In last week's post and episode I told you all about my journey into cooking, so I thought it was fitting for me to follow that up with the story of how I ended up being vegan in the first place. To say I was as far away from vegan as possible for most of my life is the biggest understatement of the century! I wasn't born a health nut, I had no idea that the word "vegan" even existed, I never even questioned where my food came from. All I knew is I came from a house of total foodies. Food was our entire social life and shared experience as a family. I come from the weirdest family you'll ever meet, but fantastic food always seemed to be the thing that pulled us all together. In last week's episode I also told you all about my uncle Aly, who was the best cook I've ever met. I remember grilling steaks with him over an open fire in his house in the Catskills. Digging into steak tartare and "swimming" in an ocean of sushi. Just so you get an idea of how much of a carnivore I was, my family would joke when choosing restaurants for celebrations by saying "is there steak on the menu? Otherwise Kim won't be there". This sounds like a stretch but it wasn't. I would quickly browse a menu and stop the minute I saw the word steak, and say "yeah.. we can eat here!".
Why am I telling you this? Because veganism has taught me one of the biggest lessons I've learned in my life so far:
The way we are is not set in stone, and we can make even the most profound changes when we come face to face with something that motivates us and moves us to our core.
That rocking of the boat came for me a few years ago when I was looking for something to watch and saw the film Vegucated. This film however is not where this whole thing started. The process we go through to change something as big as our diets is precisely that... a process.
Many moons ago I remember that my sister in law had watched a PETA video and was going on and on about how she would never eat meat again. This was my first little hint that something was terribly wrong with the way animals were raised for food. I also distinctly remember telling her, "please... don't tell me. I don't want to know".
It was about 3 years after that day (and me still being a hard core carnivore!) that I was in a Barnes and Noble in New York City, just a few hours before catching a flight back home, when I was looking for a book to read on the plane. I found a book that would later change everything for me, Alicia Silverstone's "The Kind Diet". I had never read the word vegan before, and there I was, on a plane reading all about our health, the health of our planet, and especially what is happening to animals in regards to our meat and dairy consumption. It wasn't written in a scary "go vegan or die" way, or in a "be vegan or be bad" way, and it was precisely her amazing friendly and sweet way of explaining things that completely caught my attention. I had loved her in Clueless, but there were no laughs on that plane ride home. I read the entire book on that flight, and cried for most of it.
I simply had no idea.
I got home, was determined to try it out, but I was terrified to tell people. I thought my husband would never go for it, so I simply said I was going to try out some new recipes. I did, for a few weeks at least, and then back to my old ways I went, the minute I was faced with social situations or with not knowing what I could cook. It wasn't Alicia's fault! She actually ended up being the best help when I actually did become vegan a few years later. She was quite honestly, that voice in the back of my head that kept reminding me I wanted to make this change but just didn't know how to. She was the voice that made me click on Vegucated that day.
That was the day when everything changed. I was watching it, and although this part of the movie is quite brief and not nearly as bad as other footage I've seen since, I was confronted, visually, with everything that happens to animals due to our meat and dairy consumption. It was the best movie to start this process off with because it's actually very watchable, even if you've hidden away from images like these in the past. What a huge difference it was to go from reading it on paper, to seeing it with my very own eyes. I remember seeing the face and the eyes of a cow and seeing my dog Nala. Same look, same expression, same fear in her eyes, and what she would feel like if she was in that situation. I saw no difference between her and that cow.
I took a breath as the credits rolled and I said, "I'm going to find out if this diet is healthy, if I can get all the nutrients I need, and if the answer is yes, then I'm doing this. For real this time".
Here's the weird thing about us humans, we're so scared of change!
Especially when that change is going to set us apart from the crowd. On the day I watched that movie, my husband came in and asked me if I wanted to go out to dinner. We went to a local restaurant and I ordered the biggest rack of ribs they had on the menu. No joke! It seems so funny and sad to me at the same time when I look back on it. Barbecued ribs were always my ultimate craving, and I think somehow I knew those would be my last. My husband laughed at me because I had been talking about the movie on the way to the restaurant, but that's just the way things went down. I had so much resistance to let go of. Those were indeed my last ribs, now I make them vegan of course!
I was now ready and determined to figure that whole vegan thing out, so I dove right into nutrition. You don't have to dig in too far to find out that not only is it healthy, but a well planned, varied vegan diet can not only help us survive, but it can make our bodies thrive! It can be helpful in preventing many chronic diseases, and although it's not a magic bullet or a magic cure, and although it's certainly not the only way one can be healthy, everything in the research is pointing in the direction that plant-based diets are where it's at to giving you a wonderful edge when it comes to health and vitality. Not to mention the fact that it can be utterly delicious once you learn how to see these new ingredients in a new light.
