How I went from the French-food-loving gal who would neeeevvveeerrr give up cheese to a passionate vegan.
I was “vegetarian” from about my junior year of high school through my sophomore year of college. I say “vegetarian” because I was a pescatarian - meaning I ate fish, and I did not eat a very balanced diet through most of that time period. At all. You may as well have called me a carbatarian.
I ditched the vegetarian thing a few months before I was set to study abroad in France, to get my body “re-adjusted” to eating meat, and prepare to eat and drink my way through all of le cuisine, du fromage et du vin that Paris had to offer. I also was going to be living with a host mom in Paris, and didn’t want to add a layer of difficulty to my dietary preferences for her anyway.
Fast forward a few years later, I’m out of college, working in a job largely tied to the food and beverage industry, and I’m addicted to meat, cheese and burgers. Plus - eating out was part of my job, amirite??
Meanwhile, I had been extremely stressed throughout the end of college, and then trying to find a job in my career field, all while working long retail hours (in heels!) that were rough on my body. I had turned to yoga at an amazing studio near my house in order to balance out my stress levels, clear my mind, connect to myself, and stay active. I was hooked, fascinated really, and I wanted to learn more about yoga to deepen my personal practice and start to understand the subtle shifts that were occuring in my body and mind.
That’s when I stumbled upon the Visionary Lifestyle Podcast by Magda Freedom Rod and I was instantly captivated by her intriguing guests, skillful interview style and ability to always ask just the right questions - without saying too little or too much to get the juicy tidbits out of all of her guests. After listening to a few episodes, I decided to go back to the beginning and listen to everything in order from start to finish, which begins with her Visionary Lifestyle Toolkit where she explains her tools for activating your highest potential and living a more conscious lifestyle.
While my interest was piqued by all of these topics, I was really here for the yoga information (or so I thought). As I devoured her delicious content, I was introduced through her interviews to vegan activists, changemakers, yogis, entrepreneurs, digital nomads and so many other inspiring individuals making real change in the world. Little by little these conversations began to plant seeds in my brain to begin transitioning into what Magda, and many others, call a whole-foods, plant-based lifestyle.
Something I love that Magda often says in her podcast is “yoga is the gateway drug to higher consciousness.” And let me tell you that couldn’t have been more true in my case. I always considered myself environmentally conscious, but until listening to this podcast and setting out to do my own unbiased research I had NO idea just how much damage eating meat and dairy products was doing to the planet and I wanted to put a stop to this, starting with my own life and choices. Not only this, but I wanted to feel better. Not that I was overweight, but I wasn’t happy with my body, being only 5’2,” any amount of small weight gain can look like a lot, and plus something just didn’t feel right deep within my digestive system. I knew there was probably something wrong with the way I was eating, whether that be from meat, dairy or processed foods.
Vegan doesn't have to be boring. Here are a few of the dishes I've been both discovering and cooking over the past few months:
The transition started very slowly for me. I started phasing out meat, working my way through what I already had in my freezer, opting for no meat when going out to eat, and finally cutting it out entirely. Eggs were next to go - not too difficult for me as I only really ate them scrambled on the weekends, on eggs benedict at restaurants, and in cooking and baking. (Plus I found an AMAZING tofu scramble recipe, which if you season it just right, can rival the real thing.)
Dairy was last and hardest for me. Not so much in terms of milk, because I ditched that for almond ages ago, but more in the form of baked goods, sweets, and of course, cheese. My reluctance aside, I am learning how to make and buy the best substitutes, and even simply eliminate certain elements of my diet that I used to think I needed, in exchange for more healthy and conscious alternatives. I have now been consistently plant-based for about two to three months, and now I don’t even flinch when sweets are brought into the office. (Plus I’m starting to find some really great cheese alternative products and recipes that give their dairy counterparts a run for their money!)
With my new diet and lifestyle I have to say I feel AMAZING compared to how I used to. I eat so much less processed food, which happened naturally by making this switch, and have learned to curb my sweet tooth cravings with more healthy and conscious swaps that are still delicious. Plus, I love knowing that I am making a difference in the environment, and not to mention in the lives of countless abused animals by just choosing not to eat them. (In just about three months of being vegan my diet has saved about 99,000 gallons of water, 3,600 pounds of grain, 2,700 square feet of forest, 1,800 lbs of Co2, and 90 animal lives!)
I am still working to refine my diet, keeping a food journal to track how certain foods affect my body and digestion, and making changes to try to raise my vibration and improve my health, wellness and conscious choices. By no means am I a perfect vegan, but who is really? I’m still learning a lot every single day, and adapting to the diet. This type of change is a journey and I believe the biggest key to this major of a lifestyle change is about balance, acceptance and kindness and respect for yourself throughout the process.
Have you made the switch to vegetarianism or veganism, or some other major lifestyle change? Are you thinking about it? I’d love to chat about your experience, connect with me in the comments or on Instagram @samstull.