Friday, August 17, 2012

Man vs Animal: Is it Possible to Meet our Health Needs without eating Animals?

I wanted to bring up this topic as I feel it's an important one. Indeed, I feel it's THE MAIN ISSUE at the heart of many people's reluctance to go or try vegan aside from food addiction of being addicted to certain foods, i.e. dairy (like I myself was).
I am working weekly over the phone with a coach who is trained in Non-violent communication which is an empathy-based way of relating with our own inner needs and those of others. It really resonates with me and I am growing a lot and see the potential for further growth as well.
One of the basic tennets of NVC is that we all have certain common basic needs that we are constantly striving to get met.
Here is a needs list that my coach recently shared with me. I will be going over this list in-depth with her in our next session as I feel a lot of these needs of ours get shamed in childhood and often we don't feel it's "okay" to have these needs, let alone ASK for them, not to mention recognize and validate them in others:


Individuality, being whole self



Preservation of life
Respect, seeing one another as whole

The well-being of those we love



Affinity/ Empathy
Love/ Intimacy/ Closeness
Shared values
Shared history and/or culture


Connection with life

In looking over this list, I would like to open my heart and share with you what needs of mine are met with the vegan lifestyle.
First, the need for connection with life is met as I see in animals a kindred spirit with the range of feelings  that I also have. In having had animals my whole life, they have brought a love, compassion, joy, loyalty and devotion that I have often missed in some of my human relationships.
My need for beauty is met by animal life as I often post pictures on my Facebook page of unbelievably beautiful creatures of varying shapes, sizes, textures and colors that often take my breath away.
My need for harmony is met as I feel that eating plants instead of animals helps animals to live out their full life potential while plants allow me to live up to mine and I am not doing this at their expense.
My need for health is also met because I feel I function and look my best when I don't consume animal products. Dairy foods in particular clog up my sinus and lungs and bloat my tummy while eggs and meat made me constipated and I had fowl stools.
While I have met many of my needs from eating this way, I have to acknowledge and realize that this is not the case for others. Some have experimented with an open heart and mind with veganism only to have some basic needs not met and have felt very frustrated with this experience.
One of the needs that is often not met with new vegans (an even some more experienced vegans) is the need for shared history and/or culture. Unless they are from a part of India that is already practicing a form of vegetarianism, or are of a religious faith such as Seventh Day Adventists who are  more frequently leaning towards a plant-based diet, there is often a feeling of isolation and feeling out of harmony and synch with the rest of society. 
Often the teasing, taunting and ridicule can take away one's tranquility and serenity that we all would like to have around meal times. 

The well-being of those we love is a big need for new parents who may have deep fears about making sure their newborn is getting the best nutrition for their Health. They have a need for reassurance with Information and Understanding/clarity as well as autonomy of choice as well as respect for their choices. 

In fact, pretty much everything in the above paragraph could apply to adults as well who might be considering or have tried a vegan diet for themselves and were not successful. This can create a deep sense of inner conflict of needs when we feel that we are forced to choose between the well-being of our own health versus the well-being of another creature (an animal) if we feel that consuming animal foods is what would effectively meet those needs.

Another issue that needs to be addressed is what needs are being met/not met with vegan activists and those to whom they interact with.

Vegan activists have needs of Empathy, Purpose/Meaning, Contribution, preservation of life, the well being of those we love,  and experience a deep sense of mourning at not seeing the needs of those whom they consider "voiceless".

The frustration of not meeting these needs often creates an outlash of anger of these vegan activists towards those whom they would desire to have shared values with others and Mutuality of Respect and seeing one another as whole.

Those who have experienced health problems from their experimentation with veganism, or those who have not tried veganism yet and hadn't made the decision yet with good Information often feel not heard and that their autonomy of choice or  Respect and seeing one another as whole is not acknowledged by vegan activists. And, their needs of empathy, support, communication, sense of community and other needs are not given consideration.

Thus a polarization develops and needs are not being met on either side. This frustration erupts into angry, defensive, accusatory exchanges which create a form of "violent communication" which are not congruent with the basic foundation of veganism which is compassion for ALL life.

We need a better way.

I have endeavored to share information on my blog in a non-judgmental way showing those thriving and benefiting on a vegan and raw vegan diet and how they are doing it as well as problems they may have experienced and ways that they have overcome them.

I, too, have run into some challenges on my vegan path and have experimented with various foods off and on to see the effects they have on my body.

At one point in my journey I even experimented with animal foods and was grateful I did as it confirmed that they did not indeed benefit me and I learned I could trust my own inner guidance of my body and didn't need to override it by listening to society's "educated" voices. 

There are others, however, that have seen tangible benefits from changing back to including animal foods.

My own observation on the matter, and this is just my own opinion based on my own research that I have done, is that those same needs can also be met by the plant kingdom.

Some times we need to add in more protein from legumes. As much as some vegans would like us to think that not getting enough protein is not an issue, depending on what "form" of veganism one pursues, one can indeed not get sufficient amino acids for the rebuilding and repair of the body.

I have interviewed several vegan body builders, fitness competitors and such to show that we can indeed get what we need in this area with a thoughtful, plant-based diet.

I do feel that we all have a need for more clarity and information, however, in the vegan community, as there is a substantial smaller portion of the human population eating this way than most and thus there are several different "types" of vegan diets that yield different results and this leads to success in some and failure to thrive in others and creates enormous confusion and fear.

For example, too much fat from vegetable sources, white flour, sugar, sodas, smoking, alcohol, or with some people, fruit-based diets that don't include leafy greens, sprouted beans or nuts, can create deficiencies that lead to serious health issues. They are all "vegan" diets, however, thus people blame "veganism" , which is simply the omittance of animal products, and not these other factors, thinking that as long as they don't eat animals that they are "getting everything that they need."

The real issue was either lack of protein (from plant-based sources) or lack of whole food nutrition that led to serious nutrient imbalances that could have been avoided with a more balanced approach. We need to eat WHOLE foods and not junk food vegan foods or SAD vegan foods (i.e. tons of fat just like the SAD diet).

I desire for greater respect, thoughtful communication and shared common values (our health), with vegans and non-vegans so that we can exchange solid information and come to conclusions that meet all of our mutual needs. We don't need to polarize and be pit against each other.

I invite you to share your experience and what needs were either met or not met when you tried a vegan diet, are on a vegan diet, are considering a vegan diet, or are not considering a vegan diet nor want to and perhaps I can share mine with you and we can both grow.

 My ultimate desire is for the well-being of those whom I share this earth with and that includes all humans that I come in contact with to create a sense of community, understanding and connection with all life.