My vegan journey began three years ago, after a particularly unhealthy week of holiday binge eating in my hometown of Buffalo, NY. Back then, spending Christmas in Buffalo meant more than indulging in festive cocktails, frosted sugar cookies, and Mom’s home-cooked feasts. It meant taking on the challenge of eating Ted’s hot dogs, Duff’s chicken wings, Jim’s Steakout chicken finger subs, Anderson’s ice cream, Mighty Taco, and every other type of Buffalo food in existence all before boarding my flight home. With only one week and so much to eat, this was a challenge fit for Man vs. Food, and I was determined to be the victor.
By the end of the week, I was more stuffed than my post-Christmas suitcase. I had never been heavier. I had never felt more disgusting or disgusted with myself.
So as my friend drove me to the airport, I was suddenly eager to hear about her choice to be vegetarian and by the time we said our goodbyes, I was starting to think differently. I downloaded the Skinny Bitch book my thin friends all raved about and spent my flight reading and thinking and envisioning new possibilities. Once back in Austin, I announced my plan. I would eat vegan except give myself one cheat day a week. Well, I made it through New Years without cheating. I discovered the theppk.com (Isa Chandra is and always will be my hero). A week passed. Then, weeks and then months and now years. I never once took my cheat day simply because I never once wanted to and the reason is this. Being vegan is not about giving things up; it’s not about sacrifice or about having less. It’s about having more.
MORE FREEDOM. I have always been weight conscious. My parents have been dieting for as long as I can remember. When I wanted to lose weight, the answer was simple: count calories. And, of course, counting calories does make you lose weight. Unfortunately, it also creates a sort of mental food prison where you’re always thinking about food, but never really getting to eat the food you want to eat. Becoming vegan changed this. Instead of feeling deprived, I began to feel remarkably free. Everyday, I enact my freedom to say no to foods that are bad for me, bad for the environment, and bad for animals. So when a well-meaning omnivore friend looks at me sympathetically and says, “Oh, sorry, this has cheese in it. I guess you can’t have it.” I just smile and nod because I can have whatever I want. I choose to eat food that makes me feel and look good.
MORE FUN. Back when I was still torturing myself by meticulously counting calories, I would sometimes seriously debate whether or not I would go out with friends because I didn’t have enough calories left for the day. That’s no way to live. Vegans have more fun because food doesn’t control them. Plus, eating without guilt makes the whole experience a lot more enjoyable. So, sub salsa for the queso, a veggie burger for the cheeseburger, and live it up.
MORE VARIETY. When I was a kid, I was an absurdly picky eater. My mom was lucky to get me to eat anything besides hot dogs and cheese sandwiches. Since those delicacies don’t exactly fit into a vegan diet, I had to become a lot more adventurous with my food choices. Quinoa, samosas, tofu, tempeh, seitan, kale, cashews, almonds, almond milk, avocados, hummus, chana masala. I’ll take these foods any day over boring meat and dairy.
MORE FLAVOR. Cheese is gross. It makes you fat and it eliminates the need for whatever you’re eating that’s covered in cheese to actually taste good. When I became vegan, I had a startling realization–food has flavor without cheese! Furthermore, those spices in that spice rack I had been using solely for decorative purposes, actually go on food! Who knew? Man, vegans have so much more flavor in their lives.
MORE IMPACT. My mom once told me that eating just one vegan meal a week was better for the environment than driving a hybrid car for a whole year (or something like that). The point is that by choosing to eat vegan, you are having a positive impact on the world and that’s pretty awesome.
MORE LOVE. I have always been an animal lover. However, up until the day I decided to become vegan I chose to close my ears when people talked about the cruelty with which the animals we eat are treated. It was sort of like out of sight, out of mind. When I finally did listen, it sealed the deal. How could I love animals and support such atrocious animal cruelty? It’s simple, I couldn’t. Moreover, as a vegan cook, I get to share tasty, cruelty-free meals with the people I love most, my family and friends.
As I ring in this new year and celebrate my three year veganniversary, my resolution is to spread the freedom, the variety, the flavor, the impact, and the love that being vegan has brought to my life. From the everyday meals that get me through my week to the signature drinks that make for a party people can’t stop talking about, I plan to post it all on this blog. Here’s to a happy new year! Here’s to MORE!