Before I’d even begun the steps necessary to create this blog - back when it was still just a thought circling through my addled brain - I’d had the idea that it might be nice to feature a guest post now and then. I thought it might be a nice change of pace, and for non-vegans or non-vegetarians I thought it might be nice to see this ‘crazy’ vegan thing from a perspective other than my own. So naturally I asked my husband (a vegetarian slowly transitioning to vegan, and a writer also!) if he would be interested in sharing his own story, as well as his thoughts, ideas and opinions with all of you good folk, and naturally he was indeed very eager to do so. The entry that follows was written by him, in his own words, as something of an introductory post if you will. Regarding the frequency of his guest spots from here on, I couldn’t say exactly, that’s really up to him, but I’m sure there will be more to come as in the past few months he’s become just as eager and passionate about his new (almost) Vegan life as I have become about mine. So I hope you enjoy, and I hope you find his words as inspiring and helpful as you do mine.
Peace, Love and Good Health...
Holy Veggies, Batman!
Hello, blogging world! I come to you today to share my experiences as a newbie to the vegan/vegetarian world. Perhaps some of you out there are contemplating becoming a vegetarian or vegan but feel you can’t give up meat. I understandable, because I was once like you. Yet, the choice to take the leap into vegetarianism/veganism isn’t as wide of a jump as you might think. This is especially true if you think of veganism/vegetarianism not as a sacrifice or a diet, but as a transition into something new.
Growing up I was fed a pretty regular helping of meat and dairy each day. It was a main staple in my diet since it was always so easily available. I remember my favorite dishes like beef stroganoff and sloppy joe casserole. I would love getting 3 burgers at a time from McDonald’s and scarfing them down. I never met a burger I didn’t like. As time wore on, however, my appetite for red meat slowly declined. I still enjoyed hamburgers and the like, but I looked less forward to steak each time it was served. I found myself going out for food more often whenever it was served at home. By the time I met my wife, I generally preferred poultry to red meat whenever we would eat out.
Once we were married, my wife did nearly all the cooking and since we were living with my family, she typically cooked for them, as well. My family members are much bigger red meat eaters than I was but my wife typically would make dishes with chicken, turkey, or shrimp. Nobody seemed to mind since my wife is a genius in the kitchen and could make even the plainest chicken dishes seem amazing. It also freed my mom up from cooking, which was a plus for her.
It went like this for the first few years of our marriage until events in my wife’s life lead her to re-examine her eating habits. (See her first blog entry on the main page to read more about her own personal journey into veganism)
When she first told me about her decision to go vegetarian (with an eye on going vegan eventually), I was a bit worried. While I was not a huge meat eater, I still enjoyed the poultry and seafood dishes that she made. I had images of small salads, raw vegetables and other dishes that wouldn’t fill me up, or taste as good as the food I was accustomed to. Just the thought of that made my stomach growl for a nice juicy burger from Steak N Shake. Of course - despite my reservations - I was supportive of her decision and totally encouraged her to make the change. Her health and well being were the important things after all, not my appetite.
I did, however, wonder how I was still going to be able to eat what I wanted when it was my wife who did most of the cooking. I could make my own food, a novel concept, but once you’ve had my wife’s cooking, you can’t go back. I could’ve eaten the food my parents made but I didn’t want to feel like a freeloader. Well, more of a freeloader than I already felt, that is.
My wife said flat out that I could eat whatever I wanted but that she wasn’t going to be making two separate dinners each night. I had to eat what she made, or fend for myself; so I just ended up eating whatever she decided to make and, to my surprise, I quite enjoyed her vegetarian meals. She had a huge supply of cook books that she’d either gotten from the libraries we visited (which, typically, had a very good selection to pick from!) or books she had purchased. Soon I found myself eating and liking foods I never before thought I’d enjoy. Asparagus, kale, collard greens, beets (well I still have a few issues with that one), and cabbage. But when she put them together with other fruits, vegetables, grains and sauces, they were impossible to resist!
Even more surprising to me was the fact that I was eating these dishes without meat and yet staying full. Staying full and not feeling deathly ill afterward, to boot! As a meat eater I sometimes found myself feeling too full/sick to move after meals. That all changed once I began phasing meat out. After meals, despite being full, I still had energy to do things. I went on walks, bike rides, and wrote instead of just laying in bed waiting for the Rapture. I even noticed that minor ailments and health issues I’d always lived with, began to go away. I’d always had a sensitive stomach but once I started doing the vegetarian thing, it hardly seemed to effect me anymore.
Now, in the early months before I was fully invested, if I was at work and needed food to eat, I would still eat the occasional chicken meal served at Chipotle or McDonald’s, for instance, but I’d given up burgers and other beef products and when I did eat chicken, it was a rare occurrence.
Then, around the beginning of January 2011, I decided to completely stop eating meat. I believe I’ve only slipped once or twice, and that was for a piece of bacon. At this point, in June, I’ve even nearly phased out all dairy products, too. I still eat the occasional pizza with cheese on it but I no longer eat cereal with cow’s milk. I’ve switched to rice milk (an amazing substitute!) and when I go to Starbuck’s, I’ve switched to soy milk. I try to avoid cow’s milk products as much as I can but milk chocolate can still be a tough addiction to break.
Looking back at all the time that’s passed since I started increasing my intake of vegetables and fruits and started phasing out meat, it doesn’t feel like I sacrificed anything or had to struggle through a long transition period. It just came naturally. I can’t stress enough how one shouldn’t view this as a diet – a thing they have to do by sacrificing a food they love to eat - If you do that, you’re bound to fail and you’ll just go back to eating meat and dairy products forever. If you slip, you slip, it happens. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Just do your best, if you’re just starting out and stick with it. True, it didn’t hurt that my wife was making amazing meals but once my awareness of what eating meat truly entailed, my resolve to change just grew exponentially.
As I delved further into the world of veganism, the more I learned about how meat eating affects the environment, the economy, our health, and, obviously, the animals. I don’t expect people who are meat eaters and yet may be tempted by the idea of going vegetarian to do so initially out of compassion for animals, but it’s hard not to. It just ends up being a by-product of veganism, especially if you read about or hear stories describing the cruelty involved in the meat industry and what actually happens to the animals involved. My new and growing awareness of what goes on in the meat industry just helps to fortify my decision to stay vegetarian.
I think that’s what meat eaters out there should realize if they are deciding to become vegetarians or vegans – you don’t have to do it just for the animals. If you’re not an animal person, if that aspect of it doesn’t connect with you, then be content in doing it for yourself and your own health. Don’t let people place a stigma on the idea of veganism or vegetarianism by grouping all of us as "hippies" or some other ridiculous stereotype. Vegetarianism is a totally easy and viable choice to make. You don’t "need" meat in your diet to live a healthy lifestyle. In fact, you’re better off without it. You can get all you need from being a vegetarian or vegan as long as you’re going about your diet in the right way. Just like you would if you were a meat eater.
The world of veganism/vegetarianism is big enough to welcome people for any reason they see fit, whether it’s animal compassion, personal health, or the environment. Just know that your decision does impact more than just you, and as a vegetarian you’ll be doing so much to improve not only yourself but the world at large. Good eating, everyone! Hope to be back soon.