My Decision to Go Vegan (Which Has Absolutely Nothing to Do With Oprah)
Not veganish, whatever that means. Vegan.
I’ve tried it twice before, each time for 30 days. By the end of both trials, I found myself sprinting to the nearest Domino’s for a slice of greasy pizza.
And now I know why — I was forcing it. I was doing it because I wanted to feel bad about eating cheese and eggs. And yet on a gut level, I didn’t mind those foods, and that’s why I so quickly grabbed a slice of ‘za when those 30 days were up.
But this time it’s different.
The single comment that brought about the change
You’ll have to excuse me for talking about cruelty and ethical issues in this post — that’s not what No Meat Athlete is about, and I generally focus on health and athletic performance over those things that stir up controversy.
But for me this time, the change isn’t about health. A very tiny percentage of my diet recently has come from animal products over the past few months, with that percentage decreasing as I lost some of the taste for dairy products after each 30-day trial (I don’t like eggs anyway unless I can’t taste them).
So it won’t make a difference for my health or for my running. (I guess pizza is one less junk food I can eat on lazy days, but I’m sure I’ll find some vegan junk food if that’s what I’m in the mood for.)
Instead, this change is about animals, and not taking stuff from them or otherwise being a dick to them. And you know what did it? A blog comment someone left me. This one, from someone named “Yoga Gurl”:
Dairy has one special component that makes it the most cruel and that is the separation of baby and mother at birth. They do this because we take the milk that would normally go to the calf…so they are separated forever. The baby calves, often just days old, are often sent to the slaughterhouse. They are called “Bob veal”. They are often so young, they cannot even stand up. The mothers often bellow for days or try to hide their babies from being taken away from them. Meanwhile, this happens over and over…impregnation, birth, taking their babies and then sent to veal crates or directly to the slaughterhouse.
Again, this isn’t what I like to write about on this site — it feels strange just to put it in a post. In my opinion, it’s not even the most effective way to encourage people to give a friendlier diet a try.
But this comment hit a nerve, and here I am writing about going vegan
This is unfolding the same way my transition to vegetarianism did. I went for several months eating fish and no other meat, and then I started eating less of it. Eventually, it was a matter of convenience, something I’d eat only out at a restaurant if there wasn’t anything else on the menu for me.
All that it took to stop completely was a decision.
And that’s how it’s been with dairy and eggs. I’ve gone six months or so during which I’ve eaten them only rarely, and I’m at that point where the only difference between that diet and a vegan one is the decision that even when it’s convenient, I’m not going to eat them.
It’s really not any more complicated than that. Yesterday I made that decision, so I guess you can now call me vegan.
The type of vegan I want to be
I’m not worried about cravings. I’m sure they’ll come, but I can handle that. I’ll eat vegan ice cream or Daiya cheese or vegan sausage (it’s almost as good as the real thing) and I’ll get past it.
What I’m concerned about, though, is being perceived as snobby or “too good” for the non-vegan food that someone might offer me.
I hate making a scene. When you’re a vegetarian, it’s pretty easy to look at a menu item or a plate and know if there’s meat in it, and to privately, happily eat a vegetarian meal when everyone else at the table orders meat. Sure, there are times when you need to ask about broth or gelatin or some of the other surprise non-vegetarian food. But it’s not often. (Although I did bite into a pork burrito the other day that was supposed to be portobello mushrooms!)
With vegan stuff, though, you need to ask, because butter or eggs or milk aren’t often visible in foods or listed in menu descriptions. And if I’m going to dinner at a friend’s house, I’ll need to specify that, oh by the way, now the meatless dinner you were planning to make for me isn’t good enough; you’ve got to do better than that if you want me to eat your food. That part sucks.
But my plan is to follow the example of my friend Karol Gajda, and if someone brings me food that’s supposed to be vegan but isn’t, I’ll either find someone else to eat it or eat it myself, rather than throw it away. Along the same lines, I’ll probably finish the honey I have in the cabinet, and keep wearing the leather shoes that I have, until they’re worn out.
No, this doesn’t completely address my concerns, but I think I can apply the attitude to a lot of situations. If at a party there’s a salad with feta cheese on it, I’ll eat around the cheese but not refuse the salad. I think.
For as long as it makes me happy. Right now, I don’t feel good when I eat animal products. I imagine this feeling will only grow stronger with time, the way it has with meat since I stopped eating it.
But if I decide in a few months or weeks that I’m not happy as a vegan, I’ll go back to being vegetarian. And this won’t be a failure. I’ll look at it as another step towards finding a diet I can feel good about.
It’s very different than the previous “attempts” though, because there’s no end date here. This is indefinite, and I hope it lasts forever.
As I told my friend Gena from Choosing Raw yesterday, I’m not scared about starting this and screwing up and embarrassing myself. The reason is that if that happens, I know that writing about it will benefit someone else who is in the same place I am, wavering back and forth between being a vegetarian and being a vegan. So for that, thanks.
Among other people responsible…
Gena is one person who has been a big inspiration for me. She goes about veganism (and raw foodism) in a manner that I really respect and strive to mimic in my own way.
Another huge motivating force for this has been vegan bodybuilder and author Robert Cheeke. The two times I’ve hung out with him, I’ve left with a tremendous desire to do something that makes a difference in the world.
The final driver for this change who deserves a special shout-out is the aforementioned Karol Gajda. Meeting Karol in person last week and having the chance to grab vegan Korean BBQ tacos at a food truck with him played a big part in my making this happen, minor as that may sound.
Alrighty…well this has inadvertently turned into an Academy Award acceptance speech, so I’ll wrap it up before the music comes on. I’m looking forward to hearing what you think about this change, whether you’re a much stricter vegan than I’ll be at first, a vegetarian with no desire to go vegan, or someone in between.
Oh yeah, and one more… thanks, Yoga Gurl. 🙂
I’ve only been a vegetarian for 2 months (in large part because of blogs like yours!) And though I do feel so much better, have more energy, feel like I am doing something great, I still feel like I could be doing more (especially after reading that comment from Yoga Gurl!). I have started by cutting dairy out as much as possible (bought my first carton of almond milk, Daiya cheese, and vegenaise this past week) and these replacements foods are making it ridiculously easy. They all taste just as good, if not better than the dairy-laden originals. But eggs are tough for me. My go to breakfast before runs is an egg on an english muffin. I am not a big fan of cereal or oatmeal, and have found that oatmeal does not sit well with me when I run. So I am not sure what I am going to trade up my regular breakfast for.
I think eggs are one of the easier items to get without being cruel to animals. You can have your own chickens, get some eggs from a neighbor, or purchase some from a local farm that you know is free range/cage free. There are also numerous egg substitutes out there that give you the substance of an egg, minus the cholesterol and fat of a real one.
a tofu scramble is another choice. I made that this weekend with some vegan buttermilk biscuits. Its really easy and delicious.
Awesome post! Good luck on going vegan and I know you’ll feel great about it 🙂
I’m not a vegan or a vegetarian, but that comment makes my eyes well-up. I often flirt with the notion of going vegetarian, but I haven’t been able to make the commitment. I feel that I could really benefit from eliminating or reducing dairy in my diet, though. I don’t feel that my body reacts well with it, but still, I struggle to resist.
Good luck to you on your journey! I admire your dedication and humanity.
This is great Matt. I’m glad I could be a small part of the change.
Also, Robert Cheeke rules. I met him and heard him speak at the Orlando Veg Fest a few years ago.
I go through these cycles of more or less “veganish” eating patterns for reasons similar to the ones in the comment. And every so often, I’ll eat vegan for a week, or vow to eat vegan 2 of 3 meals a day, etc. I think every time we don’t purchase non-vegan items, it is a victory.
Matt, this is great. I so support your transition and the way your looking at this. I think moving forward in a realistic fashion (not adding the leather chose to the landfill but wearing till time for new ones) makes perfect sense. I am so anxious to hear more about his new phase in your journey. Perhaps it will inspire me to take the next step. Although I do love the taste of eggs….
I’ve pretty much been a silent lurker on your blog, but I thought would finally comment. 🙂 I think that’s a great decision to be vegan, and I can’t wait to see how it goes. Sometime soon I want to (at least try to) go 100% vegan… Right now I generally don’t eat dairy or eggs, but I eat meat about once a week/every other week. And I looove honey! 😉 Anyway, Good luck!
I’ve never liked eggs, never really liked milk either. I used to put water in my skim milk to make it taste less milky.. and this wasn’t an attempt to cut down on the calories, I was 10, just didn’t like the taste. I’ve never really considered myself vegan though. Lately I’ve been reading a lot about veganism and I find myself agreeing more and more with that kind of lifestyle… besides, since I was already about 90% vegan without even trying, I don’t have to make too many sacrifices ;). I decided that April 1st will be my official switch, and not as an april fools joke, for real. I think the hardest part is going to be having to turn down food that others make that has cheese in it… or deciding not to turn it down because I don’t want to be a snob even though eating it goes against what I believe.
