by Peter Foley.
Hardly a day goes by without hearing the word vegan. Of course, veganism can mean different things to different people. For some it can mean complete abstinence from dairy, meat and animal products, for others it also includes a philosophy that rejects the commodity status of animals. There are many different reasons that people have for following a vegan lifestyle, from ethics, to environmental or dietary reasons. Many people find their own reasons fall into several categories and form their own stance on veganism.
The team at Diabetes Digital Media, home to the award-winning Low Carb Program, wanted to show how a low carb lifestyle can be adapted to meet the needs of someone who lives a vegan lifestyle. The aim of this challenge is to document my experiences incorporating vegan dietary principles into my low carb lifestyle.
The vegan movement
Looking back, I can’t remember the first time I heard the word vegan. Now, it seems as though the vegan symbol is everywhere, from food packaging to restaurant menus and social media. Perhaps the most popular time of year for the vegan movement is January, or ‘Veganuary’ as it can be known. January is a time when there is a significant drive to increase awareness, educate and open dialogue around the core principles of vegan living. This led to the conception of my vegan challenge and the writing of this blog.
The challenge that Diabetes Digital Media (DDM) set me sounded pretty simple.
DDM: ‘Do you fancy a challenge?’
Me: ‘Um…yeah ok. What is it?’
DDM: ‘We want to see if you can follow a vegan diet while also living a low carb lifestyle. You see, lots of people equate a low carb diet to processed meat, butter and low fibre but we know that this is not the case. We would love it if you could follow the low carb principles while also eating as a vegan.’
Me: ‘Ok cool, that sounds like something I would be keen to try, perhaps I could record my experience and then put together a blog or something…’
And so, the challenge was set: I was to follow my usual low carb lifestyle while also sticking to vegan friendly foods for one week. The nutrition team provided me with a week-long vegan low carb meal plan to make sure I was sticking to the challenge.
A bit about me
OK, well why me? That seems like a reasonable question. Perhaps this would be a good time for an introduction. I am an Irish-born 3rd generation GP living and working in the UK. I grew up in a rural village in County Carlow in the South East of Ireland. Although medicine was always my real interest from a young age, I have always been interested in farming and the importance of food quality, food source and animal husbandry. Perhaps this is due to the many weekends spent on farms in the village, feeding animals, helping with harvests and exploring the farms. In this idyllic setting, I learned about the importance of biodiversity, simple farming methods, mixed grazing and the food production system.
After studying medicine in the South West of England, I settled in Bristol, where I work today. Being a keen sportsman, I studied for postgraduate qualifications in Sport and Exercise medicine alongside my specialty training in General Practice. It was during my sports medicine studies that I learned of the importance of nutrition for health. My passion for the promotion of a healthy lifestyle coupled with my specialty training in Primary Care found a home in metabolic health – a field of medicine which focuses on lifestyle-related conditions such as pre-diabetes, type 2 diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease among others. As a GP working in the NHS, I was looking after a lot of patients who had these conditions. In fact, I would go as far as to say that approximately 70-80% of what I see in my GP clinics are lifestyle related, preventable and for the most part, reversible.
Somewhere along my journey I met the team at DDM. It was clear that we shared the core value of patient empowerment and that our shared ‘why’ was to change the global landscape of how metabolic health is catered for. We have been working together since August 2017, with the primary objective of empowering patients to make informed lifestyle changes which meet their cultural, environmental and personal health beliefs. We want to make the world better for everyone.
When it comes to my own personal food choices, I have found that a low carb diet works for me. It allows me to have a healthy relationship with food, sustain a healthy lifestyle and enjoy living! I make conscious decisions to eat properly sourced and produced animal produce and continue to have the same appreciation of food which I had as a child.
Equipped with a vegan low carb meal plan and an open mind, I embarked on my vegan challenge. Stay tuned to find out how I got on eating a low carb vegan diet for a week!