Today is World Vegan Day, I know, I know, there is a day for almost everything now but this day in particular is very important, and I would like to share my vegan experience with you.
I became vegan a little over 3 years ago after I attended a talk at Ann Arbor’s first ever Veg Week back in 2013. Jeff Hampton presented “Change your life .. save the planet … one bite at a time” and it was the spark I needed to change my life. His talk left me in shock after I learned about how factory-farming was destroying our various ecosystems. I appreciate numbers, statistics, and facts and Jeff Hampton delivered those with with positive energy and enthusiasm of what a plant-based diet can do for our land, air, and water. I left both inspired and frustrated with this new information. How could all of this be true, how could big company’s and large farms get away with such practices? Who is supposed to be regulating this stuff? Since we vote with our dollar and with our forks, I decided that I would do a 30 day vegan challenge. I wanted to see what being a vegan felt like. I also wanted to reduce waste by saving water, energy, & preserve our oceans and land. During this 30 day challenge I experimented with new recipes, watched a few documentaries: Forks Over Knives, Food Inc., and I started looking up available vegan and vegetarian articles and research. The book: Vegan for Life: Everything You Need to Know to Be Healthy and Fit on a Plant-Based Diet was recommended to me by Jim Corcoran who I met at Jeff’s talk and I loved it. The more I learned, the better I felt about a vegan lifestyle and once I reached my 30 day mark I did not want to go back to eating meat, fish, or dairy. I felt great, my skin looked better, and yes, I was getting enough protein with a plant-based diet. Not only was I motivated by the positive environmental impact, but now health and animal welfare also played a role in my motivation to continue a plant-based diet. I like to now say that I found the vegan trifecta. 🙂
Not everyone will have as easy or enjoyable time as I did. I think I transitioned well because I like to cook and as a dietitian I have the knowledge to plan a well-balanced plant-based diet. For example, I make sure I consume enough calcium by eating kale, swiss chard, tahini, fortified tofu, soy and almond milks. I am also not a picky eater and like a lot of different foods which makes it easier to meet my nutrient needs. If you have any interest in- or are struggling to adopt a plant based diet, please reach out to me, I would love to help you.
Yes, in the beginning there were some temptations, frustrations, and “set backs”, if you will. My first go-around at the holidays and work/friend parties I remained mostly vegan but ate some cheese/dairy. No, the vegan police did not come to get me and honestly at the time I did not feel that bad about it because it’s my choice and it is a learning process. With that said, I always came back to the reasons why I am vegan and knew I could do better the next time around. Now I come prepared: I bring my own vegan dish to share so I know there will be something I can eat, I don’t show up to events starving because that is never fun, and I got my family/friends interested and involved in trying new recipes. My mom always makes vegan friendly dishes, including my quinoa salad, when I come home to visit and my friends make vegan treats when we get together.
I find getting involved on some level can help when it comes to making any big change in life. I have volunteered twice at Michigan’s VegFest and met some amazing people.
The compassion behind these events is so inspiring, there are a ton of new products to learn about and sample, and I have made new friends who share similar ideas/values. Find out for yourself! Try volunteering at an event or the humane society, join a local vegetarian/vegan meetup group, or if you are in Michigan check out the Plant based nutrition support group (PBNSG). Another option is to check out an animal sanctuary. I have been to SASHA farm and met all these cuties:
There were also the cutest cows, cats, dogs and horses but I was too busy petting them to take pictures.
Last but not least, I must bring to light that all animals have feelings/experience different emotions, they are intelligent, and they all want to live. I cannot separate the dogs and cats we know as our house pets from elephants, deer, chickens, pigs, and cows. If you cannot relate to- or agree with this, I do not fault you, I myself was not there 3 years ago. But I want to remind you, there is nothing to lose in adopting a plant-based lifestyle, only good things to gain. We all have the ability and power to make a difference on this earth, to choose compassion, and to choose good health. I find most people can identify with at least one reason to try a plant-based diet whether it’s health, animal rights, or the environment. I encourage you to give it some thought and let me know what yours is.