JL began her vegetarian-to-vegan journey in 2002. Four years ago she made a conscious decision to change careers and find balance in her life, which meant she could finally explore interests outside of work. Those include volunteering for nonprofit organizations, enjoying all kinds of red wine, taking up knitting and running a few half-marathons and triathlons each year. Then she began eating vegan; she became obsessed with cooking. When she’s not making grocery lists, training for a half-marathon or trying just one more recipe she found on a vegan blog, she goes to work as an administrator at a community college and teaches a course on nonprofit management at a local university. JL lives in metro NYC with her husband and two cats. You can find her on Twitter: http://twitter.com/JLgoesVegan or in the blogosphere http://jerrilynn.tumblr.com/ where she’s taking baby steps to find her blog voice.
EVERYBODY HAS A STORY
At the age of 36 I quit eating meat. Almost. I was in Kenya for work. We were in a small village in the Rift Valley. There was a celebration held in for an auspicious occasion and my colleagues and I were guests of honor. Early in the day an elder from the community brought a goat to the site of the celebration—a truth demonstration of generosity. The goat was presented and subsequently killed and boiled. That evening, we were offered the goat for dinner. To refuse it would have been an affront (or so I told myself?) Essentially I met a goat, shook his hand then ate him. I became a vegetarian.
Not exactly. I become one of those—I‘m a vegetarian, but I eat fish—people. That went on for nearly four years. Fish was my crutch. I didn’t eat fish at home but had convinced myself that eating out would be too difficult so I should just order fish. I ate out a lot. On a vacation four years ago, after eating fish to the point of ridiculousness, I decided it was time to be a real vegetarian. I gave up fish.
During this span of eight years I had somehow morphed from a 36 year old couch potato who smoked a pack a day and would eat half a bag of fun size Baby Ruth candy bars in one sitting to a non-smoker, 20 pounds lighter, gearing up for her first marathon in 2005 at the age of 40.
Fast forward to January of 2010, age 44. I run. A lot.
I compete in triathlons. I eat vegetarian and pretty healthily at that. But somehow every November and December I would find myself nursing a post-race season injury. Less exercise and holiday feeding frenzies = chubby JL each January. This year I received an email from my local yoga studio about a cleanse workshop. I had never done a cleanse in my life, but it intrigued me. I met with Jill of Hera Wellness who led an extremely informative workshop explaining a variety of cleansing methods. And I was off, a 14-day cleanse of clean eating (no processed foods), no coffee, no caffeine, no sugar, no dairy, no wheat, no wine (what?! no red wine?! I survived) and, in the middle, three days of Master Cleanse. At the conclusion of the cleanse I felt fantastic and became a cleanse convert. I continued eating the same healthy way (but resumed red wine and a cup of coffee a day) and I continued to eliminate dairy and wheat from my diet. Suddenly I realized that the only animal based foods in my diet were honey and eggs. I realized I was an egg away from being a vegan.
For six months I have been eating vegan. I have never felt better. I had my annual physical with my general practitioner about 5 months into my new vegan diet. I told her to indicate in my file that I was eating vegan. She scrunched up her nose and asked “Why vegan?” I described a typical day of eating and she concluded that I may be one of the healthiest eaters she knows. Four days later she phoned me with my blood work results. She began the conversation by saying “Keep eating the way you’re eating.” My already decent cholesterol from a year ago (174) was down to 128.
How did I go about making the transition? I am a planner. I love a good spreadsheet. I knew I couldn’t go into this without really thinking it through; I consulted with my nutrition counselor and with her guidance, and the vegan blogosphere, I equipped myself to do it right. As a result of reading many, many (many! blogs) I purchased several books
The first vegan blog I stumbled upon was Cook.Vegan.Lover! After reading Lindsay’s blog I kept clicking links and finding more and more great blogs to read.
Where to start with all of this great information on the web? Most mornings, before going out for a training run, I sit down with a cup of warm water, cayenne pepper and lemon or a cup of half-caf/ half– decaf coffee and I read, read, read. Each time I stumble upon a recipe I must try, I cut and paste it into a Google document (I have 192 recipes, but who’s counting?) Then, when out and about I may find one of the new ingredients because it’s on my iPhone. (Medjool dates, Bragg Liquid Aminos, chia seeds, dulse flakes, nutritional yeast)
I used to eek through preparing a meal. Boca cheese burger on a wheat bun, steamed veggie, a salad. Now I’m obsessed with vegan cooking. I plan my meals. Each Saturday my husband and I hit the farmer’s market and my local health food store for most of my organic produce and “hard to find” items, and Trader Joe’s for the rest. On Sundays I move into the kitchen, turn my stereo on full blast and just start cooking. I try out new recipes with tofu, TVP and tempeh. With lentils and beans. Soups, stew. Veggie burgers, collard and kale salads, quinoa a zillion ways, chutneys. I purchased a L’Equip dehydrator and make “raw” kale chips, flax crackers and sunflower seed bread.
I take pictures of my food.
They say the journey is the destination. I have been on a vegetarian journey and have finally arrived to eating vegan. Note I say eat vegan. I now find myself confronted with what it means to be vegan. The journey continues.