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THE Lowly Peon

The Experiment 
26 June 2011, 2:52pm

I've felt pretty much perpetually full since I moved to Texas two months ago. Meals are big, snacks are everywhere, and there are so many good alcohols easily accessible. So last week I decided to take control and clean myself out a bit.

I decided that for a week, I'd be a non-alcoholic vegan. No meat (which I haven't eaten in over a decade), fish, dairy, any other animal products, or alcohol.

This decision followed a great weekend in Austin, where we saw Explosions in the Sky with simonite at Austin City Limits. The three of us had some great drinks and way too much food, and the experiment could not have come at a better time.

My thesis, prior to making any changes in my diet, was that the omission of only two products would really be what made me feel better: alcohol and dairy (namely, cheese).

It didn't take long for me to see results. By day two or three, I felt more awake, had absolutely no evidence of a headache, and my stomach felt neither full nor empty, but mostly satisfied.

At the same time, however, I remembered almost exactly why I stopped being vegan in high school: everything has traces of dairy, and constantly planning what you can eat and where is just exhausting. Furthermore, I felt like I was always struggling to find the balance between being an absolute vegan and disregarding the gelatin in the capsule of my daily vitamin, for example. If my goal is to be healthier, I decided, the nitty gritties are not important. (Back in high school, I was absolute. I put nothing in my body unless I knew every ingredient. And that is freaking exhausting.)

(For the sake of full disclosure: my primary goal has always been to be less wasteful, so when our Groupons were about to expire for a movie theater and a free drink, I had a beer and buttered popcorn.)

And in the end, my thesis wasn't far off from the truth. Eating fish, or tiny bits of dairy or gelatin, doesn't have a drastic effect on my health. Cheese makes me feel really full when I'm still hungry. But the strongest conclusion, really, is that alcohol is absolutely horrible for one's health. And I need to drink way less of it.

Note: I didn't really change my intake of caffeine as part of this experiment. Part of this is because I'm so convinced caffeine has a tremendous effect on my well-being, and I wanted a sort of control group to test my diet, and caffeine will be for a different experiment. The other part is because I like caffeine, and I think consuming it in reasonable quantities is okay.

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[27 June 2011]

As far as I understand it, there is a lot of evidence that limiting the meat in your diet (especially red meat) has a lot of health benefits. I think there is also something to be said about not consuming animal products because of concern for the animals that "donated" those products. However, I don't think there is a lot of evidence that dairy is unhealthy for you. Evolutionarily speaking, being vegan doesn't match up with the evidence, either. As far as I can tell, health wise, you can actually eat pretty much whatever you want to, as long as you are fairly active.

So, I'm all in favor of cutting out the alcohol (but isn't a glass of wine with dinner good for you?), or cutting out caffeine (which you didn't do), but I think being vegan for health reasons is more placebo than anything else.

Which is one of the reasons I've always really respected you as a vegetarian. The way you described it to me was, "I feel better when I don't eat meat." Which explains why you'll eat seafood, and dairy and marshmallows. It wasn't about some futile yet noble attempt at treating animals with kindness (I say futile, because you basically have to live under a rock to not harm animals, and if you think for one second not eating meat helps them then you are forgetting about all the habitats that have been destroyed and the pesticides that poison that are used to bring you your non-meat food). It was about listening to your body. And it wasn't dogmatic.

Which, I guess is sort of the conclusion to your post about being vegan. That being vegan and just arbitrarily setting these rules "doesn't have a drastic effect on" your health.


THE Lowly Peon

[02 July 2011]

bentomas: yes. precisely.

though i will say very clearly that i will not eat bluefin tuna or a handful of other endangered or otherwise harmful-to-eat fish. this is not because i feel guilty for eating them, as you said, but because i really like eating bluefin tuna and want to be able to in the future. don't want to piss in the well, so to speak.