12 min read

From Plant-Based to Animal-Based: Changing My Mind on Food

Or, why eating plant-based is bullsh*t.
From Plant-Based to Animal-Based: Changing My Mind on Food

Changing your mind is hard.

This struck me the other night as I was wrestling with my own stubbornness around rarely sharing personal details of my life. As I got thinking about it, I realize I don't have many examples in my life of people who have seriously changed their minds about anything.

Most of the time, the 'open-minded' individuals I know just further their existing beliefs, adding nuanced arguments to support them. Very rarely have I seen someone fully pivot their opinion on politics, religion, food, relationships — anything of substance.

As I flipped this back on myself – I realized I am in the middle of one of the most pronounced changes of mind in my life, a complete 180º turnaround – that of food and diet.

I spent over a decade eating plant-based, and I am currently shifting toward an entirely animal-based diet.

This piece explores the path that led me here and shares insights into how I landed on the decision to pursue an animal-based diet. This may trigger some individuals. I hope this helps you if you are considering this as well.

Going Plant-Based

Letting go of animal foods.

🌱 Why I Started Eating Plant-Based

I began my journey into pescetarianism (includes fish), vegetarianism, and veganism when I was 16.

Functionally I was a vegetarian—I rarely ate fish—but I could never give up sushi. Throughout school when I was cooking it skewed heavily vegan — I had no real interest in (and was partially disgusted by) eating eggs or dairy. This plant-based dance lasted over 10 years.

14 years later, answers to how and why it all started aren't as obvious. I know a few reasons why I kept it up so long, and they line up with the major talking points from the plant-based community:

⭐️ 1. Ethics & Morality

I was the kid in high school who went home, printed out the "Fish are friends, not food!" image from PETA, iron-transferred it onto a blank white t-shirt, and wore it around school with the air of moral superiority that only the "anti-barbarian" enlightened vegetarian position can provide.

Ah, classic.

There is an obvious and immediate ethical and moral argument available to the plant-based community.

Humans have choice, and if you are a benevolent, morally-good being – you should choose to do as little harm as possible. Killing animals for food is harmful, therefore we should not kill animals for food.

🌍 2. Global Warming & Climate Change

Similar to the ethical argument, but zoomed out from individual choice up to the future-of-humanity level.

If you believe that anthropogenic climate change is true, it's impossible to ignore the abomination of the global meat industry. From factory farms to transportation and distribution networks, meat is a major contributor to man-made climate change.

Therefore, do your part. Eat less meat!

In Grade 10, we had to do a public 'motivational speech' project for a class. 10 minutes to make a meaningful and motivational case on any topic you care about. I stood up there and advocated for why everyone should try Meatless Mondays – reducing individual and familial meat intake. I was all in.

💪 3. Health, Vitality, & Longevity

The last and most enduring reason for going plant-based was the health benefits. Eating red meat is bad for your heart, you'll die earlier, it'll clog your arteries, bad cholesterol – the works. You've heard it all before. The same claims are paraded around today, glorified in the wash of plant-based documentaries populating Netflix and MindBodyGreen articles.

"No self-respecting person trying to take care of their health could seriously consider a diet high in meat intake. Ethical and planetary considerations aside, if you don't want to die from a heart attack – you shouldn't eat meat."

I kept this up, deeply entrenched in my beliefs, gaining pride and purpose from my morally superior position, eating different meals from my friends and family, sending food back at restaurants, and advocating my lifestyle on Facebook, for over 10 years.

But, slowly at first — then suddenly all at once... things changed.

🛑 Reasons I Stopped Eating Plant-Based

The majority of this section is taken from a long-form personal entry I wrote in 2019 while working with ayahuasca on a master plant diet in Peru, entitled 'Why I Started Eating Meat Again'. Additional commentary has been added.

🥗 1. Satiety

Plant-based diets never lead to proper satiety. You're never full! I could eat an endless amount of food, including "nutrient-dense" options like kale, seitan, quinoa, sweet potato, and never be truly satiated. Given my size, I could eat an unbelievable amount of food. I see this trend continue in my friends who have adopted the diet. Meat consumption appears to remedy this.

I now understand this to be a combination of two factors: hormonal rebalancing (sorting out leptin & ghrelin levels) and eating truly nutrient-dense foods (more on this later).

🤒 2. Chronic Subclinical Pathology

Despite being the poster child of healthy diets, all the plant-based folks I know (and myself when I was plant-based) always have an endless series of ailments: poor skin, low energy levels, chronic anxiety, issues with digestion, non-existent sex drive, rashes, slow to heal cuts, constipation, mental fog, and low-level depression. And the gas. My god, the gas.

It’s always something. And it’s never fully resolved! There's very rarely a single extended period of time of "everything is fine with my body" on a plant-based diet. This does not imply causation, it’s just a very common trend.

It is axiomatically incorrect to believe that an optimal human diet would leave you with constant, chronic subclinical pathology.

🧠 3. The Sentience Argument

This is a big one. Plant-based advocates say that sentient creatures shouldn’t be food.

