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How I Switched to a Vegan Diet Pain-Free

How I Switched to a Vegan Diet Pain-Free
Instead of writing a post on how to go vegan, I decided to share my own experience.

First of all, I think the word "vegan" is a loaded term that can arouse scary associations in the minds of people who keep a traditional diet.

I ate meat for the first thirty years of my life and, initially, the thought of going vegan brought up an image of a pretty white goat, chewing on grass and walnuts. Because what else is there to eat when you are a vegan, right?

Or I imagined an overly skinny, naturally starving girl with hollow eyes. I know - so dramatic! And, although I've always been skinny (genes), I am also a huge foodie. Food makes my belly happy, I like trying new things and I did not want that to change.

Now that I am on a plant-based diet, I don't like to label myself as a "vegan". In fact, I sometimes forget that I am one, because my transition happened very slowly. Rather, I think of myself as someone who chooses to abstain from eating meat and dairy. I know it seems like the same thing, but it somehow feels different.

We all get attached to the foods we've been eating since childhood. It can be intimidating to go from daily meat eating to a fully plant-based diet and often takes a major health catastrophe to make such an abrupt change in ones lifestyle.

How it all began

As mentioned previously, I ate meat for thirty years and never questioned my diet or how meat got to my plate. It was simply a tradition of my family and the society I was born into. I grew up in Belarus and didn't meet a single vegetarian or a vegan until arriving to the United States when I was twenty. I remember the very first vegan couple I met. I looked at them as if they were aliens from another planet and thought they were out of their minds.

I have always been an obsessive animal lover and when I learned about factory farming and the conditions animals live in and die in those farms, I was horrified. I started thinking about becoming a vegetarian, but never thought I would go vegan. That seemed impossible.

First, I stopped eating beef and a month later - pork. I remember being at a fancy steak house with my friends and for the first time not ordering steak. It definitely felt weird, but that is when I realized that I wasn't going to change my mind and became comfortable with my decision. The same happened with bacon. I thought pigs are too intelligent, fun and affectionate to torture and kill in such a horrid way for a moment of fleeting pleasure.

Another six months or so later, I started doubting my inclination to eat chicken. After turning to YouTube for inspiration and watching a Tedx Talk "Toward Rational, Authentic Food Choices"by Melanie Joy, I ate my last chicken salad. I was looking at the chicken breast and saw not a delicious food, but a live, frightened bird slaughtered for me. I decided that I would try to eliminate all meat from my diet, but could eat fish and any seafood. I got excited that I would no longer be contributing to animal suffering and even sent the video to a bunch of friends. It was more of an experiment - I did not know if I would actually succeed at sticking to a pescatarian or a vegetarian diet, but was determined to give it my best shot.

At first, I was trying to figure out what to eat. Although, it wasn't hard, because all I had to do was substitute meat for fish. I started going to Chipotle a lot and eating bowls of browns rice, beans, guacamole and shredded tofu (first time eating tofu!), which by taste and texture closely resembled chicken. I also found a delicious Greek food spot that served organic salmon, rice, beans and veggies. Then I discovered a Buddha Bowl, which consisted of noodle bundles & veggies cooked in white sauce, and Vietnamese soup Pho .

Little by little, I was adjusting to my new diet. Two weeks later the attachment to eating meat dissipated and I had no desire to look back.

During the next two years I was slowly cutting down on my consumption of milk and cheese, because the dairy industry is also f**d up, and stopped eating eggs. I read that dairy causes inflammation and hoped that eliminating it from my diet would help with my skin problems. It did help, and I was surprised that not a single dermatologist I saw recommended taking a closer look at my diet. They kept prescribing the same expensive medication that made my skin even worse and told me there was no other option available.

At the beginning of 2018 I took an online plant-based nutrition course at eCornell to better understand what I was eating and make sure I was getting all necessary nutrition out of my mostly plant-based diet. The course was truly enlightening and gave me the confidence that my newly acquired diet is not only ethical, but also insures my long-term health.

I also learned about overfishing and "bottom trawling" practices that are destroying our marine ecosystems and sea life, which is also devastating to our planet. I did not want to be part of that either and gradually stopped eating seafood, with the exception of occasional peace of salmon.

At the moment, I am completely happy and comfortable eating plant-based diet. I still go out to cool restaurants all over New York City, never limit my friends to a vegetarian or vegan cuisine and can easily find something to eat on almost any menu. And I love trying new dishes and experimenting with new plant-based recipes in the kitchen.

In summary, here are the main reasons for my successful transition to a plant-based diet:

- It happened gradually, by replacing one food, I would no longer eat, with another food I could still eat and enjoy;

- Getting very clear about the reasons why I wanted to stop eating meat and dairy;

- I am not a strict vegan and allow for occasional bits of dairy or even fish in my food, so I never feel like I am depriving myself of something. I know it is a choice.


Toward Rational, Authentic Food Choices | Melanie Joy | TEDxMünchen

14 Irrefutable Facts About Dairy Farming

Plant Based Nutrition Certificate Program

Marine Conservation Institute / "Destructive Fishing"

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