• Jens Hannibal

Veganuary is over. Back to 'normal'?

For many the new year is a time for new beginnings, goals and reaffirmation of commitments to goals and habits that one wants to change or improve. In recent years a new phenomenon has popped up: Veganuary. What’s that all about? On the surface it seems rather simple: be vegan for a month. But underneath the surface lurks other truths that reveal something about the state of our culture.

It seems rather like yet another ‘quick fix’ suppose to make us feel good about ourselves without making any real commitment to lasting life-style changes. At least for the majority of people. According to a 2014 study by Faunalytics the vast majority (84%) of those who go vegan or vegetarian will sooner or later slip back into eating meat. It’s not hard to imagine that this is true to an even greater extent for veganuary.

An 'Absolutist' or 'abolitionist' approach seems to be at the heart of the explanation for these statistics according to Hal Herzog (Ph.D). When eating any meat at all is regarded as a failure, one 'mistake' can lead to the whole attempt being given up as the choice is viewed from a binary perspective. Another more productive approach would be to formulate the message in a way that focuses on long-term incremental change (habit formation) and is connected with pre-existing values such as health and the environment. Meat reduction rather than elimination for the benefit of long-term vitality and health, and the future of the planet.

It’s the small changes we begin to implement on a daily basis - every day - that sow the real seeds of change. And these small changes don’t need to be as extreme as going vegan, which by any measure is a lifestyle that for most people is very hard to maintain. People who give up site the restrictiveness and lack of eating pleasure as key reasons they go back. I have the utmost respect for the small minority who maintain 100% planet based diet. Just as I have to utmost respect for any other food choice people make. It’s not my place to judge anyone. Yet there is no denying that food choices have a huge impact on our health, energy and joy - as well as on the environment.

At The Bear Kitchen we propose a sustained commitment but to a gentler guideline to better food choices rather than an absolutist approach that respects individual preferences, cultures and traditions, and which doesn’t sacrifice the pleasure of what a good meal means to you. As an analogy one could think of the way that a bear eat. Little to most of know, but bears eat up to 90 percent plants and none of the highly processed foods and factory farmed animals; the real culprits that are destroying our health and the planet.

So how would that translate into a home kitchen setting. Well, instead of thinking about meat as a main ingredients, think about meat as a flavour enhancer much like soy sauce, miso paste, and other umami sources. When you start to think about meat this way, it becomes a lot easier to eat healthy without compromising flavour (pleasure) and without harming the planet. You can do this every day, starting right now, for the rest of your life. That’s going to make a real difference. For your health, for joy, and for the future of the planet.

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