Compassion is a thread that is woven through my life. Veganism is a way to live a loving and compassionate life.
I remember finding a bird that had crashed in to a window of our house. I was probably about 7 years old when I picked up the limp body of this dead animal. I felt a great sadness for this loss of life and considered myself responsible to give dignity to this animals body. I carried the little corpse to the back lane and cried for it for some time before making my way back in to my home.
When I was 12 years old my family rented a sailboat and cruised from Vancouver to the San Juan Islands. They set out some crab traps and reeled in a few crustaceans on one their first attempts. I was enchanted with the life of these tiny creatures and dreaded that we would kill them for consumption. I cried and protested that it was not right and was not fair. I begged that they be returned to the sea. With much chiding and complaining from my older brothers they grudgingly bent to my position and tossed the crabs back in the water.
I was brought up in a meat loving family and I myself enjoyed eating meat very much. There was the total disconnect between these experiences of deep love and affection for animals and the fact that the steak on my plate was a piece of a cow. It was not until I was 22 years old that I would become a Vegetarian.
In 1997 I was in Maui for my parents 25th wedding anniversary. I had been reading an Anthony Robbins book titled “Awaken the Giant within”. I was receptive to the message that Anthony Robbins shared in the pages of this book on the benefits of a low to no meat diet. It was as far as I recall my first introduction to the benefits of being Vegetarian. On January 01, New Years Day 1998 I implemented a fish-eating Vegetarian style diet.
I came to believe being Vegetarian is positive for our environment and our health.
The first day of Vegetarianism was a challenge. It was New Years Day and I attended a Luau with my family and a friend. The centerpiece of the Luau was a roasted pig, as a young man and my first day as a vegetarian it was a struggle. Surrounded by peers savouring this sacrificed beast with moans of delight and pleasure they suggested tomorrow might be a better day for me to turn over this “new leaf”. My family completely respected my new dietary decision, they were simply expressing their enjoyment of this main dish and hoped I might share in their delight. I maintained my resolve to go Vegetarian.
Tomorrow always seems like a better time to make change but you can only make change happen today.
Seek change just for this moment, just for today. It is much more attainable than forever.
As a Vegetarian I became a magnet for information. Others who had some interest in the subject encouraged me. A stack of PETA magazines were offered to me. Although the general message of compassion to animals was close to my heart, I was not inclined to embrace that as my main purpose for this decision.
From the beginning of my no meat diet I believed I would strip away the fish, eggs and dairy. I just never would have thought it would take so many years. In 2007 my wife Chelsea suggested that we give up fish, eggs and dairy for Lent, the 40 days before Easter. It seemed a good time frame to experiment with Veganism and we went for it. At the end of the 40 day trial period we decided to continue being Vegan. I took an intermission when I travelled to France and it was in October 2008 that I restarted my Vegan lifestyle.
My choice for Veganism was primarily motivated by my compassion for animals. There are plenty of health and environmental reasons also, yet that was not what triggered the change for me. The video ”Meat your Meet” by PETA, sealed the deal.
This movie prompted me to change and I have never looked back. I learned how the dairy and egg industry was often less humane to animals than the poultry and beef industry. I’ve chosen not to consume from an industry that causes pain and suffering to animals. It took me many years to resolve to let my consumer choices reflect my love for animals. Living a Vegan lifestyle I feel in tune with core values. I have been able to reconcile the disconnect I lived for so many years.
Tips for success on becoming Vegan
The shift in diet from pseudo Vegetarianism to pure Vegan was more challenging then my transition from meat-eating to Vegetarianism had been.
The first few days of Vegan living I really “stumbled” out of the gates. I was awakening to how often I would reach for something with dairy in it. I made a few unconscious mistakes those first days, making many accidental ingestions.
I quickly learned that my pantry, and my eating habits required a big adjustment. I got a few excellent recipe books and found some new items from the grocery store. I learned how to make food in new ways.
Veganism brought huge improvements to my dietary food intake from my previous Vegetarian diet.
I’ve known about balancing carbohydrates and proteins in my meal planning. However fish had been my primary protein source. Fish at lunch, fish at dinner. Cheese and dairy also made the claim to provide protein. I knew that Veganism would be a health benefit yet I had to learn how to do it right. The solution has been quinoa, soy, tempeh, beans, nuts and seitan. These primary ingredients ushered in a new and exciting array of flavors and dishes into my life.
Being prepared is essential. When hunger strikes and you are looking in a fridge with few choices it can be very frustrating. Often I do food preparation in the morning, making a crock pot stew or one pot meal. Coming home to a hot and ready to serve meal is awesome, easy and healthy! It is also a good idea to keep grazing. Avoid getting caught over hungry and under prepared.
Be realistic about dinning out. If it is for social reasons that you plan to go to a restaurant consider having a meal before going. I like to be intentional about what I am eating and I understand what foods make it on the list. I do not savor some extended dialogue with a server in front of a table of friends or guests. I’d rather keep the focus of such events on the fellowship and company. Any restaurant can offer up plate of roast vegetables and a salad. As light as those dishes are I let a pre meal take care of my hunger.
In the beginning I felt I was giving something up, I found that instead I gained so much more.
Some people may not understand that you have a spectrum of food choices that may be completely off their radar. It may seems like Veganism is about surrendering the pleasure of food for a life sentence of lentils and lettuce. The opposite is true. Innovate, experiment and invent to discover a new and exciting culinary world.
I do not believe that Veganism is the only and best way to live, it is simply a way. Veganism is also my way and this is my story.