Every vegan has an interesting story of when and why they became vegan, myself included! Here is mine…
Rewind to three years ago, the Summer of 2012. No, I didn’t wake up and know I wanted to be vegan, I wasn’t even positive what being vegan meant. What I did know was that I didn’t like the way I felt. I was always tired and felt sluggish. You know that low energy feeling, both physically and mentally. I certainly didn’t like the way I looked either. I was about 15 pounds over the weight I wanted to be (not knowing at that time how little the actual number on the scale matters). I realized that the way I felt was probably a consequence of the way I was eating. The relationship the body has with food is unbelievable. I wasn’t eating all that clean, consuming a lot of sweets, snacking, and eating bad carbs. I knew I wanted to feel better and look better but wasn’t sure how to start the transition to a healthier lifestyle. Then I was introduced to the Beach Body Ultimate Reset.
The Ultimate Reset is a 3 week detox. Okay, okay, okay I know people go running for the hills when they hear that word. I swore to myself that I would never touch a detox either. I thought they were all unhealthy, all those master cleanses, juice thingies and such. This one is DIFFERENT. You DO NOT starve. It’s 21 days and each week there is a different phase. Reclaim. Release. Restore. You have 3 meals a day plus optional and additional snacks. The recipes are fabulous and by week 2 you are eating completely vegan. I was so excited during this time in my life, I remember it like it was yesterday. The amount of energy and mental clarity I had over those 21 days felt unreal. I was going to bed before midnight and up without an alarm clock. My body was becoming in tune with itself naturally. I couldn’t believe it was because of the foods I was eating. This was when I realized the TRUE power food has over the body. I was cleaning and organizing my whole condo and cooking all my meals. Learning and trying new foods too. I had never had beets or roasted vegetables and wow are they good!
To this day I still make some of the Reset meals like the Sweet Potato and Roasted Red Pepper Soup. So good especially for parties and holidays. The foods were tasty and not bland. (Interestingly, when I saw the recipes in Ella’s Six Weeks To Sexy Abs Meal Plan, they were along the same lines as the Reset meals so I’m psyched to try them now!) Once I completed the Reset I didn’t know what to do next. I knew I loved the feeling I had when I was on the Reset and I was afraid of loosing that feeling if I went back to eating meat and dairy. Scared and unsure where to start I decided to gradually go back to eating my old habits. I wish now I didn’t do that. I was an ice cream girl and also liked to eat eggs in the morning, chicken for dinner, oh and I thought whey protein was good for you. Shortly after adding these foods back into my routine I found that I had indeed lost that high on life mental clarity feeling.
It wasn’t until January 2013 when I committed to changing my lifestyle to a Vegan Diet. I didn’t know anyone else at the time that was vegan. Shakeology had just introduced a chocolate vegan flavor (amen) that I started drinking daily. Besides that I didn’t know what else to eat besides fruits and veggies and grains and nuts. I was eating a lot of peanut butter (I wish it was its own food group). I hadn’t ever been a fan of tofu and I didn’t know about other soy protein sources. The STRUGGLE WAS REAL! There were A LOT of challenges to go thru to get to where I am today. I later realized it’s vital to educate yourself and surround yourself with others who are going vegan or are already vegan. This will help you tremendously instead of doing it all on your own like I did.
One challenge I faced was how strict of a vegan I was going to be.
At first I thought I was just strictly cutting out direct forms of meat and dairy like ice cream, yogurt, eggs, chicken, ground turkey, milk, cheese etc. I didn’t realize until I started reading labels how much dairy related products or ingredients are in other forms of snacks, processed foods, pastries etc. I would say for all of 2013 that’s where I struggled and learned about ingredients, and how far I was willing to go to change my diet to go fully vegan. So during this year I definitely cut out meat, but dairy was harder for me. I was a cheese lover too so I had the occasional pizza and thought it wasn’t so bad if I had a granola bar with milk chocolate dipping or ice cream here or there. I felt bad after eating it though knowing it wasn’t all vegan, and then later on feeling bad physically because of the way it would make me feel on the inside and the mental guilt. I knew I couldn’t continue on and would have to completely cut these forms of dairy out too. Saying NO to ALL of it. It’s crazy how SO MANY foods like cookies and have dairy. Like cereals with frosted coated stuff that has dried milk, powered forms of milk, or butters in bars, shakes, syrups and flavorings at Starbucks. Its everywhere! This is something throughout the year I struggled on a personal level. Again I still didn’t have a foundation and found my niche in the vegan community. If I had that would have helped. Now I’m involved with international vegan awareness groups online and active in the local South Florida Miami Wellness Club, Plant Pure Nation, and fitness communities.
2014 was the year I ate a 100% plant-based diet. I was aware of what foods contained animal-based ingredients and avoided them. I felt in control of my body. I felt high on life. I felt good about my decision to transition to a vegan diet for the health benefits.
One question I had to answer for myself was, “How about when you are in group settings or going out to eat?” I hear it all the time, people ask me I can eat or why I cant eat that. I found it important to be patient, and no get mad. The question is usually asked because people simply don’t know. just don’t know and they want to learn. Others already have a formed opinion and will want to argue. Being in groups can be hard. Especially when choosing a place to eat. You turn into the vegan of the group, aka “ that person”. Or called the healthy one, the one that only eats rabbit food, the weird one, the different one, the boring one, I’ve heard it all. You learn to grow some tough skin and stick up for what you’re doing and why your doing it. You also learn what restaurants cook with chicken broth, oils, butters, and other animal products. You start to be aware where you can go and there ARE more options besides salad. A lot of restaurants are accommodating if you can’t find a vegan/vegetarian spot. Just tell them that you have allergies. I find saying that can make it more likely you will get what you ask for, rather then explaining the reason over and over why you are vegan. Best advice I give about this is be true to who you are and plan ahead. 🙂
Throughout 2014 and 2015 too is when I discovered there are other CHALLENGES. Remember when I was talking about those different levels of living a vegan lifestyle? Well I had come full circle back to that point again. Many vegans are vegan for health reasons, some for the animals, some for the environment, and some for all of the above. The education continued.
**Did you know that 91% of the rain forest lost to date is destroyed due to raising livestock? And that 1 acre of the rain forest is cut down every second for this**? Did you know to feed all the livestock they eat 20 TONS of grain PER WEEK?**? Did you know that 209 lbs of meat are eaten per year per person**? Did you know that it takes 250 gallons of water to produce 1 POUND of meat?*** These startling facts go on and on….
I began to watch documentaries like Cowspiracy and get involved with the vegan community, educating myself on how living a vegan lifestyle is more then just the diet for the way it makes me feel. I knew I had a duty to do more. Next step was to learn about products that animal test. I did not want to be a consumer that promoted products and industries that test on animals. I researched cleaning products, hygiene products, even clothes and slowly switched. This includes make-up, shampoo, soap, coats, and shoes. All our fave brands like MAC, Clinique, snf Herbal Essences animal test.
A lot of people ask WHY are you vegan and WHERE do you get your protein. Instead of getting annoyed or frustrated I feel it is my duty to answer and educate others on the world we live in and how ONE person CAN make a difference. This means more to me now then when I started 3 years ago. Like I said, everyone has a STORY. What is yours?