I literally let out a little squeal when I saw your tweet linking to this post. I’m so excited that you made the leap to full-time veganism. I remember reading your post about your vegan month and the decision to go back to being vegetarian and relating to your journey. The same is true now. I, too, made a slow transition in cutting out dairy and eggs over the course of several months. The only time I was consuming those things was outside of the house, until I eventually decided to cut them out entirely. I had the same reservations as you, I hate to impose on people. Now over a year in on my vegan journey I have found most people to be so gracious, accommodating, and genuinely interested in hearing more about what I eat/trying my food. Just today a coworker brought in homemade vegan cookies for my birthday! I am just so impressed and touched by people’s openness to my veganism. I think you’ll find the same, and you’ll eventually wonder why you ever even worried about it 🙂 The people that love you will love you, milk and eggs or not 🙂 Congrats again and I can’t wait to read updates!!
Beautiful post. I love your honesty and approach to it!
I was vegetarian for most of my life, ate meat for a couple years and then went full fledged vegan. I’m vegan for just about all the reasons anyone becomes vegan, for my own health, the environment and out of compassion for animals. I was vegetarian from an early age out of compassion. There was a time I thought that maybe down the road I might stop being vegan if there was some way for me to do so in a more humane and environmentally friendly way, but through my educational and agricultural background I know that no matter how I feel about the consumption of animal products it doesn’t change how the animals feel.
It’s really nice to hear you concede that you don’t want to impose on people or seem snobbish or request special meals. That fact has kept me from making the full plunge just to vegetarianism for sometime now. I haven’t eaten any chicken, beef, pork, turkey, etc in two years but still occasionally eat fish at other people’s house or when out to dinner with no other good options. While I don’t buy and rarely consume dairy, the fish holdout still hangs over my head. So many vegans insist that nobody minds cooking especially for them and that restaurants are accommodating when dining out but I have not had that experience. I look forward to hearing more about your journey, and am so happy you are brave enough to make that leap!
i really appreciate this post. it’s honest. it’s not soap-boxy. it’s just how you feel. i was a vegan for 3 years. and it was really important to me, and i was passionate about it. but in november of 2009 after thanksgiving dinner, i had a piece of sweet potato pie with whipped cream, and i slowly regressed to just a vegetarian. I was afraid that people would judge me for abandoning my views, and suddenly allowing dairy into my body. i thought they’d think i was a hypocrite. but i realized that i can’t worry about that, and being a vegan when i no longer felt passionately about the issues was much worse. i think it’s important to do things for “as long as it makes you happy” because you need to do it for you, 100%, not for any other reason.
i hope that you enjoy veganism and how it empowers you.
Wow, that comment gets to me, too. I wonder if this is the case at small, organic farms, too? I am not trying to sway your decision in any way, I’m just curious. I don’t drink cow’s milk, but my family does eat cheese and yogurt.
hiya, Maryea. more than likely this happens on small organic farms as well, but you can check with your local farmer to find out what methods they practice. simply put, you can’t milk a male cow and so they’re more than likely (and sadly) sent off to become veal. the babies which are born female receive the same fate as their mothers do – a life of impregnation (often times artificially), many, many births, having their offspring taken away from them, and shorter life spans (due to the toll of all this stress on their bodies).
Thanks for your reply, Jessy! I’ll have to look into this more.
I was a meat eater for most of my life, and then last February I gave up all meat except fish in conjunction with Lent, and I’ve stuck with it ever since. I think I’m at that same stage you were where you ate fish when it was convenient but didn’t eat it too often otherwise. When I cook for myself, it’s almost always completely vegetarian.
That said, I absolutely love eggs and cheese. I don’t know if I could ever give them up, but we’ll see where my diet leads me because I never even thought I could give up red/white meat. Fish is next!
It’s nice to hear about someone with the same struggles. In my community (Hispanic) someone who does not eat meat can “just eat around the chicken in the chicken noodle soup” and previously I have because I don’t want to be “that” person and they already think I eat too little because I’ve never been able to eat cheese or cream. I’ve started talking about not eating meat more openly (under the pretense that I have given up all meat for Lent – including fish) and people are listening and adjusting somewhat but I still hate being that person. The fact that I am about 70% vegan on my way to 100% will be even harder to explain.
Laura, I so commend you on going against your culture that way, good for you, I know how hard it is. I am Croatian and although here in the U.S. it’s not that hard being the vegetarian that I am, when I go to my relatives in Croatia they think I am at best extremely eccentric and at worst a total freak! But thankfully I have never cared what others think of me so it has never swayed me from doing what I know is right, and I hope you will do the same (it sounds like you certainly will).
Hi Laura (and Matt!)
I am going vegan this week too. I’ve been low dairy for years (allergies) and vegetarian for about 6 months. I live in Australia where eating meat is almost a sport. I mention to people I’m vegetarian and they literally say, “but what do you eat?” I answer as nicely as I can “all the other stuff”. It’s hard to not be sarcastic and to remind them that there is 4 whole other food groups there (we have 5 in Australia).
I’m interested to see how you go Matt with your training and not having any eggs, will you be upping your nuts or beans? I’m conscious of the protein intake for muscle building.
I just wanted to add that I would personally never consider going back out of a craving or being unhappy with my vegan diet/food because in the years since I’ve become vegan I have eaten the most amazing, tastiest and creative food ever, have felt great, and the longer you go without dairy products the more disgusting they become to you. Cheese and ice cream were my big vices that held me back from becoming vegan. I actually made the decision to become vegan before we had any truly good substitutes for either, I just went without and I did crave them from time to time, but now with Daiya in the mix and so many amazing vegan ice creams available I only crave the vegan alternatives. I have a serious Daiya addiction, and I’m not a fan of store bought vegan ice cream, but those are even improving, I enjoy some varieties of the coconut and almond based brands, but living on the East Coast, good god are we spoiled with vegan ice cream purveyors like Lula’s (NYC), Like No Udder (Rhode Island), and Herrell’s (MA and NY state).
Matt, I know exactly what you are talking about. The “noses in air” vegans piss pretty much everyone off. It kept me from going vegan for years, I didn’t want to be a part of that. The non-preachy, non-judgmental (and less vocal) crowd of vegans often get overlooked. But those are the kind of people veganism needs more of. Thanks for signing up, we’re glad to have you (and anyone else who wants to give it a shot) 🙂
I’m a vegan + enjoy your blog. I was sad to see that Yoga Gurl’s comment was the turning point for you because her statement is not true of all dairy farms and is such a harsh stereotype. I know several dairy farmers and spend time on them since they are run by family and friends, and find the ones I’ve encountered to be clean and so loving to their animals AND their crops (which is my favorite part of course!).
I respect choices for what people put into their bodies and how they feel, but I don’t agree with generalizing a whole industry as being “cruel”.
I choose not to eat meat and dairy because it doesn’t make my body feel as good as I do eating a vegan diet.
You may know several dairy farmers who are not cruel and that’s fantastic. However the fact is that the great majority of the eggs and dairy that people get is from the huge factory farms where the word humane does not exist. I believe that money talks and if you take money away from these factory farm operations then they will either change their practices or go under. I personally went vegan because of the cruelty of the industry but also because I don’t believe animal products belong in our bodies. So even if milk and eggs came from cruelty free farms I still would not partake.
You took the words right out of my mouth. Thank you for this post, Matt!!
I’ve been vegetarian for a year now, making the switch because I love animals and no longer wanted to eat my friends. Started out vegan for 3 months, and switched to vegetarian after I convinced myself (despite having read the same things about cows as Yoga Gurl posted) that yogurt and cheese were OK for now. See, I went on a dairy farm tour last year, and it all seemed so happy! I saw a calf being born, and the cows getting milked, and their (pretty nice) barns. But nobody asked where the baby boys were taken after birth. Nobody asked how the cows got pregnant, or why they were *always* pregnant. And nobody in the peanut gallery ever touched the question about why humans drink another mammal’s milk. So every time I eat yogurt now, I think of the cows. And I pretend that everything is OK based on the selected information that was presented to me in the happy-happy-land dairy farm tour. Ignorance is bliss.
3 days ago, I decided that I will no longer support cruelty to my friends, the cows, just to satisfy my own sensual desire to enjoy the taste of yogurt. (It’s not even cheese that’s my hang-up… it’s yogurt!)
I haven’t posted about this decision yet, and haven’t told many people yet – but today, thanks to your post, I will.
I am vegan, once again! This time, universe willing, for good. I love you, cows!! 🙂
There are a lot of really good vegan yogurts. My favorite are the coconut milk based ones. They are sooo good. But, if you don’t like coconut there are also some other good ones. In my very un-vegan friendly Texas town, they carry the vegan yogurt in the grocery store. I can’t believe it!
Im just really glad Oprah did not have anything to do with this.
I am not vege. or vegan and don’t plan to any time in the forseeable future but
that part about the baby cows made me sad 🙁
and glad I don’t drink milk though–I use coconut or almond just because I like it.
