Everyone Starts Somewhere

This past week, I didn’t know what to write about, so I went to my bud Somer, over at Good Clean Food, and asked her.  This week, I’m taking her advice and writing about how and why I went vegan.

When I first registered this blog name, I wasn’t vegan yet. I was just fairly recently vegetarian, and I originally planned on writing about living with a vegan as a man. Well, by the time I actually started writing, I had gone full-on vegan, and so my focus shifted a little bit.

But where to start. . . I suppose at the beginning.

Before the blonde and I got married, about 7 years ago, we both decided that we needed to drop a few pounds. Her mother and sister had recently tried WeightWatchers and had had some success, so we took their materials and did that for 5 or 6 months. The weight melted off of us. On our wedding day, I weighed the least that I’ve weighed since 6th or 7th grade, and a full 100 lbs. less than when the blonde and I met. Seriously.

260 pounds, weight loss, overweight, before

Before.

Wedding, Photography, Ridgefield Park, Bride, Groom, park

After. At our wedding.

Wedding, Bride, Groom, Church, Catholic, Ceremony

After. During our wedding

Unfortunately, this was just an introduction into portion control. We started eating a little bit less, and trying to incorporate more veggies when we could, but we were still full on omnivores.

Fast-forward 4 years, we had moved to Maryland, and the blonde had discovered the difference in health quality between organic and non-organic foods. We began to buy organic almost exclusively, but have you seen how expensive organic meat is? This basically eliminated beef from our diets, except when we were eating out or on vacation. It was a financial decision, and over time, we just got used to it.

By now, the blonde was working at WeightWatchers, and so every ingredient that could be measured or quantified in a recipe had to be. It didn’t matter if I knew how to make something, I had to know exactly what went into it. How many teaspoons of this, and how many grams of that. It was annoying at first, but again, I adjusted. I learned that a tablespoon of olive oil is often just as effective as three “glugs” out of the tin.  Who knew!?

As it happens, per serving, organic vegetables are cheaper than organic meats, even chicken, so meats became a smaller and smaller part of our plate. The blonde came across a cookbook called “The Flexitarian Diet,” and we started being ‘mostly’ vegetarian.

Flexitarian, Meatless Monday, Cookbook, Diet

I leaned a bit further in to vegetarianism at this point, because of a book I had won called “The Anti-Cancer,” by David Servan-Schreiber.

Anti-Cancer, Cancer, Best Seller, David Servan-Schreiber

The thrust of this book is that the author, a doctor, was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and little by little, he found way to control the growth of cancer cells in his body through diet. I have a history of cancer on both sides of my family, so I was probably more convinced by this than by anything else.

During this time, we started eliminating certain animal products for health reason. In baking, butter and eggs got replaced with applesauce or ground flax seeds, not because they were animal products, but because the alternatives were healthier. Cheese was expensive, and, to be honest, in college I was the guy who would sit down with a block of cheese and gnaw on it like an animal (See the first photo). So we rarely bought cheese. And to top things off, I hadn’t liked cow’s milk since I was about 7, so the change to almond milk was easy. My fave is Silk PureAlmond unsweetened original. Mostly because it tastes like very little in my cereal.

We spent about a year as ‘mostly’ vegetarians, but for her New Year’s resolution in 2011, the blonde decided to go full-on vegetarian. My response: “You can go vegetarian, but I am NOT going vegan.” Thankfully, she replied “Oh no, that’s way too hardcore.”
(total side note: How many vegans does it take to screw in a light bulb? Just one, but they have to get past 20 people saying “it’s to hard.” to do it.)

Where I come from, dinner is a family affair. There was no television during dinner, and as kids, we weren’t allowed to answer the phone during dinner. Even now, if I don’t think it’s an emergency, I just silence my cell phone if we’re eating. This still is how I feel today, so having one vegetarian and one non-vegetarian was a little difficult, but I refused to give in. We ate a lot of Italian, which was fine, because we both love Italian food. I would make pasta and sauce, and cook sausage separately, adding it after I had served the blonde, or make a stir-fry, adding pre-cooked shrimp after pulling half out.

