The Ironic Vegan

It seems like I’ve had a chip on my shoulder about vegans for way too long.  All it took was one militant vegan I met at a party years ago to make me defensive every time the topic came up, and from that point forward, I judged all vegans for being vegans as much as they judged me for not being one.  I say this even though I once spent 7 years as a vegetarian, and then just as gleefully, embraced the polar opposite. The truth is, I have always had a conflict around food.  I grew up in a typical American household where meat was served regularly, so I didn’t really appreciate it.  When I was a senior in high school, I decided that eating red meat was the devil, but I never stopped to consider the deeper implications of this lifestyle on our planet.

Until recently, my biggest complaint about vegans was their complete and total intolerance of anyone who wasn’t a vegan.  That all changed when I read a post on Instagram by a famous climber named Alex Honnold, who it turns out is also a vegan.  He basically asked his fellow vegans to lay off of their intolerant judgement of non-vegans, and give them credit for the times when they are able to cut back on their meat consumption.  His words had a huge impact on me, and they helped me open my mind to eating this way.

“. . .  My last mini rant is reserved for vegans who are all up on their high horse and poo poo other folks’ good efforts – it’s better for someone to eat meat once a week than to eat it every day.  It shouldn’t be a test of ideological purity.  Diet is a spectrum and it’s better to do less harm than more.” – Alex Honnold

About this same time, my brother made some major life changes and one of them was a new found love for all things vegan.  I rolled my eyes through the phone as he went on and on about all the benefits and how his aches and pains had faded with this new way of eating.  I was loathe to admit that my own body was constantly in pain, though I could never discover the source.  Even after a 12-year career teaching yoga my muscles and joints always ached.

I became curious about this way of eating, while simultaneously being alarmed by the thought of giving up cheese and my beloved coffee creamer.  During the previous year, I had given up gluten so I was basically eating a mostly keto diet and I easily lost 35 lbs.  I managed to maintain this for awhile, but it became more and more difficult for me to justify all the bacon and cheese that I was eating daily.  It wasn’t until Covid-19 hit that I started to seriously reconsider my eating habits.  When I heard the President promoting the meat industry while ignoring all the workers who were testing positive for Covid because they were required to work side by side without enough protective gear, that was it for me.  I went vegan, cold turkey (pun intended).

I’m not going to say I’ve been perfect at eating this way.  I am still struggling to find a good vegan coffee creamer while slowly using up all the other products I have on hand that were sourced by animals.  The surprising thing is that there are so many alternatives, and now I have a reason to explore them.  I started this journey on June 2, and since then, I’ve lost 9 lbs. without even trying, and the pervasive brain fog that I didn’t even know I had until it was gone, has totally disappeared.  Suddenly, I’m eating more fruits and vegetables that ever before and I feel like this toxic spell that food had on me has finally lost its power.

I will say that being a gluten free vegan is a little more challenging than anticipated, especially when so many of the vegan “meats” are made with wheat gluten, but living in a progressive place like Boulder definitely helps.  If you want to start eating an alternative diet, Boulder is THE place to do it.  It is so refreshing to have so many options, and to be surrounded by people that speak my new food language.

Aside from the health benefits, I am learning more and more about how much better this way of eating is for our planet, and the animals.  The amount of deceit and corruption that keeps major corporations and non-profits quiet is enough for me.  In a country where we still have our freedom, it is abundantly clear to me that the only way to truly defy authority, and maintain our hard won freedom, is to be willing to step away from the status quo and do the thing that they never anticipated.  I’ve always felt a little bit rebellious, but I never realized that choosing to eat a plant-based diet was the way to do it, until it was.