I love your decision and your attitude! I haven’t eaten any dairy in many years, initially due to lactose intolerance, but I’ve also educated myself on animal cruelty as well as the negative effects of cow dairy on our digestion. I primarily eat a vegan diet, but still consume a small amount of fish (and by fish I mean salmon), but I have consistent thoughts in my head about committing to 100% vegan diet. I agree 100% that one of the hardest aspects is dining at a restaurant or someone’s home and not feeling like a burden or a “food snob”. I always offer to bring a dish, and like Gena, I always have a larabar or trail mix in my purse just in case I find myself at a BBQ. I do live in Texas. 🙂
I just wanted to offer some encouraging words and say it gets easier as time goes by. I transitioned to veganism 7 years ago. It was hard at first and I hate asking questions and being picky. Especially when I’m in a group. It’s much easier now. I pretty much know what’s safe to order. At first, it’s a lot of label reading and asking questions while you’re figuring things out. After a while, you know what you can order at the restaurants you frequent. You have certain things that are safe for when you travel, and you get into a good groove.
Good luck to you!
I definitely appreciate the ethical argument. If I were vegan for my health solely, I don’t think the lifestyle would have lasted because it is not the only way to be healthy. I do believe it is the most ethical way of eating. In terms of eating with others, I find that if I don’t apologize for my veganism but gently tell people that I have dietary restrictions, they do not become upset or offended. The way I see it is if I were kosher (as several of my friends are) no one would bat an eyelash at my respectfully declining food that contains non-kosher ingredients or food combinations. For me veganism is just as much about ethics and morals as a religious belief and when I treat it as such in my exchanges with others, they react in kind.
Oh! And I always offer to bring a dish! That way I know that I have something to eat and I never feel that I’m asking others to prepare a special meal for me (although my friends who are not vegan have enjoyed the challenge and adventure of finding a vegan recipe and trying to impress me with it).
Excellent point!! I grew up in a kosher home and my mom and brother ate kosher outside the home well. No one was ever offended when they politely turned something down. It’s all in the approach.
I’ve also seen really nice farms where the animals are the farmers pride and joy because of the milk they provide (non-slaughter farms, those are ew! no matter which way you look at it!). I’m still a vegetarian and would be in the vegan clan, but I just love “good” (ethically obtained) cheeses on occasion and honey daily. Good luck with finding out what type of eater you are, maybe you’ll just have your own category like I do.
I commend you on your choice. I have considered becoming a vegetarian, however dislike the processed meat alternatives and my fiance hates beans. I am striving to make two meatless dinners a week. I decided to purchase meat locally and get organic meat. Same goes for dairy and produce. Who knows what the future will bring for me food-wise but it’s constantly evolving. 🙂
This is great to read Matt. I also don’t like to proselytize, but I think sometimes it’s appropriate to lay out our reasons, and this is one of those times. When I first started out, I offered to bring stuff to friends’ houses for dinner (pot luck style), or if they asked, I sent recipes that they could easily keep the dairy out of for my portion. Same with restaurants — I did my own research about places that were vegan friendly (or adaptable) and then asked whether they’d mind if we went there. At first people were a bit taken aback, but I’m surprised how quickly people have gotten over it.
Like you, this is just indefinite for me. And there has been the odd occasion when I’ve given in to a craving. But that’s done nothing but confirm that it’s something I still want to continue you with.
Good luck! I look forward to reading more about it 🙂
Hello! Congrats on your decision to go vegan. Very admirable. If eating plant-based food is important to you, then you’ll find a way to deal with social situations involving food. It only gets easier! Your beginnings sound similar to mine. One day it just clicked. Seven years later I sit here with my swiss chard & tofu frittata and a big kale salad and my taste buds couldn’t be happier.
your post made me teary-eyed, Matt – i’m ever-so incredibly happy you’ve decided to become vegan! while people might try and tell you about “humane” dairy or “happy” eggs, we all know taking what isn’t yours from an animal isn’t fair. even those “happy” farms are filled with sadness because still use exploit animals for their products. i’m elated with your decision and i wholeheartedly support you! your decision is one of compassion and i’d like to say hoooooray to you and your new lifestyle!
Good for you, Matt! I share your fears of being perceived as “snobby” if I were to refuse food, especially at a family holiday dinner. I’m planning to “get around” this by offering to bring a vegan dish to share. Good luck and enjoy your endeavour!
I agree with AJ above – I eat the way I eat for ethical reasons, not for health reasons. I do believe you can eat meat and be healthy. I don’t think it’s okay to live in a way that makes me healthy, but is cruel for both the environment and the animals that live on it. That said, I do think there are humane ways to raise animals and to have a mutually beneficial relationship with them. Because of this, I can’t wait to have my own chickens and eat their eggs. I will need a lot of land, however, as my chickens will live there, happy and comfortable, until the day they die of natural causes. 🙂
Anyway, all this is to say congrats and good luck! I hope you find veganism fun and life-affirming! 🙂
I’ve been having similar feelings lately, especially after seeing Earthlings…my own food is 99.9% vegan, and I try to avoid cheese and eggs when out but I haven’t been 100% successful!
What does this mean for Erin and baby? Will you be a vegan family?
Great post! What really helped me, and I know I’ve mentioned it to you before, was volunteering at a farm sanctuary. Becky and I help out at Popular Springs Farm Sanctuary in Potomac, MD. For me, it was life changing getting to help in the care of these saved farm animals. Maybe it’s just me, but when you’re there you can’t help not but want to say you’re sorry for the suffering they had to endure before being brought to the farm. You make this connection, and it’s a wonderful feeling! So, on those days when sometimes I wonder if I made a correct choice in being vegan or not, or when I think my friends might think I’m weird or snobby, I think about Carlisle (our adopted cow), Lola (the three legged sheep), Morty (pig), and the look in their eyes when I’m around them that says thank you for being here to help me, not to eat me, and suddenly I’m empowered to make a difference. At least I like to think that I do. Perhaps you guys can go down with us one day together and check it out. If you’re interested let me know.
BTW, our vegan pot luck dinners (Dinekind) are doing great with 30-40 people each month showing up with great recipes and last month we had “Vegan Outreach” come out for a presentation. We would love to have you out again.
Some animal sanctuary’s that take in milking cows will continue to milk them because their “drying up” can be so painful. The milk can be used for other animals whose moms have died in labor or to make dairy products.
We are so lucky to have the money to afford vegan foods so I commend people that donate eggs and milk (dairy products) to the less fortunate. I know farmers who do this! I live in a wonderful community.
I’m really just trying to be an open-minded vegan and not critical of others’ choices.
I just want to say that I’m happy for you, and I understand where you’re coming from. I went vegan literally overnight almost two years ago for similar ethical reasons, after watching (and crying my way through) “Earthlings.” It was actually pretty darn easy to cut dairy out of my diet and I can honestly say that I don’t miss it.
I wanted to share this story, which I originally heard on Collen Patrick-Goudreau’s “Compassionate Cooks” podcast. I think it will make you smile:
It is one thing to enjoy amazing food in vegan friendly Austin. Good luck with your endeavor in this county, my friend. I have enough trouble eating vegetarian when I go out to eat here! I take it you’ll be eating in a lot? 😉 My family and I frequently travel down to the city to get some decent eats. We love Golden West. If you haven’t been down there yet, they are very vegan friendly.
What a great post, so informative. I have been going back and forth from vegetarian to veganism for awhile now but feel best as a vegan.
Thanks for the great post Matt.
I too have struggles with how to make decisions about becoming a vegan without endlessly annoying my friends and family members. Most people understand the concept of meat-less but they seem to have a harder time leaving all animal products out of everything. So sometimes I have eaten a bit of egg here and there, well I guess I don’t feel too guilty about that. I’m not getting rid of leather boots I have had for over 10 years and buy a whole new shoe wardrobe. I know the more fanatical in our community would not agree with me on points like these, but bottom line, you are in charge of your own life. Do what makes you comfortable.
Great attitude, Matt. I do want to say that I don’t think you should feel bad about making special requests at restaurants or in social situations. If someone is allergic to peanuts, they don’t have to apologize. I’m allergic to eating something (or a by product of something) that had a mother. But it’s a journey. You’ll figure it out. And you’re surrounded by good vegan role models, as mentioned in your post!
Great post! And I can really relate. I gave up eggs a year ago. I can buy the certified humane eggs, but I choose not to eat them at all. Dairy is limited to Greek yogurt (I’m thinking of trying to make my own yogurt, so that can go too). I didn’t set out to make this transition, but the more I read and learn, the more I realize that my small changes make me feel better in so many ways. I love animals and anything I can do to make things better for them, I will!
Way to go dude! I look forward to more updates about this. The Yoga Gurl comment was very vivid and I understand why it moved you. Good luck with everything, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy some great meals in the future.
I am so happy for you and I wish you all the best on this new journey! The challenges you may have will get easier as time goes by. Great post!
Hey Matt. Well done. As you say it is about the animals. In addition to the Compassionate Cooks podcast already mentioned, the podcasts of Gary Francione are also very interesting and informative.
Great news Matt and well done!Glad to see you are telling us your concerns all so openly, and I can see a day that Veganism becomes easily combined with sociality of all lives!! I have got a goose down sleeping bag that I love so much and it comes to my mind all the time when I think about veganism! Can’t see that going to the bin very soon!!!
