Early in 2012 I started reaching out to vegan friends on twitter to ask them to share their testimonials. My hope was that by getting vegans to share their stories we could educate and inspire others and give people first hand accounts to replace perceptions or stereotypes. I’m incredibly grateful to those that have participated. Their stories speak for themselves! If you enjoy the series please let us know!
Ashley Flitter – The Unintentional Vegan
Becoming a vegan was never my intention. When I was in high school my mom was a vegetarian and for some reason I always associated vegetarianism with hippies and college kids, so I started calling my mom a ‘tree hugger’, as if this was the worst thing someone could be. Though at the time I certainly thought it was. Becoming a vegetarian, let alone a vegan, was just not in the cards for me. Or so I thought.
Once I started on my journey towards veganism though, it was an unstoppable force. It was as if this was how I was supposed to have lived my whole life. It felt natural and even though I had my hiccups along the way (and still do), I felt like I eased into it with little effort. Thinking about it now, I realize that it felt so natural because it is the most natural way to live. Living a life where I am compassionate towards every living thing and am free of physical ailments is the most natural I’ve felt in my whole life.
Looking back on it, I do feel as though I eased into veganism quite seamlessly, but it wasn’t as though I dove into the deep end right away. I started with a small step, one small decision made without much thought, which led me to veganism quite unintentionally.
I stopped eating meat, just to see if I could. It was more of a personal test of willpower than it was a lifestyle choice. I didn’t really have any reasons for becoming a vegetarian other than to challenge myself. I’d been off of chicken for several years – an incident when I was pregnant left me unable to even look at the stuff – and the only meat I really ever ate was seafood and bacon. Also, I’d been dealing with some extreme acid reflux, gastritis, and IBS and I figured that the worst thing that could happen was my condition would stay the same if I went off of meat (though I assumed it would make things better).
After only a short while without meat I started getting better. My acid reflux subsided and I no longer had crippling gastritis episodes. I didn’t even miss meat like I thought I would and I didn’t magically turn into a ‘tree hugger’ hippie like I had first feared. I was still eating a lot of eggs, cheeses, and yogurts, but since I was feeling a lot better I didn’t think too much about it. One thing that wasn’t better though, was my IBS. After more trips to the doctor they suggested I have an endoscopy done.
An endoscopy basically involved them heavily sedating me and then shoving a camera down my throat to check things out. They also decided to do a biopsy of my stomach lining just to be sure it wasn’t some sort of cancer that was making me sick. Every test came back negative and they hadn’t found any ulcers. Finally, my gastroenterologist suggested that I may be lactose-intolerant. All of the tests, all of the years of stomach issues had boiled down to something I thought (after-the-fact) should have been obvious to my doctors. Regardless of how much time it took to get to the conclusion, I knew that I had to dramatically cut back on my cheese intake if I ever wanted to feel better.
To be honest, as silly as it may sound, I didn’t feel like I knew how to live without cheese. So I started reading. The first book about veganism that I picked up was Jonathan Safran-Foer’s Eating Animals. I was 15 pages in when I decided to go vegan. I couldn’t believe what was happening to these poor, defenseless animals. I knew that factory farming was disgusting, but I never realized how cruel it really was. Farming these days isn’t something out of Charlotte’s Web – it’s an ugly and cruel business that made me take a hard look at myself and the choices I was making on a daily business. I had already given up meat and my hand was forced a bit into giving up cheese, so all that was left was eggs and the random weird animal by-products that are in many processed foods. What did I have to lose? The short answer is ‘nothing’. I had everything to gain – I just had to open my mind, my heart, and my stomach to the possibilities. Unsurprisingly, as soon as I cut animal products out of my diet completely, my IBS was gone, along with any other digestive ailments I’d had over the years. But my journey didn’t stop there.
Sometimes, especially in the beginning, it’s easy to get caught up in all of the amazing vegan food out there. And truly, you should get caught up in it. I always find it funny when people assume that being vegan means to give up and go without, when really it’s all about broadening your palette’s horizons. There are so many amazing foods out there that I never would have known about had I never become vegan. I eat more of a variety of foods now than I ever did when I ate meat. I’ve also rediscovered my love of cooking since taking animal products out of my diet – it’s so much fun to experiment with new ingredients and new ways of putting dishes together.
But when it comes down to it, being vegan is about more than the food. It’s about the animals and it’s about the people. It’s about showing compassion towards all living things, even when it’s difficult or inconvenient. It’s about making the conscious decision to live a more loving and caring life each day. And it’s a life I’m glad I choose to live, as unintentional as it was.
I’ve read a line about veganism a few times over the last year and I think it describes the way I now feel about it perfectly: “I went vegan for my health, I stayed vegan for the animals”.
You can follow Ashley on twitter @las_dos_ashleys and her site here.
If you’re feeling inspired and want to submit your own vegan testimonial please read this post. You can also read the interview Kasey Minnis (@veggiemightee) did with me about this project on This Dish is Veg.