A few months ago, a couple of vegan bloggers who I follow came out saying that they were no longer vegan. I have to admit, I was pretty surprised by their change. But everyone has their reasons.
Then a couple of weeks ago, the results of this study started making the rounds in social media:
It really got me thinking about my own veg journey…
As a kid, I attended a Seventh-Day Adventist church. Although my family and I weren’t vegetarians, we knew a lot of folks who were. So, it wasn’t strange or odd to not eat meat. We even participated in vegetarian potlucks at church on a weekly basis.
But my freshman year in college, I was challenged by one of my dorm hallmates. He had recently watched Tim Robbin’s Diet for a New America and shared it with our hall. The images made an impact on me and I decided to follow a vegetarian diet. I was fortunate to be attending the University of California, Santa Cruz because the dining halls and coffee shops on campus all had veggie options. I stuck to the vegetarian diet up until the last few weeks of that school year… I started dating this girl (whom I would later marry) and it was a little more difficult for me to stay veggie when we went out to eat off campus. I was weak and crumbled…Lol
As an Environmental Studies major at UCSC, there a bit of pressure from my peers to be vegetarian or vegan. So later, during my junior year, I tried being vegetarian again. In the end, I considered myself a semi-veg– eating mostly plant-based except in certain social situations. I guess we call that “flexitarian” nowadays. I can recall a moment when a couple of vegan classmates scoffed when I admitted to being a semi-veg in my “Earth in the Balance” class… and silently shaking my head a couple of weeks later one of those girls was talking about how sometimes she would eat chicken because she just had to have chicken. At least I was honest with myself and others… and I wasn’t looking down at others for their choices.
When I graduated from UCSC in 1997 and moved back in with my folks in San Diego, I was back to being a full-time omnivore. The busyness of adult life took it’s toll. Not only was I eating meat regularly but a lot of my diet was made up of processed food, fast food, and carry out and by 2003 I was diagnosed with fatty-liver disease.
Fast-forward to 2008. My health had reached a tipping point. I was overweight. My BMI was 32. I was diagnosed with pre-diabetes and I was on medication for high blood pressure. I also started to experience more and more random allergic reactions to my things in my environment. I needed to something.
I made small, healthier changes in my diet and activity level. That helped. Although I still ate meat and other animal products, I lost about 25 pounds. In 2009, I started connecting with and following other people on social media who were leading healthier lifestyles. I started reading blogs. One blog, in particular, that challenged me was Sarah Matheny’s “Peas and Thank You.” One of her posts made me think about my veg days in college and it prompted me to try being a vegetarian again for 30 days.
Well, over four years later I haven’t gone back to eating meat. And the end of this month will be the one-year mark when I eliminated eggs and dairy from my diet. I’m working my way towards being totally vegan. There have been a couple of occasions when I consumed bread made from a mix that contained honey. Also, I’m phasing out leather–when my current footwear and belts wear out, I plan to purchase vegan friendly products. One step at a time, right?
So what factors have helped me to stay veg for this long now?
- The health issues I’ve encountered in my 30s keep me motivated to make this a permanent lifestyle change. Since I started a gluten free vegan diet, I’ve lost 5 more pounds, my blood sugar levels are no longer in the pre-diabetic range, and I no longer need to take high blood pressure meds. Even my allergic reactions have become less frequent and less severe.
- I’m a lot more proficient in the kitchen than I was the first time I tried being a veg… actually, I didn’t have access to a kitchen when I was a freshman in college. I relied on the dining hall and convenience food. Now, I spend a lot of time collecting recipes and trying to make new dishes.
- I’m not worried about the social pressure of standing out because of my dietary lifestyle. My friends and most of my coworkers know how I eat so it’s not really awkward anymore. Actually, a lot of them are very accommodating.
- The availability of veg options at restaurants now–and even completely veg restaurants, make it easier to go out to eat when I don’t feel like cooking.
- The ability to connect with other vegetarians and vegans in online and real life communities… It helps to have the support, especially when you’re the only veg in the house.
- I got to the point where I wasn’t living to eat anymore but instead I was eating to live… Well, I still think about food a lot but at least my eating doesn’t come at the cost of a life of another.
- And although I started out eating for my health, I came to point where I considered the life and health of animals. My eating to live should not exploit animals.
Although I’m pretty much 100% plant-based, I have a difficult time calling myself completely vegan yet… for example, I still use shoes and belts made of leather. But I’m making that transition–my future purchases will be vegan. One step at a time, right?