Wednesday, October 13, 2010

VIP Status

I must admit, I have been struggling a bit lately with my veganism. I'm sure that many of you who have made the transition to a more cruelty-free lifestyle have felt the same way at some point. There are just SO many hidden animal-derived ingredients to know about. And not just in food. LOTS of everyday products contain these substances.

It can just be so overwhelming...

And some habits really are hard to break. As I've been an ovo-lacto vegetarian for the past 13 years, some eggs and dairy products have still been sneaking their way into my diet lately as I transition to veganism.

And I have been feeling really guilty about it...

But I realized something.

Sometimes, an all or nothing attitude can really defeat your progress. While I did go vegetarian basically overnight (or "cold turkey" as I have often ironically joked), veganism is a whole other animal...(Yes I am full of puns).

When I became a vegetarian all those years ago, I really had no idea what I was doing. I was just an opinionated teenager who you could not talk out of anything. I so abhorred (and still do) the thought that any animal might suffer in order for me to eat, that I really didn't plan or transition at all. I just cut meat out of my life and never looked back. Now, while I wholeheartedly believe it is one of the best decisions I've ever made, vegetarianism took a toll on me at first. I paid very little heed to nutritional requirements, and, quite frequently, ate tortilla chips and salsa for dinner. And you know that can't have been good....

In fact, it wasn't long before I started noticing that my hair was frequently breaking off in the middle, and that I had a lot more flyaways than I used to. In fact, my "molting" became so noticeable that my mother dragged me to the nutritionist. The nutritionist told me that my "shedding" was due to a lack of protein. So, I started eating yogurt, milk, and cheese like crazy to make up for the lack of meat in my diet. And it worked. My hair became as strong as it used to be, and I didn't have to worry about leaving telltale signs wherever I sat (like a cat). However, in my protein crusade, I did end up gaining a noticeable amount of weight. It probably was not until I went off to college and started exercising regularly that I was able to get myself into balance, and to know what foods to eat to keep me healthy and happy.

Veganism has been a whole other story. Life is busier now. I work long hours, take classes, attempt to find time to work out, have social engagements with family and friends, and I have hobbies that I love...But all of those things don't leave very much time to cater to the delicate transition I now find myself engaged in. So the move to veganism has been going very slowly. Like molasses uphill on a cold day (as my father is fond of saying).

But then again, beating myself up about this is not doing anyone any good. Not everyone can transition into vegetarianism or veganism within the span of an afternoon. It's a learning process. And, not only are these powerful and potentially jarring lifestyle changes, but they directly affect one's health. Becoming a full-fledged vegan or vegetarian without consulting a doctor or a nutritionist, or at LEAST without becoming educated about your nutritional needs, can be harmful to you. (©ABC)

Now the last thing I want to do is talk anyone out of becoming a vegan or vegetarian. As I said, vegetarianism is one of the best decisions I ever made in my life, and I don't regret it for a second. Vegetarianism has enriched my life in so many unexpected ways. I'll never go back to eating meat...........unless I'm stranded on a desert island or something like in Lost. Then we'll talk......

But if you are considering making these lifestyle changes, please honor your health and well-being in equal measure to that of the animals you hope to save. It will not help anyone if you make yourself so sick and nutritionally-deprived that you have to give up the entire endeavor to restore your health.

Remember, a plane doesn't just land. It hovers a little, slows down, and bounces a few times before it settles on the runway. I never want any of you to think that you are a lost cause if you "cheat" or "mess up," or eat something by accident that you didn't know was in your food, etc, while you are transitioning into a new lifestyle. There is NO SHAME - none - in making a really good decision s-l-o-w-l-y.

If you currently find yourself "in between gigs," as it were, then you are what I like to call a "VIP." A "Vegetarian (or a Vegan) In Progress." VIPs are special, and they all deserve pats on the back for choosing a more compassionate way of life.

So the next time you find yourself the victim of negative inner dialog, remember that you are a VIP, and that you only deserve the best.

Good luck to you all, and see you on the red carpet!

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