What have I learned in a year as a vegan?
So many things!!! First, I learned that being vegan is not as difficult as I imagined it would be.
I was that girl, the one who said, "I could probably go vegetarian, but never vegan! I love cheese way too much." Ha! Nope, cheese is a distant memory of mine now. And I do remember it tasting delicious, but I also remember the nasty effects of it, mostly IBS-related. Now, I crave cheese-free foods like pizza. I didn't ever find a vegan "cheese" that I liked, so I simply learned to live without cheese. Ant it's really not that hard. Well, not hard at all after a year. :-)
Another lesson: It's okay to order special when out to eat. I have had to get over my fear of upsetting the server and/or chef. I'm used to saying things like, "Is that cooked with butter? If so, could you please either cook it in olive oil instead, or just cook it without any sauce/oil?" and "I'll order the thin crust pizza with NO cheese, extra sauce, and piled high with extra veggies." also, "Can I put a meal together with side items? Great, I'll have the steamed broccoli (no butter!), the baked potato (no butter!), and a large garden salad (no croutons or cheese, oil and vinegar on the side)."
No need to be militant about it. If I am starving, and the only thing available is a granola bar that "may contain traces of dairy or eggs", I choose eating the granola bar over going hungry. This reminds me of another lesson-
Always be prepared! I have taken to carrying a Lara bar or other vegan bar in my purse at all times, usually accompanied with a baggie of dried fruit and/or nuts. This helps if I'm ever out and about and unable to get home to my vegan goodies but am hungry.
Quantity and Quality are both important, which is where being a healthy vegan really comes in handy... Vegetables and fruits (well, most of them anyway) are very low calorie and very high fiber. Eat up!!! No need to choose between quantity and quality. I eat about 10-12 servings of vegetables and fruits daily. Why? Because they are delicious and filling. They have really helped me to "beat the binge" (for the most part. I still have slip-ups every now and then, see my WW.com blog if you must...)
There are a lot of vegan junk foods out there. It's not too hard to gain weight as a vegan, despite the fact that 90% of vegans are not overweight (or something to that effect, a statistic that I read on Peta, I think, so take that one with a grain of salt...). Oreos, potato chips, redvines, soy/almond/rice ice cream, corn chips, etc.... But I have learned that all of these foods are fine in moderation! However, there are some items on this list that are definately "trigger" foods for me and binges, which I will periodically avoid just to cleanse my mind of these foods.
Non-vegan Family and friends can be really supportive. Just bringing my own dish or a package of oreos to parties and events has been a life saver for me, and family and friends have NEVER minded that I bring food along. A year in now, they will usually think of me and have a dish or two at the party that is vegan (or, a dish that they thought would be okay for me, like bacon-soaked green beans... "What? They're vegetarian, no milk and no meat actually in there..." I had to laugh at that one.)
But there will always be people who aren't so supportive. People who are maybe jealous? I don't know. I haven't actually run into many of these guys yet, but I'm ready for them if I do! Veganism is something that I feel pretty strongly about, and no one is going to convince me to go back to meat and dairy.
...I still miss sushi. I only ate sushi annually (birthday!) since it was so expensive. But it was one of my favorite foods in the world, and I do still miss my birthday treat. I am considering going for sushi on my birthday this year and trying the vegan options for the first time, like an avocado roll.
Healthy vegan eating can and WILL result in weight loss, with or without a program (if you need to lose weight, of course!). I don't see how it couldn't. I've obviously followed Weight Watchers for most of my vegan journey, but I really think that if all one ate were healthy vegan foods (beans, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, healthy oils, etc.), that even without calorie or points counting, weight loss would follow.
One can be a healthy vegan eater without being a master chef. See any of my "open a can" recipes for proof of this. ;-)
I feel lighter than I did when I ate animal products. Not just physically lighter, but emotionally lighter. No more guilt for eating animals, no more guilt for contributing to animal suffering. Veganism is one thing that I have done JUST FOR ME, and since making the decision to go vegan, I have made one healthy decision after another. Health leads to health. Happiness attracts more happiness. :-)
I'm positive that there are more lessons that I've learned, but these are the ones that are on my mind right now.
Happy veganiversary to me!!!
One year VEGAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!