Lifestyle tips · Nutrition

How did I manage to convert from meat-eating low-carber to vegan high-carber?

You have probably already figured out that I am a vegan. But to be perfectly honest, I am THE LAST person one could have ever imagined to go vegan. I do not believe in animal rights (even though I believe in animal welfare) and environmental issues are not the first things in my mind when I think of world problems. Most of my life I have actually been anti-vegetarian and at one point wanted absolutely nothing to do with vegetarians, especially vegans (because vegans were even worse than vegetarians).

So what happened?

I have a strong backgroud in the low-carb movement. I was a low-carber (more or less) for seven years. For years my diet was pretty much based on meat and dairy products, especially cheese and raw milk. I was around 21 years old when I discovered the low-carb movement completely by accident. In my country (Finland) the ”leader” of the low-carb movement is a medical doctor named Antti Heikkilä. I noticed an article in a magazine about his ”Pellinki diet” (which is a low-carb diet he has named after a place he has his summer cottage in). Dr. Heikkilä has written countless books about modern diseases and the low-carb diet and I proceeded to read them all. That’s when I also learnt about the ”paleo diet”, also known as the caveman diet, which is a variation of the low-carb diet.

The main argument of the low-carb promoters is that fat does not cause disease and make people fat, it’s the carbohydrates. High-carbohydrate foods like grains (rice, wheat, barley, all flours etc.), corn or potato are not ideal food for human beings because we have not been evolved to consume such foods. Human beings did not consume any grains before the dawn of agriculture which is only about 10,000 years ago, when the modern human species is about 200,000 years old. Such information was completely new to me and I was very impressed of Heikkilä’s books. I adapted the diet he was promoting and followed it very strictly for a while, and later more or less for a total of seven years.

But the thing is that I never really quite enjoyed this diet. I absolutely love bread and rice but those were both completely forbidden. At times I craved them so badly that in a grocery shop I had to close my eyes when walking past the bakery section. I would have given anything to be able to eat bread. I didn’t even think about sweets, like candy, chocolate or cakes. But I tried to be strong because Dr. Heikkilä had said that people crave carbohydrates because they are highly addictive foods (comparable with heroin) and they will make people sick. I also believed that carbs make people fat and was trying to lose weight. I had always been very skinny but had recently gained 15 kilos (33 pounds) and wanted to shed them all. I managed to lose 5 kilos (11 pounds) but the rest stuck like cancer. After years of struggle, diet restrictions and going to gym I managed to lose 5 kilos more but never got in the shape I wanted. I gained the 5 kilos back, then lost some, then gained again etc. All the time I would have just wanted my bread and rice. To hell with meat and cheese and eggs (which were the basis of my diet).

But then in 2014 came a big change in my living conditions. I moved to a new city across the country in search for work and stayed in very primitive conditions. I had no running water so as a consequence I had no kitchen or bathroom and had no proper kitchen equipment like an oven. I had no freezer at all and my fridge was the size of a school backpack. I was forced to mainly consume foods that could be stored in room temperature. I quickly dropped meat, raw milk and eggs off the menu and started consuming nuts, seeds and fruit instead. Cheese and butter were the only animal products and I kept them to the minimum because I couldn’t fit them in the fridge. I had been going on like this for a while when I noticed that I wasn’t even missing meat or eggs. I sometimes bought them but noticed that I prefererred nuts and avocado so I stopped buying them completely.

Then one day I realized that I am basically a vegetarian. And I was LIKING it! I had zero desire to eat any meat or eggs. Even the thought was unpleasant. Nuts, seeds and avocados tasted much better. Later I got a job as a chef at a school and part of my job was to also cook for people with dietary restrictions. Every day I cooked vegetarian and vegan food as well as the standard food and noticed that I much, much preferred the taste of the vegan food and always chose to eat the vegan food myself, even though standard food with meat was available.

The realization that 1) I was basically a vegetarian, 2) I preferred the taste of vegetarian food was critical. Without this I probably would have never become open to the new ideas I was about to discover.

In the beginning of the year 2015 I stumbled upon a raw food blog hosted by two Finnish women. There they wrote short articles about their raw food vegan diet which consisted almost entirely of fruit. I was already familiar with the raw food diet and I had been conscious of it almost as long as the low-carb diet but I had never looked at it in detail because I had always been allergic to all things vegetarian. But the articles in this blog caught my attention because they presented scientific evidence which was in complete disagreement with the evidence low-carb diet promoters had presented. I started investigating more and ended up in the American low-fat high-carb raw vegan movement. I got especially interested in the writings of the Canadian life style coach Frederic Patenaude and the medical doctor John McDougall because they argued rationally and everything they said was backed with scientific evidence. I am a kind of nerdy science type person when it comes to things like this. I would have never listened to people whose main argument was ”vegan makes you feel good” or ”going vegan will save the world and the animals” because as I said earlier, animal rights and environmental issues are not close to my heart and never have been. But science and rational argument… I cannot bypass those.

The scientific evidence favouring the low-fat high-carb vegan diet was so convincing that I decided to jump headlong, throw all the hippie prejudice out of the window and forget the low-carb craze of seven years. I started experimenting with the diet. I only ate fruit, vegetables, porridge and rice. During the first two weeks I lost 1 kilo (2.2 lbs) per week. After a month I had come down one clothing size and could fit in trousers which I hadn’t been able to button up a month earlier. Two months later I was at the lowest weight in 10 years and the only thing I changed was my diet. I didn’t even go to the gym during that time.

I had to think again the things I had learnt about the paleo diet and low-carb diet in general. I had to consider that maybe Dr. Heikkilä and all the other low-carb promoters are wrong. There must be more to this.

Because I just LOVED my new vegan diet. I followed Dr. McDougall’s plant-based (vegan) diet program called ”The Starch Solution” and the experiment went so well that I adapted the diet as part of my life style and have been following it ever since. I can now eat the things I love the most (bread and rice) so giving up meat, dairy and eggs doesn’t matter to me at all. This diet is also very cheap and highly practical because almost everything can be stored in room temperature.

The biggest problem with almost any vegan or vegetarian website/book/person promoting the vegan diet and lifestyle is that their main argument often is that one should go vegan because it helps the environment and animals. If my lifestyle helps the environment then ok, cool, but that reason is not a reason enough for someone like me to ever even consider trying to go vegan.

If a person like me can adapt the vegan diet so can you! This diet is not only about ethics – it’s also about health, price and practicality.



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