Today’s post is about my decade-long vegan journey. This is one topic I had the hardest time to write because I am not the type to share very personal lifestyle decisions and choices. I have always been the MYOB-type. Mind Your Own Business. I fear alienation and rejection from people who may interpret me as wanna-be-perfect. Because I am not. I don’t want to be viewed as hypocritical. Because I am not. I have made mistakes and I will make mistakes. So why am I writing this then? I have been blogging close to seven years, some of you witnessed my metamorphosis, safe to say that some of you knew me like we are related albeit virtually. I have formed friendships with some of you so as a friend, I feel like now is the right time to tell you something. Something more important than makeups, fashion, skincare and aesthetic procedures that I had been dishing out for quite a while. I also decided to come out to liberate myself from whatever that’s holding me back. That I need to stand up for something. So let me take you back to where it all began….
My plant-based nutrition mindset was quite strong because I was raised by my grandparents who made sure I will eat whatever was in the table. I was exposed early on to different vegetables and fruits because my folks instilled in me that to be in the “honor roll at school”, I had to feed my brain healthy stuff. Dining out was pretty inexistent to us back then and ice cream was a luxury. Occasionally, we had meat but even then, the serving was tiny bit.
Fast forward to my mid-20s, I witnessed a cow being slaughtered as part of a ritual in one of the provinces in the Philippines. I cannot forget the eyes of the cow that seemed to be asking for help. Barbarically with machete, the cow was butchered and pieces of meat were distributed to all people who were present during that “ceremony”. I was a visitor so I got invited to a get-together where the meat will be boiled and eaten by those who were present. I said yes to the invitation out of respect but I did not partake in the ritual eating. Looking back, that has somehow affected my distaste for meat.
But I was weak mentally and emotionally. Working in pharmaceuticals, the constant dining out and the lack of healthier options back then made me go back to eating meat. I tried to avoid it as much as I could but I was afraid of rejection by my peers. I don’t want to be perceived differently. Not only that, I was feasting on high-sugar, trans-fat food because life was good when you treat yourself to all these fancy restaurants, fancy meals. I gained weight, much to my dismay. I enrolled in different gyms, I did boxing, yoga, dancing, etc but my unhealthy eating habits did not make me lose the fat. I had joint pains, chronic migraines, unexplained pain, my gums will just bleed. I was always at the ER. And I wasn’t even 30 years old yet.
In 2006, I took on a new management position marketing dialysis clinics. This new role exposed me to the realities of chronic kidney disease and the contributing factors that can lead to it. I talked to patients first-hand. They are aware that dialysis, the machine specifically, is the only thing keeping them alive. Diabetes mellitus 2, hypertension, obesity, these are all lifestyle-related conditions that can all lead to CKD. I got scared. I don’t want to be like them. This was also the time that I was dealing with a lot of stress in my personal life so despite this desire to better my health, I used food to comfort me. I continued dining out, feeding my body with high-fat, high-cholesterol, high-triglyceride, high-sugar food. People see me being successful but I was failing deep inside. I gained more weight. Teenage acne came back with a lot of hatred and vengeance. Chunky, sickly, unhappy, depressed at 32.
2007 was my breaking point. I knew I needed to do something to get my act together. On the eve of my 33rd birthday, I made a decision. A decision that took me to my life right now. I left a rewarding career, I sold my house in the Philippines and everything I owned and moved to the US. In my quest for a simpler and stress-free life, I started eating healthy, went vegetarian, exercised daily and avoided all kinds of stressors. Finally I was drama-free. I lived in California for a while with my mom who wanted me to just take a break from everything. While she worked in pre-school, I was dancing and running with some of the elderly in a nearby gymnasium. I started to lose weight. My skin started to clear up. My joint pains were gone.
In 2008, I moved to Hawaii. My now-husband was instrumental in helping me gain back my confidence. By this time, I lost a lot of weight already. I was eating more and more vegetables. I was counting my calorie intake. I was doing yoga and hiphop exercise. And then I discovered Facebook and started reconnecting with old friends and colleagues. They were all shocked with my “new look”. Like how can you not be?
But living with a carnivore proved to be difficult because I was preparing separate meals for us. Even on holidays, I will cook different foods. It was exhausting af. So yes I slipped although rarely. I ate meat then regretted after. And to be honest, I never really enjoyed roasting turkey. It was a chore instead of a celebration. I would eat a tiny piece then feel really awful, nauseous and tired after.
Finally in 2014, I thought I was ready to become vegan. Only my husband and one close friend knew about this lifestyle. Again my usual MYOB mantra. Then I became weak and fatigued after two years of being on plant-based diet. My husband was convinced it was all because of my being vegan. Even my mom thought so. True, B12 deficit because I was not supplementing enough and I did not eat enough because I was more concerned on my being skinny than being educated on plant-based nutrition. So I switched back to vegetarian. I wanted ovo-lacto because it sounded cool, plus I like scrambled eggs once in a while. But something was happening in my body. Every time I will drink milk, eat anything with cream, or feast anything with milk in it, my stomach will begin to twist like crazy. Not even ten minutes passed and I was already running to the bathroom. Lactose intolerance So I dropped lacto and became ovo-vegetarian. All this back and forth, I know! Around this time last year, I started to research more about plant-based nutrition. I read clinical studies and articles penned by medical doctors and spent time understanding how a plant-based diet can reverse diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, certain cancers, among others.
