I wasn’t a particular large meat eater before I turned vegetarian and vegan. I liked it. It tasted good but not much more. Within a couple years it completely changed. When I tell people they are often surprised. They expect me to have much more experience in it. Since about a year I’m vegetarian with the last half year being a vegan on and off. The last 2 months however, I completely devoted myself to a diet without animal products and eggs. So what was my journey up to this point?
Hard to remember how I started. I guess about 3 years ago when I slowly started te be come aware of meat actually means, a dead animal. I remember clearly, about 2 years ago, that I made the conscious decision to not buy and eat meat on my sandwich. The first step.
Around May of 2017 I started to get really conscious about food choices. I’m not entirely sure why and how it happened, but it was at a time that I questioned everything and started to explore what I wanted in life. I quickly adopted a vegetarian diet although I was very flexible when I had diners with friends. I didn’t want to burden them with my lifestyle choice. You could say I was a flexiterian.
During July and August of the same year, when walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain, I reverted back. The meat was of such a good quality and it was so handy to take with me in my backpack, that I couldn’t resist. Looking back, I do not feel guilty. In those circumstances, with few knowledge and experiences as a vegetarian, it was a logical step.
Returning back in the Netherlands, I quickly started limiting my meat intake and eventually became vegetarian again. This time I was more comfortable with proclaiming my status. I saw many more people also being vegetarian or turning vegetarian. I was defiantly not the only one. Also, I was clearly aware about the large environmental burden of the meat industry and I didn’t want to be part of it anymore. This whole transition was painless. Within weeks I didn’t had the urge or need to take a piece of the juicy meat. Actually, I started to see the actual cow in the meat and it disgusted me. It made me sad.
Around the same time I was experimenting with cooking a lot. It turned into a hobby. This vegetarian diet gave an enormous boost to being creative with food. I quickly discovered all the substitutes for meat and realised that it was painstakingly easy to cook deliciously without meat.
The next months I often thought about trying a vegan diet. I was excited about challenging myself with cooking, finding out new recipes and food. Then around March 2018 I pulled the trigger and joined the 22 day vegan challenge at Challenge22. This decision was not only based on my hobby cooking. During January and February a had a sever eye infection. Hospital treatment and investigation discovered potential links to rheumatics in my family. I investigate this topic on internet and found that cutting out all animal products could reduce infections. For the past few years I also had stomach problems. I expected that it could be linked with consumption of diary products. During my research, I came across three documentaries about food and the animal industry: ‘Earthlings‘, ‘Forks over Knives‘, and ‘Cowspiracy‘. I was chocked. Perplexed. How could people do these things to animals… The images changed my perspective completely on the meat industry, the way we treat and use animals, and the food industry in general (especially marketing wise). I just couldn’t ignore these facts anymore. I highly encourage you to watch these three documentaries and then make up your mind.
With all this on the table, I started the challenge. I discovered a whole new range of foods and recipes. Eating vegan was surprisingly easy and for the most part I liked it. Sadly I didn’t noticed any difference in stomach pain. It started to become even worse. The other thing is that the social response from friends and family was rather hard to deal with. You suddenly become this outsider. They ask questions and you feel the constant need to defend yourself. After the 22 days, I reverted back to being a vegetarian but eating very few animal products. I just wasn’t brave enough to declare my true self. That I wanted to be a vegan. So from the outside I was just a vegetarian but when I cooked by myself it was always vegan.
Slowly during June I started to proclaim that I was a flexi-vegan. I preferred to eat vegan but if not available, I would just eat diary products and eggs. The holidays arrived and this was a great opportunity to completely declare that I’m vegan. I travelled through the UK with couchsurfing, hitchhiking and youth hostels. Everywhere a met people I proclaimed that I was vegan. To my complete surprise, I got mostly positive response without the pressure to defend myself. It was a breeze.
Coming back home I slowly announced being a vegan. Again response was low. I couldn’t believe it. As if the certainty within myself was build high enough that people were not interested anymore. For about 1 and a half months I’m eating vegan now. My stomach is getting to a rest and I’m feeling good. I still sometimes feel that my body needs to adapt. I read that I could take up to 6 months to settle. I also gained some weight to a more healthy level. Very surprising as in my entire life I had difficulty gaining weight.
So looking back, my advice is to educate yourself with books, documentaries and online resources. Nutritionfacts I particularly like as it is based on scientific research. Ease into it slowly. Take a small step every time. Especially the social aspects can be difficult to deal with. If you take small steps you will educate yourself along the way. At some point you will be confident enough to proclaim your true self. Remember that you can be whoever you would like to be. Only you are responsible for yourself. I encourage you to experiment a lot with different kinds of food. An excellent resource is the forksoverknives website and the Youtube channel pickuplimes.
Most important is to enjoy your journey. Relax, have fun, and do what feels right for you. Good luck!