|Michael Fields has been coming to Malaysia on almost a monthly basis to seek out its array of vegetarian restaurants.|
Growing up I never gave my diet much thought. As a child I was slim, then slowly gained weight when I started work. I wasn’t obese but certainly weighed more than I should, with my belly more and more evident.
Fast forward to 2006 when I went to the doctor for a routine checkup. No symptoms, just a blood test and some basic tests. “Mr Fields, I’m very concerned by these blood test results,” my doctor said, “your HDL & LDL cholesterol are very high putting you at risk of developing diabetes and of a heart attack. It also looks like you have a “fatty liver”. We need to do an ultrasound to further investigate this however you will need to start taking cholesterol tablets straight away.” I felt helpless and resigned to now turning into a sick person.
But the thought of a lifetime of medication shocked me so I searched the Internet for alternatives. Among the myriad of search results, a whole-food plant-based diet stood out. No eggs, dairy products, animal products, oils or processed foods. Plants – that’s it! But the trade off is that apparently, such a diet can make us ‘heart attack proof’, preventing type 2 diabetes, obesity and early stage prostate cancer. Remarkably, even those who do not follow these diets and are now afflicted with these diseases may cure themselves by adopting them!
It took some time to come to terms with my new diet regime. Apart from reading testimonials online, I personally didn’t know any vegans. Not one! As I got my head around this new challenge I was faced with a mixture of emotions from friends and family, ranging from curiosity to anger. The peer pressure was overwhelming. I remember my mother telling me it would be ok to be vegetarian but please, please don’t go vegan! Everyone has an opinion on what is best for your health, and these opinions were often quite vocal. It continues to amaze me how our dietary choices polarise people; certainly people look at me differently now.
I made the biggest change on 1st January 2012. I had already cut out meat, chicken and eggs, but then I decided to cut out fish and dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese). I asked my nephew and niece to do this challenge together but they both refused, saying that, for them, it would be too hard. I went fully plant based. I actually found that it was fairly easy and tasty once you realise that most foods I grew up with can be made vegan with a bit of tweaking. Maybe my taste buds have changed, maybe I’m just determined, but I no longer yearn for animal-based foods.
I have never felt healthier and could never go back to eating animals. Learning about health and nutrition has been a turning point in my life, knowing the truth that I am empowered to live a healthier life by deciding what I put on the end of my fork.
Michael is an Australian who researches widely on plant-based whole foods living. He uses (and contributes to) the world-wide community vegetarian/vegan website www.happycow.com on a regular basis. His website: http://tardis3.blogspot.com