Becoming Beygan! How Beyonce inspired me to go vegan.
Right off the bat I'd like to say the average person does not go cold turkey when going vegan, certainly not somebody who was raised to eat meat 14 times a week. In fact, the main purpose of any meal for me had everything to do with meat. In my mind I'd endure the flavourless, overcooked, plain Jane vegetables because I was working my way to the rewarding taste of meat. I love meat, all sorts of meat but salmon, chicken and mutton must be the Destiny's Child of meat for me. So why I was breaking up the band?
At the beginning of the year, I got serious about my health, not so much about the aesthetics but the other bits and bobs inside my body. I wanted to know if I was functioning correctly overall as an organism. Even though I'm only 26, I was concerned whether my habits today would have an impact on me in future. I didn't want to be the "smoker" that didn't listen. Veganism has always been something I pondered over, mainly with judgement "why on earth would anyone restrict themselves like that" I'd think while I scoffed down on a drumstick. To me restriction on food seemed bizarre and even a little bit crazy but the veganism kept nagging at me.
On March 4th after seeing a post from Beyoncé challenging her fans to go vegan for Coachella something lit up inside of me, I knew I had to at least try. The conversation I had with myself went something like this " you and Beyoncé are both born on the same day, therefore if she can do it you can do it. Plus, this might help with the Single Ladies choreography sis" no joke that's how I convinced myself. I first negotiated to do it for a week, but I knew it was going to be a long ass 7 days so I realized was going to need help. On her site Bey had a program that you could join, but that wasn’t in my budget. I get paid on the 7th and I didn't want to wait until then to start. I wanted to do it while I was still excited, so I went to the one place all “life on a budget” people gather to get help, YouTube.
YouTube people are the most creative people known to man. I found hours and hours of videos showing how you can be vegan on a budget. You can find ample recipes that suit your needs. People also shared how they felt better when transitioning versus going full on vegan on day one. I found that planning and preparing all your meals in the beginning of the week was much better for me than trying to be creative every day. Trust me when you're hangry, the last thing you want is a plant. Plus, I don't really mind having the same food every day, living as a student taught me that so I learnt easy food prep ideas. When in doubt just go Mexican. Mexican cuisine is not only flavourful but it incorporates what I'd like to think of as fun plants like fresh lettuce, avos, beans and tomatoes.
The second thing I learnt straight off the bat was not to be a hero. Don't try to do everything at once. Don’t try to be sugar free, low carb, non-processed all in one go. You have to take it easy. Going off meat, milk and eggs was hard enough, I didn't have the energy to check to see if the plant had a happy childhood. Sometimes you just want to grab the food that makes you happy and that's what I did. The dark chocolate vegan cookies from Wholefoods have seen me through the worst of times. Granted they were packed with sugar but I wasn’t going to judge myself. I was already on a tough journey.
I think what really helps is to focus on looking for alternatives that actually taste nice. I remember getting almond milk and throwing it out after a sip (expensive I know) but I didn’t want to endure food, I wanted to enjoy food. I found coconut milk to be a much better alternative, it had a thicker consistency for me and it almost tasted like whole milk. I invested in spices, in fact all of them, any spice you’d have rubbed in a piece of steak I was throwing onto my grilled potato wedges and pasta mixes. The association that these spices had with meat somehow managed to make me believe that somewhere in the meal there was a piece of meat.
Lastly and perhaps the most important thing above all, I learnt to forgive myself. I work in an environment where food is a constant temptation. Everyone loves baking and ordering pizza and I found myself salivating over the food on offer. Did I lose my focus? Yes. I've had one too many vegetarian pizzas but the one thing I refused to eat was meat. I felt bad about the vegetarian meals though, but I didn't let the feeling go on for too long because I didn't want to give up. The reason most people don't lose weight or remain healthy is because we think "jeez well I already had McDonald's, I might as well not exercise" then it snowballs into the next day and the next and before you know it you're 3 months into “punishing yourself” over that one happy meal.
You’ve got to acknowledge that even through your best efforts you are unlearning years of eating habits that’s weren’t always healthy for you. It’s going to take time. I’m not saying that you be should giving in too easily but you’ve got to ask yourself “why did I slip up?” and look at ways to prevent it from happening again. I knew this was going to be a tough 30 days but I knew I could do it. I’d liken it to a marathon. The first few strides feel exciting and invigorating, then you notice how your throat is burning and your feet hurt but you keep going, then you find your rhythm and start feeling better, there are moments where your muscles feel like cramping but you feel motivated because you can see the finish line and you know you’re going to make it. So if you start this journey keep telling yourself “I’m a survivor, I’m not gon’ give up, I’m not gon’ stop, I’m gon’ work harder, I’m a survivor, I’m gonna make it, I will survive, keep on surviving! Yeah!”