I would also make vegetarian meals like home-made ravioli, Butternut Squash, Ravioli, MezzaLuna, homemade, pasta

or meatless lasagne. Lasagne, Lasagna, pasta, homemade, baked lasagna, mozzarella

Then, just as I was starting to wrap my head around vegetarianism, the blonde got a volunteer position with VegNews magazine.

Neither she nor I knew whether or not VegNews was a vegetarian, or a vegan magazine. (The “Veg” in “VegNews” wasn’t specific enough.) Once we learned that it was indeed a vegan lifestyle magazine, she decided that she had to go vegan. It was August of 2011, and my heart broke a little bit.

Allow me to explain. I grew up in Northern New Jersey, where food is a way of life. I was surrounded by amazing Italian, Cuban, Spanish, Mexican, Chinese, Japanese, and American food. At no point did I ever walk into a restaurant and wonder if the food would be good. I assumed that it would be, and I was usually right. My favorite food, even now, is pizza. There is nothing in the world like good, hot, fresh pizza. Made well, good pizza is a piece of art.

Thankfully, there is no really good pizza in Maryland. In fact, I think the best pizza in Maryland comes out of my oven.

We spent about five-and-a-half months this way: me as an omnivore, and the blonde as a vegan. I was flexible and patient, while she was understanding and confident. As she learned something new, she shared it with me, not in the hopes that I would go vegan, but because she found the fact that she didn’t know some of these things an atrocity. This is how I found out about the movie “Earthlings,” how I learned about battery cages and gestation crates, and a ton of other offensive ways that animals are treated.

This is also the time where I learned about pressing tofu (Get a tofu press, stat!), tempeh (my favorite meat alternative), seitan, and roasting veggies correctly. My palate expanded by about 50% by the blonde going vegan.

One day, early in February 2012, the blonde told me about a video she had seen of piglets being castrated. I’ll spare you the details, but it disturbed me so much, that I couldn’t bring myself to watch the video. I still can’t bring myself to watch the video.

About a week later, I had an all day meeting at my school, where lunch was provided. A great treat in and of itself. The lunch was, surprise!, pork loin. I had no hesitation in eating it. Now, for maybe the first time, I filled my plate with about 50% veggies also, but the pork went nicely on a sandwich with portobello mushrooms and roasted red peppers.

I still feel guilty about eating that pork.

I thought about that meal for 3 or 4 days, and kept waiting for the feeling of responsibility to go away. It wouldn’t. I thought about it, and thought about it, and thought about it, and finally, I looked at myself in the mirror one morning, and said, aloud, “Well, I guess I don’t eat animals anymore.” That was that.

We had been eating almost all plants at this point anyway, so it wasn’t a huge shift in diet, but it was a shift in the way I thought. I finally started thinking about the real impact on what I ate. It changed my whole thought process when we got food. That change is what made me wonder about veganism. About a month later, on Ash Wednesday, I decided to go vegan for Lent. I figured, if I didn’t notice any issues in my life, then I would stay vegan, and if I did notice any, then I would adjust how and what I ate according to that hassle.

It wasn’t really a big issue, with one exception. On Wednesday, I “went vegan.” That Friday, I ate a bunch of crab dip. Doh! On the way home from curling (yup, the sport with rocks and brooms on ice) it dawned on me that I had been vegan for 2 days, and had eaten a bunch of crab and dairy.  Nice job, dummy.

It certainly helped that we went to The Seed, A Vegan Experience. That really helped solidify some of the ideas that I had been thinking about as being a vegan. (Side note: Since The Seed and its primary organizer, Erin Red, have parted ways, I’ve totally taken sides. I support Erin Red and her views on the subject, so I have only liked to her blog post about this.) The presentations there by Jasmin Singer and Mariann Sullivan, JL Fields, Gena Hemshaw, and a host of others really helped me coalesce the various ideas about why I’ve vegan. As usual, someone figured it all out before me, and he even posted about it.  Show off. . .

