The following is a guest post by Carrie Forrest, the author of the healthy, plant-based cooking blog, Carrie on Vegan. Carrie is a graduate student in public health nutrition and a future registered dietitian. She lives on California’s Central Coast where she blogs, studies and eats vegetables by the basketful.
Lessons From Veganism– the First Year
September, 16, 2011 marked my first year of being vegan. To honor the occasion, I thought about some of the lessons I learned during this time. They range from the significant (transforming my health!) to the silly (my obsession with chia pudding). Overall, the changes that veganism has brought to my life have been powerful and I can’t wait to see what the following years bring.
- Veganism is not about perfection! Turns out there is no vegan police and you don’t have to be a perfect vegan or a perfect anything for that matter. While I am really careful about not consuming animal products, I have only just started weeding out the animal-derived products in my closet. The point is that it’s up to each individual to decide his or her boundaries.
- If being vegan is not about perfection, then it is about compassion. I’ve become really emotional about animal rights once I thought carefully about what it means to eat or use animal-based products. I believe knowledge is power and as humans we are responsible for showing compassion to not only other people, but to the millions of other species sharing our planet.
- Eating plant-based foods is also about doing what’s best for our health. Science shows that a plant-based diet is ideal for human health. If you want to say goodbye to heart disease, cancer, diabetes and a myriad of other problems, a plant-based diet is your answer. Note: Don’t forget your B12 supplement and be sure to read Ginny Messina’s new book “Vegan for Life.”
- There is a lot of misinformation out there about nutrition. Most of what we read in the media or learned in school about nutrition has been dictated by industry lobbyists and isn’t based on science! As a future registered dietitian whose professional community has sponsors from all of the big food manufacturers, it’s going to be an uphill battle to educate consumers. But, I have confidence that science will prevail.
- Whoa, I’m an advocate. Once I discovered my passion for veganism and health, I felt confident to speak my mind. I also learned that advocacy can take many different forms and it’s up to each of us to choose which one works for us. From leaf-letting to sharing a vegan recipe, it all helps the cause.
- I have influence. It has been incredibly rewarding to have people ask me about what I’m doing and how they can get healthier. Some people still don’t get it, but I decided early on that I’m all about helping people who want to be helped. I consider myself as an example of how energetic, balanced and productive one can be eating a healthy, vegan diet.
- Vegan food is delicious! Eating fruits, veggies, grains, nuts, seeds and beans is a culinary adventure and not the least bit boring. From a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to a gourmet meal at Millennium, the fun never stops with vegan food. I am finding all of the Vida Vegan Con blogs to be really inspiring.
- A plant-based diet is healing. After I started eating a healthy, plant-based diet, I realized the connection between food and health. I successfully resolved migraines, seasonal allergies, hormonal imbalances and anxiety quickly after becoming a healthy vegan. Animal products, excess fat, sugar and salt make you sick; whole, plant-based foods restore, heal and balance.
- Vegans are open and supportive. I feel like I can be myself in the vegan community. After attending the 1st Vida Vegan Con in August, 2011, I felt part of a family. I left the conference with new friends who continue to inspire and help me grow.
- Veganism gave me hope. In this world where sometimes it feels like we’re headed for destruction, I feel positive about the future. The steps we take with our food choices, advocacy and influence are resulting in strides for animal welfare, improving our health and preserving the environment.
The culminating experience for me from this past year was going to Vida Vegan Con and meeting so many incredible, talented people. Thank you for everything you do and I can’t wait until spring 2013 until we meet again. If there are lessons that you’ve learned from veganism, please share them in the comments section of this post, I’d love to read them.