Financial Independence and Veganism Go Together Like Sweet Potatoes and Pasta Sauce!

Veganism

Hello folks! I have a special post for you today! Not long ago, I wrote my vegan proclamation. Lucy and I had just decided to go vegan and we are still going strong today. It’s been a life-changing decision for us, no doubt about that, and one that I only wish we would have made sooner. From that post, there was a comment that really stuck out to me from Josh (aka jthom273). After reading it I thought I had just found my long lost twin :)! I just had to ask him back for a guest post to call out his great comment and for all my fine readers to hear another story about going vegan. And not only that, but how it is so similar to the FI journey!

So without further ado, take it away Josh!

 


Have you ever thought about how different your life would be if you went vegan? How has life changed since you started pursuing financial independence? These two lifestyle choices are more related than you might think. I found them at about the same time in my life, and for me I can’t really imagine one without the other.

I do anesthesia and take care of some of the sickest patients in Southeast Texas. During my short career I’ve been asking myself “why” quite a bit. Why did this 59 year old have a stroke that led to him being bed bound at such an early age? Why did this 39 year old have a heart attack and need open heart surgery? Why is this 20 year old college student getting a gastric band for obesity and diabetes? So I started reading to find out. I found out that what we eat, our diet, is more often the answer to why we get sick than our genetics, our family history, or even our exercise routines.

How am I so sure? Let me first say that I used to be an avid meat eater. I thought I was healthy, I ate “protein” with every meal, I went to the gym to lift weights 6 days a week, and I generally felt good about my body. That was until I was diagnosed with acid reflux, gastritis, and IBS at the age of 23. I did what any good patient does and took the medicine my doctor prescribed. After 3 years, nothing changed. I was still refluxing stomach acid at night and many days were filled with abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and constipation. I got fed up and made the decision to start eating a whole food vegan diet 15 months ago. I am completely off my meds, I have never had a single bout of heartburn since, and within a week of switching I never experienced symptoms of IBS again. I lost 25 pounds and my asthma actually got better as well. I am so glad that The Green Swan has brought this topic to light and I want to tell the FI crowd why I think a vegan diet has a necessary and harmonious place in your life and your pursuit of financial independence.

Veganism and Financial Independence

As I journeyed through a significant lifestyle change, I started seeing some similarities between financial independence and veganism.

Financial literacy utilizes lifestyle choices to make the most of our time on Earth. Healthy diet choices have the same effect. The goal is to avoid chronic disease to make the most of our days without a walker or an oxygen tank slowing us down. I would hate to miss out on more healthy tomorrows just because I had to have that bacon cheeseburger and ice cream today. If you think it’s possible to live “too long” or that eating like crap is worth shaving 5-10 years off your life, think again. Modern medicine is great at artificially keeping people alive, but most medications only prolong suffering and can reduce your quality of life significantly (source #1). Side effects are miserable and surgery is a nightmare you do not want to sign up for. Diet is not just for looking good on the outside and going on a “cleanse.” Every bite of food you take literally makes the difference between getting some scary affliction in the prime of your life and living into your golden years without ever needing a doctor. Genes only go so far in determining your health.2,3,4,5,6 The rest (cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, alzheimer’s, etc) is the food! That’s right, it’s the food!

Part of mustachianism is avoiding the news and advertisements since they promote fear and consumerism. I found that the news was full of information about health that simply couldn’t be trusted. A headline would claim “butter is back!” and before I knew it I would subconsciously pick some up at the store (butter is so not back by the way). If you pay attention, you would be amazed how many fast food commercials are on tv. They do it because it works!

Mustachianism is all about efficiency. Veganism for me is about feeding my body the food it needs to be most efficient – animal products are full of fat, cholesterol and animal protein and these are terrible for your body.7 They cause damage to blood vessels, raise insulin levels, restrict blood flow, cause DNA mutations, raise blood levels of sex hormones, and cause accumulation of plaque in your blood vessels. Plants have minimal fat, tons of fiber, and no cholesterol. Plant protein is also much better for you. Animal agriculture is highly inefficient and one of the leading causes of global CO2 emissions. We must vote with our dollars and stop paying for it.

Veganism can lead to more self-sufficiency by encouraging people to grow their own food and bypass the food supply system. This is the idea behind permaculture – designing systems to be more efficient and thus reducing waste. Factory farming is extremely wasteful by design – we grow and slaughter 56 billion animals every year yet we have over a billion humans living in starvation today. Grass-fed meat requires even more land to produce which means more destruction of wildlife.

