Essay: Vegan-ish

 The author received these treats as a reward for a successful month living a vegan lifestyle. (Cecily Alexandria)

The author received these treats as a reward for a successful month living a vegan lifestyle. (Cecily Alexandria)

Chicken, fish, ground turkey, turkey bacon (what is this rubber?), pepperoni, bacon, cheese, cheese burgers, tacos, pizza — just a short list of the delicious, sometimes assumed healthy, foods I ate until Saturday, Feb. 11. On Sunday, Feb. 12, I walked into a common space in a church right off of City Line Avenue to enter the Vegan Pledge.

Upon arrival I was told I must sign a contract before I could go any further. The primary reason was to get a commitment and to have numbers to give to sponsors of the program. I read the contract. It was simple and to the point, saying essentially: “You promise to not eat meat, eggs, dairy, or any animal products for the next month.”

I crossed out a few words and said, “I’ll try.”

Seriously, the day before, I’d had all the meat and cheese I wanted. So switching from that smorgasbord to lentils and broccoli was going to be a challenge.

I wanted to try something I had heard was very good for your health. Something that would allow me to finally have the energy I’ve lacked for years, maybe lose weight, and generally have a healthier existence. I was game. They immediately set me up with a mentor whom I could contact anytime during the pledge when I struggled with what I call “meat urges” or general concerns about my process and progress. We met as a group every week at the church and once at the grocery store.

At this first meeting I realized I probably should have prepared at least a little bit before starting. I didn’t know. My mentor asked, “What are you going to eat this week?”

Eat? This week? Well, I have butter and eggs in the fridge, so probably nothing.

Thankfully, they provided food at the meetings and there were a few items I liked and there were plenty of leftovers. So I had enough to get me through lunch the next day.

I’m pretty sure I almost died the first two weeks. I was always nauseated, tired, and dag gone hungry. What do you eat for breakfast when, as a child, you ate Cream of Wheat every single day — sometimes multiple times a day — and now the thought of hot cereal makes your throat close up?

Before starting the pledge, I ate eggs, some kind of meat (bacon, sausage, even Morning Star Farms meatless, but still egg washed) and a piece of bread. So I guess now I’ll just eat this loaf of French bread. Yummy gluten.

When I was talking to one of the mentors who was much more compassionate toward those who were starting out, she said, “You’re not eating.” She was right. I wasn’t eating what I needed to eat. It was throwing me all off and essentially making me sick. So we made a plan, and I was able to get what I needed.

One day, after an animal rights presentation, I was so fed up I wanted to eat a whole cow out of spite. There were vegans who were so self-righteous about their vegan lifestyle that it seemed they forgot about humanity and compassion. I wrote an email to my mentor, who had not been at that meeting. She was able to coax me off the ledge and encourage me to continue the pledge knowing that not all vegans hate non-vegans.

A month after our pledge began, we had a “so long, good luck” party. I gave my mentor a card, and she promised to continue communication as long as I wanted it. I was given a “you survived” vegan cookie from Whole Foods and a tiny Philly “LOVE” statue from the group organizer. I left feeling like I could continue a vegan lifestyle.

I also wanted to, because the science and information did make a lot of sense to me. Although I’m not a hardcore “I can’t even eat around non-vegans” kind of person, I get it. The vegan diet does make me consider the way we treat animals as a reflection of who we are. So if we are willing to easily cause suffering, maybe we aren’t as compassionate as we think we are.

I also think we could use more compassionate vegans in this world.

The world could just use more compassion in general.

Yooooo … the vegan cheese, though. Nope!

I’ve almost fought people who tried to tell me vegan cheese is so good. (It is better than it was years ago.)

So, at the moment I’m a vegan in the home. We have not cooked meat, butter, eggs, or cheese since I started. However, when I go out, I sometimes indulge in the dairy. I know … I know.

Since the summer began, the smell of the grill has made me crave all the meats. So instead I supplement my craving with something that has cheese in it instead. Lies. I threw away all my logic on my birthday recently. I woke up nauseated the next day. I didn’t know a meat hangover was real, but when your meat tolerance is low, it will be a rough night.

I hope I don’t forget that feeling next time so I can resist temptation and be delivered from evil. I want to be a pure and holy vegan, but I also know that if I am too hard on myself, I will go all the way back and it will take a whole lot of time to get this close again.

At this point I feel confident in my choices. I do know that it doesn’t mean I can technically say I’m a vegan. It is a work in progress.

For now I’m just vegan–ish.

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