“Vegansim” used to be something of a dirty word in my house growing up. As a family of hearty carnivores, the idea of not having a portion of meat on my plate once – and in some cases three times – a day was unheard of.
In fact, I had such an irrational fear that I thought if I didn’t have at least one serving of meat or fish throughout the day then I might starve to death. This is not a joke and it wasn’t just meat and fish. I’d happily demolish a cheeseboard by myself and, as a child, I can’t remember drinking anything other than cow’s milk.
So when I dropped the bombshell on my wife, family and friends that I was turning to a plant-based diet, it was met with ridicule and skepticism.
To look at me then, you would think I was the sort of bloke who would eat roadkill: big, burly, all hair and tattoos, but it was something that I had genuinely wanted to do for years, if only I could get past the old I’ll-die-if-I-don’t-eat-meat dilemma.
Then one day me and my wife watched some documentaries on Netflix, mostly about the environmental impact livestock breeding was having on the planet as well as the studies that showed red meat increases the risk of certain cancers. Our oceans are on the verge of total collapse because of over-fishing. The food used to feed livestock could wipe out world hunger in a day. It gave me the kick up the backside I needed.
The day I chose to become vegan was January 27. I had done no prep work, no meal planning, no idea where I might find meat-and-dairy free items. I weighed 129 kgs, looked awful and struggled to play and chase after my three young children. I looked terrible and I felt worse.
Within the first few weeks I could see and feel the benefits. I no longer felt bloated after meals, I was sleeping better and had more energy. Instead of going to bed at 1am, I went to bed at 10pm. Instead of going to the gym and doing weights, I was signing up for body combat and exercise classes.
Nearly 10 months on I feel better than I ever have. I lost 30kgs, dropped two waist sizes and started playing football again. My wife can comfortably put her arms around me for a cuddle instead of desperately trying to clasp her fingers around my back. I get compliments from people who can’t believe the transformation. Flattery will get you everywhere with me.
When people ask me why I turned to a vegan diet I tell them, truthfully, it was done for my health rather than ethical reasons. But the two are inextricably linked: if I’m not eating an animal, somewhere down the chain (hopefully) a cow, a pig or a fish isn’t being slaughtered for human consumption.
I don’t need an animal to die or be exploited to fuel my body. One per cent of the world’s population is now vegan. My only regret is that I didn’t do it years ago.