For the last six weeks, I've been experimenting with Veganism. This is something that's been on my mind for quite some time - my spidy senses have been activated to notice, tune in and pay attention when I come across Vegan recipes and other Vegans.
I've been filled with all kinds of doubts and skepticism about my ability to actually do it and fearful [maybe too strong of a word] over what people would think because, I've already given up A LOT of things over the years and have proudly accepted many non-conforming // counter-cultural labels over the years - so I thought, "I can't possibly add 'Vegan' into the mix because I won't be relatable to ANYONE anymore."
I'm still uncomfortable FULLY embracing the label as of now, but I thought I'd share what the initial catalyst was that brought Veganism into my world, the reasons why I'm doing it, where it's been easy, where it's hard, where I'm giving myself grace and what I know about why others do this as well - as of now.
Start at the beginning...and when you come to the end...stop.
In October of 2013 I did this cleanse. I had recently discovered Simple Green Smoothies, had taken their 30-Day Smoothie challenge and then a friend of mine said she had recently finished up their Fresh Start cleanse. She went on and on about how great it made her feel and I was intrigued.
I'd never done a cleanse before, so she shared it with me and I did it - 21 days of essentially eating like a Vegan [except for eggs.] At the time, it was SO hard. We were eating SO much pasta, like, SO MUCH PASTA. And we were drinking beer and wine regularly and ending each night with ice cream.
We weren't monitoring our portions or how much of each kind of food we were eating whatsoever. We ate what we wanted when we wanted and had NO CLUE what people were talking about when they said things like, "Just listen to your body."
So, when I first started the cleanse it was very difficult. There was SO much meal-prep and cooking everything from scratch - another thing we weren't doing. I was cooking for 2 hours a day at least for 21 days. I was also starving the first three days as my body started adjusting.
But, even with how hard it was, I couldn't neglect how amazing I felt! I had cut out all gluten, all sugar, all meat, all caffeine, all dairy, all alcohol, and a few other random things that I can't quite remember. I had never cut those things out of my diet in my entire life.
Suddenly I had SO much energy, my body felt light, my head was clear, my skin was clear and I went from going through a box of tissues a week or quicker to not blowing my nose ONCE in 3 weeks! I felt incredible!
So, for a little over four years, I've known what I needed to do in order to feel that good but have also remembered how difficult it was and it was VERY expensive because the cleanse called for all kinds of ingredients I had never heard of before and was buying in large quantities to only use half a cup for one recipe - so I hadn't done it.
[That's where shopping in bulk and buying only the amount you need comes in handy and makes eating like this WAY cheaper than eating a normal American diet.]
The Next Four Years
I don't quite remember the specifics of everything I've done with my diet over the last four years but I've done a lot! I cut out dairy around 2.5 years ago and when I say I cut out dairy, I mean, I cut out dairy 80-90% of the time.
I don't eat cheese, drink milk or eat anything cheesy and creamy. I still ate ice cream, ranch, and if a baked good used dairy, I still had that too. I noticed that dairy was the main culprit behind my allergies.
There are health studies showing how dairy is an inflammatory and how it can exacerbate allergies, I'm not going to use this post to get into stats and figures, that might come later on, but it's not happening now.
I've been taking Allegra on and off for a few years and have looked into taking stronger things, but I don't like the idea of pumping my system with drugs and chemicals if I can help it. I firmly believe food can heal us and that most of our health issues are a result of not eating properly.
Your body needs a certain amount of nutrients, minerals, vitamins, etc. to thrive and when you aren't giving your body those things, problems happen and then - instead of giving your body those things to stop the horrible effects that have happened - you get prescribed a drug that masks the symptoms and then causes other side effects. You don't have a Lipitor [randomly chosen off the top of my head] deficiency - that doesn't exist - yet you'll get prescribed that to "solve" your problem, but I digress...
Anyway, I was on a mission to solve my health issues as naturally as I could without the aid of Western "medicine" if I could help it.
So - dairy has been gone for the most part since the beginning of this journey. Next I moved on to gluten. Again - not perfect with the 100% thing here either. I went a LONG time without eating any grains at all and then started to reintroduce them about two years ago when I began eating the Woman Code way.
The Woman Code way is all about cycle-synching and lining up your eating habits, exercise, sex, behaviors, etc. with what phase your body is in. A woman's body goes through 4 phases over an average of 28 days with her hormone levels peaking and dipping at various levels throughout that process.
Depending on what phase she is in, she's going to need more of certain nutrients to help balance or aid what her hormones are already naturally doing. I LOVE eating this way! I've been pretty consistent with this for two years and have experienced great results - I feel so much more in tune with my body and now I've become one of those people who says, "Just listen to your body."
