It has been a little over a month since I have been completely vegan and made these changes in my life. I called it a 30 day challenge. My goal was to go 30 days eating no animal products. I honestly didn't intend for this to happen, but I was at a time in my life where I needed a change. I was going out all the time, drinking a lot, eating unhealthy, and waking up late. I would go to work, come home, eat dinner, and go to sleep. On the weekends, I would go out late, then I would stay in and sleep all day. I was just feeling unhealthy and starting to become unhappy with my physical and emotional self and I needed a change in my lifestyle.
In the past, when this type of thing has happened, I run full force into it and then I give it up somewhere between 6 months to a year. I knew that this time I did not want that to happen, so I needed to make these changes slowly. My first healthy move was to give myself three vegetarian days a week, cut down on fried foods, white flour, and enriched and processed foods. This way I could pace my meals out, and make sure that I was getting more vegetables and eating whole grains. This started the end of May and during this time I realized that even on my non-vegetarian days, I wasn't even going for meat. I felt so much better when I didn't eat meat, but I was still eating fish on m non vegetarian days. I went out and bought this book called, "You Don't Need Meat," which taught me a lot about the meat industry and how meat and animal products effect our bodies. I learned the dangers of what I was ingesting and I knew that I didn't want that in my body.
So, about 3 weeks into my 3day veggie diet, I decided to cut out meat all together, but I was still eating fish. As time went on I realized that all I was doing was using fish as a substitute for meat, and that defeated the purpose of this health kick that I was on. I started doing more research on the internet and picked up some other books. I learned about how corrupt the animal agriculture industry is, how many times they have been sued for lying about what is really going into their products (not to mention the cruel animal practices). I also found out that the animal agriculture industry is responsible for more greenhouse gasses than all of the trains, cars, trucks and planes combined. Not only that, but if we took all of the grain that we feed to the animals that are eventually killed for their meat, we could be on our way to ending world hunger.
All of this information really effected me, and I wanted to make sure that my meals were not meat centered, and that is when I decided that I wanted to cut out all animal products for 30 days. Cutting out meat, fish, and animal products completely would be a way to train my mind to create meals that aren't focused on meat, but are focused around grains, vegetables, legumes, and fruit. I committed to only 30 days because I wasn't sure how my body was going to respond to this change. I wasn't sure what kind of cravings I would have, and I never expected myself to give up shrimp or sushi! One day I even ordered vegetable sushi to go and had this feeling that I was going to be totally unfulfilled, but to my surprise it was just as delicious as fish sushi and I was totally content afterwords.
These 30 days have been a life changing experience, and I have never felt better. I started carrying around a paper pad with me to write down ingredients that I wasn't familiar with, so that I could look them up later. I wanted to know exactly what I was ingesting, and I have learned so much. For example, do you know what Mono and Di glycerides are? Well, I didn't either until I went to Panera and asked to see their nutritional list. Yes, most of their bagels and breads are vegan, but one of the ingredients listed is Mono and Di Glycerides. When I looked this up I realized it came from partially hydrogenated oils, which is trans-fat. But, they are not considered a fat by FDA standards, so legally they don't have to list it as trans-fat even though that is where it is extracted from, and it works the same way. I also realized that I see Mono and Di Glycerides in most processed foods and breads, and it's being used in place of trans-fat. This way, companies can still make the same products and list it as healthier. There were other things that upset about how Panera makes their food, but I won't go into all of that. It's interesting to learn about all of these ingredients, what they do, and where they come from. You are what you eat!
I really had to train my mind to adapt to these changes. For example, when everyone at work might be eating cake I have to tell myself that I can't have it even though it looks so good. I know that if I eat it, I will just feel bad. People ask me if I miss certain things like that, and I just tell them that I can have cake, I can have ice cream, I can have Jell-O, and anything that I had before, just not with animal products. In fact, I have vegan ice cream at home and I can't tell the difference. I bet you wouldn't be able to tell the difference either. I make vegan cupcakes and everyone LOVES them!
Reflecting on this time I've realized that I want to stick with being vegan and I don't want to incorporate animal products back into my diet. I also cut down caffeine, started exercising, and doing yoga. I have more energy, I sleep better, I am happier, my mind is becoming calmer, and I am more confident. I've realized that food is like any addiction, and I have stopped craving foods such as meat or soda. Sometimes I hear people mention that when you are craving something that it means that your body needs it. But, I don't believe that's completely true. Many people crave things that are bad for them like cigarettes. But, your body doesn't need cigarettes, you are just addicted to them. I think that holds true for food as well. There are so many antibiotics in animal products and as a meat based society we become addicted to them.
I'm saving money as well. I do love food, I love to cook, and I love go out to dinner, but I have lost my desire to go out and get expensive fancy dinners. When I do go out to eat now I don't have a huge problem finding something, but I do know that it is almost impossible (unless I am going to a health food place) to find something completely vegan. I make sure that I avoid anything with meat, fish, cheese, milk, and eggs, but I have to realize that if I go out to eat I will probably eat vegetables that are sauteed in a little butter, or that a sauce might have fish oil in it if I go out for thai. I try as hard as I can to avoid those issues, but my animal intake is limited and that is what is important to me.
Being vegan is still new to me and I'm still learning new things, and I'm glad I can share my experience with you. Also, my friends and family have been so supportive during this time, so thank you! I'm not sure what I am cooking over the weekend, but hopefully I'll have a new recipe for you to try!