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How did you become vegan?

I'm currently committed to one vegan meal a day, and one non-vegetarian meal a week. I find this easier to maintain than full fledged veganism, but would like to adopt a totally vegan lifestyle at some point.

If you're vegan, what made you decide to avoid animal products? Were you an ovo-lacto vegetarian at first? Do you currently avoid honey as well?

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  1. Last January 1st, having watched a TV show about the health benefits of a vegan diet, my husband and I embarked on a 2-week vegan experiment to see if it would clear up some of his digestive problems. It did not, but the dreadfully swollen ankle that had been plaguing me for a year completely disappeared. Since then, I've been "veganish." I use 1% Organic Valley cow's milk on my oatmeal because I've not found a non-dairy milk that doesn't taste weird. I put a tiny amount of real Parm on my pasta, and when we recently traveled to London, I ate some Dover sole. Other than these exceptions, it's veggies, veggies, veggies. ( I do weight training 3 times a week, so I add a non-whey protein powder to my juices, as I think I need the additional protein.)

    2 Replies
    1. re: pikawicca

      After several years of having a vegetarian household we read "The China Study." A convincing argument for the health benefits of a plant based diet.

      We decided to give it a try for one month. That was five years ago.

      We are now reading about the benefits of a mostly raw 'living foods' diet and are trying to incorporate more raw into our diet with a daily green smoothie in the morning and a salad at lunch or dinner.

      I think it helps when a couple have the same goal and make it fun to explore new recipes, source new ingredients andshare in food preparation.

      We have a local vegan meal delivery service that is out of this world good and reasonable. When we are busy we order the main entrees and prepare our own breakfast, salads and sides.

      Wingbean (our local Asheville area vegan meal delivery service just celebrated it's one year anniversary) : https://www.wingbean.com/

      1. re: Windsor

        Agree big-time about doing it as a couple. We've also been getting into raw foods, and there are some great cookbooks out there for it. Rawvolution is a good one to start with. Raw food can be surprisingly delicious.

    2. I'm re-doing my kitchen, looking at cook-top options. I (+ wife cook a lot - stumbled upon this site and joined up). I'm no preachy or a hippy. My wife and I are both professionals (thus looking at 40-50K kitchen remodel) and cool with people trying veg/vegan options or not.

      I've been vegan for 4+ years now and never felt better - for health reasons + environmental benefits and to not be a part of 10 billion animals being killed in the US annually.

      I did seafood only for about 10 years - then went to Monterrey Aquarium plus became aware of the bad times for fish/seafood production and then became vegetarian. After doing that for about 6 years went vegan and have not looked back.

      Correct - zero honey too.

      Being an athlete - workout 10-20 hrs/week (Cat 3 road racer (was a Cat1), rock climb 5.11, ice climb 5+ M7 and backcountry ski. I am 6'5 weigh 205 and can do 45 real pull-ups (no cross-fit swinging/momentum). I found that a vegan diet gave me more energy and I recover quicker (dairy being not good for you at all - unless you're a calf). My wife is also an athlete (completed Ironman triathlon and also does backcounty climbing/scrambling 14ers w/ me) and has also noticed more energy and quicker recovery as we get older (in 40s now).

      with movies like "forks over knives" and "earthlings" around - I know several people that became vegan cold-turkey recently - with all the fake meat and cheese alternatives I think it's easier than ever to do that.

      We get organic local produce delivered weekly via a CSA - community supported agriculture = pretty cool. It's fun to vegan-ize traditional recipes and to explore new plant-based meals. Many great cookbooks around. Our new kitchen is going to be awesome - having fun designing that now.

