Vegan Emotionalism…

May already. Where has the time gone? With less than 12 weeks before Ironman, I’ve got to pick up the pace.
It isn’t much of an excuse to say that I’ve been too busy to post here. I haven’t really been that busy. Rather, I’ve been very tired, and not entirely from training.

I’m still on my vegan diet. A friend told me a while back, that by calling my new food plan a ‘diet’, I am in fact expecting it to end at some point. I can’t argue with that. I don’t have any expectations for what will happen later this year. One of the reasons I took up this lifestyle choice was to see if I could do it. The same for Ironman itself, why not? What I’ve learned in the time leading up to this change, is that there is no real reason why a person can’t go vegan. When I tell people that I am vegan, the first thing they ask is “where do you get your protein?”. So far I’ve had little trouble keeping up with my protein intake. However, I do want to track my protein and calorie intake for a few meals, just to prove (and show) that I am getting everything I need.

There have been a few side effects that I would like to discuss. Since I’ve become vegan, I’ve started to elicit very drastic emotional responses to certain things. I’ve asked a few friends about this, friends who have been vegan or vegetarian for the better part of their life. Some have not experienced anything like this, while others have. I don’t have many friends who are vegan, so I’m somewhat limited to who I can ask. In addition, there are a lot of other variables that come into play with my group of friends.

All of my friends tend to be incredible ultra endurance athletes. When you are pushing your body to the limit, all sorts of emotions run through your mind. I have actually cried when I completed a race. I have chocked up during races when a total stranger calls out to cheer me on. When you are so far gone that you can barely lift your head, just hearing those words is such an uplifting experience. I’ve even hallucinated while running. That was a really strange experience. It was during the 2014 Ottawa marathon, my second marathon in a month. It was a freak hot day, with the temperature and humidex exceeding 30 degrees celsius. Lucky me had mixed my sports drink from some expired electrolyte power, which had started to mold on the bottom of the container. I recall thinking that it tasted funny while I was drinking it. Around the 25km mark, I remember running through Rockcliff, through a canopied green forest. It was beautiful. But what stood out, were the cartoonish figures standing in the bushes. I can’t really describe them. They weren’t cartoon characters one would recognize, but I just remember them standing out, distorted almost. I remember that moment, because over the next mile I was in the bush vomiting. So, my point being, while racing all sorts of chemicals are raging through your body, anything can and will happen!

Up until a few weeks ago, I was feeling very emotional, in the sense that the tiniest thing would set me off. I’m happy to admit I wasn’t brought to tears by kitten videos or other cutesy animal pictures. I did have stronger than usual emotional responses to certain movie moments. Or I may text a friend expecting a somewhat immediate reply. It wasn’t that they didn’t answer immediately that set me off, it is later when they do respond saying that they were so busy and only now had the chance to read my message. When that happens (it has on several occasions) it is me realizing that this person actually cares about me as a friend, and is taking time out of their day to respond to me. But isn’t that what friends do? let alone people in general? Yes. That is why it is so weird. I would never expect to cry over something like that, yet I have. Certain books have done the same, and even a few lines of poetry have done the same. I am an emotional person by nature. Always have been, and I wouldn’t change that if I could. So many of these ‘triggers’ could cause the same behaviour on any given day. But everything just seems so stacked up lately.

Upon discussing it with friends, I decided to just ride it out, if in fact it was the diet. If it was indeed the lack of meat, dairy and eggs, then in order for me to get back to my usual self I would have to begin eating meat again. It took about 6 weeks to begin realizing that I was overly emotional, so it would take me a few weeks to notice a difference if I did switch back to eating meat. And what if nothing changed? what if it was all related to something else? So here I am, still following vegan meal choices. I have since added a multi vitamin to my routine. This isn’t really to supplement things I may be missing, but to supplement things I may not be getting when I am completely lazy and have not been cooking. I eat a lot of green leafy greens. But lately, I haven’t been. So I just wanted to balance things out in conjunction to my laziness.

When you google this type of emotional response from going vegan, you tend to read all sorts of stories as to why that is. I’m not versed enough in the biology and chemical makeup of food and how it can affect the human mind, but some of the stories I have read leave me skeptical. My favorite, is that when an animal is killed for meat, the ‘fear’ and emotional response of the animal is absorbed into its flesh. When we ingest the meat, we are absorbing the animal’s ‘fear’, and this can cause all sorts of emotional imbalances. The other is that I’ve been eating more and more soy and tofu, which contain phytoestrogens. Recently, phytoestrogens have been attributed to cancer, and other heart conditions. Additionally, large consumption of soy and tofu are said to cause ‘man boobs’ and increase your estrogen levels (this, believe it or not, is because the word phytoestrogen contains the word ‘estrogen’, go figure!) I’m also lactose intolerant, so I grew up drinking other forms of milk. I’m also half Chinese, and I don’t see many Chinese walking around with man boobs. Exempting our Western bias towards fast food and the influx of Asians into North America, Asians in general have always ingested large quantities of soy and tofu with no ill effects. In fact, I read that the highest density of centenarians (people over 100) are from Okinawa, Japan, a small island to the South of Tokyo. This population of Japanese have subsisted on a vegetarian/vegan based diet for centuries and live to be among the oldest people in the world. What I also read, is that the study that linked soy to cancer was written by a doctor, hired by the cattle industry. The article that I read (here) was also written by a doctor, but this time he was a vegan himself, along with being a nutritionist. The other doctor? he was a dentist…Hmmm, I’m not sure who I would trust more…

But, we all believe what we want to believe. Me reading it on the internet and believing it is no different than anyone else reading the opposing articles and believing them. In some ways, going vegan is my own research experiment. So far, physically,  I feel absolutely nothing, not even the slightest bit different. Considering the training I’ve been doing and the continued training I will be doing, surely that is a good thing.

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One Comment

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  1. Mike, good blog dude. I think your last point on tofu/soy, estrogen and man boobs, and how people in china consumed it for generation before without any side-effects. Someone told me that tofu sold in the west is GMO and that’s why we see a lot of weird effects, I don’t think tofu thats non-GMO (which i believe is what the Chinese used to consume) would have the weird side-effects.

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