Sunday, March 9, 2014

Wavering Vegansim

I have read a LOT of blog posts about going vegan and staying vegan, but I am just going to put it out there.

I am deeply committed to not harming animals and creating a practice of humane eating but sometimes I really still want to veer off the vegan course.

It's not even as though I have intense cravings or want to just bit into a juicy burger or something, I just get bored with only eating fruits, vegetables and grains and want more variety and deliciousness in my diet. For 28 years, I ate cheese and meat and all my food tasted delicious, fatty, and totally satisfying. Not to say that vegan food CAN'T be satisfying, but sometimes I just miss the creaminess of a cheese sauce or a sandwich with melty cheese on it.

To be honest, this issue also revolves around convenience and laziness. Sometimes, there are crappy veg options available and I just want eating to be easy again (and I live in LA, land of vegan loving...I feel for those in more rural areas or meat and potatoes types of places).

Hmmm. I'm going to stick with my veganism because I know it's right for me but I can't lie and say that it is NEVER hard!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Checklist

My sister was the one who was the catalyst for my going vegetarian and ultimately vegan.  She texted me that she was watching a crazy documentary and I had some time so I joined along and watched "Forks Over Knives."  I ended up becoming somewhat obsessed with stopping animal product consumption and gave up meat that very night.  I read books, scoured websites, found support from people who went vegetarian (and later, vegan) and tried to map out a plan for myself that would cut out animal products.

My sister ended up stopping drinking milk after our documentary viewing that night but she still eats meat, cheese, and eggs.  In all honestly, I am not fully vegan either.  I still eat a few certified humane eggs a week and honey once in a while.  I'm still in a phase out phase, I guess.  I will cut them one day but for now, I'm not ready yet.  The only exception that I feel totally fine with eating indefinitely is goat cheese that is made from rescue goats whose babies are not weaned early and where there is a strict no kill policy (yay for Soledad Goat Cheese!).  I don't eat much of it though and we don't have it in the house all the time.

I digress.  My sister said that she really could have used a checklist to help her go vegetarian or vegan.  She couldn't find one easily so here I shall create my very own checklist of "How to Go Veg*n," only based on my own experiences.

1. When the urge to go veg*n hits, write a lot and reflect about WHY you are feeling like making a lifestyle change.
Going veg*n is huge and everyone has different reasons for making the switch.  Try to figure out why you're doing it so you will have a clear reminder when you feel like you want to quit when a craving hits.  They WILL hit but don't worry, most go away and if they don't, you can almost always find an acceptable substitute.  Also, doing these kinds of exercises will help you as you start to tell friends and family about your new choices.  Those conversations will seem to get old at first but then you'll have your answer accessible so you can tell why you're doing it and move on with life.

2. Read as much as you can about other people who have gone veg*n for the same reasons or better yet, talk to people in person.
Being veg*n means putting yourself on the outskirts of what's "normal" for dietary style in America.  We are the minority!  So, knowing other people or their stories about how they learned to be the "odd one out" is helpful.

3. Listen to people who have gone veg*n before - do a "phase out" method of food if you're uncomfortable with going "cold turkey."  (hehehehe)
Many people will say that doing a slow phase out is the best way to go veg*n.  That's how I did it.  I cut out meat, fish and milk right away, then all cheese, then eggs, then I put eggs back's a process.  I only stopped eating meat less than 6 months ago so cutting out all that in less than 6 months (by choice) is pretty intense!  Find a method that works for you.  Don't worry, you may miss cheese but you'll get over it at some point.

4. Figure out what foods really rev your engine.
Make a list of your most favoritest ever foods that are acceptable to you in your new standards.  I LOVE cucumbers, tomatoes, avocado, and chives.  Mix that up, add some brown rice and you've got sushi in a bowl!  I thought I'd eat a ton of hummus now that I stopped with meat and such but I really don't scarf it.  I eat a lot of fruits and veggies, I love salads and Ezekiel bread is our new bread staple.  I loooooove chocolate so finding Justin's dark chocolate peanut butter cups saved my sanity.  I also tried lots of meat and cheese substitutes and turns out, I like tofu and only dig fake cheese when it's on a sandwich or pizza at a restaurant (which I have a lot of in LA).  I keep a box of veggie burgers in the fridge just in case but I eat them less now than those first few months.  Lean on the substitutes if they make you happy but just be careful not to eat too much.

