For the longest time it seemed like I was counting days trying to be a vegan. In other words, lots of “Day 3 – Vegan” entries in my training logs. All-in-all, it took me 9-years plus of fairly consistent effort to commit to veganism, plus another 15 years before that of vegan leanings, to finally become vegan. But when it finally happened, it was easy. Honestly year 1 to 2 flew by. Like I only just recently realized it was the month that I had become vegan and looked up the date to confirm: Yup, March 4, 2016. So besides it obviously getting easier, a few other changes have occurred that have moved me even more towards the Annoying Vegan category. TBH, as an introvert, if I’d known this is how I’d get people to stay away from me, I would have gone vegan years ago. I kid, I kid. Anyway, here’s what’s changed between years 1 to 2.
1. Food got healthier. I now eat so healthy that my 20-year old self will have nothing to do with me. In my earlier attempts at being vegan, I relied heavily on fake meats. No shame in that; do what you gotta do. However, I came upon a vegan marathoner’s Instagram account (yay IG!), and I hit her up about her diet. She told me she was HCLF (high carb low fat) and followed the principles espoused for many years by Dr. John McDougall. So this way of eating goes against everything someone who lives in Los Angeles would do. I’m not sure if you all who live outside of LA know this, but it actually illegal to eat carbs and/or white food in LA County. But, this runner looked super fit, so I decided to try it; plus I needed carbs for marathon training anyway. So since I wasn’t trying to load up on protein, the fake meats went away. And now, inexplicably, I’ve become almost completely raw. I had tried earlier this year to “go raw”, and I didn’t much care for it. But then I realized it was because I was buying raw food made to look like regular food, which I guess is the healthy version of faux meat. Like I was buying raw pizza. Meh. Just don’t. So while the raw faux foods were a bust, turns out what I do love and could eat all day are salads, and overnight oats, and smoothies, and whatever they’re selling at Beaming Organic Cafe — pretty much all raw food. And now I find myself having lost quite a bit of my taste for cooked foods. So. Crazy.
2. I gain weight on trips. Yup, this was kind of a bummer but just keeping it real. Maybe it was the significant disparity in the portion sizes in other countries, but I almost always came home from vacation lighter. However, now I am unable to eat regular foods or dine at places that don’t require a special trip. Remember, I come from a place where it’s almost impossible to walk a mile without running into a juice bar or Whole Foods-Trader Joes-Sprouts-Farmers Market. Not to mention that a significant percentage of restaurants tend to have a vegan option or the ability to veganize an entree. I now have to stuff my luggage with protein bars and surrender to the fact that I’ll be living on bread, couscous, and falafels. (And of course the rare but absolutely necessary vegan treat – who can turn down a vegan lemon chantilly-blueberry cupcake with rosemary?) So alas, not the usual salad, veggies, “good” carbs, lowish fat diet that I live on at home. Sure, there are vegan restaurants in other countries, but I travel with a non-vegan, and I like to be low-maintenance when it comes to my food. It’s not that big a deal, and it’s just for a couple weeks. A disappointment for sure, but for the most part I now focus on other parts of the trip. Not gonna lie tho, I do miss the following a lot [cue Taps]: soft cheeses, macarons, religieuse in Paris; churros con chocolate in Madrid; high tea in London; and tapas in Barcelona. Le sigh.
3. I am no longer quiet about my veganism. Not that it was ever a secret, but I definitely stayed low key. The original reason was that I wasn’t sure how long I would last as a vegan. I had tried for SO long to be vegan and had ultimately failed each time that I wanted to be sure that it was going to stick before I started espousing the vegan lifestyle. (I do remember going vegan a few years before, and then returning to meat, and a carnivore throwing it back in my face. I remember everything, folks.) I also didn’t want to be *that* vegan who annoys the f-ck out of everyone. But mostly, I didn’t want my meat-eating friends to feel bad. Crazy, right? Like I’m more worried about my carnivore friends, who are participating in a cruel system, than the innocent animals living in agonizing conditions, tortured and then killed. I am still not one to throw fur on your mink or be totally in your face, but I no longer shy away from espousing the ethical reasons for being vegan, and I find myself increasingly immersing myself in vegan activist circles with the aim of spreading the word of a cruelty-free life. No more hiding.
As I said, there was a long struggle with committing to veganism. What will I eat on vacation? But I LOVE [insert favorite food]. It’s just too hard. But I never gave up. That little voice inside me that knew eating animals is wrong never gave up. So if you’re struggling to fully commit to a cruelty-free diet, just keep trying. Maybe one day it will happen for you too.
One more thing about this second year. I am not a new-agey, hippy-dippy, yoga person. In fact, you can probably feel my eyeroll punctuating that last sentence. But here’s the deal: There is a lightness and joy that infects even the bitchiest vegan. I mean, how do you not change when you are no longer ingesting the pain and suffering of a living being? The absence of that anguish and despair in my body clears out space for more of the good vibes. Friends, veganism is a beautiful and satisfying way of life, and I hope that I have planted a seed for it to be a way of life for you too! Sending you love and light. For the animals. Peace.