I always sort of felt like I wanted to be a vegetarian. Even when I was a kid, obsessed with meat and hating veggies, I thought, wow, being a vegetarian must be SO COOL! But I just LOVE MEAT so much I could NEVER give it up! I mean, I used to eat chicken down to the bone, and eat hamburgers as a snack. (Believe it!)
One fateful day at 15 years old, I was at my friends house, and I saw a cute little sticker with an illustrated chick on it. It said “I AM NOT A NUGGET!” I thought it was the cutest thing I had ever seen. I asked her where she got it, and she told me she got it off a website. When I got home that night, I logged onto that website (petakids.com) to order my stickers, and I saw a link to a video. I clicked on it. It was a video of a cow slaughterhouse. I froze. I couldn’t help but watch it. Then watch it again. Then click the next link, and the next, tears pouring out of my eyes, my face swollen, my head dizzy, my hands shaking, my body ice cold. I knew at that moment, THIS was the sign I had been looking for. This was my life-changing moment. I couldn’t erase from my memory what I had witnessed. It was burned into my soul. I did NOT want to eat animals anymore.
Now, of course, imagine me, a 15 year old dreamer, highly passionate and driven, not to mention very EMOTIONAL, going to my mother, an Italian, and telling her that I wanted to be a vegetarian. I came to her with NO information, just this burning fire in my heart, these tears in my eyes and a judgement on the rest of the world. No WAY she would let me not eat meat, the staple in the Italian diet, oh lets be honest, the staple in ALL diets. I would get sick! It is unheard of! So of course I fought and screamed and judged and spoke with emotion, not with rationality, and who could blame me? I had just seen my first SLAUGHTER for goodness sakes! And I just couldn’t BELIEVE this was happening every second every day! Before my mother would let this happen, I knew (once I came to my senses) that I needed to gather some info. So I researched and read up on what being a vegetarian meant, and how I could go about it.
Awhile later (still eating meat, unfortunately), we went to Toronto for a wedding shower. I was 15 at this time. By this time I had made an effort to eat less meat, although it wasn’t out of my diet completely. At the party, while everyone was eating prosciutto sandwiches, this 7 year old boy only had Nutella in his. Someone asked why, and he said he was a vegetarian. I was BLOWN AWAY. This KID, this SEVEN YEAR OLD BOY, was a vegetarian, while I was not. I made myself a Nutella sandwich. I ate only veggies the rest of the night. The next day I told my mother that I was a vegetarian, and that I promised to eat a million blocks of tofu a day if I had to. And that was that!!!
I always KNEW, from the day I decided to go vegetarian, that one day I would be a vegan. I just wasn’t ready yet. Cutting out meat was no big deal, but I was really addicted to cheese (no joke, cheese really does have an addictive quality). I didn’t drink milk anymore (unless it was the only thing available), I bought soy and almond milk instead.
As time went on, my mother REALLY grew to embrace and support my decision to be a vegetarian. Once she saw that this wasn’t a phase, that it was something I truly believed was right, and when I started to climb down from my soapbox, she really understood where I was coming from. Since then, she has become my biggest supporter. She always defends me when people question my beliefs and my commitment. She always cooks a separate meal for me when what she is cooking meat for the rest of the family. She makes sure not to cross-contaminate cooking tools, spoons, pots etc. She buys my special vegetarian (and now vegan) food. She even started cooking less meat! Everyone is getting healthier in my home because of it. I thank God every day for sending me such a wonderful mother. I know not everyone’s family is this supportive, and I never take that for granted.
So about six years go by since that day. Being a vegetarian at this point is an absolute breeze. Except for the HORRIBLE stomach aches I get every single day, multiple times a day. These stomach aches aren’t your average tummy-rumble that can be soothed with some tea. I’m talking stabbing pain, indigestion, grumbling so loud people all over the world can probably hear it, having to mad-dash to the bathroom. No jokes. I eventually came to realize that every time I ate a dairy product, this would happen. I started buying Lactaid and started popping it like gum. Two before every milk product. It got really intense, but I just couldn’t give it up! Not yet.
One day, I was at a friends house (AGAIN, although not the same friend) for a Christmas party, and I saw a book in her room called “Skinny Bitch”. I was intrigued! So I started reading it. First, the table of contents: Chapter 1: Give it up, Chapter 2: Carbs: the Truth, Chapter 3: Sugar is the devil, Chapter 4: The Dead, Rotting Decomposing Flesh Diet… Chapter 5: The Dairy Disaster. All I could think was, “oh, well, HERE’S the sign I’ve been looking for all these years! Time to go vegan!”
