My Why: Celebrating Five Years Vegan
On March 5, 2014, I went vegan for Lent and thought I'd give it up on Easter. I wanted to see how difficult it was and how I felt not consuming any animal products. Here I am, a touch over 5 years later, still going, and I'm never, ever, ever looking back. I, like many others, have always dreamed of being vegan--I loved animals and wanted my lifestyle to reflect that--but I truly thought it was impossible unless one had a private chef. To be fair, when I first started thinking about it, I was a teenager and had no clue how to cook for myself. If I had known back then what I'd be eating now (fruits, vegetables, potatoes, rice, beans...) I would have done it then. But I'm not sure I knew what it entailed. Also, there weren't as many meat and dairy alternatives then as there are now (not that I eat them that often, but they definitely help with the transition).
When I was 21 years old, I took the plunge and gave up eating meat. I felt like that would be a great step toward aligning my lifestyle with my values. I continued to eat dairy and eggs because I knew nothing of the horrors of those industries. I still had no clue what I was doing or how to cook for myself. I was managing a restaurant and eating there a lot of the time, so I did get to eat a LOT of fresh food. At home, I ate a lot of vegetarian frozen meals, which weren't healthy but they got me by. I have always loved eating fruits and vegetables. Always. It's how I was raised, and I am so grateful for that. However, as a college student (I took a reeeeaaallly long time to graduate college) and as the general manager of a restaurant, I had very little time for myself, and I just needed something quick and convenient. Since I definitely wasn't eating properly at first, I started feeling terrible. I am confident that many people who say they've tried being vegetarian or vegan and got sick or didn't feel well just weren't doing it correctly. I truly believe that. It DOES take some effort to make sure you are getting all the nutrients you need, regardless of whether you eat animal products! Without getting too far into the weeds, I'll just say this: humans are HERBIVORES, not omnivores, as much as people would like us to be convinced otherwise and irrespective of what we've "evolved" to digest, so I DO believe this can be for everyone as long as it's done correctly. I didn't know what "correctly" was at the time, so I decided to start eating fish. I have no idea why I chose fish, to be honest. Maybe it felt less like meat or something? Maybe it seemed like a less cruel industry?Your guess is as good as mine. I went on like that for 14 years and felt great. I also liked the fact that I'd be able to find at least SOME option at most restaurants, since I was eating fish, so I wouldn't be putting anyone out. I didn't want to be "that guy"--the one who makes everything difficult. Beyond that, I always hoped I could do more, but I just accepted that this was where I'd stay and I felt like I was doing enough.
Several years later, I think maybe during my third year of law school, I connected with Jill Ryther, an animal rights attorney in Los Angeles, and took an externship with her nonprofit organization, E.A.R.N. I told her out of the gate that I wasn't vegan, hoping she wouldn't give me any grief about it. She responded with, "you'll find what works for you." That was all she said. She never made me feel bad, and she never made me feel like I had to change anything. I ended up changing things on my own, at first because I did feel bad. I was carrying a leather-trimmed purse at the time, and I stopped using it around her immediately. Then I got to thinking: what if I just give it a whirl and see how it goes? I can give it a shot and stop if I don't feel well. Lent was around the corner and I figured that would be as good a time as any to set a start date. I am not Catholic and neither is my husband, but he has always participated in Lent so I started participating when we started dating. I enjoyed challenging myself, honestly. As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, I bought a vegan slow cooker cook book and worked my way through it. I made something new every week and took some for Jill to taste. Easter arrived and I evaluated how I felt and whether I wanted to quit. I legitimately could not justify quitting, nor did I want to. And that was it. I never quit. And I never will.
My reason for wanting to go vegan all those years ago, and my reason when I finally did it, was the animals. I started thinking too hard about what I was eating and I just didn't want to do it anymore. There are various reasons people give up eating animal products; mine was that I was an animal lover through and through, not just a pet lover. I could no longer eat them. Over the years, I've done some research, watched some documentaries, and read some books, and I've learned that a major bonus to giving up animal products to save the animals is the practically infinite health benefits! I'm talking specifically about a whole foods, plant-based diet. A low fat plant-based diet has been shown to REVERSE Type 2 Diabetes and heart disease, as well as lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and lower risks of many types of cancer and strokes. You can read a bunch of testimonials on forksoverknives.com. There is also a WEALTH of information on nutritionfacts.org. Dr. Greger, author of How Not to Die, is extremely knowledgeable and he provides all this information for free to anyone who is interested. Peruse his site; the amount of knowledge he passes on is mind blowing.
I am still vegan for the animals, and I will always be vegan for the animals, but I am so grateful that how I eat is also an extremely healthy way to eat. You don't have to take my word for it. Take a look around and you'll see how many athletes are jumping on board because they feel better and improve their performance eating this way. Then ask yourself how many times you've heard of cardiologists advising people to eat MORE animal products to improve their health. Why is Tom Brady, one of the greatest quarterbacks in the game, who is approximately 40 years old and a MACHINE, still going strong? One of the reasons is his strict diet, which is either exclusively or almost exclusively plant-based. In fact, I believe he came out with his own vegan protein powder. The examples are endless. There are athletes in almost every single sport who tout the benefits of a plant-based diet.
What's your why? Why did you go vegan? Why are you considering cutting down on animal products? Or, if you are having trouble, why do you feel stuck or unable to give something up?