I am often asked, “Why Vegan? Why now?”
I am most frequently asked this question in passing, but disingenuous individuals trying to make conversation. So, I have my short answer, “For the animals, the environment, and my health.”
I have a burning desire to educate others on this topic, but as the old saying goes, “You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot force him to drink.” Most people aren’t interested in the facts, or in the actual why. They are interested in a debate or argument.
For those of you who are interested, here is my story and the mistakes I made along the way. May you find inspiration and knowledge through my journey.
My first mistake:
I failed to think critically about my diet. I believed what the government told me; the amount of money spent on advertisements for the meat and dairy industry is unbelievable. I don’t want to dive too much into this as its really suited for another post. While some will say it’s a conspiracy theory, I beg you to keep an open mind. Read my story, read other’s stories, watch documentaries. Just think critically rather than blindly believing.
Six years ago I started graduate school, I was 26 and my body was changing. But I made excuses not to workout regularly; I need sleep, this paper is due, I need to relax, I want to spend time with my boyfriend. Add in my poor diet of burritos, diet coke, and beer I gained 20-30 lbs. in two years. After graduation I noticed the weight gain and I knew I needed a change but I focused the next three months on finding a job.
January 2013 I started my first real job; a 9-5 desk job not far from my house, but still made excuses not to workout. When I did make it to the gym I would 20-30 minutes of light cardio and call it a day. The weight was dropping, slowly- VERY slowly. I knew something HAD to change- I would be 30 in 10 months and I just wasn’t going to continue the trend of debilitating migraines, unexplained stomach bugs, and weight fluctuation.
I sat out on a mission to educate myself about the nutrients in the food I was eating, the healing power of food. You see, as an athlete I never had to worry about weight. I ate whatever when I was hungry. With a more sedentary lifestyle and alcohol I needed to change. I started by watching documentaries on Netflix, it was an easy and cheap way to educate myself. First I watched Sick, Fat & Nearly Dead. It’s a documentary about food but mostly about one man’s journey back to a healthy life style. He reset his diet by juicing for 30 days and was then able to make better choices and elevated a handful of health issues. After two hours I was hooked-I would do ANYTHING to get rid of the horrible migraines I was experiencing 3-4 times a month.
So, February 7th, 2013, I remember because it’s the day after my now father-in-law’s birthday, I started my month of the raw diet. I juiced morning and night, for lunch I ate fresh fruits and veggies. I am not going to lie to you, the first week was awful. I was hangry, I felt deprived, I wanted to drink. But something AMAZING happened in week two. I began to sleep better; I had more energy, I began getting to the gym with enough time to do cardio and weights. By week three I saw a difference in my weight and my skin. The huge plus, I didn’t have a migraine or stomach sickness all month. I was excited, but I knew this wasn’t a sustainable diet long term.
I began to slowly incorporate items back into my diet. I started with seafood/fish. I love sushi, and there was an inexpensive poke place down stairs from my office so this was a natural place to start the integration process. I added dairy back in, but in small amounts, maybe once a day in coffee or ice cream. I felt great. During my cleanse I watched Folks Over Knives, it’s a documentary where two medical doctors speak to the health benefits of a plant based diet (vegetarian/vegan), so I decided to go mostly vegetarian eating fish/seafood occasionally (pescitarian).
Side note: I have not eaten poultry or red meat since February 2013 and I have not had a migraine since.
This is where I began my second mistake!
My husband and I ate out a lot; and trying not to inconvenience anyone I would just order the vegetarian option. Which as most of you may know its pasta, quesadilla, basically all carbs! It seemed great, I loved carbs, I loved cheese; I was a happy little camper.
I began to get sluggish again and I gained the weight back plus about 5-10 lbs. On top of the weight, I was getting headaches (I could still function) and acne when I hate a lot of dairy. The worst part was my skin, I had the worst acne of my life, in places I had never had pimples before (back, neck, behind my ears). Finally, after a year and a half, I made the connection. I am what I eat. The weeks I stuck to a strict plant based diet I felt the best. I was eating so much dairy, which is full of hormones and fat to make calves huge and carbs pumped full of sugar. No wonder by body was in absolute shock.
I began to own my choices. My order was no longer an inconvenience to the waiter or the cook, it was my choice. I began to see menus as a list of ingredients to make my own items and I cut out most dairy, with the exception of cheese with wine. I was happy just eating fish, seafood, and plants; my weight stabilized, my skin began to clear up, I had more energy, and I was less moody.
Now comes my third mistake!
I made the horrible assumption fish and seafood were better for me and more sustainable than chicken, pork, and beef. WRONG! They are equally as horrible.
I watched Cowspiracy. After years of not watering our lawn, taking shorter showers, refraining from getting my car washed, carpooling, ride shares, riding bikes. I learned NONE of that mattered compared to factory farming. I also learned about the seafood waste. The animals, dolphins, turtles, birds, fish, which are caught and subsequently die through our fishing practices.
We, the human race, literally cannot sustain the damage we are doing to the oceans long term.
I have been completely plant based for close to three months. I feel great, my skin is completely clear (although I did seek out an aesthetician to correct issues from the acne), I sleep through the night most nights (two dogs and husband can complicate that), and I have the energy to workout at least five times a week.
Some of you will say a vegan diet is expensive. It truly is not. Maybe if you are purchasing a lot of meat replacement items and junk food, like pizza and ice cream. But the basics are less expensive: beans, rice, fruits and veggies purchased seasonally. Theres a wonderful documentary, Food Choices, which explores the sustainability of a plant based diet on a global scale.
Some of you will say a vegan diet requires a lot of time, grocery shopping and prepping meals. Maybe. But, I am unsure when taking care of ourselves became a game of who can do it the quickest and cheapest.
Cognitive dissonance. It’s a fancy psychological term which is short means: when your actions and your beliefs are not alined you feel uncomfortable or stressed. I could no longer profess my love for animals and this planet while simultaneously. destroying both with my diet.
My grandfather always said, “When you borrow something, return it in better condition than you received it.” The truth is this planet is not ours, we are simply visiting.
If you have questions or concerns I urge you to reach out to me. I am not here to judge anyone, simply to educate. I started a FREE Facebook community for tips and recipes, its curated around workouts but is beneficial for anyone on this journey.
Here is what I urge each of you to do for one month:
- Think critically- there are always two sides to every story
- Educate yourself- watch the documentaries listed below (its only 8 hours)
- Go vegan- its not as hard as you think
Documentaries to watch: most are available on Netflix but I have also provided links to purchase, with the exception of Earthlings; it is free to stream online just not on Netflix.
If after one month you choose to return to consuming animal products at least you will be educated, you will know how you feel emotionally and physically.