If you want to upset your friends and family at every meal, talk about your diet. Our diets are part of our identity, so this post may offend you. I’m sorry in advance.

I felt fine on a Paleo diet.

This time last year I was following a strict paleo diet. I was convinced by books like How We Get Fat, Wheat Belly, and Grain Brain that sugar in most forms should be avoided, lest we want diabetes and obesity. Those books, insights from doctors, and my own results on paleo turned me into a zealous advocate of a low sugar, high fat diet.

I was eating 3 eggs every morning and fish almost every day. I avoided flour, rice, potatoes, and sugary foods, all to great effect: I achieved paleo nirvana, also known as ketosis. That’s when the body runs on energy stored in fat (triglycerides) instead of energy from the sugar we eat, leading to fast weight loss.

Once I got past the powerful sugar cravings, I looked and felt pretty good. I documented my first month’s transition here.

The image below sums up what a paleo diet is (from paleo 101):

paleo

And then, overnight, I went vegan.

While meditating in January I was hit with a sudden, powerful feeling that I shouldn’t be eating any meat at all. I didn’t like the meat industry. I didn’t want to be part of the overfishing problem. I didn’t want to eat dead animals every meal. And I didn’t want to get sick like almost all my meat-loving relatives. So at my next meal I ate just plants, and have kept it up ever since then, taking it one meal at a time.

Some bad things happened.

  • I lost weight. I’m a tiny person to begin with, so losing weight is actually traumatic. But there I was, back to my freshman year college weight. I’m not going to write how little that is.
  • I got into arguments. My parents thought I was being extreme. My wife, a foodie who loves lamb, really didn’t like this new turn.
  • I caused confusion. I had advocated a paleo diet for weight loss at my company, Power 20, and now I was changing it. People who lost weight successfully were confused and some were mad.

Some good things happened too.

  • My allergies disappeared. I usually have to take Claritin and can’t wear contact lenses during spring. This was the first year I can remember when had no allergies. Dairy causes an auto-immune response, so it’s a driver for many allergies. Not surprising, after seeing the video below.
  • Despite losing some weight, I haven’t lost any strength or energy. 3 months after going vegan, I tested my strength and did 35 consecutive pull ups without practice. One of the strongest men in the world is vegan.
  • My dandruff disappeared. Meat eaters have more oily skin, which ironically leads to bigger flakes in the scalp that cause dandruff (more on this here).
  • I stopped doing cardio. Vegans eating whole food have lower cardiometabolic risk factors than marathoners who run over 40 miles a week. It’s easier to just eat plants.
  • My bursitis disappeared. I’ve had a visible, painful inflammation on a finger joint for 3 years. It disappeared after one month of eating just plants. Bursitis and rheumatoid arthritis are thought to improve on a whole-food, plant based diet.
  • All my dishes are easier to clean. Since I’m eating whole, plant-based food, I’m basically washing, cutting, steaming and seasoning food. Dish cleaning is simple.There’s no grease, blood, guts, or nasty bacteria to worry about.

I’m not going back.

I look and feel the same, except I no longer feel the ethical queasiness that comes from eating meat. Why go back?

To go vegan one must be psychologically ready, socially supported, and practically prepared.

I’ve been psychologically ready for a long time. I suspect most people are: no one really loves the meat industry. No one wants to accelerate the depletion of the world’s fish stock. And since I had gone 14 years as a pescetarian, I shed my meat addiction long ago.

My wife and extended family may not love my decision, but they don’t actively undermine it either. That’s all the social support I need. Since I went this route, some family members have reduced their meat consumption.

The last step (and biggest hurdle) was practical. I had to learn how to eat healthy and rely on no one else, including restaurants, for my meals. I learned about eating healthy from nutritionfacts.org, forksoverknives.com, and a variety of food blogs. I stocked up on vitamin B-12 and flaxseed, and got familiar with steaming veggies. Once I had the right setup, the rest was easy.

But Paleo is sustainable, right?

True paleo eating involves eating very little meat and limiting that meat to sustainable, grass-fed organic sources. Fine, but only 3% of all the beef in America is grass fed. Less than 1% of chicken is free range. Good meat is hard to find, so people who want to eat sustainably are too often forced to compromise, and end up eating meat from unknown sources. They compromise at peoples’ houses, while traveling, at restaurants, and for convenience.

Even the most careful eater will have trouble knowing the source of their fish. The fishing industry is notoriously opaque about the true source of fish and methods of capture. They often even lie about the kind of fish being served. 59% of the tuna Americans eat is not even tuna.

Meanwhile very few vegans ever compromise by eating meat. It’s just easier to tell people you’re vegetarian than it is to turn down a meal on the grounds that it’s from a questionable source.

