Time passes quickly and it’s hard to believe that Art and I been vegans for one year now. I will be completely honest, the journey hasn’t been easy. When Art and I first moved in together 8 years ago, we decided together, to eat less meat as it was not only healthier for us, but also we were concerned for the welfare and treatment of animals. It really wasn’t a hard task and until I had to give up meat completely for digestive issues, we consumed meat about once or twice a month at the most.
The next stage came when we started watching documentaries and learned about the horrific side effects of eating animal products and the impact they had on our health. Along with that, the endless suffering of animals made us realize that we needed to change our way of life and quickly.
I still remember the conversation I had with Art after watching these documentaries and we both decided together that going vegan was not only a positive change on our health but also on animal welfare and the environment. At this point I wasn’t eating meat, drinking milk, or eating yogurt and I knew giving up fish, eggs, and cheese wouldn’t be so bad, especially if I was saving a life of an animal. After all, it’s just food. Being part of having someone torture and kill our food was something that we couldn’t be part of. It made me question who I really was and what I was meant to do in this life.
What we didn’t realize is how much our lives have changed in such a short amount of time. To be quite honest, I really didn’t know what to expect once becoming vegan. What I did know was that becoming a vegan was the right choice for me. I’ve realized that when you start making positive changes in your life to be the best person you can be, amazing things start to happen in your life.
This is what I have learned.
1. Change is a good thing, don’t fear it.
Change is never easy and when you have the tools and resources to guide you, everything else falls into place. We had no one help us become vegan. I learned how to incorporate new foods into our diet and I experimented a lot with different recipes. Some foods tasted good to us while others not so good. Everyone’s experience will be different when it comes to food and their taste buds. There are no rules. You have to go at your own pace and decide what best works for you.
I am however, a lot more organized now. I use tools like a menu planner to help me with my meal planning and grocery shopping which saves me time. We use on-line tools to help us locate vegan clothing which is becoming more readily available.
2. Beginnings are hard but it gets easier.
What are we going to eat without animal products? I remember the first month of going vegan and wondering how I was going to survive without not being able to consume any dairy chocolate? Would I ever find foods to satisfy my sugar cravings again? On top of going vegan, Art and I also went whole foods which meant no refined sugar and little or no processed food. What TORTURE!
As I let go of some of my favorite foods, my taste buds changed, and I learned that it wasn’t so bad after all. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable and you have to step outside of your comfort zone but this is where the magic happens when you do. When you decide to go vegan, for whatever reason, you are making a positive contribution to all living beings. That reason alone is well worth the change.
3. People will always judge, but learn to let it go.
The hardest struggle so far as a vegan are the comments I have received from others who don’t share the same values as I do. Regardless of your reason to go vegan for health, animal welfare, or the environment, people don’t understand your reasoning behind it. I struggled with it and continue to do so but it’s much easier now. At the beginning, I would go on the defensive but now I don’t let people steal my energy away from me for making a positive difference in the world. If they have issues with my ethics than it’s just an insecurity on their part and they need time to figure it out themselves.
4. It’s easier to eat out at restaurants more than you think.
I see more and more vegetarian and vegan restaurants popping up everywhere. At first, I thought these were the only places you could eat but most restaurants now have at least one vegetarian or vegan option on their menu if not more. If they don’t, I’ve learned to call the restaurant ahead of time, speak with the chef and they are more than willing to create a dish to accommodate your needs. In fact, most chefs like to get creative and cook ‘outside of the box’ to invent a new dish.
A great tool that we discovered is happycow.net which allows you to search for vegan and vegetarian restaurants in cities all over the world. It has come in very handy for us on my occasions.
5. Yes, vegans do get enough protein.
Be prepared to get asked this question, ‘where do you get your protein from?’ I was so sick of hearing this question but now I embrace it as it provides me with an opportunity to educate others. In fact, many people are surprised when they learn that they are consuming too much protein in their diet. There is protein in beans, lentils, spinach, quinoa, hemp seeds, almonds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, kale, broccoli, and the list is endless.
6. Not all vegan food is healthy.
Don’t get me wrong, going vegan is a big step to getting healthier but there are some common traps that many fall into. There are many vegan food alternatives out there like ‘tofurky’ and ‘daiya’ cheese but these items are still processed food. It’s very easy to buy substitute foods to replace its animal counterpart, but make sure that you consume these items in moderation. The more whole the food, the better it is for your health. I’ve never been a fan of processed food myself (too many additives and preservatives) and I try to only eat foods that come from the ground or a tree. If you make the switch to eating vegan for your health, try to stay away from as much packaged food as you can.
Going vegan this past year has been mostly that of a positive one. I’ve endured some negative comments from some people but for the most part, people have been very supportive. Being vegan is something that I am very proud of, not just from the food that I don’t consume anymore, but the compassion that I show when it comes to not wearing any animal products and towards saving innocent animals. I will not apologize for being vegan and in fact, it’s something that I’m extremely proud of. It’s my greatest accomplishment so far in life.
To be continued.
Until next time,
Maureen & Art