Thursday, March 03, 2011

Am I Vegan Paleo? (and why I eat the way I eat...)

I know what you're saying...there's no such thing as 'Vegan Paleo'... 

And you know what? That's fine by me because to be honest I think we define and compartmentalize ourselves way too much.
In my bio section I mention that it's sometimes hard to answer the question "What do you do?" and that's because I live an experiential life. I love to try new things and get involved in new, different and exciting things (or new forms of the things I already do.) So when someone asks the ubiquitous meeting question of "...So....what do you do?" I could easily answer "I'm a weightlifter", or "I'm a Naturopath" or "I'm a Mind-Body-Spirit Coach" or as my good friend, entrepreneur and vagabond Julien Emery from Vancouver, BC said: "Cliff you're a happiness coach!" All of these things and more would be true, but nothing quite encapsulates what the essence of someone is. And no one thing can define the totality of someone's existence.
Which is cool too!

We in some instances need to define what we do, purely so that others get an inkling about where we stand, what we do, and why we do what we do! In that way it alludes to some of the important things about us, and allows others to relate and connect to us. But when we get 'hung up' and attach too much to our own labels we can easily paint ourselves as hypocrites if we decide to move slightly outside the bounds of what we consider ourselves to be.

When people ask what type of diet I follow I have to say that I am primarily vegan. They often ask : "Well what does that mean? You're either vegan or not." To which I reply "Well I don't eat meat, eggs or dairy as a rule..." Which confuses them even more....

You see the reality is that I don't see an absolute problem with eating meat in the broadest sense.
We have evolved to eat meat and we cannot get all that we need solely from natural vegetable matter our entire lives, although as adults we need not eat meat. (That may seem contradictory but it's not).
I grew up hunting and fishing but decided to become vegetarian at the age of 15 and followed a vegetarin diet for the next 7 years.
I resumed eating meat as a way (at the time) to aid my recovery from Crohn's Disease and over the last 4 years I have gradually eased back into a vegan diet.

However what I do have a problem with is:
1. The inhumane treatment of farm animals in industrialized farm models
2. The collateral damage (wasted lives) caused by the industrialisation of farming (such as the male chicks killed as a result of the egg production industry)
3. The lack of accountability for lives taken (how many people would be vegetarian if they actually had to kill the animal themselves?) It is enshrined in law in many countries that paying for someone to be killed is on the same level as murder. So is buying it the same as killing it but with the accountability removed?
4. Overfishing
5. Over use of resources to produce meat, dairy and eggs (especially petrochemical inputs)
6. Public health effects of industrialised farming (grain feeding of cattle for example - leading to distorted omega fat profiles - a major co-factor in heart disease, cancer and other illnesses)
7. Collateral pollution caused by a reliance on animal protein foods (esp 'greenhouse gases' such as N02 and methane)

I'm not here to convince anybody of anything, and I don't deride others for their opinions and eating habits. I do however encourage people to become more aware of the effects of their eating habits.
The easiest way for me to help be part of the solution is to not eat meat, dairy and eggs AND to eat natural, whole, unprocessed organic plant foods.

....But enough of that, and back to the title of this piece....

Am I Vegan-Paleo? Although the Paleo crew may have you believe that you can't be Vegan-Paleo I think that the key to eating a good diet is simply to eat natural, whole and unprocessed foods be it omnivorous, vegetarian or vegan.

Paleolithic man would have most certainly eaten meat to survive - about that there is no doubt in my mind.
But would he also have eaten sprouted legumes if he found them?
They can be eaten raw and so easily fit the mold of the Hunter-Gatherer model of eating. They are also extremely nutritious and low in any anti-nutritive factors and irritants.
Would he also have eaten nuts and seeds when available?....
Yep! and fruit...and veggies...and berries!

So my diet - which is based on eating veggies, fruit, berries, nuts and seeds; and with a major protein constituent coming from sprouted lentils, mung-beans, chickpeas etc (almost all eaten raw) could almost be considered Paleo minus the meat!
And seeing as I am lean, strong, muscular and healthy it seems to be working!

Maybe I am Vegan Paleo? - But then again I'd hate to have to put a label on what is simply effective, healthy, natural eating. :)

~ Cliff


  1. Nice article Cliff. I was mostly vegetarian for a couple of years, but I'll be honest and say that it was mostly because of expense!

    I salute your reasons for not eating meat, these are actually reasons that can be well documented and justified, although I would argue that the petro-chemical inputs into farming grain, fruit and veggies are as high as livestock.

    The things I am personally working on to address the issues you mentioned above are:

    1. More effort to find meat that is farmed responsibly
    2. Not sure about this one, but I have actually cut my weekly intake of eggs from around 40 to less than a dozen.
    3. I have regularly caught, hunted, killed and butchered my own meat.
    4. As a freediver, I really should take up spearfishing so I can pre-select my catch. Now to figure out a way to avoid using a petrol powered boat.....guess I'm swimming.....
    5 and 7, I hope someone smarter than me figures out a way around these major problems.
    6. Not as much a problem in NZ thankfully, but I worry all the time, that big business and greed will lead this country down that path. Until then I will keep on educating people to look for quality, grass fed, humanely treated animals whereever possible.

    Cheers Cliff!

  2. I agree with your points mate. You're right in that we are to some degree protected in NZ due to our grass-fed beef. However it worries me that there are major moves afoot to introduce factory farming. What a calamity! It would not only be disastrous for our public health but also removes a very cool economic advantage that we have (in our 'clean green' grass fed beef.)
    I personally think we have a prime opportunity to become an organic, clean, ethical powerhouse!
    My point about the petro-chemical inputs to meat, dairy and egg farming was based on my experience in North America where the stock feed is corn and grain, therefore we have a net increase in petrochemical input to support a decreasing caloric and protein output on balance.

    Thanks for your comments Darren. You are doing a stellar job fighting the good fight :)


  3. I worked in the agricultural industry during the late 90's and back then the dairy farmers were already starting to rely heavily on supplementary grain based feeds over grass. My worry about how far gone it is now has me only consuming minimal dairy products - mostly butter, ghee and yogurt once in a while.

    I hear ya on the clean green NZ Cliff. Amazing marketing potential. Freedom Farms charge about 200% extra for their bacon just because they have Freedom in the name. Just imagine the market for genuine NZ grassfed beef if we're the only one left doing it. Not to mention sustainablly grown fruit and veg.