29.6.11

Being Vegan is Easy; Or, How I Stopped Spending Money on Noxema

Years and years ago, when I was a mere 24 years old, I was in a band. The who's and what's weren't important; I was a terrible bassist. What's important was that our drummer, Lauren, was vegan. Actually, she still is. And what I remember is the way she handled it--when I asked what being a vegan was like, her simple response was, well, "it's easy".

I had dabbled in vegetarianism at that point, but her words still caught me off guard. Easy? You kidding me? Everything seems to have some sort of meat or byproduct in it. I admired her dedication, but there was no way I was gonna be subject to that much work.

Til this year, apparently.

Lauren was right. Being vegan is easy. It's not even that much work.

Here's the thing, though. I think people might have the impression that you need to be selfless in order to maintain being a vegan. The truth is, being vegan is about being aware of your decisions and how you take care of your body. The selfish aspect is what keeps me on track. Yes, the videos of horrible living conditions for animals choke me up. But, bottom line, I don't get adult acne anymore. That alone, my friend, is enough to make me reach for the broccoli. And I know there's been lots of talk about how it prevents and heals cancers, aids in avoiding high blood pressure and diabetes. I think it's super important to figure out what your motivations are and then to create your own boundaries.

I am now eerily aware of what I put into my body. I understand that food is fuel, and it can either slow you down and land you in a hospital repair shop, or it can have you performing at an optimal level. The main glut of my food is super simple: vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, and whole grains. Every so often I indulge in a restaurant made vegan burger or Trader Joe's vegan trail mix cookies (the best cookies!).

I don't expect everyone to hear me talk about this and change their habits--heck, it took me thirty years to make the decision, and it was a process to get here. I don't even think it's the best decision for every single person across the board.

I read a ton of literature, I bought vegan cookbooks, I made the decision to make my own food 90 percent of the time. I even gave myself a get out of jail free pass--I told myself I would try it for 4 weeks, and then decide if it was something I wanted to continue with. Turned out the 4 week trial was so beautiful and strengthening that I didn't need to even consider a different way of living.

So here's what I abide by now on a daily basis, other than my no meat/no dairy/no animal byproduct rule:

*Cook at home. Making your own meals connects you in a visceral way to what you are creating and putting into your body. It also keeps you totally informed as to the process your food is undertaking. And I can think of very little as sexy and loving than someone making a meal that is delicious and good for your body. That's right up there in thoughtfulness and soul-astounding love.

*Very rarely does anything processed come into the house. Vegan cheeses and creams are usually treats that I get when I go out. Every so often, Ben and I indulge in vegan chocolate ice cream. Usually, though, we are full and happy from our regular meals.

*No sugar. Use raw agave nectar or natural fruit juice instead-- in pancakes, tea, cakes, whatever you might be creating.

*Just because it's vegan, doesn't mean it's good for you. Read your labels. Get balanced. I love this because it aids in my feeling totally in control-- I used to diet all of the time to maintain or lose weight. I counted calories, I deprived myself, the whole thing. I don't have to do that anymore.

*No coffee or sodas. I used to be a diet Pepsi junkie (not so long ago, seriously), downing three cans a day. So wasteful and chaotic for my body! It was more difficult to get over coffee and soda than to become vegan. If you are going to make dietary changes, I urge you to concentrate on this one. To get through it, I learned how to make kale/spinach smoothies and drank all natural apple juice. All the time. Every time I felt like soda would be awesome, I drank juice.

*Change your attitude about the grocery store. It's not a chore, it's an adventure! When we moved to our new neighborhood, I figured out where the cheap produce was (Cochran Produce on Fairfax) and I go there first every week. I stock up, not really with any recipes in mind. I get the basics--onions, garlic, carrots, kale, squash, cucumber, spinach. Then I check out what specifically is in season--what the sales are on, and what's limited. I look out for any veggies that I'm not familiar with, and I purchase those. And then, I pick out fruits. A huge bunch of grapes and apples, and then the seasonal fruit. Our total when shopping at Cochran is never more than $12 a week. I did not mistype that.

After Cochran, I go over to Trader Joe's to fill in the blanks--whole grains, tempeh, tofu, almond milk, that famous natural apple juice. $12. And that's it! We're totally stocked for the week. We're ready if we have guests or if there's a last minute potluck.

A good rule of thumb at the grocery store? Shop the perimeter of the store and don't get into the aisles.

*I leave fruit out for easy snacking needs. Grapes go immediately into a bowl in the fridge. Apples, peaches, and other goodies go in a bowl on the table.

*I'm mindful of not drinking soy milk--I've been getting almond or coconut instead. It's summer anyway. The more coconut the better!

*Grab some vegan cookbooks, even if you aren't planning on sticking with veganism! Your mind will be blown with the creative, simple ideas people have for creating decadent, delicious meals and desserts. Veganomicon has made me adventurous and I've made things I didn't even know could be in my arsenal. Ethiopian food! Curries! A blow-your-mind broccoli and tempeh bulgar! Sweet potato gnocchi! I've always loved food. Now I get to luxuriate in it.

*Less alcohol. Considerably less--maybe one drink every two weeks. When I go out, I might grab a beer, but most of the time, it's a water. Water keeps you hydrated and alcohol dries you out. Being dried out makes you susceptible to wrinkles. Again, it's that selfish thing. I know I sounds like a Cosmo magazine. I also hate feeling hungover and out of control. Too many negatives.

I know that a portion of why being vegan is easy for me is because I am in a big city. I don't get weird looks from people or questioning. If anything, I get friendly inquisition about how I started and why. I know I'd be challenged in a different environment. In fact, when I was starting out, I had armed myself with an answer to the big question: "Where do you get your protein?" Just know your stuff: "Which of the ten amino acids are you the most concerned about me getting?" I might never get to use that line. Sadface.

The way I'm eating is now about more than the food I put into my mouth. It's opened my eyes up to how I used to treat myself, and that I wasn't as loving as I had aspired to be. Self love isn't about eating something you really desire and think your behavior has warranted (I used to reward myself with a Western Bacon Cheeseburger from Carl's Jr when I'd had a hard day); it's considering the compassionate option for your body and your world.

The last thing I wanna do is get preachy, but I do want to welcome conversation. I decided that I didn't want to condemn or have any part of my decision be about negativity--not about people, not about animals; instead, I was going to focus on being the truest, most positive example I can be.

xoxo



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