So this is it. In my first update post, I had made it to the six-month mark and was so excited about it. As with most joyful events that occur in my life, I celebrated with food. I went to get some grub with a pal. My plan for this year-one anniversary was to go get some food with a pal again– but this time, I wanted to up the ante and go to a nicer, swankier spot. One where a server comes to the table and brings us all our vegan goodies. But life had different plans. I was a little disappointed at first, but instead of wallowing, I decided to hit up a slew of vegan spots and focus on my triumph of making it through the first year.
So, here are a few things I’ve done over the past year along with the emotions, revelations, realizations, and successes that have occurred.
I Went Vegan? Yes! I Went Vegan!
Only after spending countless hours (maybe more than I should) on vegan Instagram did I realize that doing week-long vegan challenges before going vegan was more of a common thing than I thought. Well, that’s how my vegan journey started. I randomly decided to do a vegan challenge but never in my wildest dreams did I think I would
actually become a vegan. I was one of those people. You know, those people: “But bacon!” “Oh my goodness, I loooove cheese!” But I made it through most of that week okay. And along the way, something inside changed a bit. I wasn’t vegan for the trilogy of reasons yet (health, the environment and the animals) — it started out solely as a way to improve my health. When I told my then only vegan pal that I went vegan she sounded excited and happy for me, but also a bit skeptical. Maybe she sounded skeptical subconsciously, and at the time it didn’t feel great but now I totally understand it. I decided to go vegan pretty much overnight and that vegan pal is well aware that I originally wasn’t even thinking about going vegan. When we got in contact with each other, I wanted to do yoga not change my entire lifestyle. But the universe and the powers that be take us in the direction that’s best for us, so there I was– a new vegan!
To Food Blog or Not to Food Blog?
Next came the idea to take food blogging more seriously– but this idea was not without some… okay a lot of hesitation. The blog I currently have was born out of two things. The vegan Instagram page I had already been operating, but really my love of blogging. I had started a blog in the past and didn’t keep up with it because I wasn’t passionate about what I was blogging about. When I started my Instagram page, I wasn’t yet sure if blogging was in the future. I had thought about it, but as with most new ventures in my life, I
was terrified of actually starting it (even though things are never really that scary after the fact). But eventually I decided to take the leap and start blogging about this new passion of mine– living a vegan lifestyle. And of course, once I started blogging, it wasn’t that bad. As a matter of fact, it was amazing. And even though I was a blogging novice, I realized that wouldn’t hinder me because I loved writing and I loved being vegan. And those that saw my blog would be able to feel that genuine emotion of a new vegan fumbling and figuring it all out along the way. Also, being able to look back at the collection of photos on my Insta page and my recipe posts and writings on my blog make me feel great about the progression of my vegan journey. And even better is knowing that I’m actually able to reach people, whether through Instagram or the blog, helping to spread the vegan message even more. I never imagined that I could inspire anyone by way of my own vegan journey, and to be honest, it’s still a little intimidating. But It’s a good sort of intimidation because everyone on the planet is meant to inspire everyone else in some way. When we use our talents and focus on our passions, those actions will serve as inspiration for others to do the same and that’s exactly how it should be. And I’ll admit that it feels even greater to have a passion that can lead to inspiring others to focus on bettering their health, being a voice for animals and all living creatures, and protecting the planet we all share.
I Made Vegan Food, I Bought Vegan Food — I ate A LOT of Vegan Food.
Real talk. I didn’t know how to cook before going vegan. I knew how to make basic things like spaghetti with some pasta sauce, or how to scramble eggs (pre-vegan of course). The most labor intensive thing I could make was lasagna and my specialty was actually veggie lasagna, because I preferred veggie lasagna to meat lasagna even before going vegan. But being vegan forced me to learn how to start cooking more to sustain myself and get the nutrients I needed on a vegan diet. And so I did that. And again, being able to look at my Instagram collection of photos with all the food I’ve made over the past year, it makes me really proud that I started appreciating the kitchen and what I could do in it. And yeah, a lot of my recipes included those basic ingredients I’ve always used, because I wasn’t a pro yet. I’ve even written about that. But I am slowly starting to expand my cooking repertoire, learning how to make more intricate things and cooking from scratch and it’s been so fun and such an amazing learning experience. And then there’s going out to eat. I won’t lie, if I could afford to, I would probably go out to eat everyday because I enjoy the experience of dining out. And what do ya know, I happen to live in one of the vegan food restaurant capitals of the world, having tons of vegan spots at my disposal. Unfortunately, I don’t have a ton of money at my disposal. But that didn’t stop me. I created a food budget and used that to go out so I could have the opportunity to start experiencing the vegan food scene of NYC. Everyone has their vices. For some, it’s shopping for clothes and shoes. Others enjoy going out to clubs and partaking of the nightlife. While even more others spend their money on things like traveling or collecting special things. For me, it’s food. I love buying food and I’m not ashamed to say it. So I was determined to start exploring all the NYC vegan food scene had to offer. I tried mostly fast-causal spots and that’s still where I’m at, with the latest spots I’ve hit up being Hartbreakers in Bushwick, and Rip’s Malt Shop in Fort Greene, also in Brooklyn. I enjoyed those meals for my one-year vegan anniversary, along with a trip to Dunwell Donuts in Brooklyn for some delicious doughnuts. I’ve tried some scrumptious food and have been amazed at what is being done with vegan fare. It’s insane and innovative and I know I’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg. I can’t wait to see and experience so much more vegan goodness.
