|Julia and her happy, healthy family|
Care of Julia Strub
My name is Julia and I’ve been eating a vegan diet since April 4th 2010. Being vegetarian has always appealed to me and I had even made an attempt at lacto-ovo vegetarianism in 2002. Back then I didn’t have the information or support to maintain a vegetarian diet and so I fell back into my old beliefs about how humans needed meat, eggs, and milk to thrive.
Several months before switching to veganism in 2010 those beliefs were challenged by a wonderful vegan friend. I was lucky enough to be directed to fantastic books like The China Study, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, and Becoming Vegan. These were life altering books that I highly recommend to any curious omnivore. They gave me an incredible sense of relief knowing that not only was living without animal products possible, but it was IDEAL for human health. Imagine, by simply changing the way you eat you can save animals from suffering and death, AND save yourself from all the diseases of affluence like diabetes, cancer and heart disease! I was ready to ease myself into this new way of life and hopefully transition my husband and 2 kids (then 9 and 7) along with me.
April 4th 2010 was Easter Sunday. I was cutting back on my meat consumption and only had half a chicken breast that day at my in-laws. At the end of a good visit we were packing up to go home and my daughter asked to stay overnight with Grandma and Grandpa. My husband, son and I headed home. Later that night, my daughter called. Grandpa was having chest pains and they were driving into town to the hospital. My daughter rode in the back seat while Grandma drove. Grandpa made it to the hospital– he had had a heart attack and a stent was put in the next day. My daughter was awake for most of the night, upset. It WAS upsetting. My father-in-law was only in his late 50s, wasn’t fat or sedentary or anything close to the stereotypical steak and butter eating glutton that’s associated with heart attacks. All of the information I’d read in those books really hit home and I made a decision to go cold turkey with animal products. I wanted to be around for a long time for my family.
This was undoubtedly the most difficult time in my vegan journey. I hadn’t completely brought my husband and kids up to speed with everything I’d read and they were left wondering “Where’s the Beef?”. Thankfully they happen to be pretty smart people who were open minded enough to consider the information I was bringing to them. With my kids, I simply talked to them in little spurts, here and there so they had time to take it in. We talked everyday about it and I answered all of their questions and soon they understood the reasons for all the changes. My husband took longer to convince only because he was the type of person who needed to see the proof. Once he’d read the same things I’d read then we were all finally on track.
Eating vegan was only difficult for a month or two at the beginning. Initially it was all about finding meat substitutes that could stand in where that hunk of meat had previously been. It took time to try out different brands of fake meats and soy milks until we found our favourites and for a good price. I got cookbooks like La Dolce Vegan, How It All Vegan, Veganomicon, and even dessert books like Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World and Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. One of my favourite websites is fatfreevegan.com.
Soon meals became less about substituting meat with fake meat, and more about discovering all new foods and new and exciting ways of cooking. Keeping a little cookbook of my own, full of successful vegan recipes was helpful for those days when I couldn’t think of what to make for supper. One year later, eating and cooking vegan is effortless. I know exactly where to get all my favourite ingredients and I’ve built up a repertoire of easy and special occasion recipes. It’s become second nature to us.
Our health has benefitted too. I once had a chronically swollen left foot that has now resolved itself. I’ve lost 30 lbs in the past year and my husband is at an ideal weight. My husband, a hard working construction man, had previously brought his lunch down to a pitiful 4 items just to maintain his weight but can now fill up with twice that amount of food for lunch and his weight is stable. My daughter, whom I’d worried was putting on a bit of a tummy, soon slimmed down and grew 2 inches taller! As well, this is my first winter in as long as I can remember where I didn’t have plugged sinuses. Overall we were far less ill. My husband especially noticed how he hadn’t picked up all those pesky little colds throughout the winter.
Something I never expected to feel with this new way of life was a little bit of joy at each meal. It’s a joy I feel when I can sit down with my family and know that this meal did no harm. Not a single animal was exploited and killed for my dining pleasure. I didn’t take part in the warehousing and killing of billions of sentient creatures each year. I didn’t contribute to the tons and tons of carbon emissions involved in meat/dairy/egg production or the pollution of our waterways with an unfathomable amount of animal waste. With each meal I am able to reconnect with that empathy for my fellow creatures and have the peace of mind that I’m making a real difference in the future of our planet.
I would encourage any curious omnivore to read The China Study, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, and Becoming Vegan. If you ever have questions please ask! Anyone who has ever transitioned to veganism is more than happy to answer questions about what they eat, how they eat, and why. We love to share our knowledge with anyone who would like to learn! And lastly I would say that easing into veganism at a rate you’re comfortable with is important and every little change is worth celebrating! My hope for everyone is that one day we can all share food with friends and family and feel that joy, relief and peace.