The Vegan Post – Why I chose it, why I enjoy it & why I still love you if you don’t.

There have been a lot of questions surrounding my recent switch to a vegan diet, from both my online and offline friends. It wasn’t until Stacey asked me a question about some of my favorite recipes that I decided to just sack up and write this post. This is the dumbest thing, but I’ve been putting this off for 6 months because I know the term ‘vegan’ can just set people off in a hurricane of meat and dairy loving rage. The way some vegans act superior and think they’re more healthy/ethical than everyone else just rubs people the wrong way. I totally get that. I mean, if you’re going to treat everyone who eats meat and dairy like they’re idiots, of course they’re going to want to punch you in your soy-loving face.  I felt the saaaaame way (still do at times).

I’m not going to get into the ethical side of veganism because frankly, that’s not why I do this. I’m in it more for the health benefits and because bottom line: it makes me feel great. Not that I condone the killing of innocent animals, but you know, most people eat them and will continue to do so forever and ever. I’m not going to change that by getting all preachy and up in everyone’s face.

ANYWAY. I’m always nervous about talking about personal stuff on here which is absolutely ridiculous because this is a personal blog. Soooooooo now that you know I’m not going to shake my head and tsk, tsk you if you eat a burger, I’ll move on.

On May 1st of this year, my grandparents, parents and I started a strict 6 week eating plan called Eat to Live. We read the book and followed the guidelines and recipes to a T. Eat to Live is something you do when you want to ‘reset’ your health… at least that’s the way I looked at it. The info is backed up by all sorts of science-y evidence-y things and I liked that. I appreciated knowing that I wasn’t going to shrivel up and die in my salad plate because OMG WHERE’S THE PROTEIN!? (don’t worry, I still get pleeeenty of it). The changes we all saw in ourselves were pretty freaking crazy. For one, we ALL lost weight. Between the 5 of us, we lost about 100 pounds. My grandpa lost 14 pounds THE FIRST WEEK ALONE… what a bad ass! In addition to the weight loss, we all had positive changes in our skin, energy levels, cholesterol and overall health. Side note: I’m normally an Aleve popper. I took them for my bad cramps and headaches and just sort of felt like they were the only thing that was ever going to help. During Eat to Live, I didn’t need those stupid things and it felt awesome. I still got my normal period cramps, but they were much more tolerable. I was taking in more water and my headaches decreased. Other little aches and pains just weren’t there anymore. In seeing how simple this way of eating could be and how quickly it can reverse health and weight problems, my mind was made up that I was going to stick with it after the six weeks were up.

So from there, I gradually brought back some of the things that eating plan didn’t allow (small amounts of oil and salt and some more of the ‘healthy fats’ like avocados) and I continued eating mostly plants from there on out. And when I say ‘plants’, I’m not talking JUST salads. I would go insane and no doubt off myself with something large and pointy if I just ate salads all day. There are tons of awesome vegan recipes out there and I don’t feel limited or deprived of flavor or fullness at all, which still surprises me. I expected to be bored out of my mind and I just couldn’t even imagine what you could possibly cook that wouldn’t allow meat or dairy. After all, DAIRY WAS MY LIFE… you all know this. I lived on cheesy pastas and dips and practically bathed in cheese while I was pregnant with Jack. For people like me with an affinity for cheesy goodness, there are still dairy-free options if you’re in a chips and dip sorta mood. There are also some bomb diggity desserts. Vegan junk food, oh yes. It’s some of the best stuff out there. Not that it’s good for you just because it’s labeled “vegan” or that you should eat those kinds of things all the time, but it’s nice to have the option. It makes you feel like less of a hippy.

So far, I’ve lost almost 50 pounds and I… I feel so aliiiiiiive. For the very first time. (P.O.D.? Anyone? I know I’m not the only one who listened to them back in the day when it was too embarrassing to admit it). I think the key to this diet and the reason I haven’t fallen off the wagon is that I don’t think of it as a diet. I don’t get obsessed and stress about it. I’m pretty strict with myself, but I don’t make myself miserable. I aim to eat mostly plants and other whole foods — that’s it. If I go to a birthday party and they’re serving my favorite flavor of cake, I’ll let myself eat a small slice, but I just don’t consider myself a  failure at that point. That slice of cake was just a treat and I don’t have to quit everything and go eat a gallon of ice cream because I deviated from the diet (which is what I used to do). That’s pretty true of most healthy eating plans I think and that’s where most of us go wrong. Amy put it best in one of her health/fitness posts on her blog, Just a Titch:

Don’t label food good or bad. I think it’s easy to make food very black and white, or “good and bad.” If I label something bad and then choose to eat it, it’s very easy for me to go down the rabbit hole of “I’m a bad person” and get down on myself. Instead, I try to think of food as a choice. However, as I preach to my students, choices have consequences, and in this case, those consequences show up on the scale or in feeling icky when I exercise. Thinking of it that way makes me much more likely to make a healthier choice.

Which brings me back to why I do this — it makes me feel great. I don’t want to shove this vegan thing down anyone’s throat or get preachy, which I’ve found to happen very easily and sometimes without me even realizing it. You tend to talk about things you’re excited about or something you’ve had success with, but with that eagerness to share your experience, you can easily start acting superior. THAT is what I’ve feared most. But now I’ve written this scary post and it actually wasn’t that bad. Bring on any comments or questions, just please don’t punch me in my soy-loving face or I might ugly-cry.

P.S. My favorite vegan recipe blog of the moment: The Vegan Stoner. The author makes these cutesy drawings of all the ingredients in the recipe and it’s just plain fun.