 But where do you get your protein?

I found this handy infographic here that answers many diet questions at once.

peta2-vegan-infographic-2013-640x2108

Pictures or it didn’t happen

I know people assume that going vegan means my muscles will waste away or that eating all those carbs will make vegans fat. But that’s not true.

On the left: before a 30-day paleo challenge. Middle: after the challenge. Right: after my first 3 months as a vegan.

On the left: before a 30-day paleo challenge. Middle: after the challenge. Right: after my first 3 months as a vegan. I’ve never been a hulking giant, but going vegan didn’t change my body in either direction.

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  • Anthony Germinario

    Good read, thanks for writing this! What are your thoughts on vegan Omega 3′s (or what have learned about them)? Have you ever taken algae-based supplements, or do you rely on what you can get from flax/hemp?

  • http://arshadchowdhury.com/ Arshad Chowdhury

    Anthony, I haven’t taken algae-based supplements. Instead I have flaxseed basically every day. I add two tablespoons of ground flaxseed to my morning oatmeal. Below is a picture of the brand I use. The whole seeds last like a year without refrigeration, but after they’re ground (in a coffee bean grinder) they last just a few weeks in the fridge.

    It has a nice nutty taste.

  • Phil Shoeman

    “no grease, blood, guts, or nasty bacteria” — sounds like you hunted your own game before, not like butchers/store-bought meat.. the red juice & runoff from steaks isn’t blood, it’s some kind of muscle juice loaded with micronutrients often sadly discarded. Never seen guts eaten or served before, even a cat will leave the fur feet and intestines of its prey uneaten. “Nasty bacteria” should be neutralized 99% by healthy levels of stomach acid, otherwise crowded out by a healthy gut microbiota. Otherwise good stuff & congrats, as a total carnivore I do welcome every new convert to veganism, out of sheer self-interest ;)

  • Arshad

    Phil, I’m afraid science disagrees with you. See what the University of Rochester Medical Center has to say about food-borne bacteria in the kitchen sink (all from meat):
    https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=1&ContentID=1220

  • http://arshadchowdhury.com/ Arshad Chowdhury

    Phil, I’m afraid science disagrees with you. See what the University of Rochester Medical Center has to say about food-borne bacteria in the kitchen sink (all from meat):
    https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=1&ContentID=1220

  • Phil Shoeman

    OK wash your hands then, I think you’ll find this is still advisable in a meat-free kitchen :D https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MIrFhfyrmS4 http://chriskresser.com/shifting-from-shock-awe-to-nourish-support/

  • Buffalo

    You have seen hot dogs and sausages eaten. Lots of guts in those.

  • http://www.CarlaGoldenWellness.com carlagolden

    Kudos! Thank you for taking a stand for the environment and for the animals. I’m curious, when you were on a Paleo diet, you weren’t eating/drink milk which complicated your allergies, right? It’s my understanding that Paleo doesn’t include dairy. So your allergies improving were due to omitting meat when you went vegan?

  • Kristin

    I’ve been a vegan for years. Best decision I ever made. The only thing I regret is not doing it sooner.

  • b00mer

    What a great story! Regarding “sustainable” meat, I would highly recommend the documentary Cowspiracy. You can purchase the digital download for ten bucks online. It’s extremely well done, and most interestingly, it shows not just how factory farming is environmentally disastrous, but how so-called sustainable ie local/grass-fed/organic/etc practices are just as bad and even worse by some parameters, particularly in regards to native flora/fauna extinction for range land, greenhouse emissions, etc.

    Thanks for sharing such an inspiring story! :)

  • Beth Grant DeRoos

    Living in California and having access to affordable fresh fruits vegetables as well as nuts and grains I have no excuse not to be vegan and no excuse to not realize how fortunate I am.

  • http://arshadchowdhury.com/ Arshad Chowdhury

    Good luck with the journey!

  • http://arshadchowdhury.com/ Arshad Chowdhury

    Thank you! I’ll certainly check out Cowspiracy.

  • http://arshadchowdhury.com/ Arshad Chowdhury

    Me too!

  • http://arshadchowdhury.com/ Arshad Chowdhury

    I wasn’t drinking milk, but I was eating eggs, yogurt, and dark chocolate. The culprit may have the milk in my dark chocolate or the eggs. I’m not sure!

    Interestingly, Paleo eaters who drink raw, unpasteurized milk see their seasonal allergies disappear almost immediately.

  • http://www.CarlaGoldenWellness.com carlagolden

    Thank you for the clarification!

  • cuvie

    Conspiracy will be available on Netflix September 15th.

