No animals were harmed in the making of these muscles

Today, I write an entry that doesn’t really have much to do with my acting career but I feel it’s really worth sharing. It has to do with almost completely giving up meat and anything that comes from an animal.

Picture of a little squirrel I took back in 2008

I used a shot of a squirrel because I don’t think I’ve ever taken a picture of a cow, chicken or any animals commonly raised for meat. Although some people will hunt and eat this little guy (or girl), at least they’re not subject to factory farming…as far as I know!

I used to eat meat at least once a day; usually at dinner. Sometimes for lunch, sometimes as a snack, sometimes in the morning. I never really thought much about it. To me, a day wasn’t complete without a portion of meat. Well, people can change…and change they do.

For what I would estimate to be about two years now, I’ve been eating a mostly vegan, plant based, whole foods diet. What does that mean exactly? Well I avoid all meats, including fish. I also avoid anything that comes from an animal including milk (as well as milk products like yogurt and cheese) and eggs. Not only that, I stay away from processed food, especially the ones that contain only elements of food (i.e. “white” or refined sugar which usually comes from sugarcane). Basically I try to eat stuff that nature gave us, in its unaltered state and mostly eat things raw. So my diet consists mainly of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, legumes, etc. I also sprout some things like mung beans, instead of cooking them.

Now, one thing I still consume on a regular basis, that may not be considered vegan, is honey. Otherwise, I very rarely have anything that’s animal based. In fact, since I came back from China (wasn’t always easy to stick to the diet, especially with the language barrier) in early September, I’ve been eating completely vegan (except for honey). That was less than three months ago…and guess what? I put on over ten pounds of muscle. Wait, what? How can you not eat meat and build muscle? Where do you get your protein? Well, there’s gotta be a way if I’m putting on muscle!

I’ve always stayed in shape since my college days. However, after leaving my full time job as a software developer, I stopped going to the gym and lifting heavy weights. So I lost some muscle, but always stayed fit and maintained an athletic, toned and strong body. I had switched to more body weight, “cross fit” types of functional strength workouts. Well, recently I’ve gotten myself some adjustable dumbbells and a bench. These and the equipment I already had for years, including my chin-up bar, handles hanging from it and a couple of weight vests, I was determined to put back on some muscle. Why? A few reasons… I wanted to show people that you don’t need animal protein to bulk up. I also want to be someone who people will want to consider for some cool action based roles. Plus, I don’t mind being stronger…I have this goal of one day being able to pull off a one handed chin-up. Maybe by the time I’m 30?

So with the dumbbells I was able to do more in terms of weight training. Still, my progress was slow. I was told I should probably eat more, but I wanted to see if I could still gain some strength and muscle without going crazy with food. This was kind of an experiment to me as I don’t want to eat more than I have to. Well, finally I decided to squeeze in a bit more food in my diet, and specific foods like yams for example. Well, it seemed to have worked. I feel I’m eating a good amount, without under or over-eating. I’m also going with how hungry I am, not really having a fixed eating schedule. The thing is, I have (at least I think I have) good self control. So even if I’m a bit hungry, I can go on without food for awhile… That decision to eat more was more of a decision to not allow myself to be hungry; at least not for too long. However, I’m glad I went through this as it was a great learning experience.

Now back to the popular “where do you get your protein” question. It’s really what people ask me the most when I tell them about how I eat. Well the thing is, there’s protein in a lot of things. Did you know apples, bananas, carrots, tomatoes all have protein? That pretty much all fruits and vegetables have protein? They sure do. Of course, some more than others, and the fruits and veggies I listed usually aren’t a hugely significant source, but it’s there. However, you can easily find foods that are higher in protein that those, such as nuts, seeds, grains, beans and other legumes; all great sources.

But why, why give up meat? Well, I started being exposed to some books, studies and documentaries and partway through this one book, I cut out meat cold turkey (ha!). I had chicken that I marinated, which was ready to eat, but instead I left it in the freezer and had my first vegan day. Now there have been times since then that I’ve had meat, but in the last two years, I can count those times on my hands. From eating meat over 400 times a year, to probably under 10 times in two years is a big change. You might expect me to have felt weak, ill, etc. but it was actually the opposite. I don’t get sick anymore…the closest I get is the start of something which never goes anywhere and is usually gone the next day. I didn’t just give up meat, I did my research and replaced it with the proper foods and made sure I got all I needed. But the question still remains…why?

