I try not to be one of those aggressive vegans. You know, the super judgmental, overbearing, Peta-subscribed kind that literally only speaks vegan. And I know at one point I probably was that damn pretentious, so please, charge it to my head not my heart. Now, I try to be cautious and only mention being vegan when asked, I swear!!!
(Enjoy this cutesy boomerang from us at Jeni’s this memorial weekend)
Those who’ve been following me for some time should know that I’ve been on this journey for a while. And I continue to interchangeably phrase it as a journey/lifestyle, because that’s the important aspect I want people who’re newly transitioned, or thinking about transitioning to a plant based diet, to understand.
I won’t go into the long history of it, again, but I started my journey in my early teen years. Once I learned to read food labels and count calories, I paired that with my already developed aversion to the idea of eating meat.
This switch came with one simple reality– I didn’t like the idea of eating meat. Rather, anything with a face. So it was easier for me to stop eating, aside from the tardy approval of my mother. The challenges came from ignorance and isolation. Having been the first in my immediate family to adopt such a polarized “diet”, many didn’t know how to feed me or what to think.
I always joke about me putting my foot down with my mother when I first converted to a strict vegetarian as my defining adolescent moment. She, like others, thought it to be only a diet or fad. But I knew better. So I got her on board and in the kitchen.
May’s basically over and I know many have been participating in #nomeatmay. Seeing folks share some pitfalls and daily struggles I pinned this blog post.
Here are my casualties and realities as a plant-based veggie head:
- Binging bad foods-ever heard of a junk-food vegan?? It’s totally a thing and I was once one. These days, as capitalism’s influence around veganism grows, grocery store shelves and restaurants are showing more and more “vegan options”. But be leery my friends. Just like everything that glitters ain’t gold, everything that’s vegan ain’t good for you. If health is your optimal goal, which is something I’m commonly told by people when asking for my advice, I say stay away from highly processed fake meats and treats as they’re filled with chemicals and questionable ingredients that make you go hmmmm…
- Compulsion- Since I’m technically considered a “moral vegan” I started to become super compulsive about everything. *googles is this vegan?* before I touch it. I had to decide what was important to me. I chose to become this way out of compassion, but would throw something away if it wasn’t Peta approved. And to me, being wasteful isn’t compassionate at all. Honestly, I was failing on the eco scale and I didn’t like that. The biggest thing that fake bothered me was that my car, of many years, has red leather seats. You can ask my best of friends, I seriously began to fret once I considered myself an ethical vegan, that driving leather seats was problematic. And while that may not be a big deal to you, or me now, there are some that it is. I had to look at it with new eyes. At one point my grandma was teasing me saying that I’d have to just be naked because my clothes weren’t vegan. (Let’s stick a pin in that, and return another time) As a “lifestyle” vegan I transitioned to arguably* eco-friendlier products, and found ways to satisfy my identity as a plant based veggie head.
- Embarrassment- Like I said, I don’t like to be the “vegan this, vegan that” person. So most times when I’m at group functions or family gatherings I’ve already eaten. Where I’ve failed is to be spotted by that auntie who wants to know why I haven’t touched her beans or seven layer salad. And, cue the “well, I’m vegan, so—” speech.
- Fatigue-A direct result of eating high amounts of hella plants, I was finding that I wasn’t eating enough to sustain my energy levels throughout the day. I typically have 15 hour days during the work week and need a lot of food to keep me going. Unfortunately, I learned I can’t operate off coffee and carrots alone. So being prepared is key.
- Starvation-My diet is a little stricter than the average person’s. I eat cleaner than I did when starting out a decade ago, and for that it’s not as easy to eat out. I usually combat this by preparing snacks. But I fail when I’m out of town or have a really busy day. I learned to find the nearest store and stock up on fruits and smaller handheld proteins to keep me energized because who wants to deal with a hangry vegan??? Because this is a journey, or process if you will, I’m constantly studying myself and being mindful of how I feel after I eat certain things. The direct result is ingredient omission/limitation. Most recently I’ve had to remove soy and corn and their byproducts. Not so much sad about the soy, but definitely about the corn as I was on the Olivia Pope diet for a bit. So what happens when I’m out of town and that’s all I have? Where I would just starve in the past, I make the conscious decision to take the lesser of two evils. Eat!! Since I don’t eat them on a regular, it’s more important for me to eat than walk around a hangry woman all day.
- Segregation- this is better now that I’m less embarrassed about the way I eat. But there were many times I segregated myself from family events or group gatherings simply because I wanted to eat in peace and not have to be made to feel bad or awkward about what I chose to eat.
At the end of the day, I don’t care if you’re a trendy vegan (aka a Beyonce vegan), switching for health purposes, or a flexitarian (someone who eats meat only sometimes). I just want you to hear a little from my experiences through the years, those of which I learned from, as you jumpstart your lifestyle change.
I’ll admit that it tickles me a bit to still get asked the why’s and how’s about my switch. I’m thankful to know, and have befriend, other black plant-based eaters, too!
I realize I don’t have all the answers and that everyone isn’t trying to be like me. But for those who are seriously interested in a switch, know that I am here for you. I’ll gladly share recipes, favorite eateries, and shopping hacks with you!!!