“Vegan! Since when?” He asked as he stabbed a small piece of chicken with his fork and put it to his mouth.
It was a direct, no tip-toeing-around-the-subject kind of a question. He was demanding some clarity on my new dietary status and I knew he would not let it go until he got an answer.
“Almost 6 months.” I told him.
“Why would you become a vegan?”
The ‘judgment’ that came through in his line of questioning was the type that would come from a very curious, yet very opinionated and authentically concerned dad.
So I took my time in carefully articulating my reason.
“Well,” I began, “Let’s just say that there are members of my family that suffered from certain health conditions and I don’t want to follow that same path.”
“Oh,” he sighed. He finished up what was left in his plate and respectfully added, “Then I won’t ask any more.”
I admit, the ‘reason’ I gave him was truly oversimplified. However, the last thing I wanted or needed was to mention anything during a festive dinner party that might trigger an opinionated and heated debate about the sustainability of a plant-based (vegan) ‘diet’ versus others ‘diets’.
I recently heard a joke that asked, “How do you know if there’s a Vegan in the room?” To which the answer is, “Well, they’ll always tell you.” (insert chuckle here.) The ‘joke’ stayed with me and I vowed I would not be that vegan! I didn’t want to run around boasting about my new dietary choice. But I soon found that it is almost impossible not to disclose it in any social situation- no matter how small, whether food was involved or not. And it’s not for any other reason than simply because people get curious as to why I’ve lost so much weight or why am I not trying that amazing piece of chicken or wait- why am I refusing chocolate?!? (Anyone who knows me knows that chocolate was an uncompromising part of my daily life.)
I recently heard a joke that asked, “How do you know if there’s a Vegan in the room?” To which the answer is, “Well, they’ll always tell you.” (insert chuckle here.)
And although I attended this private holiday party with no intention to disclose that I no longer eat animals or animal products, I immediately found that I had no choice. Not one piece of bread, not one starter or even salad leaving the kitchen at this particular function was vegan. If the vegetables were not wrapped in bacon they were submerged in cheese. It took me about 20 minutes before I realized this and was compelled to inform our server that other than the constant flow of the impeccable red wine, absolutely nothing on their menu would serve me. It was either that or appear to be a vampire- dining on nothing but wine only to leave the party hungry and festively inebriated.
What happened next was an overt display of the server’s accommodations. At first it was wonderful, the head server confidently assured me that I’d be well taken care of and he’d take care of me. And he did! I soon became the star of the show, the guest of honor and the Leo in me loved every second of the attention! Each time we were being served our next course, he entered our room and exclaimed, declared and announced that he had a special vegan dish for me.
I was served a ‘vegan beet steak’ with ‘vegan broccoli rabe’ and desert included ‘vegan sorbet’. Everything was beautifully presented, tasted wonderful and was just for me. And as he served me, only a few at the small gathering grew extremely curious as to what was on my plate (no one wanted it- they were enjoying their rib eyes and tuna steaks, creamy fettuccine and cheesy bread way too much). Yet, I almost grew horns when they set down my ‘vegan broccoli rabe’ and everyone on the table proceeded to pass it around as if the table was not cluttered with countless sides immersed in butter, milk and cheese- in which they were all free to indulge. My horns, however, remained at bay when I realized there was plenty for me and for everyone else too.
I must confess: that dinner party (and a couple other year-end celebrations) did have me wondering if I had made the drastic decision to become vegan six months ago too rashly. It was a spur-of –the-moment decision and wasn’t a gradual process for me at all. I had not taken into consideration the foods that I’d be missing! Nor had I taken into consideration social events, dinner parties or going out on dates…
Six months later… It’s been a revelation not only in learning how strong my will is or what my body actually needs to be healthy, but also how the people I know and love around me now react to me. I have those friends who, like the server, made sure that everyone around me knew that I had ‘different’ dietary specifications and saw to it that I was ok, and my concerned yet curious friends that questioned but tread carefully so as to not offend. In that regard, the judgment has been minimal, the support has been incredible- from accommodating hosts to an outing with a thoughtful friend who sought out a vegan pizzeria for us to try! (FYI: it’s a fantastic pizzeria in DUMBO, NYC Love and Dough with more than a dozen vegan pies.)
Six months later… Although I’m still adjusting to my new lifestyle, I’m still having a fantastic time learning my way through. And despite being a meat-eater for more than four decades, I feel like I’m in a really good, healthy and positive place. It’s an adjustment for me to understand and learn how to sustain my workouts and to provide my body with the nutrients, minerals and vitamins that it needs to function. But that truly should be every body’s story. And it’s really a responsibility that we all must take upon ourselves to know that by following the ‘standard American diet,’ we ARE NOT nutritiously feeding our bodies. It’s just a sad fact that the majority of us don’t think it necessary to take our nutrition and how we feel into consideration as strongly as we probably should.
And despite being a meat-eater for more than four decades, I feel like I’m in a really good, healthy and positive place.
So, six months later… I will leave you with this if I may:
- Take a closer look at the foods you habitually eat- meat or plants.
- Educate yourself on the nutrition they provide.
- Contemplate if they’re serving you, your health and your nutritional needs.
- Perhaps receive guidance from a nutritionist or dietitian.
- And as many have heard me say: put more plants on your plates!
So why would I become vegan? It’s a personal choice, yes. But let’s just say I now know just way too much. I know too much about the benefits of plants in our bodies. I also know the lies that we’re fed; I know where our meats come from; how they’re raised, how they’re processed, why they wreak havoc in our bodies. I want none of it.
And lastly, I have another answer for you, an answer to a burning question I know inquiring minds really want to know…. and the answer is yes, I do get enough protein; I’m THRIVING! (wink!)
We can talk about that too if you’d like!
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