I’m not vegan. I’m not even vegetarian, although I do eat more vegetarian meals now. Despite this I really appreciate your blog and your approach. I would never think it was snobby and am inspired by the way you openly share and teach others.
That comment struck me too. I recently gave up dairy as a test for health reasons and after looking into the dairy process (and finding comments and stories and opinions just like that comment), I don’t think I will be going back again. I do still like cheese so I’m trying out goat cheese and then maybe even a vegan cheese. But I’ll never be able to drink cow’s milk or eat cheese in the same way.
Good luck on your vegan path! 🙂
I really enjoyed this post Matt. Thanks for sharing!
I am also a vegetarian and I’ve given myself to the end of this year to be all the way vegan. I’ve started by not eating nonvegan sweets or putting dairy in my coffee. I have the exact same concerns as you. People are fascinated and impressed by vegetarians (a lot of the time). Vegans are pricks and pains in the ass. Not sure how to get around that.
I made the choice to become vegan after seeing about three seconds of that video from the dairy farm, where the workers were severely abusing to cows. It’s been very hard for me, especially since my husband is NOT excited about my choice. But it always helps to know somebody else is going through a similar experience. So thanx for this post. 🙂
I agree with you re: consideration for folks who try to cook for us. I am a vegan out of compassion for animals. I blink it someone slips up and non-vegans my food out of compassion for humans.
I decided to go vegan for lent to see how my body would react and if I could do it. I haven’t told anyone other than my family because I was so afraid I would give up a few days in. Tomorrow will be 2 weeks in and it’s the best decision I’ve ever made. I don’t have any desire to go back to animal products (I was an omnivore two weeks ago and cut it all cold turkey!) I found your website when researching vegan recipes and have been following since. I’m also a runner and your journey to BQ is so inspirational.
Best of luck on your transition, and thanks for all the wonderful recipes!! I’ve been wowing my omnivore family all week with sneaky vegan meals.
That’s so great – good luck to you! If you want the best sneak vegan yummy food, check out Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. *All* of the recipes are delicious, and no one will know the difference until after they’ve eaten them and are going on and on about how delicious they are. Then you can be like – bam! No milk, eggs, or butter! 🙂 I have found that cupcakes can be the way into skeptics’ hearts.
I am thrilled to hear that! For years and years I’ve been trying to go vegan for health reasons – my own health – and I would always drift back to eating meat, dairy and eggs again. I finally made the shift when I allowed myself to be compassionate towards all animals, not just the ones we call pets. I’ve been vegan for almost six weeks right now and frankly, it’s been ridiculously easy. Yes, I still have leather items in my house, and we did finish the honey, but the new shoes I bought last week were vegan. As I replace shoes and bags, I will make sure that they’re vegan-friendly. As for eating out, we have identified places where we can have vegan food, although we can sometimes make mistakes – the other day we ate vegetable briyani at an Indian restaurant and about halfway through I said to my husband, “Oh dear, I thought this was tofu, but it’s actually paneer (Indian cheese). We’ll just pray over it and pretend it’s tofu!” As for family dinners, we tell them that we’re coming to enjoy a meal with them, but don’t worry about the food, we’ll bring our own. That takes all the pressure off the hostess. The lesson we’ve learned though is that when you bring your own, bring plenty, because invariably people are attracted to it and want to try it. Of course, we eat very little cooked food right now, since we’re transitioning to a Low Fat Raw Vegan diet, but for social occasions cooked food is just easier…
I wish you all the best. Here’s a very interesting little video – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zYmNq-xzJ80&feature=feedlik
Matt, I know exactly how you feel. I went vegan for health and athletic performance as well, and still don’t like to call myself that b/c not only of the stigmatism I worry it gets, but more so the fact that I still have a few leather coats in my closet that I can’t bear to give up. However, I also am supporting a cleaner earth and it’s much better to reuse than toss away.:)
It is more of a challenge, and upon my transition I have slipped up here and there, more so when I’ve eaten out unknowingly. But when my face looks like a 13 yr old boy the next day I realize how much I love eating plant style and it makes me that much more turned off by my old eating habits.
You’ll do great! And if you mess up here or there, no worries, I’m sure you’ll get right back on it!
i’ve been vegetarian for the past 13 years & it’s never been a challenge to me. i’ve tried about three times to go vegan though & have been unable to completely achieve it. i agree; social situations, restaurants, & so on make it a little difficult. i feel good about my “vegan tendencies” (almond milk, etc.) but still desire to eat even less dairy products. i’m looking forward to seeing how you handle it! good luck.
Matt- Congrats on going vegan! I have been ‘mostly vegan’ for just about 3 years (early April 2008 it started). I say mostly vegan because, as your approach may be, I don’t throw out something (choc. chip cookies 🙂 thats offered to me just because I suspect there may be butter in it or margarine that has whey in it. However, its becoming much easier to eat vegan in public/restaurants. Many more side items and main dishes are vegan or can be made vegan. A good restaurant will have olive oil available instead of butter. You don’t need to look at is as bothersome as you are a customer and are paying for what you request anyway.
This post really hit home for me. Obviously we all know about the benefits of veganism and how much animals suffer.
I’ve been thinking about this all morning and I just can’t get the picture of the ccows out of my head…and for that I’m grateful. I’ve been “veganish” for quite some time now, and I know I can do better.
Thanks for posting, Matt. I’m committed to being a better vegan.
I’ve been reading your website for a long time now and it’s interesting to see your journey taking place. I feel like I’ve been on the same one for the past year and a half. I took a lesson from some veg friends and my wife who have found it easy enough to eat the way they do and not piss off the host. I agree with Lyn and Meredith that there are farms out there that are humane towards their animals. There’s a website for everything else in the world, so maybe there’s a website to find out where the clean and humane farms are. One thing I’ve learned at cooking classes at Kripalu is that when someone eats an animal product, she/he should just be sure to be thankful and appreciative ( maybe that even includes a quick thank you or spiritual blessing of some sort, even though I’m not very religious)to the animal that was sacrificed.
The big thing to remember Matt, is that you are happy and not struggling. If soemone goes vegan/vegetarian/flexitarian (or takes on any new endeavor by choice) they shouldn’t grouse about it. Do it and enjoy it or don’t do it. Life is too short. Be happy and I’m glad to know you won’t beat yourself up if you go off the wagon. One thing I lvoe about this site is that the nutrition components are excellent. Not good to be a junk vegan.
My name is Sable. You don’t know me…at all. I’ve never even commented on your blog before. I am a(n amateur) female bodybuilder and up until about a week and a half ago, a carnivore, eating about 6oz of meat per day.
I had been toying with the idea of going vegetarian for months. I wasn’t sure if I could meet my protein needs (120g/day) on a vegetarian diet without eating soy (it doesn’t exactly, um, agree with me).
Anyway for some reason about a week and a half ago I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t stop thinking about whether what I was doing, what I was ‘voting’ with my food dollar was right or wrong and I wanted to find out. Somehow at like 2 o’clock in the morning I found you, and I found your post about “Earthlings”…and at 2am I sat there and watched it knowing I’d never be able to go back after I’d seen the truth.
Anyway…I’m rambling now. I just wanted to let you know that you were the vehicle that allowed me to take that final step and totally change my life. I’m just an ovo-lacto vegetarian for now but I am trying to limit my consumption of animal byproducts as well: I have only consumed almond milk for years now so that came easily, and in recipes I have been substituting flax eggs and olive oil.
I have my eyes set on a natural female BB show in a year and a half and I plan to win on a vegetarian diet.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Thank you, thank you, thank you for this.
Hi Matt, I’m so happy for you for making this decision… I’m sure you will stay vegan as you became one for all the right reasons. And you’ll be surprised how supportive people around you are when you explain your reasons to them. I’m very proud of you 🙂
Matt – I am so happy you are going to become a vegan! I feel more and more people are jumping on the bandwagon. Though I’m not quite there yet, I’m getting there.
One thing I have to say to you is that you mentioned that you didn’t want to make a scene around eating. And I have the exact same fear about veganism which I expressed in my vegan experiment this month. But you know what I realized? First of all, most people won’t be offended and will generally be impressed with your dedication and respectful of your beliefs. Have you ever met a person who doesn’t drink? Do you get all mad and pouty when they won’t drink a beer or a glass of wine with you? Probably not.
Also, I realized that as much as I want to be gracious and kind to other people, I can’t sacrifice my beliefs and health for someone else’s feelings. Ultimately, most cooks and chefs have lots of people who love their food – full of meat and dairy – just the same and they won’t be hurt if one person doesn’t eat their food or requests a few modifications. I am still not a vegan because when I go home I feel bad about not wanting to eat anything in my Mom’s kitchen, but I’m getting closer to that every day. But I’m getting there – it’s just waaay harder to hurt the chef’s feelings when it’s your Mom who will take it personally that you don’t want her meatloaf anymore.
Btw, I listed your blog and Gena’s Choosing Raw as two of my top 3 blogs to read. 🙂
AWESOME!!!! Congratulations on going vegan. I can so relate to your story. It’s almost as if I’m telling it. You’re an inspiration to many people, and this is going to take it up a notch. Thank you for choosing veganism.
