As hard as it is to believe that a full year has passed since I took the vegan plunge, the calendar doesn’t lie. October 16th of 2011 was New Life Eve and the very next morning began one of the most transformative experiences of my life. I started the year as a Plant-based dieter, segued to compassionate vegan, and finally settled into my new life as a veganaut.
A combination of severe chest pains, high cholesterol and very high blood pressure were enough to make me think that the Atkins diet attempts were doing way more harm than good. Then, when I was at my most conflicted, the Forks Over Knives documentary caught me off guard. Plant-based dieting was the polar opposite of what I had been doing and thinking for so many years that it caused some of my internal gears to strip and I think the timing belt may have broke. It might not be good for your car to go 60mph and then be jammed into reverse, but it worked out great for me. The healing began immediately.
The next step along the year-long journey was a major shift in thinking that resulted in a minor shift in actions. I was never the animal rights activist type. There was no point in my life that I wouldn’t physically attack a stranger that I saw abusing a defenseless animal. Protecting kittens and puppies is a no-brainer and always has been. I can’t even say that I was ignorant about slaughter houses and how poorly “food animals” were treated during their short, tragic lives. I was just under the same brainwashing cloud of denial that the rest of the planet is under. It is so easy to turn off the logic centers of the brain and join the hive mind when you unthinkingly eat animals.
However, when you stop eating meat you are able to start being honest with yourself. The safe little compartments that we use to hide unpleasant reality from ourselves crumble without daily reinforcement. When my compartments came crashing down and I was able to honestly look at what it means to eat meat, dairy, eggs, and yes- even honey, it was a staggering reality check. It was at this point that I transitioned from Plant-based dieter to compassionate vegan. Diet is a huge way to reduce our consumption of animals, but there are a ridiculous number of items in our daily lives (in our garages, closets, and bathrooms) that are made from animals. They were treated just as badly and are just as dead as the animals that made our double bacon cheeseburgers- and it is equally satisfying to the soul to find these items and replace them with readily available alternatives.
The final leg of my journey during this last year was a result of trying to find a home in the vegan community. For the whole year I have been educating myself. I read books and blogs. I listened to podcast after podcast. I watched documentaries like other people watch Honey Boo Boo. Most importantly, I became involved in the vegan community thanks to social networking, group projects like the Virtual Vegan Potluck, and mostly from interacting with you good people on this blog.
I learned that some vegans can be intensely territorial with their label. These vegans want to make sure that they get full credit for their strict lifestyle while at the same time ensuring that the word vegan doesn’t get watered down by people who aren’t as strict as they are. After I spent so much time trying to reach the the plateau of “perfect vegan” I can’t not blame them one bit. If you can lead the ordered and organized life of a vegan, you deserve a label that lets people know how committed you are. I, however, lack total order and organization in my life. Mistakes happen and I never felt comfortable claiming to be a vegan when in reality, I was a 99.8% vegan. This led me to new label and my own personal crusade: the veganauts.
ve-gan-aut /VEE-gun-ot/ (n.) 1. a person who is exploring the rewarding vegan lifestyle without actually meeting all of the vegan tenets all of the time. 2. someone who lives like a vegan but makes occasional allowances for transgressions without giving up the vegan lifestyle afterwards. 3. any omnivore who is experimenting with plant-based eating or vegan living. 4. a person who is sick and damn tired of defending their own personal brand of veganism and prefers to have a label nobody can argue with. An example sentence: Sarah is a veganaut because even though she is almost always vegan, she owns a pair of leather shoes and eats cheese fondue once a month with her Mother-in-law.
I have a doctor’s appointment later this week so I can have my body poked and prodded by professionals. I will quantify all the good news after this check-up, but my health monitoring throughout the year has been over the top excellent. I’ve lost 40 pounds that I don’t intend to find again. My sky high blood pressure is in the normal range. I have not been to the hospital in the last year for diverticulitis, colitis, or gout. I didn’t have terrifying chest pains that made me fall to my knees. This is the healthiest I have ever felt and I still have 50-60 pounds to lose. I have energy flowing through me. It wakes me up early in the morning and keeps me active and focused all day. People pay for energy drinks and talk about needing afternoon naps while I buzz around like a bee all day long.
For the next year, I will continue on my journey to improved health, environmental stewardship, and compassion for all life. Additionally, I will ramp up my efforts to reach out to people who are ready to make the change to an herbivore lifestyle. I want this blog to be a safe house for people who need it. I’d like to be the underground railroad for people trying to make their way to freedom from societal pressure, conditioning, and compartmentalization. I want to help other people feel as great as I feel today.
Huge hugs and heartfelt thank yous to all of you who have been here with me during this year. Your support has been more valuable than you can imagine. Here is to another great year, followed by 60 more.