Stainless Steel, Wallet, vegan wallet,

Like This One!

Since then, I haven’t eaten any animal products, and little by little, we continue to process animal products out of our lives. No more leather belts, I’m looking forward to replacing my leather wallet with a stainless steel one.

We won’t buy woolen products anymore, and naturally animal testing is a no-no, so the decisions we make are always guided at this point. We have an additional external moral compass to help make decisions about our lives, and to be honest, it’s a big help. It’s like we’ve taken the Hippocratic Oath of “First, do no harm,” and I feel better about myself.

The way I understand it, everyone has an “ah-ha” moment about their veganism. For some people it’s health related, for others its animal welfare. I would like to know what yours is, so please, leave a comment below telling me why you chose to go (and stay) vegan/vegetarian, or why you haven’t, and thanks you for sharing!

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~ by VegansHusband on August 19, 2012.

31 Responses to “Everyone Starts Somewhere”

  1. Thank you for sharing this experience!
    I’ve become a vegetarian (quite recently, actually) after being on a veggie diet for my weight, and in just two weeks my mind turned 180 degrees and realization of what is actually happening to humans because of cruelty and consumerism culture. I no longer eat any kind of meat and don’t buy leather and cruel products. Your post actually shows how idea of vegan comes from love and not hate and frustration. It’s inspiring. Thank you once more and good luck!

    • You are the inspiring one. Any transition into a vegetable-based diet is a huge shift for most people, but little by little, it’s just becoming a natural movement.

      Maybe the biggest missed-connection for me before I finished the change to veganism was the effect of animal products on people, and not just the health effects, but the other things, like how killing animals for a living affected people’s psyches.

      • It does become natural, I’m happy about it!
        Well, I’m not sure about this… I do agree that there are sadistic people that enjoy slaughter and suffering, but you know, my great-grandparents kept hens and other poultry, and, consequently, they killed them, but I can’t really say they were exceptionally cruel or anything like that. To them eating animals they brought up and cared for was the natural way of things…

  2. Earthlings is what did it for me and my husband, as we were watching it we looked at eachother and knew neither of us would ever be eating meat again and we haven’t in over 5 years. I also think veganism is just a natural progression from vegetarianism…I don’t eat chickens, why would I eat chicken eggs?; I don’t eat cows, why on earth would I drink their milk (or anything made from their milk)?…that line of thinking got me to where I am.

    • 5 years? That’s awesome! Do you still celebrate your vegan-versary? We just celebrated my wife’s this month.

      I totally agree that its the natural progression from vegetarianism. Once you stop eating animals, you just learn more and more about the reasons to stop eating their byproducts too. That line of thinking is exactly what we need more of in this world. thank you for being a proponent of vegan living1

    • By the way. thanks for being my 100th comment!

  3. I chose to go pescetarian at age 40 when it finally became clear to me the symptoms of failing health I’d been experiencing for the last year (obesity, fatigue, swelling ankles, periodic pains in my chest, neck, and head, nightly acid reflux, etc) were not going to go away on their own. I did that about 9 months without any significant improvement of symptoms, but during that time I gradually came to realize how cruel the animal industry is and how the consumption of animal products correlates so closely with human disease and death. Then about two months ago, I reread the creation story in Genesis and Gen 1:29 caught my eye: “Look! I have given you the seed-bearing plants throughout the earth and all the fruit trees for your food”. No further addendums altered that statement in Genesis. Only after the expulsion from Eden did God allow animals to be used for meat- but that was clearly not His ideal. It was then I went vegan. I am happy to say my body is thanking me for it- I am slowly losing weight, my nightly reflux has disappeared, I no longer have swelling in my ankles or pains in my chest, neck, or head, IBS symptoms that I’ve suffered daily for 9 years are drastically improved, and my energy levels are more steady. I’m still on a journey toward good health and am trying to incorporate more raw foods and less processed foods into my diet. It has been an adventure trying new foods and recipes and stepping outside my comfort zone and I have frequently tried something new that I did not like. But surprise, surprise! I am finding other things that I DO like that I would never have tried if I were still following my old diet 🙂

