You may be vegan…
You’ve read it. You’ve said it. Maybe you’ve hashtagged it. There are those moments, those statements, those occurrences that make you stop and wonder if you’re turning into a big stereotype.
After about ten years of refusing to go to the doctor (the first ten years of adulthood, as it were), I decided to give attention to some issues that needed it when I was about 28 and start going again. The joke’s on me: I am now on thyroid meds for the rest of my life, so it appears I will have no choice but to go to the doctor regularly (which appears to be twice a year at this time). Thanks, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis!
But here’s the thing: as a vegan, I look forward to my bloodwork results every year. Not the actual taking of my blood – that makes me light-headed and I have to turn away, lest I see the blood coming out of my arm and filling the glass tubes on their way to the lab. But I like to read the results. I like to look at the range for each reading and to see where I am. I like it that my bloodwork says I’m healthy, even when I’m not eating my best, even when I have a family history of diabetes and cancer and heart disease and, it seems, dementia and Alzheimer’s.
I have a spreadsheet where I’ve been documenting my results for the past 3 or 4 years. Will I ever get my cholesterol to that magic number of 150? (No, not if I keep eating potato chips as if they are about to be discontinued from existence.) Will my Vitamin D levels be ok this time? (I’ve been way better about taking my daily supplement.) What does that number mean? (Probably nothing, chill out, self.)
I am not the healthiest I could be, vegan or otherwise. I don’t eat nearly enough whole foods, and I’m lazy around the kitchen. But I’ve been making a concerted effort to be a bit more active and I’ve lost about ten pounds since January 1. I’ve done this with an autoimmune thyroid disease, and without high-protein, low-carb, cut out all the shit you like recommendations. (Did you know that some say goitrogens have to go when you have the condition I have? I’m not giving up my kale, or my strawberries, or my broccoli. Screw that.) It’s possible to be healthy when you’re not eating animals – even if you’re not eating the best you can be. “Vegan health” doesn’t have to be much different than any other type of “health.” Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
My doctor was overjoyed at my annual physical appointment last week. I was down sixteen pounds since she’d seen me six months prior. My numbers? They were pretty good. My fried potato addiction not withstanding, I’m still at below average risk for heart disease, suckers!
Something else that surprised me: my free T4 is too high. So we’re lowering my dose of thyroid meds and testing again in six weeks. Less meds is a good thing, right? My doc was careful to say it’s not good or bad, it just goes hand in hand with losing weight.
My annual physical reminded me of something that I think we all must remember: each of us is on a different journey in a different body. There is no guarantee that a vegan diet is going to help you lose weight. There is no reason for you to think that you have to lose weight while eating plants. I started down the vegan path for health reasons, and believe me – they are a perk I enjoy. But as I headed down that path, I realized that, for me, they aren’t the most important item on my vegan plate… ethics is.
I’ve been meaning to start strength training for months. It’s just not something I’m comfortable with – the machines and those who use them intimidate me. This is not the case for my brother, who knows his shit and has the physique to prove it. He showed me the ropes recently and gave me some really helpful advice. But then he pointed out that edamame doesn’t have enough protein, rolled his eyes at the very mention of plant-based protein powder, and asked what I would do on a desert island.
My veganism and his core belief in animal protein make up a philosophical impasse that will likely not be worked through. I told him, point blank, that I won’t eat animals. I assured him I would read up on vegan athletes (Thrive has been on my nightstand for a couple of years now.).
Even when I question what it is I’m putting into my body and why I find it easier to sit on the couch than on a weight bench or a rowing machine, I know that I stick to my convictions when they count. This quote nicely sums up a philosophy I try to remember.
“Be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.” ― Max Ehrmann