Hello vegan VOyagers!
I thought I’d take a moment to tell you about my voyage to becoming vegan.
Once someone finds out that I’m vegan, I typically get asked the same set of questions
- What made you decide to become vegan?
- Do you eat fish? Cheese?
- How do you get your protein?
- How long have you been vegan for?
For some people their choice to go vegan is morally based, for others it’s health and for some they were raised that way. In my case, in early 2009 I read a book (Skinny Bitch) and it challenged the reader to try going vegan for 30 days. I was intrigued by the idea of trying it out because while I knew the meat side wouldn’t be a big deal to give up I honestly didn’t believe it would be possible for me to give up cheese for that long. I mean, living in NYC I ate pizza fairly often, my favorite type of food is Italian and I had become a wine lover which meant lots of cheese and cracker nights.
So I kicked off the experiment, and had it not been for what happened during the challenge I would have gone back to my old diet once the 30 days had lapsed. However, less than 2 weeks into giving up meat and dairy my energy levels shot through the roof. When I would wake up in the morning I would be awake, and during the day I’d only get tired when I needed to eat. Once I did I would feel energized and not dragging. That in and of itself convinced me that this was something that needed to be explored further.
My journey with being vegan had it’s ups and downs. I never questioned that it was something that I wanted, or that there were benefits to it. My struggles mainly started and ended with my partner at the time. We had been dating for 2 years and were living together. He had a hard time supporting my choice despite the fact that I would still cook him anything he wanted and we would eat together. For him it was a struggle to accept that we weren’t eating the same thing or able to share a meal while we were out any more. I never pushed him to change his diet. Personally, I don’t see the point to making someone feel guilty about choosing to eat meat or not eat meat. It doesn’t effect anyone but yourself (and yes I realize that there is a global impact from the meat industry and animals are slaughtered and what not – but that isn’t what I’m talking about right now).
After 6 months of enjoying my newly adopted vegan diet I started to eat fish and cheese again occasionally because I didn’t want to keep having the same argument over and over again. However, by the spring of 2010 I had decided that I wasn’t going to let anyone keep me from living my life the way I wanted to and I recommitted to living a plant-based lifestyle and I haven’t looked back since.
Now to address the next set of questions. If you are truly vegan, than no there is no meat or cheese or dairy of any kind in your diet. Some folks disagree on whether or not honey is vegan since it’s an animal by-product. Lucky for me, I’ve never really eaten honey so I don’t give it too much thought unless I see it listed in the ingredients. 9 times out 10 I’ll avoid it but if it’s in something I really want I will eat it. Personally, I’m not crazy strict about following my vegan diet. If I’m at a wedding and I want a piece of wedding cake then I’m going to have it. The thing is, at this point I very rarely want to eat any of that stuff. It never tastes as good as I think it will, and I know it will probably upset my stomach so it’s not really worth it to me to put my body through that. But having a bite of chocolate mousse isn’t going to kill me.
Protein. This is the big thing that everyone gets fixated on. The truth is, people don’t have the knowledge about dietary requirements so they take sound bites they’ve heard over the years and think they know what they are talking about. The fact of the matter is that Americans eat TOO MUCH protein on a daily basis. Our bodies don’t need a lot of protein from meat. It’s actually not good for us, and hard for our systems to digest. It takes up to 3 days for our bodies to break down a single serving of animal flesh, so that means it’s sitting in your intestinal track rotting while it breaks down enough for us to get out of our bodies. You can get all the protein you need from legumes, nuts, and plants. YES, plants have protein in them. Plus, it’s easier on our digestive system.
A lot of people tell me they know they should go vegan, but meat just tastes so good. I agree. Meat tastes awesome, and if I’ll be honest with you…if the meat I was eating was organic (meaning not pumped full of hormones & antibiotics), locally sourced, and humanely treated I would absolutely consider having meat in my diet. But as it stands, the farming industry here in the states doesn’t make that easily accessible, nor is the industry transparent enough for me to feel comfortable trusting what I’m told. It’s never been about saving the animals for me, though that is a huge perk. My passion about a plant based lifestyle has solely to due with health benefits & environmental impact. I believe that the toxins pumped into animals and onto plants (via pesticides) is directly related to a lot of the health problems we face — particularly when it comes to cancer. Until I see some real change in our farming industry I will continue to eat an organic, locally sourced plant-based diet.
That’s my story. Please share yours!