5. Talk with whoever you live with or dine out with often.
People may or may not know what it means to go vegan.  Tell your loved ones what's up and why you're doing what you're doing.  If you have great friends and family, most of them will ask you questions (perhaps even ridiculous ones) and then will accept your choices, maybe even admire you for them, and start to be sensitive to your new diet.  It barely comes up now except for when my friends ask if there's enough food for me at a restaurant we're going to!

I am very VERY lucky that my meat-lovin' husband has been an absolute saint about my new diet.  He only buys milk and deli meat for the house, doesn't ask me to cook meat for him in the house, and basically eats anything I put in front of him when I cook.  He is fine eating fake meats and has been awesome in general about trying vegan restaurants or options.  I'm lucky and I know it!  Not everyone's significant other is as cool as mine.  Check out this post at one of my fave blogs, No Meat Athlete, about what to do when you have a resistant partner.

6. Continue your journey based on what feels right for you. 
If you go two months and feel miserable because you did everything too fast, then slow down and go a little backwards.  My digestive system was a little...wonky...when I first went veg.  It DOES get better!  But don't overload on beans and whole grains in the first two weeks or you'll just feel miserable.

Remember that it's EASY to be a junk food vegan.  Try to nourish your body and make good choices!

I watched every documentary I could get via Netflix, Amazon Prime and online for the first 3 or 4 months.  I struggled with not eating cheese and eggs (at restaurants) and needed those reminders about why I was doing what I was doing.  Watch Blackfish, Vegucated, Forks Over Knives...whatever it is for you that reminds you.

What else would you add to your checklist?!  Are you going veg*n and struggling or really thriving??

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Vegan Plunge

Well, it happened.  I took the vegan plunge!

Since I watched Forks Over Knives at the end of August, I cut out all meat and fish, right away.  I stopped drinking milk right away, and cut out yogurt and most cheese.  I still ate eggs though because I love eggs and enjoy eating them.  I cut everything else out a few weeks into October.  It felt good to make a decision, being in limbo was sort of weird.  "Are you still eating cheese?"  Ehhh, I don't know. Sometimes?

I decided to let the rest of it go since it was an inevitable decision for me anyway.  I can't be a vegetarian but still give money to the other pieces of the meat industry puzzle.  It just won't work for me.

So now I'm vegan!  It was weird to make the decision and proclaim, "I'm vegan!"  I'm lucky since my family has totally embraced my decision and helped me make vegan delicacies for Thanksgiving.  They know who I am and though going straight to vegan within a few short months was quick, they weren't surprised with my ethical stance.

Thanksgiving was difficult for two reasons.  First, I spent a fair amount of time explaining my new way of eating and living to loved ones.  Even if they were jesting, there were a lot of jokes and a lot of "I could never do that's."

What have I learned since going vegan?!  A few things.

1.  So much stuff has animal products in it.
I had never thought about ALL the things I own that have animal products in them.  Down comforters, makeup, down vests, belts, shoes, hair products, gym shoes (!) and so much more.  Luckily, I don't feel bad using most of these things until they wear out and need to be replaced.  We don't have the dough to replace most of it now, anyway.  I did buy a new wallet from Big Skinny because they had the exact kind of "card case" I was using but in synthetic materials instead of leather.  Otherwise, I haven't replaced most things.  I'm deciding on a new Moop messenger bag that was a Chanukah gift to replace my awesome but leather one.  Not all of their products are vegan but there is a handful and they're beautiful and handcrafted in the US.

