Wednesday, September 1, 2010

My 8 months as a vegan and how I got here

I don't talk about it much because it is just what it is and those interested pick up on my little mentions of it and ask me. I don't specifically care what you decide to eat so I don't see the point in making a point of trying to sway someone to eat like I do. With that being said if you are interested here is my story.

How I got here, the longish story. I've never been a fan of meat, I just never liked the way it tasted, I didn't hate it but it wasn't my favorite food. In high school or perhaps before I wanted to eat vegetarian but it would have been really hard seeing as I still lived at home and ate at home almost every night. I wasn't going to make my own food when my mom cooked every night so it never happened. In college I thought about it and I would have a hard time eating my chicken, especially when I had just come home from a zoology class and I was thinking more about what I was eating and how it worked in the animal, but my lifestyle got in the way. I just didn't have a strong enough desire to cook for myself, mom was still cooking for the most part. After college I again couldn't be bothered to think about changing my lifestyle and it really never crossed my mind. I didn't eat all that much meat but I didn't not eat it for any reason besides not liking it. When I started living with and then marrying Rich I was the cook and I had to pretty much learn to cook meals and again eating vegetarian never crossed my mind, especially since I married a devout carnivore.

Fast forward to probably the beginning of 2009 when I was full swing into embracing an eco-conscious lifestyle as I could and making all sorts of new and interesting changes to make my life more "green" (I kinda hate that term). Vegetarianism weighed more and more on my mind, especially since I was trying to eat as much organic as I could. In the summer I started reading a lot about meat eating/production/farming and how it drains so much resources. Those things started nagging on my when I would force myself to eat chicken and other meats at almost every meal. Mid November and I just couldn't do it anymore. I gave up meat. It was a pretty simple and easy decision for me.

I went to the library a few weeks later to look for vegetarian cookbooks, needed some inspiration to be able to really commit and do it right. One of the books I picked up was Skinny Bitch. What I read in it about health reasons to be vegan and about farming practices cemented the idea that I needed to eat a vegan diet. It's a good informative read in an everyday type language, I mean bitch is in the title it's not an overly scientific book but it cites sources and has great information.

January 2010 is when I "officially" became vegan. I got a lot of support and my recipes from the PCRM's 21 day vegan kickstart that started at the beginning of the year. That was really helpful and I don't think I would have been able to commit they way I have. I participated in another of their vegan kickstarts in November as well but I was committed to the vegan thing and still ate eggs and cheese products at that point. (FYI PCRM is holding another 21 day vegan kickstart starting next week, if you are interested in that way of eating at all, just out of curiosity I strongly suggest you sign up. They send emails with the weeks meal plan, worst case you unsubscribe from the emails and that's that. Best case you find some great recipes and perhaps eat a bit healthier. Sign up here: )

I did have cravings and things to deal with but I was able to deal with them and have none now. Can't say I miss anything at this point, food wise. Sometimes I miss the simplicity of running down to a fast food joint and picking up a burger or a chicken sandwich but I don't miss the way I felt after eating that crap. I had actually stopped eating that stuff a bit before I changed my diet so it wasn't that hard. One thing I did crave was cheese, pretty much the only dairy product I use to eat regularly. A thick oily quesadilla or a lovely slice of NY style pizza, yum. I spent many dinners eating food like that in my vegetarian pre-vegan days. The first 3 or 4 months of eating vegan I did eat a lot of vegan cheese, I even posted about it:
I haven't eaten that in a long time, basically I got over my "addiction" to dairy and even though a slice sounds simple I don't drool over one. As for other cravings I thought I would crave a big juicy bloody steak, I always have had occasional cravings for steak and about twice a year I would make my husband take me to a steakhouse so I could get a delicious prime rib. Surprisingly, no cravings for meat of any sort.