Veganism

The ideal mustachian is a healthy, capable individual who does not need pills or walkers to survive. The best way to achieve this is a vegan diet, which lowers blood pressure, dramatically lowers cholesterol, maintains gut health and good bowel movements, and provides mental clarity. It is also the best diet for building muscle (more protein is not necessarily a good thing and plants provide plenty).3

Healthy veganism in today’s world has a side effect of frugality. You have to cook and plan to bring your own food because options at restaurants are limited. This also helps you avoid last minute food choices like stopping for fast food. Both of these habits will help you save money. It also requires careful planning and will keep you from developing any food addictions. I don’t think a mustachian has any addictions.

There is a huge vegan community to support you, in the same way that the FI community supports frugal wins and higher saving rates. There are podcasts, facebook groups, recipe blogs, and even plant-based doctors to support your journey.8,9,10,11,12,13

Avoiding consumption is a hallmark of mustachianism. By eating meat you are supporting someone doing the killing of animals for you. You are paying for a convenience and taking your mind off the suffering and cruelty of the animal industry. The consumption culture in this country also extends to health – we pay for pills and procedures to “fix” us when it’s our lifestyle that’s the problem. We can’t buy our way to health with pills just like we can’t buy happiness with more stuff. It’s best to stay healthy from the start.

The mindsets of veganism and responsible spending are the same. The poor mindset is “I got paid! I can go buy x, y and z! I can always make more money.” The unhealthy mindset is, “I work hard. I deserve this unhealthy food item. I have plenty of time to lose weight and get healthy later, YOLO!” This is ridiculous.

Benefits of Veganism for Your Financial Independence Journey

Veganism is the ultimate hedge against poor health, both now and in the future. You will experience better physical health, better mental health, and enjoy the life in your years much more.

You have the best chance at living an uncompromised life free from suffering by eating vegan. Taking pills only masks the symptoms of disease. I know from experience that taking a pill every day doesn’t really solve the problem. Many people are forced into early retirement because of poor health, don’t let this be you.

You will reduce your healthcare costs in the future and worry less about a single emergency eliminating your financial solvency. Veganism helps prevent diabetes which is the biggest source of healthcare spending in this country.14,15 Helping people prevent it is the single biggest action we can take to reduce healthcare costs in general. These costs are being transferred to you and slow your progress to financial independence.

If you do have an emergency, your body will be in better physical shape to withstand the trauma and your immune system will be better prepared to defend itself. When you are admitted to the hospital, you are subjected to a battle against infection, medical errors, and a whole host of possible side effects to not only medications but also blood products. This is true whether your injuries are life threatening or not. People with chronic diseases or weakened immune systems are even more prone to complications. Medical error and complications due to prescription medications are the third leading cause of death in this country.16

VeganismFood costs can actually be less. Try out a CSA (community supported agriculture) and get shares of vegetables directly from the farm. You’ll be amazed how much food you have for $25 per week. Try growing a garden or start small with herbs. The more nutrient-dense foods you eat, the healthier you’ll be. Dark green leafies are the best. On a nutrients per dollar basis, dark green leafies provide the most nutrition.17 Fruit, beans and sweet potatoes are simply some of the healthiest and tastiest foods on earth. Checking blogs and facebook groups for support on how to eat plant-based on a budget is super helpful here – there are thousands of recipes and meal-prep ideas that are simple, cheap and fulfilling. Just be aware that these foods are less calorically dense so you will actually be eating a lot more in volume than you’re used to. This is normal and necessary in order to get the calories you need.

You will experience better mental health and clarity on a vegan diet. When you remove the toxins from your diet that your body has been processing for years on end, you get a surge of newfound energy and focus. This is especially true if you switch cold-tofurkey from a processed food and meat-heavy diet to a vegan whole food diet. When I first graduated, I was depressed and eating fast food every day. I wasn’t exercising, I wasn’t interested in socializing, and I felt lazy all the time. I was addicted to conveniences and became an avid consumer of amazon packages. After going vegan I was amazed by all the energy I had to work out, read and do things myself. The more I read about personal finance the more addicted I became to optimizing my everyday happiness and spending less at the same time.

