Since the beginning of this blog (not very long ago) I’ve received a lot of questions about my veganism, and more specifically: questions on how to become vegan, or at least more vegan-friendly. I’m not going to lie, becoming vegan wasn’t one of the easiest things for me. It really took a fair amount of tries until I found a method that worked for me. I made a few failed attempts in 2007 and finally made it work early 2008. My efforts were usually quick-whim early morning decision or a drunken night proclaiming “Okay! I’m going to do it! I’m giving up cheese first thing in the morning, for real this time!” Hours later I had a baked ziti in the oven. Fail. You know that moment when you decide to diet and chips and cookies just seem even more enticing and mouth-watering? And then late at night when you’re lying in bed, instead of counting sheep you’re counting french fries? It’s like that. The second you *cant* have something, you want it.
Making the transition to being vegan is/was hard, even as a vegetarian since the age of 15. I didn’t eat a lot of eggs or really drink milk, but they were in most things I ate. My problem was primarily cheese. I had the most intense addiction to cheese. I relied on cheese to enhance most meals or be the base for many meals. I didn’t eat excessive amounts of processed foods, but I ate a fair amount, especially mock meats. Not the worst diet in the world, but far from the best, and looking back now I’d say it was pretty unhealthy.
You can be a vegetarian and be healthy. You can eat meat and be healthy. You really have to do what works for you. For me, a vegan diet makes sense.
So how did I do it? After many attempts what finally worked for me? Detoxing. I decided to try a two week cleanse. I wanted to see how I felt and where it would lead me. This cleanse to be exact: Renew Life Total Body Cleanse. I followed all the instructions, took all the pills, plus more: lots more. The first two days I did a liquid diet of home-made teas and lots of water. This wasn’t exactly necessary, but I thought it would be a good jump start to the cleanse. For the next few days I ate only raw fruits and veggies– sparingly, with lots and lots of water and tea. Then on the last week I slowly started adding in beans and vegetable soups. I avoided gluten, sugar (except fruit sugar), dairy, meat (I was veg anyway), and tried to keep the veggies and fruits raw. I’m not going to lie it was hard. At one point I went out and bought a gluten-free bread to break my craving a bit…. kinda cheating kind of not… I considered it cheating, but it really wasn’t. It was vegan, gluten-free, but more like eating blahness. I felt like crap the first few days. But then, around 10 days in: I felt pretty good, bordering on great and looked forward to what was ahead.
Two weeks, and the cleansing kit ended. I decided I felt so great that I wanted to keep going a bit with limiting sugars, gluten, dairy and processed foods. I slowly started adding gluten back into my life. I knew if I had a choice there was no way I was going to ever be gluten free. I started reading and researching everything about food. I was grossed out and appalled. I realized how much crap was in the “food” I ate. I realized I didn’t want to eat many of the foods that weren’t vegan. I started getting grossed out by cheese and it’s added casein and rennet. I didn’t want to drink juice that wasn’t 100% real juice because of carmine or because I wasn’t sure where the vitamin D was being sourced from. I didn’t want to eat bread that wasn’t made from only yeast, flour, salt, water, because of the whey, L-cysteine, and other crap in it. I started going through my kitchen and my house and reading all the ingredients and tossing much of it (well, actually giving it to the crazy old biker man who lived next door). You can’t eat bad food, if you don’t own it or buy it.
I was nervous about giving into cheese again (hell, I even thought about having a piece of cheese today), but I told myself: “Self, if you want cheese you can have it. This doesn’t have to be forever. No cheese today. Tomorrow we’ll discuss it again”. Simple enough. One day at a time. I went out to eat twice the next week. I realized life was about to get a bit more complicated. No vegan options. I ate a tiny bit of cheese, but picked a lot of it off. No big deal. Second time: I ate two bites and handed it over to my boyfriend, I couldn’t do it anymore. My cheese craving and addiction were gone, and I didn’t want it back. Time to find different restaurants. Two weeks and my body was clean. Salt, sugar, cheese, all the things I loved the most I no longer craved and I felt GREAT.
