In some of our most recent posts I told you all about my journey into cooking (part 1 and part 2), so I thought it was fitting for me to follow that up with the story of how I ended up being vegan in the first place. To say I was as far away from vegan as possible for most of my life is the biggest understatement of the century! I wasn't born a health nut, I had no idea that the word "vegan" even existed, I never even questioned where my food came from. All I knew is I came from a house of total foodies. Food was our entire social life and shared experience as a family. I come from the weirdest family you'll ever meet, but fantastic food always seemed to be the thing that pulled us all together. In part 2 of our post about my journey into cooking I tell you all about my uncle Aly, who was the best cook I've ever met. I remember grilling steaks with him over an open fire in his house in the Catskills. Digging into steak tartare and "swimming" in an ocean of sushi. Just so you get an idea of how much of a carnivore I was, my family would joke when choosing restaurants for celebrations by saying "is there steak on the menu? Otherwise Kim won't be there". This sounds like a stretch but it wasn't. I would quickly browse a menu and stop the minute I saw the word steak, and say "yeah.. we can eat here!".
Why am I telling you this? Because veganism has taught me one of the biggest lessons I've learned in my life so far:
The way we are is not set in stone, and we can make even the most profound changes when we come face to face with something that motivates us and moves us to our core.
That rocking of the boat came for me a few years ago when I was looking for something to watch on Netflix and saw the film Vegucated. This film however is not where this whole thing started. The process we go through to change something as big as our diets is precisely that... a process.
Many moons ago I remember that my sister in law had watched a PETA video and was going on and on about how she would never eat meat again. This was my first little hint that something was terribly wrong with the way animals were raised for food. I also distinctly remember telling her, "please... don't tell me. I don't want to know".
It was about 3 years after that day (and me still being a hard core carnivore!) that I was in a Barnes and Noble in New York City, just a few hours before catching a flight back home, when I was looking for a book to read on the plane. I found a book that would later change everything for me, Alicia Silverstone's "The Kind Diet". I had never read the word vegan before, and there I was, on a plane reading all about our health, the health of our planet, and especially what is happening to animals in regards to our meat and dairy consumption. It wasn't written in a scary "go vegan or die" way, or in a "be vegan or be bad" way, and it was precisely her amazing friendly and sweet way of explaining things that completely caught my attention. I had loved her in Clueless, but there were no laughs on that plane ride home. I read the entire book on that flight, and cried for most of it.
I simply had no idea.
I got home, was determined to try it out, but I was terrified to tell people. I thought my husband would never go for it, so I simply said I was going to try out some new recipes. I did, for a few weeks at least, and then back to my old ways I went, the minute I was faced with social situations or with not knowing what I could cook. It wasn't Alicia's fault! She actually ended up being the best thing when I actually did become vegan a few years later. She was quite honestly, that voice in the back of my head that kept reminding me I wanted to make this change but just didn't know how to. She was the voice that made me click on Vegucated that day.
That was the day when everything changed. We'll be talking about Vegucated soon, but let me just say that I was watching it, and although this part of the movie is quite brief and not nearly as bad as other footage I've seen since, I was confronted, visually, with everything that happens to animals due to our meat and dairy consumption. It was the best movie to start this process off with because it's actually very watchable, even if you've hidden away from images like these in the past. What a huge difference it was to go from reading it on paper, to seeing it with my very own eyes. I remember seeing the face and the eyes of a cow and seeing my dog Nala. Same look, same expression, same fear in her eyes, and what she would feel like if she was in that situation. I saw no difference between her and that cow.
I took a breath as the credits rolled and I said, "I'm going to find out if this diet is healthy, if I can get all the nutrients I need, and if the answer is yes, then I'm doing this. For real this time".
Here's the weird thing about us humans, we're so scared of change!
Especially when that change is going to set us apart from the crowd. On the day I watched that movie, my husband came in and asked me if I wanted to go out to dinner. We went to a local restaurant and I ordered the biggest rack of ribs they had on the menu. No joke! It seems so funny and sad to me at the same time when I look back on it. Barbecued ribs were always my ultimate craving, and I think somehow I knew those would be my last. My husband laughed at me because I had been talking about the movie on the way to the restaurant, but that's just the way things went down. I had so much resistance to let go of. Those were indeed my last ribs, now I make them vegan of course (recipe coming soon!).
I was now ready and determined to figure that whole vegan thing out, so I dove right into nutrition. You don't have to dig in too far to find out that not only is it healthy, but a well planned, varied vegan diet has been the only diet known to actually reverse disease (like cardiovascular disease and diabetes), and not to mention help with the prevention of a large number of chronic diseases, including cancer. It doesn't mean you can eat anything you want and it will be a magic bullet, all significant changes need a little research and time getting used to new habits and ingredients, but I was on my way. Click the button at the end of this post to get instant access to our awesome online library of resources with everything from books, films, online videos, vegan dietitians, health resources and doctor directories which we update all the time. Finding these amazing resources really helped me in my transition. I watched the second documentary that changed everything for me, the film "Forks Over Knives", and I was ready. I had my last carnita filled tacos on my husband's birthday, announced my new veganism, fell off the horse two days later with a turkey club at a diner, got back on the horse again, re-read Alicia's book from cover to cover, and never looked back.
To say that I completely changed after that day is a huge understatement. Being vegan has completely changed my life, my habits, my body, my health, the way I relate to others, my confidence, it made me an activist, a better cook, a better wife, a better friend, a better mamma to my furry ones. Probably because when you step out of yourself and look at how your actions affect everything around you, you start viewing the world in a different light.
Just so I don't bore you with an even longer post, I'll be writing about what happened those first few months after going vegan really soon. Let me just close by saying this, if you are curious about veganism, about how our daily habits affect everything around us (and it happens whether we want to see it or not). If you want to find out more and make up your mind for yourself, all you need to do is be willing to bear witness. Nothing will happen just by looking, unless you're like me, and it completely changes your life... for the better of course!
Here are some of the resources, books, films, online videos and health resources that accompanied me on my journey, and that will help you if you wish to start dabbling your toes in the water or get more information.