After years of being a vegetarian I finally made the leap to eating a vegan diet. Being vegan was always the goal anyway. I simply lacked the confidence to go all the way in the beginning and for years after. After being vegetarian for years and not really missing meat I realized that I was really just making excuses for not being vegan.
Taking on a vegetarian diet really helped me get myself to a level of fitness and health that I had never been in before. But, after being used to it for a while I began to get complacent. A big part of wanting to be vegetarian was about being healthier and eating healthier, but now I was eating lots more cheese and dairy than maybe I ever did as an omnivore.
I enjoyed the taste of cheese, but there are plenty of meals I enjoy that have no cheese on them and plenty of meals I can eat an just stop putting cheese on them. Cheese is just too easy. I found myself adding cheese to everything and even eating cheese in ways I never had before, just because I could. Eating cheese made going out to eat easier sure, but it wasn’t really necessary. Eating cheese became like eating dessert and just over indulging on something that I just didn’t need. Eating cheese was easy and I suppose made certain aspects of life easier, but was I really just looking to live an easier life or did I want to continue down the path of leading the kind of life that aligned with my values.
Values that I consider core to who I am and what I believe in are animal welfare, protecting the environment, and leading a healthy lifestyle. Letting go of the crutch of eating dairy and eggs only made sense given what I believe in and what I value. During the waning months of 2019 I decided that at the beginning of 2020 I would eat a plant based diet.
At the end of 2019 and in the beginning of 2020 I let myself off the hook as far as trying to eat healthy goes, because I knew I would be undertaking this new transition in my life and I wanted to ensure that it would be successful. I figured it would be easier to focus on eating a plant based diet if I was less focused on the healthiness of it than I was on the plant based nature of it. Then once I was firmly ensconced in my plant based eating habits I can transition back to eating more healthfully as well.
Guess what? Letting go of diary and eggs was much less dramatic than I ever imagined. Maybe it would have been harder if I did it back when I began this journey and became vegetarian, but now it was just the right time. I am still learning about things I did not realize were not vegan, and am continuing to let go f things I no longer need in my life. I’m looking at you croutons and salad dressing, among other things. I still will start to say something about getting a particular item to eat and then realize that I no longer eat that and verbally correct myself out loud. These habits just get ingrained in our heads and it takes a long time to just let the old habits die.
I think that when people think of people who are vegetarian or vegan they think in terms of, “I can’t believe you are giving up meat.” Or, “I could never give up cheese”. And I will admit that at times I have thought about this process with that mindset especially when it came to cheese. But in reality it is more like letting go of things you no longer need in your life. I no longer need meat, cheese, dairy, and eggs in my life so I have let them go.
If you have thought about the idea of eating a plant based diet, but are afraid of all the things you would have to “give up” I encourage you to try to re-frame it as letting go of things you no longer need. Plus there are so many things you will gain from the letting go that you could never imagine, least of all is all sorts of new food to try and enjoy that you may not have ever considered before.
I waited a long time to make this change because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to do it. I was afraid I would not be able to give up cheese and dairy especially. I was wrong. Don’t wait to pursue something you believe in because you are afraid you won’t be able to do it. It might turn out that it is much easier than you ever could have imagined. Also, when it pertains to pursuing a plant based diet, if you give it a try and you are unable to stop eating meat or dairy 100% of the time but you are eating much less than you did before that is not a failure that is a huge success. You still will be doing way more for yourself and our planet than if you continued eating the standard American diet.