This is great! I feel the same way, but I’m just not there yet. I’ve been steadily decreasing my dairy intake over the past year or so, and only eat eggs (VERY rarely) that come from happy chickens on local, small, organic, truly free-range farms. I’m practically an almond milk addict, and I spread the joys of vegan baking like an evangelist. I just can’t get past the cheese. For now. But one day I will, and until then I’ll try my best to cut down on all the other stuff–especially the sneaky stuff.
As for the animal cruelty bit, you are absolutely right to include it. Eating less meat and dairy for health reasons is great, and ultimately it means fewer animals are dying. But what’s at the heart of this whole issue is the suffering of other beings. We shouldn’t shy away from that just because it makes us uncomfortable; we should think about it precisely because it makes our everyday practices uncomfortable to us.
And good luck with the snobbery charges. I get so much flak for being vegetarian, and yet whoever is hassling me can always agree that at least I’m not one of those crazy/pretentious/hippie/pushy/whatever vegans. Good luck, I know it’s tough to deal with.
I gave up dairy about a month ago, and the change is remarkable! I however still eat eggs on occasion, but have been vegetarian for a coupe months now and lovin’ it! The change in my running has been noticeable, I feel lighter and more energetic! Kudos!
Congratulations for your decision ! However, I’d like to say a thing about the comment of Yoga Curl. Please don’t generalize the case described in this comment. In some place, the veal is kept and correctly bred. Why ? Because they select (by their genetic material) the cows that can produce more milk than others, so that the veal can be fed by the mother’s milk AND some milk can be taken to be sold. Or sometimes, they just keep taking the milk from the cow after the veal has grown up. Some industries and farms are doing the best they can to relieve the burden of the cows (and of the other animals, of course). Don’t neglect their efforts.
I am vegan and gluten free at home (as a full on celiac). It’s a diet that works for me on a health and conscious level, but I tortured myself for years going over the scenarios of how I would handle non-vegan and non-vegetarian situations. I am simply happy to be me and very accepting of others and where they are on their path of life and this acceptance of all others seems to make other people try harder when I go to their homes or when we go out to restaurants. My daughter’s soccer team and basketball teams both picked restaurants that offered gluten free menu items, so that my daughter could share in the fun. On the flip side we are the family that is constantly bringing heaps of food to potlucks and spreading around the joy of vegan cookies, squares, cupcakes and brownies. Kids love coming to my house!
I guess the bottom line (in my opinion) is: share the love. Being vegan is ultimately about loving animals, the planet and yourself. If someone messes up and adds an egg to a dish or you unknowingly have some honey and butter, the world will not collapse. If we could all do 99% of vegan eating then the planet would be a much nicer place to live in.
Don’t sweat the small stuff, the impact you have with your blog is fantastic! Congratulations on making the next leap.
wow this really just resonated with me! i just have started being weekday vegan, weekend vegetarian, but i can relate to a lot of what you said, and it’s truly helping shape my own attitudes right now! muchas gracias!!!
Congrats!!! I have to let you in on a little vegan secret…. YOU CAN STILL EAT PIZZA! I make a chicken bacon bbq that is to kill over. It never lasts when I make to for my circle of friends. Mmmmm…pizza… Well I know what’s for dinner tomorrow. Have fun and embrace the new lifestyle.
what is you recipe? Pizza is one of the efw times I still eat dairy. I have not found a vegan cheeze that I like. Thanks.
Funny… Just going Paleo myself… Different reasons bring us down different paths, but there are some parallels as well!… Sounds great. Good luck with your quest!
Great post, Matt. And I admire your decision. Like you, I have grappled back and forth with the idea of going vegan: trying, unsuccessfully, two or three times. To no avail.
I stopped eating meat six years ago after watching “Meet your Meat.” My wife watched it the following day and followed course. We do eat fish, and we also eat meat as a byproduct (primarily as a soup base). We are transitioning to a total vegan diet in the coming weeks/months. (At least I am . . . )
I, too, find some discomfort with the social gathering aspect of going vegan, especially since social gatherings, in large part, play a role in my legal business. All that said, the big picture, the “making a difference” picture should mean more than minor inconveniences. Unfortunately, that discomfort holds true more seldom than it should.
I’m unabashedly pro-life. As such, to be vegetarian/vegan makes perfect sense. I respect the value of life, born and unborn, and that same compassion for humans carries over to animals. So often I have found myself struggling with the decision to go vegan. On one hand I am inspired to go all the way. On the other, I am fearful of all that decision would entail. Good to know that there are other people, good people, who are intelligent, educated, and successful, who struggle with this same decision. And who are able to come to this desired end.
I am inspired to revisit this idea again. Thanks for your post — and for a great blog! Keep up the great work!
p.s. I bought your marathon book when it was originally released to e-mail subscribers. I am now training for my first marathon. Thinking Chicago or Philadelphia as my first…my three younger brothers in tow. Updates to follow.
Good for you!
sound like it’s just your time. if it is, you’ll keep it up and never look back! if not, then maybe next time. GoodLuck.
Another great article Matt. I really do enjoy them and they motivate me each time to a cleaner, leaner diet. My biggest problem is I don’t cook and usually only live in temperary places (I travel a lot with the Navy and socially). I gave up meat a year ago and never looked back but I did notice my dairy and seafood intake has increased… that is the cost of eating out.
Rock on! It makes me so happy to hear about this. I found that when I went vegan, my worries about people viewing me as that person were just in my head. People were all very accommodating and really just wanted to understand. And when I made them delicious vegan food, it made it that much better. And besides, I think it’s better to have people judging me than for the animals to continue to suffer because of what I expect people might think of me.
When you take a step back and think about it, it’s pretty gross. Humans are the only animals that consume milk beyond infancy – and not just milk, but the milk of another animal. Think about drinking human breast milk – would that be gross?
Anyway, I think it’s great that you’re taking this step and I wish you the best.
I just stumbled on this post through a link from Tyler Tervooren’s blog, and it’s perfect timing.
Today is the first day after my 30-day vegan experiment. I took to veganism very easily and I won’t be going back.
I agree with you that the typical emotional appeals are not the best way to pitch veganism to people. Earthlings really didn’t do it for me… too much melancholy piano music. Great for preaching to the choir, but not so much for changing minds.
Yet, comments like the one you posted do hit a nerve in me too.
Though I was almost immediately committed because of how good I felt physically, I was turning over the ethical positions in my mind most of the way through the 30 days. But one thought kept coming back to me: Would I treat animals I *do* know and do see (the dogs and cats in my life) as brutally as I’ve been treating animals I don’t know and don’t see? Of course not, and few people would if they were being honest with themselves.
When you’re able to take an objective look, it is positively absurd how casual our culture is about having our way with animals just because we enjoy some part of it. It’s so absurd it would be funny if it weren’t so grim.
Hey Matt! Not sure if you remember me, but I emailed you a month or so ago asking for advice on how to deal with this super-annoying-prolonged running injury that has forced me to stop training for my first full marathon. I just wanted to first of all say thanks!!! But also, I am so happy you have made the switch (hopefully for good) to a vegan diet! I made the leap to a vegan diet about 6 months ago and I swear it has changed my life for the better. People have been much more accepting a interested of my decision to go veg than I ever thought they would be! Whether you realize it or not (or think that you are being snobby) people are inspired in one way or another by those who stand up for what they believe in. I can’t imagine a better thing to stand up for (besides God) than veganism. It not only benefits those following such a diet, but the environment, animals, other humans, and OH so much more! Yay vegans, and yay you!!!
How cool! I’m a lurker here on your site, but I enjoy it quite a bit. I like your approach too. Best of luck in your transition which sounds like it won’t be too hard at all.
Have a beautiful day!
I like the rationale behind your decision more than the decision itself. Way to keep it real and follow what you feel is right for you.
You might have to make an exception for pizza from time to time 😉 I just started allowing it (even w/meat) again a few weeks ago. A bunch of social situations were much more enjoyable! Been stirring a raw egg into some hot rice lately too. Makes it nice an creamy.
I’ve been happy eating largely vegan style with the flexibility of a side of sin (since I really don’t care about the sin). It’s “generally focus on health and athletic performance “ for me as well.
If it makes you feel good go for it, but if it’s forced you’re removing part of the “health” aspect. The mental part. You won’t get any judgment for cheating from this cat 😉
Here Here Grokster!
Great news!!! I wish you the best of luck on a successful vegan journey! I also became a vegan on a moments notice, after watching a dairy farm video from Peta’s website. I love all animals, especially farm animals and my heart is touched by the fact that today another person has chosen a cruelty free lifestyle. You just made my day!! Thank you. 🙂
I don’t know if you have read Brendan Brazier’s “Thrive”
He does triathlons all vegan, some raw. His book has great recipes.
