I've been VEGAN for 1 year!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

(I'm sorry this is so long, I just couldn't decide what to include and not include).

Mostly the people that know I'm vegan are my close friends and family.  If you don't know what vegan means, it's someone who doesn't eat meat/animals (vegetarian) as well as dairy and eggs (anything that animals produce). 

It all started on June 5th of last year.  My friend Jen, her mom, and I went to see a documentary called Forks Over Knives.  Jen had been vegan for a couple months already and had really piqued my interest and she couldn't wait for this documentary to come out so we could see it together (she actually saw it twice in one weekend).  The documentary is about preventing and reversing heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and easing the symptoms of a whole spectrum of diseases (from arthritis to fibromyalgia to MS) and just feeling better in general and living a long, healthy life.  The documentary was great but I wasn't ready to go vegan (or in the documentary they call it a plant-based diet).  

At the time I didn't have any medical conditions, my blood pressure and cholesterol were normal, I wasn't at risk for diabetes, it was just my weight that bothered me.  Did it make sense for me to make this drastic change to my life?  Well, that night and the next day I couldnt' stop thinking about what I had learned.  The individuals featured in the documentary changed their diet only when they had a health scare (heart attack, diabetes, cancer).  I decided that if there is a way to avoid ever going through that, to live until I'm 100 without heart disease, obesity, arthritis, cancer, and feeling great until the day I die, it would totally be worth it.   

So, I decided to take the 28 day vegan challenge starting June 7, 2011 (two days after seeing the documentary).  During those first 28 days, the only people that knew I was doing it was Scott and my friend Jen.  I didn't want to tell anyone in case I failed or changed my mind.  During those 28 days I read a lot of books and watched a lot of documentaries, I wanted to make sure this wasn't just some fad diet and I wanted to do it for the right reasons.  I learned a lot about nutrition and the way food is produced in our country.  You can't go wrong eating real, whole food.

After about a week on my new vegan (plant based) diet I felt so much better.  I wasn't bloated after meals, no more indigestion, big meals didn't make me lethargic (quite the opposite).  After about two weeks, I started trying vegetables that I didn't like before and they just tasted different, better.  I didn't realize how bad I was feeling until I felt good.  

I have to say that Scott was a bit skeptical but very supportive.  As long as I kept cooking meat for him he didn't have a problem.  After the 28 days was up, I knew there was no going back to the way I used to eat.  I felt so much better and it was so much easier than I could have ever imagined.  I had detoxed from processed foods, didn't crave anything, had more energy, I was rarely hungry, and I was eating and trying a wider variety of foods than I ever was when I was eating meat and dairy.  The best part was that I was losing weight without counting calories and eating as much as I wanted.  

After the first 28 days I started to tell close friends and family about my new lifestyle since I knew it was going to stick.  They were all very supportive and asked great questions.  I knew that the word "vegan" sometimes has a negative connotation and is associated with PETA and crazy animal activists.  When I told people I was vegan I made sure that they knew I was doing it for health reasons and I wasn't going to be a crazy PETA person.  I was just the same old me.    

It's impossible to read/watch information about a vegan diet/lifestyle without coming across how a vegan diet means that you are no longer killing animals.  Since I didn't eat meat anymore, I was finally open to learning about how animals are raised and how they get to your plate.  It's something people don't want to think about and they don't want to think about it for a reason.  You don't know what you don't know.  I have to tell you, whatever you are thinking in your head happens, multiply it by 10.  I read the book Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran-Foer and there was no way meat would touch my lips for the rest of my life.  Not only are the animals mistreated, but the conditions are horrible and there's so much bacteria and fecal matter that get into the meat.  I had no idea what factory farming was and how it's negatively effecting the environment.  It was mind blowing.  

So, now when people ask me why I'm vegan, I give them these three main reasons: for my health, for the animals, and for the environment.       

After a few months I stopped cooking/buying meat at home (with the exception of a Christmas ham, since we hosted Christmas and I made Scott cook and slice it).  Surprisingly Scott has really enjoyed trying new things (he likes tofu) and hasn't missed the meat at home.  I don't give him a hard time when we go out to dinner and he orders a steak, after all being vegan is my choice, not his).  During my first nine months being vegan, Scott's cholesterol went from 205 down to 149 (under 200 is good, under 150 is optimal and puts you out of risk for heart disease).  He was just eating what I cooked at home for dinner and on weekends).  I discovered that I really like to cook!  

