The “V” word

In late 2012, I had just got a new job that paid less than my old one (but paid more than nothing), and while I was out grocery shopping, I noticed that meat was expensive. So I decided “I just won’t eat it for a month and I’ll see what happens.” That month of eating a plant-based diet (also called a “vegan” diet, which is technically not correct–I’ll explain later) turned into a year. And it was followed up by a year of being ovo-pescatarian (eat eggs and fish). During that year, I lost a lot of weight and my health was the best it had ever been in my adult life.

But eventually I got bored with it because my weight loss plateaued. So I transitioned into a paleo-style diet. Did that for a couple months before I slowly started falling back into a standard American diet: Meat, cheese, milk, eggs, and fish. Every day. All of it. 

I stuck fully with the standard American diet until this past spring. Again, I started backing off of meat. Instead of eating it 7 days a week, in 2-3 meals a day, I started eating it 1-3 days a week, in 1-2 meals a day. I was far from vegetarianism, but I was bringing meat-free dishes to work. I was making pastas and veggie-heavy egg scrambles. And I threw canned tuna into meals where I may usually have used chicken or beef.

Then, in July 2018, I visited family in Minnesota for a week and every meal was meat-heavy and many were cheese-heavy. Honestly, I may have eaten more meat in that time than I had eaten the entire month prior. I almost certainly consumed more dairy.

I spent the next month, after returning to San Francisco, thinking about that week and realizing that I shouldn’t be: A) Eating until I can’t move, and B) Eating anywhere near that much meat. I started tinkering with the idea of going back to the plant-based diet. That’s a trigger I pulled in mid-late September.

For the first month or so, it was fine. I was eating a lot of substitutions most days–plant-based cheeses, meats, fish, etc.

But in the back of my head, there was something speaking to me. I had poked at the idea of full-on veganism back in 2012. I had half-assed watch two videos back then: Gary Yourofsky’s “Best Speech You Will Ever Hear” and the documentary “Earthlings”. At the time, I wasn’t particularly grabbed. I wasn’t doing it for some hippie vegan “save the earth” cause. I was doing it for me and my health and my life.

But that voice in my head kept saying “Remember those videos. Watch more like them. There are much better reasons to do this than just health.” And I somehow found myself watching the relatively-new documentary, Dominion.

All of a sudden, it clicked.

And although I didn’t start referring to myself as such, by the end of September, I was vegan.

For those not in the know, there are a lot of related terms that float around, the four I’ll point out are:

  • Vegetarian: One who abstains from eating meat, but will often consume eggs, dairy, and honey. Will also often purchase leather and silk. May also attend zoos, rodeos etc.
  • Pescatarian: Same as “vegetarian” but will also consume fish and other marine life.
  • Plant-based: Consumes nothing that is, or comes from, an animal.
  • Vegan: One who consume nothing that is, or comes from, an animal. Abstains from wearing materials like leather, suede, or silk. Will not attend things like zoos, rodeos, circuses that feature animals. Will not ride horses, camels, or other animals. Will not fish or hunt. Simply put: Veganism is the abstention from using any animal for any purpose to the best of one’s ability.

When I was eating plant-based, I always tried to avoid calling myself “vegan” because I wasn’t. I tried saying “vegetarian” but people kept assuming I would eat eggs or dairy. I tried saying “dietary vegan” but that felt weird.

Now, I am fully embracing it. It is not terribly difficult to begin living a cruelty-free lifestyle. It can be annoying at times–even a city like San Francisco can be tricky to navigate when it comes to restaurants. But almost three months in, I may not be the healthiest I have ever been (time will help with that), but I certainly feel the best I ever have.

I’ll spare you more gritty details on this post. I plan to share more thoughts and experiences in the future. Right now, I’ve been musing a bit on my newly-re-created Instagram page. But by chance you’re reading this and I’ve piqued interest in veganism, here are a bunch of links to useful videos and information.