15 Years Vegan

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July is a special month for me. I made a commitment to myself, with the help of a friend, 15 years ago this July to be vegan. I had been working up to the decision, literally working towards it, and the final change came easy. But my journey was and remains difficult.

Everyone has their own special reason to be vegan and every reason is valuable. No one reason is more important or valuable than another. Being vegan is a loving choice for yourself, animals, and the planet. No matter the motivation, you are making real change in a world full of reasons not to be vegan.

I have an intolerance to animal proteins and I was born with the intolerance. I am unable to easily digest animal proteins and get terrible stomach cramps from trying to eat them. As a child, I just assumed everyone experienced this. I had no reason to think otherwise. After I ate, I just had to be still and let the pain pass. It wasn’t until high school that certain foods would completely incapacitate me for hours. My mother took me to see a doctor and after several miserable tests to make sure I didn’t have things like cancer, the doctor just told me to cut out the foods I reacted to most and exercise more because stress must be facilitating my reactions. This began my journey to veganism and it took another 10 years until I became fully vegan.

So I began to cut out the biggest offenders to my stomach. The only problem was that as I cut out some things, I began to react more to others. My list of animal proteins kept getting smaller and smaller. Dairy was the hardest to give up and I had to do it slowly. I loved cheese and today I still hear people say things like, “I can’t be vegan because I love cheese!” I had to kill this habit slowly.

I started with small goals. The first goal was to cut dairy out of at least one meal a day. I did this for several weeks until I was comfortable with my new food choices. Since I have an intolerance, I cut dairy from breakfast and would feel great in the mornings. After several weeks, I moved to only having dairy once a day. I already mentioned how as I cut things out, the lingering animal proteins in my diet became more pronounced. This fact made it easier to keep cutting dairy. After several weeks at once a day, I went to once every other day. Then I went to every three days and then once a week. I would save my once a week to spending time with my girlfriends and we would eat ice cream. I always felt terrible afterwards, even though I would enjoy the time with my friends. Once I was at every two weeks, giving it up completely was easy.

I took the final step with a friend who was motivated by wanting to hurt fewer animals. We had different motivations, but a singular goal and encouraged each other every step. This was important because 15 years ago, there were few tasty alternatives at the grocery store. The town I lived in had no vegetarian restaurants and when I would travel, most vegetarian restaurants were terrible. I’m not sure how they stayed in business.

Today, being vegan is so easy in comparison. This first few years after becoming vegan I would still crave foods I had loved before, but would remember the pain from eating them. Yes, I had a special motivator. But, that does not make my journey any less important. Today, I no longer crave the foods I once did and I have forgotten what most of them taste like.

I love my vegan life. I long for the day, and truly see it coming, when being vegan is not the “weirdo in the room” scenario that often plays out. I am much healthier for this choice and I wish everyone could feel the vitality I do. Don’t get me wrong, lots of non-vegans feel vitality, but with two thirds of people in the United States obese or overweight, a bunch of people are not feeling vital or healthy right now.

Happy anniversary to me! Any ideas on how I should celebrate?

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