In 2006 I took the plunge and became a vegetarian. Well, more like a “carb-o-tarian” because although I wasn’t eating meat, my vegetable intake was quite pathetic. I was a senior in High School and nutrition was important to me, but it took a back burner to the chips, cookies, and late nights with my friends.
My reason for going vegetarian wasn’t to loose weight, or better my lifestyle/eating habits, I became a vegetarian simply because I was an avid animal lover. My best friend and I took the plunge together (she is with me in the picture above) which made it easier. The smell of burgers was taunting in the beginning, but having someone with you through the process made the burger smell disappear..almost.
It was easier to remember why I chose this lifestyle when someone else was with me throughout the journey. Regardless of whether my tiny voice made a difference in the world, it made a difference to me knowing I was following my heart and respecting my animal friends.
For about three years I continued with a carb-o-tarian diet. It wasn’t until 2009 when I started working at a smoothie shop that I reevaluated what I was eating. I was 20 yrs old and my passion for healthy eating was developing. I was in that shop every day. I became the store manager and was able to work endless hours while attending school.
I was taking science classes learning about nutrition, anatomy, and the inside of the human body. All of this new found knowledge fueled my desire to learn more. I loved this job more than any job I have ever worked. I had smoothies everyday packed full of fruit, vitamins, supplements (safe ones I promise) and more fruit! Wheat grass became my new favorite shot to take.
After almost two years with this company, the owners tried to transition to a smaller business under their own name, and ended up shutting down. Saddest.Day.Ever. I couldn’t bare living without my beloved blender, so I bought my own. He wasn’t cheap, but he was one of the best investments.
Fast forward about 5 months after being “laid off” due to the business closing. It was now January 2011, and I stumbled across a blog that I began reading religiously. This led me to another one..and then to another one..and then to one more. Eventually I became so infatuated with reading blogs that I started my own.
This is when my inner foodie escaped and began to thrive. My fruit intake was spot on thanks to smoothie work, but my veggies still needed help. I started roasting, steaming, and sauteing veggies every day. I fell in love. My plates turned into rainbows.
I was officially health conscious. I ate an “official” vegetarian diet (lots of vegetables) for two of the five years I had claimed to be a vegetarian. Within these two years I had a few spurts of vegan experimenting, but nothing that lasted more than two weeks. In March of 2012 all of that changed.
I decided to try a vegan diet again. It was time for a change, and I was ready to be challenged with my culinary adventures. So this was the plan..go vegan for two weeks..see how I like it and then decided what I want to do next. Within those two weeks I noticed my appetite increase (or so I thought.) I felt like I was eating twice the amount I was eating before when I was still eating cheese. At this point my running had increased as well, and I devoted more time to bettering my athletic abilities. After two weeks of eating more, but not gaining any weight I realized this vegan thing might be a new lifestyle change.
I felt my options grow wider. I noticed how much dairy (cheese) I consumed during an average meal. I ate cheese just like most Americans eat meat, almost every single meal! It was ridiculous! Cutting cheese out forced me to expand my meal options and forced me to experiment! More grains, more vegetables, more fruits, more beans, more legumes, more raw, natural, REAL food. Unprocessed foods topped the list of my go-to’s at the store. I was eating enough food for a football team, but maintaining a healthy weight.
So where does the “vegan with benefits” title come to surface with all of this? Here’s how I see it. I enjoy eating vegan. I like the way it makes me feel, but most of all I LOVE knowing exactly what I am putting into my body..down to every last ingredient. Being vegan forces me to read labels diligently and effectively. If I don’t know what something is..I won’t buy it. I am eating as close to the earth as possible.
Does this mean I will never eat dairy products again..possibly not. I want to travel in my lifetime. I want to visit Italy, Australia, Europe..everywhere. When I make it to Italy I want the option of tasting the culture through the food. This is where I am at now, I eat a vegan diet, but don’t give myself the label. If I choose to go forever without any animal products, so be it. I also eat locally sourced honey, so..yeah. #notarealvegan.
I feel healthier and more alive than I ever have before. I love creating new meals, and trying new foods. The past year has allowed me to grow into my foodie title and expand my resources. I still eat cookies, candy, carbs, and everything in between, but they are all made without dairy or eggs. I don’t feel deprived whatsoever. Should I feel as if I physically and mentally miss cheese, I will have a piece..but I don’t see that happening.
As for being a vegetarian, this will be something I always do 100%. I will never willingly eat a piece of meat as long as I am alive. There is no “benefit” with this lifestyle choice, animals always come first. I am aware of the inhumane practices used to get milk, cheese, eggs, etc..therefor I will try to purchase from local farms, respectable stores, and stay away from unethical companies should I feel the need for animal products. I’m a work in progress.
That’s my story, and I’m stickin to it.
The vegan with benefits label was inspired by Sarah@thesmartkitchenblog.
Q: How did you come to eat the way you do?