Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Vegan Diary: One year Vegetarian

Tomorrow, I will have been a vegetarian for one whole year. One year without cheating. One year without meat of any kind.

I have also been vegan for two months as of today.

Plus, I haven’t Diet Coke also two months ago last week.

I don’t say that in some self-righteous way. For the most, people who aren’t vegetarian or vegan or who drink diet soda on a regular basis are not impressed by it. I say it only because I am happy I’ve done it. It was a personal challenge and I achieved it. And I feel a certain sense of personal pride in doing so.

So, how has it been? To be blunt: it’s been incredible. I have learned much this time around as a vegetarian. Twenty years ago, I went vegetarian for the first time for five years. I didn’t cheat once in those five years, but I also didn’t do it right. I ate lots of junk. I ate lots of cheese and dairy. I didn’t eat healthy. And, in the end, I gave it up as easily I as would throw away an old shirt.

This time around, I haven’t always eaten healthy, but I have done much better. My health has not been this good in a very long time. And I can really see and feel the results. Not because I am trying to or desperately want to. They simply are happening for me, and I am grateful.

One thing has surprised me: I still get scolded by people. I have to admit that at 44 years old,
an ordained priest, a published writer, a person with lots of life-experience under my belt, someone who has been indepenet for a very long time, being scolded at this time in my life is sobering. And I honestly don’t know how to react to it.

So, when someone tells me, out of the blue: “This vegan diet is not healthy for you,” I stiffen and bite my tongue. And I try not to respond by simply noticing the meat they fork onto their plates and the gravy with which they smother their mashed potatoes.

My resentment comes from the fact that I am amazed nobody scolded me when my diet was unhealthy, when I was eating fast food from McDonald’s or ice cream from Cold Stone Creamery or pizzas from Pizza Hut. When I was diagnosed with cancer twelve years ago and my weight ballooned, did anyone scold me for my eating habits then. Then, when I should have been scolded for what I was eating.

All I can say in return is: I haven’t felt deprived or lacking once in what I eat. It has been strangely natural for me. And once I got into the habit of ignoring the scolding and bolder in asking servers to make a dish of pasta with marinara instead of creamy sauce, or order a sandwich without cheese or mayo, it was actually pretty easy.

Still, I’ve learned not be a jerk about vegetarianism/veganism. Taking a note from Moby, I’ve learned to be almost apologetic about it when people scold me or even when they ask me over to their homes or out to eat. Waving the vegan flag or whipping out photos of suffering animals on factory farms or slaughterhouses certainly does not win people over to the cause (which isn’tmy  intention in the first place). In fact, that vegan flag-waving and disturbing photos only drives people further and further away.

I do what I can, where I can, because it makes a difference in my life. It makes a difference in my ethics, in my diet and in my health. And I understand now how being vegetarian/vegan really is more than just an issue of food. It is more than just a diet. It is a lifestyle. It is a way living one’s life and it is a way of seeing the world around me differently.

I can also say there is something weirdly spiritual about this way of eating. It does seem to fit so well into my faith life. As I Christian and as priest, I feel a certain moral obligation about animals and the suffering they endure for human consumption. There is a disconnect in our collective intention blindness toward the suffering of other living being. And there is something good and holy in compassionate living.

I am thankful for this year as a vegetarian. I am thankful for these past two vegan months. It has been very good. The proof is in the vegan pudding. I am feeling great—better than I have in a long time.

What more can I ask?

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