In 1989, being a vegetarian was akin to being an alien from a distant planet. Most people had never heard of vegetarianism and had no idea what it meant. All of sudden my dinner and social invitations quickly disappeared (what does a vegetarian eat anyways?) and family members grew very concerned about my dietary choices.
The regular supermarkets had not yet started to sell tofu, soya milk or veggy burgers, and the vegetarian option at most restaurants meant meat ball pasta without the meat balls. There were only a handful of health food stores and vegetarian restaurants to choose from and they were mostly disappointing from a price, service, aesthetic and culinary perspective. It was even pre-Internet so getting anything sent was difficult.
I began my journey with improved health and increased energy as my main motivators. Sure, I had also heard about some of the other benefits like saving the planet, feeding the world and preventing animal cruelty, but those factors didn’t really resonate with me until much later on.
Although there was no vegetarian community to speak of back then I was determined and focused to be healthy. Reading the landmark books “Diet For A New America” http://www.johnrobbins.info/ and “Fit For Life” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Fitforlifecover.jpg gave me much inspiration for what would turn out to be a very lonely path ahead.
I started by cutting red meat out of my diet totally, incorporating more cooked vegetables, quitting coffee, started an exercise regimen, and joining a social club on campus. Immediately I felt better and my energy levels came back to normal.
Over the next few years I cut out the white meats then eventually fish as well. My diet consisted of mostly pastas, high sugar foods and processed vegetarian prepared foods. Although I didn’t know it at the time, this wasn’t the nirvana I had been seeking.
Eventually, I became vegan by cutting out the milk, eggs and cheese. This was a very difficult step, but with advent of the soya cheeses, yogurts, milks and burgers I was able to keep the comfort foods in the diet by substituting things that were similar enough so that the memories and the sensations remained known.
For many years, I bounced from veggy to vegan and back and my health was mediocre. I was eating too much soya, sugars, processed and fried foods and I was simply not thriving. I was also smoking pot and only walking and doing yoga for exercise. It was not a surprise that I suffered from Candida and my blood tests showed that my numbers were way out of balance.
Despite being vegan and righteous, I was not healthy.
Also See : Part 1, Part 3 coming soon