      2 Replies
      1. re: bc_co

        ok,
        this is a shameless plug:
        for may years i eschewed the phony meat and phony chicken products because they were disgusting as well as processed,

        there is a newer brand of phony chicken in the grocer's freezer case that is good enough so that i've been able to serve it to meat-eaters (such as my daughter) and have them honestly like it.
        the brand name is gardein
        the flavor varieties that i like are the:
        a) mandarin orange chick'n (the sauce comes in a separate packet and is put on the cooked chick'n after the chick'n is crispy)and the
        b) spicy tangy barbeque wings (same story with the sauce coming in a separate packet, but the wings don't become crispy like the mandarin chick'n does)

        my next door neighbor, a vegetarian of 2 decades, likes a gardein variety chick'n that has the word "chipotle" in the name (can't remember the exact name).

        these products have quartered the time and planning that i spend on planning and cooking.

        in Los Angeles, they are carried by whole foods, the larger -sized ralph's, and by gelson's. not every grocer has the full array of all the varieties.

        CAVEAT: costco carrys stuff that has the same name and the same packaging, but larger packs. THIS IS NOT THE SAME PRODUCT. DON'T BE DECEIVED!
        the stuff in the smaller packages in the regular grocery stores is like batter dipped chicken.
        the stuff they are selling at costco is selling resembles the chicken nuggets that mcdonalds sells: deep-fat fried extruded goop.

        the PACKAGING LOOKS THE SAME, THE NAME IS THE SAME, DON'T BUY THE COSTCO crap.

        1. re: westsidegal

          Have you contacted Gardein about this and asked why they do that? Because I feel like I would like an answer from such a thus-far stellar company (and a Canadian one, FTW).

      2. My wife was having some rather severe digestive problems, so we went gluten free and vegan to see if it would help. We both felt so much better after the first couple of weeks that we've had no desire to return to eating animal products. We're fortunate to live in San Francisco, where being vegan is a lot easier than in many other cities.

        1. In my case, I watched Fast Food Nation and realized that my choice of food had larger implications than I had thought. I still crave meat and dairy on occasion so I don't try to suppress that completely - I just figure that these cravings will go away in due course.

          Thanks everyone for your inspiring stories.

          1. I started my vegan journey on September 30, 1997, when I was having horrible skin reactions and I read some book about elimination diets. I went on a diet of tofu and rice for a month and cried when my symptoms completely disappeared. I cried because loved meat and didn't want to spend the rest of my life life just eating tofu.

            I stayed in the closet for many years, eating vegan at home and then going hog wild whenever my friends wanted to go out and eat. I have friends who never realized I was a vegan at home all those years.

            Several years back, my symptoms got worse and so I couldn't cheat anymore. I"m not that sad though. The vegan word has blossomed. It's amazing. I'm happy.

            1. I've had vegan friends for years, usually opted to vegetarian most of my life. But I thought I would give a shot for Lent to see if I could do a vegan diet for forty days. I really liked it! I thought it would be limiting, but with so many options and cookbooks out there, it made the transition easier. I choose it now for ethical reasons, my husband chooses for environmental ones. And while I laud and support my militant bethren in re: to a vegan diet, I tend to only discuss it if asked. And even then, if the other parties involved are respectful. I would never call an omnivore a derogatory name to their face and would hope they have the same respect for me!

              1 Reply
              1. re: Peaches to Poutine

                As a former vegetarian I can attest to the discomfort of omnivores when the V word comes up in conversation.

                I've since learned that diet is like religion and politics. It's best not to bring it up, and to change the subject when it does come up.

              2. Had been vegetarians for years. Watched Forks Over Knives, and never looked back.

                2 Replies
                1. re: noya

                  I just Watched Forks over Knives on Netflix. What an eye-opener!

                2. I have basically been a vegetarian for my entire life. I never wanted to eat meat, but grew up in the mid-west and my parents made me eat it. I went vegetarian when I went to college 28 years ago. I went vegan about 20 years ago after reading an article about dairy.

