Dear friends and family-
We are becoming vegan! I know what your initial reaction must be, “Yeah okay, good luck with that. This won’t last.”
Let me start out by saying that this wasn’t something that just happened over night. Zak, my fiancé and I, didn’t just wake up one morning and say “Okay. Today, we are vegan.”
No. This is something that started brewing in my brain when I went wwoofing in Hawaii. It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I’ve said my experience in Hawaii completely changed who I was as a person. It opened my eyes to a new world I never knew existed.
In Hawaii I lived in a rural farm, in a homemade hut with solar power and no running water. I also decided to go there when I was having a very mentally difficult time in my life. I had just gotten out of a very mentally abusive and crazy relationship; and I was feeling really miserable from the whole thing.
But something happened to me on that trip to Hawaii. Since the farm was completely off the grid, we only had a very small fridge (that was almost never fully powered). That meant no milk, meat– nothing dairy. How was I going to survive? I thought to myself.
But suddenly I learned exactly how to survive. I learned about things like kombucha and nutritional yeast. Sprouting your own food- you name it. My taste buds started changing, and began getting acclimated to not having meat or dairy.
After my visit to Hawaii I came back to California and started to grow a passion for gardening. I didn’t have any land space, but I did have a significant amount of outdoor space that was really useless up until that point.
I sat down and started ripping out all the old weeds. As time went on, my passion for gardening grew and grew. Every season I would rotate my veggies and learn more about growing an urban garden. Today, 4 years after my experience in Hawaii, I have my own pallet garden, where I grow three different kinds of tomatoes, 6 poblano peppers, habanero peppers and two different kinds of basil. (Pallets hold more than people would think! Mine has used over 3 lbs of organic dirt.) I take any diseased leaves to my local nursery to talk with the experts there about what the problem could be, and I try to find organic solutions to any pest problems.
After my trip to Hawaii, I also started following a lot of vegans and raw vegans on Instagram. Seeing their healthy posts daily kept me inspired to try new foods and incorporate vegetarian and vegan meals into my diet.
But. I was still consuming dairy and refined sugar daily. I wasn’t eating meat daily, but it was definitely still a big part of my diet. Especially when my family from Argentina was in town– being that we are from a country where beef and barbecues are a big part of our diet, we would barbecue almost every night.
As much as I followed vegans on Instagram, I never considered not having dairy in my diet. It was a running joke between Zak and I about the amount of milk and sugar I would put in my morning coffee. He would always give me a hard time about it. I could never go without dairy. I loved my morning coffee way too much and I was very particular about its taste– soy milk wasn’t going to cut it for me.
Coming from a South American culture, Coca Cola has a very prominent presence in our life. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t drink a coke every day, but I definitely was drinking more than I should be.
Meanwhile, at 27, I was still having breakouts on my face like a teenager. I was taking blood pressure pills daily, given to me by my dermatologist, in order to reduce the amount of breakouts I was having. I had horrible stomach pains every morning. I would have my morning coffee (with tons of milk and sugar) at my desk with my stomach cringing and churning until at least 11:30 in the morning. I would have such a bad stomach ache that I wouldn’t even be able to eat unit past noon, once my stomach was “calmed down” for the day. Having Zantac and pro-biotics in my purse became the norm, and me telling Zak that my “stomach was hurting” was nothing new to him. “You need to go to the doctor,” my mom would say. “Yes, yes I know.” I would respond. But I knew that if I went to the doctor they would tell me I have IBS, Crohn’s, whatever and would make me take medication for it daily. I didn’t want to do that. I already felt weird about taking blood pressure medicine to help my skin.
Zak suffered from more migraines than even myself (and I get them frequently!). He was popping 4-7 Excedrin, multiple times a week, “my brain hurts.” He was always saying. I was convinced dairy was the cause (I had heard about dairy and its ability to trigger migraines).
I knew that in order to be successful with a vegan diet, it would be beneficial for us to invest in a Vitamix. All the vegans on Instagram swore by them. But, I was never ready to make the heavy investment.
Along came the sale of my car, which I’ve had since I was 16 and I had a little extra cash. I still debated about it for over a month before being impulsive one day and running to Costco right after work to buy it.
That night, Zak was having leftover stake burritos and we start talking about the Vitamix and adopting a healthier diet. “Have you heard of this movie,” I asked Zak, “it’s called Forks Over Knives?” “No,” he said, his mouth full of steak. “Well, we can watch it on Netflix, do you want to watch it? I just feel as though no matter how much I talk to you about not eating anymore meat or dairy, you won’t do it until you educate yourself about food. Maybe, if you have some facts and information displayed to you, you will be able to make more educated decisions.” I knew that in order for me to be successful, it would be a whole lot easier if I got Zak on board, too. “Alright, let’s watch it” he said (through a mouth-full of steak).
I pressed play.
As the movie progressed, I noticed Zak was no longer eating his steak burrito. Statistics of milk and it’s contribution to prostate cancer, 1 in 3 people being obese, calfs being taken from their mother moments after birth so that the milk the mother produces goes to humans– not the baby calf. I couldn’t take it all in. All that for my morning coffee? It seemed crazy.
