Tuesday, December 8, 2015

At the intersection of politics and food

As someone who tweets a LOT about climate change, I get snarky questions about whether or not I've put my money where my mouth is, and eat vegan.

Well... I have a confession to make. I am not 100% vegan. I was once, and I continue to have great respect for folks who are able to live and eat as full-on vegans. But I am also convinced that, for most people, 90 % vegan is enough to accrue a wealth of amazing benefits, not only for your health and pocketbook, but for the climate of this beautiful planet we share.

My full on, hard core vegan years were 2000 until late 2007. I looked great. I felt great. I was active and happy and had clear skin. Then one day in late November  of 2007 I was at a holiday party, having “the conversation” with someone about what I “could” and “could not” eat, and I just snapped. I’d had it with incredulous, intrusive questions about my diet. I'd had it with people exclaiming, "You'd never get ME to eat tofu!" as if I'd put them in a chokehold and was forcing a slice down their throat.  I'd had enough of answering questions like, "But you can eat chicken, right? Chicken isn't meat!"  I'd had enough of incredulity and semi-polite revulsion and people behaving as if I were trying to foist MY dietary choices off on them, when in fact the opposite was usually what was going on.

I'd had it.  Enough was enough.

And so, with no further ado, I ate a piece of Brie. And another. And then I had a sliver of ham. And by the time I got home, I realized that I had just fallen off the vegan wagon with a THUD.

While it hadn’t been particularly challenging to stay vegan while married to my dedicated carnivore husband, living with a meat eater did make it ridiculously easy to go back to eating meat once I’d given up on the vegan lifestyle. After all, I was already buying meat for R – why not just pick up two T-bones at Safeway instead of one? And why not both of us have meatloaf, rather than me make a meatloaf for him and a veggie patty for myself?

So for eight long years I ate meat, and cheese, and enjoyed myself. I spent more money than I needed to on roast beef and chicken and seafood. I horked down gallons of yogurt and cottage cheese. I slathered Brie on my baguettes. You’ll already have guessed what happened.

Yes – I gained weight. A lot of weight. Slowly but steadily I grew from a size 12/14 to a size 16 – to a size 18 – and finally, to almost a size 22. I topped 264 pounds. It was a disaster.  I'm convinced that, for me, meat wasn't as much the culprit as all the bread and sugar I was eating - but it didn't help.  And I knew all along that eating meat was horrendous for the climate.  I just didn't go back to being vegan because those steaks and slabs of Welsh cheddar just tasted too darned divine!

Then last year, I’d once again had enough again – this time, enough of being fat and uncomfortable and a hypocrite.  I'd had enough of tweeting about CO2 emissions while being such an irresponsible citizen of Earth.  I knew full well the implications of eating a meat-rich diet.  I knew about the tons and tons of emissions being released into the atmosphere from the beef and pork industries.

If you aren't aware of that connection, here's an excellent primer from Scientific American.  

It was time.  If I was going to be a climate change activist

 -- and I am, tweeting from @KiraOnClimate as well as @90pctvegan, and blogging at Hair on Fire People and The Daily Kos  in addition to this blog --

I needed to practice what I was preaching.  I needed to make a change. 

And so I made another, hopefully final, drastic change to my diet. I started eating 90% vegan.

Full disclosure - I have also switched over to a regime that eschews sugar entirely and limits grain.  That's me.  What I am explicitly advocating for on the grounds that it's better for the climate is just the 90% vegan part.  For lots of folks, 90 % vegan is much easier if you includes lots of whole grains, and I intend to do that in the recipes I post here.  My grain-aversion is my craziness, not yours.


The immediate effect was amazing. My midriff, which had bulged and billowed for years, started to pull in. I went from having a bulbous tummy to having a moderate hour glass! I almost immediately lost over 20 pounds. And I felt great – lighter and leaner, with much, much more energy.

It’s been a year since I started, and I can honestly say that eating this way just feels RIGHT for me. It’s a little bit paleo, a lot vegan, and it’s easy, tasty, and pretty cheap.

In a nutshell, this way of eating is just what it sounds like. Get 90% of your daily calories from plants, and 10% (or fewer - fewer is good, too!) from local, organic, free-range, sustainable animal sources.

Okay, you may be thinking – great. Some yappy, liberal, self-satisfied broad in Seattle lost a little weight and feels better because she eats a ton of kale and arugula.  How does that affect the planet, exactly?

The answer is simple.  It doesn't affect the planet. But it might - if enough of us do it - help reduce emissions and aid the fight against global climate change!

I got this list from Mikko Alanne, who blogged about it over at Huffington Post.  You can read it here: http://tinyurl.com/yfzh3vf

If all Americans did not eat meat for one day a week, they would save 99.6 megatons of greenhouse gas emissions, or the equivalent of removing 46 million round trip flights between Los Angeles and New York, or taking 19.2 million cars off the road for a full year.
 If everyone in the US did not eat meat for two days a week, they would save 199 megatons of greenhouse gas emissions. This would have the same effect as replacing ALL household appliances in the US with energy efficient ones. 
If all Americans did not eat meat for three days a week, they would save almost 300 megatons of greenhouse gas emissions. This would have a greater impact on the climate than replacing all US cars with Toyota Priuses.
 If everyone in the US did not eat meat for four days a week, they would save 398 megatons of greenhouse gas emissions. This would be the carbon savings equivalent of cutting the use of all electricity, gas, oil, petroleum, and kerosene in the United States in half.
 If all Americans abstained from eating meat for five days a week, they would save 498 megatons of greenhouse gas emissions. This would result in the carbon savings equivalent of planting 13 billion trees and letting them grow for ten years.
 If all Americans did not eat meat for six days a week, they would save nearly 600 megatons of greenhouse gas emissions. This would be the equivalent of eliminating the total electricity use of all households in the United States.
 And finally: If everyone in the United States ate a vegetarian diet for seven days, they would save around 700 megatons of greenhouse gas emissions. That would be the same as removing all the cars off the roads in the US.

Those numbers are stunning. But they’re also very hopeful! They mean that we as individual consumers have incredible power over what’s happening to the climate – that we can make a huge impact just by eating tasty, tempting, clean, healthful foods!

Stay tuned for upcoming posts about all three aspects of the 90 percent vegan lifestyle – featuring shopping lists and tips, recipes, and more.

No comments:

Post a Comment