You've seen the photo. The jail-cell lineup of cats, dogs, pigs, and cows – all posing the question: "Where do you draw the line!?"

Good memories.

If you wouldn’t eat your household cat or dog, what makes pigs or cows different? The line is drawn "too early".

What plant-based advocates don’t recognize (or won't admit) is that they also draw the line too early. They draw it right between "sentient beings with a face" and "sentient beings without a face".

If we define sentience as actively pursuing life and avoiding harm (which animals do) then we also must group plants, fungi, and even germs/bacteria in this. The plant kingdom is highly sentient and plants actively pursue life. Sunflowers turn towards the sun. Tree canopies make room for all branches so that everyone receives adequate sunlight. Elder trees exchange nutrients and information with younger trees via mycelial networks. All of nature is sentient. You must recognize this.

It’s not adequate to draw the line at "beings with a face" — it's anthropomorphizing and cherry-picking.

This was one of the fatal flaws. The very act of living and eating kills sentient creatures, to deny this is wrong and is done as an ego-game for virtue signalling. Humans cannot escape the circle of life.

You have millions of deaths to your name at this very moment. Not eating 12 chickens a year is a rounding error in that reality. Thousands upon thousands of plant and fungal brethren have died for your life to continue.

I think the plant-based community needs to undergo considerable shadow work. To come to terms with the visceral reality that their lives require the death and transmutation of other lives.

I firmly believe that the plant-based community (because I did this!) espouses their position of moral superiority so heavily specifically because they cannot or will not integrate the fact that their life requires death. And so if they can point the finger at others to make them feel better about themselves, they will.

💀 Avoidable Deaths / Minimizing Death Count

The rebuttal is that if killing is truly unavoidable in the circle of life, we should at least seek to minimize the deaths we cause.

I completely agree. However, I don't agree that plant-based lifestyles are the best way to accomplish this. It's basic math.

All plants are living beings. Harvesting carrots is killing life. Baby deer are regularly slaughtered as they rest in grain fields, where they blend in, only to be mauled by the harvesting machines they use to make cereals.

Consider the scenario of hunting an elderly elk: you consciously take the life of one creature, which has already passed on its genes, this feeds an individual for 6-12 months. I am not talking about factory-farmed meat or the modern meat industry. If we are talking about the lowest death rate possible, a carnivorous, locally hunted elk/bison diet wins at ~2 deaths per year per person. A single vegan salad has at least 5 different plants (living beings!) in it, and to draw a distinction between plant and animal deaths is arbitrary and self-serving.

All sentient life matters, no life is above any other one.

The ‘least suffering’ argument, one of the foundational pillars of plant-based living, when taken to its logical conclusion – leads one directly to a locally-hunted carnivorous diet.

🌎 Global Warming

It is true en masse that the modern meat industry is an atrocious abomination — but to imply that this is the only way to consume meat is lazy and lacks due diligence. There are ethical and local systems to acquire meat.

In Canada, all popular fruits/vegetables are imported from distant countries, at huge transportation and emissions costs. Local, flexible, seasonal meat/dairy products do not have this burden. It’s true, for busy urbanites who won’t put the time into sourcing ethical meat, plant-based diets are likely better in the context of global warming— but to parade it as the best choice is incorrect.

It's only correct if someone is lazy. And there are people who are not lazy. Surprise!

Your avocado toast is imported from California. Bananas from Mexico. Coffee from Costa Rica. Instead of the local pumpkin and bison from the farm outside of the city. Modern vegan diets require a vast supply chain, far exceeding the emissions from local, flexitarian or animal-based diets.

🌭 Natural Foods

If done purely, plant-based diets can be very natural, but not many people do this because they get bored of the simple choices, and it requires ongoing effort to source natural, healthy, plant-based foods.

The meat and dairy replacement foods are indescribably toxic and unbelievably processed. Packed full of preservatives, dyes, seed oils, thickening agents, and binding materials – you name it. The Beyond Meat, Soylent, Impossible Burger, Oatly food-ish products are the best examples. They are bombs of toxic trash not fit for human consumption.

Given the long-term choice between natural clean meat or highly processed plant-based foods — I'll place my bet on natural foods, every single time.

Going Animal-Based

From carrots to cows.

🥩 Defining Animal-Based

Before we get into the reasoning, let's be clear on what we mean by animal-based.

Animal-based means eating foods that come only from animals/animal derivatives. These foods include organs, meat, dairy, eggs, and honey.

This is animal-based, just like plant-based doesn't mean exclusively plants. Fruits (the least toxic plant foods) are often included in animal-based diets. This is a less restrictive form of a carnivore diet, which is meat/organs-only.

🍖 Reasons for Going Animal-Based

This is an active process. I am currently reading several books and listening to several folks talk this through. The Carnivore Code, Paul Saladino, Liver King, Shawn Baker, Mark Sisson, and others are on this list.

