The Pittsburgh Vegan Meetup Message Board › Q&A on becoming vegan

Q&A on becoming vegan

Mike E.
Group Organizer
Irwin, PA
Post #: 369

How long have you been Vegan?

3 1/2 years

Why did you decide to go Vegan?

I was seriously overweight (twice my current weight) and started making dietary changes to become healthier. Once I realized that not only did I not need animal products to survive but that I would be healthier without them I could no longer justify using them in any way shape or form.

What are beginners staples that I can buy at the store?

I was never into the fake animal product thing, so cannot offer you much advice here on 'transitional foods'. I generally cook a large pot of some sort of grain (e.g. brown rice or quinoa) that I will use as an ingredient in dishes throughout the week. We also eat a lot of beans (we are really getting into soy beans these days), vegetables (steamed, roasted, sauteed, etc) and fruit.

How do you handle family and social functions and deal with people who don't understand or who aren't supportive?

I generally don't spend much time with people who aren't supportive. At home it is easy as I do the shopping and cooking. My wife isn't vegan or vegetarian but is very supportive and will pretty much anything I make. My extended family is supportive but generally has no idea what to cook for me and so I often either bring my own food or eat at home first. Similar with friends.

Any insights as to how the transition went for you . obstacles, triuphs unexpected positives/negatives. I am doing this alone and although I feel wonderful it would sure help to hear from tohers

I started off just trying to eat better. I stopped eating processed sugar, then went raw vegan for a while, then just generic vegan and am now eating primarily organic fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Minimal processed foods. No processed sugar or processed grains. Low-fat. Low-glycemic.

I guess if I had any advice it would be to stay way from the vegan junk food. There is a lot of food out there that has no animal products in it that also has no nutritional value in it either. French fries and oreos are vegan, but they don't really nourish your body.

Anne L.
Pittsburgh, PA
Post #: 139
I've been vegan for 8 1/2 years. I decided to go vegetarian, then vegan, for ethical reasons (animal rights).

Staples - like Mike, I don't get into the fake meat stuff (and I'm a heretic in that I have always HATED cheese). My diet tends to center around Mediterranean foods - grains, pastas, sauces, soups, lots of vegetables and fruits, lots of legumes. That being said, I do have a sweet tooth (hence the side business), and have an extremely hard time turning down vegan chocolate and baked goods. biggrin

My immediate family is beyond supportive - my mother is practically vegetarian (this most recent meat recall might be the final straw for her...), my stepdad, while he doesn't understand it, has repeatedly said how proud he was of my commitment, and my brother is very cool with it. My grandmother hasn't quite gotten the hang of what vegan is - her viewpoint is that if there aren't any meat *chunks* in it, it must be ok. I have an advantage of avoiding family situations where meat will be served - I live 1 1/2 hours away from my closest relatives. However, when meat is served, I always make sure I have contributed in a meaningful way to the meal, and accept that they have just made a different dietary choice than I have. You can't force your views on someone. Offer to bring a dish or two, offer your help to your host/ess in regards to menu, and blow them away with how flavorful and exciting vegan food can be.

As for friends, most of them (who aren't also veg!) are supportive, and go out of their way to make sure we go somewhere "where Anne can get something to eat." I point out that technically, we can eat just about anywhere (though enough meals of tossed salad can be trying), but that I DID write the book on vegan options in Pittsburgh.

As for dating, well, that's tricky. My ex was veg for the last two years of our relationship, then he decided to go back to eating meat. That was fine (as said, it's a choice), but I didn't want him cooking it in the house we shared (couldn't handle the smell). We broke up not long after, but mainly over our opposing views on having children (he wanted them, I did not). The meat-in-the-house was a factor, though. I am not the person to give advice on this topic - I have been single for over two years now. confused

Education is a key asset we have. A meal is not the time to discuss what animals went through to get on the center plate. However, the question will come up - "Why are you vegetarian/vegan?" You can say that you did it for the animals, for your health, for the environment, for human rights, etc. If pressed on the details of what animals experience, deflect - tell them that it would be inappropriate to discuss during the meal, but that you'd be happy to sit down with them later and talk about it. Considering the general opinion of vegans is that we're rude, pushy, and don't enjoy life, a little politeness goes a long way in dispelling stigmas. You might want to have a good pamphlet on hand to give people who are really curious. I'd recommend "Try Vegetarianism" by Vegan Outreach, but they're discontinuing that one. I haven't seen its replacement yet. But if you're polite, helpful, and engage a little sense of humor, they will eventually come around and be more supportive of you.

Insights/triumphs/failures - No one - not any of us - is perfect. We will all slip at some point. Don't beat yourself up about it. Learn from your mistakes and move on. Veganism is a path - every step on it leads to less impact on animals' lives, and less pain and suffering for them.

