Making the transition into this new lifestyle began with the babiest and most cautious of steps. Afterall, vegans get a bad rep. I was nervous my family would look at me like I’d announced I was joining a convent. I also wasn’t sure how my fiance would feel about no more frequent triple meat lovers pizza deliveries. And to be honest, I have such a passionate love affair with cheese its almost nauseating. Needless to say, the transition was – and is – a slow one.
It wasn’t long ago that I frequented BBQ joints, satisfying ravenous cravings for juicy chicken tenders and fall-off-the-bone pork ribs, dripping with that sticky, sweet sauce. In fact, it wasn’t much longer before that when I would pierce my fork into a thick slab of steak, sawing my knife back and forth, watching the blood pour out. Hell, I’d witnessed cows, deer, elk and chickens get butchered on my grandparents’ farm and have the same ones served up on the dinner table a few weeks later. Graphic? Totally. But I was an unapologetic carnivore, who ordered her steak “with the heart still beating.”
In some ways, I still am that same carnivore. Over time though, I’ve become more conservative in the meat department. Don’t get me wrong, I still salivate at the sight of a medium-rare hamburger, dripping juices from its center. And I absolutely cannot and will not turn down sashimi.
So where did my out of character interest in a vegan lifestyle spark from? You could say that it stemmed from the beginning of my exploration into a healthier lifestyle. Last year, I began studying nutrition and applying the science of it to my daily eating habits. I joined Tone It Up and followed the nutrition plan, which recipes did not include red meat. I didn’t question it, as I was a committed member of the team and stuck to the meals (almost) religiously. After months of not eating red meat and sticking to poultry and fish, I no longer found a fresh-off-the-cow T-bone as appealing. My fiance pointed out my lack of interest in steaks and burgers when we contemplated what we wanted to make for dinner and I realized I had trained my body to no longer crave red meat.
So, the first step in my transition began with cutting out the cow. Up until a couple months ago, at least one of my meals per day consisted of some kind of meat as a lean protein. I wanted to try out new ways to incorporate proteins and healthy fats into my diet without using meat, so I began substituting it for fillers like chickpeas (my all-time favorite), black beans, lentils, and eggs.
Yes, I understand eggs are against vegan standards, but I’m not a true vegan. In fact, at this point, I did not care to be vegan or to learn about the lifestyle. If you asked me, I thought vegans were just uber-granola, hippie-type people who needed to toughen up with a little time on the farm. But after watching several eye-opening documentaries that combine health, nutrition, and our planet’s sustainability, I decided I wanted to commit to a more vegan lifestyle.
After a trip to the library and lots of googling, I’ve been spending a lot of time in the kitchen giving some of my old favorites a meatless makeover. I wouldn’t lie, there have been some seriously epic fails; meatless meatloaf and mac ‘n’ cheese, to name a couple (seriously you guys, some things just should be left alone). What I’ve learned though, and what I continue to learn every day, is that my body can live just fine and actually seems to function better without meat. I’ve learned to get more creative with meals and incorporate a ton more vegetables into my diet as a means of getting lots of plant-based protein.
I still love my scrambled eggs and bacon for breakfast and jumbo deep fried shrimp from my local favorite, Joe’s Farm Grill. There’s nothing better to me than discovering a unique new recipe though, and if I can make a positive impact on my health and the environment, then count me in. Will I ever go fully vegan? Probably not. Am I enjoying playing weekday vegan? Yes, and I am totally shameless of it too.