Why I became a herbivore and why you should too!

Transitioning to a plant-based lifestyle

… these are words that I would never have thought would cross my mind… never in a million years! I am a red-blooded South African boytjie (guy) after all. Born & raised on biltong, boerewors & braai (BBQ)!

Good old South Africa Braai

Factors influencing my decision

Strangely enough, only 6 months into my new life of living in the UK, I am now deep into new territory. I must say, however, that the fact that I am living in the UK isn’t the only reason for me having chosen this lifestyle. It may well have influenced it slightly, but it has less to do with it than the actual reason for doing it. Overall health & well-being!

Affordability is a factor!

The fact that living in England may actually make it slightly easier to transition has helped the process, but it isn’t the reason for it. I must admit that the resources here in the UK are probably better geared towards this lifestyle choice than it would have been in South Africa. The cost of the “alternative” choices here are much more in line with the mainstream products, whereas in countries like South Africa, only the very affluent (or extremely dedicated) practitioners are able to afford to live it.

Balance is a choice

I have always been health conscious. It was the way I was raised, as my mother always did her very best to ensure that we lived well and ate what was good for us. She always followed the latest fads on what was healthy and what not to eat. Although I spent 5 years of my teenage life at a boarding school, her influence still left its mark.

That isn’t to say that I was a “health-nut” as I consumed my fair share of junk food, but I at least I knew when I was eating well and when not. It never really affected me though because my general feeling was that everything in moderation is okay, even if it is bad for me. A little bit of sugar / alcohol / dairy / junk food wouldn’t kill me, right? All in all, I did ok.

Being body-conscious

Looking good

Having said that, I have also always been conscious of my appearance & body composition… almost a little too conscious. During my high school years, the daily activities kept me busy enough that my metabolism was burning at full steam. But during the holidays when I went home and “vegged” on the couch enjoying the sweet things that were not available to me at school, things often went pear-shaped… and with that, so did my body. Needless to say, I felt that I could always out-train a mediocre diet, as long as I didn’t let things get out of hand.

Unfortunately, in my mid-20’s, I didn’t even realise that the shape I was in was far from where I would have let myself get to without realising it. My eldest son was a couple of years old and I had taken on some sympathy weight which I had clearly gained during my wife’s pregnancy with him. I just never lost it after he was born.

Round is also a shape

This was when I decided it was time to get physical again. Prior to his birth, I was big into kickboxing and even took it as far as my black belt. Then I got “busy with life” and things fell by the wayside. The lack of training also left my core weak which resulted in a herniated disk in my lower back as I bent over at a weird angle whilst putting my, then baby, into a car seat. So many signs to get myself back into decent shape.

Looking for something that I would enjoy doing whilst getting fit & strong doing it, I discovered CrossFit. Not sure if you ever heard that joke? “How do you know when someone does CrossFit? They tell you!” LMAO… well, apart from the negative stigma attached to this cult-like exercise regime, I LOVED IT! I was literally hooked from day one and didn’t look back. Fast forward a few years and I even owned my own CrossFit Affiliate!

Yip, the constantly varied programming and functional fitness, as well as the awesome community vibe brought me back day after day, week after week. It is so important to enjoy what you’re doing if you have any chance of sticking to it. However, the physical aspect of CrossFit training alone didn’t give me the results that I was looking for. One of the foundations of the sport is nutrition and it was during a “Winter Challenge” (this was a nutrition-based challenge in conjunction with normal training during the winter months when eating usually becomes more than just about surviving) one year that I truly saw the benefits that I was yearning for. And it was then that I also realised the truth about diets… they SUCK!

Diet vs Lifestyle

A diet, being a short-term eating plan, where you perhaps restrict how much, or what or when you eat just does NOT work! If you’re going to be successful at anything, you need to make it a habit, or in the case of nutrition, a LIFESTYLE! Yes, you need to be in it for the long-term! You may not see results in a week or two, but you will definitely see results over a month or two… AND the results stick! The term Yo-Yo diet is so true. If you ‘re able to lose weight really quickly, you’ll more than likely gain it again even quicker. Changing your habits and living a lifestyle that you are dedicated to is the only long-term solution. There is no MAGIC PILL!

At this stage of my life (just a few short years ago), I was probably in the best shape of my life. I was in my late 30’s (literally hitting 40), yet my BFP (body fat percentage) was at its lowest ever and I saw definition in my muscles that I craved as a youngster when I was attempting to impress the girls on the beach. Given the fact that I was training at the CF Box at least 5 days of the week and I was sticking to a high protein, low carb diet with carefully planned & pre-prepared meals, it was a given that I should be healthy & strong. As time went on, my strict daily practice relaxed somewhat, but I was living a lifestyle that helped me make the right choices and I got my body to continue to burn calories as my metabolism remained switched on.

