To celebrate my one year of veganism (which is actually closer to thirteen months now, since I started March 1, 2012) I decided to write a post about Me+Veganism and a little bit more about my story. I’ve come a long way, learned a lot and made some really amazing friends along the way and am thrilled that I get to share all of this with you. :)
(Click image for vegan pad thai recipe!)
Ladies and gentlemen: I am an semi-athletic, calorie counting, photographing, blogging, plant eating atheist and more importantly for this post is the recognition that I have never met another person that fits all of these qualities like I do. So what does that mean? It means not all vegans are the anorxeic-thin, overly pushy and downright crazy people you may have been led to believe.
But why, you ask, am I sharing this. Well, I’ve learned a lot about myself in the year since I’ve gone vegan, and I’ve learned a lot about the people that are in this community. I have also come across a lot of prejudices, hateful interactions and otherwise distasteful events surrounding this life style change. These aren’t just with people that aren’t vegan. To be honest, I’ve struggled more with some of the people within the community that I have outside of it.
It’s human to be a little put off by things that are different than what you’ve grown accustomed to and it’s against some of the most base level natural responses we have to make huge, life altering changes. It stems from this place of ignorance, and in many cases this is a willing ignorance.
Let me take a few steps back and take this step by step.
Veganism as a…
Step 1. Diet tool
I started my vegetarian (and ultimately vegan) journey as a diet tool. As I have mentioned before, I lost a whopping 110 pounds a few years back. I work hard to keep that weight off. I have a Mesomorphic body type.
It is a great advantage to have mesomorphic qualities, as one has great foundations on which to build. Mesomorphs don’t have to worry too much about what they eat and they can gain muscle mass and lose weight fairly quickly with relatively ease. This combination allows the mesomorph to achieve fantastic definitely of the body.
However, as easily as you lose fat, you gain fat also.
I have hated this about my body since the day I realized that “skinny” is in. I spent years fighting against my body, trying to force it to do what I wanted. I ate a lot, but I worked out a lot and for the most part we found a harmony. Until I stopped the exercise. College, work, boys- life took over and going to the gym or running five miles went out the window. I gained massive amounts of weight. To the point where my friends and family no longer recognized me. I was horrified.
So fatty meat, full fat cheese, fatty bar foods, lots of oil, milk, etc. went right out the window. Right next to breads, pasta, rice, potatoes, etc. I cut back to a mostly low fat cheese, lean meats and green vegetable diet (the South Beach to be exact). I lost weight. All of it. In less than a year I shed the 110 pounds. Like it was nothing. My body type speaks for itself. To maintain I realized I could eat lots of vegetables without counting calories as rigidly. I am not super skinny, as so many people believe about all vegans, but I’m finally healthy.
That is how I made it to vegetarianism. I was still uneducated, ignorant for lack of a better word, about the bigger picture that was about to come into view. That said, there are vegetarians and vegans that hold it against me. As if I am subpar. That choosing veganism for anything other than fighting against animal cruelty isn’t as good of a reason. Or that saving the Earth is “the real reason to choose veganism”. I was being beaten down by the community from step one! Don’t even bring up the ridicule from friends and family. It’s disheartening and reminds me of how I felt when I tried to learn to program. Either way, I made it through that stage and do my best not to put other new vegetarians or vegans in the same tough spot.
Step 2. Means to fight animal cruelty
The anti-meat road is one that you travel down pretty quickly, I’ve found. There is a lot of information out there about animal rights, the meat/dairy industries and how the technological revolution has changed the ways we consume our food. We now have the ability to easily over consume absolutely anything we set our eyes on. I have found hundreds of websites, no shortage of documentaries and organizations that are dedicated to the welfare of animals. A few of my “favorites” (and I use the term loosely in that these are not something to watch for pleasure or any sort of feel good idea) are:
3. Food, Inc.
4. Meet Your Meat
5. A Cow at my Table
There are so many more than these five, but it’s a good start. I cried from the moment Earthlings started until far after it had ended. I changed after that film ended. Something inside me changed radically. I had taken step two in my vegan journey. Something that had once meant I could be relatively healthy now took on a bigger meaning. When people asked, “Why are you vegan?” I could tell them, “Well, for my health…but more than that do you have any idea how those animals are treated?”
It started new conversations with my friends and family. Opened me up to a whole new part of the vegan community and, mostly importantly, taught me about myself. How callous and ignorant I had been! I found a new level of compassion and it has since filtered into the rest of my life. I treat people differently knowing how important each individual is, but also how important each species is. It’s revolutionary. Facing the system I’ve been contributing to for so many years. I am glad to have broken out of it and love sharing my knowledge and research with my friends and family, but I don’t feel like I’m a better vegan now. I’m still vegan, my conviction just comes for a deeper place now. I don’t think people that choose to eat plant based diet only because they want to be healthy are better or worse than me. Same end game, different path.
Ultimately it’s also brought me to a new step in my journey.
Step 3. Way to save the planet
My third and current step. Again, there are a lot of great documentaries and organizations working to educated the people of the world (many of the documentaries above go into some of this), but this video right here is one of the best I’ve seen. It’s cute, well put together and informative. I find it’s easy to send to people so they can take a few minutes to learn a little bit. The statistics are mind boggling.
Of all the agricultural land in the U.S., 80 percent is used to raise animals for food and grow grain to feed them—that’s almost half the total land mass of the lower 48 states. In the “finishing” phase alone, in which pigs grow from 100 pounds to 240 pounds, each hog consumes more than 500 pounds of grain, corn, and soybeans; this means that across the U.S., pigs eat tens of millions of tons of feed every year.
Chickens, pigs, cattle, and other animals raised for food are the primary consumers of water in the U.S.: a single pig consumes 21 gallons of drinking water per day, while a cow on a dairy farm drinks as much as 50 gallons daily. It takes more than 2,400 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of cow flesh, whereas it takes about 180 gallons of water to make 1 pound of whole wheat flour.
From that alone we can see that a meat eating diet is killing the planet and that a vegetarian (and even more so, vegan) diet is the only sustainable way for such a huge population (over 7.1 billion these days!).
I am still working on getting a lot of this research on this. I am currently working my way through this step. There is a lot of research to do. There is so much information to read, review and process. I know that the more I learn the more passionately I defend my new lifestyle and I am working toward taking on as much as I can. I feel good about what I have chose and know with complete certainty this is a choice for life. No one can talk me out of it, ridicule me enough to make me change my mind or disprove the beliefs I have now. Perhaps that sounds bull headed or silly, but I know what I know and my health, the animals involved and the planet I call home.
None of us are perfect. None of make all the right choices. None of us are better than any other. We are all in this together. Vegan, vegetarian and omnivores. Christians, atheists, Buddhists, etc. Runners, bikers, swimmers, etc. Caucasian, Hispanic, Asian, etc. There is no difference that is significant enough to make you better or worse, guys. We’re all just people. Making choices every day. As long as you strive to choose to make better choices than you did yesterday then you’re on the right path, regardless of how far down it you’ve come or how far anyone around you has made it.
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