About 8 years ago, I made the decision to go plant based with my diet. At the time, it was completely 100% for health reasons. 8 years later, my dietary changes are still 100% for health reasons…and my mental health counts a bit more than it used to back then. When I made that decision, I understood that I would be getting flack for my decision. I knew that I would be opening myself up for questions. LOTS of questions. What I didn’t know at the time, was that many of those questions would come from my own head and body.
I was a vegetarian who was, at the time, reaching to be a full on vegan. Like most who jump onto the plant based lifestyle, I had no clue what I was doing and how I should safely support my health this way. More importantly, I had no clue if I would be able to do it or if my bod could be happy as a plant based human.
I jumped in. I dropped weight. A lot of weight. With my decision. I felt healthier eating plant based. I never felt deprived. I never felt like I was missing out. I just felt like I was making great choices for my own health. That is how I approached things. I made a conscious decision to not eat a diet filled with animal products. If I wanted a cookie, I didn’t fret too much over whether or not it contained eggs. I didn’t freak out if my friends put my black bean burgers on the same grill where they also grilled their beef burgers. I was just happy to be making decent decisions and having friends that were happily trying to get on board with support. I entered the plant based world with love in my heart. I knew that I had friends who hunted. I was married to a man who LOVED bacon and anything else that one could make hiss on a grill.
When any questions came up regarding my diet, I stated that I was vegetarian. It was easy for people to wrap their head around. People would make assumptions about the label that was used to best describe the way I ate. Some had no clue what it meant. They just assumed that I was some sort of crazy activist who spent my weekends scooping up stray cats and dogs, that I smoked pot, wore sandals 24/7 and did yoga a lot. Only some of that stuff is true about me. But there is one thing that separated me from most of the other vegans/vegetarian/plant-based eaters: I never looked at my plant based diet as a “diet” It was simply and still is quite simply, the way I chose to eat. I preferred to eat more of a plant based diet than the Standard American Diet. It was and always is a choice for me.
In these 8 years, I have also realized that not all vegan/vegetarian foods are indeed healthy. I mean, can you actually expect to LIVE on vegan chik-n nuggets? Its nothing but parts of chemically produced plant products and it’s NOT real food. This is something that many people struggle with. They start eating less meat and critter products but they consume more processed foods in the process. Just because it says meat free, doesn’t mean that it’s healthy. So while I focused for the longest time on being “meat free” and “vegetarian”, I was instead sucking down….I don’t even know what it was???!!!
Lately though, I have been considering the things that I put into my body even more. I have been trying to also get a better understanding of where my food really is coming from and as my mind has changed and grown, so has my diet. I have decided that I don’t want to wear a label anymore. Especially not about my diet. I eat the things that fuel me and bring me joy and I try to eat them in moderation for the purpose of not being a sickly, fat pig. Period.
I feel a bit like I have been set free. I no longer have strings. I don’t have to put myself in a cute little box called veganism or plant based…because I am not any of those things. I am ALL of those things..to a point. And the tiny parts of me that are a jumble of all of these really cool, foodie loving parts…I really like.
I am mindful. I consider animals when I plan my meals. I think about where a product is made BEFORE I buy it. I look at the strawberries in the markets and try to purchase locally grown whenever I am able. Sometimes, especially lately, I enthusiastically consume the meals that my husband is lovingly preparing for our family because it smells good, looks good and well, I am hungry. I do all of these things….just like I have always done since I declared myself a vegetarian and vegan wanna be, 8 years ago. Not one single thing has changed with my mind….other than it is a bit more open.