“Eating with a clear conscience–feeling good about everything you put in your mouth–lightens up your life.” – Tal Ronnen from The Conscious Cook
I stopped failing myself on July 5, 2004.
I remember sitting down to breakfast with my parents – to a meal we had eaten hundreds of times – eggs, bacon, cantaloupe, toast. I was overweight. The most I had weighed ever. And I was a vegan. One hour into the journey. And I ate toast and cantaloupe.
I remember a few months later in April, eating a piece of vegan cake at Eden Alley for my birthday. The first real bite of real cake I had had in months. And it was the best cake I had ever eaten.
I remember walking past a friend in the hall at work and her exclaiming how great I looked.
I remember reading Diet for a New America, sitting on the couch, petting my dog’s head, with a growing sense of incredulity, anger, and sadness that this was where my food came from – that with every meal I contributed to the worst cruelty and waste that I have ever heard of.
I remember shopping in the normal-sized department for the first time in ever.
I remember ordering plain tostados with vegetarian beans, no cheese, no sour cream, extra guacamole.
I remember my pants falling down as I got out of my car because I had lost so much weight.
I remember looking at a photograph of myself and not cringing or looking away.
I remember jumping up and down and woooohooing in my bathroom after getting on the scale.
I remember climbing a big, big hill without getting winded at all. I remember having muscle and lung capacity and heartbeats to spare for the weight I was carrying.
And I remember failing myself. I remember the vegetarian meal I had December 27, 2005. A meal chosen out of desire – cheese chosen over what matters most to me.
I remember cheating on my diet, on my ethics, on myself hundreds of times.
I remember creeping on the scale to see a number I promised myself I would never see again. I remember crumpling in tears.
I remember ordering a cheese quesadilla and hoping that I wouldn’t see anybody I knew in the restaurant.
I remember being angry at not being able to share cupcake glorification with my friends.
I remember people saying to me hundreds of times “I don’t know if anything is vegan…” and just trailing off. I remember cringing at others’ need to make special arrangements and considerations for me. I remember hating being seen as a food killjoy.
I remember coveting macaroni and cheese and cake and cookies at a work potluck.
I remember thinking I would scream if I heard another joke about how great bacon is. I remember daydreaming about keeping a picture of a tortured factory farm piglet in my wallet to pull out and wave in people’s faces. I remember choosing friendship and acceptance over the loneliness that would be accompany the (brief) fun of insane prostelyzation.
I remember the disappointment of another day gone by when I didn’t keep the promise to myself to choose veganism for the environment and to keep animals form harm.
I remember feeling pants that once fell off being snug.
That is some of what I remember from this path of veganism of mine over the past 5+ years.
I posted on this blog that I was going to become a vegetarian. And I started eating vegetarian sensibly. In the open. I had stepped back from veganism all for reasonable reasons. And then it just fell apart. It started with vanity – when I eat any amount of dairy my face breaks out pretty badly – a milk allergy that eventually clears up if I “stick to” eating dairy. It was escalated by buying some eggs that were labeled “range free”. I know how little that label can mean and then started thinking about the viscious lives the chickens who gave me these eggs probably lived.
Is there one thing you value you most about yourself? Your thing you contribute to the world? Your specialness? Have you ever just given up on that thing? Did you ever lose sixty pounds and have every damn pound come back?
It all just hit me. THWAP! I was overcome with grief at losing myself almost completely. Between sobs, I told my husband that I was so sorry, but I couldn’t be a vegetarian, I just can’t. And he looked at me and said “O.K.” Poof. I could be a vegan. I could choose what I love and set aside the rest. I could have him, the kids, my life and not eat eggs and dairy. It would be ok. Just like that. And just like that I am back on the path that I choose, that I want…
I know I can be vegan.
I know I can lose sixty pounds.
I know my friends and family will still love me if I am a vegan. They may judge me, make fun of me, roll their eyes, get annoyed with the lack of fun of preparing a meal or choosing a restaurant when I am in the equation… but they still will love me.
I know I can ease over akward social situations while maintaining my veganism.
I know I can respect the choices of others while making my own choice.
I know I can buy clothes 1, 2, 3 sizes smaller.
I know I can make myself proud.
I know I can return to the ideals I hold most dear.
I know I can set an example for my stepkids of how to value the welfare of animals and how our eating choices reflect that.
That moment ilistening to my husband tell me it was all going to be ok is my new watershed moment – my new awakening and commitment. I will fail, but I will win more.