Most people don’t believe me when I tell them I’ve never had a “real” hamburger nor hotdog in my life.
The most common response is always:
“What about when you were a kid?!”
Here’s the thing, from a very young age (as long as I can actually remember), I was disgusted by the thought of eating flesh.
Therefore, I refused to eat it.
I remember when I used to go to other kids’ birthday parties, I’d have to pack my own lunch (usually a PB&J) because I wouldn’t eat whatever was on the barbecue.
That’s not to say that I wasn’t into a lot of other typical junk foods which kids tend to gravitate towards.
Trust me, I was nowhere near the health nut that I am now.
But, that being said, I was never into meat either.
In fact, when I was young sometimes I felt “forced” to eat a few bites of chicken in order to be “polite.”
I would put the smallest piece in my mouth, and when I started chewing I’d be looking around the table thinking:
I feel like I’m eating the leg of the person sitting next to me. There’s flesh in my mouth. FLESH. Oh my god, I’m eating a leg right now. I can’t do this.
Then I’d try to find some sort of nonchalant way to spit it into my napkin without anyone noticing.
One of my favorite things about leaving for college was the freedom to decide what went into my body (let’s just say there were also a lot of non-related food substances going in at that time).
Because it was finally in my control, I never ate meat again- not even to be polite.
Still, I wouldn’t consider myself “healthy.”
As you know, you can eat vegetarian (or vegan) and not be getting adequate nutrients.
Plus, I was partying a lot.
Like, A LOT.
So, I’m sure my insides weren’t super happy with me.
Seven years later, I went to Ethiopia for a month to implement Go Light Our World (GLOW)’s first solar project.
During my time there, I only ate local food (which is BOMB, might I add).
Towards the end of my trip, I realized all of the vegetarian options I’d eaten didn’t have any dairy in them.
And I felt great.
Don’t get me wrong- I hadn’t been eating a ton of dairy before.
I’d been repulsed by eggs my entire life (eating chicken period is pretty gross, if you think about it), but I did start eating them when I began traveling extensively out of sheer convenience more than anything.
I hadn’t had a glass of milk since I was about 5-years-old, because- once again- the concept grossed me out even at that age.
However, I’d always been a cheese addict- and easily had it daily.
Probably multiple times a day, actually.
When I returned back home to San Diego after my month in Ethiopia, I decided to keep dairy out of my diet more experimentally than anything.
I just wanted to see how I felt.
I didn’t put any hard “rules” or restrictions around my shift towards veganism- I just sort of eased right into it.
I told myself if I felt like I wanted to have dairy, then I would.
No shame nor judgment- just taking it day by day.
But here’s the thing- I felt so great that I never actually craved dairy (well, cheese) the way I thought I might.
It wasn’t a struggle for me at all, which I know isn’t the case for a lot of people.
That being said, I get SO many questions about my diet on a daily basis.
But guess what?
I’m not a nutritionist.
I have zero credentials nor qualifications when it comes to diet.
I know what works for me, what makes me feel best, and what makes me feel like shit.
I’m happy to share my experiences with you, but I’d like to do so with one emphasis in mind:
Your body’s response might be similar to mine, or it might be totally different.
Neither one is more “right” nor “wrong” than another.
It just is.
The point is to see what’s out there- to hear about other people’s health journeys in an effort to get to know yourself a little better along on your own.
It’s important to realize that there wasn’t a HUGE jump for me to go from being a lifelong vegetarian to vegan.
And, like I explained before- it happened incredibly organically, which (I think) is why it felt effortless.
I also think it’s important to recognize that I was brought up with a very health conscious mom.
One who was into a lot of these (now trendy) superfoods, tonics, cleanses, etc, before they were A THING, like they are now.
This alone has sort of set the standards for my palate, as well as my gut and energetic body- meaning, these are the sorts of foods I naturally crave.
Even as a child, I never had to force myself to eat the broccoli and cauliflower off of my plate- in fact, I’d usually go up for seconds.