    • That is an incredibly touching story. You should be so proud of yourself for this. I’ve found that as soon as I start really looking for food that is vegan and avoiding food that isn’t, I immediately started discovering a whole range of things that I hadn’t even knows existed, like tempeh and seitan. I also started eating more vegetables, raw, steamed, and roasted,

      Stopping eating meat isn’t really a diet of denial, it’s a diet of abundance. And now, we’re entering into my favorite time to eat: autumn and harvest time!

      Congratulations on your vast health improvements, and I hope that you continue to improve. I’ll pray for you, and look forward to hearing more about your incredible turn-around!

  4. Excellent! I look forward to shaking your hand sir. There is a shortage of male bonding, so when we meet in person we need to grunt and drink beer that has not been filtered with sturgeon bladder. I am looking forward to it!

  5. So thankful my friend sent me the link to your blog! My husband & I are quite the minority in our little “world” so it’s very refreshing to read your blog. We made the leap on Dec. 26th, 2011. I was having major health issues for 1/2 of 2010 and all of 2011. Was told I may have M.S. (inconclusive results at this time) and in August of 2011 I ended up in the hospital, eventually being diagnosed w/ bipolar 2 as well. It was the hardest year of our lives! My husband Andy is the one I have to thank for my new life. Christmas day of last year he was searching online for natural ways to cure M.S. and other autoimmune disorders. He came across A LOT of vegan and raw vegan information…and as we sat there all Christmas night reading and listening to how people’s lives had changed dramatically from a vegan lifestyle, it really hit “home”. December 26th was our first day as vegans and we haven’t looked back! I am 100% serious when I say that ALL of the M.S. symptoms are gone. Gone. 🙂 I am still on medication for the bp 2, it’s not something to fool with…but I am always trying to learn all I can, and maybe someday (I would love it to be soon!) I will be free from taking the medication as well. We loan out “Forks Over Knives” to anyone and everyone we can. I also started a blog a few months ago to try and inform everyone I know about what’s going on with us and how it has changed our lives. Some other great side affects from this lifestyle is weight loss (45 lbs each) and energy. I was the person always watching the runners as they went down the street, wishing I was one of them…never thinking I would be. I now run 6-8 miles a day and am training for my first half marathon!! I’m so proud of myself it’s ridiculous! lol
    Anyway, thank you for being “here”, I look forward to reading your future posts!!

    • Wow! This is astonishing. My wife and I found that we’re somewhat separated from the rest of our families because of our decision to go vegan (my mom almost cried when I told her I wouldn’t be eating any turkey on Thanksgiving) but stories like yours make it even more worthwhile.

      And you’re going to run a half-marathon? you=superstar.

      In upcoming posts, I’ll be talking about vegan beer, so you may want to share those posts with your husband as well, and thank you for being “here” to share the trip with me!

  6. I’m so glad you shared your story! There are so many ways in which we embark, and continue, on the vegan journey and these personal stories matter. You’re doing a great thing by sharing through this blog!

  7. Thank you!

  8. What an inspiring story! I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and agree with everything you’ve said here. I started the vegetarian way at least a couple years ago due to health reasons for my husband…he has gout and meat products make it much worse. Your story inspires me to want to write about our story. 🙂
    For his health he had to eliminate meat which I of course couldn’t make him do it alone, so I gave up meat as well. I had to learn so much about a new and more creative way of cooking. I stopped being vegetarian for awhile but went back to it when his gout got much worse again. We have since become vegans for the past several months. The animal cruelty is an added reason this time. I can’t imagine eating all that stuff again…I really think it would make me sick. I don’t even miss it anymore. I’d say the only thing I miss is old fashioned pizza! My next creation needs to be a vegan pizza!
    I remember when I used to hear the word vegan, I thought ewww gross and no flavor. It’s amazing how wrong we can be when we just don’t have the knowledge. Thanks for your story!