When the movie ended Zak and I were stunned. “I’ve never thought about my food before I ate it.” Zak said. And that about summed it up. We never thought about our food before we ate it. How did it get on my plate? What process did it have to go through in order to be in its current state?
Just like a man at the end of the movie said “It’s only a little time of your life that could affect you for the rest of your life– why not at least try it? What do you have to lose?” So, we decided to try it.
I spent that entire night unable to sleep. Looking up resources for our new diet. I knew that the more resources I equipped us with, the more likely we would be to succeed. I knew I needed to equip us with a pantry full of suitable food, the right equipment and a vast amount of recipes and resources.
The next morning instead of making my coffee with is usual 2 inches of whole cow’s milk and 1 1/2 teaspoons of refined sugar, I put almond milk and maple syrup in my coffee instead. Not bad, I thought, I could get used to this vegan stuff.
That morning I was actually able to eat before noon! I had a snack at 10 in the morning of around 5 tangerines and at lunch I had a veggie sushi bowl at my desk at work: juilanned cucumbers, beets, carrots and avocado over a bed of rice sprinkled with sesame seeds. Delicious!
But it’s only one day- I bet it will get harder, I thought.
I knew that if I was going to get Zak onboard with this whole diet, I was going to have to make it taste good! So, the first recipe I made for our all vegan dinner that night was Oh She Glow’s Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchilladas with Avocado Cilantro Cream Sauce.
“Oh yeah. I could be a vegan.” Zak said, over mouthfuls of sweet potato and Ezekiel bread.
“Really!?” I said, you could hear the excitement in my voice.
I felt so lucky to have such a wonderful and supportive man in my life. I can’t wait to call him my husband in only three short weeks! Having Zak onboard with the whole vegan thing makes it that much more likely for me to be able to stick with it. I’m making it my goal to make Zak feel like there is nothing missing in his life because he doesn’t have a giant glass of milk or a huge piece of steak.
A good quote I read online when researching veganism was “Don’t think about the things you are missing from diet– think about what your diet is gaining.”
That night we watched another movie that is available on Netflix – “Vegucated.” Suddenly graphic images of pigs getting boiled alive, skinned, chopped up were flashing before our eyes. Undercover footage of the largest slaughter house in America was one of the most gruesome experiences of my life. This facility slaughters over 32,000 pigs every single day!
That’s our bacon, I thought. Baby chicks being ground up alive, because they were male, and therefore useless. Thousands of them, down a tube into the grinder. Chirping. I tried for force myself to watch it and I did– almost all of it, but there were some parts I just couldn’t stomach. So I asked myself, if I couldn’t even watch the way my food was being made– how could I eat it?
The next day we were in a hurry in the morning and didn’t take anything for lunch at work. I got a text from Zak at work nearing his lunch hour, “They’re bringing pizza! And I’m starving! What should I eat?! Nothing qualifies!”
I didn’t know what to say, but I thought for sure he ate the pizza. I didn’t ask, I didn’t want to make him feel guilty for having eaten it.
After work at home, we were talking about our day. Zak said, “I had a quinoa and kale salad for lunch today!” “You didn’t have the pizza?!” I said, surprised beyond belief. “No, I didn’t have the pizza!” I went over and kissed his whole face. He didn’t have the pizza!
Then he told me how he told one of his co-workers about us going vegan. That, to me, made it feel sort of official.
That night, we watched Food Inc. It was like we were getting a vegucation. Our eyes were opened and we couldn’t un-see all of the things we had seen. It had been laid out in front of us plain as day. How could I have never thought about my food before I ate it, I thought.
The more and more facts and disturbing images flashed in front of our eyes the more and more I knew I couldn’t go back to eating the way I had been my entire life.
The next morning, we had a rushed morning. We woke up and immediately had to talk with the wedding planner, then had to rush to my hair appointment. It was noon, I hadn’t eaten yet and I was starving. My stylist had someone with her and Zak surprised me by going to whole foods and bringing me a vegan blueberry muffin. Hey- maybe we can make this work, I thought.
I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything in my life by not consuming meat or animal by-products. In fact, I feel as thought a whole new realm of foods and possibilities with food has been opened for me. A new way for me to unleash my creativity in the kitchen!
We’re at the end of day 8 now and feeling great! We have a consistent stream of energy throughout the day, no fluctuations, no need for an afternoon coffee. My stomach hasn’t hurt at all since going vegan, my skin is clearing up tremendously and my stomach is the flattest I’ve ever seen it!
I’ve even come up with some vegan recipes myself, all of which have been 100% enjoyed and consumed by us both.
To start our whole foods, vegan journey on the right foot, here’s is a juice recipe Zak and I enjoyed in the sun yesterday afternoon. It tastes delicious– even Zak enjoyed every sip.
Everything but the Kitchen Sink- Juice
2 celery sticks
2 bunches seedless green grapes
2 heads romaine lettuce
1 1/2 beets