This time it wasn’t so quick though. I took my time. This was mid-December. I decided that on January 1st of 2010, I’d do it. I enjoyed some choice “last meals”. I found them hard to enjoy though, because in my head, what I was eating wasn’t just cheese or eggs or delicious food anymore. I had made the connection, and I couldn’t separate that from my taste buds. It made the transition so much easier! On January 1st, I made my own vegan food for the parties. And since that day, I have never looked back.
For the first few years, I got a lot of “oh, its just a phase”, “what, you don’t eat MEAT?! But you’ll get sick! But you need it! But we were made to eat meat! But you’re Italian! But it tastes soooo good! Don’t you miss it! BUT WHERE WILL YOU GET YOUR PROTEIN!” Of course, at that age, I answered these questions with anger and annoyance, not thinking that the reason why people asked was because of ignorance. They just don’t KNOW enough about it, so they mock it, and come up with crazy false statements that they were conditioned to believe. And of course, some people just like to bust your balls. As I grew up, I learned a lot from watching people and from experience, and now I can pretty much tell when someone is truly interested or concerned, or when someone is just looking to get a rise out of me. For the most part these days, its the former. People are getting much more health conscious, and the notion of vegetarian is common, and even vegan isn’t so foreign anymore. For those who want to just argue and get a rise, I simply smile and brush it off. Although sometimes I do get a little graphic, but only when the person doesn’t stop harping on me. Hey, I can dish it out, too! But a LOT of people are just simply curious and interested and intrigued! These people are totally different. They don’t judge you, and they realize that just because you live your life a certain way, it doesn’t mean that you expect everyone else to.
I have a hugeee opinion when it comes to animal rights, nutrition & health. And I have facts, information, and my LIFE to back me up! I just LOVE being vegan! Since making the switch I have NEVER been this healthy or fit! Of course, you can be a total junk-food vegan. Just because a certain food is animal-free or organic doesn’t mean it’s healthy. It is simply EASIER to be healthy on a vegan diet. There are so many things that I simply can’t have, especially when I’m out, or at a family members house, or at a party. Sure, the food looks great, but I made the choice not to eat it. And the temptation is all gone! So being vegan has that as a perk 🙂 Also, you’re naturally more inclined to eat greener! To replace the protein that people usually get in meat (but without the other nastiness!), we need to eat more nuts, seeds, whole grains, LEAFY GREEN VEGGIES (IN ABUNDANCE! AND WITH A HUGE SMILE!), veggies and fruits! Tofu and tempeh (both soy products) are also great sources of protein, although I try not too each too much of it for the simple reason that I try to eat as “clean” as possible, and these products are processed. Another AMAZING source of vegan protein is protein shakes! I love me some Shakeology (from Beachbody) & VEGA (for post-workout muscle repair). Other great sources include hemp & pea protein. I’ll write more about this on another post.
Being vegan is also SO much fun. REALLY! It was never hard for me. As soon as the decision was made in my mind, that was that! The hardest part is dealing with the negativity, but you learn not to let it bother you. Eating out at restaurants is sometimes a bit of a challenge, but I always try to find a menu beforehand and see what is vegan on the menu, or what I can veganize. I always make sure to smile and be really polite when asking how a certain plate is prepared. I used to be shy when it came time to order and when I had to ask if certain things were vegan. And this resulted in many returned plates, and disgruntled waitstaff, and a frustrated Laura! WELL NO MORE! I’ve learned that its much easier to specify and ask and smile BEFORE than getting a wrong order and having to order again! Anything can be made vegan, and many restaurants will be happy to cater to your dietary needs. No need to be shy, just be realllyyyy polite and leave a nice tip!
I could go on and on about this subject, but here is the basic gist of it. So now you know what I’m all about! I’m not judgemental or preachy. I don’t look down upon anyone who decides to still eat meat or dairy. My whole entire family are still omnivores, as is my boyfriend. I give them advice on what to eat, and although I truly believe that maximum health and vitality comes from a plant-based diet, I know what to offer them or anyone who still wants to eat things other than plants. On my future blog posts about nutrition, you will find I will write a LOT about plant foods. I’ll stick in a suggestion for omnivores too, because I know not everyone wants to eat the way I do. I’m here to help and offer guidance, and also my opinion, but I will never force my opinions and beliefs upon anyone!
I’ll be writing in the future about tips for becoming and being vegan for those interested! Stay tuned.
Thanks for reading up on my little journey! Until next time!