I can tell what phase I'm in because my body naturally craves the foods associated with each phase - it's crazy! And it goes beyond food - I can also tell what phase I'm in based on the activities I desire to do. When I suddenly have an overwhelming urge to clean the house, straighten out our budget, meal-prep, bake, etc. I know I'm in Luteal [The Nesting Phase.]
It's truly incredible!
I've also experimented with eating the way they suggest on Dishing Up Nutrition which is eating 1 lb. of meat a day with healthy fats and healthy carbs [veggies mostly.] I lost about 8 lbs. eating that way and felt pretty good, but it was hard to maintain again because I was eating 5 times a day, cycle-synching and cooking everything from scratch. That lasted about 6 months.
After cutting dairy and gluten, for the most part, I still had allergies. I was still experiencing attacks - not as often or as bad - but they hadn't gone away entirely like I had hoped. In the back of my head I kept thinking - "Oh no, is it meat?"
So, in an effort to be as healthy as I can be, I've decided to experiment with cutting meat out as well. I'm also going sober for a year, so that'll be gone as well. The only thing left after that is sugar and I'm just not there right now.
Because I've decided to go sober for the year and add Veganism into the mix at the same time, I've decided to give myself a grace period for however long I deem necessary.
That means, I'm still eating eggs [from my Farmer's Market] and if I want a doughnut, brownie or piece of pie - I'm eating said doughnut, brownie or piece of pie. That being said, if I can get it Vegan, I will - but I'm not going 100% from the start. [Also, Veganism goes beyond just food, but that's probably an entire post on it's own.]
That decision will probably upset other Vegans - but I've taken on a lot this year and I know my limits. I'm not setting myself up for failure here just to try and please others.
Over the last four years, I've REALLY come to understand just how personal food is. So much of our culture, traditions and social activities are looped in with food - which is why I was so nervous to take this step for so long.
Your dietary decisions can have one person SO upset and question if they can like you as a person and another instantly feel like they love and accept you. That's pretty wild when you step back and think about it.
I don't want that to happen to me at either end. I don't want to love or hate a person because of what they eat - but it can happen. There are too many things that divide us, I don't want to play a part in having food be another one of those things. I want to focus on what can bring us together.
My main reason for trying this out is for health - and I don't say that to try and appease non-Vegans into feeling less threatened by my decision [that's a thing, if you say you're doing it for health reasons, people generally back off and accept it but can often get defensive when you say you're doing it for animal cruelty reasons] - I say it because it's just true. I've also felt pretty convicted over the waste that the meat industry produces.
I've been living a Zero-Waste lifestyle for a little over two years now as well and we've gotten our trash down to mostly being meat packaging and tissues. Everything else we can compost or recycle.
So, I thought, if I stop eating meat, then the packaging and the tissues will go away - two birds, one stone. I really REALLY want to get rid of these allergies [I've been tested before and the test came up negative for everything - so it's very unclear as to what's causing these sneezing attacks and needing to blow my nose so much,] and switch to using a handkerchief to reduce my waste even more.
My experience with other Vegans has been both hot and cold. I follow a few Vegans online, one who makes doughnuts, that I still need to try, and two who live in Hawaii. I started following PlantifulSoul [maybe 10 months ago?] and then Ellen Fisher.
Ellen posts A LOT about Veganism and shares how it's possible as a family of 4 with one on the way. She shares about the animal cruelty in this world and she does all of it with such kindness. I can feel her passion without judgement or shame.
I've run into a few Vegan trolls that shame you if you aren't 100% doing it exactly right.
If there's anything I hate - it's putting shame on another person. I don't care what they did or how they did it - SHAME IS THE WORST POSSIBLE STRATEGY FOR BRINGING ABOUT POSITIVE CHANGE! Shame drives people away and drives them further into their dysfunction.
Even if you wholeheartedly disagree with someone, calling them an idiot and shaming their behavior, beliefs or them as a person will do one of two things - they'll either enter into a downward spiral of self-loathing that can lead to a destructive path of depression or they'll head down a violent and stubborn path embracing their ways even more until they become an extremist and WILL NOT BUDGE in their beliefs. [The state of our political environment is proof of this.]
Shame is a HORRIBLE strategy. I believe in grace and compassion. Grace and compassion bring about positive change - shame does not.
Like I said, I've only recently started this process and so I put 'Vegan & Sober Curious' in my Instagram bio as well as use the #Vegan on posts that are Vegan and I've had people scroll through my old posts and criticize the non-Vegan ones. Trolls.