The kids are a different story.  They love hot dogs and chicken nuggets.  I want them to eat vegan, but I also want them to choose it for themselves.  I don't buy hot dogs, but they do eat them when they aren't at home (at a grill out, school, etc).  I always make sure we have a lot of fruit on hand.  They will most likely choose a handful of grapes over a handful of cheetos (given a choice, that is the key).  I try to explain how healthy choices will fuel their bodies and help them play longer, run faster, etc.  I've found many substitutes for foods they love (there are so many meatless options available, they love chick'n patties) and just yesterday we found an alternative to cow's milk that the kids actually like.  I also try to explain how their choices effect the world, but I like to watch them come to their own conclusions.

So, it's been one year!  I've slowly lost 13 pounds (Scott has lost 30 and I think his diet played a small part in that).  I rarely take naps, I have more energy, my face has really cleared up, I'm a lot more confident, my moods are a lot less up and down, I'm more compassionate, and my clothes fit a lot better.  I've survived being vegan on cruise ship, on vacation, in a steakhouse!  I've been really surprised by the support I've received and the interest people have taken and the great questions people ask me.  

If you are still reading this, THANK YOU, it really means a lot.

PS.  I own the DVD Forks Over Knives if anyone wants to borrow it.  

PSS.  A lot of people say to me, I really wish I could be vegetarian/vegan but I just don't think I can do it.  Here's the good new, being a vegan/vegetarian is not an all or nothing thing.  You can be a vegetarian that eats shrimp occasionally.  You can be a vegan that eats eggs.  Every choice you make helps your health, the animals and the planet.  

PSSS.  If you are thinking about becoming a vegetarian, watch this four minute video to solidify your decision.  Warning, it is very graphic but unfortunately it's true.   http://10billionlives.com/


Jenny Gropp June 7, 2012 at 12:12 PM  

Dana, this was well written and I enjoyed reading your process. I cut out all red meat for eight years, but I succumbed to the hubby and his grilled steaks and starting eating it again. He is a chef and loves all food, so it makes it difficult. I dont enjoy cooking at all so leaving the cooking to him makes it more difficult to say no to certain items. Even cutting out the red meat was a huge change in how I felt daily. Reading this reminded me of thinner and healthier days and a desire to feel that way again. Thanks for making me think and consider food in a healthier way.

Jenny Gropp June 7, 2012 at 12:14 PM  

And congrats on a year of making healthier choices for yourself and I know seeing the positive results for yourself and your family has to be rewarding. Way to go!

Steph Zerbe June 8, 2012 at 8:06 AM  

Dana, Congrats! Good for you and thanks for sharing. This was a very interesting read and I am motivated to make better choices. I planted a small veggie garden a few weeks back and I am so excited about that! I would love a few veggiefied recipes. Please post some favs!!

Congrats again to you and your family!

Nicki June 8, 2012 at 12:26 PM  

Wow a year already - boy that went fast. It seems like yesterday we were out in downtown Cincy when you shared about your transition. Congrats, and like they say, the journey truly is the reward. It sounds like you have gained so much knowledge and life changing benefits, which is awesome, and encouraging.

I'm with Steph, bring on the yummy recipes!

Gina (Brun) Campbell June 8, 2012 at 10:50 PM  

I am so proud of you! Thanks for sharing your journey. After my husband was diagnosed with high cholesterol last year we have made a complete change in our diet. We eat a lot more fresh produce now and use only egg substitute and skim milk. We eat a lot of turkey and fish. Our favorite find has been QUORN. It is a fungus crumble that we use in tacos and BBQ. The kids can't even tell the difference! The good news is that a year after his diagnosis he is 30 or more pounds lighter and doesn't have to go on cholesterol medicine!! After reading your blog I am tempted to try the vegan challenge!

Donna Huisinga June 10, 2012 at 2:31 PM  

The is very inspirational and makes me want to think about it more seriously. I would enjoy more posts about what you DO eat.

Angela @ Cottage Magpie June 11, 2012 at 5:40 PM  

Thank you so much for writing this post! Since my first stint at veganism 20 years ago I have been somewhere on the spectrum between vegan and omnivore, and am currently heading back toward vegan. I feel SO MUCH better and am healthier, and like you, though I started for health reasons, once I found out how meat was actually produced in this country I just couldn't eat it anymore. Thanks for sharing and being willing to share with everyone. It can be such a touchy subject, so I'm glad to see more people discussing it! Good for you! :-)


Anonymous June 12, 2012 at 5:58 PM  

Thank you for the well-written and informative post. I am especially grateful for the link - even though the video turned my stomach. I dared my husband to watch the video, as well. Hopefully, we will now follow in our vegetarian son and daughter-in-law's footsteps. I know vegetarian is not vegan but it's a step in the right direction. Thanks, again!

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