My Unconventional Plant Based Journey
How A 2nd Generation Filipino Escaped The Omnivore’s Dilemma
I’m a 39-year-old, first-generation Canadian. My parents immigrated to Canada in the late 60s, early 70s from the Philippines.
My dad, who came from a very humble upbringing, told me that when he arrived he was, “a measly 95 pounds soaking wet!” Coming to Canada, he was armed with an education that he was able to turn into a career as an accountant. It was game on, food was no longer a scarcity. He began to eat like a king!
My mother, on the other hand, grew up in a large middle class family of 12 kids. Food was always available to her, even though shared amongst her 11 siblings.
If you know anything about the traditional Filipino diet, you’ll know that it’s riddled with animal products. For example, a typical Filipino breakfast would consist of garlic fried rice (usually made with day old rice from the night before), topped with fried egg, spam, sweet fatty sliced tocino (Spanish bacon), and sometuyo (dried salted fish). The only vegetable in this meal would be the minced garlic I guess.
Throughout my childhood, my two brothers and I were brought up on a typical Filipino diet. Both of my parents loved to cook, so I grew up eating a lot of homemade, wholesome Filipino meals. However, we also had our fair share of fast food, like McDonalds, KFC, and other take out.
Basically, eating meat (and a lot of it) was a way of life for us.
As I got older, I became more passionate about my health and fitness. My fascination for building muscle, accompanied an obsession for getting enough protein. My belief, like many others, was that the best protein we could consume was in animal products.
When I did finally switch to a plant-based diet, my reasons were totally different.
"Basically, eating meat (and a lot of it) was a way of life for us."
First of all, my beautiful and loving fiancée is plant-based. She adopted this lifestyle a year before me. She was, and continues to be, a big influence in my decision. When we started dating, I was eating animal products up to three or four times a day. At this point, I had stopped drinking cow’s milk, but I was still eating cheese on pizza (still my favourite food).
As we became more serious, spending days on end together (and me being the avid cook that I am), I started to make more plant-based meals. I’d prepare a meal for her, separately preparing my meat on the side. I had cut down my consumption of pork and red meat and I was predominantly eating antibiotic, hormone free chicken and organic fish and eggs. I considered myself a pretty clean eater with the occasional indulgence in savoury, succulent, greasy goodness.
There were even days where I would go completely meatless, and sometimes one day would turn into two or three. Eventually, I’d go back to eating meat, but I really enjoyed taking these meat breaks. This really surprised me. In hindsight, subconsciously, I was starting to wean myself off of meat already.
Then, my fiancée and I had a game-changing conversation. It was about raising children. Would we be raising our kids as omnivores, or would they eat plant-based? She mentioned that if it was up to her, she’d raise them fully plant-based, believing that it is the healthiest option. She expressed how she would want to teach them about how eating animal products impacts our planet and show them the cruel reality behind the factory farming industry. I thought that it was important for a child’s development to eat meat. This was definitely a heated conversation, and it carried on for a while. The conclusion was a compromise (although I think she always knew it would end up the way she wanted). We’d feed them limited amounts of animal products with a couple of rules:
- It would have to be organic, we would have to know where our meat was coming from.
- When the kids got old enough, we would take them to the farm so they could understand where their food really came from.
This conversation left me wondering: Could we actually raise a child on a plant-based diet? Has it been done before? Can we, as humans, get enough protein from plant sources sufficient enough to sustain optimal health?
The wheels were turning. I turned to my trusty Google search engine and began typing. The evidence was there. It can be done, but I needed to know more. In my search, I came across Netflix documentary, “What the Health.”
It was the first Vegan-biased documentary I’d seen that highlighted the health aspects of a plant-based diet, rather than illustrate the cruelty and suffering inflicted on animals in the factory farming industries and the impact it has on our planet.
"Would we be raising our kids as omnivores, or would they eat plant-based?"
Don’t get me wrong, I care about the well-being and treatment of all living creatures, as well as reducing our carbon footprint, but reducing the likelihood of contracting cancer, heart disease, and other chronic illnesses resonates with me more. This is especially personal for me, having lost both of my parents at reasonably young ages.
Although I genetically carry the risk of heart disease, I could still lessen the likelihood through diet, fitness, and my overall lifestyle approach. Watching documentaries and seeing others change their lives was just a tease. I wanted more. I needed more.
Finally, I decided to be my own test subject, diving into veganism. Originally, I gave myself a two to three week timeframe to see the changes. After only three weeks, I had already started to reap the benefits. I felt what I had often read about in testimonials online, so I decided to continue on this journey. July 4th will mark my one year anniversary of living a plant-based lifestyle.
So what are my findings so far? Below, a list of the changes I’ve seen and felt since taking this on. Bonus, my fiancée and I are more connected than ever, and when we do have our children, the decision will be simple: plant-based all the way.
- My skin has cleared up. I suffered with adult acne (cystic) for the last few years, but since taking on this way of eating my skin has never looked better.
- Quick recovery time. I recover a lot faster from my workouts; muscle and joint soreness virtually disappeared.
- I got leaner. I lost a little bit of stubborn fat right away, and I got leaner without losing any weight.
- Better, more frequent bowel movements. Personally, I didn’t think I had any issues in the past with expelling waste from my body, but since giving up animal products I go to the washroom more frequently, expelling a lot more waste and in turn feeling a lot lighter.
Switching to a plant-based diet is a journey but if I can do it, with my background, anyone can. I like to think of it like learning a new language, spend a little bit of time everyday putting in the work and eventually you’ll be fluent.