For those who don’t know me, or haven’t spoken with me in quite some time, four years ago I joined the weirdos that don’t eat meat. Two years ago I cut out dairy and eggs from my diet (about 80% of the time) and called myself a Mostly Vegan, at least in my diet. These choices were actually some of the easiest for me to make, but seem to be my defining characteristic to many.
“You don’t eat meat?! But what about bacon? I couldn’t survive without bacon.”
“I think I could give up meat, but I could never give up cheese. I love cheese.”
“What do you eat? Rabbit food?”
“That’s why you’re so skinny.”
“You mean you can’t eat BUTTER?”
My unspoken responses: Bacon is part of what’s making you fat and killing you. Cheese is also a major component in your blub (as it was mine). If by rabbit food you mean vegetables, yes. I’m “skinny” (yes, but not that skinny. I could still lose 10lbs or so) because I watch what I eat (however badly) and exercise 3-5 times a week. No, I can’t eat butter, but there is a vegan butter which tastes just as good but I rarely use it anyway.
This happens every time someone finds out I don’t eat animal products, and sometimes many times afterwards. It took my mom years before she could remember I couldn’t eat chicken, and she’s just coming around now on the butter thing. Part of the 80% is because of that. If I told my grandmother she couldn’t cook with butter, I think she may just have a stroke. So I suck it up when I’m with family or out at a restaurant. The struggle is too difficult and I’m not (yet) willing to commit to that level (I’m getting close though. When I first started, I never thought I’d be able to give up cheese, but look at me now).
The biggest question I’m asked, however, is why. Why did I go vegetarian, and then Mostly Vegan?
Four years ago I moved back home from LA. I gave up on a dream and completely changed my career path and so figured since I was already making some monumental life changes on the path to happiness, why not give vegetarianism a go? I’d watched Food, Inc. and saw Jared Leto and Natalie Portman were vegans, decided I didn’t eat that much meat anyway, and went for it. My family thought it was a phase (do they KNOW me? I still love Hanson, for gosh sakes!).
I immediately started feeling better about who I was as a person, as well as health-wise. The first month of passing by Chick Fil A and Bill’s Barbeque, two fast food chains I’d missed on the west coast, was the hardest part, but once I got past it, I didn’t want to go back. The thought of meat started to disgust me, and the one time shrimp was accidentally put in my food at a restaurant, I was sick the next day. Meat wasn’t worth it.
Two years later I started dating my current boyfriend, who is health-conscious, a bodybuilder, and on a very strict diet. Tired of feeling fat, I cut my portions in half and became a Mostly Vegan. Within a month I lost 15 lbs. and felt great. My clothes were all too big and my “I can never be smaller than an 8” mentality was stunned when I started wearing a 4-6. I was the smallest I’d EVER been as an adult.
I understand being vegetarian, much less vegan, isn’t for everyone. People are so used to meat, and it can be hard to transition, especially if you’re constantly around meat. When we lived together, my mom tried numerous times to eat vegetarian but always found herself feeling weak or ill, a problem she cured with a hamburger.
The stigma alone can be hard. Someone told me I’d have more friends if I ate meat and should only eat vegan while at home. Umm, no. My friends have come to terms with my dietary restrictions and know to either prepare something I can eat or let me know to bring my own food (which I’m more than happy to do, because I understand not everyone eats like me).
By far, however, the most difficult part of being a vegetarian/vegan is eating out. Or having work cater. There aren’t a lot of options outside of salads, and if work is getting lunch catered, a bag of chips and an apple it is. Or the hotdog roll and some fruit.
Now, I’m not one of those nasty vegans who tries to push her opinion on everyone surrounding her. My boyfriend is a meat eater. A constant meat eater. So when we cook, we either make separate things, or he just adds meat to his. The only person I’m trying to change is me, but if I can open your eyes up to differently lifestyle choices and diversity, then more power to me.
If you’re curious about my decision or are contemplating making the change, feel free to ask questions. You can either comment below or shoot me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m more than happy to help.
The next step is going 100% vegan, and not just at my house, where I do try to cook vegan. My biggest struggle? Cookies.
Some good films to watch if you’re curious: