My journey to veganism has been full of twists and turns, and not as smooth as my transition into vegetarianism.
I easily gave up meat without ever looking back and never having a craving. I remember going to The Bodies exhibit soon after becoming a vegetarian. The similarities between humans and animals became even more apparent to me, (I remember thinking, “our thighs look exactly like shredded beef!”) and my awareness of animals as living and feeling beings was heightened, further solidifying my decision not to eat them.
However, cheese was not as easy. I rarely ate eggs or drank milk in their whole forms, both had grossed me out since I was a kid, I only ate them when they were ingredients in pastries, crackers, etc.
I first considered veganism in March 2008, after I read Skinny Bitch. This book really opened my eyes to the suffering of animals in factory farming and how consuming dairy still supported harm to animals.
I slowly started fazing dairy out of my diet. I first started by not buying any dairy products for my home. I did use some of the vegan cheese substitutes to help the transition. I would still sometimes order items with cheese on them when I ate out, but I soon realized I wanted them less and less. This also helped me cut down on how much I was eating out.
Eventually, I stopped even wanting cheese. It was THE weirdest thing. I constantly hear from people, “I could NEVER give up cheese!” Well, I was one of those people. I can remember many occasions saying that aloud. However, once you stop eating it as much, you stop wanting it. It truly is like a drug, and once you wean yourself off, the cravings start to cease. This is coming from the person who used to melt globs of cheese in a bowl, and eat it as a snack!
Within the first few months, I lost 10 pounds, without any changes to my activity level, just by eliminating dairy. My diet started improving into a much more healthy, whole foods focus. I started cooking nearly every, single meal at home. I begin bringing my lunch to work each day, and planned to eat before I went somewhere socially. I carefully scrutinized menus before going to a restaurant, to pick the healthiest, animal-free choice.
My health begin improving. I especially noticed a difference in my digestion, skin and energy levels. Not only physically, but emotionally and spiritually, I felt better. I finally felt free of the guilt I carried around from eating animals. It had been an ethical conflict within me for so long and went against my values; I was finally living congruently with what I believed.
I found veganism to be much more challenging than vegetarianism. It was much harder to eat out and virtually impossible in social situations, at someone else’s house. I tended to eat before I went somewhere or else bring something of my own.
I still was not as experienced in cooking. I tended to make the same meals over and over again, and stick with what was safe. Soon enough, I begin craving cheese and having dreams that I was eating pizza (true story).
I stuck with veganism pretty faithfully for about 1 ½ years, before I begin sneaking in a bite of cheese pizza here or there, or using the excuse that’s “that all there was available,” and eating something with cheese. Slowly, cheese begin creeping it’s way into my diet again.
My health definitely noticed. I gained some weight and felt sluggish. I would reflect back on when I was strictly vegan and remember how good I felt.
I kept this up for about two years. I ate cheese, felt guilty again, and wondered why I was keeping myself from feeling my optimal best.
I was definitely not at my healthiest, and my body felt it. I drank far too much coffee and diet soda, plus wine at night. I was eating out way too much and packing on the pounds. I was constantly tired, got frequent migraines and started having symptoms of acid reflux again (something that had completely went away, when I first went vegetarian).
I would frequently want to make improvements, but when it came down to it, I was too lazy to make my health a priority. I made the excuse that I ran and went to the gym, so that should be enough. I would try to quiet the voice in the back of my mind that reminded me how good it felt when I was completely vegan.
I lost my dad in March 2012, to a violent crime. This tragedy hit me like a train, and somehow I knew I needed to deal with it in a healthy way, because it would be far too easy, but detrimental, to begin a pattern of unhealthy coping mechanisms. I begin a much more dedicated yoga and meditation practice to help me through the journey of grief and loss.
In August 2012, at an annual check-up, my Dr. told me my blood pressure was so high, that we should seriously consider medication. This was a HUGE wake-up call. I was 28 at the time and in NO way did I want to start down a path of medicating myself for something that could potentially be controlled. I knew that if I made some changes to my diet, my blood pressure would probably even out.
I had just finished reading Kris Carr’s Crazy Sexy Diet, and knew the time had come to make some changes. I did her 21 Day Adventure Cleanse, to kick start myself back into veganism, and completely gave up coffee and soda (read more about that here). (For recaps on the 21 Day Cleanse, click here.)
Once again, I felt amazing and wondered why I had ever stopped eating this way?!
This time around has been easier. I have branched out in my cooking and learned more recipes to give myself variety in my diet.
I will be very honest and admit that one thing that has helped is the accessibility of more vegan junk food. I consume in moderation, but I definitely have those days where I am just craving something fatty and tasty. Before, this would lead to the pizza dreams, however, now I can access foods that feed that craving, and jump back into green juice, whole grains and veggies the next day.
Travelling still proves to be problematic. I had a hard time eating completely vegan when I was in Shanghai last year. I hope to travel to France, Italy and Switzerland this coming summer, and I am sure it will be challenging, to always find 100% vegan meals.
I am not, nor will I even be 100% perfect. I may slip up here and there. I only recently got rid of any animal-tested make-up. I consider this to be an ever-evolving journey and don’t expect to arrive at vegan mecca anytime soon. However, I am definitely much more committed to living my life in a way that is the LEAST cruel to other living beings. I am committed to not let anything I buy or eat, cause harm to someone else. It can be difficult to do everything 100% correctly, and sometimes I feel vegans put that pressure on each other, but I feel better knowing I am doing all I can, with the knowledge I currently have. I may learn new things and make more adjustments in the future, but for now, my body, mind, soul and heart feel so much better for being true to what I believe in.