This month marks my 3rd year of being vegan. I don’t have an exact date. In fact, it may actually be early April. I’m not sure because I didn’t wake up one day and decide that I was going to be vegan from that moment forevermore. There was no defining moment when I formally denounced the consumption and exploitation of animals. Instead, it was a gradual shift over a 6-month period from flexitarian, to vegetarian, to vegan. Here’s my story:
Growing up, I was an eater. I ate what and when I wanted and never gave any thought to where my food came from. Some favorite foods of mine were Velveeta Shells and Cheese, Ramen Noodles, Spaghetti-Os with franks, bacon sandwiches (for snacks, mind you), corned beef hash, fried bologna, string cheese, and superman ice cream. I’m not kidding and the list goes on and on. Sometime around 8th grade, I decided to go vegetarian. To be quite honest, it wasn’t for ethical or health reasons. I wanted to lose a few pounds and I figured that would be an easy way to do it. Because I viewed it as a diet and not a lifestyle, I didn’t stick with it consistently and was vegetarian on and off for about the next 14 years.
Ever since I was a baby, I was plagued with terrible stomach problems. As I grew older, they seemed to worsen and no doctor that I went to seemed to be able to help. Finally one suggested I get tested for lactose intolerance and lo and behold, the test was positive. Well, that sure helped explain a few things! As I searched online for dairy-free options, I started to look at vegan food blogs. Along with finding some great recipes, I learned about milk ingredients hiding behind other names – whey, casein, and sodium caseinate – and ultimately stopped eating dairy products altogether. I read a lot of information about veganism and thought it sounded great for many reasons, but it also seemed like a lot of work. Instead, I was going to be a dairy-free vegetarian.
Then two things happened. First, I read the book Skinny Bitch and began to seriously question my choice. I sobbed through the chapter about the horrible sufferings of chickens (those poor baby boys!) and what “free range” really means. I started to take a good hard look at my diet and examine what it was doing not only to my body but to the earth, as well.
Second, I made a last-minute decision to go along with my sister-in-law to “The Great American Meat-Out” (now VegFest). Admittedly, I was thoroughly convinced it would be a “bunch of stinky hippies,” but I figured what the hell. While there I sampled amazing vegan food, read informative literature, and joined Veg Michigan*. The best part of the day, however, was meeting Colleen Patrick Goudreau and listening to her presentation on debunking common myths about a vegan diet. Her words – “Don’t do nothing because you can’t do everything” - really resonated with me. Suddenly being vegan didn’t sound like so much work after all.
I mulled things over for a few days and it wasn’t long before I was totally vegan. It just felt right. Unlike when I became vegetarian for the first time so many years ago, I was doing this for my health, animals, and the planet. I truly wanted to live a compassionate life and being vegan seemed the best way for me to start.
That brings us to today. While I sometimes miss having feta cheese on my salad or a peanut butter cup Blizzard from Dairy Queen, I’m not tempted to “cheat” because I strongly believe in my decision and making any other choice doesn’t cross my mind.
Tomorrow is the event that I wait all year for since I took a chance on it 4 years ago – VegFest! It promises to be bigger and better than ever. I can’t wait to share everything I see, eat, and learn there so check back for my report.
Thanks for reading my story. Feel free to share your own veg journey - I’d love to read it!
|My cat Zoe|
*Look at the picture on the Veg Michigan site - that's me standing at Colleen's table holding a paper!