I grew up in Idaho. The land of potatoes and you guessed it … meat!
Vegetarian and Veganism were a foreign language to me and I didn’t understand why anyone would ever want to not eat meat. I know the next part is going to sound cliché because I use the buzzwords “Yoga and Vegan” in the same sentence but stay with me…
I found yoga 17 years ago. Back when there weren’t “Insta-Famous Yogis”, pretty handstands on exotic beaches pictures or 539 different yoga pant companies vying for your attention and money. I started practicing in a gym before Yoga Studios were even popular. I decided ten years ago that I loved Yoga so much it was my calling in life. I quit my high paying corporate finance job, packed a bag and went to live in an Ashram in Hawaii for a month to gain my 200-Hour Yoga and Meditation Teaching Certification. It was there I learned about vegetarianism and veganism and for the past decade I have teetered back and forth with mainly a vegetarian diet.
A little over a month ago, I was looking for a boost. A recharge in my body. A shift in lifestyle. I follow many vegans on social media such as Rich Roll, Kerri at BeachYogaGirl and Michelle at BananaBlondie. I followed them initially because they are athletes and yogis and the vegan stuff was an afterthought.They made veganism seem SO easy though! And all three are vocal advocates for the lifestyle. I researched for about a week, watched a million and three youtube videos on “Veganism for Dummies” and then decided to just go for it. My diet was pretty clean but definitely involved steaks and cheese pizza. On November 7th I woke up and started the journey.
I am an athlete and sometimes am training for hours a day. I run, lift weights, cycle, swim, practice yoga and most recently took up pole dance and aerial silks classes. I knew I needed to fuel my body so my only intention for the month was to go meal by meal, day by day and eat my heart out. Not paying attention to portion sizes, just eating vegan and eating until I was full.
These were the main things I noticed most during this time.
1. My energy level skyrocketed within days. I was finding myself drinking less and less coffee and woke up feeling refreshed. I didn’t feel an afternoon crash any longer. I could keep up with my two young boys and I just felt AWAKE! It was the most liberating feeling!
2. My recovery time from workouts was quicker. I normally could feel sore for a few days after a workout but I would find myself dancing for 3 hours and not feel any soreness the next day. I was fueling my muscles in a different way and I felt fresh and prepared for my next day of training versus sore and sluggish. Inflammation went down and I felt more mobile and bendy in my yoga practice.
3. I was getting stronger. My muscles were actually growing. Without meat! I decided at the start I wasn’t going to count macros or calories because that just doesn’t work with my lifestyle and could make me neurotic. My body was getting enough protein and fuel to build strength and muscle eating mostly plants. I was able to do yoga poses and go up in strength considerably each week while weight lifting.
4. It wasn’t that hard. With a tiny bit of planning and research, you can find countless meals to prepare in under 10 minutes. That is my timeframe for cooking these days because I am a busy working single mom. I honestly don’t have time for anything longer than that most days. I kept a rotating meal “plan” going and would try new things when I had a bit more time on the weekends or non soccer-mom nights. Keeping it simple, finding foods I loved and repeating meals was a lifesaver for me.
5. I gave up worrying about what anyone else thinks or says. You may get some backlash, some eye rolls, ect. when you tell someone you are going vegan. Who cares? I look at it this way. I am alone eating probably 95% of the time. (Exception being my kids who don’t care what or how I eat, just as long as they are eating!) That leaves 5% of the time I am eating with friends. Maybe your scale is a bit more than mine but if you really think about it, the point is how much of your time is eating alone versus with other people?
Now for me, I looked and thought, “Why am I willing to compromise a meal or some food for friends who when we part ways, don’t give a flying fuck what I am eating the other 95% of the time?” There may be some making fun or smirking when you ask for vegan options … (You kind of have to get over this to be brutally honest. Don’t take life so seriously you can’t laugh at yourself. And on the other hand, stick up for yourself if it gets out of control. Do no harm but take no shit.) … but I decided that if I was going to commit to this, I was not going to care about what someone else thinks who sees me for a meal once a week or month at most. Make sense? You honestly don’t owe anyone a damn fucking thing when it comes to what you eat. And you don’t need to change what you eat to accommodate for someone who feels uncomfortable when five seconds after you part ways, they won’t think about what you eat again until next time you see them. Make choices for you and stand by them. People can deal with it. Respect them and demand respect back. The ones who truly love and support you aren’t going to care what you do and don’t eat in the end.
I even went on a date during this month and ordered all vegan sushi with a few sides. Guess what, the guy didn’t care one bit. It actually was a good conversation starter. If you start dating someone and early on they are going to critique or judge what you eat, please for the love of everything holy … see that as a big red flag and move on! But that could be an entirely other article we will save for another day.
All in all, going vegan from a meat, egg and cheese diet wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought. I feel better, I am a better athlete and I kind of like this way of life. For now I am going to stick with it and see where it brings me. I don’t want to put pressure on myself to do anything absolute for life, but for now I continue vegan and I will let it trickle down into my lifestyle with toiletries, makeup and clothing. I’m not addressing anything ethical here, but turns out, I’m pretty passionate about the research on veganism as well.
There is no rule book to how to go vegan or vegetarian. There is SO much stigma and fighting between being plant-based and vegan and vegetarian and who is actually eating what under what “title”. Everyone is fighting over nothing. Forget them ALL. Do YOU. Do it YOUR way. (If you want to. If not just go on doing what you are doing.) Take it slow. Jump in head first. Start with one day a week going vegan and work up to seven or maybe you stay at only five days forever. Find what works to make you and your body feel most energized and alive! You are worth that feeling.