I know an awful lot of vegans and have read an awful lot about it and it is a beautiful way of living or should I say more compassionate (altruism in the truest sense of the word!). Myself, I am not vegan, but I eat a totally plant based diet (nothing from animals whatsoever). Because of this I refuse to call myself a vegan and tend to use the term total or complete vegetarian because the way I am is solely to do with diet. Veganism for me is completely different… It isn’t just about diet it’s about your beliefs and philosophies and living a life of bringing no harm to sentient beings. I’m not a supporter of animal cruelty, but I don’t avoid it by not buying certain products… I still wear leather shoes… I still buy books whose binding glue is probably made from animal fat… My nan also knitted me a wooly jumper for the past winter and I will still put cheese on my girlfriends half of the pizza!
I think the point I’m trying to make is to find were you sit with your beliefs, morals and values. My life is pretty easy compared to vegans because I just focus on diet… Nothing else bothers me! There are some draw backs with this because I get a lot of negative comments from vegans because I can’t be bothered having another discussion about cruelty to animals and i at the same time get confusion from meat eaters and vegetarians who consider me to be vegan when I’m not!
Just to round off I think the definitions of veganism and vegetarianism get lost and mixed up so hopefully this may help a little to anyone who reads this….
If you eat a totally plant based diet you are a vegetarian or to make it more understandable you are a complete/total/extreme vegetarian.
If you still eat eggs you are an ovo-vegetarian
If you still eat dairy you are a lacto-vegetarain
And if you eat both you are a lacto-ovo-vegetarian
There are other ones for people who still eat fish and chicken but I cant remember the terms off the top of my head!
Finally if you live a life of compassion were you don’t bring any harm to any sentient beings then you are a vegan (apologies if my definition is short!) and eating a totally plant based diet is just a part of it but diet alone does not make you a vegan!
The reason it may seem that I’m a bit pedantic over definitions is because of the dificulty I have explaining my way of life, but also because it is unfair on vegans who put all that effort into living their way of life and people then just call themselves vegan because it is an easy way to order at a restaurant!
Sorry for a bit of a rant! But well done for even considering going the full tilt! And the marathon roadmap was an amazing purchase too! I’ve never commented before by the way!
Mike, You clarified this so much for me. I had no idea. Leather, wool, and down are all off limits. Thanks for the “pedantic rant” I learned something new!
pescitarian – fish
polotarian – chicken
I’d prefer if people who still ate eggs or fish or eggs etc would use the proper terms… it’d make life easier for me because I could just say vegetarian!
I blame the media, supermarkets and restaurants!! Omlettes and garlic bread should not be labeled as vegetarian… they should be labeled lacto or ovo vegetarian!
Mike, thank you for your response. You and I are similar. I eat a plant based diet but I always have to clarify that “I don’t put a label on it”. “It” being my diet. I do it for health reasons.
I’m coming to this post late, but congratulations! I have been following your blog since your guest post on Gena’s blog and love it. I’m a runner (running my first marathon this fall–the NYC marathon–yikes) and just transitioned from vegetarian to vegan too (in October). I realized that as a vegetarian I was still contributing to the factory farm industry in really big ways, so I decided to try it out and quickly became fully vegan. Looking forward to hearing about your journey!
Love love love. As a mother, the realization about dairy cows hit me especially hard. I’m not sure if your wife is/was breastfeeding, but it isn’t always “fun” when you have your baby with you, so to not even have that fulfillment as a mother cow just kills me to think about. And it never ends, unlike the magical day we wean our babies.
If you haven’t read Becoming Vegan by Vesanto Melina, I’d highly suggest picking a copy up. It’s a great foundation for a vegan diet.
Congrats and good luck!
This post came at the perfect time for me. I am in a similar place in that I have been vegetarian for years, and have practiced a vegan diet for 30 days here and there and even a raw diet.
Why am I holding on to cheese and eggs? I know how bad they are for me and completely understand the implications for my health and the health of animals. I don’t eat either much, but haven’t been able to say “never again”. By reading this post, I can see that I don’t have to. I can just say “not now”, and move on.
I am still working on becoming vegetarian. I gave up dairy and don’t plan on looking back. I still eat animals every once and a while but think I will be giving them up completely soon.
Your blog and site are great and inspire me.
Fantastic post and the following comments have been very informative.
I have now been a vegetarian for four months. I did on health grounds and I have not missed it.
I did the 30 day vegan diet followed by a 7 day juice cleanse and I felt the best I have ever felt.
My challenge is I travel a lot with work. It hard enough to eat veggie let alone vegan in some places. I do have a rule though, only vegan at home!
I first heard about you from the “Eat to Live” crowd – if you haven’t read the book, I would recommend it. While it isn’t explicitly vegan, many many people who follow it do end up vegan because of the health benefits of eating a plant-based diet. We started to embrace that particular dietary style in November. We had been vegetarian for a long time before that. I’ve found out it’s easier to talk to people about if your answers are health-based rather than animal-rights based, or even sometimes environmental and human-rights based (which I find frustrating).
It is hard to strike a balance. Going over to family members’ houses sometimes we just bring our own food. The bigger the gathering, the fewer people notice what we’re eating. At friends houses we volunteer to bring something and sometimes just play it by ear depending on the friend. As a runner I’m sure you have run into the same challenge of just wanting to eat clean while you are training – no, thank you, I don’t want any white bread, etc. It’s hard when the only vegetarian options are processed and unhealthy. We have restaurants where we know in advance we can get what we need, and if someone else is choosing the restaurant and we know it’s pretty junk-y, then we will have a snack beforehand and eat a salad at the restaurant. We make a distinction between going out to eat for the food and going out to eat for social reasons, and if it’s for social reasons then we just make preparations so we’re not hungry, we go out and have a good time and eat our salads and don’t act like jerks. So far it’s worked. Also, I HATE picky eaters (people who don’t “like” anything, not people who have moral, health, allergy, religious, etc. restrictions) so I strive not to be one. There are a very, very few vegetables and fruits I don’t like, but if I go to someone’s house and they have gone to the trouble to prepare food that is vegan, expecially if it’s fresh fruits and vegetables, I will eat it and smile. Melons make me gag (sometimes literally) even though I’ve tried to like them, but I am not going to be that person at somebody’s house so I eat them. Also, while we avoid salt almost entirely at our house, if somebody makes us an otherwise “clean” soup (i.e. vegetable soup, black bean soup with no unrecognizable ingredients), I will eat it and not ask about the salt content, trusting in our otherwise restricted sodium consumption to save us from having a stroke on the spot. 😉
The fact that you’re probably always training for some race or other can be used as ammo: “Sorry, can’t eat that, I’m training.” If it’s processed, don’t eat it, and you won’t have to wonder what’s in it quite so much.
Anyway, hope that didn’t sound preachy – just my experiences that I thought might be helpful. You’ll find out who your friends are, that’s for sure, but that happens when you change anything about your life (try changing religions sometime – YIKES!). Just be your pleasant, cheerful, open, compassionate, nonjudgmental self and it will all work out fine! Besides, veganism is getting trendy these days… apparently heart attacks are going out of vogue. Who knew? 😉
Just as a part 2 from my last post about the definitions of veganism/vegetarianism…just a little explanation why moving to a totally plant based diet is wonderfully fantastic and also why it can be frustrating!
I became vegetarian (I still ate eggs, dairy and milk… making me a lacto-ovo-pecitarian to be technical!!) in January 2010. I weighed about 15 and a half stone. By June 2010 I’d stuck to this really well and put weight on eventually reaching just under 16 stone :(. In the same month a guy who was a vegan came into the restaurant in which I work and I told him about the way I eat. He was a real animal activist and was trying to argue the toss that I should go vegan because of the harm done to animals and that’s when I first learnt about the way cow’s are milked and that fish are essentially drowned repeatedly through net fishing etc. But I wasn’t having any of it because I weren’t that bothered and still aren’t really too bothered about animals being farmed (even though I have issues about the environment but more on that later). I then mentioned some of the health issues surrounding eating red meat (Mad cow being linked to Alzheimer’s and Parkinsons, a history of heart disease in the family etc) and he just simply said “fine… well I will end this discussion by telling you to do one thing” and that one thing was to go and buy the China Study by Dr Campbell. And he told me to read it and I will never eat anything to do with animals ever again.
I got the book… got hooked and read the whole thing within a week. After that I completely stopped and for a week I really struggled…. like really really struggled and bought all sorts of vegan recipe books (don’t do this because most of the books are too much effort when you work the hours that I do and when your first starting out… get something simple… I know its a UK ran site but http://www.simpleveganrecipes.co.uk/ do a fantastic little cookbook) and felt like stopping. From what I’d learnt I didn’t want to go back and I found the most simple solution in the world and that was to simply type “vegan nutrition” into google! And I start scrolling down the pages after reading the wikipedia about veganism, the China Study, Dr Esselstyn and all sorts of internet waffle that just did not tell me what to eat or how to approach it.
