This week (God willing) I plan to do 1 post a day about a health/fitness issue. Since 2008, I’ve lost over 60 lbs. Am I perfect now? No, I’m still a work in progress. More work actually goes into keeping off the weight you lose than you put into getting the pounds off at the start. These posts cover 7 things I’ve done or have incorporated into my lifestyle to lose weight and keep it off. These are things most anyone can do. They vary from easy-to-do to a bigger commitment on your part. First up, going vegan.

The first topic this week is veganism. A lot of people either have heard or know of a vegan but I’ve found not a lot of people ‘get’ or understand veganism. First off, being a vegan is not the same thing as being a vegetarian. Being a vegetarian means you don’t eat meat; you’re all about the vegetables, no fatty foods and so on. Then there’s veganism. Being a vegan means you don’t do dairy: no cheese, milk, butter and so forth. In a way, being a vegan is similar to being an extreme vegetarian. BUT there are some vegetarians that actually do eat dairy and cheese and all of that stuff; there are some vegans that despite cutting out dairy will eat fish and meat.

I read Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness and a host of books by such health figures as Dr. Oz and so on. They all leap to tell you that the ONLY way you’re going to get your calcium is from dairy. They and the government and recommend 3 servings of dairy a day to promote bone health. Well … that’s cool and all but most people eat and drink far more than that of dairy each day. Yes, milk, cheese and other dairy products are a good source of calcium, an important nutrient for bone health, but dairy isn’t the only source of calcium. Dairy, no matter how you get around it, is super fattening.

When I first started losing weight, I went vegan. I cut out milk and cheese, two things I consumed a lot of at the time. When I did that and started exercising more, the pounds come off easily. For a period last year, I decided to ease off the whole vegetarian and vegan wagon. I was reading Men’s Health and Men’s Fitness (two magazines I actually like a lot) and watching The Doctors and Dr. Oz and saw that all of these sources tell you that you MUST consume dairy. I fell into the trap of thinking this was the way to go, especially to build muscle. Not the case. A lot of these government studies that get published in fitness, nutrition and health magazines are funded by dairy and meat groups here in the U.S.  These special interest groups have the money to basically get anything proven that they want. They can say “eat 5 servings of red meat each day for optimal heart health” or “drink 8 cups of milk a day or you’ll get osteoporosis” and they’ll fund a study to prove just that and nothing else.

Going vegan is a bit scary. It knocks out a heck of a lot of the typical diet plan that most people are going to push. Pizza, dishes with cheese, muffins, cookies, lasagna, quiche, scrambled eggs … all of that is suddenly cut out of your diet. When you go vegan, you’re going to get a lot of flack. People aren’t going to cheer you on in most cases. In fact, they’re going to think you’re crazy, claims you’re depriving yourself, that you’re anorexic and all of that. In reality, some of these claims COULD be true if you aren’t being a healthy vegan and/or vegetarian.

There’s a ton of sources of calcium. They include calcium-fortified soy milk, calcium-fortified tofu, soynuts, bok choy, broccoli, collards, Chinese cabbage, kale, mustard greens, and okra. An easy way I get in my calcium each day is to start each day with a dose of calcium just like anyone else; I consume a small bowl of greens (collards, kale, spinach) for breakfast. This isn’t your typical breakfast and it’ll take a week or two to get used to but dairy often-times makes you feel bloated, sluggish, run down where as vegetables give you a great dosage of minerals and vitamins and are more easily broken down by your body. If you’re a vegan and a vegetarian and eat 3-6 small meals a day (as you should to maintain a good metabolism), believe me, you’ll get enough calcium each day to be healthy.

For those still on the fence, consider this: what other species other than humans consume the milk of another species? Humans are pretty much the only ones. And think about this: do you think milk is 100% calcium? It isn’t, people. You’re consuming whatever else that cow was fed. I won’t use scare tactics to sway you to the vegan side but believe me, cows aren’t as healthy as you’d like to think. They’re pumped full of hormones to make them bigger and meatier and in the end, you end up drinking those hormones which lead to acne, screws up your metabolism, can lead to abnormal puberty spurts in children and young adults and can end up packing on the pounds. So sure, you’ll get some calcium with a list of dozens of other things. The moment I cut out dairy and went vegan, getting my calcium from vegetables rather than milk and cheese, my skin improved. The weight that I had gained by eating dairy also started coming back off, I have added energy and endurance.

There are some really great cookbooks that are all vegan recipes. Alicia Silverstone also helped pen a book titled, ‘The Kind Diet’ that I found to be really helpful in making the transition back to being vegan. If you want the dish on what the dairy and meat industry isn’t telling you, pick up ‘Skinny Bitch’ or ‘Skinny Bastard’ but be warned – neither book is for the faint of heart as the descriptions of animal treatment and what you’re really consuming gets graphic.

Follow me on Twitter @decaptain

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