Notes From A Brand-New Vegan
You read that right! About 6 weeks ago, I began a transition into a primarily plant-based/vegan diet.
Veganism is something I've thought about off and on for quite a few years, but it never felt realistic. It sounded incredibly intimidating and hard. I am not exactly sure what it was that pushed me to finally try it, but one day I kind of just started. Honestly, I didn't expect it to last longer than a few days or a week. But here we are. Don't get me wrong, a couple weeks ago I gave into a craving for a Bison Burger, and the other day I had some chips with cheese dip (worth it). I also purposefully didn't read the ingredient list on the candy cane box I bought around Christmas time. However, the large majority of my food choices these days are 100% vegan and I have to say I'm feeling good.
As a 3rd generation Montanan, Christmas dinner this year meant explaining to my family what exactly a vegan is. No, mom, I will not have eggs anymore. Yes, grandpa, butter comes from cows (this was a funny you-had-to-be-there kind of joke), and the best one, in response to my raving review of Cashew Milk Ice Cream, my brother asked "but how do you milk a cashew?" My family loves me dearly and supports all that I do, but it's still a big transition from everything I grew up eating. It's a complete transformation from how I looked at food for the first 20-something years of my life.
The most common question I get asked is "WHY?"
I want to promise now, forever and always that I will never push my beliefs or shame others for not eating vegan or having the same beliefs I do. If veganism is on your path, you've got to find it on your own. Some people feel a lot healthier with animal products in their diet, and I understand that too. I mean, two months ago I was happily living basically on cheese (mostly joking), so I have zero room to say that vegan is the only way. Regardless, a lot of people have been curious to hear about my choice to stop eating animal products, so I thought I'd share:
My personal reasons for becoming vegan had very little to do with my body/health, but rather the wellbeing of animals and our environment. As long as I can remember, I very intentionally denied to myself that I was eating a dead animal at dinner while my dog was sitting at my feet. If I thought about it during a meal, I couldn't finish eating.
I finally had to ask myself: Am I really living honestly if I am denying the facts about what I am consuming? NO. I am living in la-la land where Santa puts these packages of bison and chicken on the grocery store shelves, and no beings were harmed in the process.
I understand that people have been living on meat for as long as we can research. Just today, I told my mom a story about getting emotional while watching Planet Earth in bed last night. (I know, I'm a wuss.) All of the animals were killing each other and their babies, and it just made me think that the world is a violent and evil place. Her response was, "Nicole, it's just how the world works. It's the food chain. Animals eat other animals, and so do humans." I kind-of-sort-of get that, or at least can grasp that perspective. Reminder: I was a meat-eater two months ago. What I cannot grasp is the corporate slaughterhouses where animals are tortured for the duration of their lives. We don't see the violence behind how these animals are treated and killed. They don't get to live happy or free lives, and they do not get to die any sort of peaceful or humane death. Babies are torn from their mothers and we steal the milk meant for their newborns.
How would you feel if we took your newborn baby away from you, and turned your milk into cheese for somebody else? It sounds gruesome because it is. We are the only species of animals on the planet that steal other animals milk for our own consumption.
The last point I want to touch on for now, and it's a big one, is how animal agriculture is affecting our environment. I won't bombard with you with statistics because you've probably already heard them or can easily look them up. But the bottom line is, the biggest damage we are currently doing to our environment comes from the way we are feeding, raising, and slaughtering animals. More-so than pollution from vehicles or mass amounts of waste, animal agriculture is damaging the Earth. We cannot pretend that the Earth is going to continue to support our people if we keep consuming in the ways that we are. We are guests here. Our time is temporary. And we are destroying the planet that gives us life, and will give our children lives, and their children, and theirs.
Okay. Pause. I need to emphasize 100 times before I end this post that I support your decision to eat whatever the hell you want to eat as long as it's an educated decision. Rather than eating out of habit, start to notice what you're consuming and acknowledge all the steps that it took to get into your hands and body. Maybe you can choose the free-range or wild game over the slaughter-house-produced meat and dairy products. Maybe go without meat one day per week. Maybe don't change a thing about your diet but come at it with more awareness.
Like I said, I've eaten a handful of things over the past six weeks that were not vegan, and that's okay. I'm not going to beat myself up for not being the "perfect" vegan, or for choosing cheese dip over hummus every now and then. Even as a vegan, I think that sometimes you have to just enjoy what you enjoy and treat yourself. Maybe my view with this will shift over time and someday I'll be 100% plant based. Maybe by this time next year I'll be eating meat again. I don't know. But I know that my heart needs to explore this a little deeper.
Nothing but love and support here. We're all in this together, trying to figure out the best way to navigate this crazy and magical roller coaster that is life.