I remember the first time I went vegetarian. It was seventh grade and we watched a disturbing video on animal slaughter and the meat industry. I was disgusted and determined. My vegetarianism lasted about three days.
I always liked the idea of avoiding animal products, but ignorance and convenience kept me ordering steaks, burgers, chicken salads and my fave… salmon. I wasn’t interested in hearing why avoiding animal products could benefit the environment, my own health and, well, animals.
When a friend recommended a book on going vegan, The Kind Diet, I told her I would read it as long as they don’t say anything gross about the meat industry. Seriously, I could not be inconvenienced with the truth if it was going to make my stomach queasy.
Well, I sucked it up and read it anyway. As I’ve read through this book (truth bomb — I haven’t finished it yet), I have learned so much about the benefits of going vegan. I simply could not wait to try! So I didn’t wait. I just completed one whole week as a vegan. Here’s what I learned.
Health — My body loves being vegan! I can’t believe the digestive benefits from avoiding meat from day one. Regularity, bloating… things that often bothered me went away fast. I feel good! The book talks a lot about how humans do not digest meat and dairy well. In fact, meat takes 72 hours to digest. And our bodies are warm, so during that 72 hours the meat is essentially rotting in our stomachs. No wonder I feel better without it! Do you know what our bodies love to digest? Vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, and grains. They thrive on these foods, so I’m giving my body more than ever.
Cooking — Ok, this part is hard for me. First, I’m not going to keep my husband and kids away from meat if they want it. So yes, I’ve been cooking two separate meals most nights. But really, it’s my own fault for lack of experience. I believe as soon as I learn alternative recipes that are loaded in protein, I can comfortably feed my family vegan dishes that everyone will enjoy. This is all about education, so I know this will get easier over time.
Environment — I LOVE knowing I’m doing something good for our earth. Yes, I’m just one person but every little bit helps. I’m sure you’ve heard of #meatlessmonday, where people try to avoid meat on Mondays for the benefit of the planet. By avoiding meat and dairy 7 days a week, I feel good knowing I’m doing something (albeit small) for Earth and perhaps a chicken or two.
Animal Welfare — It’s important for me to step beyond the plate and remember where this food came from. It came from an animal. It came from a slaughterhouse. When I look at my plate and see beyond the culinary treat, I remember these were once real, living breathing animals. Recognizing this helps my cause. It doesn’t disgust me to see meat on a plate, but it does help me steer clear of it personally.
Money — Meat and dairy can get expensive. And you know what’s even more expensive? Organic, grass fed and cage free meat. I’m actually saving money with this new lifestyle. I love that!
Dining Out — It’s not all rainbows and butterflies, folks. Dining out as a vegan SUCKS. In just one week, I ran into so many obstacles. Restaurants either serve food with meat or cheese, and most dishes have both. I had to walk out of a few restaurants hungry and screaming inside for a protein shake or snack bar to take the edge off. Yes, you can customize your orders at most restaurants, but I often wind up with a plate of iceberg lettuce and tomatoes. Some avocado slices if I’m lucky.
I’m still very much in the experimental phase of veganism. Will I continue? Absolutely! Will I eat meat and dairy on occasion. Yes, I’m not ready to go cold turkey (no pun intended), just yet. But I do love how going vegan makes me feel. And the other benefits are significant. My first week as a vegan was pure joy… I look forward to the weeks and months ahead.