Benefits thus far have been: cleaner, consistent energy levels, better satiety, body composition improvements, extremely smooth digestive process (I shit a single, soft brown banana once a day, at regular times, as all humans should!), and simplified food preparation and cooking times.

🔥 1. Ancestral Eating Patterns

Most ancient cultures, and the tribes that continue to exist today – prize animal-based foods above everything else.

The Hadza of Africa, the Inuit of the Arctic, the Native Americans – all animal-based cultures. There are times when 60% of the Hadza's caloric intake comes from honey alone!

Ancestral lineages treat plants as two things: famine food, and medicine. Very few indigenous cultures take plant foods seriously as their primary food source. Several cultures prefer to fast until the next hunt instead of eating plant food that is immediately available.

We evolved throughout deep history from these ancestral lineages. Your body is made for these eating patterns. Aligning with them is in your interest.

🌿 2. Plant Defences

Plants do not want to be eaten.

This sounds trivial, but it's important. Plants cannot move, nor use claws/teeth to defend themselves, so they use highly sophisticated defence chemicals (toxins/poisons) to protect themselves.

They have had the entire history of humanity to perfect these defences.

You can't brush this off. For millions of years, plants have been refining sophisticated Molotov cocktails of defence chemicals. The idea that you can simply ingest them, in copious quantities, regularly, without issue, is strongly misguided.

Absolute TKO. + Pesticides and anti-nutrients.

🥑 3. Nutrient Density

"Nutrient density" was a pivotal realization for me.

For decades, I would eat dark leafy greens (DLGs), quinoa, avocado, sweet potato, and all of the 'superfoods' so regularly discussed in plant-based communities for their epic nutritional density.

Yes, those are the most nutrient-dense plant-based foods — but plant-based foods are not the most nutrient-dense category of foods there is!

This slapped me across the face. Hard. Sure, have all the nutrient-dense plant foods you want, but the greatest plant food still comes in second place in the nutrient-density Olympics.

Organ meat is the most nutrient-dense food you can find.

Liver. Heart. Testicles. Brain. Muscle. Meat and organs are the most nutrient-dense foods available for human consumption.

🫁 Human Physiology/Anatomy

Ah, the classic debate of whether humans are anatomically evolved to be carnivorous, herbivorous, or omnivorous. Short/long intestines, flat teeth, single, acidic stomach – so many arguments from all sides as to what humans have evolved to eat.

Humans are omnivorous. That should be apparent.

But just because we can eat plant foods, doesn't mean we're evolved to eat mostly plant foods.

Anatomically we're more similar to dogs, with shorter intestinal tracts designed for meat consumption. Have you ever watched a dog eat household plant leaves? They throw it up. Plant material is literally toxic to dogs. Chocolate can kill them! Just because you're not dead doesn't mean your body is happy about eating these things.

Big-bellied beauty. 🦍

Gorillas are herbivores, but have you seen the pot-bellies on those bad boys? They have massive stomachs to accommodate the wild levels of gas and fermentation from their plant diet. Cows necessarily have 3 stomachs to help process and digest the plant material they consume.

Our anatomy, the difference between brain and gut size, is similar to meat-based animals, and we have not evolved the sophisticated digestive systems that other plant-based animals have to detoxify plant material.

Primarily, though humans are capable of consuming plant material without dying, we appear to have evolved primarily for a meat/animal-intensive diet.

📑 Epidemiology vs. Interventional Studies

Most of the way nutritional science is done is flawed, biased, and incorrect.

Most nutritional studies are epidemiological: looking at a group and making inferences from the observations. "This group lives like this, eats like this, and lives this long – therefore it's X that causes that."

Almost all nutritional science is done like this. CORRELATION IS NOT CAUSATION. You cannot pull out a single variable (diet or part of their diet) and give it deterministic power over the entire dataset.

Interventional studies, where you take a group and specifically introduce a new variable and measure direct outcomes – show that red meat intake, carnivorous diets, and animal-based eating do not lead to any of the heart attack, short life, high-cholesterol problems that are currently used to attack individuals.

When interventional studies are done, animal-based diets do not appear to cause any of the problems commonly stated. Similarly, when interventional studies are done on plant-based eating, the picture isn't as rosy as everyone thinks.

☀️ Moving Forward

This summarizes the last 15 years of eating patterns for me. Moving along a spectrum from Plant-Based > Plant-Only > Omnivorous > Animal-Based. Perhaps I'll test Animal-Only, but for now, it's a winding adventure from plant-based to animal-based and the reasons for each transition.

We'll see where we go from here. I still consume plant foods, though I intentionally pursue animal-based foods as the main source of calories in my diet now. Results have been positive so far, and I'll continue to write more about this.

Changing your mind is not easy. Taking real-world action based on that is even harder. "Following the science" isn't as obvious as you'd like it to be. I hope some of my thoughts on this can help at least start a reasonable discussion about an area so fundamental to human flourishing, but with so little established knowledge.

I'd love to hear what you think about this. You can hit me up on Twitter to talk more about this. 💛