    • I used to have the same opinions about veganism. And I totally agree about missing pizza, but I find that the best pizza in Maryland before we went vegan came out fo my oven, so I’m not missing much.

      If you take a look here (http://wp.me/p2tLeR-26) I posted about a pizzeria in Brooklyn that has vegan options, and they use Teese, which we recently bought. I far prefer it to Daiya, especially on the pizza. IF you’re goign to make yoru own pizza, give that a shot!

      I also hear, maybe on Red radio, maybe on Our Hen House, someone has written a vegan pizza cookbook. If I can find it, I’ll good a bunch from it and post some of the recipes to get things started!

  9. Um, worshipping this! And the feedback, KILLER. When you put it all out there not only do people appreciate it, but it motivates them too.

    Thanks dude! This made my day!

    • Wow, thanks dude. Sorry for the delay, I’ve been out of town. It’s what I do in the summer. . .

      And yeah, you’re right, this is the day that I got the most views, most likes, and most comments. Cool seeing people connect to my story, especially when there are people with stories like yours out there too!

  10. I’d been vegetarian for 30 years and thought I would try going vegan for a week. I did it for a week and liked it so much I decided to slowly turn vegan. I discovered that my ongoing digestive problems went away on a vegan diet. It sounds daft now, but I hadn’t realised that my problems were due to lactose intolerance. My views on animal cruelty are strident and always have been, but now veganism fits with these views. Wish I’d made the change years ago!

  11. Everything I’ve done has always been for the animals, but the health effects are a major bonus!

    I went vegetarian almost 7 years ago (wow, can’t believe its been that long!) after coming across some talks on PETA. I had naturally stopped eating cows a few years back out of my love for them and PETA just made me realize I should be kind to ALL animals. That year I went vegetarian as a new years resolution in 2006. I was still eating at home with my omnivore parents, so it started as a challenge and I lived off convenience foods for a few years. Once I got married in 2008 I began to cook a little and made some vegan meals for my omni husband and he ate vegetarian at home with me, but never went vegan for the fear of it being “too hard” and even back then living on convenience foods in a small Ohio town, there weren’t many vegan options. Fast forward a few years my husband and I move to Florida and I watched Food Matters and some other documentaries shortly after our move and I made it my next new years resolution to go vegan and ky husband decides to go vegetarian. It wasn’t until then that I really learned how to cook – and enjoyed it! I started a blog and found a whole vegan community online and suddenly I didn’t feel so alone or like such an “outcast” as most vegans often feel in a meat eating society. My hubby ate vegan at home and was brave enough to try anything I made, despite being a previously picky eater; but was reluctant to be vegan when we went out and didn’t want the effort at restaurants. But, such as yourself, after listening to a year of me spewing vegan facts and watching documentaries at home, he joined me being vegan new years of 2012. He’s come a LONG way from the guy I met who would eat only white bread and turkey breast sandwiches at Subway. In fact we love all our adventures finding new vegan restaurants and the Tampa Bay area has quite a few! It makes it much easier when your husband or wife is vegan with you! Congrats on going vegan!

  12. This is a really wonderful post! I’m happy I found your blog. I love being vegan! It is fun, exciting, and peaceful all at the same time. I face some challenges because I’m studying medicine in an environment that is not the MOST vegan-friendly, and sometimes I become disheartened, but that’s why I LOVE reading stories like yours. It reminds me that the process is often a gradual one (in fact, that can be the best way!) and that I should give up hope that some of those around me who are critical will one day awaken to this lifestyle, in some form or another. In fact, I’m now thinking that screening some of these documentaries could have a huge impact on my classmates… perhaps that will be my next step. 🙂

    Also, I am so in love the fact that you and your wife have done this all together! So cute.

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