And, especially at that age, I wasn’t doing it because I knew it was good for me, nor because I wanted to lose weight, or be trendy.
There was nothing forced about it.
Needless to say, I think it’s quite obvious how my upbringing (with food and nutrition) also added to ease of my transition.
Having friends from every different corner of the world, I know that culture plays a HUGE role in food consumption, cravings, and how we’re brought up.
Which is why I wholeheartedly recognize how the transition from being a meat eater to a vegetarian, or even vegetarian to vegan- is a helluva lot more difficult for other people, than it was for me.
This point circles back to the idea of NO COMPARISON.
I’d like to share with you my philosophy on veganism:
I believe veganism was born from compassion.
Whether it’s compassion for yourself and your own health, your compassion for the environment, or compassion for animals (or maybe a little bit of all three)- the underlying theme is the same.
To be honest, I find it to be similar to religion in a way.
You’re apart of a community, you feel great, and you want to preach this lifestyle to the masses.
Unfortunately (again, similar to religion), oftentimes the more extreme people get about it- the more they lose sight of the core value itself.
Compassion is replaced with judgment, shame, criticism, and even violence.
Because of this- I’d say vegans get a pretty bad wrap.
And I get it, I really do.
But, this is also why I’m here- attempting to redirect the focus back to compassion, instead of dogmatic beliefs.
So, let’s practice compassion first with ourselves, shall we?
If you’re in a place that you’re working on moving your way towards vegetarianism and/or veganism, I’d like to offer my two cents as a support along the way.
1.First and foremost:
I’m a strong believer in small changes making a big difference.
Take it slowly.
For instance, you could start by eating vegan or vegetarian only a few designated days a week.
Or, two out of your three daily meals could be vegan and/or vegetarian.
Maybe some days will be more difficult than others.
2. If or when that happens, this leads me to the second point:
MEET YOURSELF WHERE YOU’RE AT.
No comparison includes comparing yourself to who you were the day, the week- hell, even the HOUR before, as well.
3. Intense cravings, or even just the comfort of missing certain food/dishes, leads me to number three:
Look up replacement options.
Personally, I’m not into meat substitutes AT ALL (as in, I don’t even eat Portobello mushrooms because it reminds me too much of meat).
But that’s just me, and my preference.
You might love these meat substitutes- and that’s great too.
You do you.
There is SO MUCH INFORMATION out there for cheap and easy veg recipes.
I mean, the Internet is a blessing and curse this way, right?
We can be bombarded with “inspo” to the point we feel like a failure, or completely inadequate.
But, on the other hand, we have a million and one resources literally at our fingertips- so why not utilize them in a constructive way?
4. Fourth, and what I found to be there the most important part of my personal transition (which may or may not resonate with you):
Notice how you feel.
Checking in energetically.
This concept might be totally foreign to you, and that’s okay.
Maybe even the word meditation is enough to make you want to shutter with discomfort.
Again, that’s okay.
No need to label it one thing or another.
Maybe just try on carving out a few minutes of your day to do that little internal inventory check.
Notice how you feel after certain foods or substances go into your body.
Our bodies are so damn intelligent.
I PROMISE that yours will let you know when something makes it happy, versus when something irritates it.
5. Fifth the foundation from which all of this is built:
Know that by choosing meat and dairy free options alone, you are acting with compassion.
Compassion for the Earth.
Compassion for the animals who often suffer at our expense.
But, let’s not forget about compassion for ourselves.
Be gentle with yourself along the way.
Maybe that means not labeling your eating habits as one thing or another.
Or maybe that means not berating yourself if you have a slice of pizza with cheese on it.
Notice what works for YOU.
Notice what helps you function as your highest self.
And work on maintaining that in your own way.
And, just so you know, this is a judgment-free zone.
I’m just here to not only offer what’s worked for me, but to also share some of my favorite recipes.
Because, let’s be real, I fucking love food.
And I hope to spread that love as far as it’ll go.