Becoming Vegan

by Amanda · 16 comments

in Be Healthy

Post image for Becoming Vegan

It’s been just over two years since I made a conscious effort to exclude animal products from my diet. There are always so many questions I get about being vegan, so I have compiled a great guide for those curious.

I am not dogmatic about my lifestyle choices, or expect that others conform or even agree with my lifestyle. Becoming vegan is a large part of my life, but not something that I consider the defining point about me as a person.

What is a Vegan?

Vegans choose not to consume animal products. That includes ALL meat (including chicken & shellfish!), dairy (milk, butter, cheese), eggs, gelatin, and honey. Many vegans avoid animal products in their diet alone, but veganism can branch out to become an entire lifestyle. So no leather shoes, wool coats, feather pillows, suede purses, or silk shirts.

Whew, that seems like a bunch of things to exclude. BUT, there are still sooooo many delicious things to eat. Load up on fresh fruits, vegetables, leafy greens, herbs, nuts, seeds, oils, and fungi. I consider myself a bee-gan, since I consume local honey harvested from my mom’s farm. Sometimes things slip onto my plate or in my closet that are on the “no” list, but it’s not something I stress about. The only thing that has no tolerance is meat. Eww, dead flesh. (Yes, I just said that.)

Making a conscious effort to avoid animal products is a chore in itself, so I’m not going to sweat over the parmesan that’s on my salad or the leather trim on my canvas bag. I still wear leather shoes and purses, I just don’t buy these things new. And wool… well, I’m still working on that one.

Why?

Why, oh, why, dear vegans do we put ourselves through this? First of all I think it’s fairly easy to be vegan. I never miss meat, have found ways to make my favorite foods vegan, and there are so many great products out there now to help transitioning vegans with things like cheese and ice cream.

I always explain my reasoning for becoming vegan in three simple answers.

1. Environmental

The environmental consequences of consuming animal products (or simply meat alone) is a HUGE factor in becoming vegan for me. I am a sustainable nut, so when I learned that livestock contributes more CO2 (18%) than all forms of transport put together (13%) there was no more ignoring my consumption. Many say that the #1 thing you can do for the environment, is to switch to a vegetarian diet.

2. Compassion

The big shift happened while taking a course in college, called Environmental Ethics. We went over the environmental reasons of vegetarianism, and also discussed the ethical ramifications of exploiting sentient beings for our pleasure/needs/benefit. After watching a few Humane Society videos online, I was convinced. Also worth watching: Earthlings, Food Matters, Food Inc., & Fast Food Nation. If you love cute little puppies, kittens, dolphins, exotic birds, or animals in general, how can we disconnect from this sympathy in the food that we eat? Why are dogs considered taboo on a plate, yet a pig isn’t? I connected the dots and haven’t looked back. I suggest you consider being more aware of what it took for your meal to come together. If we were all conscious of what we are eating, the world would be a whole lot healthier!

3. Health

I could list all of the wonderful health benefits of cutting fatty, artery-clogging animal foods from your diet here. But I won’t. Refer to the Reference section down below for some great books on this subject if you wanna know more!

I’ll just tell you my experience: I used to get sick every month, my whole life. It was a cold, sinus infection, bronchitis, strep throat, flu, etc. I even had a tonsillectomy and still kept getting strep throat. In the past two years, after transitioning to a vegan diet, I’ve been sick maybe 2 times. This is a huge, huge change to my life. Also, I lost 10 pounds. Need I say more?

And meat is just gross when you think about it. Dead flesh. Eww.

How?

There are certain things you have to learn about when transitioning to a vegan lifestyle. I already know what your first question is: What about protein? Okay, I must confess that I do not worry about my protein take. Ever. And it’s never been an issue. Most vegans that I know don’t have a problem with their intake of most nutrients on a vegan diet. Get your protein from rice, beans, lentils, quinoa, Spirulina, hemp seeds, chia seeds, & tempeh.

Don’t know what those things are? These are things you learn when you become vegan. You learn about what real food is, and all of the deliciousness that we’ve been missing out on. I suppose you can eat real food and not be vegan, but this is a requirement to being healthy. Eating from boxes is not fun, stylish, or healthy. You will have to learn how to eat real food. Maybe even cook some.

The main thing to consider is eating a balanced diet full of leafy green vegetables. Real food is your multivitamin. Many vegans take a B12 supplement, and all I do for protein + iron is add Spirulina to my smoothies.

Basically, I learned as I went. That’s the best way to learn, anyway. So, don’t be afraid if you don’t know much yet, because you will. You are capable. If I can do it, so can you.

Resources

There are many wonderful resources out there about veganism, from food blogs to recipe books. Here is a short list of my favorite vegan resources:

Online

Choosing Raw is a blog I’ve already mentioned, but must be listed here. One of my favorite blogs, of all subject-matters, as all of her posts are though-provoking, challenging, and well written.

Kristen’s Raw has a portfolio of recipes that are super delicious, nutrient-dense, and creative. Her natural product reviews are some of my favorites, as I have taken her recommendations to heart.

Crazy, Sexy Life by Kris Carr is one hot place for vegans and health-seekers alike. There is a plethora of information, as there are numerous contributors that are considered famous in the vegan blog world.

The Discerning Brute is a great fashion blog for men, and I enjoy his posts on everything vegan. Great sense of style, eloquent writing, & a top-notch blog!

Jonsi and Alex are the most adorable couple. Jonsi is the singer for Sigur Ros, and he’s a raw vegan! Not only that, but he’s created a recipe book and some instructional videos with his partner. You’ve gotta check them out and get a cuteness overload!

iVegan is like Google for vegans. You can search for anything, and they will tell you whether it’s vegan or not.

