If you’re like me, a simpleton omnivore who grew up in a traditional home where the staple foods were ground beef meatballs, steaks, chicken on the bbq, corn, potatoes, and 2%milk in the fridge, you know the kind of backlash you can get when you tell said traditional home you are going vegan.
Assumptions tell those people that your choice to go vegan means you think their choice to stay an omnivore is wrong. No. Not at all. I choose to eat this way to reduce, not to abolish, all meat and animal by-products that are being eaten.
Statistics say that 1% of baby boomers, 4% of gen-xers, and 12% of millennials are vegetarian or vegan. That means that the increase of plant-based eaters has made eating this way less difficult and sacrificial – AKA MORE TASTY ALTERNATIVES.
First question people ask is: why have you gone vegan? When I say, “For my health and for environmental reasons”, I’m still surprised how little people know about the environmental impact. Did you know that livestock and their byproducts account for at least 51% of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions? (http://www.cowspiracy.com/facts/) It takes 1/18th of the resources (land, water, animal feed, etc) to feed a vegan as comparable to an omnivore.
I guess after being educated enough about the world’s meat & dairy situation, I felt to be true to myself, I had no other choice than to try.
Why I decided to eat vegan:
1) I watched those movies
I was mostly educated by watching inspiring documentaries. Some of which were “Before the Flood”, “Food Inc”, “Just eat it”, “Cowspiracy”, and most recently “What the Health”. “What the Health” did me in. Before you think – oh, the “brainwashing” movies – I made sure to take the facts I learnt with a grain of salt. No pun intended. Nutrition can be so confusing. What is the new “good fat”? What is “bad fat”? Why is eating an avocado a day good for some people but bad for others? What is Paleo? Why am I still iron deficient?! AH. It never stops. I won’t pretend to know all the facts, but I can say I have been convinced.
2) I wanted a challenge
I thought about this change for a long time – as I will expand on shortly – and I always doubted myself. “I could never be vegan, I like steak too much”, I thought. Every diet or cleanse I’ve tried, I’ve failed. I now know it’s because I wasn’t motivated by the right reasons. I feel so empowered by witnessing the amount of willpower I, Rebecca Koole, truly have. Self control feels great! And I am a believer we all have it if we really believe in what we’re fighting for.
3) I wanted to be healthy
I never thought about being vegan or vegetarian to improve my health. I actually assumed the opposite. That eating lean meats and low fat dairy was part of a healthy diet. And it can be, but it’s also not necessary. It was only because of the moral & environmental obligation I felt that made me draw to this. “What the Health”, the most recent doc to hit the scene by the makers of Cowspiracy, was what did me in. I was challenged with facts and research that made me see that eating vegan is typically much a much healthier lifestyle. There is no amount of protein, calcium, iron, vitamin d, or b12 that you’re getting from an omnivore diet that you can’t get from a vegan or vegetarian one.
How I started:
1) I challenged myself with some friends
Two friends (Monique & Erin) and I challenged each other to go vegan for two weeks. I had already recently given up dairy to see what effect it would take on my body and really, just to see if I could. Those first two weeks were great. Seeing the difference in my complexion, my mood, and my overall well being was amazing. I didn’t realize how badly food was making me feel. I had never known anything else. Research shows that 75% of people lose the ability to break down lactose at some point in their life, meaning that if you don’t already feel sick from dairy, you probably will. WHY? Because we were not meant to drink baby-cow-growth-formula. Which means my daily morning cow-milk latte was setting me up for sickness every. single. day.
2) I had been mentally preparing myself for about a year
Yep. It took me a year to think about this before I actually did it. I started to collect the knowledge of environmental impact & compassion for animals for about a year before taking the plunge. I was very mentally prepared to take this step. Although you definitely don’t need to take a year, the importance of preparation I think is key, much like mentally preparing yourself to quit or start many habits.
3) I filled my fridge with alternatives & researched for recipes
I didn’t want to start without having a fridge full of new and exciting foods to try. I also got a few new cookbooks by my city’s most trendy plant-based bloggers (eep!)
My first initial cons:
1) Being annoying
I hate coming off irritating when I need to consistently remind friends and family that I can’t eat the delicious meaty & cheesy lasagna that they prepared for me. And I HATE, I mean REALLY HATE, going hungry. It sucks.
Resolution: Warn them! They will get used to your dietary restrictions! So just let them know what you’re doing and let them know you feel terrible refusing a meal or a dish. Most people will embrace your new choice and help where they can! In case of emergency, make sure you are prepped with yummy snacks to hold you off.
Obviously, there are going to be those cravings for a good ol’ chicken wing. But I’ve noticed it’s only for a while.
Resolution: I’ve also learned that all these crazy vegans in the world have come up with alternatives for basically EVERY type of treat you wish you could have when you were an omnivore. So look that stuff up and make it! Ahem, CAULIFLOWER WINGS.
It’s all about planning ahead, and I will warn you, if you have trouble being organized, you might end up being a vegan that eats a lot of french fries and potato chips which WILL lead to malnutrition. I encourage you to think twice if you aren’t willing to cook for yourself and be organized. And in that case, being a vegetarian is a lot easier than being a vegan. Put the vegetarian training wheels on before the full vegan.
Resolution: Thinking ahead & being prepared. Sorry, but that’s all I got for you.
My first initial pros:
1) Simple Living
I love this so much because it has contributed to my New Years Resolution of simpler living. I have been trying to edit out all the things that do not add value or happiness to my life. Anxiety was running rampant in my life because I just had TOO MUCH going on. It was only until I learned (and am still learning) to delete, edit, remove, and minimize things in my life, that I started feeling better. Giving yourself FEWER options to eat is not more stressful, but rather, simpler.
2) I feel awesome!
Physically I feel great. Heavy meats and cheeses (and gelatin) are hard to digest and make me so tired. I like that this challenges that.
3) I feel awesome!
This is not a repeat – I feel great knowing that I am living up to my moral and eco standards!
4) It’s fun!
I am enjoying figuring out new ways to eat and my shift in perspective. I have asked restaurants to “just make something vegan” and it’s so cool to see what they will come up with. I have been trying new veggies and recipes and I think if you’re looking for a change, this can be a fun project for you to start.
Still with me? Here are some final thoughts:
Don’t be too hard on yourself. If you ate something by accident, it doesn’t count! :) If you’re at your new boyfriend/girlfriend’s first family dinner and don’t want to make a scene about the dairy in their mashed potatoes, don’t! Maybe just indulge in those yummy ‘tatoes!
Don’t let the haters get you down! There will always be critics, but instead of trying to defend yourself or fight for what you believe in, maybe try a “I have my reasons :)” rather than an all out debate.
Take it day by day. Don’t try to tell yourself “I will do this till forever” because it is way too overwhelming. Just try an hour, then a day, then a week, year etc.
Find some people with common interests. They will support you and you can adventure to new restaurants, exchange recipes and bring each other baked goods. Also, it will help create a sense of community in your life.
And finally, as I like to say “don’t be a preachy vegan”. Let others eat the way they believe, and you can eat the way you believe, and the world will keep turning. There is no reason to put others down because of what they do or do not eat.
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