What do I crave, tofu, I have always loved tofu but I love it even more now. I also crave a great vegan "mac and cheese" recipe I found, such a great comfort food:
and a delicious tofu noodle soup:

Quite quickly, within a month, of eating vegan, I noticed quite a few great "side effects" of my diet, I didn't notice any changes after changing just to vegetarian. First was my skin. It is not dry, like AT ALL. I often had problems with very very very very dry legs and would scratch myself raw in my sleep. My face is also a million times clearer. It wasn't bad before but I almost always had one or two pimples coming or going. It was annoying, oh don't worry you'll grow out of it in high school NEVER happened. Well it has now and it has NOTHING to do with growing but all to do with the food I was eating. The odd rash I have had on my back for years is also a lot less noticeable, it's not back acne, it's under the skin and no one knows what it is but it definitely isn't as "inflamed" as it use to be. Another great change was digestion and all that TMI stuff I could get into. I'll spare you the details but let's say me and my stomach/digestive parts are happy with each other and I don't have to worry about where I am if they have a restroom close that I won't catch something using or be interrupted when I'm trying to do something.

Last month I ordered a soup I thought was vegan, it wasn't, it had A LOT of mozzarella in it, I took one spoonful and I found it incredible rich and not tasty at all. I ate a few more spoonfuls cause I am an idiot and let's just say for the next 24 hours my stomach was not happy and my toilet became my unwanted best friend again. It was horrible. Lactose intolerance does run in my family (the Asian part) and I guess I have a mild case I never realized before or cared too.

As far as weight loss, I'm already a skinny girl but I have had people tell me that I look like I've lost weight since changing my diet. I think it's more of a people paying more attention looking for me to get all super skinny and sickly since I'm not eating like "most" people. Don't worry, according to the scale I have put on over 5 pounds, I don't care how skinny you are, that's never something you want your scale to tell you. I don't see or feel the 5 pounds and I did also start running so it could be mostly muscle (I'm hoping) and honestly some of my clothes do seem to be fitting a bit better.

I have to say that is the hardest thing, dealing with all the questions. I don't mind explaining to people why I do it and what type of stuff I eat now but having people go on and on about me not getting enough protein or the right vitamin and minerals just because of my vegan diet really pisses me off. If someone is seriously concerned I do get that, a lot of people don't know all that much about the types of food I eat now, but having someone who eats a mostly processed, fast food, meat based, junk food diet get all high and mighty on me about my diet and how it can't be healthy and how they heard that so and so told so and so blah blah blah or that so and so knows someone who knows someone who got sick and blah blah blah, that really pisses me off. If you are interested that is one thing, do some research and then come to me, and not just random sites on the internet that have no sources (yes kinda like this post, but this is just more about me and not why you should or shouldn't eat a certain way).

So what do I eat: Most of my hearty recipes that really satisfy me are from the 21 day vegan kickstart. I eat lots of stew/soups with lentils or beans. I love beans, always have, black beans, white beans, chickpeas, all sorts. Homemade hummus is a favorite of mine. LOTS of fruit and veggies of course, I've always loved most veggies and oranges and pineapple are my go to fruits for my morning breakfast. Rice, mom ALWAYS made rice with each meal and I couldn't live without it. Lot's of greens, I love spinach, bok choy, and kale. Mushrooms, is there anything more tasty than mushrooms? Couscous so delicious, tasty, and easy to make and make/use in different recipes. I don't eat it very often because I'm not that good of a cook and for some reason it eludes me but I love quinoa as well.

As for as specific substitutes, I use soy/rice/almond milk, depending on what I am making. Vanilla almond milk is my favorite for cereals and sweets, rice milk is great for soups and making creamy things. I don't use much soy milk anymore actually. Earth Balance has a great vegan butter substitute, even my mom used it to butter her rolls and liked it, she's one of those persons who would just eat a slice of butter! She comes over every now and then and has dinner with me trying my vegan dishes, she's liked all of them so far, even the one I forgot to put mushrooms in.

I make my own veggie broth, keep all the scraps/extras from all the veggies and things I use, freeze them and every month or so throw them in the crockpot with a water for the day, strain and then freeze in an ice cube tray for use later. Homemade veggie broth is amazing, it is cheap, beyond cheap because I use almost all scraps, which I then throw in my compost bin, and I can flavor it any way I want, more onion or garlic flavor, or use a lot of something/anything specific to get a great flavor. I can control the salt levels to my liking, usually don't add any, add in all sorts of herbs from my patio garden. Use it to cook anything that requires water and it adds flavor and veggie goodness, yum!