Becoming a Vegan or adapting certain Vegan principles is a very big step for anyone to take. It's extremely counter-cultural and although there are way more options than there used to be, it's still not easy to do.
I don't have time for people not appreciating the positive steps I, or anyone else, have taken because they're too focused on where I haven't made progress yet. I just don't understand that logic and I find it counterproductive.
Veganism is probably the first label I've come across that doesn't really have any flexibility. You either are or you aren't. If you make an exception to any of the rules then you aren't a Vegan.
That isn't the case with other labels I've accepted over the years like Christian, Minimalist or Zero-Waster - those titles are more about the journey and recognizing that you can't be perfect and that it looks different for each of us and that you're going to mess up along the way...so far I haven't found that to be true with Veganism which is what makes it SO intimidating to fully embrace.
That being said, I've made a new Vegan friend during this process as well! We found each other on Instagram and then met up in real life to have Vegan lunch together and shared about why we decided to make these changes and it was great - I can't wait for our next Vegan adventure!
I also met a BUNCH of Vegans at the Farmer's Market one neighborhood over who were all SO nice and understanding. I had so many wonderful conversations with each of them and again - can't wait to go back.
One of them was Brigitte of Craft Cakes - I'm not sure if she's entirely vegan or not but she had vegan apple pies that were SO delicious, my mouth is watering just thinking about them. Seriously, so good, I need to be careful because I could eat them every day!
Reasons Behind Veganism
There are three main reasons people go Vegan...
I've already said my main reason is health, and a very close second is Environmental - but the more I learn about it the more reason #3 comes up the chart. I knew that factory farming was wrong, but I had NO IDEA just how bad it was until I started following Ellen.
What we're doing to animals is DISGUSTING.
Now, I'm not an animal person - and before you get all bent out of shape, I'll explain what I mean by that. I've always had pets and loved my pets and I've always been upset by animals being harmed but I wouldn't consider that being an "animal person" - I'd consider that being one of the bare minimum qualifications of being a decent human.
My heart is for helping people create a life of freedom and for reducing our waste and redefining our relationship to stuff - I'm THAT kind of person. I don't want to volunteer at shelters [yet], I don't love ALL dogs [some scare me], I'm freaked out by certain reptiles [snakes] and I'm going to kill a spider / bug in my house. So, for those reasons, I'm not an animal person.
But I am at least a decent human, if not better, and so when I discovered that animals are being TORTURED for our "benefit" it really upset me.
I think it's unrealistic to expect everyone to stop eating meat, but I don't think it's unrealistic for people to eat LESS meat and to eat meat that comes from local farmers who are farming the way farms should be run.
Factory and farm should never be in the same sentence.
I've learned a lot about how little meat we actually need [if any at all for some], how much of the animal is wasted, how cruel the meat, dairy and egg industries are, how much waste they produce, etc.
Some people will come back with, "But world hunger," to which I would respond, "Better distribution." We have more than enough food on this planet to feed everyone, but we waste SO much of it and haven't come up with solutions to properly distribute it to everyone.
I certainly don't have all of the answers, I actually have very few when it comes to this topic, but I'm interested in it and I'm learning and I'm sharing as I go.
As you can see, there's A LOT that has gone into my decision to start this process and a lot that I still struggle with [doughnuts. and brownies. and pie. and eggs. and fully embracing the label.]
I guess I can't call myself a Vegan technically, so I'll stick with Vegan Curious for now haha.
I've been surprised over how easy it has been to eat this way as far as actual food goes. Most people who go Vegan have at least been Vegetarian first and then let go of Dairy & Eggs but I let go of Dairy first and then meat - which I think is pretty rare - could be wrong about that - but it's what I've seen.
The hard part has been reworking my cycle-synching meal-planning to fit Veganism. Adding in that layer has totally thrown me off these last 6 weeks and I've been off my game with cycle-synching AND meal-prepping. I've just been buying as many veggies as possible and then sautéing them or baking them - keeping it as simple as I can.
I'm looking forward to developing more of a routine like I used to have with food and I'm excited to share the various recipes I've created and found over the last six weeks as well.
I've even been toiling with the idea of creating a Vegan, GF, Cycle-Synching, Zero-Waste, Meal-Prepping cook book one of these days - haha - I've got NO problem coming up with new ideas and projects...
So we'll see. For now, I'm taking it all one day at a time and doing my best. What are your thoughts? Are you Vegan? Thinking about going Vegan or at least incorporating more Vegan foods into your diet?
I'd love to hear some of your favorite Go-To's! Thank you for reading!
Love & Blessings,