                  1. Not me,but a friend in her early 50's had some off the scale bad numbers at her annual physical.Dr. offered her a pill for this,another pill for that for the rest of her life.She opted for see you in six months instead of the instant pharmacy.Tall,trim all her life,dancer and rower she wasn't fighting weight,just stress and genetics.Was already a smart,careful eater,five day per week vegetarian with lousy cholesterol etc and PISSED.Did some homework and went VEGAN for six months.All her numbers came down into the healthy range,and have stayed there for five years.
                    I won't say that she never has a tiny bit of dairy,fish or eggs,but it is rare.She simply likes the fact she feels better and is healthier as a 99.9% VEGAN.
                    Something we respect and take into consideration when she is a guest for dinner here.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: lcool

                      I pretty much went vegan for health reasons as well, but honestly the vegan choices these days keep me going. Oh and I just had a cholesterol test. Total cholesterol = 110. Total cholesterol/HDL ratio = 2.6. I really can't complain.

                      1. re: choctastic

                        Nor can E.Both of her parents died early,barely 60,something she wants to avoid.It seems to be working.

                    2. My sister and I both went vegetarian (about 20 years ago) shortly after our Dad had a heart attack at age 52 that required emergency quintuple bypass and a pacemaker (our brothers are still omnivores). We went vegetarian for health reasons at first and then as we learned more all the other reasons made sense and we each went on to become vegan. My husband is also vegan (for over 30 years). That's how we met.

                      1. 2 reasons
                        - I was diagnosed with a medical condition that would exacerbate if I continue with the kind of food I was eating.
                        - The quality of meat produced is not what I would like to have anymore, plus the treatment of animals makes me sick. Since the meat producers load animals with prophylactic antibiotics, whatever bacteria we get in the food are antibiotic resistant. The medication I use for my diagnosis is immunosuppresant, making me more vulnerable for such infections. Hence decided to stay away from everything.

                        Some food for thought
                        http://fanaticcook.blogspot.com/2012/...

                        1. My vegetarianism/veganism is still under construction. I got some chickens a couple years ago. They became pets, and I spend a lot of time with them. They show emotions and seek affection just like any other pet, so me and my partner stopped eating chicken, and eggs other than from our own hens. For me, there's not really a reason to feel that pigs/cows/etc are different, so I became vegetarian recently. My partner still eats meat, so I'm in the process of working out how to make divergent meals. I like a lot of vegetables my partner doesn't, so a bonus is that I can eat those things.

                          We'd been doing vegetarian meals about half the time before, so it's a gradual change. Cheese and yogurt are tough to give up for me, so we buy milk from a local farmer that verifiably treats her animals well, and I make my own. We don't avoid honey because we keep our own bees to help increase the bee population, and you sometimes end up with honey even when that's not your goal. Over time, I'm eating more vegan meals as I find recipes I like.

                          I think giving yourself permission to have an occasional non-vegan meal helps a lot when you're first starting out. There are a lot of bad recipes out there, and having an occasional fallback in the plan makes it seem like it's not a failure on your part. It gives you breathing room to experiment with substitutions and let your body get over cravings so they don't push you back and make you give up.

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: patricium

                            Oh, I love your story. :) I became vegetarian (I'm not fully vegan, but close) because I don't really like meat, but it is definitely about way more than that now. I, too, see that most animals want affection and it just makes it hard for me to imagine eating animals.

                            Have you read Peter Berley's Flexitarian Table? That might be good for you right now, with the divergent meals issue.

                            1. re: IndyGirl

                              I haven't, but I will definitely look that up. I'm coming up with some strategies that ease the organizational load. Having meal-sized portions of various protein and carb units stashed in the freezer helps, so I can mix-and-match and fill in the gaps. And I've found some good pairings that use the same sauce on a meat for him and veggies for me. Thanks for the pointer!

                              1. re: patricium

                                The healthy hedonist cookbook is also flexitarian and has some good food.

                                1. re: melpy

                                  Thanks for that recommendation too!

                            2. re: patricium

                              My husband likes to say, "Perfection is the enemy of the good." I believe that as long as you eat consciously and do your best, one shouldn't worry about being perfect in your diet all the time.

                              1. re: patricium

                                Could somebody please explain to this omnivore the problem with bee spit?:)

                                After thinking about it for a little bit, I get it. A natural product like milk but animal processed.

                                1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                  p.s. much of the meat and milk that is available out there has stopped being a "natural product" many years ago.

