Wednesday, February 6, 2013

V3GAN

Hey guys.

Today, I've been vegan for three years!

And so far, it has been one of the best decisions of my life.

Here's my story.

Growing up, I didn't really eat my vegetables. If anything, I was a chickenstripsetarian. My mom let me be however picky I wanted, and I was.

Also, I never really liked drinking plain white milk. I loved chocolate milk, milk in cereal, and cheese, but not plain. Milk sort of left a weird taste in my mouth and I didn't really like it I guess. Well, in like 2006, I started getting a craving, all the time, for chocolate milk. So much so, that I think I started sort of having a craving for plain white milk. After a while though, I started noticing the milk wasn't really sitting with me well. I've heard that most people are lactose intolerant to some degree, but maybe since I didn't slowly acclimate myself to large quantities of milk over my whole life, dumping so much of it down my throat near the end of my teens wasn't such a good idea. I basically declared myself lactose intolerant after that, and I guess still ate it, but was careful, and started using soy milk and stuff.

In the summer/fall of 2007, I started dating a vegetarian and working in the produce department at Wal-Mart. I decided it was a mind over matter thing, and I forced myself to try a bunch of new fruits/vegetables since they were right in front of me all the time. I was amazed at how good they were. I mean, I hadn't really eaten a peach until then, and I was 20, and I love peaches. How the hell had I not had a peach?

Anyway, March or April of 2008, just for fun, and maybe for some other reasons, I just wanted to try vegetarianism, to see what it was like. I can't remember how long I did it, a month or three months or something, but I didn't know what I was doing, and by the end, was weakened and craving meat.

(There's a side story about fish too. Even when I ate meat, I never liked seafood. Sometimes I wanted to try it, like maybe at a restaurant or something, but what if it was one of those times when you order something and it doesn't taste right? I wouldn't know, and I might think it always tastes like that. It might re-ruin seafood for me forever! So I told my roommate at the time, who's a great cook, that I would stay vegetarian until I had some seafood he made me, that way I would know it was good. Well, we procrastinated and by the end of the month or three months or whatever, I was craving meat so much, that I just ate a piece of some fish he was eating out of a can or something, I don't remember. It wasn't the best thing ever, but I wanted to be done with vegetarianism while still [sort of] keeping my word.)

Ok, so fast forward to that winter. My friend broke his ankle and was basically on house arrest. He spent a lot of time reading about food and cooking, and we got pretty into eating plants. Not exclusively, just intentionally and often. I also stopped cooking with meat. I would eat it, if someone made it or at a restaurant or something, but even then, since I had already tried vegetarianism, and had stopped cooking with meat, I started looking for the vegetarian stuff on the menu at places.

Then, in the summer of 2009, I started hanging out with this girl who was a mostly vegan. She wasn't into guys, but I was still totally into her, and I don't know if it was my attraction to her, the appeal of being vegetarian in general, or what, but that summer, I officially declared myself vegetarian.

That same summer, I moved to the Chicago area, and over the fall and winter, I enjoyed being a vegetarian, but started to get more and more grossed out by eggs. I think I started to look for/prefer vegan options, and one day, in the winter of 2010, I bought groceries at Trader Joe's, and checked all of the ingredients on the stuff I was buying to make sure it was vegan. That was three years ago today. At some point that day, I was like "You know what? I'm vegan. Who am I kidding?" and posted it on Facebook.

So that was that for a yearish.

Then I watched earthlings.

Oh my god, Earthlings.

It's this movie narrated by Joaquin Phoenix, well documentary I guess, that goes through and discusses our misuse of animals in five areas: pets, clothing, food, entertainment, and scientific research. Now granted, they use a lot of graphic imagery and intense moments to get their point across, but if you can look past the shock value, it's a really great piece. I had already been vegan for a year, but after that, I knew there was probably no going back, at least for me.

Later, I watched Forks Over Knives, another great documentary sort of movie about veganism. What I like about Forks over Knives is that it removes all of the sentiment and passion for animals and that sort of stuff, and looks at veganism from a strictly health based perspective. It's sort of the opposite of Earthlings, or the companion to Earthlings. Between the two movies, I think you get a pretty good picture of what veganism is.

So yeah, that's sort of my story. I've come a long way from obsessively reading every ingredient in everything and researching it online. I've made some mistakes. I've forgetten to ask what was in something, or assumed, or even knowingly consumed something if it was served to me incorrectly (oops, there's cheese in this bean burrito at taco bell and I asked for no cheese. Well, I'm already driving away and I'm hungry and it's in my hand) etc.

I really really like being vegan. I feel great, I have energy, I can play basketball and soccer and ride my bike and run. There's no one "making" me do it, besides myself, and if I ever didn't like it, I would stop. I always say, "you just have to do what feels right to your body." and this is just what feels right to me.

Here's to another three years!

FAQs

Where do you get your protein?

It's pretty easy to get your protein. Protein is so common in food, and you can even combine stuff to make complete proteins. The association of meat=protein=meat is just not really accurate. Protein is all over the place, and the average person needs way less than you might think. For example, I only need about 60 grams a day (160 lbs x .37) according to a website I just looked at. The same website says a 1/4th of a cup of almonds is 8 grams. If I eat a cup of almonds (not hard at alllll), I'm halfway there! I'm not saying this website has all the answers, I'm just sayin, protein isn't that hard. There's other stuff to worry about like B12 and D and iron, but I'm not a nutritionist.

What's the hardest part of being vegan?

Second place is probably the availability and convenience of pizza, but first place is other people. Other people being offended, other people being confused, other people asking me how I get my protein or telling me they couldn't do it. It bugs me, not because they bug me, but because my decision has a lot to do with peace, and when it bugs people, I don't know, it feels futile, or vain. There've been times I've considered not being a vegan anymore, just to make people feel better or make it easier on them.

Why are you vegan?

Basically what I've come to say is that I think it's better for the planet, the animals, and myself, and that any other reason falls under one of those reasons. I don't want to tell them the whole story every time, and that statement sort of sums it all up anyway.

Other Thoughts

I try to avoid stuff that looks like it came from an animal, be it hand me down, secondhand, etc. Fake leather shoes, even though they're fake, still look like leather, and no one is going to know "Oh it's vegan." just by looking at them. They're going to think they're leather, and it's going to promote the use and image of wearing leather.

I've made a commitment within myself to only buy shoes that are vegan. There are so many cool shoes out there that use no animal products, you might as well do it. Zappos has a vegan section, and I just found out about this brand called Keep (I think most of their shoes are unisex). In my closet I have two pairs of Sanuks, a pair of Keeps, and a pair of Simples (not making shoes anymore). They're all great, comfortable shoes, and I love them.

Also, if you're not quite sure of the vegan options in your town, and don't mind supporting chains or spend a lot of time on the road, or whatever, check out http://www.veganeatingout.com/! It's a really great resource! Just type in the restaurant you're curious about, and they list the vegan items that restaurant sells! Obviously, it's up to you to decide if you trust them, but I think they're pretty legit!
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