On the way to LAX airport from PrimalCon, my new friend Jennifer and I stopped off in Santa Monica for coffee (Jennifer) and tea (me). We got talking to an interesting couple, who seemed keen to find out about us, as soon as they realised we had different accents to them.
They were asking what we were doing in California, to which we replied rather vaguely, telling them we’d been to a health conference. The conversation then progressed onto health and how healthy our new friends believed they were. That’s where they proudly told us they were Vegan, clearly of the popular belief that that is the ultimate in healthy lifestyles. That wasn't really a conversation I felt like having, so didn't delve further. However, it wasn't long before they asked exactly what our health conference was about. Before I could say it was a Kettlebell conference (I know, gutless – but this was Vegans on their home turf) Jennifer quickly announced we’d been to PrimalCon – and were Paleo, pretty much the opposite to Vegans. Carnivores. I filled the silence by explaining how we actually have a lot in common. We don’t eat feed lock, intensively farmed meat. We are really careful to ensure our meat is ethical and comes from well cared for animals, in their natural environment and fed their natural diet. They seemed to accept this, before the woman started to tell us how she could never eat a cute, soft, cuddly, beautiful cow and how if she saw one she’d have to take it home so she could pat it and stroke it all day. Or something like that.
This conversation (and the book I'm currently reading “The Vegetarian Myth”) has got me thinking about the similarities and differences between being Paleo and being Vegetarian or Vegan.
Is it possible to be Vegan or Vegetarian and Paleo?
I've even seen increasing numbers of people on Paleo forums posing the question as to whether it is possible to follow a Paleo lifestyle as a Vegan or Vegetarian. Denice Minger has a talk about this very subject. With the absence of meat and dairy too (in the case of Vegans) this group often rely heavily on grains as a source of calories and legumes as a protein source. A shift from a grain and legume heavy diet, to a meat-free Paleo diet would be quite a transition, but theoretically possible – probably involving lots of nutritionally dense eggs. I guess it’s a lot easier for those Vegetarians who do eat fish (Pescetarians) – that would certainly make following a Paleo style diet a lot easier…
The Vegetarian/ Vegan is Healthy Myth
I don’t think it’s accurate to assume that just because someone is Vegetarian they automatically live a supremely healthy lifestyle. Whilst a lot of Vegetarians are healthy, there also seem to be a lot of “Junk Food Vegetarians”. So many processed foods have the “V” Vegetarian symbol. In fact, it would be very easy for a Vegetarian to conduct their entire diet through packets of processed foods, without a vegetable in sight. I think this is where Paleo differs. Whilst I'm sure industry will start to produce “Paleo Processed Foods”, they will never be Paleo – as the whole basis of Paleo is to eat natural, uncomplicated, whole foods.
From Vegetarian/ Vegan to Paleo?
A lot of people do seem to become Vegetarian or Vegan through concern for their health. It amazes me how many of those now following a Paleo lifestyle used to be Vegetarian of Vegan, in fact, the 2012 Paleo Survey results show that over 38% of Paleo respondents used to follow either of those lifestyles. I have a lot of respect for these people, as it can’t be easy to go through such a transformation. How do you start the process of telling your friends and family you now eat meat? Do you spend time as a secret meat eater before casually ordering a steak at dinner with friends?
Have you ever been Vegetarian or Vegan? Do you think Paleo is the polar opposite lifestyle?