2. It is really easy to be a cargo-vegan.
I did pretty well at first with eating a healthy whole grains plant based diet.  But then I stopped being as vigilant and ate whatever kind of vegan friendly stuff I wanted.  We went out a lot, we had a lot of pasta, I gobbled up bread.  Pretty much whatever carbs were around, I would eat 'em!  But we're changing that now and we're going to switch back to our other ways of whole grains and plant-based goodness.

3. I feel better eating vegan and knowing all the information I know.
I don't think I could eat meat right now because of everything I have read.  I feel much better knowing that my eating and buying practices are in line with one another.

4. Some vegans are INTENSE.
There are "types" of vegans out there.  There are people who mostly go vegan for health and then the people who are vegan for ethical reasons.  There are vegans along a whole spectrum who would eat eggs hens hatch in their backyard to vegans who CANNOT IMAGINE EVER EATING OR USING SOMETHING WITH ANIMAL PRODUCT OR BYPRODUCT EVER AGAIN, YOU STINKING VEGETARIAN OR OMNIVORE!  People are intense and I have had to stop reading comments on articles because of some peoples' intensity.

5. Eating vegan and thinking about what is inside products has made me more conscious about everything I do, in general.
Being compassionate towards everyone, all the time, is tough.  I have road rage, get annoyed with my husband sometimes (he SAID he'd do the dishes!) and even become frustrated with our cute and cuddly pooches.  But I think more about all my actions now that I eat vegan.  Being a not perfect person, I still don't make the best decisions ALL the time but I have noticed that my compassion spills over into other parts of my life.

Well...that's all for now.  If you're reading this...are you newly vegan?  What have you learned?!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Eating Animals

Since I've been on my vegetarian exploratory journey, I've been trying to figure out if my path would lead to a vegetarian or vegan diet.  Turns out that I have a hard time ignoring the origins of dairy products.

I just finished Jonathan Safran Foer's book Eating Animals and it pretty much sealed the deal that I was going to take the full leap to veganism.  His book had many of the same facts and stories as Melanie Joy's Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows, which I read a month or so ago right after I watched my first documentaries.  What Eating Animals did for me though was push me to reflect more about exactly which parts about the industry bothered me, why I wasn't eating animal products anymore, and how I would feel knowing that I had stopped endorsing one area but still endorsed another which is just as bad, if not worse.  His book is much more personal as he narrates his own journey learning about factory farming but for me, this was a good thing, not a drag.  Some reviewers don't love it but it worked for me.  I then check out Skinny Bitch which I only skimmed through most of it because many of the stories and facts are the same.  It was funny though and hopefully will help other people realize that there are lots of benefits to eating vegan besides not harming animals.

The truth is that I have enjoyed eating a vegan diet so far.  I like whole grains, I love fruits and veggies, and avocados are just about my favorite thing ever.  I feel good knowing that I'm not harming any beings to get food.

I'm not going to lie matter how many veggie sushi rolls I eat, I will always miss the taste of salmon avocado rolls!  I won't, however, miss being a part of killing thousands of extra animals every year just to eat salmon.  :-/

That's it for now...have any of you out there read any of these and felt like they helped or not?

PS - I rediscovered public libraries and feel stupid for ignoring them for two years.  They're so wonderful and I can read so much for freeeee!!  Thank you, libraries!!!!!

Friday, October 4, 2013

New Food, New Recipes

It's been a little over five weeks since I stopped eating meat.  That part was easy because I was so sad after watching documentaries that I just didn't have any interest in eating meat for the last month.

I really loved meat before 5 weeks ago.  Bacon was one of my favorite things ever and canadian bacon was the best friend to my morning eggs.  I drank a little milk once in a while (mostly just chocolate milk) and loved a good brie or gouda before a delectable meal.  Cutting out cheese and milk has been okay but eggs...oh eggs, I love you so.  I miss my eggs in the morning.