The Raw Divas is a group of women who run programs to help you achieve your health goals. From smoothie challenges to 7 day detox, they have a program or e-recipe book for you.

Books

Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer

The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted And the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, And Long-term Health by T. Colin Campbell, PhD

Living on Live Food by Alissa Cohen

Diet for a New America by John Robbins

Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedman & Kim Barnouin

Video

Earthlings

Food Matters

Food Inc.

Fast Food Nation

Why Not?

I challenge you, like Farnoosh of Prolific Living, to become vegan for 20 days. Try it out, see how easy it is for you, how you feel, and consider the possibilities. Live with compassion and your health will bloom.

To Health & Happiness,

-

On Wednesday, I share with you my very favorite lentil dish and the fabulous French story about how the recipe came about. So stay tuned!

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris Stroud August 9, 2010 at 10:59 am

Amanda – I’d like to present you with some counter points to veganism. In no way am I trying to persuade you but rather show you a different perspective.

http://www.evfit.com/vegetarian.htm

Here is a good PDF explaining why the China study should be discredited.
http://rawfoodsos.com/2010/08/03/the-china-study-a-formal-analysis-and-response/

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Amanda August 9, 2010 at 11:19 am

Thanks so much, Chris. I realize that this post is one-sided, and grateful that you posted some links on the other side of the discussion.

My main point is to do what feels right for you, which means that there are as many optimal diets as there are people. We are all different, and respond to food differently. For you, eating meat (& being aware of where the meat came from) has helped you on your path to optimal health. For me, becoming vegan has helped.

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Chris Strous August 9, 2010 at 11:33 am

It’s OK, my post about being Paleo is one sided is one sided as well :) . Love your blog, I just subscribed.

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Amanda August 9, 2010 at 11:54 am

Yay! You’ve got a subscriber here, too ;)

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Adam August 9, 2010 at 2:05 pm

Its easy to be a vegetarian, but to be a vegan, it takes a lot of dedication and commitment. Good luck to all who are trying to be one :)

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Amanda August 10, 2010 at 4:49 pm

It does, but once you know how to… being vegan is not that hard. You have to know why your doing it, and be dedicated at every meal.

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Bill Gerlach August 10, 2010 at 9:17 pm

This is so timely. Just yesterday I was telling my wife that I was on the lookout for some good resources on exploring the vegan lifestyle. Our family (including three small kids) have been full-time vegetarians since last October. Not that I expect them to go vegan, but for all the same reasons your outline, taking that extra step could help me deepen my own personal journey. I’m looking forward to spending some time with those resources .

As an aside, it was a viewing of Earthlings that cinched the deal for us too. I cried at points (no joke!). I couldn’t believe how humans could ever treat another living being in such a way. Earthlings makes Food, Inc. look like a Disney flick. :)

Thanks for the awesome post!

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Amanda August 10, 2010 at 9:32 pm

Wow, Bill! I’m so glad you found my post helpful, and really excited for you to take that next step. And, yes, Earthings was one of the hardest things to watch. Think: worst horror movie x10.

Thanks for the lovely comment!

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Lynn Fang August 12, 2010 at 3:22 pm

Great article, Amanda! I’m trying to be vegan at home, at the very least. I’ve eaten a mostly vegan diet before, and during that time I learned a great deal about conventional food substitutes. I love the adventure of finding alternatives, and discovering new foods along the way. Going vegan pressures me to cook at home also, and I’m enjoying every minute of it! Thanks for shedding light on veganism. Hope you have a great weekend!

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Amanda August 12, 2010 at 4:37 pm

Thanks Lynn for the comment! Being vegan at home is the easiest way to switch: simply stop buying cheese + milk at the store, get alternative milks, and cook with olive oil instead of butter. Now going out to eat is a different story…

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Lynn Fang August 14, 2010 at 11:29 am

Being vegan at restaurants is a tough step for me. I try when the opportunities are available, but sometimes there just has to be some dairy. If you have any tips on that, I would love to read!

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Farnoosh August 16, 2010 at 2:03 pm

Dear Amanda, from an aspiring vegan to a true one, thank you for this post and for including my post! As you know, since then, I have had a few ups and downs and to my shocking surprise, the other night, I got sick after eating sushi which I had been waiting to do with my husband for a long time and from a very nice establishment. It wasn’t bad sushi. It was great – but I have grown intolerant to my favorite foods. I am back to being vegan but wondering how I am going to keep it up – I am traveling to Switzerland, Canada, Singapore and Bali in September. Am I going to get stuck with noodles and celery? I don’t know but I am determined to put my health first. I like you used to feel so heavy and full after eating meat and sick after cheese and now I feel like a million bucks. I like to know whether there are any athlete vegans out there and what they take/do to maintain muscle mass!! Thanks so much!

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Amanda August 16, 2010 at 6:22 pm

I suggest, for travel, checking out Happy Cow. They have a world-wide directory of vegetarian/vegan places, full of reviews and a map!

Check out Brendan Brazier, Raw Model and Tim Van Orden for athletic vegans. I plan on writing a more in-depth post about these two topics soon, as a follow-up to this one to answer more questions. So stay tuned!

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Farnoosh August 17, 2010 at 2:32 pm

THANK YOU Amanda, I will check into the fab resources you mentioned!!! Feeling so much better already :)

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smashingdish.com August 23, 2010 at 9:27 pm

I live in Portland Oregon and being vegan is so everyday here….it’s so easy you don’t even notice it. Most resturants have a full page or two or vegan choices and not just a vegan burger like other cities. I guess I just take it for granted that I have get soy curls, grilled tempeh, and vegan donuts, right around the corner.

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