I was really doing great as vegetarian but whenever I had friends or relatives over, I admit to have slipped even though I merely tasted “just because”, such was the case when my family from the mainland visited me last July. After all, my only reason for eating right was primarily for health reasons. I am eating plants 99% of the time so this very rare “accident” can’t possibly affect my body.
Then one Saturday evening, out of boredom, husband and I was just flipping through Netflix and saw a documentary that intrigued both of us. After watching that show, I cannot believe for the life of me what husband just blurted “I want to be vegan. I want to eat what you’re eating”. Did I just hear angels sing? Hallelujah! I was convincing him all these years to join me but fell on deaf ears and one show, one freakin’ show just made him go cold turkey? What The Health. Yes, that was the turning point for him. Yes, that’s the documentary. What The Health.
Strength in numbers. Alone no more. I have never been this happy to have witnessed someone I dearly love transitioned from being the ultimate carnivore to becoming vegan. Happy wife, happy life. I got motivated again to cook just to make the transition very easy for him. That vegan diet ain’t bland and boring. When we first shopped food as a vegan couple, I was teaching him to read ingredients and showing him various vegetables he needed to try. He was getting frustrated so I told him “you don’t want to read ingredients? go straight to the produce section. Vegetables have no labels”. The first time I let him taste my pulled “pork” slider made of young jackfruit, he couldn’t even tell the difference that it wasn’t meat he was devouring. When I cooked scrambled “egg” made from tofu (I added turmeric for flavor and color), he couldn’t believe his eyes either! So it’s been almost three months now, he said he felt so much better and always looked forward to us enjoying food together. He never for a moment felt weak or that his energy source deprived. Lucky dude because I gave him all the information he needed during his transition. Strength in numbers. I followed plant-based medical doctors on Youtube and social media and joined Facebook groups that support veganism and plant-based diet. Strength in numbers. You will find us in every profession in every shape: athletes, teachers, chefs, nurses, doctors, actors, baristas, etc Vegans are everywhere. Some may be more vocal about it, some are just doing their thing quietly.
But something was still missing. One Friday evening, the documentary I was preventing myself to watch for quite a while popped in my Youtube recommendations. Again fear consumed me because there is one particular aspect of my lifestyle that I found the hardest to abandon. I love leather. I love high quality designer purses. I love high-end makeups. I love to look at my expensive purchases as form of self-affirmation. Wow, I can afford all these! But I have come this far to better myself so I swallowed my fear. I am aware of animal cruelty but I refused to know the truth. I hate to see the truth because I cannot handle the truth. The truth that animals have emotions, that they do experience pain. Boy, I have never cried this much watching a documentary. Just thinking about it now makes me teary-eyed again. It brought me back to the time I witnessed a cow slaughtered before my very eyes but I did nothing. “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian”, Sir Paul McCartney once said. I love animals, I cannot eat animals. Not only this movie exposed animal cruelty in absolute horror for food’s sake but it opened my eyes to something even more important. That the life of an animal has more value than my designer bags. Billions of animals are slaughtered for their skins. I love animals so why do I wear animals. We share this world with them. We are all earthlings. Earthlings, it’s the documentary that confirmed my ignorance and reinforced my new stance. If you recall in my previous posts and videos, I have talked about downsizing and purging my stash. Yes, this was the very reason. I have sold and donated and I am still in the process of purging. I made the toughest decision. I won’t be buying anymore that’s made with leather or anything with animal in it.
But vegan beauty, this is unchartered territory to me. I first talked about going organic and natural in 2011. In fact it made it to my blog’s resolution for 2012. But the call of Tom Ford, Dior, Chanel, Guerlain, and Givenchy were stronger than my desire. Those that I started liking because they’re cruelty-free decided to not become cruelty-free anymore (NARS was a huge disappointment, Sulwhasoo even more). Thankfully, my other cruelty-free favorites Hourglass, By Terry and Urban Decay had not crossed over yet. But as I learn more and more about animal by-products that are sometimes present in cruelty-free makeups and skincare, my choices started thinning out. Hence, this is where I will possibly make mistakes. I will stumble. I will make wrong purchases along the line. But like a child learning how to walk, this too I will conquer.
But if there is one important lesson I have learned in all of ten years or so of tossing back and forth between vegetarian and vegan is that veganism is not entrenched on perfection. But rather, our sincerest desire to cause less harm to the environment especially to our co-earthlings, the animals. Transitioning is more than self-discipline. It is tough but it will happen if you desire it. It’s a journey after all.
So how will this affect my blog? Well it’s business as usual. I had been writing more and more organic content the past months as most of you may have noticed. Less reviews but more how-to’s that cover from beauty to lifestyle because it allows me to speak more authentic. If I find something really nice that’s vegan whether in beauty or fashion, I will share it here. And don’t worry, I will continue to respect other people’s lifestyle choices as I always do. It is your life, not mine. I will continue to blog because I find joy in writing and sharing things with you. But in case you need tips on how to transition, I am here. We’re in this together.
You have read this far. Thank you for your patience and continued support. I love you guys. Really.