7 Dimensions of Wellness

7 Dimensions of Wellness
7 Dimensions of Wellness

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Going Vegan is more than a "diet challenge".

Is Beyonce really about that vegan life? The answer to this question continues to be debated after she recently teamed up with Marco Borges to "announce" her support for taking the 22-day vegan challenge on Good Morning America.  She credits the plant-based diet for her flawless skin and after baby figure.
" I am not naturally the thinnest woman... I have curves, I'm proud of my curves. I have struggled since a young age with diets. Finding something that actually keeps the weight off...has been difficult for me."  ~ Beyonce

The public response to her announcement ranges from apathy to anger to awe, all for valid reasons. While many continue to call her out on what they perceive as hypocrisy, revisiting recent images of her scarfing down hamburgers, the Hollywood elite and many loyal fans believe that Beyonce's presence and platform will allow her to reach new audiences with her message of plant-based eating. That's a good thing right?

Choosing a dietary lifestyle is a personal choice that should be made after considering your heath needs and risk factors.

What scares me most about this "diet challenge" is the over-simplistic fad-like nature of the message. Eat nothing but plants for 22 days, lose 8 pounds and your life will change forever! But forever turns out to be a few weeks and then we are back to our natural habits.

After struggling with my own weight along with other health issues, my doctor insisted that I get off the standard American diet (which she calls SAD) if I wanted to feel better and avoid a hysterectomy. Blood test results showed food allergies to wheat, gluten, dairy and other foods. I was also advised to avoid meat with hormones and soy based foods since soy is an artificial estrogen that can cause or aggravate hormonal imbalances and lead to weigh gain along with reproductive issues in men and women.

That was hard news for a foodie like me who was raised by a southern mother who flavored our green beans with bacon grease. But I was tired of the pain and non-stop weight gain so I made the commitment to not only change my dietary habits, but the habits I taught my children (who all have the same food allergies). As the primary cook in our home, I understood that making long lasting dietary changes meant changing how I shopped and prepared food for everyone. It's been over 3 years since I made that commitment to change and I'd call my progress to date a success. Am I perfect? No. I still have my piece of cake and I will enjoy and nice steak every now and then. But the changes I made were enough to stop the weight gain and avoid surgery.
Choosing a dietary lifestyle is a personal choice that should be made after considering your health needs and risk factors, family life, food access, financial ability and level of commitment. Those who choose to go vegan and forgo not only the consumption of meat but the use of all animal based products, usually do so for reasons that reach beyond the issue of weight-loss.

Producing and consuming meat and animal products is an ethical and environmental issue for many vegans and non-vegans. We often hear of animal rights activists who see meat as murder. But we don't hear enough about other equally valid environmental concerns.

Farms use a great deal of water raising animals while water shortages for humans continue to grow around the globe. Farming also requires a lot of grain to feed the animals. Forests in developing parts of the world continue to be cut down to make room for growing corn, soybeans and other animal feed instead of crops for human consumption. Long story short, animals eat and drink 16 times more than their own weight in meat causing water and food shortages around the globe that primarily impact the poor. I'd like to see Beyonce use her platform to address that. We can not honestly begin to promote healthier plant-based diets without at least mentioning the systematic barriers like food deserts, particularly in urban communities, that keep people from being able to successfully add more fruits and vegetables to their normal diets.

Starting Down the Vegan Path

People from all cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds can successfully adopt a vegan lifestyle if they wish, but it does require some initial thinking and planning. I've not read Marco Borges book, but there are plenty of similar (and less expensive) resources. There are also online resources and an abundance of Pinterest boards dedicated exclusively to plant-based recipes and alternatives to animal products.

Meatless Mondays, a national non-profit initiative seeking to reduce the consumption of meat and increase the consumption of plant-based foods is a wonderful place to start for those interested in trying vegan recipes without the 22 day commitment. The Center of Wellness for Urban Women supports this initiative and is an official blogger for Meatless Mondays.

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