For years, I have contemplated becoming a vegetarian. Making my 2018 New Year’s Resolutions, I decided this was the year to stop contemplating and start doing. The more I educated myself, the more I decided to go “all in” and try to turn myself into a vegan. As you can tell by the title, I haven’t made the full transition. Yet. At the end of 2018, I find myself a mostly vegetarian and in-the-vicinity of being a vegan.
New Year’s Resolutions
To me, New Year’s Resolutions feel like a clean slate filled with potential. They are like a redo. You start over and, this time, you can do something great. I have years’ worth of resolutions.
And, just like the stats you hear about, most of mine are dropped by February. But, still, faithfully and full of hope, each year I make a new list.
Because, here’s the thing: You just never know.
It was a New Year’s resolution that had nothing to do with RVing that actually ended up leading me to the full-time RV life. I’ve told this story before but here it is in brief.
Literally, every year since I graduated college I included “write a book” on my resolution list. That means decades of resolve that fizzled almost immediately. I cannot say what was different about 2012 but for some reason, it stuck. By the end of that year, I had the first draft of a mystery novel. (Ironically it’s a novel I titled January Resolution that opened with the main character making a list of New Year’s Resolutions.) By the end of 2013, I revised the novel and began looking for an agent. I had some interest but nothing came of it. And I didn’t continue to pursue publication like I should have to see the book in print.
Completing that novel taught me two things. First, it taught me that I could do it. I could write a novel. Second, I learned I wanted to do more writing. Learning those two things led me to asking the question, “How can I carve out more time to write?”
And eventually that led me to the decision to completely change my regular, normal, sticks-and-bricks, 9-to-5 life into a full-time RV life.
So, as I said, you just never know.
Decades of Contemplation
Like writing a novel, I wanted to give vegetarianism a try for years. Years. I cannot say why I didn’t. Laziness, I suppose. It never made the annual resolution list. I liked the idea of being a vegetarian but didn’t really want to make the effort, finding myself saying, “I like cheeseburgers too much.”
Then when I got my pup, Solstice, 11 years ago, I considered it with renewed enthusiasm. I felt like a hypocrite when I said I care about animals over a breakfast of bacon and eggs.
For a long time, I thought my reason was silly. I get a dog and then start worrying about and questioning the treatment of the food on my plate. In the past year, as I’ve joined like-minded Facebook groups, I’ve learned the reason I thought was goofy is quite a common reason people stop eating meat.
I had no idea. I thought it was a silly quirk of mine. But many people get a pet and then come to the conclusion that the love they feel is in complete contradiction to what they are frying in the pan. I was happy to find out I was not alone.
All that said, I still didn’t take action. I thought about it time and again. But did nothing.
I’m not sure what was different about 2018, the same way I’m not sure why 2012 was different for the novel. But 2018 was different. Maybe being on the road opened up more time to educate myself, to look for and try meat alternatives, to get outside the rote routine of grocery shopping and food preparation.
I decided to take the slow easy road to veganism. Since 2018 was the year I was going to do it, I gave myself a year to figure out how. It meant I didn’t have to be perfect beginning New Year’s Day.
From January 1st I gave up meat and fish. Honestly, it was fairly easy. I’ve never been a big meat eater and, before this effort, I could go a week or two without a meat-based meal without deliberately meaning to.
I did buy one pound of hamburger in both January and February for tacos. I didn’t consider these a slip but rather part of the year-to-transition. But after February, I vowed no more. Tacos are my single favorite food. I discovered that tacos made with soy crumbles (which has look and texture of cooked ground beef) with a can of black or pinto beans was a delicious and satisfactory substitute. Vegan tacos remain a staple for me.
There was one accidental slip. This past fall, my dad took me to a Thai restaurant. They brought a little bowl of soup to the table. It was good so I ate about a third of it. Until it suddenly dawned on me. The soup contained shredded chicken which also presumably meant that the base was chicken broth. Dang.
And there was intentional fish consumption when my sister joined me in Long Beach, Washington (more on my adventures in the seaside town soon). Every restaurant served clam chowder and we tried several (though I passed on the ones that made theirs with bacon).
Going from vegetarian to vegan proved more difficult than going from meat-eater to vegetarian. Much more difficult. No question. And I still have a ways to go.
Moving away from coffee creamer and yogurt, I did with ease. I find the soy, almond and coconut alternatives quite palatable and, often, as good as or better than the milk-based ones. Being on the road, the hardest part can be finding them as I discussed in the RV Life and Grocery Shopping post.
Eggs were also easy to give up as I rarely ate them out of the carton. That said, it wasn’t true for eggs used in baking products like prepackaged cookies. New labeling, which I believe is done for allergy purposes, at least makes it easier. Look to the bottom of the ingredients list and you’ll see a “made with” list. Eggs and milk, if used in the product, will be listed.
But labels didn’t always stop me from putting items in the cart.
Cheese is the single biggest reason for the 89%. Cheese, I’ve learned, is hard for most people.
