I blogged a decision to become vegan on December 13, 2006 which is approximately six months ago. I'm happy to say that it was the right decision and that I've never been healthier or happier as long as I can remember and I intend to continue being a vegan.

Other than some allergies, I've gotten rid every one of half-a-dozen or so chronic conditions including obesity, fatty liver, high uric acid (gout), heartburn/ulcers/stomach acid, nervous tension, sleeping problems and rising cholesterol. I also have more energy than I've ever had.

I've lost approximately 18 kg (40 lb) or so and have been stable at this weight for about the last two months. Most of the weight fell off during the first few months and my weight loss has slowed to a basic equilibrium. Other than the slightly scrawny look I have now, I think most people think I look healthier.

The experience is not a scientific experiment. I started exercising almost every day, quit smoking and quit excessive drinking. Each of these things seems to help the other, but I don't think it's just the diet.

When I started this diet, I thought that it would be a sacrifice and that I would be trading good health for less fun. I am happy to say that I enjoy eating as much or more than when I was eating meats and fish. Since going vegan, I've really started getting into my garden and my composting. I spend hours and hours in the garden when I'm home. I dream about my garden and my compost and have really internalized the cycle of waste/compost/plants/food.

Now when I encounter a fresh tomato in a lonely airplane, I get a burst of joy as I imagine where this tomato has been, the soil that it came from and where the soil got the nutrients to allow the tomato to grow. When I eat local vegetables in my travels, I imagine what sort of local farms or hills the veggie came from and enjoy the image of the chain of events before I received it. In addition to the wonderful bursts of taste that I now appreciate much more, I also get the happy feeling of participating in this wonderful natural cycle. Mindfully eating a breakfast plate of grilled veggies and fresh fruits is really a joy.

Clearly, your milage may vary and I don't intend to proselytize or judgmental of those who aren't vegan. However, if you've thought about being a vegan for any reason, I suggest you try it. It isn't as hard as it sounds.

We're still working on getting more contributors for the Vegan Wikia if you're interested.

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24 Comments

Joi, thanks for turning me on to it.

I started after seeing your success with it and to see if I could actually enjoy eating veggies.
I haven't had any sense of deprivation. I enjoy the food I eat immensely, which had gone out of eating for a while before, at least for ordinary meals.

I'm about to finish the six-week detox part and I've lost a lot of weight, look better and feel great.

I also discovered that the real problem in my diet was probably gluten and celiac disease, so I'm getting much better digestion since I cut all flours out of my diet.

Joi--

Congrats, I'm glad you're getting an impact and feeling positive about it.

Check your mail. When we're in the same city, we'll hunt a vegan place down together (good fun, because I'll also be asking for no gluten). My treat.

great post (as always) - can relate, having been a lacto-ovo vegetarian for over 25 yrs, though i could never go full vegan from a protein perspective so i augment w/ egg whites, yogurt and cheese from time-to-time...

the lack of a judgmental attitude is key from my perspective - what we eat and how we eat is really a personal issue, glad to see you raising it as such too...

almost there...

Joi, I started to follow your blog closely after you embarked on your new holistic journey. It's been very insightful to read about your evolution. Thank you for sharing.
Initially I recall you had given up alcohol, but this last post indicated this may not be the case? Do you still drink in moderation on a daily / weekly basis and have you noticed any correlation between alcohol intake and the ease and quality of your meditations?

For me personally I engage in regular periods of 2 - 3 weeks where I abstain from meat and alcohol, during this time I enjoy heightened mental clarity and energy, but inevitably I get drawn back to the "dark side" where I thoroughly enjoy (and look forward to) a good bottle of wine amongst other things...

since my brother read your post and recommended the book to me we have completely changed our eating habits. we were a meat for breakfast, lunch and dinner type of family. After reading part of the book I started to panic and made some type of mosaic veggie/grain loaf, a recipe I found online. Since the rough start we have been enjoying a vegan diet for four month, mind you, we have two boys, 2 and 4 years old. Even my veggie hating 4 year old now loves his meals.

I am looking for some good vegan/vegetarian cook books. I found a couple I enjoy but we'd like to add more to our collection.

