I was first a vegetarian when I was little, though it didn’t last long. My dad loves to remind me that I changed my mind about it while we were out to dinner at a steak house. Ha!
That being said, meat was never a super important thing for me. I of course ate it regularly (I recall my mom making a seriously delicious slow-cooker beef stew), but easily could go without and never really craved it.
My next experiment with vegetarian eating was done with all the wrong motives. In an effort to control and restrict during my struggle with anorexia, I used all of the sound science behind vegan eating to justifying barely eating. The principles were true, but my mind and body we’re not healthy enough to handle such a big dietary change, and of course when I finally found my way to my healing journey, I welcomed animal products as a source of calories and essential protein to help me get back on track and to a healthy weight.
Fast forward to 2009 when I have no money and am working as an intern at a church in Malibu. I quickly learned that canned beans were just as filling (and way cheaper) than the sliced turkey I was buying every week, and slowly found my way back to a vegetarian diet, eating fish on occasion when at a nice restaurant with good quality, wild-caught seafood. I wasn’t very public about it, since I still felt shame about experimenting with this way of eating while anorexic. In fact, Brian didn’t even realize I was a vegetarian until we were engaged! (As a Texan, he thought I was kooky, but thankfully still loved me enough to say “I do” and deal with the vegetarian dinners I cooked.)
It wasn’t until September 2011 that we had a major shift in food perspective as a couple. After a week-long road trip to Northern California (complete with a trip to In ‘N Out, I might add), we returned on a Sunday night with time to spare before bed, and turned on a documentary that changed our outlook on what we eat, and literally changed our lives for the better. Within 30 seconds after watching Forks Over Knives, Brian turned to me and said that he thought we should try eating vegan. (Yep, you read that right, my Texas-raised, meat-loving husband was the one who suggested it!)
Since then, we’ve done a full year and a half of strict vegan eating with literally no exceptions (which, I have to say, was way easier than anticipated). Then we started to experiment with fish last summer and sort of had a seafood binge for a while—something that was pretty awesome while spending time near Cape Cod, where the fish is so fresh and locally caught. Later in the year, dairy entered the picture, too, and we just figured pescatarian was where we’d settle. But lately I’ve been going back to the books I read in 2011—Veganist and The Kind Diet—and adding some new reads to the list, including Crazy Sexy Diet.
I’m remembering all of the reasons why we were so adamant about eating strictly vegan for so long, and feeling inspired to return to that way of eating again. But this time, as more of a “veganist,” leaning into this way of eating day by day, rather than being a 100% strict follower. It’s been a long journey toward wellness for me in many ways. I’ve overcome mental illness and found a healthy relationship with food again. And now I’m truly finding a happy place with my eating habits in general.
The bondage of calorie counting is a thing of the past, as is eating meat (something I have honestly not craved since I gave it up, even now that I’m pregnant). Although cheese is quite possibly one of the more delicious things on this planet, I feel best overall (and my skin and hair look best!) eating a mostly vegan diet. I’m settling in on a way of eating that is 95% plant-based, and am totally okay with dabbling every once in a while in a cheese plate or a bit of sushi or wild-caught seafood.
If this is a way of eating that interests you, I’d recommend reading my friend Bonnie’s posts on her switch to vegan eating—I have these bookmarked and always share them with friends who are curious because she just wrote such awesome posts on the topic…
And if you’re looking for inspiration and info, these are some of my favorite veggie-related cookbooks and blogs…
>> It’s All Good (not a vegan cookbook, but full of vegan recipes, which are all labeled for easy finding)
>> The Kind Diet
>> Veganist (my best recommendation for those interested in “leaning in” to vegan eating like me lately, rather than being 100% strict about it)
>> Crazy Sexy Diet
>> Oh She Glows (also, now available as a cookbook!)
>> A House in the Hills
>> Going Home to Roost
>> My New Roots
>> My V E G pinterest board :)
What’s your food happy place (or are you still figuring it out)?