How to Get Started

Veganism is really a spectrum. You’ll find there are a large array of “vegan” diets. Keep in mind that oreos and white bread constitute vegan foods, but these are not whole foods. I advocate a vegan whole food diet, meaning no animal products and nothing processed (no oil, no refined sugar, very little salt, and very little processed grains). You can eat vegetables cooked or raw, legumes (beans, peas and lentils), whole grains (organic whole wheat, quinoa, buckwheat, non-white rice, etc), nuts, seeds and fruit.

Veganism

The first step when trying to eat more plant-based is to eliminate the worst things for your health like processed meat and simple carbs. Slowly eliminate other meats, and then all animal products.

You’ll find there are many vegan replacements for eggs and milk, and processed mock “meat” that can help you get over your addictions. There are even authentic-tasting burgers. Over time, your taste buds will begin to change and healthy, fibrous foods will taste delicious. You will savor this healthy food and enjoy it more than you ever enjoyed sugar-, salt-, and fat-ladened foods in the past. You will likely have bigger and better bowel movements and better sleep. This will encourage you to improve your diet even more. Watch out for eating too much fiber as this can make people overly gassy and cause cramps. 97% of the country has a fiber-deficient diet so it is best to ease into this new lifestyle.

I always tell people that a 100% commitment at the beginning is not necessary. I have many friends from Wisconsin who are not willing to give up cheese. If you like cheese then try some of the plant-based cheeses that are available! The plus is that these cheeses are not addictive and have no cholesterol like traditional cheese.

Lastly, I want to challenge you to try this lifestyle for 2 weeks. Two weeks is all the time it takes to normalize blood pressure and drop cholesterol levels. Most people begin losing weight as well. 2 weeks of giving up your favorite foods out of your entire life is not very long and I think you will be surprised by the results. Good luck!

Josh


You da man, Josh! What an awesome post and I can’t thank you enough for coming on The Green Swan to share all this info and your inspirational story.

And for all my readers, start your vegan journey today! Just like your FI Journey, the best time to start is immediately, the second best time to start is today. You won’t regret it and you won’t look back!

Thanks for taking a look!

The Green Swan

 

 

Sources cited

  1. https://ethics.harvard.edu/blog/new-prescription-drugs-major-health-risk-few-offsetting-advantages
  2. The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell
  3. Proteinaholic by Dr. Garth Davis
  4. The Cheese Trap by Dr. Neal Barnard
  5. How to Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Dr. Caldwell Essylstyn
  6. Adventist studies
  7. https://www.pcrm.org/health/health-topics/cholesterol-and-heart-disease
  8. http://www.richroll.com/category/podcast/
  9. https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=plantpure
  10. http://blog.feedspot.com/whole_foods_blogs/
  11. http://www.straightupfood.com/blog/
  12. http://www.brandnewvegan.com/
  13. https://www.plantbaseddoctors.org/find
  14. https://www.pcrm.org/health/diabetes-resources/the-vegan-diet-how-to-guide-for-diabetes
  15. http://www.cnbc.com/2016/12/27/diabetes-costing-americans-more-than-any-other-disease.html
  16. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2016/05/03/researchers-medical-errors-now-third-leading-cause-of-death-in-united-states/?utm_term=.f968b4f4f959
  17. How Not to Die by Dr. Michael Greger
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22 Comments

  1. Personally I can’t do vegan. But my wife was a vegetarian when we started dating. The reason was similar to your points. My wife didn’t feel she had to have meat and veggies were cheaper. So she gave up meat in college. I love meat so it made sense for her to change when we got married rather then make two meals.

    1. I hear ya, it was daunting for me at first. But I’ll tell you my taste buds have changed and I don’t crave meats anymore. I’d challenge you to try, but you have to be willing to change and commit. Veganism isn’t for everyone but I found vegan meals to be every bit as great as meals with meat and the biggest motivator to me was the health benefits.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  2. I was vegan for about a year then switched to vegetarian and for the past 8 years I have been pescatarian. In the beginning, it was tricky to balance my diet while on the road. I usually bring my own food but it can be difficult for long stretches because we have no refrigeration or heating elements on the plane. The other issue was being rerouted and/or running out of food (NEVER trust the mini fridge at a hotel – 9/10 it will ruin your food!!) and the lack of healthy options in the airports. Frankly, it was more work than I needed while AT work! These days, I have noticed more options for vegans while travelling. Cinnabon has been replaced with sandwich and salad places (though still super expensive)..sometimes I even get the rare glimpse of a Chipotle at an airport! In the past few months I have begun to contemplate the vegan lifestyle once again. I know from experience that I need a plan going so I appreciate this post as well as the others TGS has been doing on veganism. You may be welcoming me back to the tribe soon!

