Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Guest Post: Amy Bilhorn Thomas

Introducing my first guest blogger, Amy Bilhorn Thomas.  I met Amy through facebook, and after we exchanged a couple of e-mails, I learned a little about her story and asked if she would ever be interested in writing a guest post, and lucky for me she was happy to contribute....
It wasn’t my idea to become vegan. Two years ago, my husband, Paul, came to me with a copy of Dr. Neal Barnard’s Breaking the Food Seduction in hand and said, “I want to try this.” I had no idea what “this” was, but I had a feeling I wasn’t going to like it.
Paul had been struggling for years with his weight and with chronic pain. We’d tried several diet and exercise changes, but nothing seemed to stick. Going vegan was the most extreme step we’d considered, and I’ll be honest: I didn’t think it would last. Even the idea of a few trial weeks felt daunting to me. How on earth would I live without chicken? But Paul was passionate and convincing, so I agreed to at least read the book.
Read any of Dr. Barnard’s books and it’s hard to argue with the science. Not that my brain didn’t try, but in the end I reluctantly agreed. I wanted to be supportive, so to make up for my skepticism, I threw myself into cooking. I made my own bread and seitan and cashew cheese. I soaked beans and simmered vegetable stocks and blended five flavors of hummus. It certainly was delicious, but it was also exhausting. Note to self and anyone else: It doesn’t have to be this hard.

Somewhere in the middle of my cooking frenzy, Paul and I began to notice something amazing was happening. It was winter and even though we weren’t exercising much, we were losing weight. Paul’s heartburn was gone and he hurt less. We felt better, lighter, less angry even. It was good and we knew it and we thought we were hooked. And we were, until June, when everything fell apart.

In June, the grills came out. Every night, the smell of steak and chicken, pork chops and short ribs, floated around us. They were the smells of childhood barbecues and family traditions. We didn’t want it to smell good, but it did, and we began to bargain: Just a little meat, we said. Humanely raised and slaughtered, we said. No junk and no dairy, we said. That lasted about a week. By the Fourth of July, we were complete omnivores again.

I was torn. I knew we felt better on a vegan diet – and not just physically. But I could use all my old recipes, and we didn’t have to explain ourselves to family and friends anymore, and there was so much less chopping. My conscience nagged, but we kept eating meat and dairy until, two months later, all the weight we’d lost was regained, and we were cranky, achy, and tired most of the time. This omnivore thing wasn’t working and we knew it. By September of ‘09, we were back on a vegan diet and we swore this time it was for good.

Since then, we’ve had a couple of setbacks, each one shorter than the last. Unlike that first summer though, we have resisted announcing to our family or friends that we’ve finished with that ‘vegan thing’ when we find ourselves inexplicably eating a piece of cheesecake. I honestly hope there are no more deviations on the horizon, but I know better than to make those kinds of promises. What I do know is this: I want to be a person who does not hurt, kill, or exploit another living being to put a meal on my plate or a pair of shoes on my feet. That’s what gives me the courage to keep going, even when I falter, and to speak up and share my experiences when people ask what on earth I am eating.

Maybe there is someone in your life who has expressed some curiosity about a vegan diet. Maybe they have a health issue, or maybe they just want to be healthier in general. Maybe that person is you. Take the leap and give it a try. It won’t be perfect, trust me on that. But it just might change your life. It certainly changed mine.
Amy, I am very grateful that you shared your story, and know that there are readers that will relate to one or more aspects of your journey.  Thank you for allowing me to launch this guest post feature with you!

If any of you would like to contribute a guest post, e-mail me.  There are no requirements in terms of writing background, only a desire to tell your story (or that of a loved one) with honesty.  The story could be one of inspiring health improvements, or more everyday kind of challenges and rewards.  I will probably add a guest post once every two months, so if you are thinking about it, feel free to e-mail and we can discuss the idea.
I believe there is a storm of change out there, and I want to be on the forefront of that.  People are now realizing that how we live affects our children, and our children are now dealing with type 2 diabetes and obesity.  We can no longer just close our eyes and wish that it'll go away.  We all have to do something about it. (Bob Harper, VegNews, Dec 2010)


Julia said...