After doing research, I learned why. There is something in cheese called casein. Actually, casein is in milk and a major component of cheese. Casein is the cocaine of cheese. It makes your brain happy by playing with your serotonin. So, while you won’t have withdrawal symptoms if you stop eating cheese, your brain fights your willpower to do so.
Actually discovering it wasn’t a weak-will that made giving up cheese difficult made it easier for me to give it up. Or to, most of the time, consciously say I will not let cocaine-cheese rule me. I rule me, my brain and my food choices. Sounds silly, I know. But it helped.
I’ve tried many brands and formulas of cheese substitutes. And, while many are good and even melt, they are not the same. I cannot even pretend on this one. So, even though I reach for the dairy-free cheese at the grocery store, it hurts a little.
Where Do I Go From Here?
In 2018, I came a long way, but at the same time I have a long way to go. I am okay with being a 98% vegetarian but I want to improve the veganism to at least 95%, allowing wiggle room for cheese now and again, especially in the form of a pizza.
I want to continue to educate myself on the subject and learn more about the hidden animal products in foods. By hidden, I mean not disclosed on the label. And, not on the label, means you have to just know that something isn’t vegan. For example, did you know that Cheerios are not considered vegan? General Mills, apparently, pulls out a vitamin from sheep’s wool to fortify Cheerios cereal. I found that shocking.
But, really, the place I want to get is whole food plant-based. To make the transition easier, I used meat-substitutes. I bought soy crumbles, “fish” sticks, “sirloin tips,” and many like items. I loved the products and loved knowing I was doing good things for animals and my health.
At the same time, I know if I really want optimal health, I need to reduce those processed foods and eat more whole food plants.
It’s a work in progress. I’m a work in progress. That is the advantage to thinking of this endeavor as a process. I don’t have to be perfect.
Plus, not being rigid helps when I simply cannot find my favorite almond coffee creamer or any other diary-free substitute. Because giving up that morning cup of coffee was never part of the plan.
Plus, getting to 95% vegan while maintaining a 98% vegetarian status, for me, means not missing opportunities, like trying clam chowder with my sister.
I don’t, as yet, have my 2019 goals fully formed. I don’t think I’ll have something about moving those last few percentage points. For health, I may come up with something around exercise. Exercise isn’t a given the way it used to be since Solstice is getting on in years. Our two and three mile walks are now no longer than a mile. And rarely every day. It’s hard, but I know I need to start an exercise plan that doesn’t include her.
However, my big resolution for 2019 is around money and finances. I think it’s going to be something like resolving to limiting the use of savings to XX amount though I don’t know XX yet. It will be a number much lower than I used in 2018 which, in turn, means I need to figure out how to create cost savings (like boondocking on public land or volunteering in exchange for a campsite) and/or income-generation during the year
What is your New Year’s resolution or goal for 2019? Resolve big! And, yes, maybe it won’t happen in 2019 but then again, maybe it will. And maybe it won’t happen in 2020 but then again, maybe it will.
Because here’s the thing: You just never know.
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One more reason to think we could be sisters. On January 2nd i started the Daniel Fast. It’s a 21 day fast and prayer that I found online. I can have fruits and veggies and nuts and legumes. I’m doing it more for the fasting aspect and getting closer to our Heavenly Father. Drinking a gallon of water a day too. That’s so hard when you’re an old lady. The trail to the bathroom seems long sometimes! lol
But I’m feeling really good being off the sugar, meats and dairy. It was tough to give up my coffee! But i have done it and after the fast will try to keep it up. Or at least do decaf because I just enjoy it.
It really makes sense.
I wish you a Happy New Year! And healthy!
That’s awesome. I cannot wait until our paths cross so we can chat in person. Caffeine is hard to give up. I’ve done it a couple times and ended up with caffeine headache for a few days. Those are rough. You’re almost 1/3 of the way finished.Hang in there. It does feel good to get off meat, dairy and sugar. The body is amazingly self-regulating and when given the right fuel, it can make us feel amazing and filled with energy. Happy New Year, long lost sister!
It’s been a busy several weeks with earthquakes and all, but I finally got caught up with your blog. I love following your adventures! My daughter gave me the book How Not to Die for Christmas which I am just getting into but I think it may help you get motivated for your plant-based life. It was a best seller I think a couple years ago. It is so readable which I find interesting because it is scientifically based. It was fun seeing you together with Darlena! Happy New Year!
I have heard of that book. It’s actually on my list to read. I follow him on his website and have watched a lot of his videos. A similar one, though quite thick, is the China Study. That’s the one I’m reading now. What I love about both, as you said, is that they are scientifically-based on years of studies. In the China Study, he actually started out with the hypothesis that kids were getting sick because they weren’t getting enough protein (meat) and, n the end, much to his surprised discovered the whole-food plant-based diet to be optimal. It’s nice to see a scientist really follow the science and the results, and to be open to the idea that his hypothesis might be wrong. Happy New Year, Sharon.
I actually never make New Years resolutions, I just resolve things as life goes on. Congratulations on doing so very well with your vegetarian/vegan lifestyle. May 2019 bring you continued health and happiness. Love, Marie