Pure, old-fashioned competitive drive.
Honestly, that was one of the initial reasons I started down the road of plant-based diets. Now, this was not my first foray into removing entire food groups from my life.
A Little History
A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far away (totally watched some “Return of the Jedi” last night), I was quite a picky eater growing up. The vast majority of meals consisted of buttered noodles, a dollop of peanut butter (on the side, of course), and pineapple. Sometimes, there would be a pickle thrown in as another delicious side item or some vegetables. I did love me some McDonald’s Happy Meals (“chicken nuggets” baby) and all cheese, all the time. I did hot dogs, steak, hamburgers, and turkey – the whole gamut. And then, at age 12, I read somewhere in print that red meat was bad for your heart. If I recall, it was near the end of the year and it was time to make New Year’s resolutions. So, to lead a healthy lifestyle, I decided to give up red meat and pork in middle school. No bacon. No pork chops. No burgers.
And, I did it. I kept the “flexitarian” diet up through college (I do have a distinct memory eating one hamburger during Family Weekend at college and getting INCREDIBLY sick afterward). But, the tides changed again, thanks to a new life opportunity. Let’s call it: moving to the South, specifically the land of pulled pork BBQ.
Moving to North Carolina began my crawl back to the land of all things meat. Between cookouts and learning what whole hog had to offer, I went – pun intended – hog wild and jumped back into the bandwagon. My meat consumption only increased due to a relationship in which the gentleman viewed meat as a MUST HAVE at every meal. There should have been red flags raised when he ordered a Kobe burger on the first date [stay away – meat-tastrophy ahead!]
Let’s fast-forward to the last few years. Even before Aaron and I started dating, I had toned down my red meat and pork eating considerably. I will fully admit: bacon still remained a prized item on the table and in my beer. But, the more we read, the more we evaluated our family/personal medical histories, we cut out more and more animal products. I recall chuckling at the idea of ever becoming vegan – how could I give up cheese and yogurt? Those were daily staples (hello calcium!).
In the spring of 2013, several friends of ours went on various challenges regarding their diets. One couple went completely vegan for one month; another went vegetarian (and gave up alcohol!) for 30 days. Aaron and I had dinner with the couple who went vegan, and that began the process of opening my eyes to what life could be like sans cheese (not as bad as I imagined). We also watched “Forks Over Knives” and I became a voracious reader of online vegan blogs, from recipes to ethical stances to the personal journeys of others.
Oh, if they can be vegan, I can be vegan. Not even kidding – that thought went through my head (a huge component of my running drive as well). That thought lasted for less than 24 hours because at first, it was hard to be vegan! Well, it’s still hard at times, but in different ways. I craved cheese the first few days. I mean – salivia-inducing, pass me the Brie right now or someone is going to get hurt, craving. Interestingly, Aaron and I had essentially weaned ourselves off cheese prior to our 30 day trial. But, the total deprivation of all dairy had a major effect on my system.
It went away quickly, and then it became easier to imagine life meat and dairy free. Now, I do still eat honey on occasion (from Durham, of course), and as I’ve blogged about before, I’m continuing my vegan journey into the non-food related aspects of life: from beauty products to clothing and more. Now, I’m still not giving up beer, even though I know far and few between are vegan. Consider that part of the work in progress (i.e. I hope someone will discover more efficient methods to use in fermentation/brewing that don’t involve animal byproduct!)
Will I go back to not being vegan? I’ve had this question asked of me, and my thought is: why would I? I feel GREAT – I mean just marvelous. I’ve lost those pockets of body fat that hung around for years, even after dedicating hours at the gym. I have not fallen prey to the same bouts of sickness that had marked the various changes in season years prior. My energy levels remain high. My endurance, speed, and strength have all improved drastically. I’m happy and (I hope?) less moody than I was. I used to have about a headache a month, and those have all but disappeared.
So, if you are on the fence, give a try. One week. Two weeks. One month. You’re not the first to try. And, you may fall down a bit. But, keep at it. It’s worth it for your body, your mind, and your spirit. It’s worth it for the greater good of our planet, our species, and our humanity.