As the resident vegan and health-expert in the corridor I recently got interviewed by a corridor mate for a course she is taking and thought that you would want to see how it turned out. Any response for how I did and improvements if it happens again would be appreciated. I did it with no preparation though so it gave me a lot of confidence to see I can walk the talk so to speak. Now there are some factual mistakes in the interview, e.g. she calls the 80/10/10 Chris Kendall’s invention, while I only found out about it through him and she draws some of my thoughts too strong, e.g. that I would rather die than eat meat, while I said that I don’t know, but that it’s a strong possibility. So in hindsight I should have asked to see it beforehand, but nevertheless I will post it here the way she wrote it, because the arguments are pretty much the way I stated them.
Food, lifestyle and happiness
I live in a corridor together with four other people at Kantorsgatan here in Uppsala. The persons that stay in the corridor are from different parts of our wide world, and are usually just staying for one semester. I have lived with people from Korea, Holland, Turkey, Spain and Italy, only to mention a few, which has given me a greater learning and many new perspectives. However, along with me, one other Swede is “permanently” living in the corridor, and we have both stayed here for soon four common semesters and it is this young man I decided to interview for this project.
When I met Johan for the first time, in January 2009, I immediately understood that he was interesting in food. His meat pots always took up a lot of space in our common fridge and he gave me many recipes from his thick cookbooks. Food was already then an important trait of his life, obviously. It was when I lived in Nice, France during last semester that I noticed that Johan had made a turn with his eating as he had added a name on his Facebook page, i.e. the title raw vegan. I nevertheless did not realize the dimension of this change.
When I moved back to the corridor in January this year, I understood than Johan had gone through a major change. Small pictures and stickers were covering my neighbors’ door and cupboards and the meat was totally vanished from his shelf in the fridge. It was when I noticed that Johan had made a comment on an old Facebook picture on himself that I decided to interview him about happiness, in order to find out what these changes mean to him. The comment further was; “here I was fat and happy”. I started to wonder if he had become happier now because of his weight loss, or, if it was something more that had had an impact on him. I turned to Johan in order to find out.
It turned out that Johan had changed his view on food and living after his trip to New York last summer, where he had bought a book The Tao of health, sex and longevity – a modern practical guide to the ancient way, by Daniel P. Reid. After reading the book, he decided to totally skip meat, because of its effects on the body. Johan’s transition was pretty fast, as he went from a regular meat eater, to becoming a strict vegetarian within two weeks. I asked him what the main reason was in becoming a vegetarian and he replied that it was the health reasons that particularly interested him. He soon also came over some raw vegan literature which he found interesting, but the food didn’t “caught” him, as the majority of the recipes were bad and did not give him any tools or information.
Then, Johan came to another milestone in his life, as he ran into a friend who follows Chris Kendal’s 80-10-10 diet. The diet simply signifies that you eat about 80% carbohydrates, 10 % fat and 10% protein. All food is further raw vegan food which includes fresh fruit and vegetables that are not cooked or heated. Johan found Kendal’s website, and read his book which includes many delicious recipes. “Chris Kendal transformed me”, says Johan with brightness in his eyes. Johan then tells me that he was very overweight or even on the line to obesity before, but after he had tried the 80-10-10 diet, he quickly dropped 10-20 kilos, while really enjoying the food, and without starving himself (what a hit for leading dietitians!) “But only around one percent of the population is vegans today”, Johan continues while he slowly shakes his head, looking disappointed.
So, what has the raw vegan diet, or lifestyle meant to Johan in order of happiness? He mentions three main points, starting with the fantastic love he gets from the community online, which also is one really important driving force for him. He has met so many people in different vegan forums, sharing recipes, thoughts and trying to inspire others. (I then complained about the fact that he is not very active in inspiring us, in the corridor. Well, he is going to work with that…) He says that he did not have very many friends before, but now is he in the most valuable relationships, most of them online.
The second point he mentions is the new, higher energy level he receives, which signify that he gets the passion and energy to do what he wants, physically and mentally. “I now have the energy to do all the things I want in my life”, he says.
The last point he emphasizes is the power he exercises. He now has control over his eating and is aware of that he is healthy and strong. He also says that he is more passionate and spiritual and conscious about his own emotions.
Johan knows what he wants to work with in the future; he wants to be a nutritionist. He is now studying a master in aesthetics and philosophy and is in full swing of deciding what to write about in his master’s thesis. “It would be interesting to write something about moral in correlation to abandoning meat”, he says.
Johan has met a new way of living, and is now more aware of environmental- and tormentor of animals questions. Last month, he participated in a demonstration for animal’s rights, in Södertälje. He says that he probably rather would die, than eat meat. “People are addicted to meat, so with other preparations, such as alcohol and cigarettes,” Johan states. It is nevertheless not impossible to become free, he continues. “It is a conscious choice, and it is up to every individual, but we cannot blame something else, or justify the meat eating with anything.”
Johan’s lifestyle and purposefulness is really impressing me, but I cannot resist asking him some “critical” questions about what the world would look like if all people were vegans. What would happen to all the animals, as the farmers probably would quit if nobody wanted to buy their milk products, meat etc? By not going very deep in these questions, Johan claims that the world would become as it is shaped, as the human simply is not shaped to eat meat. I further ask him if it is not difficult to live, feeling that great responsibility to the environment as he does. Well, Johan is very careful with buying ecologic food and other products. He gave me a scope of soap and washing detergent a couple of weeks ago, emphasizing that it contained poison and substances that is very harmful for our environment. But Johan has decided to fly to the States this summer, to visit and participate in a famous vegan food festival. I claim that flying is the worst thing one can possible to in order to destroy our environment but Johan claims that flying is not something we can fully control, but eating meat is, and that the latter is much worse for the environment.
Johan stands for his thing and is convinced that he will continue with this lifestyle. “I am not sure that I will be a raw vegan for the rest of my life, but I will definitely be a vegan” Johan concludes, before he is off to our common kitchen, taking out dates, lemon, mangos and (kilos of) bananas. A milkshake is on the menu, one of his favorites.
Johan is happy today, something he claims himself, but also something that I see every time when I see him strutting around in the corridor kitchen. I realize that it is not Johan’s weight loss that is the contribution to this happiness, obviously, although that plays a great part as well. Nevertheless, meeting people that are similar to one, valuing and be interesting in the same things etc. are the greatest aspects to Johan’s obtained happiness. I find these traits important for every individual’s development and happiness and I further think that the internet facilitate the accessibility of meeting people that have different opinions.
I am sincerely happy that Johan has found his way of life, and I myself am interesting in vegetarianism, particularly because of the environmental aspects and for animals’ rights of course. Veganism on the other hand seems to be a little too radical strike for me at the moment. However, it takes a real decision in order to change one’s eating habits and lifestyle, but I guess that once you made up your mind, so much happiness and interesting features of life will come to you!
If you are interested in vegan food, here are some good sites, according to Johan.