                                  here's an article about meat that really also applies to milk:
                                  http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpo...

                                  here's another related article about meat, but also probalby applies to dairy:
                                  http://news.yahoo.com/russia-bans-us-...

                              2. although i am not a vegan, ( i do eat fish twice a week and eat dairy twice a week),
                                as a dog rescuer, i end up being exposed to the underground footage that comes out of the slaughter houses, the poultry barns, the cafos (sp?), etc.

                                really watching a few of those, was pretty compelling.

                                all that meat/poultry eating was based in denial.
                                when the denial was damaged, the farm-raised livestock consumption disappeared.

                                also, it didn't hurt that three months after i gave up meat and poultry altogether, my crippling arthritis basically disappeared. i ended up throwing out huge bottles of tylenol and motrin because their "good by" date had come and gone--somethng that hadn't happened in the decade before my becoming more vegan than not.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: westsidegal

                                  Thank You Westsidegal. I agree that a change in diet can produce startling results. When I cruise the Bahamas in my boat, it is stocked with canned green veggies, Vitamin C drink powders, and beans, pasta, ramen noodles, and peanut butter. One can of stew or chop suey per week for my meat treat. And all the fish, squid, and spiny lobster I can spear. I drop on average 25 to 40 pounds in 6 weeks and have yet to have any illness on the boat.

                                  It helps that without ice, there is no consumption of beer, wine is mostly for cooking, and gin and tonics are remarkably cooling with a wedge of key lime.

                                  On the other hand, I will never forget the sight of my former FIL who under the advice of an herbalist and spiritual healer, showed up with bright orange hair due to the mixture that was suppose to heal him.

                                2. I'm pretty much doing the same thing now. I was doing the opposite for years, one veg meal a week...and then i read The China Study. The switch came easier than anticipated and i have so much more energy now. My occaisional migraine has mot resurfaced since change of diet.
                                  I still use honey, butter, fish sauce, oyster sauce in small amts.
                                  Husband switched after watching Fork over Knives.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: jjdiep

                                    jjdiep, I've been following the Engine 2 diet (Rip Esselstyn is Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn's son) on FB and folks who decide to change their lifestyles to whole-plant foods report the *same* health benefit first noticed: MORE energy. Great stuff!

                                  2. Well, I went vegan a little over a year ago. However, my husband has been hospitalized three times since then, and I've ended up eating hospital cafeteria food 3 meals a day, 7 days a week for 1 or 2 weeks on end.

                                    Vegan isn't possible. There is always a vegetarian option, but it's frequently loaded with cheese and milk. Choosing the most healthful option can be daunting.

                                    I'm amazed at the crappy, unhealthy food offerings at hospitals.

                                    1. We are in our mid 60s and total omnivores until 8 weeks ago when we became part time, ultra low fat vegans, initially as a 1 week experiment. That is, 19 of 21 meals/week and all snacks are vegan. 2 meals a week we eat out with no rules - because we both love dining out. Since starting this program we have more energy, are in better moods and have each lost about 15 pounds. We are basically following the Caldwell Esselstyne, MD program as found in his book on preventing and reversing heart disease - same program Bill Clinton follows.

                                      After the first couple of weeks, where it seemed all we did was shop and cook, we have found lots of things to make it easier. Amy's frozen vegan meals are a god-send but use up most of our fat allowance (10-15 grams per day). I am amazed how generally easy and satisfying eating vegan at home is. We do eat honey. Honey and cinnamon together are said to have awesome health benefits.

                                      Not sure if we will ever give up our 2 regular meals out but we have found we feel less good the day after we have one of these. My cholesterol and 1AC numbers were way too high before we started this. I will get retested in another 5 weeks or so and hope to see dramatic improvements.

                                      Also thankfully, alcohol is vegan - not that we overdo.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: dgusanz

                                        dg, I've read so many glowing testimonials from folks who adopt more plants into their diet/lifestyle...will be interested to know how your blood-work compares to your former numbers. First thing folks notice when they go plant-strong or healthy-vegan is "more energy"..."sleep better" etc. Good for you!