Maneck: Yes. I think that's about the same with me. I feel much better when I'm not drinking anything, but I get drawn back to social drinking during meals. When I'm alone I never drink though. I also abstain for periods after I feel like I've lost my edge. ;-)

I find that the quality of my meditation is the clearest indicator of the clarity I get when I abstain from drinking. I do find that lots of exercise seems to compensate a bit.

Joi,


Great progress.I stumbled on your blog while googling for "eat to live". I find it hard to go Vegan from Lacto-vegetarian.There is so much of milk and cheese in Indian food, that one consumes it without realising it.

I have been vegan diet for last 4weeks and lost about five pounds. i have not seen any significant improvement in health.

PS: do you visit Shanghai or Beijing

Hi Joi:

I'm not really a vegan, but I'm reducing the weight too, by changing my diet. And I agree with you that changing your diet surely changes you and can make you more positive and productive.

Some of the things in my case (nothing intended other than showing an example): banning the chocolate, eliminating butter to zero, no milk, social-only drinking (not so often in my case), no explicit eggs (including fish eggs), reducing the amount of rice/bread in half, eating various serials with brown rice or whole-wheat bread instead of white rice/bread. This doesn't mean I refuse eating something non-vegan, but I stay away from fatty or meaty foods when I eat out.

I dunno whether this comment is worth creative-commonized, but you're welcome to share/remix/adapt :)

Jenny, it would be great if you could join http://vegan.wikia.com/ and help us make a vegan cook book collection. ;-) I'll post some of my new books when I get back to Tokyo.

good for you. i once stayed vegan for three whole years. soon about to begin again.

It sounds like most of your cronic problems are alcohol related more than meat related. Although the combination of the two certainly makes things much worse.

Good luck on your vegan life style.

Actually, I think it was meat aggravated by the alcohol. The reason that I say this is because I have done relatively long periods without alcohol. Also, when I was in High School, I wasn't drinking. Many of my ailments including my stomach problems, nervous tensions, etc. were from High School and persisted even when I wasn't drinking.

This may sound like a wacky idea, but have you thought of asking a doctor about your health problems? I know it's not as sexy as going vegan, pouring liquid up your nose, and writing blog posts ...

The stomach problems, if they are acid related, may just be from overeating. That's what they turn out to be for most people, at least.

Your weight loss is due to the same reasons as most weight loss: you've gone on an extreme diet. Just like Atkins your diet has rules that make eating something of a pain in the butt, so you eat less. You lose weight not because of what you're eating, but because of its lower caloric content. The same number of calories of meat would lose you the same amount of weight.

As with all such diets, in time you'll learn to game it. As with Atkins people who discover low carb ice cream and low-carb pizza, you'll start to figure out vegan-legal foods you can scarf on, and gain the weight back. Pastatarian, anyone?

Better just to eat your normal diet, making moderate changes to it: a bit less food, a bit more veggies, a bit fewer caloric beverages. This is more maintainable after the zeal wears off, and is less annoying to your non-vegan friends.

Robert: I've been from doctor to doctor about my stomach acid, and basically they prescribe prilosec. I've been on a number of weight loss diets and this is very different. I'm am fundamentally happier and six months into it, I think the "new car smell" has basically "worn off".

If nothing else, I am just so happy right now and FEEL so healthy that I don't think anyone could convince me to go back to eating the way I used to. Sorry!

On the other hand, I don't mean to proselytize or be annoying to my non-vegan friends. As I said, your mileage may vary and this may not be for everyone.

"Now when I encounter a fresh tomato in a lonely airplane, I get a burst of joy as I imagine where this tomato has been, the soil that it came from and where the soil got the nutrients to allow the tomato to grow."

This movie might help:

http://www.frif.com/new2006/odb.html

:D

Sorry to be a cynic, but I don't remember hearing that in-flight meals (vegan or otherwise) would exactly be the pinnacle of locally-grown organic foods movement.

I agree, but a tomato on an airplane is still easier to deal with than say... a sausage.

OK - I can see that some of the people reading think the comment about the "joy" that vegetables can bring to be complete bullshit, but I can assure you that there is no better word for it.

