I think I’ve found a way to address my high cholesterol and I think you can too.

  • What the hell is a part-time vegan anyway? In my case, on Monday-to-Friday I don’t eat meat, eggs or dairy. On the weekend I eat what I like.
  • Why? In a word, cholesterol.
  • Why not full-time? I’m so not ready.

Changing diet is an emotional thing. I’ve tried a bunch of ways to improve my diet, and I’m doing better than when I was in my twenties — way less drinking, no smoking for 15 years, and many more healthy meals. Sadly it’s only got me so far.

As a meat-loving, milk-guzzling, buttery-cheese freak, I have emotional attachments to many ‘wrong’ foods.

The cholesterol problem

Cholesterol is a type of fat circulating in your blood. If you have too much you can get into real trouble. I don’t know if it’s technically hereditary, but it’s been a problem in my [father’s] family for generations.

I have a cholesterol level of 6.4. Ideally you should be about 4.0, and NZ Health recommend 5.0 or under. Note that there’s more than one type of cholesterol — I have enough of the good stuff, but way too much of the bad stuff.

How to reduce cholesterol.

This is just a summary of what I’ve been advised by doctors, and what I’ve read. Please let me know if you have some insights on this.

  • Drink less, stop smoking.
  • Get plenty of light exercise. One hour of walking each day beats a weekly gym visit.
  • Reduce high-cholesterol foods
  • Maybe medicate (‘statins’), but there can be some adverse side-effects.

It’s a fair cop

Going back some years, I was doing the wrong things. Lots of takeaways, drinking lots, not exercising enough.

Initial attempts

  • I cut the drinking way back as a matter of course. It didn’t help.
  • Lots of exercise for 9 months — no change.
  • I tried reducing my high-cholesterol foods here and there. I couldn’t make a significant dent in it, and kept regressing.
  • I have considered statins, but I’ve been warned off them by the experiences of family members. Cramps, etc.

The reality check

2 years later, I realised I had to take more drastic action. Really cut back on some high-cholesterol foods … looking at a list of ‘bad’ foods, it hit me square in the jowls:

  • High-cholesterol foods are mostly meat (inc fish), dairy, eggs.
  • The only vegan-friendly examples I keep seeing are margarine and coconut milk.

Enter stage left, part-time veganism

It struck me that almost all of the high cholesterol food that I eat are meat, dairy and eggs. If I could cut back heavily on those foods somehow, the ‘bad’ cholesterol should fall away pretty quick. Also, a bit of veganism might make me feel good about my place in the world. Sheeps and piggies never called me ‘hippy’, yet here I am eating animals instead of humans.

Realising that I could put together enough basic concoctions for the first few weeks of part-time veganning (porridge with soymilk, lentil curries for lunches, and vege sausages for dinner), I just dove in, and read up on recipe ideas as I went. That was about 6 weeks ago; since then I’ve managed to branch out to more exciting meals — Mexican and Greek, among others — and I don’t seem to have major problems with cravings — after all I can eat my old favourites on the weekend.

[Falafel-]wrapping up

In the future I’ll share some details about my approach, my doubts and reservations, and how I think more people could benefit from this.

For now, part-time veganism is working for me. I’ve got some recipes, some ideas, and after about 6 weeks I’m feeling reasonably confident that I can pull it off in the medium term at least. I’m hoping my bad-cholesterol levels will go down quickly, but there’s no guarantees — I’ll post some results after my next blood test. It make for an interestng study.

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