Gentle Changes: The Gradual Vegan
Posted on June 05 2018
Today will get a bit personal – not Eat, Pray, Love personal but still, bear with me. If you read my last essay about the vegan lifestyle, you would know that I am an ethical vegan. If you didn’t, no worries, you can find it on this blog as Vegans That Wear Leather. As mentioned in that post, a vegan is someone who abstains from using animal products (meat, dairy, leather, etc.) as far as is realistic and possible. Plant-based and vegan are often used interchangeably but they are not the same. While it is almost safe to say that all vegans are ethical by nature, as the term vegan refers to someone who believes in the emancipation of animals from exploitation, those practicing a plant-based lifestyle are simply adhering to the diet.
Now this is not to make anyone feel less of an animal advocate because following a plant-based diet is still a giant leap towards better health and a positive contributi-on to the environment. We here at Vilma Boutique fully endorse the vegan moveme-nt but this does not mean that I was always a vegan and I am not implying that you should become a vegan (at least not this instant). Making positive changes to your lifestyle is always going to be challenging; as the saying goes, ‘if it was easy, everyone would do it’. Guess that answers the question as to why I don’t have summer abs.
As I type this, I am lingering over a big plate of French fries and a pool of ketchup (kidding, it’s more of a puddle), so no judgement on my part. The reason I am telling you this is because it is an ideal example of both a plant-based snack/meal that also counts as vegan. Regardless of what type of meal you call this, it really does not qualify as a healthy or very nutritious meal. Whoever said that vegans were the epitome of healthy needs to re-evaluate that statement or make a few exceptions. No one does the vegan lifestyle or any lifestyle for that matter, perfectly. We are all learning and must be gentle not only with the animals but also with ourselves.
I switched over to the plant side seven years ago when I first attempted to become a vegetarian, while in high school. Let me tell you – that was one failed attempt after another that l eventually abandoned the cause and kept on moving; that is, until a year later. During my first semester of college, via books, movies or real life experiences, life threw many signs my way that eventually got me back on the vegetarian path. Before you assume wrongly, I was not an overnight vegan. In fact, just until last year, 2017, five years after removing animal flesh from my diet, except for fish, I made the decision to take it one step further: become a vegan.
Now at this point it meant that I would need to remove the fish option from my diet, this still served as my ticket to eating out as well as not becoming a social pariah. As incongruent as it may sound, I ate fish because it was seen as a ‘healthy’ source of protein; most people suggested that fish didn’t count as meat. I was content with this notion and bought into it for a while. Also, I ate cheese and eggs, (before I knew how they were produced/harvested) as substitutes for the meat that I was not consuming. Dairy milk however was not consumed directly as my mother had long since discovered the benefits of soymilk which we would consume occasionally. So the plan now was: stick to the non-dairy milks and find a way to avoid fish, cheese and eggs. Easy right?
It should be noted that prior to this, some relatives treated me to lunch at a vegan restaurant – it was the first one I had ever visited. I was amazed not only by the quality of the food but by the way the foods that we were used to eating could be replicated using just plants. The textures, flavours and aromas were nothing short of satisfying as they fed both the body and the soul. It was an experience like no other. This shed some much needed light on my perspective and certainly helped to shape the person I am today.
But even after this, my first vegan experience, and college, I would eventually move back into my hometown where the real challenge began: cooking. Keep in mind that it was vegetarian cooking and I was never really as involved in food preparation as I should have been. I was no stranger to the kitchen but neither was I an expert. And to make matters worse, I had never even been to the farmer’s market unaccompani-ed. Somehow, after many trips and various recipe disasters, I managed to alter my diet somewhat according to plan. Presently, I am still working on changing other facets of my lifestyle but just as I took baby steps to get here, I will continue taking steps until I am living as vegan a lifestyle as is realistic and possible.
I know that we are not all the same but I am simply here to tell you that regardless of where you are now in your health or fitness journey, or even if you feel like you have not begun, your present state is not final – you have every right to change your future. This doesn’t mean that you must go out right now and buy all the healthy food you can find, or start exercising everyday – all I am suggesting is that you have more options available to you than you think. Neither a prognosis nor a diagnosis should stop you from living your best life; you just need to make the connection between your health and diet. Take baby steps, reward yourself and enjoy the wonder of natural life. If this all sounds like too much or too good to be true, just remember that whatever you can or cannot do, it’s all up to you. Go vegan or don’t, but at least you know that it is a potential path, if you dare to venture. Trust me, it will be worth the while.
Written by Nayelie Vernon for VILMA Boutique