My First Plant-Based Anniversary!
On February 14th, I had the opportunity to celebrate valentines day with my veggino colleagues and close friends. It also happened to be my first plant-based anniversary, i.e. 1 years since I went vegan and then vegetarian! I cant believe that it has been 1 year already of no meat, pork, chicken…coming from someone who used to consume such food on a daily basis. We celebrated by each cooking a yummy and healthy plant-based dish, and topped it off with an amazing surprise of Tulip flowers (my favorite!).
How My Plant-Based Journey Started
February 2018: My colleague from Veggino, Noriko, had been talking to me about the plant-based diet and its benefits for several months and kept telling me to give it a try. I personally didn’t believe her when she would describe the benefits of plant-based diet, and a big part of me was curious to prove her wrong. Eventually I realized that the only way to challenge her was to become a plant-based eater for a short while (1-3 months) and prove to her that her preachings are wrong. Little did I know that when I became plant-based, I enjoyed it and the benefits were marvellous. My journey started off as a vegan for 4 months (from February 14th to end of May), and then as vegetarian ever since. There had been some occasions where I ate fish, but I have limited that to 3 types only: tuna, salmon and shrimp. Some people constantly ask me how I can still eat sometimes fish as a vegetarian, and I guess for me that revolves around a question of moral and ethics. For me, learning how land animals (cows, chicken, pigs) are being treated today has affected me a lot and opened by eyes to a world of abuse that I had neglected for a long time. Therefore I was happy to give these food up in support of what my conscious mind was comfortable with. A large part of me knows that this type of horrible treatment also exists for aquatic animals, but somehow I am still consciously okay to consume such food until I find a better source for the protein and health benefits fish provide.
(My) Benefits of changing to a plant-based diet
Do note that I am starting this section of this blog post with the word “my”. The reason I stress this is important is because my research and personal experience has shown that each person reacts in a slightly different manner when changing diets. Some reactions are very common, and others are not. A few of the common reactions I had when I switched to plant-based diet was losing weight (9kg in 1 year), and feeling lighter. It’s difficult to explain the lightness feeling, but as a meat eater, I would often get that feeling of “heavy stomach”. This never happened since I switched to plant-based diet! One of the main uncommon reactions I got is that my IBS pain disappeared. For those who don’t know, IBS stands for Irritable Bowel Syndrome and it can have different consequences on the body, from stomach bloating and pain, all the way to diarrhea or constipation. For me, I would regularly get bloating and intestine pain for the last 8 years, and I had to take prescription medication for it (two types of medications, taking it twice per month whenever I get the intestine pain). However, I haven’t taken medication in the last 12 months since I switch to plant-based diet.
I am not sure if being plant-based “cured” my body, but what it definitely did is remove the source of pain: bad food. When I got diagnosed with IBS at the age of 21, the Doctor encouraged me to reduce meat consumption and move to a more healthy plant-based lifestyle, but my addiction to chicken and meat made me ignore his advice and only realize its usefulness many years later.
Negatives of going plant-based
I think if I were to write this post 15 years ago, I would list a lot of negatives, but with today’s technological improvements in the food industry, it is possible to have a variety of soy based dishes that can very much taste like your every day meat, fish or chicken. Despite that, I can think of 2 main negatives that impacted me personally. The first is that I had to spend a significant time researching how to be plant-based and survive. Just switching diets isn’t enough, especially if you don’t have any clue regarding good sources for vitamin B12, B6, B9 and protein. Lucky for you though, part of our mission at veggino is to provide this information in a simple manner in Japanese and English! The second negative was that it limited my “eating out” options with friends. I don’t mind if I go to a restaurant and my friends eat meat or chicken as that is their choice, but it is difficult in Japan to find a restaurant that also caters good vegetarian or vegan menu options (on the positive side, I saved more money by cooking more at home).
One less common negative was the impact I felt on week 3. The first 2 weeks of switching diets were completely fine and I was happy as to how time flew and I was feeling lighter and losing weight, but when week 3 started, I got a major headache for around 8 days in a row. I ended up reading online that some people who eat lots of meat and then switch suddenly to a fully plant-based diet can experience such headaches and it was just a matter of time until my body adjusts to the new diet.
So is plant-based diet the best diet out there?
No diet is perfect, that is a fact. I know many people debate that humans need to consume meat in order to get proper daily protein intakes, but the way my mind functions (and its not a perfect mind!) is using the following thinking process: someone who eats meat every single day with no salad runs a higher risk of many deadly diseases compared to someone who eats salad every day without any meat consumption. Is the combination of both diets the best? Who knows…the internet is filled with contradictory research that shows meat consumption can be good, bad, horrible, or great for the body (and the same goes for veggie consumption). At the end of the day, what I think is the most important thing regarding your diet is to be fully aware of what you’re eating and what is actually being put inside your food. At veggino, we believe you choose how plant-based you should be. Some people are comfortable being 100% plant-based, whereas others are happy with just 50% (as in half of their daily consumption revolves around some plant-based food). Therefore, do your best to understand how the food industry functions today as it is much different than what it used to be 50 years ago, to learn how animals are being treated, to study how food consumption impacts your health and digestive systems on the long run, and to finally decide what type of food you are comfortable to consume from a health, environment and ethics perspectives.
I have been traveling to Japan for more than 5 years and moved to Tokyo in August 2017 to launch my startup Pedaru. I became plant-based to explore its health benefits and myths. Previously, I used to eat at least one of the following food items on a daily basis: chicken, pork, beef, lamb and fish. I thought it would be impossible to let go of all of that, but after understanding how badly animals are treated today, what companies are putting in our food and how important nutrition is, my perspective and mindset changed. If I can do it, so can you! My favourite documentary and book on plant-based topics are Food Inc. and How Not To Die. Check them out