We’re already into the first week of December, and in just a few weeks, 2015 will be over. Even if you don’t agree with the idea of making resolutions, January 1, 2016 is a great time to start some new habits or just have a clean slate to start the next half of this decade.
I would like to propose doing a 22 or 30 day veg challenge to kick off the new year!
After being open to the ideas of changing my diet from my daughter and watching Forks over Knives, I decided to try eating a plant-based diet for 30 days in February 2012. I went back and looked to see if I could find a blog post about it, but it happened while I was focusing on doing daily food sketches. Beginning February 1, my sketches show that I stopped eating meat.
After my 30 day trial period, I just kept going. And the reason I kept going was because it wasn’t that hard, and I felt really good. I did this without any support from having vegan friends or being in a vegan community (although I was fortunate that my husband and kids were open to this). For the longest time, I worried that I would just slip off the wagon as so many do. However, I now consider myself vegan since February 2012, despite some small vegetarian slips, since my definition is having intention, philosophy and doing one’s best.
The reason I think it worked for me are these things:
1) I educated myself about how to eat plant-based. Watching Forks over Knives helped, and then I followed it up with a trip to Herbivore and chose the 30 day Vegan Challenge by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. This became my guide. It is too easy to get lost without having information about nutrition, recipe ideas, and suggestions for eating out, etc. Being vegan isn’t easy, and it isn’t hard… it is a change and requires some thought. When we first got our electric car I felt the same way about having to think about it differently to make sure it stayed charged. I am so used to gas cars and how that works. Now, I don’t have to think about it, I’m used to it. I take an iron and B12 supplement, and am thriving.
2) I had more than one reason to keep going. If I had only been following the diet for health reasons, it would have been easy to slip in animal products here and there, or worry I wasn’t getting enough nutrients. I finally allowed myself to see the cruelty animals have long-suffered once I stopped eating them. From there, it was easy to see the effect animal agriculture has on our planet, and my children’s future. That is not something I am going to forget.
3) I didn’t focus on perfection. If I had worried that I had eaten one cookie that may have had some egg in it, the challenge would have been too daunting. Do your best, always, to make good choices and have the least impact. I haven’t always even been comfortable calling myself vegan because I am not perfect and also wanted to avoid being stereotyped. Don’t get hung up on labels.
4) My palate changed. Taste buds change after 2 weeks, you have to try it to see. Vegetables and fruits taste even more amazing! I use less salt, sugar and fat and have found so many new foods I had never tried such as tempeh and seitan. Animal meat and eggs no longer look or taste appealing, and I have found some “clean protein” plant meats that I enjoy. I never thought I could give up cheese or milk (luckily dark chocolate is vegan). I now love my soy milk. As for cheese… that may be the hardest one for some people, but the new nut cheeses are amazing. Don’t think of the plant-based foods as needing to be exactly the same as animal-based foods and they can be delicious in their own right- try a coconut milk shake and you will see what I mean.
5) I tried to keep things in perspective. I didn’t come to these ideas overnight or by someone preaching to me. Although people know where I stand, I don’t create controversy with my friends and family. I want people to feel comfortable coming to me if they have questions and not feel judged. I stay vegan because it was my decision, and it resonates with what I believe in. That has been the best part of changing what I eat. Feeling in alignment with what I have always valued: peace and compassion.
It has been an interesting and life-changing experience over the last few years. I have had some strange Matrix-like moments, where it felt like I was seeing the world with new eyes. There have been centuries of cultural and historical meaning woven into what we eat, let alone billions of advertising dollars. It sometimes felt like swimming against a school of fish, which is not a role I relish. We don’t live in a world of around 3.7 billion people as we did when I was born, population has already doubled in my lifetime! Doesn’t it only make sense that we can’t continue to live as if our resources are unlimited? I absolutely believe that we can have a better future for our children, cleaner air, fight against wildlife extinction, less drought, less wars, less starvation (as we use our land and water more efficiently to feed people instead of farm animals), less cruelty to animals and better health if we make some changes. We can’t afford to look away any longer.
I hope you will give veg a try. And, I would be happy to help in whatever way that I can if you need a veg buddy. There are so many resources online, and great local communities with support like our Portland-based NW Veg. We all have the power to make this change three times every day, and honestly it has never been easier to find delicious plant-based food.
Instead of resolutions, try a New Year’s Revolution!