Girl, you’re too skinny.
How do you get your protein?
You need to eat a whole jar of peanut butter a day.
You need some more meat on your bones.
I’ve been getting statements like these my whole life. My body type is naturally long and lanky, and I have always struggled to improve my physical strength in accordance with playing basketball.
You might be thinking, “It must be because she doesn’t get enough protein since she’s vegan.”
My older sister is a couple of inches shorter than me, but she is 15-20 pounds heavier. She has a naturally thicker and more curvy body type than me. We have the exact same diet, but she’s a lot stronger than me. People don’t tell her she’s not getting enough protein.
Americans seem to have a slight obsession with protein. The first question I get when I tell people that I am vegan is: “Where do you get your protein?” My short answer is that I eat beans, nuts, and a variety of fruits and vegetables to get my protein. The longer answer is this:
There are a couple of common misconceptions about protein. Firstly, that it is only or mostly found in meat. Actually, plants have what’s called amino acids in them, specifically the nine essential amino acids needed to create protein. By eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, it’s actually very easy to get plenty of protein in a vegan diet. Plant protein is actually better for you because it doesn’t come with the hormones, saturated fats, cholesterol, and antibiotics that are in processed meat.
Secondly, many people think a lot more about protein than is necessary. According to a study done by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in the year 2000, 15 percent of the average American’s calorie intake is protein. A study done by the World Health Organization states that 5% of calorie intake should be protein. And according to the Vegetarian Resource Group, the average vegan gets about 10-12% protein.
This means that Americans, vegans and non-vegans alike, get PLENTY of protein. In fact, protein deficiencies are extremely uncommon in America — they are much more likely to happen in third-world countries where malnourishment is common.
To further prove my point, the diet of a wild gorilla consists of 67% fruits, 17% leaves, and 3% termites and caterpillars. Why am I talking about this? According to the CDC, heart disease is the number one leading cause of death in the United States, but wild gorillas just don’t get heart disease. Not only that, but gorillas are one of the largest and most powerful animals on the planet. We’re not gorillas, but we can learn from them.
To be honest, this whole protein thing used to be very frustrating in my freshman and sophomore years of high school. I had several coaches who wanted me to eat certain things or add more protein to my diet. I have always tried hard to lift weights and get stronger, but it is more difficult for a body type like mine. Over the years, I have gotten stronger and I am especially dedicating this summer to building muscle. But in those early years of high school, I was a late bloomer still maturing and adjusting to my growth spurt.
I don’t mind when people ask questions, but I am not okay with people telling me what to eat and what not to eat when they know nothing about my diet. I am not judgmental of what other people eat — you don’t have to feel bad when you eat a steak in front of me. I ask that others are understanding of my own choices. I want people to always feel free to ask questions by all means, but if I have one thing to say, it’s this . . .