I am not fully vegan yet and honestly, don't think that I will ever classify myself as such.  I'm trying out a "whole foods, plant based diet" touted by Scott Jurek and other mighty marathoners and health food junkies.  It was difficult at first and I'm still having chocolate cravings all the time but hey.  Also, I am having a difficult time stomaching the insane amounts of "I'm a vegan because x" or "You're NOT a vegan because y" stuff.  I'm eating consciously and trying to be healthy.  I'll call my dietary preference "healthy conscious eating" and make my own label!

I have found, like many others state on their "How/When I Became Vegan/Super Healthy Eater" post or blog, I have been forced to learn to cook new things with new ingredients since I cut out most dairy and meat.  In the last two weeks, we made meatless stuffed peppers (with coconut forbidden rice and black beans), portobello mushroom sandwiches with a homemade horseradish sauce, veggie sushi, vegan challah, tofu scrambles, butternut squash and tofu curry, and miso soup.  And those are only the highlights!

I made veggie sushi last night because I was craving it.  I have never made brown rice sushi before but gave it a go.  I went fairly simple with avocado, cucumber and scallion.  It hit the spot!

Then, my new favorite breakfast dish was born...morning sushi breakfast bowl!

I took the leftover sushi ingredients, threw them in a bowl and topped it off with my new favorite carrot ginger dressing from the lovely cook at Smitten Kitchen.  It was full of whole grains, some yummy fatty avocado and fresh delicious cucumbers.  When I say that the ginger dressing is my new favorite, I mean it's my new "I want to lick the bowl after I eat the rest of the food" recipes.  It's that good, ask my mom.

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Beginning

If you would have told me a few months ago that I would start a blog chronicling my journey towards vegetarianism/veganism, I would laugh in your face.  I loved meat!  Deviled eggs are my specialty at family gatherings!  Brazilian steakhouse, yum!  Japanese hibachi, delicious!  But everything's changed.

One day in late August 2013, my sister texted me that she was watching a documentary on Netflix and it may turn her vegetarian (again). I wrote back something like, "Really?! Wow! That's intense," or another equally lame sentiment. I had the documentary "Forks Over Knives" in my Netflix queue for months and hadn't had the chance to watch yet.

I watched Forks Over Knives and then went straight to Vegucated. Then I started and finished "Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows" in over a day. Feeling rather ill, I contemplated the amount of suffering and pain I had been inflicting upon animals each year just because they're yummy.

Those couple days changed everything for me.

My husband and I adopted two awesome and adorable pittie mixes last year. We love them so much and treat them just like our little kids. After watching the suffering animals go through during the slaughter process, I couldn't stand to think about eating meat. I just kept thinking about my sweet pooches and how all animals feel pain and want to live, not die.

Since then, I haven't eaten meat. I started leaving more and more dairy out of my meals about two weeks ago and have slowly phased out things like cheese and eggs, which took a few weeks because I love eggs.

I haven't labeled myself as "vegetarian" or "vegan" because I've only stopped eating meat recently. I also feel like labels can be confusing and restrictive.
So for now, I am focusing on eating a healthy, whole foods, plant-based diet.  It's working for me and I feel better both mentally and physically.  At least I know that my own dietary choices are harming animals less (I'm a realist and understand that everything is connected to everything and I'm not totally off the hook) and that I am doing things in a way that makes me feel better.

Why have I switched from the messy carnivore I was towards a clean-eating, animal product-free consumer?  Here are my reasons:
- I was shocked by the reality of suffering animals go through during slaughter.  I don't want to be a part of that anymore.
- I was also shocked to learn about how the amount of meat I was eating could actually be affecting my health in a drastic way.  (Deep down, I knew these two things already but probably tried to block it all in my mind.)
- I am training for a half marathon and looking to eat healthy and get into very healthy lifestyle habits (I've tried before and done well only to fall back into unhealthy routines).

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly for me right now, I believe in the kind treatment of all animals and people.  Ethically and morally, I don't believe anyone or anything should ever suffer for my benefit. Eating this way brings my ethics and practice more into alignment and I feel good about that.

Here's to a happy journey!

*I do not judge ANYONE for their dietary choices. This is simply my own journey and gleanings from researching the world of healthy eating sans animal products.