The V Word
The food we eat says a lot about us. It can tie us to our country of origin or people from our past. Food is social and a part of many traditions. Each of us has a strong relationship to food and a lot of emotional ties. My journey with food brought me to a vegan diet about 14 years ago.
I wonder how you felt when you read the word “vegan.” It is so much more accepted now than it was even 15 years ago, but many people have strong reactions to the word. When I was in veterinary school I met my first vegan. I recall judging her, thinking she was a bit extreme, and wondering where on Earth she got her protein. My brain immediately went to all of the things she couldn’t have…cookies, ice cream…I mean, a lifetime of cheeseless pizza?!? How depressing. I admired her commitment to animals, but surely drinking milk doesn’t hurt a cow, and was she one of those PETA people?
Staying True To My Values
Being in a room with somebody who, based on ethics, had chosen to abstain from many of the foods I ate made me feel uncomfortable, judged, and more than a little bit defensive. I’m not proud of this gut reaction, but keeping the experience in mind has given me perspective when I see a similar reaction in others.
I think the science is pretty strong that a whole foods plant-based diet can be an incredibly healthy, sustainable way to eat. I’m not here to argue whether it is the best way or not. Fish and modest amounts of lean meats and eggs are very nutritious and can also be part of a healthy diet. I know that it is the best way to live my life for my body, mind, and soul.
I took a job on the pig barn during school and did rotations at farms around New England. I still have immense respect for farmers as some of the hardest workers. While I enjoyed being close to the animals and the problem-solving aspect of farming, I was uncomfortable with its economic reality. Cost is king in the farming world, and many medical procedures, including castrations, are done without the benefit of anesthesia. Suffice it to say. These experiences left an impression. Even with this exposure, my own meat-eating continued.
Making The Jump From Vegetarian To Vegan
I had been vegetarian on and off over the years and paid a lot of extra money for “humanely” raised meat to soothe my guilty conscience. One night, while searching for vegetarian-related podcasts, I stumbled across one called “Food For Thought.” As I listened to the first episode about the interconnectedness of the dairy/veal/beef industries, I knew I couldn’t justify consuming animal products. Diet For a New America, The China Study, and Slaughterhouse showed me the health, environmental and ethical advantages of plant-based eating.
This lifestyle has had many benefits for me. My depression and seasonal affective symptoms lessened significantly. A bit of weight came off. The variety of foods in my diet actually increased. By far, the greatest benefit is being able to live my life in harmony with my belief that all sentient beings deserve to be treated with compassion. I don’t have to push my ethics aside when I sit down to eat a meal.
The Importance Of Family & Friends
I was fortunate that my husband was incredibly laid back and supportive of this sudden lifestyle change, but eating a vegan diet has had its challenges. It can be frustrating to find a good meal at a restaurant (but that is getting better, as is the availability and variety of plant-based foods a grocery stores). When people first learned about this new way of eating, it was definitely a barrier for friends having my family over to dinner. They had no idea what to feed me! I still feel a combination of guilt and gratitude when somebody goes out of their way to make a special meal or dish to accommodate my lifestyle.
My first year hosting Thanksgiving took compromise. Thanksgiving, in particular, is a powerful example of the emotional and cultural attachment we all have to food. I continue to be thankful for their open-mindedness and now have family members that prefer my vegan centerpiece roast to turkey. I’ve learned that if you provide yummy food for people, they are usually grateful and quite happy. Most people are excited to realize that a vegan meal can be delicious.
How To Start Your Own Vegan Journey
Being open and curious about a different way of eating brought so much to my life. I guess you could call it a growth mindset. If you have wanted to explore a vegan diet, don’t let perfection be the enemy of good. Take it slow, be gentle with yourself, and it’s okay if you aren’t ready for vegan pizza.
If you have been curious about plant-based eating for health, environmental, or animal welfare reasons:
- Search recipes online or get a plant based cookbook from your local library. VegNews.com has tons of recipes. itdoesnttastelikechicken.com has one of my family’s favorites, a Tofu Caesar Wrap.
- Try cooking a new vegetable, or whole grain.
- Add one of the many meat alternatives available to your favorite recipe. Gardein products are excellent. They are not as high in fat as some of the newer options.
- Plan for a few meals a week to be plant based. Or eat vegan until 6pm. There’s even a book about this; VB6 by Mark Bittman.
- Try the vegetarian option the next time you go out to eat.
Do you have a question about my journey or perhaps how to start your own? If so, please share in the comments below.
The post Stories From the Fat & Broke Tribe | Jasmin Keramaty | Being Vegan appeared first on The Fat & Broke Podcast.