Dr. Irene Lo
Specialist Surgeon, Hong Kong
The Doctor’s Choice of Food
Given the small number of vegan people in the general population, I think I might well be the only vegan surgeon in Hong Kong. I have been vegan for some 15 years now. What motivated me to make this drastic dietary change was not a single aspect but a multitude of factors. These included an increased awareness of the cruelty inflicted upon animals that are butchered for our food, coupled with a willingness to contribute to combating global warming.
Like most people, before becoming vegan I ate anything, little understanding what could make up a healthy diet. This happy-go-lucky attitude towards food was also exacerbated by my busy lifestyle.
After I decided to go vegan, my interest in understanding more about healthy eating has been growing ever since. My medical training gave me an advantage, especially when it came to looking for reliable sources of information and using a critical mind to recognise what counts as scientific evidence and what does not. Given the complexity of the subject matter, I am still learning, but at least now I have a clearer idea on four principles about food intake that have been beneficial for me.
I always consider food safety first, making sure the food is clean and free from dirt, parasites and other dangerous micro organisms. Having done this, I try to eat most of the food raw, vegan and wholemeal. To me, each of these four components – eating safe food, eating raw, eating vegan and eating wholemeal - is equally important.
To be a vegan does not come without difficulties, especially if we also insist on eating raw and wholemeal as well. We might feel a lack social support from family, friends and colleagues who do not understand and share our ideas, not to mention the general lack of support in the wider community. It is often difficult to get proper vegan food in restaurants in Hong Kong, and we are also immersed in traditional cultural habits that promote the eating of animal products, cooked food and processed food.
In my practice as a specialist surgeon in a major acute tertiary referral hospital in Hong Kong, I have encountered thousands of patients suffering from pain and disability related to cancers and many other kinds of long standing and chronic illnesses. Causal factors relating to any such illnesses are never simple. Usually many causes contribute. Some might include genetic predisposition, environmental pollution, lifestyle choices and dietary choices.
In the context of veganism, one step people can take in becoming more responsible for their own health is to care about what they eat. You eat at least three times a day. You might not care about the slaughtering of innocent animals as I do, because the culture in which you were brought up accepts this as the norm. However, put culture and tradition aside for a moment and think about your own health. Ask yourself these questions:
How much fat, cholesterol, excessive protein, hormones, parasites, toxins, drugs intended for animals, chemicals used in food processing, mercury and other heavy metals commonly found in fish can my body take without getting sick?
Do I really believe that I can enjoy good health without trying to improve the way I eat?
When you look into these questions, read proper scientific literature, look at the evidence and judge for yourself. Be critical and do not fall prey to dietary fads.
Health is of paramount important for every one of us. Originally, my awareness of the cruelty inflicted upon animalsand my concerns over global warming turned me vegan, but now my persistence and enthusiasm in eating a raw vegan and wholemeal diet are also motivated by wanting good health for myself.
I am not a dietician, nor am I a nutritionist, so I am just exchanging ideas on what I believe to be good for my own health by eating raw vegan and wholemeal food. I hope I will be able to share some practical information with those people that are interested in eating vegan. I am also looking forward to meeting and learning from people who are experts in this field and from those who are experienced vegans.
May I also use this opportunity to thank the group of enthusiastic people who spend much of their spare time working hard in promoting the vegan lifestyle in Hong Kong.