The thing about choosing a vegan diet is that once people find out that you’re vegan, they’re going to ask you “why?”
This comes with both negative and positive connotations, and as fellow vegans can surely relate, you will deal with everything in between to where eventually you have well-honed answers, anecdotes, and stories to share.
Since it’s “Veganuary,” the official, or maybe unofficial “let’s all try being vegans for a month,” I thought I would focus on my personal path to veganism, and maybe some “inside baseball,” as it were, insights into aspects of veganism that may not be as well-known or considered by those looking to make the shift. Not to dissuade you or preach to you, but to hopefully show you that veganism, in my humble opinion, can change your life.
THE PLANT PATH
Five or six years ago (though it feels like a million) I went to my doctor for my annual bloodwork and physical appointment. Not that I was surprised that he told me I was way overweight, in fact, it was the heaviest I had ever been, but that my current results show I was pre-diabetic, squarely on the way to diabetic, and if I didn’t shape up and fly right diabetes would be a certainty.
Not wanting to be diabetic, obviously, and not wanting to take medication forever, I sought a different solution that led me to a book by Penn Jillette (of Penn and Teller) called “Presto!: How I Made Over 100 Pounds Disappear and Other Magical Tales.” In the book he details his struggles with being and excessively overweight magician, having severe heart problems that would have required stints to function normally, and, not wanting to do that, discovering a plant-based diet through health experts and foodies, the benefits of which corrected both his weight and heart problems.
This book changed my life. If you’re at all interested in a plant-based diet, I’d highly recommend reading the book, researching his approaches, and trying the recipes. It’s not much about “veganism,” that term having certain connotations associated with the word, but “plant-based,” a term being free from any political or extreme associations, at least, according to this book.
The following year at my physical, I was down in weight, and out of the diabetes danger zone, so, yeah, that book changed my life.
Once I was eating an entire plant-based diet and reading up on all the info I could, the animal rights aspect came creeping in, and by creeping in I mean storming in. Not just the obvious violence, mistreatment, and exploitation that animals face to produce food, but the extremely negative and unhealthy aspects of consuming animal products on the regular has on our bodies. I won’t state the facts or figures here, they’re a simple Google search away, but they are astounding and suddenly that became a part of my diet and consumer choices I couldn’t ignore any longer.
The initial leap was hard, I’m not going to lie about that. Completely shifting a well-rounded diet into a brand new one that needed constant vigilance, because animal products are sneakily added to WAY more products than you think, was some work. But once I got the hang of it, and knew what to look for, where to get it, and how to dine out, it became the new routine, and now, it just is.
And it’s probably never been easier to be vegan than it is nowadays, or at least try some stuff out. I remain ever grateful for the people holding the vegan torch in the ‘80s, ‘90s before the proliferation of nut milks, plant-based “meat,” and cheeses, and “Vegenaise,” the plant-based mayo.
Did you know Oreos are vegan?
It’s easy to get wonderful vegan meals at Chinese restaurants and Indian restaurants, chana masala (chickpea curry and rice) are my ultimate favorite dish. When you start to think of it as less of a “what I have to give up” sort of thing, into a more “what I get to eat” mentality, the world is your oyster.
Plus, plants taste good. They really do.
And I don’t really miss cheese.