When I ate meat, I thought I could never eat vegan. When I ate vegan, I thought I’d never eat meat again. Both times I was wrong.
Growing Up as a Regular Omnivore est. 1992
My parents raised us rather healthy. We ate meat every meal with a salad or at least veggies. I built up a reputation of “the cook” in our family. More friends and family members began to share dietary restrictions – vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free – couldn’t really have told you the difference between any of them.
In our Japanese American household, we did transition to soy milk rather than cow milk, a few of us being lactose intolerant. That simple switch probably contributed to my change of diet ten years later.
On my first day attending the local community college, a classic activist passed out pamphlets. Not bothering to say “no”, I accepted the pamphlet with a “thank you”.
The pamphlet addressed treatment of chickens in the meat industry. I was horrified. I had no idea what a carton of eggs entailed. I loved animals. We had a small dog at the time, Mocha, and my heart sank thinking about these other tiny creatures suffering for the entirety of their short life. What had our society become that I didn’t even realize the process of how meat got to the grocery store in the frozen bags?
“I could never be vegetarian.”Chantel in 2011
I said many times, wishing otherwise, “I could never be vegetarian.” I loved BBQ, chicken tenders and cheese. But I didn’t have all the information. I based my decision on my tastebuds. The meat and dairy industry had done a good job covering up realities of livestock welfare.
The pamphlet shook my values. I felt a mixture of emotions. Sad for the chicks. Angry I didn’t know about their treatment before. I wasn’t mad at the activists for the shock value in the pamphlets – it was true. The truth shouldn’t be shocking when I’m consuming it for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The truth shouldn’t be shocking when I’m consuming it for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
I was mostly disgusted by the culture that have developed. I was confused I had unknowingly taken part in for decades. It seemed hopeless. It seemed impossible to make a difference in the industry. I was just one person. Later down the road, my mindset would change.
Shortly after, I attempted consuming less meat. Cutting out red meat was fairly easy to do, but cutting out chicken and fish challenged me. Since my mom had stopped cooking, we tended to cook for the family when we cooked. I suppose a part of me felt if someone really wanted meat, they could cook it themselves. I was already making the base. Questions would arise if I made a vegetarian dish. Mixed emotions: disappointment or disapproval. Ah, familial pressures. It was easier to satisfy everyone, including some of my delinquent tastebuds. I pushed the stuffed, overgrown, trapped chickens to the back of my mind.
It was easier to satisfy everyone, including some of my delinquent tastebuds. I pushed the stuffed, overgrown, trapped chickens to the back of my mind.
“I need inspiration to go vegetarian.” – Chantel in 2017
The idea of eating vegetarian didn’t seem overwhelming anymore.
The idea of eating vegetarian didn’t seem overwhelming anymore. I had years to think about it and practice it in small ways. But I still needed a push. I knew I needed to watch a documentary like What the Health and educate myself on the truth of the meat industry. Without any immediate friends or family interested in the topic, I had a hard time pushing myself.
Whether it was luck or fate, I visited a friend’s apartment one day and she had a similar pamphlet on their table. There was literally nothing on the table but this pamphlet. I opened the pamphlet, five years after the first pamphlet, with a more open and educated mind. And that was it. It was late June, 2017 and I told myself I just had to try vegetarianism.
My diet didn’t change that much.
My diet didn’t change that much. I realized over the years I had cut back in different ways. Non-dairy milk for lactose intolerance. Less red-meat is better for heart condition.
After six months of eating vegetarian, a huge turning point in my life came.
I decided to move to San Diego. I packed my car with everything I owned for new beginnings. I didn’t know what living on my own would do for my lifestyle. I had only ever dreamed of the day.
The world was open of possibilities. What kind of living space would I have? I dreamt of having a comfy but spick and span home. What is possible? I fantasized exercising on the beach every day. Amongst other things – with no relationship, few friends, and no family members to cook for, heck, why not try veganism.
Amongst other things – with no relationship, few friends, and no family members to cook for, heck, why not try veganism.
It wasn’t just for the animals. It was for the environment. It was for my personal health. There were plenty of reasons to eat plant-based. There was only one reason to continue eating meat – because it was what I was used to. Deep down I felt selfish to choose my tastebuds over an animal welfare and environmental issues. I didn’t consider going back and I always like a challenge, so I decided to move forward to a new territory. Trying out a vegan diet.
No eggs, no cheese and most importantly, no (dairy) ice cream. So my serious vegan journey began. I got a job at a juice bar in downtown Vitality Tap, which happened to be vegan, but most importantly was a delicious organic fresh food influence. I began running 3-5 miles on the beach every other day, surfing a couple times a week. I felt so light and energized. Part of this I attribute to living in a new city, and in part, absolutely, to my clean eating.
I felt so light and energized. Part of this I attribute to living in a new city, and in part, absolutely, to my clean eating.
I was strictly vegan. Because I didn’t mind, I took it to the next level just to see if I could (I tend to do this.) This meant no-honey-type-of-vegan (for the bees) and not even sugar (the refining process uses bone char which is not directly an animal product, but also not vegan.) At the same time, just for fun, I went zero-waste. That’s a whole ‘nother story, which I will get to later.
I even attempted a pretty success year of raw vegan. Meaning, 90% of the time I didn’t cook my food. That also may be a whole ‘nother post. It was almost easier eating a raw vegan diet because I could be lazy and not wait cook. Just chop. Or blend smoothies. I had an extremely successful year of zero-waste raw-veganism. At this time, I thought, I would stay vegan forever, it’s just too easy, clean and beneficial for everyone and everything. But, I should know, things change.