  • sweetonnh

    Do you have an intagram account?

  • Susan

    I’m always amazed at people who try to defend a diet based on animal protein. It just creates all sorts of havoc in the body and the world. The more I read the more I’m convinced of it. Congrats Arshad!

  • Jaime Friggin Allsup

    I was Paleo for 3 years. I saw some great benefits from it and I actually felt pretty good on it. But the amount of meat I ate really hammered in to my psyche how many animals had to die in order to sustain me and everyone else even though we live in a society where eating meat isn’t a necessity anymore. It wore on me until I eventually went vegetarian. My tipping point was the last day I bought meat. I realized that I was looking at all of the cuts and putting the animals back together. It really shook me. Later that day I was petting my little dog and I realized how much her little jack russel leg looked like a drumstick and that was it for me. I was vegetarian for 6 months before I went vegan strictly for ethical reasons. I was eating Ben & Jerry’s on my cheat weekend and I watched Vegucated. I couldn’t even finish my Ben & Jerry’s! I threw out or gave away everything that had dairy in it that night. I had no idea how badly animals are treated in the meat and dairy industry. I’ve been Vegan now for about 4 months and I have noticed many of the same benefits that you describe. For me losing weight is a good thing and being Vegan I am losing weight at a very healthy pace without even exercising.

    It is nice to see a testimonial that resonates with mine, I hope more people will see this and do the compassionate thing.

  • techwoman

    Congratulations! Thank you for writing this. You have done a fantastic job of pulling this information together. I was a thin and strong, but sickly, meat and dairy farm kid. I am now vegan (with a few brief dips into vegetarianism) for 15+ years and have never experienced any of the scary things people said would happen. My doctor says I have enviable test results, and I am in the lowest cost category for life insurance rates, which my agent says she almost never sees. As Gandhi said, your life is your message. I now feel good about what is on my plate and knowing that I haven’t contributed in any way to the torture farmed animals endure. No one can really say they eat humanely-raised animals. People do not understand that even small farms participate in practices that would be called torture and abuse if they were done to dogs or cats. All the following are done with no anesthesia: amputating dairy cow tails (majority of dairy cows have this done, but the advertising shows them with tails), de-horning, castrating (on pigs this usually means taking a pliers and ripping the testicles off), ear cutting/clipping, keeping the female animals pregnant using “rape racks,” and then killing their babies so we can take the milk, force feeding, de-beaking, and so on. Aside from all the above, animal ag is horrible for the environment and uses many times the resources we would use to produce calories for human consumption. If the rest of the world adopts a meat-based diet, there will be no future for the coming generations. This is why Bill Gates and others are banking on the development of vegan meats.

  • Meghan Oona Clifford

    I’ve been vegan for 19 years. Best decision I ever made, spiritually and health-wise. Congrats. :)

  • http://arshadchowdhury.com/ Arshad Chowdhury

    That’s great, Meghan! I hope to enjoy eating right for that long and beyond.

  • http://arshadchowdhury.com/ Arshad Chowdhury

    What a heart-wrenching and shameful description of what our culture does to other beings. Thanks for sharing this, as painful as it is to confront.

  • http://arshadchowdhury.com/ Arshad Chowdhury

    Jaime, your conscience has been getting louder and louder, it seems! You’re a lucky person to be able to hear your own inner voice of reason and compassion; it’s a voice I think we all have, but few of us know to listen for.

  • http://arshadchowdhury.com/ Arshad Chowdhury

    Thanks, Susan. Yes, evidence that compassionate eating is healthy eating abounds. But unfortunately industry is in the business of creating doubt, so there’s plenty of biased research promoting eggs, milk and meat. My approach is to let the evidence speak for itself on an individual basis; I look and feel great as a vegan, so anyone probably can too.

  • http://arshadchowdhury.com/ Arshad Chowdhury

    Yes; I do my health and wellness instagramming here: https://instagram.com/power20app

  • Veronica Shabaldina

    Amazing and inspiring post❤️

  • Pam Paxman Gustin

    I am just finishing a year of battling breast cancer and decided to eat vegan 3 months ago. After 6 weeks, I began having symptoms of B12 deficiency and was treated with injections. Any recommendations how can I get more B12 in my diet?

  • http://arshadchowdhury.com/ Arshad Chowdhury

    Hi Pam – I take a vitamin D and B-12 supplement. Below are the brands I use.

  • http://arshadchowdhury.com/ Arshad Chowdhury

    Thanks, Veronica!

  • Beth Grant DeRoos

    I take a B Complex which provides 167% of my daily value of B12 Many veggie burgers and power bars also have added B12 as di most cereals.

