I grew up eating similar to the average American. My childhood breakfast included cereal, or yogurt mixed with fruit. I ate turkey sandwiches and cheese sticks for lunch. We would have BBQ chicken, rice, and salad for dinner. But what I always looked forward to, no matter what time of day, was dessert and treats. I loved ice cream, cookie dough, brownies, you name it!
During my elementary school years I was diagnosed with having "Protein intolerance" its the digestive systems inability to process the proteins found in cows milk. I had constipation a lot throughout my childhood. When I entered Junior High School it luckily faded away. I believe that due to my protein intolerance, is the reason I never liked drinking just plain milk. I was fine with it being mixed into foods, but drinking it out of the glass, yuck, no way! But either way I consumed it, it made me uncomfortable and constipated.
(Lactose intolerance does not cause constipation; it causes diarrhea. Constipation after drinking or eating dairy products is the result of milk protein intolerance. The two conditions are commonly confused with one another but are very different in their cause. Lactose intolerance is a digestive disorder that occurs in the small intestine due to a deficiency of proper enzymes, while milk protein intolerance is the digestive system's inability to process the proteins, whey and casein, found in cow’s milk.)
Besides delicious treats, my love and passion for animals was endless. I have loved animals since I came out of my mothers womb. We had multiple house cats growing up that I smothered with love. I would even find a stray cat, bird, mouse, rabbit or even try to take someone elses pet home with me! (sorry to me 2nd grade friend and her gerbil) I was that 'friend' who would rather play with your family pet than the neighbor kids. Instead of knocking on the door asking to see if Lucy could play, I would ask to play with there pets!
As I grew older and moved out of my Mothers house, I experienced a few of the 'Fad Diets'. I tried the Paleo Diet, The Maple Syrup Diet, multiple juice cleanses, and The Mediterranean Diet, none of which lasted longer than 2 months or left me feeling healthy physically or emotionally. But I noticed that since I had left my childhood home and experienced different diets and food, I was slowly realizing how much I disliked the taste of meat. Even as a child I rarely ate hot dogs or hamburgers, I would always choose chicken or salmon.
When I ate my meals, I knew where my burger came from or what animal produced eggs. I even remember feeling sad that the animal died and I was eating it, but then the thought process stopped there. I ignorantly pushed the thoughts back and never thought about what if I didn't eat meat or dairy. It never crossed my mind, because I didn't know that something other than my current lifestyle was possible. This is how I grew up eating, so this must be the way I should continue living, right? My family and friends were all omnivores, there was meat and dairy in about 90% of the food we ate at restaurants and family partys. Traditions play a large part in our eating; like Turkey on Thanksgiving, Ham on Easter, etc. I believe the culture you grow up around has a huge impact on your health and lifestyle. I definilty was not knowledgeable about my options.
A few years ago, I started working for a non profit organization, Best Friends Animal Society. I worked as a Veterinary Technician in their Kitten Nursey taking care of Neo Natal kittens and also at their Spay and Neuter clinic assisting in surgeries for cats, dogs, and rabbits. I absolutely loved the incredible work I did. I was able to walk away each day knowing I made a difference, in either saving animals lives, improving the animal community, or reducing the amount of animals entering shelters. This was obviously a plant based company, since our Sanctuary in southern Utah was helping save more than just cats and dogs. We helped save the lives of pigs, horses, chickens, rabbits, etc. By working for them I met a lot of employees that were Vegetarians and Vegans. I was introduced to a whole new world of eating!
After talking with a few friends and looking at my current lifestyle I realized that this is what I had been wanting and looking for! I loved animals more than many humans and I rarely ate meat. If I did eat meat it was salmon or chicken. So I decided to start off being Pescetarian, meaning the only animal products I ate were fish and dairy items. It went smoothly and I was impressed by how much lighter my body felt. I wasn't trying to lose weight, but I definitely noticed I didn't have that heavy feeling after eating a meal. I was Pescetarin for 1 year.
