When people find out I'm a vegan, they always want to know (a) how long I've been a vegan, and (b) what made me decide to adopt a vegan diet. And somewhere during the course of the conversation, most people observe that they think they could probably become vegetarian, but they don't think they could live without cheese. I never thought I could give it all up either, but here's my story.
I became a vegan almost nine years ago, in September of 2002. I had been feeling a little guilty about my meat consumption for awhile, and I was carrying 15 or 20 unwanted pounds, so I began reading John Robbins' The Food Revolution (http://amzn.to/ne3gKn) with the hope that it would inspire me to eat less meat and more produce. The book started by explaining how harmful an animal-based diet is for our health, followed by a discussion of animal cruelty issues. Then Robbins moved on to the many ways in which our reliance on an animal-based diet is bad for the environment. Finally, he talked about worker safety issues for those working in meat processing plants and how world hunger is exacerbated by our meat and dairy consumption.
At that point, I threw in the towel and decided to adopt a vegan diet from that moment forward. It was completely unexpected. Really, I was just hoping to persuade myself to eat vegetarian meals two or three days a week, not go totally vegan without having given any thought to exactly what that would mean on a practical level. It took me a long time to figure out what options were available to me, not just in restaurants, but at grocery stores. I'm still learning, and my hope in writing this blog is that I can share what I find with other vegans who may be struggling with questions about where they can find good, plant-based food.
And with respect to the 15 or 20 unwanted pounds I was carrying when I started reading The Food Revolution, I managed to lose most of the weight that I wanted to lose after I went vegan. Unfortunately, it all seems to have found its way back. One thing I discovered is that there is a lot of vegan junk food out there! In fact, some of the best-tasting vegan options around are the baked goods and ice cream substitutes. So if you're considering becoming vegan, you should realize that it's entirely possible to gain weight on a plant-based diet, and you'll still need to make sure that you're eating nourishing food, not just empty calories.
It would be great to hear from other vegans about what made you decide to make the switch from an animal-based to a plant-based diet. I find that most people weren't raised vegan. Instead, they made a conscious decision to adopt this lifestyle. If you have the time, I'd love to know (a) how long you've been a vegan; (b) what made you decide to adopt a vegan diet; (c) what your biggest challenges have been in maintaining a vegan lifestyle; and (d) what recommendations you have for vegan dining in the Sacramento area or elsewhere.