Twenty years ago, I thought I was through with veganism.
What I didn’t realize was that veganism wasn’t through with me. So now I’m joining the ranks of many others who have shared their ex-vegan stories. Even though it’s taken 20 years, my ex-vegan recovery is underway and going strong!
At age 18, I’d succumbed to the very persuasive, almost preacher-like theatrics of the man who introduced me to veganism.
I still remember his pitch:
“What are two five-letter words that both start with an “S,” and they both come to steal, kill and destroy?”
I was stumped.
He shouted, “Satan and sugar!”
I succumbed to his old-fashioned southern evangelism hook, line, and sinker. Once I’d accepted that plant-based foods were the best diet for the planet and our health, I was 100-percent on board.
The Going Gets Too Tough
For the first month or two, I remained steadfast. But during the 1990s, plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy products were few and far between.
My parents were supportive, but beyond them, most people had no idea what the word “vegan” meant. Over and over, I’d get the same questions:
- “Is butter bad?”
- “Do you eat fish?”
- “Is 2-percent milk okay?”
- “Do you eat lamb?”
The answers, of course, were “No,” “no,” “no,” and “no.” Unfortunately, I’ve always had a hard time saying “No.”
I still remember visiting my grandparents and trying to explain my new diet. They didn’t understand English very well and thought my refusing the meal they’d made for me was nuts.
From the look of grave concern in their eyes, it was clear that they thought I’d lost my mind. They kept insisting I eat. I decided it wasn’t worth arguing over and cleaned up my plate.
And when I shared with a friend that I couldn’t eat buttered toast without feeling guilty, she laughed as though it were the funniest thing she’d ever heard.
Whenever I strayed from my vegan diet, a wagging finger of shame rose within me. I genuinely wanted to eat healthily, but I hated the guilt that came with surrendering to temptation.
Eventually, I lowered my standards. I cared as much as ever about animals, my body, and the environment. But I had no vegan friends – and almost nowhere to go for support.
The shame and guilt I felt from eating meat, dairy or eggs stayed with me for two years. But, by the time I turned 20, my failed vegan diet was a distant memory.
When we married four years later, I don’t think even Katie knew my ex-vegan story. And I certainly wasn’t close to entering ex-vegan recovery!
I’d always been willing to try any food, and soon she was making me an omelet every morning. And what an omelet it was!
My kids can recall watching me down the entire thing: four eggs stuffed with cheese, a handful of veggies, and – from time to time – strips of bacon or steak.
Ex-Vegan Recovery, Step 1: Opening a Plant-Based Restaurant
Until a few years ago, that omelet was my regular breakfast – even after I’d started Fruitive in 2012!
Yesterday, I admitted that part of my ex-vegan story was the conflict I faced in deciding to open a plant-based restaurant. My thinking went like this:
“I’m not vegan, but I believe the optimal diet is consuming plant-based foods.
I want to be confident that no matter what my family and customers eat elsewhere, when they are in my restaurant, they’ll consume only the healthiest foods.”
When people pointed out the discrepancy between my diet and Fruitive’s menu, my explanation was simple. I ate the way most of my customers did: preferring organic ingredients and healthy options without committing to a particular diet.
Before starting Fruitive, I visited every vegan or health-focused restaurant I could find in cities across America. Too many of them served up a side of “attitude.”
The arrogance of some in the vegan movement had always bothered me. It had even become a stumbling block to my entering ex-vegan recovery.
So I was determined that everyone would feel accepted at my restaurant – regardless of dietary choice or beliefs! After all, I wasn’t vegan, but my brother helping me start Fruitive was.
We were embodying the concept of dietary inclusivity!
Ex-Vegan Recovery, Step 2: Listening to Mom
After running Fruitive for over five years, I wasn’t feeling my best. My waistline was carrying too much pudge. No longer the picture of fitness, I was ashamed to go shirtless to the beach.
Whenever I saw my Mom, she would poke my tummy, ask why I was fat and tell me to eat plant-based since I ran a plant-based restaurant.
Saying that I ate the way most of my customers ate didn’t make sense to Mom. So with her encouragement (and my embarrassment about my physique), I reached a compromise.
I wasn’t ready to recommit to eating vegan. But for my 2018 New Year’s Resolution, I would go vegetarian. Cheesy omelets stayed on the breakfast menu, but the meat was off-limits.
My ex-vegan recovery story continues tomorrow, with a look at how I became the proud owner of the plantbased.com domain name!