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)