    1. You’re so right Miss Mazuma! It is very tricky and quite an adjustment if you’re used to just grabbing whatever is available. That is especially true for those who travel a lot. I will say that after getting used to meal prepping all my meals and learning how to cook it is much easier and cheaper than how I was living before. Dr. Greger’s app the Daily Dozen helped me find the right balance of foods so I could ensure I was getting all the nutrients I needed. Check it out!
      I think seeing more and more options coming out helped me make the move initially too. It wasn’t hard to give up meat when I had alternatives like fake meat and cheese to satisfy cravings while learning how to cook and eat as a vegan. Meeting your financial goals and health goals can sometimes feel at odds but I think the opportunities to do just that will continue to improve 🙂 I hope to welcome you back soon and I wish you the best in your health journey as well!

      1. Great recommendation on the Daily Dozen! I just downloaded it and it’ll definitely help me frame my daily meals better.

        Are the amounts of each food group his minimum recommendation? I ask because eating these foods in the amounts prescribed probably wouldn’t be enough food in a day for most folks. I presume eating more of anyone or more category is fine.

        1. Yes definitely minimum recommended amounts. But you may want to avoid excessive consumption of beans or else you’ll be sleeping on the couch that night 😉
          I honestly have trouble fitting all of the daily dozen in because I get so full! The more fiber the better I suppose

  3. This is true though! Unfortunately many of us (myself included) don’t want to go vegan or vegetarian, so we continue to pay more for animal products. But we do try to base more of our meals about plant staples with a meat-on-the-side sort of approach. Even eating less meat has been amazing for our budget. I can’t imagine the savings of going full-on vegan.

    I’m curious: are you raising the kiddos with your diet? I had a friend who was raised a vegetarian and I always thought that was interesting.

    1. We plan on raising ours vegan. The three year old never ate a ton of meat to begin with but he did like eggs and cheese of course. So we’ve transitioned his diet at home as well and his daycare offers dietary choices as well.

      I actually read somewhere that kids growing up vegan tend to be one or two inches taller among other health benefits. So we’re very excited about raising them vegan and being good role models for them.

      Of course as they age we’ll give them more flexibility to make choices, but we’ll still keep the household vegan as best we can.

  4. Love it.
    There is a long history of this actually. Ben Franklin even went vegetarian to save money. It gave him more money that he could then spend on books!
    I focus on a “whole-food plant-based” diet. It isn’t as catchy as Vegan. Now that is a cool word. Oh well, I’m not so much into the animal rights, avoiding honey and all that. I focus on the health benefits. I know vegans who are overweight and who eat french fries and Oreo cookies like they are a health food.

    1. Hey WealthyDoc! More books and less meat are great lifestyle choices for anybody! I didn’t know that about Ben Franklin!
      I also adopted a whole food plant based diet exactly 1 year ago yesterday. It changed my life beyond measure. I was suffering from GERD and IBS and I also had hypercholesterolemia. These have all subsided. Cholesterol dropped 60 points! Now my fiance, my parents and my sister have all come around and life feels great again!
      I cannot tell you how good it feels to share this message with the the world. Working in healthcare, you must understand the frustrations I feel every time I see patients come in for another bandaid surgery or prescription when what they need is to fix the lifestyle problems that lead to the symptoms of disease. Do you have plans to incorporate a WFPB message into your practice?
      Anyways, I wish you the best with your pursuits and I thank you for commenting!

  5. Great breakdown! As a certified integrative nutrition health coach I must say there are certainly a LOT of benefits to a vegan diet, and I know exactly 0 people who eat “too many vegetables”. But diet is very individual, many people do best with a whole food plant based diet with small amounts of meats a few times a week. I love the suggestion to try it, Just for 2 weeks, to see how your body responds. Everyone should do that at some point. And eat more salads and beans!