This is just a list of things I eat that I can recall off the top of my head so if it seems like I am blatantly missing something important that's why. I do take a multi-vitamin (when I can remember) but I don't take it because I'm vegan, I've almost always taken one (when I can remember).

So that's my story and I am sticking with this vegan thing cause I like it and it likes me.


  1. Awesome writeup, I loved it!

    I gave up dairy because of how it was affecting my body hormonally (I avoid soy for the same reasons), and my body has since become lactose intolerant. So, that's probably why the mozzarella did a number on you.

    I totally love your idea for making veggie broth!!! I've never even thought to make it before, let alone with the veggie scraps I don't use! Do you have a link for more details instructions and/or photos?

  2. I don't have any broth links off hand. I did read about it first on a blog and then googled a bit. It really is as easy as it seems. You can pretty much put anything you want in it.

    At first I was a bit concerned about what I should or shouldn't use but after a few batches I just threw whatever scraps I had, including garlic and onion skins, carrot, cucumber, potato peels, stems of spinach, I take the stems off all the mushrooms I use too because mushrooms are SO GOOD (I really like mushrooms) and all the ends of things and any extra things that I know I'm not going to get to using before it went bad.

    I put it all in a bowl in the freezer, sometimes multiple bowls cause I end up with so much and when the bowls are taking up too much space in my freezer or I am running out of frozen cubes of broth I empty them into my crock pot cover with water and let it cook away all day or night depending on when I do it.

    Depending on how picky or lazy I'm feeling I might do two strains, one through just a regular wire strainer and a second through some cheese cloth. If you don't do the cheese cloth it does end up cloudy and not as noticeable but kinda like miso consistency, it looks like miso but it isn't grainy feeling when eating, especially when used in recipes and not just eaten alone.

  3. On the lactose intolerance aspect, it's not always genetic but often cultural. Apparently the enzyme needed to digest lactose only sticks around as long as you are eating lactose. In many cultures people don't eat dairy after they are weaned, so they don't keep the enzyme. In Western culture (and some other dairy-eating cultures such as Central Asia and parts of Africa), people keep eating dairy, so they keep the enzyme. If you didn't notice lactose intolerance before you went vegan, it probably wasn't denial at all; you probably lost your tolerance after you stopped eating dairy. Which is fine, since you seem to be happy with your vegan lifestyle anyway. So good for you and thanks for sharing!

  4. Caitlin - I definitely had the symptoms of lactose sensitivity before, one reason why the only dairy I really ate was cheese (and ice cream but even then I usually went for sorbets), I didn't want to face the fact that I really should stop eating yummy delicious cheese and it was the hardest thing to get over not having. But I can't eat even a little bit of it now and it probably is because I no longer have the enzymes needed to digest it.

    Thanks so much for visiting my blog and commenting, I greatly appreciate it.

  5. I think going vegan seems intimidating to most people so they don't give it much thought. It is nice to hear you share your positive experiences with going vegan. Very inspirational post! Even though we grew up together it seems I am always learning something new about you. That is a good thing because it makes life more interesting! I am also glad to know that you are no longer bff's with your toilet.;)

  6. Michelle - it is intimidating, incredibly so and never even really crossed my mind like vegetarianism did, until I stopped eating meat and thought about the animal products I was still eating.

    I honestly never saw the point and some aspects of it I still don't now, I am not a honey avoiding vegan (because it's technically an animal by product), so if that makes me not really a vegan then so be it.

    The things that are not in any way shape or form vegan or even vegetarian are surprising, a lot if not most sugar isn't because bone char is used in some sort of process of it's production.

    It definitely makes eating not necessarily harder but more of a thinking process but I am a big fan of thinking and even over thinking things, actually not a fan of over thinking but I certainly do it a lot.

    Glad you are still learning things about me, I like to keep things interesting. It is really nice to not be unwanted best friends with a toilet. ;)