7.06.2012

The Vegan Thing

If you had asked me five years ago if I would ever give up animal products, I would've laughed my face off and called you insane. Hell, even two years ago. In my mind, the picture of the typical vegan hasn't changed much. For many of them, it's not so much an eating choice as it is a food religion that must be proselytized at every turn. It drives me crazy, and it's one reason I was intending to stay in the closet about this once it finally got under way. But I don't exist well in closets. And I don't want to be lumped into that same cult-like mindset that lot of vegans fall into, whether they want to or not (and I suspect I'm not alone in this in the vegan world). That sort of looking-down-the-nose sniff-sniffism that tends to drive more people to steak than away from it.

I don't want to be one of "those people."

And yet, I'm sitting here on the cusp of getting ready to say goodbye to animal products for good. I'm not shedding a tear, really. I'm not doing this to make a statement or to hold myself on high as someone who is better than a carnivore. I'm doing this because the choice has been made for me. My health demands it. I've studied this topic for a couple years now, and I've been intrigued by the numbers and the studies, appalled by the nastiness of the modern food industry, and inspired by what I've seen personally when people like me have made the switch. The astounding improvement in their health and well-being in such a short period of time is actually quite remarkable. I've experimented with varying levels of a meatless existence. Each and every time, I felt tremendously better. Lighter. Happier. More awake. Focused. But it was difficult to maintain for the long term. Probably because I was making it harder than it needed to be.

Of course, it isn't just the animal products. It's the sugars and the bad fats, and the fact that I'm just plain no eating enough vegetable matter. When I've said goodbye to the dairy and the meat and the eggs and replaced those things with plant-based items, I've had such a great ah-hah moment. THIS is what my body is telling me it NEEDS. Which is wholly different than what my body tells me it wants. It wants ice cream, it wants cake, it wants bread and chocolate and cheeseburgers and fries.

I've spent the last 30 years giving my body what it wants. It hasn't done me any favors. And now that I'm approaching my mid-30s, it's time to tell that voice to STFU once and for all and let someone else take the steering wheel. The truth is, I've come to hate most food. Very little of it makes me feel good anymore. In fact, after eating a typical meal, I feel like shit. I drag ass, I want a nap, or I need to run to the bathroom immediately because my body is rejecting it. Apart from my chronic inflammation issues, I've also been having acid reflux, and my asthma is worsening to the point where I have needed my inhaler daily for the last few months. And I've noticed these symptoms increase after I've had certain foods.

This is not how food is supposed to be making me feel.

But then the other night, I had a meal comprised mostly of vegetables and fish. I still remember how good I felt after I ate that meal. How clean that fuel was. How I didn't start wheezing or tasting bile in the back of my throat or how my intestines didn't start spasming.

But fish, you say? That's not vegan. And that's where I'm going next with this. My version of veganism may very well involve some fish or seafood once a week, if I want it. Maybe I won't want it. We'll see. I'm keeping some options open. The point is, I'm just trying to listen. REALLY listen this time to what my body is telling me. It's telling me that it can no longer tolerate the stuff I've been putting into it. It's been telling me that for a number of years, but I no longer have brazen youthful cockiness on my side. I'm crying out for nutrients. I'm being forced to remember the times I've given myself the right fuel and went on to feel like I was ready to take on the world.

I think that's where a lot of the obnoxious behavior from the stereotypical vegans originates. They feel so damn awesome that it becomes their mission to spread their lifestyle, like a gospel. They want to heal the world or something. They have good intentions, but it just backfires because they come off as judgmental douches.

I have no interest in doing that.

But maybe you wonder why I'm writing this blog in the first place. The truth is, I'm writing it because I want people to know that I'm prepared for the criticisms and concerns that will also be thrown my way from people who will wonder if I'm getting enough protein in my diet (this is not even remotely a concern), or who think I'm slowly killing myself or morphing into a hippie. I'm putting this out into the world to let people know that I've done my homework, and I have no reason to worry and neither should you. I also have no interest in trying to change you. Your journey, your choices, your diet decisions are all your own and I just want to be afforded that same respect on the road ahead. In many ways, I suppose it is like a religion. I can't make everyone believe and think the way I do. I came by my views honestly, through an entire lifetime of experiences that took me along a certain path. Even if you share some of my beliefs, your path is going to look different from mine. Besides,I have a lot on my own plate just trying to fix myself right now. I'm not even thinking about your choices.

If, however, you are ever curious about any of the recipes I'm likely to post, or are noticing some of the positive effects of the diet on my health or body and want to learn more, I'll be happy to share whatever information I have.

Ultimately, I was driven to this point. When you feel like shit, and you know what will fix it, there comes a time when you can no longer ignore that option, even if it involves a lot of change and sacrifice. I love cheeseburgers. I probably always will. They just don't love me, and I think it's time we parted ways. My inner hedonist is a little sad, but I think even she is looking forward to the break.