I've droned on enough for one post...
Beverly B.
Pittsburgh, PA
Post #: 9
Charles and I just became Vegans at just b4 valentie's day. We've been vegetarain for years tho. About 5 years for me. We decided cuz it just doesn't feel right to be just vegetarian anymore. I've been doing a lot of peta video watching (yes I'm into PETA lol). We always talked about going vegan and just finally decided to just do it! Lol. Did it for Animals, Earth, and Health.
Since being Vegan we both feel soo much better also.
Oh yea I still get picked on at work even more so now since I've told them I'm Vegan now. And it still gets hard to deal with and see them all eating cakes and donuts etc. Also sucks and makes me feel bad when my co worker buys me lunch and I have to tell him I cant eat it and he wasted money. But I guess some things are harder then others.
Pittsburgh, PA
Post #: 154
I like to bake things and take them in to work and just put them on the communal food counter - then after they disappear, someone will ask, "who made the ...?" and I say me, and they realize it was vegan (horrors!) and it was great and they liked it (double horrors!). I enjoy the subterfuge smile But it also gives me a treat to eat now and then. I sometimes miss partaking in all the donuts and cake at work, but I can definitely say my waistline doesn't!

Becoming vegan really highlighted for me how much of our culture is centered around food and community eating. Being vegan can put you outside that cultural "norm" - for me the challenge is staying engaged in the social events without giving up my ideals and ethics and not appearing anti-social because of what I choose to or not to eat. In "Living Among Meat Eaters" Carol Adams said basically that if a vegan acts miserable and deprived at outings, it just perpetuates the stereotype that omnis have of us, and it is better to be a "happy vegan" - much better PR for the cause, basically. She also says not to expect to be fed, to provide your own food by bringing a dish to share, or eat ahead of time so you're not ravenous. I highly recommend the book - it's a great perspective and lots of tips for navigating the non-vegan water that abounds out there.

New Wilmington, PA
Post #: 11
Thank you for all of your interesting insights! It is encouraging to hear. For me being vegeterian has just kind of fell right in my lap. It wasn't this planned out rebellion but rather a quiet awakening that happened over a few months and I realized that not only would I need to fully commit myself but I needed to educate myself. My goal is to be totally vegan but I realize that I need to learn a lot about what's in my food- not always a pretty thing- and learn about healthy alternatives.
Before I realized what had happened to me spiritually I had been eating Peanutbutter sandwiches daily simply because I felt as if my home had such limited options. Being a part of this group and beginning to educate myself has showed me all of the possibilities.
I'm learning about beans right now. Lastnight I had a wonderful soybean based dish, loved it! Who knew? I am not into the fake meat or meat substitutes so my focus has been veggies and beans. Right now I am researching milk alternatives for cereal and for in my coffee.
I actually have had more support around me than I imagined. I had not given my loved ones enough credit. So that has been a pleasent surprise. My goal in educating myself is to swith my two children over eventually.I cook for them all day long and I am having a hard time sticking to my beliefs yet buying chicken nuggets for my kiddos. My daughter had naturally been on a vegan path when I think back but I pushed her because of my ignorance and got her into meat and milk which she was completely opposed to. So that is difficult for me to realize at this point.
Anyway thanks again for your input and support. I hope to make it to a potluck but March isn't going to work for me- we'll be in Mexico! :)
Nice meeting you all, I hope to learn so much more from this group!
A former member
Post #: 7
I am very new to veganism since Feb. I have encountered a few slip ups recently and need to get back on track. I have to admit I have had food and eating issues most of my life and am trying to reconcile them. I believe that if I had feedback from others on how to deal with food craving that contradict veganism it would be helpful. I know one thing for sure when I have slipped my body reacted very negatively. So now I'm back to square one again. So folks any words of wisdom would be greatly appreciated.
Michael H.
Washington, PA
Post #: 167
Hi Betsy. I think the first thing is not to be too hard on yourself. Veganism is defined by your values and how you live your life, not by a few mistakes you may make along the way. Food cravings are a different issue. As a new vegan, plan ahead a little. Make sure you either have vegan food you like on hand, or if you're going out, that there are vegan options available.

For more specific food cravings, pretty much anything can be made in a vegan version, often superior to the "original". Cupcakes are a perfect example of the vegan version far exceeding it's conventional counterpart. My mother, a confirmed omnivore, prefers our homemade vegan pizza to any other. What foods are you craving? Feel free to post a message, I'm sure you will get recipes or suggestions on where to go for anything you need. It's likely that someone will even make it for you and bring it to a potluck. Or, just plug whatever food along with the word vegan in to a Google search. There is never a shortage of vegan info on the internet.

So, hang in there, it gets easier. Eating vegan is just a new skill to learn, until it becomes part of your regular routine.
Anne L.
Pittsburgh, PA
Post #: 159
I'll second what Michael has said - we're here to help! Post about what you're craving, and I'm sure this think-tank will gladly send you recipes and advice.

And don't beat yourself up over slip-ups. None of us are perfect - we've all been where you are. The most important thing is to stick with your ethics.
Washington, PA
Post #: 67
VegWeb is a great resource for a variety of recipes. (Click the picture for the link)

I find a great variety of comfort/familiar foods on the following sites, too. All of the photos are of vegan food pics taken directly from the website. biggrin

Fat Free Vegan

Post Punk Kitchen

Vegan Menu Blogspot

Sewickley, PA
Post #: 49
C'mon Tiffaney, you just made me sooo hungry looking at those pictures!!! I am sitting here eating an apple and a chik'n patty sandwich but the pictures look so much better. Hmmm, maybe I'll have to make something new and yummy this weekend.
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