I’m about halfway through Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food, in which the author argues that “Nutritionism” has taught us to be rather reductionistic about how we think about the whole eating thing. We think too much about nutrients like fats, carbs, and proteins, with actual food being relegated to mere neutral and non-descript conduits by which those nutrients are delivered to our bodies. In addition to thinking about nutrients rather than foods, we think about foods to the exclusion of diets, and diets to the exclusion of an overall lifestyle.
All this to say, I’ve decided to dabble a bit in Veganism. Now, you’re probably thinking, “Veganism isn’t something you can ‘dabble’ in. It’s like becoming a Mormon: you either go all in or you’re just wasting everyone’s time.” I have given this objection (and the issue as a whole) some thought, and I’ve come to the following provisional conclusions:
1. Some people are vegan out of pure principle, as in, they consider it unconscionable to consume animal products of any kind, period. For that person, dabbling is not possible since eating butter actually wounds his conscience. I am not that person, but will be more of a vegan by accident (except when I’m not). In other words, it’s more a matter of wisdom for me than it is a matter of morality. If I eat 35 meals/snacks per week, and 30 of them happen to be vegan (as opposed to how it is now, with 30 of them being non-vegan), then I figure I’m winning.
2. According to the crap I have been watching and reading, there is no one secret diet that is superior to all the rest — studies of primitive peoples show that some eat high-protein diets, some almost all fish, others mostly plants, etc. But in each and every case it is the introduction of the Western diet that has uniformly brought massive spikes in diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and countless other problems. Pollan’s mantra is simple: “Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants.” It’s not a prescription for a specific diet as much as an algorithm for thinking about eating in general (read: not preachy or sanctimonious. I like that.).
3. I have always been a big fan of switching up my exercise and diet routines. Sometimes I eat high-protein and low-carb, sometimes I do high-intensity intervals, sometimes I just lift weights, twice I have completed a P90X routine, sometimes I count my calories, etc. Dabbling in the whole vegan thing may very well end up as just another in a series of switch-it-ups, or it may actually become something more permanent. Time will tell. Plus, I’m used to being a really bad version of really good things.
4. Another thing for me is the issue of complicity. In a word, I pretty much hate the whole system, the Matrix, the status quo, whatever you want to call it. I hate banks, I hate the military-industrial complex, I hate the insurance companies, I hate big agri-business, I hate big pharma, I hate big oil, and I experience no small amount of self-loathing when I find myself a complicit enabler of or participant in these things. If reducing my intake of animal products and processed foods can be my way of giving a big ol’ middle finger to some of these structures, all the better. Is it some decisive death-blow? Of course not. But like I say, little bursts of protest for sanity’s sake are good enough for me. Plus, experiments like these are healthy (ahem) for me, as they help prove, to myself at least, that I am still open-minded enough to be willing to consider a major change in lifestyle if I think the evidence and/or benefits warrant it. Who, me intransigent?
Sooo… who’s with me? Anyone? Gimme a “V,” gimme an “E”! No? Nothing? Just chirping crickets? That’s cool. I’ll probably only last a week or two anyway. But at least for that period of time I’ll have another reason to look down my nose on all you pathetic losers. Seriously, just go slash-and-burn a rainforest, you soulless puppy-clubbers.
I’ll be over here, veganing. Like a boss.