Wait- Vegans Don’t Eat Cheese??

I had a bizarre dream last night. I dreamed that I ate half of a McDonald’s hamburger and then was totally baffled looking at it and thinking ‘Why did I eat that?’. ‘I haven’t eaten meat in years- did I really just eat that?’. Then I had dream guilt. You know that weird semi-conscious moment where you’re not sure if what you’re dreaming about is really happening or not and then it is a total relief to wake up and realize it’s not real. Seriously, I already have to work on my feelings of guilt during the day- nighttime dream guilt may put my over the edge.

The first conversation I had about what it actually meant to be vegan was with a yoga friend. It was the ultimate cliché- a post yoga lunch at Whole Foods. She casually informed me that she was vegan and when I asked more about it, I was shocked and appalled to find out that no dairy was involved. The meat part I knew, but dairy too? Dairy products basically were 80% of my diet through my first pregnancy. (Mainly of the ice cream variety.) No rational human being would EVER make this type of insane sacrifice by choice. Life without cheese? Never. Plus, I loved going to a nice steak restaurant with my husband once in a while too. No way. I left that idea out in the cold where it belonged.

Fast forward a few months…… I completed my first cleanse. A three day fruit cleanse which was honestly one of the most pivotal moments in my life as it relates to my nutrition. I felt so incredible physically by the third day that I was on the verge of tears. I had never felt so good and didn’t even know it was possible to feel like that. That called into question my entire framework of what I defined as ‘healthy eating’ and even what it meant to feel good in my own body each and every day. As the mom in charge of feeding a growing family- I thought I had better start working on an improved game plan. I began to read, research and watch documentaries about food and nutrition.

I learned a lot. And if you’re interested in finding out more- it is all only a click away. But the bottom line was that I realized I needed to make my own decision about what felt right for me and I couldn’t rely on anyone else to tell me what that was. There is a lot of information out there and not all of it is impartial. Much of it comes from sources with an economic interest in selling us something. It’s marketing being branded as fact. Also, my mindset hadn’t evolved much since what was pounded into me in elementary school about the food pyramid. Something this fundamental was worth updating and getting more clear on.

Part of my decision was made intellectually and part was made intuitively. The intuitive part is what made eating vegan not a sacrifice, even though it was the complete opposite of my diet for the first 36 years of my life!? Something shifted for me on a deeper level. Beyond force of habit and even willpower, I felt like finally something was clicking for me in a way it hadn’t before. Both my body and my spirit felt lined up with this new way of eating, so it always felt like something I wanted and not about sacrifice. I think that distinction is really important, because anything I’ve done in the past that is based on willpower alone never lasts for long. I felt that I was being more conscious with my choices and food shopping and prep felt less mechanical. I also love how it makes me feel and the results in my body and my health continue to show up.

This does not end in a really neat and tidy way- like, ‘Now I feed my whole family vegan and everyone loves it and totally embraces this!’ Five years going — it continues to be compromises all around and navigating respect for everyone’s choices in my family of five. Since I do the grocery shopping/ meal planning and preparation sometimes I am tempted to be the vegan dictator of the house. However, practically speaking I know that would cause revolt and if I’m really embracing what I’ve learned, it’s that everyone’s needs are different and it is up to us to ultimately figure it out for ourselves.

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