    And I drink non GMO soy milk, non GMO fermented soy products as well as non GMO soybean tofu. Using Silks Very Vanilla soy milk and fresh fruit in a smoothie, or silken soy tofu as the milk substitute when I make pudding, or extra firm tofu diced in stir fry, give me added B12.

    Am so hoping and praying you win your breast cancer battle.

  • Hannah

    Thank you so much for this! Ive just decided I want to be vegan with some paleo principles so this is exactly what I needed to read :) much appreciated!

  • http://arshadchowdhury.com/ Arshad Chowdhury

    That’s great! Just remember to take your B12!

  • Laurie conrad

    I take a supplement. It comes from soil but I recommend supplement versus not washing produce. A lot of people use nutritional yeast in place of parmesan cheese, it’s loaded with B12, but it is enriched with it, not naturally occuring.

  • Chris Campbell

    Nutritional yeast. It comes in flake and powder form, and bonus! It tastes like cheese! It’s good sprinkled on salads, soups, garlic toast, pasta, popcorn, and I admit it…eggs.

  • NotApologizing

    Please stay on top of the B12. I have the deficiency and it’s life-changing. It causes MS-lkei nerve damage.

    Do not believe the false info that it’s rare among vegetarians. It’s not even rare among meat-eaters.

  • NotApologizing

    167% of your daily recommended intake may only be 6 mcg. Treating a B12 deficiency you need 1,000-5,000 mcg because there are so many steps via digestion to make it usable. Just because there is enough going in doesn’t mean you’re actually retaining enough to preserve your central nervous system health.

    Vegetarians, even lack-PvP, should be tested. Always get your test results, doctors tend to think the reference range means something, but the entire range is too low. Good b12 is between 800-1000 pg/mL. Study up! http://Www.logicalneuro.com

  • Jaime Friggin Allsup

    It’s interesting to me that you’d put it that way. I totally agree with you. It took first recognizing that there was a negative ‘voice’ in my head that I had been listening to for so many years. Then having to shut out everything it said. I thought that would be the end of it and you can probably imagine the shock I felt the first time I heard that positive loving voice, my conscience, not only telling me that what I was doing was good and beneficial but also that there was more I could be doing. It has been an amazing journey and experience for me. Thank you for even seeing it.

  • Dominika Poklu

    Hi :) )) So I am a paleo for over a year and a half. And in the last few weeks I started thinking about turning vegan. Some meats just started to feel disgusting and I cant eat it. I almost throw up, when my mum gave me a whole fish in front of me. I just cant feel the smell of it.

    But tell me… how did your body react, when you started eating legumes and grains? I imagine it horrible :D

    Thank you for your answear,
    Dominika

  • http://arshadchowdhury.com/ Arshad Chowdhury

    Hi there Dominika!

    The only side effect you should be aware of is inevitable gas that comes with eating so many beans and plants. It takes a few weeks for the body to adjust. But that gas is minor and has little potency.

    So overall my body reacted just fine. If you’re thinking about going vegan, I say go for it! Good luck to you!

    Arshad

  • Nunyer Business

    Food borne bacteria are also in vegetables too.Outbreaks requiring CDC investigations have occurred in cucumbers, lettuce, spinach, sprouts, hazelnuts, nut butters, raw cashew cheese, pomegranate seeds, tahini, mangoes, cantaloupe, pine nuts, papayas, pistachios, Malt-O-Meal, tomatoes, and others.

    Plus, improper fermentation or storage of plant products can lead to the growth of ‘bad’ bacteria and fungi. Food borne illness come from microorganisms, and meat does not have a monopoly on the growth of microorganisms, good or bad.

    http://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/outbreaks/multistate-outbreaks/outbreaks-list.html

  • Nunyer Business

    In fact, one of the largest botulism outbreaks in the US was traced to hot sauce! The second worst traced to 3 bean salad, and a whole bunch of people got hepatitis from frozen strawberries and green onions. The majority of people who get botulism every year get it from improperly home canned foods, most of which are plant based, since few people can meats. Heck, 22,000 people became ill after eating tainted peanut butter! That’s a lot of plants carrying bad bugs.

    http://www.healthline.com/health-slideshow/worst-foodborne-illness-outbreaks#2

  • Josh Finlay

    Ketosis is the best thing for cancer treatment…

  • Josh Finlay

    I’m sorry but the bulk of unbiased, unfunded, evidence does not suggest veganism is healthier than non-veganism. Also, the comment about the meat and dairy industry “creating doubt” is just silly; do you realise how small that industry is compared to the grain industry? It’s goods with long shelf lives that have the largest profit margins. These are the companies that fund research and lobby.

