The best way to break a habit is not to start. Too bad that lesson is often learned after the fact. And so began my journey of becoming a vegan ten years ago.
This wasn’t by choice. I learned the hard way that beginning a vegetarian lifestyle is much more than giving up meats. Letting go of beef and red meats were easy but pork slowed me down the first six months. Seriously pizza without sausage?
At first I gave up. I figured one pill a day to control my high blood pressure was an even trade-off. After all I didn’t feel a thing. Three weeks later I got side effects. Walking became painful and I was almost always in a state of sleepiness. I had a decision to make.
Going vegan was a painful step-by-step process. I learned during my transition that meats and fish were only a small portion of a vegan lifestyle. Reading food labels I learned that it was all of the extra stuff that made this lifestyle hard to sustain. I discovered that almost everything that I put into my mouth contained some form of animal by-products and salt. Cheese, mayonnaise, dressings, canned goods, sauces, frozen foods, and especially ready-to-use-one-pan dishes had to vanish from my life.
To make up for proteins, I became an expert on beans, peas, rice and tofu. Spices absolutely became the spices of my life and I learned to love seaweed, flaxseed, and organic raw honey.
The second thing I learned was that clean eating is expensive after a visit to the organic food store. But so is going to the doctor and hospital I rationalized.
Another six months to a year I was finally able to give up pork while incorporating more whole grains, fruits and vegetables into my life. One of the perks about giving up meats was I began losing weight. But it wasn’t enough to tackle my high blood pressure. I had to do more.
Vegan is more than fruits and vegetables. It is giving up all of those junk foods and snacks that are filled with high fructose, salts, chemicals, animal by-products, and artificial additives that I was addicted to. I had to kick those bad habits out of my life also.
I was a rehabbing junkie; up-trading one bad habit for a lesser one. In other words, I was still eating junk food but I was choosing junk food and snacks that were made organically, with natural foods, and no additives, chemicals, coloring. I gave up processed cheese for all naturally made cheese or soy-based cheese products. Finally after three long hard years of fighting, I had won. I lost 25 pounds and my blood pressure stabilized. My doctor took me off medication.
They say when an addict gets clean she has to give up her former friends if she is to continue clean eating. That holds true regardless of the addiction. Once I had become a successful vegan living only on whole grains, fruits, rice, beans, peas, and vegetables; I should have limited my social interactions with all of my meat loving friends and family.
I remained a vegetarian for a little over seven years; but then I went to a party. The first taste is the best taste and like a true junkie there is no such thing as one time. Junkies binge and that’s exactly what I’ve started doing with junk food – binging. The only thing that I still claim is that I haven’t gone back to beef or pork.
I’m proud that even though I fell off of the wagon I didn’t completely get run over by it. For the last six months I’ve been struggling with getting off chicken and fish again and junk food has added ten pounds to my waistline. I’m ashamed to say that even though it’s half the dosage, I’m back on medication again.
I believe I began my story by saying; “the best way to break a bad habit is not to start in the first place.”