I've been a vegan long enough that I can remember the hideous first attempts at dairy-free cheese, but not so long ago that I can't remember how hard it was to give up "real" cheese.
During that time I've learned an incredible amount about this animal-free lifestyle; everything from the ethical reasons to stop eating meat to the health benefits of a plant-based diet.
Some people come to our side because they have a deep-seated belief that it's simply wrong to harm animals for our own benefit. Others understand that humans are to blame for global warming and a large part of that destruction comes from our food industry. Still others have tried going vegan and uncovered energy they hadn't felt since childhood, lost weight, and overall felt so much better, so they looked back.
The one thing I've found that brings us all together is food.
Vegans do not eat side salads and plain vegetables all day long. I mean, honestly, we do sometimes, but only when trying to play nice at dinner with our bosses or in-laws.
The rest of the time we're probably munching on something absolutely delicious that you'd never know had no cheese, milk, or meat in it.
I can't tell you how often people switch diets and them tell me, "We eat so many more foods now." Though it may be hard to believe, not all cultures center their meals around meat or dairy products.
People sometimes ask say, "Can you eat this?," and it makes me giggle inside. I choose to eat the way I do; no one tells me one way or the other. And so yes, I can eat that, but I will not. I never think of my life in terms of what I cannot eat, but instead focus on what I do and will eat.
And I do and will eat anything, and as much of it as I want.
Eating real, whole food makes you feel amazing, and your body is trying to tell you something: feed me more of that food! It's time we all stop listening to fad diets and start listening to the real truth we have hidden inside of us.
There's nothing better you can do for your health than choose to ingest only the foods nature created. Our delicate human bodies aren't designed to eat animals, but we can easily digest whole grains, vegetables, beans, fruits, and nuts and seeds.
There are even studies of real people who were able to prevent and reverse heart disease, stop taking insulin for diabetes, lower their cholesterol, and lose weight all by cutting out animal products. (Obviously I'm not a doctor so make sure to talk to one before changing medication levels.)
But what brings us all together is the food.
I know quitting meat and dairy products can be challenging.
I wasn't raised this way- I grew up eating meat, fish, milk, eggs, and cheese like most other American kids. I did become a vegetarian when I was 12 years old, mostly because I was an avid animal lover, but partially because my best friend's older sister was cool and a vegetarian.
It wasn't until I was in my early 20s that I went vegan. And I remember how ridiculously hard it was to break up with cheese. She didn't go without a big, emotional fuss. The idea of never munching on Gouda and grapes ever, ever again was tough for me. But I took it one day at a time and now I cannot stand the smell of cheese.
I also worried about accidental slip ups, answering when people gave me a hard time, getting enough protein, and my general ability to commit to this for life.
Now I can see that all that worry was completely normal, but also unnecessary. It was easier than I ever thought it would be to change my diet and life and I felt so much better.
You are not alone in this process. My goal is to share the wealth of information I've accumulated over the years and ease or improve your transition to a new, healthy, plant-based diet.
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