You of course need to make sure you're getting all those essential nutrients, but with a bit of learning about how to build meals that make sure you're getting what you need, you're on your way to finding your very own sweet spot with this way of eating, and that includes finding the foods that make youfeel great, energized and that of course bring you joy and pleasure.. Click the button at the end of this post to get instant access to our awesome online library of resources with everything from books, films, online videos, vegan dietitians, health resources and doctor directories which we update all the time. Finding these amazing resources really helped me in my transition. I watched the second documentary that changed everything for me, the film "Forks Over Knives", and I was ready. I had my last carnita filled tacos on my husband's birthday, announced my new veganism, fell off the horse two days later with a turkey club at a diner, got back on the horse again, re-read Alicia's book from cover to cover, and never looked back. It's now been many years since then.
To say that I completely changed after that day is a huge understatement. Being vegan has completely changed my life, my habits, my health, the way I relate to others, my confidence, it made me an activist, a better cook, a better wife, a better friend, a better mamma to my furry ones, all mostly because I found that going a little bit against the tide gave be so much confidence. Also, because when you step out of yourself and look at how your actions affect everything around you, you start viewing the world in a different light. It was such a special change for me.
Now this doesn't mean, that the road didn't have its ups and downs. It sure did, and so many of those stories fill the posts in this blog and the episodes in our podcast, but this is where it all began. I have learned so much since that first year of being vegan. Mainly that it's not about purity or perfection, that everyone can go through this journey in their very own way, and especially, that my emotional issues with food wouldn't magically go away after going vegan but that going vegan would give me the first few steps and the awareness to look into these and get started with healing my relationship with food.
If you've read my story, you can probably imagine that this was huge for me!
I can tell you that after having struggled with my relationship with food for most of my life, finding peace with it has probably been one of my greatest teachers, and one of my biggest hurdles in life, but what came after I found healing with these issues was relief, peace of mind, body acceptance and a deep caring inner voice that accepted me just the way I was and that finally helped me see food as food. As nourishment, fun, pleasure and something you then set aside and head out to live your life. Without obsessions, without guilt.
I went through this journey a few years into being vegan, and what was waiting for me at the end of the tunnel was so much peace with food and my body, and that's such a lovely way to live. Perhaps I would have been able to find my way out of the diet prison I had built for myself even without being vegan, but being vegan showed me and taught me so much about connecting with my own body, about the meaning behind our choices. It helped me be more mindful, and when I was mindful I was able to see that some things weren't right, and lots needed to be healed, and just like I thought I would never be able to change my meat eating ways and I did, I thought I would never be free from that dieting mindset and obsession over my weight and body, and I did. Veganism wasn't the magic secret that uncovered this for me, it was just the little key that opened the door, then I had to find the tools to help me walk through it, one of those was finding intuitive eating and learning how to navigate through that and also put it together with my ethical choice of not wanting to eat animals anymore. I talk a lot about this in our Dieting Chronicles series, our bikini revolution series, and our body image series. If you've been struggling with your relationship with food, with rules, and restriction, I highly recommend checking those episodes out because I go into much more detail.
There have been so many detours, miles that were so simple and easy to breeze through, miles in which I stumbled a bit more, and so many lessons along the way, and all of those stories fill our blog and podcast so I won't keep you here forever today. What I can tell you is my life was never the same after going vegan, partly because it changed my view of how my actions impacted others, and I'm so happy I'm able to contribute to a still imperfect but kinder world, and partly because it began a journey of self discovery that ultimately helped me heal years of emotional turmoil with food.
So where am I now? I'm a happy, healthy, joyous and imperfect vegan who has found peace with her food choices and her body, and I'm here to inspire you to start your own journey, whether that means going fully vegan, not vegan or not yet vegan but slowly getting there. We all have to find our own path, keeping in mind that our actions do have an impact, and that now it's easier than ever to make even the smallest changes to help our planet, the animals and the well being of our fellow humans as well. Making more vegan choices impacts all of these areas and I'm so glad I've been able to be part of this change!
I'm leaving you access to our vegan resource library below in case you want to find out more and read up on some of these issues. Awareness and knowledge about what's going on in these industries is so important. I know learning about some of these issues can be hard, but all you need to do is be willing to bear witness. Nothing will happen just by looking, unless you're like me, and it completely changes your life... for the better of course!
Here are some of the resources, books, films, online videos and health resources that accompanied me on my journey, and that will help you if you wish to start dabbling your toes in the water or get more information.
Before we go, I have a question for you...
What do you think is the hardest thing about deciding to go vegan? Please share your answer, and your story if you'd like, in the comment section below!
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