Fortunately I stumbled across a random article about exercise and vegan nutrition written by Brendan Brazier and it spoke of some of the problems that vegan athletes have… so I thought “great I’ve found the route I need to go down”… bought the Thrive Diet book because I knew that would have food in that I can eat! And it did… some of the recipes are difficult to make but before this book I didn’t know anything about flaxseed, hemp, nutritional yeast, agave nectar, vitamen B-12, Chlorella and the list goes on! As well as this I’d never even heard of your carb window before or pre-exercise nutrition! After reading the book I decided that following this in some way would improve my health and would be in line with some of the theory regarding a total plant based diet. So I switched to a totally plant based and no refined foods and just water and no stimulants! So now I had the theory from Dr Campbell and was now able to put it into practice using Brendan’s philosophies regarding diet (I have to have theory and practice in everything I do!). Just to quickly add Brendan’s book isn’t a diet book… in fact it shouldn’t be advertised as that (think he mentions this in the book… suppose it improves sales calling it a diet book!) because it is a way of life… this whole thing is a way of life… a philosophy of attaining true health… sorry to be preachy.
If you’ve read the Thrive book you will know that it isn’t just about improving athletic ability… it is about reducing stress, improving mental clarity and improving sleep among other things. Brendan also states that following Thrive will help you to lose weight healthily which was never a goal… as my goal was just to improve my health!
Just a quick recap then before I move into what makes the way I eat so beneficial for me! Before I became vegetarian I weighed 15 and a half stone… I then became an “unhealthy” vegetarian who did no exercise whatsoever… (I was real real lazy… its actually embarrassing how lazy I was…I watched 5 series of 24 in a week once :S) and ended up weighing just under 16 stone. I then got onto the theory of plant based nutrition and put it into practice.
As of right now 27th March 2011…
I weigh 10 stone 12 pounds which since June 2010 is a weight loss of about 5 stone (although this isn’t that important to me it is the most eye catching benefit!)
I sleep between 5-6 hours a night… up at 6 in the morning and bed at 12 at night…running in the morning… then work… then more exercise usually in the form of squash. In case people don’t know eating this way you eat a lot of raw unprocessed foods so you don’t need to spend as much time sleeping to digest food. Also means that because you haven’t used up this energy you wake up alert and have no need or craving for coffee (which I relied on heavily!)
I have greater mental clarity, I am less stressed about things… I am more productive and I can do things quicker and more effectively… people will argue this is due to eating healthier and doing more exercise and nothing to do with not eating animals… but I get up before these people and go to bed after them… I party the hardest even though I don’t drink alcohol… in fact I only drink water, hemp milk and rooibos tea!
I think probably the most important benefit I’ve had is an increase in exercise. A lot of people say to me you could of done more exercise eating the way we do, and been just as fit. And I say yes! that is obvious because there are still a lot of meat eating athletes and my girlfriend is one of the most unhealthy eaters I’ve ever met but she plays football and has more of a 6 pack than me! But I just say I was stuck in a cycle, a vicious circle of sorts, and I needed a spark, a kick in the bum or whatever you want to call it to get me motivated (probably a personality defect!). Anyway… onto what I’ve done… I started running and can now run reasonably well… I started playing rugby again (broke my nose so stopped)… then I started swimming (because of my broken nose the water flys right up my nose into the back of my throat… so don’t do that much) and I also took up squash… which surprisingly I’m quite good at and continue to play! I now want to eventually move into marathon running (get Matt’s ebook and the interviews that come with it if you haven’t already) and then my ultimate goal is to do a triathlon… for which I will have to sort my swimming out!
This is getting quite lengthy now!
I think the most important thing for me personally was when I read the chapter in Thrive regarding the environment and animal farming. From this chapter alone I picked up other books of the effect that this type of farming has on the environment (John Robbins is a fantastic author for this), its contribution to green house gas, pollution, the destruction of rain forests (read the Burning Season by Andrew Revkin) and the destruction of eco-systems (look up anything by James Lovelock and Edwin Goldsmith… or the philosophy of ecology). Before I read all of this I had somewhat started on my masters dissertation which was about Emotional Intellegence… which is a fantastic subject to study in the field of management but it meant nothing to me… I had no personal attachment to it. Then I had the crazy idea of changing it to something to do with the way I eat and now I am doing my masters on the “the consumption and production of meat and its impact on the rain forests: global implications”. So now I feel like I am putting what I know, believe and feel into practice and writing this piece of work is really emotional because I’m so attached to it. I hand it in, in September this year and I feel that this journey will come full circle then.
There are many many more more benefits including meeting my girlfriend since I’ve been eating this way (probably not linked to the way I eat but she probably wouldn’t of been fond a 16 stone beast)… probably should list that as the most important really but oh well! But the list goes on and my story is one of many that I’ve read here or been told about and they are all similar and equally as beautiful. The biggest benefit is that it changes your life for the better and you never ever stop learning new things… exercise, nutrition, life, philosophy, people are all inter linked with this way of eating.
Right anyway.. a few problems I’ve encountered and I will try and make this as light hearted as possible since this has been super long!
Travelling… I hate it now… If anything stresses me out this is it! I’m going to London tomorrow and I am worrying about what food I’m going to take… that I’m going to be away from my freezer full of ratatouille and quinoa and that I won’t be able to get any fruit! Fortunately planning ahead does help! London has the most vegetarian/vegan restaurants than anywhere else I’ve been so I’m sorted for evening meals! I also bring a few home made energy bars from the Thrive book that keep well out of the fridge… I’ve eaten them 4 days old out of the fridge and they are fine! And I will also take a peanut butter sandwich! I also recently went to Amsterdam for a few days staying in a hostel… not a hotel… but again I took some food with me and found a supermarket to get some fruit, cereal and soya milk which I tend not to drink… but exceptions need to be made! The best thing that I have though is something called a vegan passport for which I have a book version with like 72 languages and an iPhone app which has 30 something languages and this saved my life in Amsterdam… makes it so much easier as it explains in full what I can and can’t eat! Beautiful.
Going the toilet for number 2’s more often. Has to be said… it is annoying… but I’d rather have an efficient health digestive system. And I have ran home early before on a long run.
I have developed an allergy for tree nuts! This is bizarre to me and I’ve read so much about it and still can’t get any answers why I’ve suddenly developed it. My mum thinks that maybe I’ve always had it and because I started eating more of them its progressed it even more! Its not life threatening but my throat just gets a little swollen, I get a headache and feel like I have the flu for an hour! Fortunately I’m not allergic to peanut butter… why you may ask? that is because peanuts are actually legumes similar to beans according to something I read and people are allergic to the mold that grows on peanuts not the peanuts themselves… it confuses me far too much.
People thinking I’m ill is probably the funniest problem I encounter (people may not find the following funny though so I apologise if I offend you!). I actually had a friend who I hadn’t seen in a few years say to me “have you had cancer?” this is partly due to the fact I’m starting to go bald at the age of 22 as well like! So there’s that and along the same lines I always get “you’ve lost too much weight… it can’t be healthy the way you eat” to which I reply “when I’m tired and can’t run for 2 hours straight anymore I will take your advice on board pal”.
People calling me a vegan when I’m not… even though I enjoy educating them why I’m not.
Although my family have been really supportive… going to my auntie’s for Christmas dinner was a challenge because she told me that I was ruining the dinner by not eating the same as them and told me if I was coming to bring my own food… I did tell her it shouldn’t be about the food it should be about the people you spend it with… she wasn’t happy though :S
Errrm I suppose the last little annoyance I can think of is the age old question “So if you don’t eat milk, eggs or dairy… what do you actually eat?” I never swear but I have been pretty close to saying “plants you *@%&ing idiot”.
And I think thats it for now… I hope that people have gotten to the bottom of this and to where I thank anyone for reading…but thats my plant based diet story!
The last points I want to make are firstly to do your research… there are so many books (Thrive is my first point of call), so many websites, google is your friend! I’m lucky because my best friends mum eats the same diet as me for the same reasons… so look for others even if its just an internet forum. Also even thought I’m not an animal activist or a vegan I have learnt so much from reading the literature about veganism so I would advise anybody to do this even if you eat totally for health or environmental reasons like myself… please don’t get caught on the fence! I think the second point I want to make is too difficult to prove. I’ve heard and read so many people saying that they’ve tried being vegan, but couldn’t carry on due to developing health problems such as acne for example. Now I have not had one problem whatsoever since changing to a whole foods plant based diet so I don’t know whether these people who get ill just aren’t eating right or aren’t getting enough of a certain vitamin etc etc… the list can go on. But, and this is a big but, I don’t think I could of done so well and been this healthy if I didn’t exercise along with it and that is what I personally put my success down too. Reason being meat eating pasta guzzling athletes are healthy (even though I think they will pay later in life with arthritis/osteoporosis but thats an argument for Dr Campbell to explain!). So if an athlete like that can run as long as me or even further and be more successful, it can’t just be simply down to diet and that is why I think you get do many ‘unhealthy vegans’ because they simply do not do enough exercise.
Anyway on that note… to finish…
I’m an avid Hip Hop fan so I will round off with something the RZA from the Wu Tang said in one of his books… and that is that you only have total control over two things in your life and that is your health and your mind through knowledge and experience… and if you invest in those two things… nobody will ever be able to take that from you, it will gain interest and it will never ever lose its value.
Not everybody lives!
