‘The best way to promote veganism is to show how happy and fulfilled you are by not consuming animal products’

Everyday Vegans
An occasional series in which ordinary people
talk about living a plant-based life


US nanny Bethany, the latest contributor to our series, believes veganism is all about love and compassion – and she tries her best to let these qualities in her life speak for the cause

BethanyMy name is Bethany, I’m 26 years old and I live in Charlotte, North Carolina, with my husband Ryan and our four pets. We have three cats – JiJi, Milo, and Sophie – as well as a tortoise named Teva. I currently work as a nanny for an incredible family, and my previous job was as the coordinator for a local nature museum. I’ve lived in the Southern US all my life and have a huge love for stereotypical Southern cuisine (everything deep-fried please). When I’m not working or eating awesome vegan food I enjoy hiking and camping, reading, crafting, and have just started practising yoga.

I went straight from an omnivorous diet to a plant-based one literally overnight. After a lot of thought and deliberation, I made a plan to go vegan on June 1 2016 and from that date onward I have been vegan, with a few minor slip-ups. I was a pescetarian in college for about a year, and had tried a vegetarian diet a few times over the course of the previous few years.

My attempts at eating a meat-free diet were usually spurred on by reading or seeing something related to animal agriculture (reading The Jungle, watching Food Inc) but was usually thwarted by lack of options or self-control. Saying that now sounds like such a cop-out as there are so many vegetarian options compared with vegan ones.

So, as of today, I have been vegan for two years and seven months!

My husband Ryan watched Earthlings in 2015 and he decided to make the change, quite suddenly, to veganism as a result. I was sceptical about it and I really enjoyed non-vegan food so I continued to eat meat and dairy for an entire year before making the switch myself.

It was tough going for Ryan for a while, as I joked about when he’d give up being a vegan, and I didn’t give his dietary concerns much consideration when choosing restaurants.

Over the course of the next year, I ended up making a lot of vegan food and trying out vegan restaurants with him. I started thinking that it might not be as impossible as I previously anticipated. Ryan was never pushy about me eating a plant-based diet, and it was his patience that encouraged me to start doing some of my own research.

I started watching vegan YouTubers who had totally vegan families. They were all incredibly happy and healthy and raved about the benefits of a plant based diet. I also followed a lot of vegan bloggers and listened to podcasts and speeches. All of this definitely contributed to my decision to go vegan, however it wasn’t until I read articles about the atrocities of animal agriculture that knew I had to make the switch.

I don’t believe I would ever be an omnivore again. I’m a big animal lover and having the awareness of the horrors of the animal agriculture industry is what would prevent me from eating animal products again. And, to be honest, the smell of meat cooking or even plain cow’s milk makes me gag now. There are so many plant-based alternatives to animal products that I don’t really miss any of the old foods I used to eat.

I’m definitely not a healthy vegan. I’m an ethical vegan, which means I switched to this lifestyle to protect animals and the environment rather than for health reasons. I absolutely love deep-fried tofu, potatoes, vegan sausage and bacon, bread, and, of course, anything sweet.

I started out my vegan journey trying to recreate all my favourite non-vegan dishes and eating an obscene amount of processed vegan meats and cheeses. However, this diet is not very nutritious, and I was starting to feel sluggish and tired most of the time. So, while I still enjoy all those tasty treats mentioned above in moderation, I’m trying to incorporate more plant-based foods into my diet. I find my skin, digestive health, and even mental health are much better when I eat a more whole food plant-based diet.

I usually drink a protein shake or make oatmeal for breakfast, but will sometimes splurge and eat banana oat pancakes or blueberry waffles. Lunch is usually leftovers, vegetable soup from Amy’s, or a sandwich loaded with veggies and hummus. For dinner my husband and I try to eat something filling but healthy! Our favorite meals to make are harvest bowls (broccoli, sweet potatoes, black beans, and Brussel sprouts over quinoa), chili, barbeque jackfruit, loaded nachos or tacos, and tofu stir fry.

We get most of our groceries for the week at either Trader Joe’s or Publix as they typically have great prices on produce, grains, spices, and other staples. If we need a specialty item, or if I want a smoothie or protein shake on my way to work, I will head over to Whole Foods to pick it up. We do enjoy going to the local farmer’s market from time to time as well.

I don’t really think much any more about where I get my proteins and other specific nutrients from. I did at the very beginning, but it’s become such second nature to me that I don’t really think about it anymore. I know I won’t be satiated unless I eat something with beans, oats, lentils, or tofu in it so I try to make sure I include one those in each meal.

Most people think you have to eat meat or dairy to meet your daily nutritional needs but that just isn’t the case. Most, if not all, nutritional needs can be met with a balanced plant based diet. I do take a few supplements though, as I had critically low vitamin D3. I take a multi-vitamin as well as extra D3 and B12 supplements. I urge everyone whether they are vegan or non-vegan to get their vitamin levels checked.

Being vegan can definitely make you feel like an outsider. I think the hardest part of being plant-based isn’t finding food at restaurants, or going to a party where there’s no vegan food, or even struggling to find decent vegan dairy or meat substitutes at the store; these things are really minor in comparison to the awareness you have being an ethical vegan.

