How I Became a Vegan

Welcome! Perhaps the best introduction to this blog would be a brief history of my food life. I am not a person who has always loved to cook. As a child, I loved to help my mom bake goodies, but I was more invested in achieving the perfect “baker’s smudge” of flour on my cheek than in truly learning technique. As I got older, I prided myself on being the kind of girl who hates to cook. I couldn’t be tied down to any of those pre-feminist traditions! I was sent off to my freshman year of college with a book titled, “Help! My Apartment has a Kitchen!” Apropos indeed. But, by my sophomore year in college, I realized that if I didn’t cook it, no one else would. I had a short lived deal with my roommate where she would cook and I would clean up, until I realized her idea of cooking was opening a jar of pasta sauce and boiling water. Even I could do that. I made tentative steps into the world of cooking with lasagna and chili and frequent frantic phone calls for advice. My junior year I was fortunate enough to spend in Italy. I don’t want to sound too much like Liz Gilbert, but eating that well, every day, changed my relationship with food. From that point on, I became less tentative and wholly enthusiastic. The idea of “dinner peace” really relates to the feeling I get in the kitchen. For me, cooking is an escape, but also an accomplishment. I love the feeling that I can spend a certain amount of time putting ingredients together and almost immediately reap the fruits of my labor. And you can have this sense of accomplishment three times a day, every day! There is nothing in life that more fully meets the definition of “instant gratification.”

I have always considered myself a pretty healthy eater, except for a total lack of good judgment when it comes to Oreos. But I tried to incorporate fruits and vegetables into every meal, and always opted for whole wheat when I could. All of this changed, however, last February. Although not Catholic, my family and I have always enjoyed the certain ascetic triumph that only comes with Lent. Last year, we gave up all sweets. Difficult, yes, but it helped me realize that I am a total sugar addict (seriously, I need twelve steps), and now abstain from sweets more often than not. This year, my mom sent me a text reading “Vegan for Lent?” I was a little surprised. She told me she had seen Alicia Silverstone on Oprah, touting the benefits of being vegan, and thought it might be an interesting experiment. Up to this point, I was a true omnivore, eating anything that was put in front of me. I had friends who were vegan, vegetarian, pescetarian, etc., but I never felt the need to follow suit. I like animals, in theory. In reality, I only like my dog, Olive. So being vegan was going to be a radical change for me. But, I like a challenge, so I responded, “Yeah!” and that’s how it all started.

My six weeks of being vegan were eye-opening. I was amazed by how little I missed meat, and even dairy (cheese did still call my name). But I was disappointed. Veganism had not delivered the promised oodles of energy and perfect skin, rapid weight loss and (in the words of Liz Lemon) rockstar BM’s. Rather, I felt much the same as always, but my hair and fingernails completely stopped growing. By the time Easter rolled around, I was ready to give up entirely and never look back. To be fair though, I was a California girl enduring a Boston winter away from all my loved ones, and chugging through the last semester of my Machiavellian graduate program. Perhaps it might all have been much worse without the vegan influence.

10 weeks, and 10 pounds, later!

My true “food revolution” came after I moved back to California. After the emotional roller coaster of the previous year, I felt in need of renewal. I was uncomfortable in my body and didn’t know how to find my way back to peace and confidence. A little research directed me to Andrew Weil’s food pyramid, and I decided to try it, with a few vegan modifications, for two weeks. Weil’s food ideology emphasizes vegetables more than fruit and whole grains rather than whole grain flours. I continued to eat fish roughly once a week. And after two weeks, I had oodles of energy and perfect skin, and had lost three pounds. Almost two years later, I feel more alive and joyful than ever, and have lost 40 pounds. I have also given up all animals products (although I do occasionally fall prey to the temptation of cupcakes). With just those few small adjustments, I feel like a whole new person. My excitement from these changes inspired this blog. Every night, I look down at the amazing, colorful, vibrant, nourishing food I eat, and want to share it with people. I have met with a lot of skepticism, apprehension, and disbelief on this path, but I also meet a lot of curiosity and excitement at the possibility I am offering. My goal in this endeavor is to lift the veil a bit and offer some beautiful, delicious and inspiring answers to the question I always get, “What do you eat?”