It has been almost four months since I last had meat on my plate and I feel great! Yes, I have become one of the many who have embarked on a full plant-based diet. More popular names include Nadya Hutagalung, Sophia Latjuba, Beyonce, Jason Mraz and even Arnold Schwarzenegger.
As I do not eat any animal products, including eggs and milk, I fall into the vegan category. Those who shy away from meat but still consume eggs and milk, are usually known as vegetarians.
Given that this lifestyle may be worthwhile for some to consider, I will provide you a sneak peek into it. For simplification, I use the term vegan to represent both vegans and vegetarians.
Once I adopted the vegan lifestyle, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that problems — from the trivial to the life-and-death in nature — may actually need not exist. This covers things such as the embarrassment of a bulging belly to the prevalence of climate change.
More specifically, here are a few reasons why vegans stick to their diets.
The first is the prospect of enhancing personal health. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), a non-profit organization, recommends a plant-based diet to prevent Alzheimer’s, cancer, diabetes, heart disease and many other ailments. And if you’re just interested in losing weight, this lifestyle will also support your goals.
And then there’s the prospect of increasing mass health. This is done through minimizing outbreaks of viral diseases from unhygienic animal farming practices. I think we all still remember the viral outbreaks of the past, such as mad cow, bird flu and swine flu. The PCRM has attributed the past outbreaks and even the current pandemic to animal farming.
And finally, the prospects of lessening climate change.
It turns out that cows and other livestock are contributors to climate change as they emit methane, which is considered a greenhouse gas (GHG).
The United Nation’s 2019 Special Report on Climate and Change suggests that a healthy and sustainable diet can reduce GHG emissions. It goes on to say that such diet is high in grains, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds and low in animal sourced foods.
But wait. Isn’t it hard or even impossible to give up meat? After all, we’ve been accustomed to eating meat since we were old enough to chew, right?
True, breaking customs is never easy. But the good news is that we all have minds we must never underestimate. Once determined to achieve something, the mind incredibly supports our goal. I guess it’s like the way our mind magically erases our hunger when we are fasting; while on non-fasting days our tummy will roar for attention after only a few minutes being late for lunch.
OK, so how do we actually start?
Well, people are unique and have different approaches. Some like to take the gradual approach; while others opt to go—for a lack of better word— “cold turkey”. Those going gradual have been known to try “meatless Mondays” as a start. This will extend to Tuesdays, Wednesdays and so on.
Meanwhile, for the “cold turkey” goers, one day they are enjoying a steak; then it’s veggies for life the next day. If it weren’t for the fact that I myself went cold turkey, I would’ve thought this would be impossible.
As it turns out, it’s not as hard as it sounds. And it helps if you have a trigger. Some are triggered by having an affection for farm animals, some by health issues, some other by listening to a moving talk or watching a compelling documentary.
For me, the trigger was, unglamorously, the greatly unpleasant lethargic feeling I got after chowing down too many helpings of opor (chicken curry) during Idul Fitri. I guess the hot chicken was responsible for the cold turkey.
“But don’t you ever miss eating meat?” I am frequently asked.
Well if I dwell on it, I would probably miss it, and perhaps, even be tempted to give in. But I guess I never needed to do so when, thanks to social media, I am learning daily about new plant-based meals, recipes, catering services, and restaurants. It’s encouraging to see the number of vegan meal providers continue to grow.
Being Indonesian, we are lucky that most of us are familiar with and enjoy various fulfilling plantbased meals. Gado-gado, pecel and ketoprak (a variety of vegetable salad served with peanut sauce), rujak (mixed sliced fruit and vegetables served with spicy palm sugar dressing), tofu, tempeh and tumis sayur (stir-fried vegetables), to name a few.
Having acquired a taste for such culinary delights, the switch to a vegan lifestyle would be less challenging.
So, if you wish to walk in my vegan shoes, just let your mind know that you wish not to eat meat, and that all the veggies on your plate are your prized treat. Good luck and enjoy your journey.
Executive in the financial field who turned vegan in May
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.