In December of 2007, just before Christmas, I was out shopping at the bookstore and saw a book called, “Skinny Bitch.” As I was putting on some holiday weight, the book caught my eye and I bought it. I had no idea what it was about, but I brought it along on a day-long road trip a friend and I took a couple of days later. As I drove, she read the book aloud. I really was not prepared for what I heard. The book describes in graphic detail what it is you’re really putting into your body when you consume meat and dairy. The author is very confrontational and also go into the horrors of the slaughterhouses and interview the workers.
I thought back to when I was a teenager and had read the book, “Diet for a New America.” It led me to go vegetarian for a year but when I went to South America for a semester abroad, I let it go because I was staying with a host family and the culture was very meat-centered. Guess I was trying to be polite and not cause trouble. It was easier to just forget about what I had learned about the meat industry. So I had put it aside and went back to eating meat.
Now, at age 33, though, I was forced to confront the realities again as I listened to the book my friend was reading to me. It was so shocking and horrifying I couldn’t deny the truth any longer. There is one point in the book where the author says, “So now you’re vegan.” I thought, this is nuts. But I pinky-swore with my friend just the same. I would now be vegan.
When I got home from the road trip that evening, I was still conflicted. I really didn’t know if I could do it. I wanted to, but I didn’t know if I had the strength. I went online and googled the word “vegetarian.” A website popped up called “goveg.com.” I clicked on the link and there was Pamela Anderson, and I thought what does Pamela Anderson know about vegetarianism? But I clicked on the video anyway. She started talking about KFC, “Kentucky Fried Cruelty.” I didn’t want to believe the terrible scenes I was seeing. The video showed the overcrowding and abuse of the animals in the factory farms. I still clearly recall the image of a chicken so overweight that its legs could not support its body. It flailed about on the floor, struggling to walk. I lost it. I started weeping uncontrollably. I remember thinking to myself, this is crazy. I’m crying over a chicken. What the hell do I care about chickens? I’m not some crazy animal rights activist. But I also couldn’t bear the thought of supporting an industry that would so horribly abuse animals.
I cried a lot that night. I knew what I had to do. I had to give up eating animals. It was the only possible choice I could make now that I allowed myself to see the truth of the cruelty. But it was still a difficult decision for me to make. I was afraid that I would fail. I had eaten meat all my life! I liked bacon! I cried because I had been in denial for so long and that I had supported these industries for 33 years. I cried because I still wanted to enjoy the taste of meat and dairy and I hated myself for still wanting it. Could I honestly go for the rest of my life without burgers? cheesecake? Brazilian barbecue? sushi? But how could I be so selfish to even want to eat those things still? What would I eat? That first day was the hardest day of my veganism experience. Unwilling to make a commitment I couldn’t keep, I chose to try vegetarianism for 30 days. I would just do it for 30 days and see how I felt. Just a month. I could do that. I ordered the “vegetarian starter kit” from the website.
I wish I could say that from that day forward I was vegan. The truth is, I was “mostly” vegan for the next two years or so. I gave up eating meat, eggs, and fish. I no longer drank milk, and I avoided all animal products in baked goods. I read the ingredient labels on everything I bought. But the cheese was harder for me to let go of. I thought it would be better to just allow myself to “cheat” every now and then because if I denied myself a craving I wanted then I thought that I would just cave in and start eating meat again. I thought it would be better to satisfy my cheese fix with a bite once in a while if that meant I could stick with the vegetarianism and not give it up. And it was easier to fool myself that cheese really wasn’t an animal product and it wasn’t hurting anyone for me to taste one of the samples as I passed by the display at Whole Foods every now and then. So I never really gave up the taste for cheese because I never really let it go.
After a couple of years, I started having cheese with wine at happy hour or at a party. Eventually, I began having sushi again and tuna fish sandwiches. I knew I was being hypocritical, and I stopped calling myself a “vegan.” I would say I was vegetarian or “mostly vegan.” It was easier to deal with the rest of the people in my life if I didn’t insist on eating vegan, too. I didn’t have any support, you see. All of my friends thought I was a freak for trying to go vegan. I guess they gradually wore me down. I didn’t know anyone else who was vegan, and it was easier to just go with the flow and not make a fuss about things.
Then in October of 2011, I met a vegan. It was a date from online, actually. We met up for lunch at a place called “Native Foods.” I told him about my vegan experience and how I found it tough to do on my own. He suggested I make some more vegan friends. How? Where? Meetup.com. I thought about what he’d said. The seed was planted once again.
I remember getting take-out sushi from the place down the street for dinner one night after that. As I sat there eating my fish, I didn’t enjoy it. It actually stopped tasting good to me. I thought, what am I doing? Why am I eating this? I need to stop this. So I decided to go pure vegan once again. This time, cold tofu. No cheating with cheese or baked goods or sushi. I would say sayonara forever to the animal products. And I did. January 8, 2012. It’s been a year and a month now and I feel great. I made a decision that I would reach out to other vegans and make friends. I went on Meetup.com and joined a veggie hiking group. I also started reading everything I could get my hands on about veganism and nutrition. I watched movies like “Forks Over Knives” and “Vegucated.” And now, my resolve is stronger than ever. I know this is the right thing to do. I feel happy with myself. I know that when I sit down to a meal, no one had to suffer for my enjoyment, and my dollars are not supporting companies who cruelly abuse animals. I know this is for me. I’m vegan for life!