Stephanie is a Veganuary survivor! So we caught up with her to find out how her plant based journey is going...
When and why did you decide to go vegan?
November 2015, two days before the Thanksgiving holiday, I was on Facebook and opened a link to a high-speed pork slaughterhouse. The pigs were being boiled, scrubbed, etc. prior to death. Plus, there was this visible awareness in their eyes as they entered the queue for processing…I am still haunted by the squeals and screams of these pigs and meat came off of my personal menu as of that instant. To the horror of my family, the ham I purchased for the Thanksgiving meal, I could not bear to cook…I did make the turkey and trimmings, but the ham stayed frozen. At this time, I became vegetarian. I quit meat, but continued with the dairy and eggs. I started actively researching animal treatment and ethical choices in food consumption. (I made note of health and environmental concerns.) I read books, blogs, watched videos, and read scientific studies. By Christmas of 2015, I had made the choice to become vegan in my eating habits. Over the next 6-7 months, as my research continued, I converted to a fully vegan lifestyle- eschewing animal products as well as products/companies that support animal testing in all aspects of my life- my housecleaning, beauty routine, etc.
You are very active on social media in sharing vegan posts- so how important do you feel it is to promote the lifestyle when you follow it?
I often feel like I am not doing enough. I do share on FB- to the degree that many individuals have “unfriended” me – and, I try to speak about the importance of the lifestyle without being preachy or “holier than thou.” Rarely do I really push my opinions without someone asking…
But, this is not why I feel I don’t do enough. I really wish I was an “active” advocate- with the financial resources or political/social standing to reach many people and have a real impact.
You are a dog owner so did your love for your pets help you to feel compassion for other animals?
I am an animal lover….period. I grew up outside of city limits, raising orphaned animals when possible and fascinated by the beauty of our natural world. Going outside and being alone in nature heals and rejuvenates me. I love my dogs….and my cats…and my parrots. Elephants are my passion; and, the recent backward step in conservation efforts due to US political decisions makes me feel physically ill. I guess to answer your question appropriately- yes…my love for dogs generalized to a love for other animals.
What life lessons can we all learn from dogs?
The best life lesson to learn from dogs is to live fully in the moment!!! Watch them, they are not concerned about the past, they aren’t worried about tomorrow….they are living (and loving) 100% right now.
What did you find hardest to give up when making the shift?
At the very beginning, I struggled with cheese. I was missing cheese and jealous that I ‘couldn’t’ have cheese. I ate some cheese one day…it was nasty and I got nauseous. I have never missed it again and I have found some vegan cheese alternatives that more than satisfy the desire.
What vegan products can you not live without now?
I love seitan. I find that it is very versatile and I have several recipes that are built around it. Earth Balance vegan butter for toast and cooking. Miyokos Aged English Smoked Farmhouse “cheese” has fabulous flavour and taste, especially when paired with the one thing that I discovered after becoming vegan- hummus. Hummus is my snack or lunch of choice and I am so sad I reached this age without knowing how awesome it is.
How did others react when you went vegan?
Oh my!! It was met with some very mixed reactions. My husband believed it was a diet/phase that would las a month or two and then I would be “normal” again. My parents still believe that one cannot possibly be healthy eating this way and though the nagging has ceased, there are little comments at times. My friends accepted my decision well-I believe this is because “Steph is a bit weird anyway…” My work peers and others that became aware of my lifestyle were either shocked or horrified- either way, there were the typical questions. “What do you eat?” “How do you get protein?” “Aren’t you worried you will get sick?” and….my favorite (considering I wasn’t trying to lose weight) “When you lose some weight are you going to add meat back?”
Have you manged to convince anyone else to go plant based?
Unfortunately, I have not. I have managed to get others to broaden their range of veggie intake and try new grains etc. My spouse still eats meat but will eat meatless meals with me fairly frequently and has tried many new things. Some of my closer friends have eaten my meals and liked some things (greens, parsnips, quinoa) that they would never have tried and now incorporate into their own meals. My veggie soups are a hit with vegan and meat lovers- so even my parents want to eat those if I don’t make it too spicy!!
Do you have any books or documentaries you could recommend for aspiring or new vegans?
I watched “Forks Over Knives,” “Cowspiracy,” “Meat the Truth,” “Vegucated,” and “Earthlings.” There was one other, even more brutal than “Earthlings” but I can’t remember the title (have probably blocked it for mental health reasons, lol). I think everyone should read The China Study as a starting point. It references many studies that can be read in reference to specific medical conditions. I also remember reading How Not to Die.
What was the biggest transformation you noticed in both body and mind when you made the change?
Many things changed…so many little positive changes. However, the biggest change is an overall feeling of wellness- a combined physical, spiritual, and mental holistic wellness that comes rather quickly after adopting a plant-based diet. You just feel more at peace, physically regulated, serene, able to sleep, bathroom habits adjusted…just altogether better. I have peace and energy.