The Vegan

I was never what you would call a healthy eater. As a kid, I’d beg my parents to take me to McDonald’s (fortunately with minimal levels of success). I’d eat chocolate chip cookies with a glass of milk before bed. I would trick or treat well after I was too old because, well, hello? FREE CANDY! I moved out of my parents’ home at the age of 22 and survived on a highly processed diet of convenience foods, TV dinners, and diner stops. Chicken and burgers were staples of my diet.

In other words, I was like a lot of people. I didn’t give much thought to what I was eating, into how much suffering was in a hamburger patty, a carton of milk, a slice of mozzarella cheese on my french fries. I knew a vegan, and someone else who hadn’t eaten red meat for almost as long as I knew her. Still, I was asleep.

That started to change as I got older, but it was slow going. I saw Super Size Me, and I was grossed out by it. It even turned me off of McD’s for six whole months. But eventually, I went back.

I read Fast Food Nation. Everything that was said in that book made sense, but it didn’t make me change my eating habits.

turkey-dariaIt was in June of 2008 that I started to open my eyes. I read Skinny Bitch, and for some reason, it started to click. The animals were being treated horribly in slaughterhouses. Also, all the crap in the “Standard” American Diet was going to greatly increase my risk of disease that already plagues my family. I was disturbed. I started to look for ways to change. I bought my first block of tofu. I stopped eating farm animals. I stopped drinking milk. My mother questioned my motives, suggesting I was following a friend. I resented that judgment and carried on.

In August of 2008 I was still eating eggs, cheese and ice cream. “I hope that someday I will be able to go vegan. Even I don’t buy the “I can’t give up cheese” excuse, and I have used it plenty over the past few weeks. Might as well face it; we’re addicted to cheese. There’s a reason for that. Don’t try to argue otherwise.” Now that I’ve dropped that habit, it’s almost as though someone else used to say things like that, as if it wasn’t me. It was during that month that I gave up eating fish.

I finally gave up cheese and went vegan on Thanksgiving, 2009. Becoming and being vegan is a path where you never stop learning, where you are always surprised by a new nugget of wisdom and often frustrated by the fact that you are awake and so many aren’t. Veganism isn’t a destination – it’s a journey. I am not perfect, and the world we live in does not make it easy to ensure that no animals are exploited in the makings of things we use every day. We phase out what we can and work to make that number increase.

For me, I thought that health reasons were what started me down this road. And while that may be true, the environmental benefits – and, on a much larger scale, the animal rights issues – also made sense. This choice couldn’t not be the right one for me.