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Your lifestyle, your quirk
I had been a vegetarian since my sophomore year in college. I held firm against my Midwest meat and potatoes-lovin’ family’s protests and teasing, responded to my friends’ repeated inquiries of “Why?” and even managed to continue avoiding eating meat after dating and eventually marrying a professional chef trained in classic French cooking (which involves plenty of meat, trust me).
I liked being a vegetarian. Despite the challenge of frequently being asked to explain my dietary decision, I loved knowing that being a vegetarian made a smaller ecological footprint on the earth and encouraged healthier eating habits. Vegetarianism had been good to me over those eight years as well. I was at a healthy weight, able to maintain my exercise of choice – long-distance running – and ate a far more varied diet than I ever had as a carnivore.
While in the middle of a training season for a half ironman triathlon in 2010, I was reading a great deal on sports nutrition and how to get enough calories and protein on a vegetarian diet to cover what I was burning on those workout days that involved up to five hours of cycling, running, and swimming. I was directed by a friend and semi-professional triathlete to a book called Thrive: The Vegan Nutrition Guide to Optimal Performance in Sports and Life by Brendan Brazier. I immediately ordered the book from Amazon and read it from cover to cover within 24 hours of receiving it.
It completely changed my mind about the attainability, convenience, and health possibilities of a vegan diet. I had never considered going vegan before, assuming it would be too much of hassle. Taking the time to learn how to eat a balanced vegan diet sounded daunting, and I had never associated a vegan with an ultra-distance athlete. Turns out, there is a growing number of them out there, particularly in the world of running. I was also turned on to professional ultrarunner Scott Jurek, who has won numerous accolades in the ultrarunning world – all on a completely plant-based diet.
After reading Thrive and numerous blogs and articles by Jurek, I was inspired. I excitedly told my husband all about my reading and asked what he knew about preparing vegan meals. It just so happened he was working on research and development for an organic co-op and was regularly coming up with new vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free recipes for the store. If anyone knew how to create a vegan meal that also tasted great, it was him.
Almost afraid to say it out loud, I finally mustered the courage to ask, “If I wanted to try going vegan, would you help me?”
I knew my husband would help me. He’s amazing. What I was really asking was if he would support me and have my back. I was a little gun-shy after the hard time I’d been given by family and friends about going vegetarian. I knew I’d be getting some pushback from them all over again if I went vegan. I needed to know I’d have someone in my corner, helping me stick to it and go about transitioning into a vegan diet in a healthy manner.
“Of course,” he responded as if I’d been silly to even ask. That same night, he cooked me my first meal as a vegan.
The next day, my husband emailed me some information on veganism from work. I also did a ton of additional Internet research. I made a shopping list of the basics I needed to cook up some large batches of food to make throwing together some vegan meals for the week easier. From my husband’s store, I stocked up on various beans, grain, legumes, fruits, veggies, nuts and cooking oils.
I was downright excited about giving vegan is a try. I resolved in my mind (sharing my goal aloud only with my husband) to go vegan for one year. I wanted to see what – if any – health and performance changes it yielded. If I liked it, I would remain vegan. If not, I would go back to my vegetarian diet.
The transition to vegan went well. With my husband’s help, I ate varied and delicious meals. We even had an all-vegan Thanksgiving, with him opting to give up his turkey (he is a full-on carnivore) in support.
(I told you he is amazing!)
Six months into the vegan experiment, I started feeling sick. I woke up one morning and was immediately nauseated, pale, and weak. I sat in the bathroom, shaking and feeling miserable and a bit scared (I’m terrified of throwing up). It finally passed and I felt normal later in the day. When I told my mom about it, she tsk-ed and blamed my diet. Some of my friends also gently suggested that perhaps I wasn’t getting enough of a certain nutrient.
I knew it wasn’t my diet. Other than that morning, I’d been feeling great.
A week later, my suspicion was proved correct. I woke my husband up at 5 a.m. to show him a positive pregnancy test.
We spent a lot of time in the next few days talking about what this pregnancy meant and how we wanted to approach it. We ultimately decided to end the vegan experiment early, as we did not feel we knew enough to try a vegan pregnancy just yet. I went back to my vegetarian diet, which seemed to work just fine, as I eventually gave birth to a very healthy 9-pound baby girl.
I don’t know if I will try a completely vegan diet again. Currently, I am vegetarian, but I still regularly enjoy vegan foods as well. Perhaps if we ever decide we want a second child…