"Coming Out" As Vegan

I want to start this blog off by apologising to my good friend Shane who I once mocked for becoming 'accidentally vegan'.

Because the same thing happened to me.

I became a vegetarian as a child as soon as I was able. Until I had Judah I had been a vegetarian for ten years. I didn't really enjoy the taste of meat or the way that it would sit heavy in my stomach. I used to feel cleaner, lighter, freer as a vegetarian. I didn't necessarily connect it with animals, although I did love animals, but more the way meat made me feel - heavy and clogged.

I also wasn't a fan of dairy. I used to work in Starbucks, steaming hundreds of litres of milk a day. If I forgot to wash one of my aprons it would soon become rancid. Milk in itself made me feel a bit sick, I wasn't a huge fan of cheese, I hated eggs, I pretty much didn't consume many animal products at all.

During pregnancy I returned to eating meat, craving food I hadn't wanted since I could remember. I was concerned that a growing baby might not be able to thrive on a vegetarian diet so I ate meat. I continued to eat it during breastfeeding. My ex-husband was a big meat eater (it's a large part of the Polish diet) so I cooked and ate it too. I would refuse to touch it with my bare hands and used to hate washing the pan. Then one day when Judah was about thirteen months old I was cooking dinner and I looked at the meat and my stomach turned again. I couldn't eat a bite. 

I made the easy transition back to vegetarianism. Veganism always struck me as an extremist diet, used sometimes to mask eating problems, just taking things a little too far. It has been constantly drilled into us from childhood we need the nutrients found in dairy. When I met my daughter's father he was a staunch vegan but never pressed his views on me. Just cooked me amazing food! (if you want to convert somebody, that is definitely the way to do it)

I was picking up food for him from the shop when I realised how easy it was to just substitute ingredients. You could get all the nutrients you needed from the most basic ingredients. Soy, nutritional yeast, chickpeas, beans. Vegan stock, dairy-free sauces, it was amazing. I doubled up on everything and took half home and began to cook. I really enjoyed cooking again for the first time in years, not cringing as I was handling my ingredients, not worried about it not being 'done' and poisoning me.

In my spare time I watched two documentaries - Cowspiracy and Earthlings, along with a video called Dairy is Scary. It completely convinced me. I couldn't believe the environmental impact factory farming has, the emissions, all the grain we feed to cattle that could feed people. As a breastfeeding mother, the reality of how we obtain cow's milk was a tough one. Seeing how as humans we are speciesist, valuing the lives of cats and dogs over cows and pigs, how we don't even question it. Earthlings especially made me feel awful, some of the images will stay with me forever! I was shocked to discover slaughterhouse workers are often perpetrators of domestic abuse, clearly violence begets violence and consuming the product of that violence just seemed so wrong.

The hardest part has been incidental milk products, the strangest things contain dairy, for example salt and vinegar crisps tend to have milk in them! Apparently they add dairy to preserves to make them expire quicker, ensuring you'll replace them sooner. So really examining what I was buying was tough but also pleasantly surprising as to the things that were accidentally vegan! (Bourbons! To which I've rekindled my childhood addiction...) Another hard part has been refusing food and not feeling confident enough to inform others of my decision. So this is how I'm doing it. I've been really nervous about it and I don't know why.

I feel happier, lighter. I'm enjoying feeding Judah meals that I know are nourishing and balanced, experimenting with new foods, considering and ensuring the nutritional value of meals, something I never did as a vegetarian. So I am far healthier now as vegan than vegetarian. I feel like I look better, my eyes are brighter, my face slimmer and I've dramatically reduced my chocolate and sugar intake. Vegan chocolate is expensive and I can only eat a little bit of dark chocolate at a time. I feel like my actions are aligning with my values and it's a really good feeling.

I just wanted people to know, especially those close to me, because it does make things different with regards to gifts and things and it's easier this way. Truthfully I haven't had dairy in about three/four months so it's not a new thing by any means. I say I went 'accidentally vegan', as it was never a conscious decision, I just became more and more aware and stopped seeing animal products as food. I remarked about a month ago that I'd been eating vegan for so long I just needed to admit it to myself.

Sorry to the vegans I silently and not-so-silently judged, now I can definitely admit you were right! But it's been a gradual process and one I had to go through to get here.