I’ve been vegan for 12 years now. I don’t crave dairy, and I can’t recall those cravings. I’m certain that I missed cheese a lot at one point, but I don’t now. On occasion, I will have Daiya on something. I enjoy it, but it isn’t a regular item on my grocery list. I don’t even bother with other cheese substitutes.
If you decide to stay with veganism, you’ll find that people can become surprisingly accommodating. At first my family and friends might have been put out by my asking for different foods, but I was always happy to prepare my own. Now, since I’ve been vegan for so long, and many of the people I know have only ever known me as a vegan, food is a non-issue. I am on occasion gifted with a non-vegan food item, and I usually have no trouble sharing that item with someone. My students at the community college where I teach sometimes bring me non-vegan things, even if they know I am vegan. That’s ok; that just shows that they don’t know exactly what a vegan is. I just appreciate their gesture and, depending on the situation, accept the offering or accept and share it with the class. I once had a student who cooked fried rice with egg in it especially for me because she knew I didn’t eat meat. Rather than refusing it, I took a very small amount and ate around the egg. It was one of those situations where hurting her feelings would have been inevitable, and I just didn’t want to do that.
As far as restaurants go, I find it helpful to call ahead with the questions that might delay service when there in person. Most of the time, when I ask whether something is made with meat broth, for example, the waiter has to find out and get back to me. I know that’s sort of a pain for them. But if I call ahead, the hostess might either know the info from other callers or not be as busy and find out. Many restaurants also have that sort of information online as well.
I can really relate to you, as “making a scene” makes me extremely uncomfortable too. Thanks for sharing your journey.
Congrats of going vegan!
I HAVE to make a “scene” due to my gluten intolerance, and I think it’s sad to think of it that way. Does that mean all people with allergies are jerks? Of course not! If you tell your friends and family they will try to let you know ahead of time, but it may take awhile (my in-laws are finally figuring it out after 10 years). Be patient and bring your own food. It’s not about the food most times anyhow.
way to go! I have been vegan for a little over a year now and it was definitely something I had to wait until I was ready for. Before going vegan I, unsuccessfully, tried to go vegetarian and my heart just wasn’t in it- and it didnt last. I read The Face On Your Plate and had my “aha” moment. Sometimes I think other vegans would say that I am not vegan- but I try to live by my values and do the best I can. If a family member makes a dessert for me and makes a point to say they used margarine instead of butter (thus making them believe it is vegan) and they made it that way specifically for me- I will eat it even though I know there is a good chance that the margarine had some animal fat in it. I went to Udi’s pizza the other day and ordered a pizza with veggies and it wasn’t until after I ate it that I wondered if the squash had been roasted with butter or if the crust had eggs in it. I didn’t sweat it. I wear all of my old silk and leather apparel and will, at times, buy it second hand as well. I sometimes even use deodorant and make up that I am not 100% certain is cruelty free. My husband always tells me that being vegan isn’t a dogma- it is an aspiration and doing the best you can is better than doing nothing at all. Many well-wishes for you during your vegan transition.
I think one of the best arguments against consuming dairy products (I know you went whole hog – pun TOTALLY intended – but I want to say something specifically about dairy) is: humans are the only mammals who consume milk post-infancy. Unless you’ve developed lactose tolerance (which I certainly am not one of those people, nor is something like 75% of the world’s population) then there really isn’t a reason for you to consume dairy. Just sayin’. Oh, and I am a total hypocrite, I love Greek yogurt with Indian food. An important note to make, however, is that Greek yogurt contains bacteria that help you digest lactose. Anyway, there are my 2 cents.
Congratulations on making the most compassionate decision a person can make.
I made the full transition from vegetarian to vegan almost a year ago and have never looked back. In fact, I enjoy food even more now that I am vegan.
It is incredibly refreshing to see a pioneer in the blogging world embarking on this awesome journey and sharing it with his readers!
Everyone, I just want to say thanks for all the encouragement and support. I was hoping to respond to many more of your comments individually, but as way too often happens, I put it off… and now there are 115 and I know I’ll never get to them all. But I read and appreciate every single comment I get on this site, even if I can’t respond to all of them.
Since going vegan, I’ve been totally shocked at how much love and support has come from people, both vegans and non-vegan vegetarians. An interesting thing I heard recently is that “the most vocal vegans are the strictest, and that’s the reason for the perception that vegans are cold and militant.” That makes a lot of sense to me, because I’ve felt nothing but warmth in response to this decision.
And it’s going great so far! Haven’t missed dairy or eggs a bit, and no awkward situations yet (at least not from my end). This was the right decision for me, at the right time for it. Thank you so much for caring!!!
Thanks for another great post of yours!
Great post, Matt!
My wife and I became vegetarians last summer strictly for health reasons, so I was still eating dairy and eggs. It wasn’t ’till a few months later that I started reading about the ‘animal treatment’ side of it. I was really disheartened when I learned about the horrible treatment of dairy cows, as well as all of the possible side effects of the hormones in the milk.
So, right now, I am about this close (imagine me holding my thumb and forefinger really close together) to becoming a vegan.
Right now, the two obstacles are eggs and dairy. As for the eggs, there’s an organic farm next to my office, and the lady who lives there also happens to be in my yoga class. I’m continuing to eat her eggs, for now, because I can see the chickens there running around the field and eating grass. I know they’re being treated relatively well. But, I could give up eggs if I wanted to.
As for dairy, I’ve had no problem giving up mostly everything. As for pizza, try making it or ordering it without the cheese. It’s so good, and it doesn’t leave a huge lump in your stomach. I’ve never enjoyed pizza this much in my life.
My one weakness… half ‘n half in my coffee.
Matt, if you’re still drinking coffee, have you traditionally added cream, or do you drink it black? I usually like it with cream. For the life of me, I have not been able to find any ‘vegan cream substitutes’ that come even close to duplicating the ‘half ‘n half effect’.
Again, great site! You’ve got me this close to going out and buying myself a pair of Green Silence…
I know this post is over a year old, but have you tried coconut milk in your coffee? I gave it a shot myself, before I had to give coffee up, and it was pretty tasty!
I am so glad I stumbled across this post, Matt. I’m two days into being a vegan (after 15 years of vegetarianism). So glad to read that there are others out there having the same thoughts as me.
I’m curious – how do you manage not coming across as a ‘snooty vegan’ when you turn down dishes at parties or dinners? Oh, and also, I’ve decided to tell people that I’m eating a ‘plant-based diet’. I find I don’t get the same eye rolls as when I say ‘Vegan’.
Go Matt! VEGAN POWER!!!
Hey there, i’ve been a vegan for a little over a year now and I really relate to how you feel. When i first transitioned I was already vegetarian for a while like yourself but I was eating a lot of dairy, and I was feeling more fat and unhealthy by the week so I knew I needed to change my habits. After seeing some documentaries and reading I decided to go for it because my health could only get better from there! but it wasn’t so easy, it took me months to finally stop getting cravings and I would occasionally eat pizza or candy and would end up feeling guilty about it. So my advice is to take it slowly and listen to your body. Don’t buy things that you know are unaligned with what you truly want, which is to feel better!
Also when I go over people’s houses they are usually very accepting about how I eat and they are curious and ask questions about what motivated me and what my intentions are. It feels good to be able to share my feelings and knowledge to people who are simply open minded to the idea of consuming only plants. People at restaurants are also very accommodating! So don’t worry about what others will react like and just be yourself 🙂 trust that you are doing the best thing for your body and for the health of the planet and you will have only good experiences
Thank you so much for including the quote that made you ditch dairy. I have been vegan for about 2 months (went cold turkey from being a meat eater). It’s been easy except for the cheese. I am a teacher and the cafeteria makes the BEST mac n cheese! When I see cheese now, I am going to think about the little calves and their bellowing moms and their moms trying to hide them! It’s so horrible. I really did need to get that into perspective! Thank you!!!
I’m not an athlete but I have been on/off vegan for many years. This year I have come to know the most incredible vegan and female ever. Forgive me if you already know of her, but if you wonder whether it is possible to be a successful vegan athlete, then type Fiona Oakes into Google. This young woman has just completed the North Pole Marathon – came THIRD overall and FIRST of the ladies. 26 miles of minus 40 degrees, snow up to her waist, ice wilderness as far as the eye could see. Such Inspiration. And if you ever get the chance to meet her, do. She is such a very lovely human being.
I know this is an older post, but having recently made this decision myself, I was happy to see so many of my sentiments and concerns expressed by you, too. I hate making a scene! I have been to a party where all I could eat was the raw veggie tray, and out to lunch where I had to pretend to eat the soup because it was full of oil (I’ve recently gone no-oil vegan.) It is difficult when people I’ve known all my life are surprised because I used to eat everything! And I don’t ever want to be perceived as a “snob,” I actually find that the worst part! I, too, am doing this for as long as it feels right…which I hope is forever, but I can’t see eating meat again, ever.
[…] truth about dairy and its impacts on my health and animal lives. It wasn’t until I read this post from No Meat Athlete that I stopped making excuses and made a commitment. I read this in March […]
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