Nice story! My health has improved so much since becoming Vegan! It's so rewarding.

DianeLynn said...

Great guest post. I am a yo-yo vegan. I did real good till the smells of BBQ anything hits me. I live with another family who are meat eaters. For me it is not the meat that truly entices me BUT the smell of bbq sauce & other seasonings used on meats. Funny how most people will not eat meat/chicken without some kind of seasonings or sauce on it. Anyway I keep trying to be a "faithful" vegan...and take it one day at a time!

La'Shon Cannon-Robinson said...

Great story! When I smell the smell of BBQ I too get a little weak but never fear I have a remedy--Vegan Q. Me and my husband are both vegan and I do a Vegan Q at least once a month during the summer. I make vegan dogs and burgers and spaghetti and baked beans. It is delicious. Anything a meat eater can do, I can but better!

Emily said...

Thanks for sharing the story. I have recently joined the vegan mindset and love to hear about other's journeys.

Amy Bilhorn Thomas said...

Many thanks for the outpouring of feedback and support, both here and through facebook. It was an honor to write for Eat, Drink & Be Vegan and to share part of my journey with you. We all have so many stories to tell - kudos to Dreena for creating a Guest Post feature where those stories can reach a larger audience. I cannot wait to read the next one. And to La'Shon: I want to come to your Vegan Q!

Unknown said...

I cannot imagine how difficult it must be for all of your readers to change to vegetarian/vegan. My hats off to all of you who are trying. My family follows Jainism, and I have been vegetarian since birth. I love baking and have a sweet tooth and this is not a good combination. I have to find ways to baking without eggs and I know how difficult it is. No lemon curds for me. Lovely post.

Carin said...

I so understand what Amy means about the slip ups. My decision to be vegan was in June 2010. It has been hard at times. And yes I've slipped, but I've forgiven myself and got back on track.
What I've noticed is if I didn't conciously get at least 8-10 servings of veggies and fruit along with my multivitamin, would actually crave meat at times. Although well past child-bearing years, I've still have problems with anemia. I'm now getting at least 4 servings of dark green veggies which has helped with my cravings.
My omni husband won't give up meat, but he is eating more veggies and fruit.
So when cooking I try to keep it simple, lots of salads, steamed veggies, his meat, my seitan.
No point in stressing myself.
The pain has slowly receded in my muscles.
Digestive problems have reduced and I'm not needing the heartburn medication any longer.
I'm looking forward to my continuing evolation as a vegan.
Thanks Amy for your posting.

Anonymous said...

Great post! I am encouraged to read from someone else who has had a few failings. I myself have gone between vegetarian and vegan more times than I'd care to admit. Cheese was always my biggest culprit (and I fully agree with Dr. Barnard about the addictive nature of it!) and I was also taken at times by that clever "humane, organic, free range" marketing. Good for you for continuing to try eating vegan and keeping on. I hope you and your husband's health continues to improve!

Anonymous said...

Great post. I love the real life stories of transformation that people go through on their vegan path. I'm considering it myself as I can feel a nagging, a pulling, a calling towards this diet/lifestyle. Thank you for this post. I'm following you for sure!

Anonymous said...

I loved coming across your post! Finally, someone who has also fell off the wagon but got back on! Two years ago, I also went vegan because of healthissue. Loss of weight, acid reflux a thing of the past and as my husband told me, less snoring. The BAM!, my father became ill sudenly, then passed, my family held a huge revolt and announced they were not interested in becoming vegan, that was my choice not theirs! So...no more vegan meals for everyone, just cooking for myslef while making seperate meals for them! did I mention that I work full time outside of my home! Well, needless to say, I fell off also. I heavier than I have ever been in my life, I now have sleep apnea, and I could go on. But, Praise the Lord! 2011 has arrived and I have deemed it to be MY year for changes that will last. I have pulled out my Vegan cookbooks, magazines, and BBQ??? They can have it! Even the picture above my kitchen sink of my husband lifting up a rack of ribs from the BBQ pit with one of my sisters-in-law salivating while holding a platter for them to be placed on! I congratulate everyone who has made the concious choice to become vegan and your tenacity to stay with it! blessingsuntoyou@yahoo.com