A close friend of mine recently recommended a book to me that would, in effect, change the path of my life forever--for the better. The book is Alicia Silverstone's The Kind Diet which tells the long and sordid tale of the journey of food from source to our table--to be specific: meat, dairy and eggs. I'll leave the details of the book for it's author to share with you but suffice it to say that my heart was moved after reading merely the first chapter. Alicia had gotten my attention and had called me to action. I not only decided to become a vegetarian but to take it a step further by making the bold move to become vegan.
A high school friend asked me, out of sheer curiosity, what moved me to make a decision so "late" in life (That's my paraphrasing of his question, by the way. He was much more gracious than to word it like that and we are still spring chickens afterall...ugh...poor choice of metaphors for this subject though). It was a good question though. My family has, afterall, been very careful to eat healthfully and to make good choices such as eating whole grains, lean proteins and limiting sugar intake. While we aren't heavy meat eaters and often eat vegetarian dishes we did eat chicken, fish, pork, and beef with fair regularity. This healthy way of eating was impressed upon me early as my mom and stepdad cooked healthfully and introduced us to non meat products such as "Tenderbits--" a rather delicious faux scallop-ish sort of...well, stuff. My mom would toss rolled oats into her chocolate chip cookies accompanied by much teenage EYE rolling from me. But the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, no matter how hard the apple tries to toss itself when it's going through it's teen years. I matured into an adult who was mindful of what she ate and what she prepared for her family.
Still, though, we ate meat.
I'd always wondered what it'd be like to become a vegetarian but never really had the motivation or the gumption to try it out on an exclusive basis...until I read The Kind Diet. The friend who suggested the book has been a vegetarian for years as a result of her strong feelings against the harsh treatment of animals. Both of us had an awakening upon reading the book and have had several discussions with eachother about it. There was not a doubt in my mind that I wanted to do my part to make a difference. With mild concern over the fact that this was a lifelong, long-term decision with no lookin' back and a few thoughts of "Oh my gosh, am I really going to be able to do this thing," I mustered up my gumption and plunged myself into the world of becoming a vegan and in learning exactly what that means.
I'm still learning. I feel like a sponge. There's so much to read up on, so much to find out about, so much to research and plan. My basic plan is that I don't eat meat of any kind nor do I eat any dairy products or eggs. I also, in keeping with the plan of doing the best for my health, limit to a bare minimum any kind of refined flour, sugar and also artificial sweeteners. As a vegan, I'm choosing not to use any product that has been tested on animals or contains animal product. This is where the research comes into play--where I'm really having to do my homework. I need to be choosy about what cosmetics and skincare products as well as which laundry and pet products I purchase...clothing, bedding, everything!
Vegetarianism and Veganism is not a game or a contest for me. My reasons for choosing this path are very personal and hold great meaning and value to me. I'm not looking to earn any kind of brownie points by labeling myself as a vegan but am trying to improve upon my health, my athletic performance (several elite athetes, including Ironman Triathlete Brendan Brazier, will testify as to it's astounding effectiveness), and to do something positive for our environment as well as to take a stand for all animals. I'd recently been dwelling on the fact that 'we shoulda bought a hybrid!' type of thoughts but an interesting fact I recently learned is that you more effectively and dramatically reduce the amount of emissions by becoming vegan than by buying a hybrid vehicle! What a strong stance we can take--and truly make a positive difference--while doing something great for our bodies at the same time in making this choice. But I want to live and lead by example...not by brandishing some sort of "I AM VEGAN" badge. I want to walk the walk...you know?
It helps that I already love fruits and veggies, brown rice, whole oats and other whole grains, beans and tofu. Matt and I were already drinking green smoothies too. I found a wonderful vegan whole wheat pancake recipe this past weekend. My biggest adjustment, truly, has been in how I take my coffee. I've always really looked forward to it as my sweet and creamy treat...with a couple of Splendas and a couple of T of half and half. It took some adjusting but I'm enjoying my coffee with Stevia and I alternate plain coconut milk with almond 'milk.' I'm getting used to the actual taste of COFFEE. Don't know that I will EVER take it black like my husband keeps trying to get me to do (bleh) but I never say never. :D That's something else I learned from Alicia's book: eating dairy actually leaves a coating on your tongue that inhibits your taste buds from realizing their full potential! Flavors come alive once you cut the dairy out!
Enhanced flavor is just one benefit. I'm hoping to realize many health benefits but we'll need time to provide the answers in that experiment. It's been shown to reduce if not eliminate allergies, cancer, all sorts of baddies! After only two weeks, though, my middle (as in my core) is really started to tighten up! I feel tighter and lighter. When I look at my face in the mirror I can see a vibrance. My skin's in excellent shape! Plus, I just feel super~ Some of you might say, "Well, YEAH, Lisa. You're eating nothing but veggies! You're going to shed some excess!" No, dear friends, I'm eating whole grains, fruits, beans, natural peanut butter, nuts, soy products and the occasional creamy soy desserts (like Tofutti). I haven't been counting calories but I can tell you that I'm in touch enough with that subject to know what I'm taking in and it's pretty close to what I was consuming in calories before my switch. What's different is the content. WHAT you eat DOES make a difference. I can feel it. Matt and I had already started actively listening to our bodies in terms of what they need; we cut out alcohol entirely (we were only occasional wine or beer drinkers anyway) back around Oct or November because of how even one drink left us feeling. This pathway into veganism seemed a natural part of this flow for me.
So, I'll keep you posted on my journey. It's not a diet (I don't like that word anyway). It's a complete life change. I'm not here to judge anybody for their choices or eating habits...only to provide feedback from my own experiences and to share with you if you'd like to hear it. Would love to hear of your experiences as well. I commend anybody for ANY amount of positive change they can make to their eating habits. Going full tilt boogie on becoming a vegetarian or vegan may not be how you want to go. Perhaps you want to dabble around in it a bit. I don't think ANY of us should be judgemental...neither those like myself who choose the vegan or vegetarian lifestyle nor those who maybe have incorporated some elements of vegetarianism but who haven't embraced it fully. We are all different with different sets of circumstances, feelings, goals and outlooks. But any amount of change that we can make to positively and kindly impact our world is a wonderful thing~