I Went Raw Vegan for a Week!
I also tried going raw for a week. I already knew I was doing my health a tremendous service by going vegan, but raw veganism was like the epitome of veganism, so I thought I’d try it out. It was a fun and interesting week for sure. You can read about how it went here on my blog. I definitely want to try it again and for much longer than my original challenge which was only a week long. I had planned to do another raw vegan challenge before 2018 was finished but it didn’t pan out that way. So maybe early in the year or right before I leave for my vegan food tour I’ll do it again.
I Went to Not One, but Two Vegan Food Festivals!
I also had the amazing opportunity to go to two vegan food festivals this summer. First, I went to Black Vegfest. This was awesome for two reasons: 1) It was my first ever vegan food festival and 2) It was the first ever Black Vegfest, so it was great to be able to take part in the first installment of what would no doubt become a staple festival for vegans but particularly Black vegans and vegans of color (myself falling into both categories). The food was great and I even met some awesome folks that I kept in contact with after the festival.
Next, I went to Vegandale — based on a real location in Toronto. Tons of vegan food vendors from all over the country and even the world. I went in with a specific goal in mind: get food that wasn’t local to New York City because I could try that anytime. I wanted to try some nationwide and global fare. So I hit up those vendors, trying food all the way from Switzerland, to Chicago, to Texas, to right next door in Jersey and more. It was so fun and exciting. I could barely eat all the food I got which I chronicled over on my Instagram page, but one of my Insta-pals gave me a heads up that I should bring some takeout containers with me so that’s what I did. But even then I didn’t have food for a week like I thought I would– a couple of days was more like it because I ate continuously for both days of the festival and thereafter. I have a big appetite okay? Not that I’m apologizing for it, because my grande appetite was extremely helpful when it came to trying to eat so much food in one day. Both festivals were satisfying to say the least– for my soul, my belly and my happiness. I was thrilled to have been able to attend two major festivals in the vegan world on my first year out. Kudos to me!
I Improved My Health Drastically, But Wasn’t Invincible.
My health improved so much after going vegan. The biggest change was in my nasal passages, which previously had been constantly blocked. Not so much like when you’re sick and badly congested, but definitely at a constant level– and I thought that was my “normal”. It wasn’t until I went vegan and more specifically I believe until I cut out dairy that my breathing passages fully opened up. I also lost weight and experienced a major decrease in the chronic headaches I once had and the colds I always used to get. Whether it was the elimination of animal derived foods or my increased intake of vitamin rich and nutritious whole foods that caused these changes, I am not sure– honestly, it was probably a combination of both. But either way, I’m certain that going vegan is the reason I feel and actually am so much healthier. But even with these major health improvements, I wasn’t invincible like I thought I was or would be after going vegan. I didn’t get sick for a long while after going vegan. I had a history of getting sick and catching colds very easily. I also went vegan in the beginning of winter. And I didn’t get sick at all that winter. The immediate rise in fruits and veggies likely did have something to do with that fateful, illness-free winter, haha. But eventually, I became human again and experienced colds and headaches. However, the fact that they came in so few and far between was still evidence enough for me that veganism was indeed my route to becoming a semi-superhero.
The Learning Continues and I’m Ready for Another Year!
After this first year I’ve learned so much about myself, my personal health, the food I eat, the products I buy and the impact that I have on those around me, the planet I live on and other living beings. Growing in perspective has been life-changing — like, it has literally changed my life. I don’t dislike or judge anyone who isn’t vegan because I was there just a year ago, but I do view life from a different perspective that I wish everyone could see life from. Still, I know that the world is purposely an ever-evolving place; one where change is indeed a constant. I’ve spoken to so many vegans who are amazed at how far vegan options have come and that gives me hope that this lifestyle and movement will continue to grow because as we all know, supply must meet demand. And if we keep demanding products that will lead to a world that is more cruelty-free and better for our health and the environment, we’ll keep getting more options that will help us achieve those things.
I love being vegan and although saying that I’ve been vegan for a year is still a little surreal knowing my history with food, I can’t wait until I am fully at peace with my own personal transformation and don’t have that surreal feeling any longer, knowing that change can also be a constant for every individual on this planet, myself included. And that even for me, someone who once, at times, ate bacon derived from pigs everyday and survived on so much unhealthy crap– starting a new life full of fresh, whole foods, and decadent, cruelty-free eats is completely possible. I’m so looking forward to year two, and three and four and beyond!