Sunday, November 21, 2010
Tasha at the formerly VoraciousVegan.com -- she's in the process of changing it to Voracious.com--announced Friday that because of health problems she's had, she's no longer a vegan.
Unlike some who suspect she's a stool for the meat industry or even a fictitious person, I do believe she's real and has been going through a tough time.
But her enthusiasm for eating flesh ultimately hurts animals, not just because she's eating them, but because she has decided to continue to blog, this time about how delicious her new diet is. Unfortunately, her piece will have vegans second-guessing their decisions and possibly viewing her health arguments as a reason to go back to eating animals.
But this post isn't about criticizing Tasha's decision; it's about sharing my own health experiences transitioning from omnivore to vegetarian to vegan. I hope it helps omnivores or vegetarians not fear going vegan. And I hope it helps vegans remain vegans.
(Incidentally the question I asked Nick Cooney, author of "Change of Heart," in yesterday's blog post, about vegans going back to eating animals had nothing to do with Tasha's story. I hadn't read about her decision until after that post was published.)
I went vegetarian in November 2006, when I was 29. Around May 2007 I noticed that my hair was thinner and that some of it had possibly stopped growing in one spot in the back of my head. I also noticed that my nails were a lot thinner than they'd ever been. I do blame my thinning hair and nails on my diet. Whether the lack of hair growth in that one spot was due to my diet, I don't know. It's possible. (Only I and my hairstylist can notice it.)
But I wasn't overly concerned. In August 2007 I went vegan. At some point soon after I had my cholesterol checked. I don't like to fast, so I only got the general cholesterol test done, not the one that differentiates between HDL and LDL cholesterol. But my total cholesterol, which had been at 177 -- while doctors say anything below 200 is good, "The China Study" says anything below 150 is actually good -- dropped 38 points to 139.
I haven't had my cholesterol tested since then, but Tasha's post has inspired me to get a total blood work-up done in the coming weeks.
Aside from my thinning hair (which no one would notice) and nails, I haven't had any known health problems since going vegetarian or vegan. I've lived with depression and anxiety for decades, so that's unrelated to my diet. Animal rights has actually helped me with those because it's taken my thoughts outside myself and focused them on something bigger than I.
While many vegans talk about having an increased energy level, my energy has remained the same as when I was an omnivore. I'd say it's on the low side, but it always has been.
Health isn't the reason I went vegan. I did it because I believe that if one truly cares about animals, he or she shouldn't eat them. Saying that, though, if I did have a medical issue that could only be cured by eating animal products, I would do it; I couldn't be a good advocate for animals if I'm dealing with my own health problems. (I would begin with eggs first, and see if that worked. Eating animal flesh would be a last resort, and I wouldn't blog about how glorious it was.)
I'm not a doctor or a nutritionist, and I look forward to reading an expert's take on Tasha's situation. While I do believe it's possible to be healthy on an omnivorous diet, I also think it's just as tricky (and perhaps more so because one is tempted by an even greater amount of bad food) as being healthy on a vegan diet. But a vegan diet, in addition to being healthy, is also the best diet to choose if one cares about animals.
Update (5:28 p.m. 11/21/10): On her blog "The Vegan R.D.," my favorite dietitian, Ginny Messina, analyzes the health/nutrition claims made in Tasha's post. Check it out!