I never really liked meat, eggs or milk. I always forced myself to eat it because that was the norm and that was what the Canadian Food Guide said I needed to eat. In December 2011, I had started hearing about veganism and I was convinced that this was right for me. Reggie and I decided that our New Year’s Resolution was that we would become vegans on January 1, 2012…. Cold turkey… and that’s what we did. We lasted about a month or so but being used to the “meat and potatoes” diet, we were running out of ideas on what to eat. We were hungry and frustrated so we decided that it was not possible to do this and we went back to eating meat. We also thought that to be vegan also meant giving up everything in our life that was animal related, such as furniture and clothing. We thought that you were either a full-out vegan or you were not one at all, that it was all or nothing...
Fast-forward 3 years to October 2015 when I went to see an inspirational talk by Deepak Chopra about health. He talked alot about how important it is to know what you are eating; to eat things that are alive and come from the earth to be healthy and feed the body to be able to reach “perfect health”. He said that when our health is not perfect, it's just a snapshot, it is not our permanent state. So with this speech, I was once again hooked on the idea of becoming a vegan. That was the last day I ever ate meat. Getting past the animal byproducts would be a little more challenging.
I was pregnant with my second child at the time and needed to do more research on veganism before committing to it. For example, what foods to eat to replace the protein from eggs, the calcium from dairy, etc. Like mentioned above, I never enjoyed eating meat, eggs and dairy because I always had to block the reality of the situation in my mind to be able to eat it. I had to repress the thoughts of the dead animal flesh I was eating, the chicken eggs that are basically the chicken ovulating to be fertilized to have baby chicken or the milk or « mammary secretions » that is coming from another animal. This had worked until I started being more informed by watching health related documentaries such as “Food matters”, “The Truth About Cancer” and reading vegan books. So I scheduled an appointment with a dietician to make sure I knew which foods would replace eggs, yogurt and cheese. These were the main animal based foods I was eating as well as a large source of my protein intake.
I kept learning about veganism through books and following some experts in the field on social media. I decided to become a vegan gradually. I wanted this to be a lifestyle change and wanted to make sure it was sustainable. I started by removing yogurt and replacing this protein with more nuts, I replaced eggs with beans and tofu and lastly I stopped eating cheese. Cheese was the hardest because I really loved it. There is actually scientific evidence that suggests that cheese is addictive in nature. Being a vegan has become a lot easier in the last few years with so many new products out every year. Today, at almost any grocery store I can find different types of vegan burgers, vegan cheese, ice creams and even lunch meat. A lot of these new options are not the always the healthiest choices if you’re aiming for a whole foods plant based diet but good to have in moderation.
I am a vegan not only for health reasons, but also for ethical and environmental reasons. I think its important to acknowledge that in the past, hunting was necessary for survival. And more recently, farming was also needed to advance society. However, animals were not always treated in the way they are today. Today, with the abundance of food sources out there, it is not necessary or even healthy for humans to keep eating meat at the current levels. The same goes for animal byproducts.
I am a vegan for ethical reasons because farming has become such a lucrative industry that pigs and chickens now have to take preventative antibiotics. They are so crowded that they would all die of disease otherwise, not to mention they are living in their own feces. Most cows are no longer allowed to go outside and are confined to a small area. The wool off a sheep’s back is removed so violently to produce the biggest yields in the least amount of time. All of this, to make more profits, faster, with less overhead costs. It used to be that animals spent most of their lives outdoors, enjoying the fresh grass and sunshine. Now they are confined to small areas and are pretty much tied to machines their whole lives. As soon as cows’ milk production decreases they are inseminated again. As soon as their calves are born they are taken away from them, because of the risk of disease due to the fact that cows live in an unsanitary environment. Baby cows do not get to drink the milk directly from their mother because it’s more important for the farming industry to sell it to people.
I am a vegan because of environmental reasons because one of the most significant sources of pollution for greenhouse gasses is actually the crazy amount of animal waste that is out there. According to the Economist, humans are easily outnumbered by our farm animals. The combined total of chickens (19 billion), cows (1.5 billion), sheep (1 billion) and pigs (1 billion) living at any one time is three times higher than the number of people.
All of this said, I’m not 100% vegan and that’s ok. Although I am mindful about what I eat, there are things I buy such as bread or pasta that is not 100% vegan (due to trace amounts of non vegan ingredients). I eat a plant based diet at home but if I happen to go to someone’s house and there are non vegan foods, I am flexible and will eat some animal byproducts. However I won’t eat meat.
If you are considering transitioning to a more plant based diet, I highly recommend you do it slowly, or else it probably won't stick. If you still doubt that this is a healthy change, the recent Netflix movie « The Game Changers » is really a game changer!