In fact, I met my first (real live) vegan yesterday. She’s the new office coordinator at my school, and she’s been vegan for 4 years. After blushing and trying to contain myself from asking a million questions and wanting to pour out my heart about all the reasons I’m transitioning and the progress I’ve made, I felt a little embarrassed that I still struggled with showing self control at work. I don’t punish myself or shame myself for not having 100% vegan days. Instead, weirdly enough, I have this deep underlying absolute confidence that I WILL be vegan by the end of this year. It’s just a matter of building small habits, since the mindset shift and the conviction are already there.
For example, nowadays eating meat is just a non-option. It’s like serving you plastic. You’d never eat it, no matter how delicious everyone around you said it was, or how normal everyone made eating plastic seem. It’s plastic! Gross. For me, being a vegetarian is that obvious. Meat is just NOT a food choice to me and, therefore, choosing a vegetarian diet is very easy. I realized that that only happened after I had a serious mindset shift, when I noticed that I really don’t believe in eating meat at all, and I need to put my money where my mouth is (or… put my mouth where my values are?) and stop being such a hypocrite. I call myself an environmentalist? I love animals? I hate factory farming? I think abusing animals for man’s tastebuds is criminal? So I can’t eat meat. Done, simple. And, honestly, it was simple (in hindsight, at least). It was a transition, it took me 6 months to slowly eat less and less meat, and for a 3 months period over the summer I rarely ate meat at all. Then, in the beginning of September, I ordered a salmon roll. I ate it, and then I felt immense guilt. Like I had cheated on myself. That was the last time I ate meat.
Going vegan is a very similar process to me. I’m already convinced. The dairy and egg production industries are awful and they inflict as much harm on chickens and cows as the meat production industries, they just don’t get slaughtered in the end (except they do… layer chickens become broth when they’re too old to keep laying eggs, and the calves that the pregnant cows produced milk for are slaughtered for their meat). Additionally, factory farmed milk (and therefore cheese) is just a bunch of fat and often times mucus and, well, I could go on and on but that’s not the point. The point is, I’m convinced I need to go vegan, I believe in it firmly.
But… I’m not there yet. I’ve had a hard time having 100% vegan days. In order, from easiest to hardest, are the transition moments that put me to the test:
1. Grocery shopping. For me, this is easy. I feel no desire whatsoever to buy milk or cheese and I’ve learned that cooking is fun! I’ve LOVED exploring with new flavors and ingredients. I’m learning how to use foods I had never even heard of before and expanding my taste buds infinitely, not to mention learning about the health properties of tons more foods.
2. Picking the vegan option on the menu. Living in NY, it’s actually not that uncommon to have vegan (or can-be-altered-to-be-vegan) options (well, an option) on a restaurant menu. And, when given the choice, I’ll most likely pick the vegan option… but not always. This is especially difficult with pizza or pasta. Today I actually went to a Mexican take-out place and got my tempeh bowl without cheese or sour cream (*self high five*).
3. Snacking at work. OH MY GOD WHY IS THIS SUCH A CHALLENGE?! It’s not even that I’m hungry and I don’t even enjoy the snacks half the time. But it’s so easy and satisfying to go down to the teacher workroom during a prep and GRAB SOME CHEDDAR SOUR CREAM CHIPS or a chocolate chip cookie or a microwaveable mac and cheese (urh, gross). And as awful as it sounds, sometimes it’s just something to do. Eating because I have a free minute in the day and the food is available and free and fuck it, I’ll just grab these chips. NO TATI STOP!
One solution I found to help keep me honest was to bring my own snacks to work, since that’s my biggest daily source of problems with my self control. I’m going to want to snack on chips, cookies and junk? Fine. But it’ll be MY homemade vegan junk. So I’ve been baking cookies and bringing in my toast (and earth butter and cashew “ricotta” and all the things) in numerous Tupperware containers to work. It’s worked, except that it requires a ton of advance planning and honestly space in my backpack. I prefer eating my own snacks over the processed foods junk at work, but if I didn’t have time to make anything then what happens?
So today I tried something new. I’ve been seeing this ring designed by a vegan Etsy seller that says “vegan” on it. I thought if I had that ring and saw it on my finger, I wouldn’t “cheat” on myself. I didn’t buy the ring, but I did write a small V on my finger, and on the inside of my wrist. Lo and behold, it actually worked. I would see the V and remember what my priorities were and realize that I’m not hungry and I didn’t snack. All. Day.
If I end up drawing a V on myself every day, I may just get it tattooed. For now, I’m pleased.