So a while back I posted a note on my facebook page asking if any vegans would like to share their story on how they became vegan. I feel that when people think about making the change they are suddenly overwhelmed by the decision and feel lost or alone. Martha sent me her inspirational story about a week back and I am just now getting around to posting it. By they way, I met Martha at the showing of Forks Over Knives in Seattle. She was my first blogger sighting! She is lovely in person and such a sweet person. She also writes a blog titled Almost Vegan . Thanks again, Martha!
Hi! So...to keep it brief... I am 31-years-old, mother to an amazing 2-year-old boy, enthusiastic wife, and part-time 2nd grade teacher. I love to run, cook, blog, travel, and spend time with my family and friends.
When did you become vegan/vegetarian?
Currently, I eat a clean, vegan diet, except for fish, which I usually eat once a week. By clean (since there seem to be varying definitions) I mean mostly organic fruits, veggies, legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds, etc... I don't eat processed food or refined sugar. I do eat some gluten, although I try not to rely on it as a basis for meals. This was a slow progression, which began when my son was around 6-months-old. At that point, I read some books and I began to agree that dairy wasn't really meant for humans. I began to find substitutions for cheese and milk, like extra avocado on my tacos or coconut creamer in my coffee. The results were truly amazing! Just 3 months after quitting dairy, my skin cleared up and I weighed 5 pounds less than I had EVER weighed in my adult life, which was astounding to me (this was less than a year after having a baby!). Growing up in a family that ate 'healthy,' I had always been baffled at why I couldn't lose weight. My mom had done a great job of feeding us whole grains, lots of fruits and vegetables and low sugar/processed foods, but the meat and dairy were always considered important sources of protein and calcium, so we were sure to eat them everyday. I tried all of the fad diets, exercised and the only thing that had ever worked was Xenadrine (with ephedrine in it), which I later discovered was extremely dangerous and definitely couldn't be ongoing. Despite everything I tried, I always stayed around 12 pounds heavier than I am today...and I accepted it as the place I would most likely stay. So to answer the question, officially, I have been a 'pesca-vegan (did I just make that term up?)' for almost 8 months, and I couldn't be happier!
What were the determining factors for this change in diet and living?
There's something about having a baby that makes you savor life. When I had Ethan, I wanted to make sure I could be there for him, as a role model, a healthy/balanced parent, and a guide. Like most parents, I wanted to give him every opportunity possible. At about 6-months old, Ethan was really getting into solid foods and it just made me think 'everything I feed him is going to have an effect over time.' So I started researching about organic food and made sure everything he ate was really clean. At that same point in time, I went to a routine doctor's appointment and asked to have my cholesterol drawn....my Dr. called back and asked if I had done some heavy drinking recently (I hadn't) because not only did I have slightly high cholesterol, my liver enzymes were high, which seemed bizarre considering my lifestyle. I had another test done a month later and the numbers were even higher. We had to do hepatitis tests (scared me to death), which all turned out negative.
All of this scared me at a time in my life when I was so excited to be a mom and really looking forward to the future. So I started doing the only thing I could think of to stay healthy and got into running again. It just so happened that around that time, my sister-in-law read a book and went vegan, cold turkey, right in the middle of her lunch break one day. She read Skinny Bitch and couldn't handle the horrific descriptions of how the animals that we eat are treated. She said that she wouldn't eat her cat (or drink her cat's milk), so she won't be eating any other tortured animal products either. I was skeptical, but curious, so I read the book and was convinced about dairy. So I quit dairy for the entire year, January to January, and decided to 'flirt' with vegan eating. Everyday, I chose to eat vegan until dinnertime. I ate clean, vegan, mostly raw, whole foods all day, but would add in some organic chicken, turkey or fish at dinner. It was a fabulous year, but I already knew too much and the whole meat issue was still in the back of my mind.