  6. As you mentioned it takes time and planning. I have learned over time that I have a certain amount of brain energy, and I’m not ready to go vegan yet. My mom went pescatarian and is doing well with it. I’m working on eating less meat, while making good alternate choices.
    One of my interests in FI is to be able to negotiate a flexible schedule so I have more time for meal prep.
    In the mean time knowing more vegans has raised my awareness of good offerings and options available.

    1. I hear ya Jacq, it’s one of those things now that you know you want to do but just need to find the right time to commit.

      Thanks for sharing!

  7. Earlier this week I met with an insurance agent selling long-term health care insurance. The most expensive hazard to be protected against is my wife or me getting something like Alzheimers’. We casually chatted about the incidence of the disease and he said that cases were going up, and I’d recently heard that rates were going down. Hmmmmm. Time for some reading…

    The first thing I noticed was 7th Day Adventists (vegetarian) seem to get Alzheimers less often. So, I started googling combinations of Alzheimers and vegan/vegetarian. Next thing I noticed is that rural Indian populations have some of the lowest rates of the disease anywhere. Not a lot of hamburgs in that regional diet.

    Since I lost a lot of weight I’ve been carefully watching my diet and nutrition. I was shocked to discover how easily I can hit all my nutrient targets without eating any meat, despite the fact that I target a LOT of protein. ERGO, I could go vegetarian fairly easily.

    It’s probably a very bad financial advice, but this is tempting me to go vegan and self-insure nursing home care.

    1. Right on, Steve! It’s hard to scientifically prove the benefits of veganism (visa traditional trials, etc) but the circumstantial evidence is compelling.

      Protein is a fascinating example. People think you can only get what you need from meat whereas if you only ate rice you’d still reach your recommended protein levels…

      Another is calcium. Some of the documentaries talk about how it’s imperative to prevent osteoporosis. In reality there’s an interesting relationship to meat, the increased level of free radicals in your body as a result, and how calcium helps block them. Cut out the meat products and you don’t need as much calcium. And the reality is the increased level of calcium in the human diet over decades has also seen an increased level of osteoporosis… Veganism is the way to go. Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food…

  8. We are definitely on the same page. Here’s a thought to add to “food be your medicine…” maybe not-eating, that is fasting on a regular basis is needed as well. I have been trying to eat my last food of each day before 1:30pm. This gives my body 8 hours before bedtime to clear insulin from my body to promote fat burning during sleep, and also the lack of protein for those hours between then and breakfast creates an opportunity for autophagy to clear the intracellular deadwood. And I can’t think of a more budget-friendly diet strategy than fasting.

    1. That is an interesting strategy. I’m sure it is tough, but I would think that works well. I know sumo wrestlers would strategically do the exact opposite to gain weight…eat and lay around/sleep.

      1. I have found it is easier to say, “It’s past deadline. I can eat nothing,” than to resist lots of temptations to “just have a little.” I get to thinking, “oh, i can afford that, it’s only 170 calories…” the more rationalization I do the more likely I am to talk myself into overeating. Conversely, once I say, “If I eat that it’ll shut down autophagy” or “that snack will pour insulin into my bloodstream and shut down fat-burning.” When the temptation is real strong, I say to myself, “I can eat that–just wait until tomorrow morning.”

        1. Good for you and glad to hear it’s been working so well. When you see it begin to pay off I bet it was a lot easier to stick with it too.

  9. “If you like cheese then try some of the plant-based cheeses that are available!”

    As someone from Wisconsin I had a physical ‘repulsed’ reaction to this statement, bahahah 🙂 I will try anything twice though! (once because come on, it’s once! Twice because sometimes the first way something is prepared it just sucks, made by a bad cook, etc.)

    I’d love to move to a more vegan-ish diet, but I don’t know that I could easily switch over right away. I think the first step would be starting to eat 1 vegan meal a week, then 2, 3, etc. Slowly making that change – instead of going all out, all at once – I think would make it easier to transition.

    1. Hahahaha I loved your comment because I’m also from Wisconsin and I was a huge cheesehead! It was the hardest food for me to give up! But finding the plant-based cheeses helped tremendously. You ought to try the Miyoko’s cashew cheeses. They’re slightly creamier but decadent enough to fool any cheese addict 🙂
      Any method that works is the right method for you. I knew my personality type would fare better just jumping right in because I’d get too tempted to cheat otherwise. Before you begin it may be worth it to track your health markers (weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, etc) just to help motivate you to complete the transition as you go. Best of luck and thanks for stopping by!!

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