At first the noticeable changes were mostly superficial: I lost 8 pounds from cutting out dairy. My skin started to glow (no seriously, I started getting comments all the time from strangers about how nice my skin was!). I had more energy. I noticed I wasn’t getting sick or stuffy anymore. My sinuses were clear. Then as I continued, I noticed my mood was better, and my anxiety was lower (I had suffered from a lot of anxiety and panic attacks). Did I mention how great I felt?! It was pretty spectacular. Two weeks is all it took for me to feel great enough to never want to go back.
Like I said, being vegan isn’t for everyone. It works for me. Maybe you’re vegan and love it. Maybe your vegetarian with no wish to ever be vegan. Maybe you occasionally eat meat. Maybe you eat meat: once, twice, three times a day, that’s cool too. But consider a change, even a small change. Cut out sugar, processed foods, dairy, meat, any or all of the above. Consider being a pescetarian, flexitarian (mostly vegan, a few vegetarian items and the occasional meat), vegetarian, or of course: vegan. At the very least, consider: meatless mondays.
Yep. I think it’s common for many pregnant women to either become vegetarian or eat meat because they fear they have to… or because of cravings. For me, I decided I would just listen to my body… I tried pizza with cheese twice. The second time I threw up and decided not to do that again. I also ate a croissant and a piece of a kit kat. The croissant? Not worth it. The kit kat? It used to be one of my favorite things, now it just tastes like overly processed fake sweetness and not real chocolate. Also, not worth it. I know I would have felt guilty about eating actual meat, I got that animal guilt. But dairy? eh, whatever, I guess. Do what feels right, if you feel guilty, then it’s time to debate harder about it next time. 🙂
–How do you cook? Where do you get your recipes? Could you give me an example shopping list? Also, what do you eat when you go out to eat?
If you scroll through my diet water section you’ll find a lot of answer to your questions 🙂
I’m not sure how I cook? I just do. And I try to cook as often as possible. I like cooking large meals so I can have leftovers.. it makes the next day’s lunch easier. I like to experiment every once in a while, but I go back to my basics often: lots of soups, lots of tacos, lots of indian dishes, a few pasta dishes. My meals are mostly veggies, a protein, and some starch/carb. Recipes. Well, the recipes I’ve posted are mine unless otherwise stated. They are a dish that has changed to work for me over time– usually a variation of a combined dishes from friends, boyfriends, family, or recipes I’ve seen long ago. You pick up tips and tricks along the way and use the ones that work best for you to make a meal. I don’t really look up recipes online any more. I have a few books which usually just sit and gather dust and only get opened when I’m like “I have beets this week. I need ideas”. A great book for that is Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything Vegetarian. I obviously skip over the diary section and veganize all vegetarian meals. THIS book can help with substitutions. &THIS post had a few links to recipes I liked to check out. I rarely go to them now, usually just vegan dad to search for one item for ideas or I google whatever I have in mind that day 🙂
I did a shopping list post on diet water a few months back, HERE.
Going out is simple (except on the occasional outings with family). I don’t go out often and when I do go out to good places that I don’t have to question their ingredients. i.e.: not chain restaurants. I go to one pizza place (they make everything that day &it’s all freshly picked from the farms or other small business owners) and I order a cheese-less pizza (+greens, +garlic &onion). I go to a diner that has one vegan option (a house-made veggie burger). &I go out to Indian food or Mediterranean— so many vegan friendly options– I seriously cant get enough Indian food.
What you do feel about eggs, if they come from a local farm and the chickens are treated well (free-roam, veggie-fed, etc.)? My husband and I eat eggs daily and want to get our own chickens. Just wondering your take on it as a dedicated vegan. Thanks!
Oh, eggs. This has come up for discussion many times between family and I or Eric and I. (Peta wont like my response). I think if you’re going to eat eggs the only kind to eat would be free-range &antibiotic free eggs, preferably local too. If the chickens are happy and healthy then I don’t really see the harm. I think what’s been kinda decided *for now* is that if we (Eric, Marlowe, And I) ever get our own chickens, egg-eating might be an option, but mostly for Marlowe (Eric already eats eggs). I guess the only reason we (Marlowe and I) wouldn’t is because: 1. I’ve gotten by this long and so well without them, I wouldn’t see the point. 2. They are very high in cholesterol, so I’d rather just stay away. 3. I have a feeling cooking raw eggs might freak me out a bit (now) and if you get squeamish around raw eggs or meat, then you shouldn’t eat it.