It’s very hard to come to the realisation that many people around you either aren’t aware of the cruelties that animals face, or even worse that they know and don’t care enough to change their lifestyle. Animals suffer a great deal for the fleeting pleasure that humans get eating their flesh or bodily secretions. I was definitely that person who said, “I’ve always grown up eating meat, so I don’t think I could change my diet”, or even, “I’ll just buy from a local farmer and that’ll be fine.”

But so many people don’t realize the horrors of animal agriculture on a small or large scale. Animals are sentient beings capable of feelings of love, joy, and sadness. To kill them for our own enjoyment is absolutely unnecessary.

Animal agriculture is also a major contributing factor to global warming, something which is an issue for my generation Continue reading →

An interview with Dr Anthony Hadj: why a whole-food, plant-based diet is best for our health and the planet

Dr Anthony HadjThe food we eat has long been used to prevent and manage health problems, and now there is a growing movement of medical people who believe wholefood, plant-based diets not only prevent but can sometimes reverse a lot of the chronic illnesses associated with western lifestyles. They believe a change of diet can treat ailments such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease as well as, if not better than, daily drugs that control symptoms rather than offer a cure.

We spoke to Dr Anthony Hadj, pictured, a vegan GP with a special interest in management of chronic diseases (eg obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease) using a combination of modern medicine and nutrition/education. The Australian medic is passionate about the subject and spends some of his time promoting veganism as the best choice for a healthy lifestyle.

You’re clearly 100 per cent sold on the benefits of plant-based diets. I’m interested in your own path as a medical practitioner to that conclusion; at what point in your practise/training did the power of a vegan diet start to become clear to you?
I have always had a strong interest in animal welfare and, like many, loved animals. In 2013 I began to realise the horrific practices that occur in the animal agriculture industry and I made the conscious decision to be vegan from then on. There was a video that Paul McCartney made called Glass Walls, which had a strong impact on me. As I explored veganism, I was made aware of medical practitioners like Dr John McDougall, Dr Caldwell Esselstyn and Neal Barnard and the work they were doing with nutrition and disease. I was amazed that diet could play such a large role in not only the causation but cure of disease. From then on, I chose to include it in my practice and encourage many people to pursue this.

Did the notion of a strong link between nutrition and illness always make sense to you?
It didn’t become clear until I researched and understood the science. That was in 2013/14. Once I started to read the pioneering studies from people like Dean Ornish who were able to reverse our number one killer, heart disease, I was sold on the power of plant-based nutrition.

What we put into our bodies has always been linked to certain ailments. Having seen the benefits first hand in your patients over a number of years, you now have your own experience to draw on when it comes to using nutrition to cure western society ailments like diabetes type 2 and hypertension. What research/studies did you initially consult to guide you into your current thinking?
I read the book The Starch Solution, by John McDougall. He brilliantly covers the science of plant-based health and references many papers through his book. The pioneering studies from Dean Ornish and Caldwell Esselstyn that showed a radiographical reversal of heart disease were very convincing. The Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine website also has a great deal of links to studies that have shown the impact plant-based health has in treating type 2 diabetes.

Do your patients always follow your ‘go to the fruit and veg section of the supermarket’ prescription? Would some just prefer to take the tablet and eat the cheese?
Many patients of mine are very keen to follow the prescription. They are often seeing me because they have had a ‘wake-up call’ or a diagnosis that is life changing – heart disease, mini heart attack/stroke, diabetes etc. It’s at this point that many feel incapacitated but also energised to do whatever they can. When you are able to showcase the power of plant-based nutrition to them, it is very enticing. Many patients are prepared to do whatever it takes to live longer. Some people do just prefer a tablet and cheese; however, even with these patients, I have noticed that they do come around eventually.

How could I, a layperson, explain simply to a fellow layperson what the health benefits of a plant-based diet are?
Consuming plants is our natural diet. We are designed to eat plants and specifically carbohydrates. Many large civilizations have spread and prospered because of starchy (high complex carbohydrate) foods. We have a lot of evidence that populations who are mostly plant based live the longest and happiest of all. It is now beyond doubt that consuming a whole foods, plant-based diet lowers blood pressure, heart disease risk and keeps us trim and healthy looking. Websites like the John MacDougall’s, plus the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and NutritionFacts.org provide a great place for people to start.

Do you believe that the meat and dairy industries are now involved in a collusion to keep the health benefits of not eating their produce quiet which rivals that of, for example, the tobacco industry in the 1960s (and potentially the alcohol industry, though that’s another story entirely)?
I don’t think there is a collusion or conspiracy. I do believe that it is just about money. They are seeing a movement like veganism take root and thrive, and it is a threat to their bottom line. They will always be able to find a study that supports their work; however, it is almost impossible to suppress the benefits of this programme. They use mass marketing to try and keep the public confused.

You’ve been vegan for three years. Before that what was your own diet like?
My diet was very poor, with a preference for high-fat foods of an animal nature.

How would you counter the suggestion that plant-based is the current fad. I grew up in the 70s and saw my mother try high fibre, low fat, high fat and highly restrictive calorie-controlled diets among others, all in the space of a decade. What makes this different?
It is a very sustainable diet. We will feel full when we consume a vegan diet (generally) because it is high in fibre. We thrive and feel better because it is a diet focused around antioxidants, macro/micro nutrients that helps to keep our body healthy and well. Many fad diets in the past have failed Continue reading →