Well, a few reasons, that you could sum up under health reasons; personal health, the health of animals, the health of the planet (if that makes sense). It’s my understanding based on what I’ve read/listened to that we, as North Americans, eat too much meat. It’s a source of a lot of health problems, notably heart related issues (leading cause of death over here). I don’t think it’s a coincidence that places where the population consume a lot of meat and animal products are also places where people have more heart issues. And this is just one health problem, albeit a major one. What about cancer, any similar correlation? Don’t worry, I’m going to list a bunch of sources at the end so you can read up on this too…plus you’ll see where I got my information and make your own decision on what you read/watch/listen to.

What about the health of animals? The incredibly high and unnatural (in my opinion) demand for meat has created “factory farming”, unnatural conditions for animals to live in. Of course, there are alternatives. You can get your meat from farmers that treat their animals well, feed them well, don’t inject them with growth hormones, etc. If we can keep the demand low, and not eat meat as often, then that could be a solution. However, if the demand stays, and we all want to switch to “organically grown” meats…well it’s just not possible. The reason factory farming exists is because the demand for meat is so high that it transformed the way we raise animals for food into what it is today.

Now as for our planet, did you know that livestock is responsible for more greenhouse gases than all of transportation combined? And that’s just one of many issues. We use so many more resources to raise one pound of chicken, beef, porc, etc. than one pound of any fruit or vegetable. Instead of growing food to raise these animals so we can eat them as food, we could instead grow food for ourselves to eat, and not have to grow as much. We’d need less land, less water, and less resources to feed more people. This is not just some conspiracy theory; there’s a United Nations report which talks about the impact of the livestock sector.

Not only have I only skimmed the surface here, that was a lot of talk without a lot of backing up….it’s best to see for yourself, make your own research, your own decisions and conclusions. So where did I get my information? Well, here’s an incomplete but good starting list for those interested: The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell, PhD, Whole Foods to Thrive by Brendan Brazier, Food Inc., Forks over Knives, Simply Raw: Reversing Diabetes in 30 Days, Home (free to watch), and finally that United Nations report I told you about called Livestock’s Long Shadow (full report here). There are also a few documentaries that I’m planing on watching in the near future, including Earthlings (free to watch) and Planeat. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t necessarily agree with all the opinions expressed in these bodies of work, which is why I stress doing your own research outside of this and making up your own mind as well.

Of course, animals eat other animals. It’s natural and it’s part of the cycle of life. However, there’s a huge difference between hunting an animal that lived its life in the wild, the way it was meant to…and factory farming. One allows the animal to roam free, to eat what it should eat, to live a natural life…while the other is the complete opposite. I’m not saying let’s all start hunting…but what I’m trying to say is the fact that animals do eat other animals doesn’t excuse subjecting them to horrible, unnatural conditions. I think it’s…interesting that some people will criticize hunters but eat meat that was factory farmed. Another point I’d like to make, for those who don’t want to watch documentaries showing the mistreatment of animals (as they don’t want to actually see the animals suffering) but continue to eat them…well ignorance is not bliss. Please take a look at what you might be supporting and allowing to happen.

If you’re a God fearing person, or someone who believes in Karma, or even living with the mentality of “you get what you give”, “what comes around goes around”, “you reap what you sow”…then you’d agree that we should treat each other well if we want that in return. What about the animals? Don’t they count? Our high demand for meat is big reason of why so many of them suffer and live their lives in horrible conditions…and thus why we all suffer. Our health and the state of our planet suffers. Instead, it’d be great if we could be good to each other, and include animals, our environment and surroundings in that statement. Despite my own personal choices, I’m not saying we should all stop eating other animals…but I’m hoping we at least try and reduce our consumption to the point where they can live a happier, more natural life…so we can all benefit.

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