I've been on the same diet for two months, after Joi posted a picture of some greens that he had eaten and I told him that I could not understand how he could find them appealing: http://flickr.com/photos/joi/485829465/#comment72157600185169398

I *get* it now. Really. No bull. When this diet is going well for you, eating the right thing at the right time really does make you feel joyful. Not in some "I'm happy I'm so disciplined" or "I'm happy that I'm eating right" but in the sense of "This tastes so good and I am happy."

What you find is that there are foods that you need to eat that make you feel good. You need lots of greens. You need lots of proteins and the best way to get them are from beans and stuff. You will suddenly crave something like broccoli or a carrot or some onions and take comfort in the fact that your mind and your body are finally communicating well, talking to each other, not clouded by the mixed messages that fat and sugars transmit back and forth. You become aware of your digestion and think about all parts of it much more. Elimination, too. I won't go into details, but if everything isn't going right with that, all the time, take it as a sign that your diet is wrong.

I started this diet because I was tired of being fat and feeling bad, not enjoying food and trapped in a cycle of fats and sugars and starches. Through the diet, I became much more aware of how food affects me and even discovered that for a long time, I'd been suffering from the effects of gluten intolerance.

The gluten intolerance was a shock, since I love bread and am a half-decent baker. A doctor's visit probably wouldn't have helped, as it's very widely under-diagnosed.

As for people thinking that this is a severe diet that requires a lot of discipline, well, it's not really. It requires you to re-think your eating habits and think more about procuring real food, rather than the garbage that you used to.
It's more work, but ultimately you feel better.

When you have this brain-body communication going, you feel much less desire to eat stuff that's way off the diet, since your body is going to send up a "WTF?" if you send down something that isn't good. When you do send down something fresh and healthy, well, it rewards you and that's the Joy that Joi mentioned.

I have to say that I have to agree with Joi and Jim on this one. I've been on a mostly vegan and all vegetarian diet for about 5 weeks now wtih motivation for reading Joi's blog and reading Eat to Live. The change has been profound and life changing to say the least.

"Your weight loss is due to the same reasons as most weight loss: you've gone on an extreme diet. Just like Atkins your diet has rules that make eating something of a pain in the butt, so you eat less. You lose weight not because of what you're eating, but because of its lower caloric content. The same number of calories of meat would lose you the same amount of weight."

Yes but I can eat a lot more vegetables and fruit to be full with a lot less caloric intake than I ever could on meat based or traditional diet with a lot less side effects. I'd rather get three meals in for the day with the same caloric intake than one burger for example. I'm full and content and have fuel for the day versus being hungy.


"As with all such diets, in time you'll learn to game it. As with Atkins people who discover low carb ice cream and low-carb pizza, you'll start to figure out vegan-legal foods you can scarf on, and gain the weight back. Pastatarian, anyone?"

I think the difference between what Joi is doing and what I'm doing right now is more than just a diet it's a profound lifestyle change.

I am in total agreement that you can learn to game a diet and a lot of the processed vegan foods while animal free can be a caloric nightmare. As a result I've dropped almost all processed food at all when ever possible the exceptions being hummus or tofu. Prefer to just have a raw fruit and vegetables with the above added for a bit of texture.

Does this mean you had to give up Pho? :)

I'll still eat Pho sometimes. ;-)

My personal implementation is that I try to stay true in a nutritionally significant way. I will still eat foods with fish or meat in it, but I'll avoid it when I can and not eat the chunks of meat or fish if I can avoid it. On the other hand, I'm avoiding creamy soups or cheesy things almost completely.

I've cut down A LOT on floury things like noodle, bread and Pho, but I'll eat it occasionally, especially if I'm exercising every day, which I am mostly doing right now.

Part of the math for me is not so much what I DON'T eat, but that I eat tons of veggies, beans and fruit. I feel like if I'm burning a lot of calories from exercise, I can afford to eat a little bit of junk calories like flour or sugar...

I may change my process on this later, but this seems to be working well for me at the moment.

Oh, but I do feel noticeably better when I'm being pure. It's just that I have to resort to scrounging for calories when I'm traveling in unknown territory or going out to dinner with friends. When I'm home I'm mostly pure.

Vegan since 1977. No alcohol. No refrigerator.

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