During that year I asked myself why am I not Vegetarian? Why do I need to eat fish or shrimp? At the beginning I thought I needed the protein, but then I realized that all the vegetables and nuts I am eating are doing an excellent job for my body. I have been against hunting my entire life. It would make my heart hurt when family members would go fishing or out duck and elk hunting. I never understood even as a child how someone could think killing an innocent animal was a fun sport? I never participated in fishing while we were camping because I didn't need to kill an animal to eat, and I didn't find joy in reeling it in with a sharp hook. Once again another lightbulb went off in my head... a Vegetarian lifestyle was an even better choice for me!
After being solely Vegetarian for 1.5 years, my body felt so much "lighter." I lost about 9lbs with out even trying, by cutting out just meat and fish. I was amazed at how easy it was. I could eat literally anywhere and there was an option for my lifestyle. I was so happy to know that I wasn't eating any of my furry friends. I kept asking myself why did I wait this long?
I became pregnant while I was a vegetarian, and my mother was so concerned for my baby. She demanded I ask my OBGYN if it would be okay for the baby. When I informed my Dr. I was a vegetarian, he was totally fine with it. He even said, "Your baby will be completely healthy due to your diet. Infact he and you are probably more healthy than the rest of us." I wasn't concerned, or even about to change my diet, I was just asking on behalf of my mothers sake. My Dr. never asked or mentioned it again, because there was no concern for it.
Ironically throughout the past 3 years I had slowly stopped eating yogurt. My body just felt funky afterwards. But I was still loving all the cheese and ice cream! I had conversations with Vegans about there lifestyle, but I always said, "I don't drink milk at all, so thats not difficult, and Eggs would be easy for me to give up, I don't really eat them that often. But ugh, I could never give up cheese! I love cheese in and on everything!"
I always walked away from these types of conversations with a guiltly conscience. Why was I making excuses? I already knew how fattening and harmful cheese was to my body. Once again I brushed it off all to quickly .
I had just put my baby boy Graham down for a nap, and decided to put off cleaning the house and watch Netflix instead. I came across a documentary called "VEGUCATED" and decided to watch it because the description intrigued me, "a 2011 American documentary film that explores the challenges of converting to a vegan diet. It "follows three meat- and cheese-loving New Yorkers who agree to adopt a vegan diet for six weeks."
I thought hmmm, well I have been contemplating going Vegan but am hesitant, so I wonder how honest this documentary will be?
After sitting on my couch for a little over an hour watching this documentary, I felt the need to change. I sat there and cried for the animals, the way I had contributed, and the need to understand why humans insist on living this way. I again felt guilty for eating milk products, and consuming eggs. My whole life I never wanted to cause pain to animals, and here I was, adding to the problem. I was a hypocrite! I knew where dairy came from, cows. I knew we milked cows and used it for our purpose. But never imagined the pain and sorrow these animals endured, for me to enjoy ice cream and cheese. My tastebuds were not worth another beings pain and torture. Ecspecaily since I do not need these products to survive in life. I was just to ignorant to put all the pieces together until now. I try very hard not to watch videos about animal cruelty because it hurts my heart. The videos of animal cruelty, whether about cows or dogs never end. New ones are always popping up on social media. The only way to end them is to stop our use on animal products.
I decided I needed to learn more information about the impact of the animal food industry in the environment, and also about animal cruelty. I am a person who loves animals and nature. The articles I was reading made me think about taking responsibility for my impact.
The next night, my husband Sean (who is an omnivore) and I went out on a date to a local Pizza Pub. I told him about the documentary I watched and how I found a local Vegan Facebook support group. I informed him about how I was going to transition to Veganism. He was very supportive with my decison, but had a few questions about how our lifestyle at home would be...
Sean has always been a very easy going guy, one of the many reasons I married him. When I became Vegetarian, he was fine with it. He never complained or begged for meat at any of our meals. He ate whatever I made for dinner and ate what I bought at the grocery store. When we went out to restaurants that was the time for him to order meat products, like burgers or wings.
My husband is not vegetarian and he asked me this question on our date...
"Where do you draw the line on your impact on the environment? If the goal of veganism is to not impact animal life... How can you be alive without impacting animals lives negatively? For example the homes/property we live in/on could have been an animals habitat and the roads we drive on impact their life. So how can you say you're full vegan without living off the grid and not impacting society. "
Unfortunately at the time, I did not have an educated answer for him. My response to him was, "I believe that if you do the best you, as a human, possibly can that alone will make a difference. One person is not going to be able to completely change the world, but each human can make an impact on their own health and help the environment. We can make conscious efforts to choose to not use animal products."