The quick version of the story is that I finally read The Kind Diet, by Alicia Silverstone and it really spoke to me. It's amazing how education can change your perspective and empower you. After I read the book, I just simply didn't want meat anymore. I didn't crave it, miss it or feel deprived at all. I love to cook and this change has opened up a world full of new possibilities and options because I'm not tied to 'what kind of meat will I have tonight?' That was 8 months ago and I can honestly say that I have never felt better. I am happy, energized, in-tune with my body and look forward to what I eat every day. I know that this choice is positively impacting my health, the environment, and the majority of livestock whose entire lives consist of torture. I know that I am taking care of myself which will hopefully allow me to be there for my husband and son.
Can you recall some of the struggles you had in the beginning of this transition?
I'm the kind of person who cares what other people think. Do they agree, do they disagree? That made this transition the hardest of all. When my sister-in-law stopped eating meat, I thought she was crazy, and when I stopped eating meat, I knew that's what people thought of me. I've discovered that when I tell people I'm vegan, one of two things happens: they either stop talking, or they ask why. And when I tell them why, THEN they stop talking about it. I've come to realize that, short of a couple amazing friends and family members, people just don't want to know. They don't want to know and they don't want to change, so I probably shouldn't talk about it in most situations. The reason this is so hard for me is because I feel like I've hit the jackpot. Like I've discovered this amazing secret for how to do things like prevent or even cure cancer, diabetes, heart disease, avoid getting sick, lose weight while eating delicious food all day long, clear up acne, have normal digestion and energy, and on and on and on. So naturally, I wanted to tell everyone about it, especially in the beginning. And I wanted people to get excited with me and feel as great as I do. So that was probably the greatest challenge that I faced.
I have to say, my husband has been amazing and patient. He has supported me, while still standing his ground and saying what he wants out of all of this too. He eats veggie with me a couple nights a week and has cut way back on his dairy (also with amazing results). It was still hard in the beginning and we had a few of what we like to call 'food fights,' from which I learned that I needed to back off and support his decisions too. We are in a good place now and have made it work!
As far as struggles with the food itself, I did have some issues with digestion for a couple of months once I quit meat and began replacing it with a decent amount of beans/legumes. Something that really helped me out were digestive enzymes that I bought at the health food store. However, I haven't needed them in months, so I must be over that hump!
What would be some points that you would like to make or emphasize to an individual trying to start eating vegetarian/vegan.
1.) Get educated! Read about it first! Understanding how food works for or against you will change your whole relationship with food and your body. Here are some books that have guided me along the way: Food Rules, The Omnivoire's Dilemma, In Defense of Food (all 3 by Michael Pollen), Crazy, Sexy Diet by Kris Carr, The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone, Skinny Bitch, THE CHINA STUDY!!! (this one has all of the cold, hard research). Sometimes I forget the reasons I care, and there's nothing like a good book to refresh my enthusiasm. The Veganist is on my nightstand, but I haven't started yet!
2.) Take it one meal at a time. Choose a meal you love, and revise it until you love the new version. If you're not sure you can do that, then throw it out and surf all of the amazing vegan blogs until you find a new recipe that is even better than the meal you ditched!
3.) Have an outlet. Find a buddy who's at least willing to try it with you for a month. I read somewhere that our taste buds reset every three weeks, so if you eat differently, you will find yourself craving different foods after a few weeks. And really, if people are willing to try all of these insane crash diets, like drinking shakes all day, then going vegan for a month should be easy and fun, right?
**a cool fact I read in The China Study: vegans burn around 16% more calories than non-vegans! Woo hoo!
4.) Yes, you will totally get enough protein. I run 20-30miles a week these days and haven't had any issues. Plus, when was the last time you heard of someone being protein deficient in the United States ? It's actually more likely for someone to overdose on protein and become sick from that.
5.) Don't be a junk food vegan. None of this will work positively if you eat potato chips all day...just sayin' :) Ditch the processed, refined junk...it won't even taste good after awhile!
What is your all time, favorite recipe to make? (please include recipe and picture if you have one)