose – again, I can tolerate it in small amounts
- Nightshades – potatoes, capsicum, tomatoes, aubergine/eggplant (I get joint pain when I eat these)
- Sugar – obviously
- Low fat/oil – My joints seize up and my skin dries out so I look like a prune if I don’t ingest enough oil
It’s no wonder a vegan diet didn’t suit me really, is it? Despite what Vegans will tell you (loudly), it’s not for everyone. There is no One-Diet-Fits-All because we’re all different. I believe that we all need to find out what does and doesn’t suit our body and go with that. If we’re eating what works for us, we’ll naturally be fit and healthy.
The goals and outcomes
The whole point with my brother (or anyone else) is not that he goes on a diet to lose weight, but that he changes his lifestyle and eating habits to support his body and feel the best that he can, and that’s what he’s doing.
- Cut out all processed foods including sugar
- Cut out pre-prepared foods, particularly snacks
- Eliminate grains and legumes
- Minimise dairy
- Max 2 pieces of fruit a day
- Use butter/ghee or Avocado oil for cooking, Olive oil at a pinch.
- Drink the juice of a freshly squeezed lemon in 400ml of water every morning before you eat or drink anything else
This article and website by Joelene of Yummy Inspirations explains ketosis and has some fantastic recipes for both ‘strict’ and ‘lazy’ keto recipes (‘lazy’ keto is when you don’t count the carbs, you just eliminate them as much as possible without obsessing about it, which seems like a much better idea to me!).
I generally follow an Auto Immune Protocol diet (you can find out more about AIP here) because that’s what suits my body, but I’m not obsessive about it. I’ll go and eat pizza or rice occasionally and then I go back to my diet to give my body time to readjust. Alan may or may not end up eating the same way, but his focus right now is to get the weight off and get into a healthier state.
Follow the journey
You can follow Alan’s journey on his Facebook page, our website and our YouTube channel.
What are your thoughts on this?