  • Josh Finlay

    You don’t absorb the necessary omega-3′s from flax seed, or any vegan supplement for that matter. Except maybe algae.

    I’m not trying to be a troll but it’s unbelievable how much misinformation there is out there

  • dj_djtanner

    So I too reached an epiphany while being a paleo advocate for years. I’m half way through my RYT 200 and meat just seems…revolting to me now.
    But everything seems to have come to a grinding halt in my digestive system. I imagine that I don’t have enough gut bugs to process these newfangled grains I’ve been experimenting with. Was constipation and a general bloated feeling something that you had experienced with your switch?
    Thanks,
    Lindsey

  • http://arshadchowdhury.com/ Arshad Chowdhury

    Hi Lindsey,
    There’s certainly some gas and bloating that comes with the initial transition and it took me about 3 weeks to get used to all those beans. But I did adjust.

    Constipation was never a problem for me though, especially since I’m getting at least 5 servings of fruit and am starting the day with oatmeal.

    Good luck with it!

  • Vernon Douglas

    Cool article. I have been eating paleo/warrior diet for 5 years and I am also thinking of going vegan for many of the reasons you state. i am concerned that i will gain weight as i will be upping the carbs considerably. Did you monitor your carb intake or just eat until full? i am big into calisthenics and kettlebells so I definitely have enough activity

  • http://arshadchowdhury.com/ Arshad Chowdhury

    Hi Vernon – I eat plenty of healthy, fiber-filled carbs and sugar by way of fruits, vegetables, oatmeal, and whole grains, including lots of sweet potatoes. No, I don’t monitor my carb intake because a) the fiber makes and keeps me full faster and longer so I don’t eat as much; b) a fiber-filled diet is awesome for slimming the waist, and c) the idea that we’ll get fat and sick eating fruits and vegetables (even with carbs) is just wrong.

  • 2016electionprophecy

    You must choose whatever works for you right now and not completely give into a social identity. Articles will claim theirs is the best but that’s rarely the case. Blood types determine what type of an eater you are for the most part. Mediterranean diet is the most compatible with all blood types. But I have never gone on a full med. diet ever.
    Healthy man+soy diet+exercise = no estrogen activity.
    Unhealthy man+soy diet = increased estrogenic activity.
    likewise…
    Healthy man+carefully chosen/game meat diet+goat milk+workout = no estrogen activity.
    Unhealthy man+carelessly chosen meat diet+cow milk+lazyness = increased estrogenic activity. With that said, you must stop eating junk food if it’s detrimental to your health or if you’re an emotional eater. No smoking, drinking, none of that stupid stiff.
    Same for essential oil hygiene products, foods such as wheat, grains, legumes, fats, sugars, corn syrup (non-high fructose), spicy foods, desserts etc…The key is moderation. Learn to know when you’re full and finish the meal with a dessert. If you’re a guy weighing unusually high compared to your past, you need to hit the gym hard. Train on your legs as opposed to beds and pads and such. Pull-ups, chin-ups, dips etc. They are entirely different type of workout altogether so no problems doing them.
    No gym? No worries, there are tons of body weight exercises you can do at home. I don’t mean ‘insanity’! Learn to keep your posture while sitting and doing those workouts. Bodybuilding websites can help out people looking to lose weight further. I mean, online articles can only take you so far because they are based on a specific audience like magazines…And don’t be taking more than 2 supplements if you wish to take them. No supplements and back to basic is much quicker than supplementing.
    I’m someone who had gained and lost quite a bit of weight from trying all different sorts of stuff. It’s a long road ahead but that doesn’t mean it’s a helpless road. Those bodybuilders are one of the nicest people online. Same for athletes. We are taught to hate the “jocks” and so on from a young age through society and media but that shouldn’t be a factor for us to stop interacting with them. Pray also, because God knows what you’re going through even when others don’t.

  • 2016electionprophecy

    How would you describe its phytoestrogen content/effects? Good? Bad? Placebo? I appreciate it.

  • BC

    Thanks so much for this article and video! This was really helpful for me – a wakeup call. I’ve been paleo for about 4 years but feel so guilty about the fact I contribute to the horrible meat industry. I only eat chicken and fish, but today I’ve decided to go vegan. Mentally, I am ready – it’s been a long time coming. I’m a little concerned about eating more grains since my grain quantity has been low due to paleo, but we will see how it goes…

  • JT

    I wish I had the same results going from paleo to vegan. However, I followed the Engine 2 diet, which is strictly plant based, very low fat and protein, and high carb. My weight really didn’t change, but my body fat increased and muscle mass decreased. I have since added some pea protein and I am hoping that this will do the trick.