You are what you eat.
Or rather, you’re often defined by what you eat. And for almost two years, I’ve been the resident vegan. And it was a good run.
I ended that run a few weeks ago as I transitioned back to vegetarianism. I was vegetarian more than 10 years before I switched to veganism, so introducing dairy back into my system slowly but surely has been relatively smooth.
To recap, a vegan is someone who abstains from all meat and dairy products: no honey, no milk, no eggs, nothing derived from an animal. A vegetarian doesn’t eat meat, but will have dairy or eggs or both, depending on personal choices.
It wasn’t an easy choice to make, but I made the change back because:
- I was tired. I knew I wasn’t getting the nutrients I needed after trying a lot of different things. I was grouchy and often felt lethargic. It was time to listen to my body and what it needed.
- I wasn’t eating balanced. I’ve had my own issues with food in the past. As a vegan, I was finding it too easy to skip a meal, or eat the same thing for dinner for a week. I didn’t have much variety in my diet and that’ll catch up with you. We need a variety of nutrients in our diet and a diverse selection of foods so we don’t burn out.
- I felt like I was often eating a science project. Vegetarian and vegan meat and cheese replacements are good for those who miss the real thing, but in moderation. I love eating natural foods and with the replacements I was eating, I’d often look at the ingredients and not know what I was putting in my body.
A few weeks in, it’s still weird picking up eggs at the grocery store or getting a carton of milk. I made the switch after a lot of research, finding new recipes to slowly incorporate dairy into my diet and with a lot of support from friends and family. If you’re thinking about making the switch or are veg-curious, here’s my advice:
- Go slow. After staying away from certain foods for a prolonged period of time, your body falls into a rhythm. Breaking that rhythm can be a shock to the system. Try a serving of food at one meal and slowly work your way up to what is right for your diet.
- Do your homework. Find recipes to help with the transition before you make the switch and research how other people made the switch. Anticipating any issues before they happen is a good way to make the switch in a healthy way.
- It’s all about balance. Don’t go overboard with certain foods to get your nutrients. Everything is OK, but in moderation.
- You can still eat responsibly. Making the switch has made me fall back in love with cooking and finding new food items. When I was a child, I went vegetarian for personal reasons and now that I’m older and have experience with being a vegan under my belt, I feel more confident making responsible choices before I eat. That is, it’s exciting to find locally produced, sustainably farmed food from our own community. This goes for meat eaters, vegetarians and vegans.
Each time we eat, we make a statement about who we are and what we believe in. Beyond being the token “vegetarian,” “vegan” or however you eat, find a balance of what works for you even if it doesn’t fit neatly into one label.