I have been vegan for over 5 years now.
I was never a vegetarian. Initially I went vegan for health. My boyfriend at the time's father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He tried the Macrobiotic diet and rejected it after a month or so. It was an extraordinarily difficult time of their lives and, subsequently, my own.
A year after his passing I was in Morgantown, WV at a little (slightly difficult to find) restaurant called Maxwell's. I had some sort of ww pita pocket with tofu, sprouts, avocado and other deliciousness. Already loving foods that were vegan, and already disliking cheese and milk products, I decided, while eating that sandwich, that I was going to go vegan. The company that I kept for that particular meal was both shocked by this declaration, yet not surprised at all, because I'm the queen of random. Before going vegan my favorite foods were rare steak and sushi. Upon returning to my little apartment, I cleaned out the pantry, refrigerator and freezer. I gave most of the food to neighbors. In exchange for this, one of my neighbors gave me a sauce that her mom had given her "Look! It SAYS vegan on it!". It was cute, but wasn't going to last a long time.
Why did I go vegan? How much time do you have? In short, it was for health. For myself, for the person I was dating at the time. I had researched the macrobiotic diet a lot during the time that his father was sick and I had come to the conclusion that it just might work. Over that year I just kept thinking about how difficult it would be (I didn't think vegans could eat any bread products... pasta, pizza....) if my boyfriend had gotten sick and we'd have to start with it all over again. Then it dawned on me. Why not be proactive? So I went vegan. Certainly going from vegan to macrobiotic is much less a hurdle than going from the "typical" western diet to macrobiotic, right? And vegans I knew looked AMAZING. Why not give it a shot? I saw no drawbacks from this way of life. Yes, I got a lot of "oh, my daughter went through that phase." and "Why are YOU on a DIET!?" It's not a phase. It's not a "diet". Then they'd mockingly say something along the lines of "Oh, yeah. It's a LIFESTYLE." Uh, yeah. Thanks for your support.
My cholesterol, as a 23 year old who never ate fast food and did not eat white bread products at all, was over 250. A year ago it was 131. No drugs.
Cancer and heart disease run rampant on both sides of my family. I do get asked "what if you get cancer anyway?" or "what if you die in a car accident?". Well, then that's too bad. I did what I could.
Why do we need to hurt things for our own pleasure anyway? Is meat THAT good that you'd kill for it? Really?
My first trip to the grocery store was interesting. I probably spent 5 hours reading every label there. As I'm sure any vegan can tell you, it's an acquired skill. It gets much easier.
I survived a lot on things like veggie lasagne (with NO sub cheeses. Small town Ohio does not sell these things. Especially not THAT small town.) burritos and soy ice cream. I hosted "Vegan Weekends" with my friends, just to show off my "awesome" new culinary skills (I had NO idea how to cook before I went vegan). I dropped 9 pounds in a short amount of time, which is amazing considering that I wasn't large to begin with. I did gain that back (I'm 5"9' 135) but I think a lot of the loss was just toxins that weren't leaving my body. Much of that, I'm sure, had to do with the fact that I had an ignored milk allergy (not lactose intolerance) since birth, but had just chosen (a la my parents) to ignore it. I felt AMAZING and everything about my mood and my body improved drastically.
Five years later I have certainly become a MUCH better cook. Many of my friends, including my boyfriend at the time who though he was "just someone who needs to eat meat" are now vegan.
I took a friend to see the very first screening of "Forks over Knives" because she was in town from DC. I thought she would be really angry at me for making her sit through that, but she began asking questions. She went vegan for 7 months, until she and her lifting partner began working with a couple that said they wouldn't "veganize" the pre-competition meal plans. She is a bodybuilder and just got her "pro" card in August.
As far as exercise goes, I have gotten into lifting the past few months. I'm not trying to be cutesy about it. In my family we never *kind of* do anything. It's all or nothing. I go to the gym, push myself until I know I'll be sore for an entire week, then do it again. Any recommendations would be great. Recently I've been doing 3 days of lifting a week and 2 of mainly cardio. I eventually want to up this, but this is what time currently allows.
2: Quads, Hams
3: Chest, Tris, Abs
4: Back, Bis, Calves
Cardio, though, bores me. Interval training interests me more, but I have asthma (heredity... and I'm allergic to everything on earth) and have only recently succumbed to getting inhalers. I've tried for years to just beat it, but have found that not to be possible. Last week I went to a Zumba class that wasn't bad, and it was on a back day.
In all, I'm seeing great results. My brother is convinced that we just build a lot easier than most people. It's possible, I guess.
Any recommendations are more than welcome!
...sorry this was so long.