Later that week, Sean and I watched two documentaries, "What the Health" and "Forks over Knives." We both walked away with even more questions about Veganism and an idea of what we wanted for our family lifestyle. I researched online, talked to a few other vegans, and read various articles regarding a plant based diet, environmental concerns, and animal cruelty.
A week after our date and watching these documentaries, Sean approached me and and said he would like to transition to a Vegan lifestyle with me. I was overwhelmed that I just looked at him and cried. I cried because I was so happy that he wanted to do this. During our relationship I have never asked him to be vegetarian or become vegan. I asked him why he decided to make this decision and he said...
"For me the decision to adopt a vegan diet came down to supporting you my wife and to the health benefits for my body. I knew that in order for you to be able to transition to a vegan diet would require my support, as it would be too much work to try and prepare a meal for you and then a separate meal for myself. Husbandry duties aside, the health benefits to switching to a vegan diet were a big factor in my decision to switch. The way that the human body has to digest dairy and meat products and the reactions that take place are similar to the way the body responds to a harmful disease. The body becomes inflamed and activates an increase in white blood cells, preparing to fight of a virus or infection. That amount of stress on your immune system and other bodily functions, I just could not see being healthy. It just made sense to switch to a plant based diet after learning about the way my body digested meats and dairy products."
We both agreed we wanted our son to be Vegan as well. I was overwhelmed with happiness for the future and thankful to be with such a supportive husband. The next week we raided our fridge and pantry. We threw everything out that had animals products in it. Since I currently did not eat meat, we only had to throw out dairy products. We then hit up our local grocery store and bought alternatives to replace the things we had thrown away. I was obsessed with the Ben and Jerry's non dairy ice cream and the Jackfruit bbq packets! I was even able to find a vegan cookie dough at near by vegan bakery, that I am obsessed with! Sean loved the jalapeño cheese and almond milk to replace his coffee creamer. Its amazing how many alternatives there are. It makes being Vegan incredibly easy.
Its been 2 months and we are still going strong! The changes I have felt in my body and mind are outstanding. I have a lot more energy, I never feel bloated, weighted down or uncomfortably full. I feet statisfied and content after each meal. My perforce at the gym has increased. My depression and anxiety have decreased. I have not felt this good my entire 28 years of life.
We have had various friends and family members laugh and make fun of our decision or tell us that we are "weird". Some are very concerned for our babys health, and others think this is just a phase. Sean and I are learning everyday, we will make mistakes as we go along, but we are happy to be on this new journey together.
What do I say when people ask me why I am Vegan? I am proud of taking responsibility as a member of our society and not contributing to the harm of our planet or the killing of animals. Animals are creatures that bring so many people happiness every single day. They are loving, compassionate and a friend to all. Animals make humans more compassionate, positive individuals who are happier in general. Animals help in allowing people to be more loving because of the compassion animals give to them. I also believe that this is the best diet for my health and living a happier life. I will also tell them I think it helps when a couple has the same goal and are able to make it fun by exploring new recipes, sourcing new ingredients and share in food preparation.
Many people have responded by saying that they feel sorry for vegans, thinking that we are sacrificing a delicious meal or that we are eating very little and our diet is in poor health. That is far from true. After being vegan for 2 months, I have felt and seen the changes. I workout about 10 hours a week doing interval training, and I found that a vegan diet gave me more energy and I recover quicker. I noticed the difference by just removing dairy, since I already do not consume meat.
My tip to anyone wanting to become Vegan is to give yourself permission to have an occasional non-vegan meal. It helps a lot when you're first starting out. There are many recipes out there, good and bad. Having an occasional fallback in your plan makes it seem like it's not a failure on your part. It gives you breathing room to experiment with substitutions and lets your body get over cravings so they don't push you back and make you give up. I believe it is possible to make a difference! If we each take it one step at a time. By giving this lifestyle a chance I truly believe you will be a happier person and live a longer healthier life.