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.
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
Food 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.
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!
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
- The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell
- Proteinaholic by Dr. Garth Davis
- The Cheese Trap by Dr. Neal Barnard
- How to Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Dr. Caldwell Essylstyn
- Adventist studies
- How Not to Die by Dr. Michael Greger