Constantly burning calories

The need to adapt

Then came the time move countries… pack up & leave everything we had and knew. This included the CrossFit Box and our main source of physical activity. As a family we left South Africa behind and moved to England, without any concrete plans of where we were going to live and what we were going to do. It was a bit of a blind leap of faith, if you like. This was also done in the midst of a world-wide pandemic, nonetheless! Why? Why not?! Look, we had our specific reasons, but that is going off topic, so I won’t delve into the details right now. The point is that we were heading into the unknown and we had to adapt.

We had to adapt in respect to our living situation, our diet & our exercise regimes. Initially, during the prescribed self-isolation period, we were very limited to our movements and we spent a couple of hours a day outdoors walking. This was very low impact activity, given that we came from doing CrossFit WODs (workouts) with weights & rigs on a daily basis, but at least we were moving. After our quarantine we looked for somewhere to train. Given our limited resources and funds, we managed to get a paid membership at a local gym that allowed us to at least set ourselves up with a basic routine. This only lasted a couple of months before the entire country was shut down for another lockdown, forcing all non-essential services to be closed. Workouts would now need to be conducted at home, in limited space, with zero equipment. How would it be possible to keep up the same extent of physical strain? Also, the fact that we are detained to our living quarters for most of the day, would mean that our normal diet and calorie intake would need to be adjusted. Queue the change to a plant-based alternative!

WTF!?

Back to my WHY: in all honesty, it started with a program on Netflix called What The Health. After watching this program with my wife, it was almost a no-brainer to switch to a diet that didn’t include any meat or dairy products. It also made me very conscious about the processes that the food reaching us on the supermarket shelves go through and the impact that they have on the environment, animals AND our bodies!

One of the many films out there helping awaken the masses to a new reality!

As mentioned before, the main reason for the change to a plant-based diet was for health reasons. The benefits are multitudinous, and it wasn’t just for my own health & well-being, but that of my wife & sons too.

Massive land requirements to sustain animal agriculture

All disease & pain stems from inflammation. Eating plant-based really helps minimise and even destroy inflammation. There are reports that it can even reverse deadly diseases like diabetes & cancer. I do not have the medical expertise or even first-hand experience in this regard, but the more I research the topic, the more evidence becomes available to support these claims. Furthermore, my eyes were opened to a whole world of additional benefits of “going vegan”. The most prevalent of these is the effect on the natural environment that meat & poultry farming have to sustain the growing needs of the human population. I was not aware of the huge devastation that these industries have on our world, not to mention the cruelty to those animals that are being bread and slaughtered in captivity for our needs.

Mass media shapes perception!

Modern meat marketing could be compared to tobacco advertising of the 1950’s

The marketing of what is actually healthy and what isn’t, is also extremely skewed and only if you look a little deeper into the claims, do you realise that there is an intentional shroud that is being placed over the eyes of the consumer. This is very much in line with how the tobacco advertising was conducted in the mid 20th century, before the laws were changed to protect the general population. In the past, I too always looked the other way because it was easier for me to do so, rather than deal with the reality of the situation. Now, just by acknowledging the practices, it is rather sickening to learn what happens & how we get the food on our plates.

There is definitely more to it…

Without going into too much of the gory detail here, there are a myriad of documentary films that have been produced over the last decade highlighting the epidemic that is food production and marketing. I will list a few of these in the resource section below so that you have a choice to either acknowledge them or ignore them. There are so many more available, and once you start to open your eyes to the issues, I am sure that you will discover these for yourself.

My aim is not to scare you into submission with this, but to at least be conscious of what is happening around you and becoming aware of the choices that you are making. This is the first step to enlightenment. It’s like being offered the “red pill or the blue pill” from the Matrix movie… it is your choice whether you want to remain “in the Matrix” or wake up and be more. At least if you have the choice, you can defend your point of view, or otherwise remain blissfully ignorant. And that is okay for some, but not for someone that has any integrity and drive to be more than just a puppet in their lifetime.

There is so much more to living a plant-based diet than being a hippy, a tree-hugger or an animal fanatic. These are all just added bonuses! You get to care! AND you get to live well and healthy whilst doing so, both in body and in soul! It is your choice after all…. “The red pill, or the blue pill, Neo?”

Choice between the willingness to learn a potentially unsettling or life-changing truth

Resources:

Films to look out for to allow you to choose whether you want to awaken yourself to the reality that is the meat culture:

1 thought on “Why I became a herbivore and why you should too!”

  1. Great article Klaus. It’s an interesting journey you find yourselves on and who knows, perhaps I will watch that film too.
    It’s true what you say, being healthy in SA isn’t cheap so I hope your experience is much better

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