I started all of this vegan stuff about a month ago. Well I shouldn’t really say vegan because literally up until this weekend I am still using regular butter so I am not a vegan yet! At first I was obsessed with finding vegan alternatives for EVERYTHING! I’ve had the beyond meat and impossible burgers before and loved them, so I thought switching to a plant-based vegan diet would be a breeze… I would just find all these substitutes and it wouldn’t be that hard to change. I tried a bunch of “vegan cheeses” and they were all pretty gross. So far the only one staying in the rotation is violife feta, which really tastes more like goat cheese to me… but I like both so I am good with that. I bought vegan jerky and vegan blueberry tarts and vegan chocolate bars. I bought all manner of Gardein brand fake-meats and basically anything that could be considered “convenient” vegan substitutes.
But then I started reading about junk food vegans, and realised that was the exact path I was headed down. So sure, I was doing right by animals, but I still wouldn’t be doing right by my health. Vegan deserts just means no animal products… it doesn’t mean healthy. This was my biggest first lesson to learn this month! Also as a type 2 diabetic, I cannot subsist on potatoes, rice and pasta. So I had to roll up my sleeves and start digging deeper! I understand now that if I want any real chance to reverse my diabetes and live a healthy life I have to go beyond vegan and go full plant-based vegan with as little oil as possible. At first this sounded so incredibly daunting and like I would never be able to eat anything again but within just a week or so I have already found it a pretty easy switch.
Remember those vegan cookbooks Andrew bought me to help get me started? Well I have started working my way through two of them: Thug Kitchen 101 and Oh She Glows for Dinner. Both books offer a ton of upfront info on moving into a plant-based vegan diet. TK is more for quick simple recipes, and OSG feels more like indulgent entrees that take some time but you really reap the reward in flavour! I made the cauliflower and potato curry from OSG last night in my instant pot and it was amaaaazing!!! Andrew agreed that it was an absolute flavour bomb and said that it needs to stay in the regular rotation and he is a meat-eater with very discerning tastes, so that is high praise indeed!! P.S. how lucky am I to have this hunk supporting me through a pretty drastic life change?? I know, he is pretty amazing!!
In my pursuit of all things plant-based, I have done my best to get rid of the “convenience” food (except the jerky.. I love it as an occasional snack and no one is taking that away from me lol) and to focus on the fact that this diet will simply require me to plan more and cook more. It is what it is because I want to live and live well. And as of yesterday, I am no longer eating any animal products at all. I had already cut out meat, eggs and milk… but I was holding out on cheese and butter. I will diligently read labels and endeavour to make sure my diet is not only vegan but plant-based with very little oil. I have followed so many vegan accounts on Instagram and YouTube, but am happy to take any recommendations you may have!
Some people choose to go vegan or eat a plant-based diet because of animal cruelty, or because of their health, or because it seems like the cool thing to do, right? So who am I and why am I going vegan? Well, my name is D.L. Belanger and I have had problems with food and weight nearly my entire life. Growing up lower class, we got our food sometimes from food banks, sometimes from fast food restaurants and sometimes from whatever was cheapest option at the grocery store. And that meant eating mostly garbage. Except, I didn’t really know it was garbage. When you live in poverty, mostly everyone around you is also in poverty and without access to the internet back in those days, we just didn’t know what we didn’t know. I thought spam directly from the can was an acceptable meal. The only pasta dishes I had were Chef Boyardee or alpha-ghetti! My favourite sandwich as a kid consisted of 3 pieces of white wonder bread, slathered with butter, peanut butter and sugar-laden jam stacked together and eaten as fast as humanly possible! And I would chase that abomination with the tallest glass of cow’s milk you could imagine. I chugged gallons of juice a day. It should be no surprise to learn that by age 10 I was the second heaviest student in my class and that by the time I went to University I was a whopping 300lbs standing 5’3′ tall. That was around the time my health problems really started. Despite my size, I had been a pretty athletic kid but by the time my mid-20’s hit things had changed. My knees and back were aching and it got so bad that I chose my class schedule based on how many stairs I might need to go up to get to the class! A few years later, I was hitting the 330lb range and my doctor was very concerned. I had been diagnosed with PCOS which contributed to the weight problem and had a family history of early death caused by cancer, heart problems and diabetes. My doctor suggested bariatric surgery, so in 2013 I got a gastric sleeve and lost over 100lbs. I met my partner, Andrew, in 2014 and he was very healthy! We did tons of outdoor activities and things were looking up. But I still hadn’t really learned anything about nutrition… so the weight slowly came back until I was about 290lbs again. Andrew did what he could to curb my bad eating habits at home, but he couldn’t be with me 24 hours a day and I would often eat out for breakfast and lunch at work. I drank suagr-filled lattes for breakfast and frequently had McDonalds with soda for lunch. In 2018, I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. That was a big wake-up call for me. I dove head-first into reading everything I could about controlling diabetes with food. I cut out juice all together, got an instant pot, and bought tons of cook books. Things slowly got better and between changes in diet, exercise and medicine, I was able to get down to 245lbs. During this same time, I really became more interested in environmentalism and animal-cruelty and increasingly found it difficult to keep eating animals. I had a gallbladder removal surgery in June 2020 and complications from that surgery make it very difficult for me to eat anything high in fat… like animal and dairy products. Through the pandemic, I had more time to reflect than any other time in my life. I thought about how I had overcome my impoverished upbringing to attend university, get multiple degrees, and land a career government job. I have been in a steady loving relationship for 7 years and am a budding cat-lady… I am so happy in every aspect of my life, but I just can’t seem to beat these health issues. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. I talked to my doctor and he said I had a ton of inflammation in the body coming up in my diabetes bloodwork. And even though my diabetes is being controlled, I have plateaued on my weight loss. He suggested a plant-based diet. So I did some more research and I watched the movie “vegucated” and that was really helpful for me in making the decision to commit. If that wasn’t enough though, life was going to throw me one last curve ball… my doctor just confirmed last week that I have skin cancer on my face. He explained that family history, genetics, and skin type make me prone for cancers and that a plant-based diet could help protect me against future cancers and even possibly reverse my diabetes. So that’s where I’m at… this is why I am choosing to go vegan. I care about my health and I care about the animals. I no longer desire to ingest animals and I do not want to contribute to torture of animals or the destruction of our planet. Andrew bought me 3 vegan cookbooks to get me started and I am watching every available movie and documentary and YouTuber that has content. I will be journaling my journey here and offering up my recommendations on recipes, cookbooks, other blogs and channels worth watching. I hope you will all enjoy the ride with me! To health, happiness and the pursuit of a world less cruel 🙂