It's been beautifully sunny over the past few days in England. This is rather rare for April. So rare in fact that yesterday was recorded as the highest April temperature for 70 years! The field next to my garden looks lush and green and is full of bouncing baby lambs loving the sunshine - some just a few days old. I'm delighted that these lambs will not be sent to slaughter and will instead spend their days leisurely grazing as little lawnmowers.
It was seeing the tiny fluffy lambs in the field behind our school that first got me thinking about the connection between what was on my plate and where it had come from. As a stubborn thirteen year old I defiantly announced to my parents that evening that I would no longer be eating meat. I think they assumed it was a fad ... 25 years on the fad is still going strong!
Meat in My Book Radiant
When I first drafted my best selling book Radiant I didn't include a chapter on eating meat. That seems strange when a big part of the plans focus is to transition to a predominantly vegan diet. I guess part of me was scared to use the word 'vegan' ... whilst I very proudly don't eat meat I was keen to make the transition to a skin friendly diet as simple as possible and I figured using the word 'vegan' might put someone off trying the plan entirely. Vegan sounds so restrictive and extreme and despite a huge shift in thinking over the past decade, when it comes to veganism, the age old image of pale, skinny, malnourished hipsters still springs to mind. Believe me, a plant powered diet does absolutely not have to feel restrictive, and take it from someone who competes in triathlons, boxes and lifts weights often - meat is not essential to build muscle or strength.
My publishers asked me to write a paragraph about meat for my book Radiant and as I begin to write I pretty much created a chapter. They edited that down to the few most important lines (there's so much information to get across in the book we were pushed for space) which excluded my personal thoughts and beliefs on eating meat - as I've learned so much over the past year alone, I will most definitely elaborate in book two.
From a personal perspective I do not eat meat at all. Ever. This is both a health and ethical consideration for me. Not only do I exclude meat and fish, I eliminated dairy as part of my skin healing journey and finally stopped eating eggs last year. Mr Fox sadly snaffled my neighbours chickens and after seeing this footage of the 'Happy Hen Company' it opened my eyes to the supposed 'free range' industry, I felt uncomfortable not knowing where my eggs were coming from so stopped buying them.
So, Should I Avoiding Eating Meat?
It's a question I'm often asked by people transitioning to a skin friendly diet. To simplify it and without bringing my personal ethics into it ...
Meat is on the acidic side of an acid / alkaline chart. In working on a skin friendly protocol we're trying to up alkaline foods and reduce the acidic. Meat is also incredibly difficult for the body to digest and we're trying to lessen the burden to allow the body to heal. In short, eliminating meat altogether is best, but if it makes up a huge part of your diet and you find it difficult to envisage life without it, try to stick to chicken, turkey and fish which are easier to digest.
It isn't just the meat itself but the antibiotics animals are injected with that pose a problem for our skin. When our immune system is already out of kilter, introducing hormones and antibiotics can throw it completely off track. Besides that, the levels of mercury and plastic in the ocean these days is sadly dreadful, so where I used to recommend including a little fish in the diet (excluding seafood which is also incredibly acidic) I would now suggest avoiding it as much as possible. The more I learned about the sad state of our oceans the more I realised I wanted to exclude fish. I completely cut it from my diet two years ago.
Plant-based diets have become increasingly popular throughout the past decade. There are so many foodie authors advocating plant power - Deliciously Ella, Aine Carlin and even the big mainstream chefs Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Jamie Oliver jumped on the meat-free band wagon. The China Study was partly responsible for the change in thinking regarding health and veganism.
The China Study
The China Study was first published in the United States in January 2005 and had sold over one million copies as of October 2013, making it one of America's best-selling books about nutrition. The study examines the relationship between the consumption of animal products (including dairy) and chronic illnesses such as coronary heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
The study was the biggest ever conducted and the authors conclude that people who eat a predominantly whole-food, plant-based diet - avoiding animal products as a main source of nutrition, including beef, pork, poultry, fish, eggs, cheese, and milk, and reducing their intake of processed foods and refined carbohydrates - will escape, reduce, or reverse the development of numerous diseases. The book recommends sunshine exposure or dietary supplements to maintain adequate levels of vitamin D.
You can order a copy of The China Study here.
Why Avoid Dairy?
