At the age of 36 I quit eating meat. Almost. I was in Kenya for work. We were in a small village in the Rift Valley. There was a celebration held in for an auspicious occasion and my colleagues and I were guests of honor. Early in the day an elder from the community brought a goat to the site of the celebration—a truth demonstration of generosity. The goat was presented and subsequently killed and boiled. That evening, we were offered the goat for dinner. To refuse it would have been an affront (or so I told myself?) Essentially I met a goat, shook his hand then ate him. I became a vegetarian.

Not exactly. I become one of those—I‘m a vegetarian, but I eat fish—people. That went on for nearly four years. Fish was my crutch. I didn’t eat fish at home but had convinced myself that eating out would be too difficult so I should just order fish. I ate out a lot. On a vacation four years ago, after eating fish to the point of ridiculousness, I decided it was time to be a real vegetarian. I gave up fish.
During this span of eight years I had somehow morphed from a 36 year old couch potato who smoked a pack a day and would eat half a bag of fun size Baby Ruth candy bars in one sitting to a non-smoker, 20 pounds lighter, gearing up for her first marathon in 2005 at the age of 40.

Fast forward to January of 2010, age 44. I run. A lot.

I compete in triathlons. I eat vegetarian and pretty healthily at that. But somehow every November and December I would find myself nursing a post-race season injury. Less exercise and holiday feeding frenzies = chubby JL each January. This year I received an email from my local yoga studio about a cleanse workshop. I had never “cleansed” in my life, but it intrigued me. I met with Jill of Hera Wellness who led an extremely informative workshop explaining a variety of cleansing methods. And I was off, a 14-day cleanse of clean eating (no processed foods), no coffee, no caffeine, no sugar, no dairy, no wheat, no wine (what?! no red wine?! I survived) and, in the middle, three days of Master Cleanse. At the conclusion of the cleanse I felt fantastic and became a cleanse convert. I continued eating the same healthy way (but resumed red wine and a cup of coffee a day) and I continued to eliminate dairy and wheat from my diet. Suddenly I realized that the only animal-based foods in my diet were honey and eggs. I realized I was an egg away from being a vegan.

I have been eating vegan for nearly one year. I have never felt better. This spring I had my annual physical with my general practitioner. I told her to indicate in my file that I was eating vegan. She scrunched up her nose and asked “Why vegan?” I described a typical day of eating and she concluded that I may be one of the healthiest eaters she knows. Four days later she phoned me with my blood work results. She began the conversation by saying “Keep eating the way you’re eating.”
How did I go about making the transition? I am a planner. I love a good spreadsheet. I knew I couldn’t go into this without really thinking it through; I consulted with my nutrition counselor and with her guidance, and the vegan blogosphere, I equipped myself to do it right. As a result of reading many, many (many! blogs) and vegan cookbooks I learned to cook healthy, delicious vegan meals. I also started blogging to help other new vegans see that anyone can make this transition.

They say the journey is the destination. I have been on a vegetarian journey and have finally arrived to eating vegan. Though I started eating vegan for my health, I find that I am committed to eating vegan for the animals. I confidently eat vegan and find myself confronted with what it means to be vegan. The journey continues.

You can follow JL’s vegan journey on her blog: JL goes Vegan: Food & Fitness with a side of Kale.

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