                                        1. re: dgusanz

                                          Well...not all alcohol is vegan, but don't let that stop you! :)

                                          http://www.barnivore.com/

                                        2. If you're interested, I'm thinking about going vegan...a confluence of a number of factors is bringing this on. We already eat a low amount of meat, and only kosher beef/lamb and kosher free-range chicken. However I know we eat way too much dairy.
                                          I'm hitting what used to be considered middle-age this year and I can't eat the quantities of food I'm used to eating anymore, weight-wise. I also try to be careful about what I eat in terms of my subsequent energy level. I love love love all kinds of food and think of restaurants and cooking as one of my main sources of entertainment, however I have realized that vegan cooking has come a long way.
                                          A quick search on amazon reveals great looking ethnic vegan cookbooks. I would not have survived as a vegan in the days of Moosewood. In fact I went to school in Ithaca and the culture lives on, spurning one to avoid sprouts at all costs...
                                          But now it's gotten a lot easier I think for Americans to be vegan. There is even a PBS cooking show which I would love to watch. I saw a preview in which someone makes cashew based nacho cheese, and it sounded good.
                                          Not to mention the overall flexitarian culture- if Mark Bittman is doing it, I feel more supported :)
                                          I grew up around farm animals and they were all treated very humanely and ended up in the freezer. I see nothing wrong with that. My dad only had 2 cows at a time, and they lived on dozens of acres with various shelters around. The chickens had the same. However I should probably give up any sort of meat eaten out- I did watch the Veganism movie. I already knew what the story was but I think I avoided making the effort because I thought I needed to eat meat/cheese. I dont' think that now. I will start slowly, as others have suggested. Since we watched the movie a couple of days ago my food has been mostly vegan- a little butter, cheese, and yoghurt since then. I haven't even wated eggs...we'll see. I'll start as a flexitarian with humane/environmental treatment in mind.

                                          1. I'm not really vegan (still eat some yogurt and cheese) but I never liked meat. Mom's overcooked and leathery beef, pork and lamb, the ick that is sausage and the "science class dissection project" chicken breasts on the bone turned my stomach from the beginning and by college I could not tolerate eating any of them regularly. I bounced back and forth between veg and meat eating (being veg in the Midwest in the 1980s-90s was not all that easy) but came back to feeling repulsed by the aroma, taste and texture of most animal protein. Husband also grew up in a food-overcooking, meat-intensive family but went veg for health reasons and feels better (with better blood test results too).

                                            1. My sister and I went vegetarian shortly after my father had his first heart attach at age 52. The more I read and learned the more it made sense. We both went vegan from there. My sister and her family eat honey (they have a CSA and bees).

                                              I met my husband through www.veggiedate.org He and I don't eat honey.

                                              1. I grew up eating meat, eggs, and dairy. I also always loved animals. When I moved out of home, I became vegetarian for a number of years because I felt badly about eating animals. At some point, I started eating some meat again, but not every day. When I got married to a meat-lover, I was forever trying to find vegetarian recipes that were so good, he wouldn't miss the meat. Impossible! Nonetheless, we were eating meat only a couple times a week. Then, his dad had a heart attack followed by a quadruple bypass. Soon after, we visited friends who had just read "The China Study" by T. Colin Campbell and "Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease" by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn. They had recently adopted a low-fat, plant-based diet. Motivated by his desire to not follow in his father's footsteps, my husband decided to read both books. He felt the evidence presented was very compelling and realized his own cholesterol level put him at high risk of having a heart attack. He felt he needed to make an immediate and extreme change. He gave up meat, dairy, and eggs, all of which was fine with me. The thing I found especially hard was adhering to the very low fat requirements of the diet. My husband bought a home cholesterol checker and tested his levels sometimes daily to see how strict he had to be to get his cholesterol levels low enough that he was no longer at risk of a heart attack. As it turned out, he is one of those people who needs to be very strict. So we are, in general, except on special occasions. Both of us lost weight, got healthier, and are happier for it.