We were never intended to consume the milk of a cow. A calf is designed to suckle the milk of a cow - we are not! In fact up until a couple of thousand years ago, the world population was lactose intolerant. It was a genetic mutation that enabled us to begin consuming milk.
It is currently legal within the EU for dairy farmers to use antibiotics routinely for purely preventative purposes. The most common reason for antibiotic use in dairy farming is to control mastitis (inflammation of the mammary gland and udder tissue, usually due to bacterial infection). This often involves “blanket” use of antibiotics and those antibiotics are still present in the milk and dairy products we consume.
Besides antibiotics, hormone levels present in milk can cause all manner of skin problems. Dairy milk promotes excess oestrogen in the body due to it containing oestrogen from female cows. This hormone imbalance is often responsible for acne flares in teenagers and adults and eczema in young children.
I always recommend cutting out dairy at the start of any skin healing cleanse. Dairy includes cows milk, cheese, ice cream, yoghurt, butter and cream. We are so fortunate these days, the abundance of plant powered alternatives is greater than ever before;
- Cows Milk - Almond, Oat, Coconut, Hazelnut, Cashew Milk
- Cheese - Nut Cheese
- Ice cream - Even Ben & Jerry's do a dairy free version
- Yoghurt - Check out CoYo coconut yoghurt
- Butter - Coconut Oil based spreads are more popular than ever
- Cream - Whip your own using coconut cream
Besides the hormone and antibiotic levels in dairy, on an ethical level the process of dairy farming is not a pleasant one. Cows are repeatedly artificially inseminated to ensure they produce a calf, the calf is torn away from its mother after just one to three days. If you don't believe these beings are sentient or aware of what's going on, you only need to live close to a dairy farm to hear the cries of a separated mother and child. It's truly heartbreaking. That's all I will say on the subject, but the more I learned about dairy farming the more I came to realise it can be just as cruel, if not more so, than meat farming. If you'd like to learn more this PETA page is very graphic.
Meat and Energy Transferral
Besides the study backed health benefits there are also ethical considerations when it comes to meat. We are all energy. The traumatic experience an animal is exposed to in the moments before death (and rest assured no matter the abattoir an animal can absolutely sense what is about to happen) is retained. Dairy farming and egg production - even free range - can prove equally horrific. The anxiety and depression suffered by these animals creates energies and vibrations. These energies stay within that animals flesh from the moment it is killed to the moment it is absorbed by us. Our body then transfers the energy into 1 of 3 things:
- expended work energy
- stored into fat
Physics states that energy cannot be destroyed, it won't just disappear. When you eat meat, you absorb the animals negative energy. Now this might sound a little out there ... but remember that for many decades the idea of animals feeling emotions or having personalities was dismissed by behavioural scientists. It would be crazy these days to deny that an animal is capable of experiencing emotions. You only need to look at how happy these lambs are frolicking in the sunshine or how scared they are when you rush towards them to understand the can experience happiness and fear in equal measure.
Animals are without doubt aware of their feelings and emotions. These can be negative feelings such as pain, frustration and fear. It is logical to accept that sentient animals also enjoy feelings of comfort, enjoyment, contentment, and perhaps even great delight and joy.
Another vexed question, in the early part of the 20th century at least, was whether or not animals have personalities. It is now generally accepted that they do, and that those personalities are capable of as much variation as human personalities.
Netflix Veggie Food Film Inspiration
These movies are fantastically inspiring. If you're unsure about the benefits of a plant based diet they're most definitely worth a watch.
- What the Health
- Food inc
- Forks Over Knives
- Fed Up
- Food Choices
- Food Matters
- Super Juice Me
- Fat Sick Nearly Dead
Whether you cut meat and animal products from your diet immediately, or simply begin the process of introducing lots more plant based foods into your diet, your body, skin and the environment and world we live in will thank you for transitioning. We all have different starting points and I appreciate that if your diet is very meat heavy you might wonder what on earth you're going to live on! Incorporating and understanding the benefits of plant powered recipes will help you begin to make that shift. Don't feel too overwhelmed at the final goal, the key is simply to begin. I guarantee you will find it more enlightening, enjoyable and exciting than you ever thought possible.
Your Thoughts or Concerns
What are your thoughts about a vegan plant based diet? What is it you struggle with in transitioning to more plant powered meals? Has switching to a vegan diet helped your skin? I would love to hear from you - so please post in the comments below.