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Going Vegan???

Ha! No… Not me 🙂

Since I’ve been feeling sick my super cool friend Natalie has graciously written a guest post for me.
I’ve known Natalie for close to ten years… I remember the day she told me she decided to go vegan…
I love her story because it’s real! She’s a real working woman who has made veganism fit into her crazy busy life.

Here’s her story…

Our valiant leader is taking a blogging break this week as she’s a tad bit under the weather, so I will do what I can to fill the spot while she’s out. You should know I am just a regular (and avid) eater… it certainly doesn’t help qualify me to fill this space until Estela returns, but I will sub in and tell you my story!
I am a vegan who travels on business frequently… In case you’re not quite certain what a vegan is, here’s the official definition: a strict vegetarian who consumes no animal food or dairy products. (Thank you, Merriam Webster). That’s right, no greasy burgers, no chicken fingers, no milkshake with whipped cream, and to top it all off, that means good-bye to my favorite and yours — cheese! I sometimes still can’t believe I made the decision almost 3 years ago, but I gotta tell you — there’s absolutely no lookin’ back!
Here’s all the questions that I got when I announced my decision to be a vegan. Did I make my decision because of a strong conviction to be kind to animals? No. Was I doing this to be more environmentally conscious? Nah. God’s honest truth? I was 30 pounds overweight, I travel frequently for my job, and one night, I ran from one terminal to another (with the Tram in-between) at the Atlanta airport and missed my connecting flight home. Sweating, frustrated, dragging my laptop case, a roller bag, and busting out of my suit, I sank down into the seats at the gate, and put my head in my hands. Something had to change.
I put a toe in the water, and tried a little bit of modification to my eating habits. I had flashbacks of that airport run and used that bottom of the barrel moment to motivate me. But I was definitely no expert. I didn’t realize how many products at the store are filled with some type of animal byproduct — for cryin’ out loud, even Worcestershire Sauce has anchovy something or other in it. And I really,really wanted to try being a vegan and to be healthy. To be an educated eater — I wanted to throw all caution to the wind and see if I could do it… at least for a month… No chicken or red meat, no eggs or cheese. But someone please tell me how I was supposed to travel for work and pick out something vegan to eat??
My timetable was a month to try it out, and throughout every business trip where I would go out to a restaurant, I learned more and more how to adjust my order requests to make it easier, but most importantly tastier. But I will be honest. My very first time was no walk in the park. I was meeting with co-workers at a fancy restaurant (Nightmare # 1, I have to dress up??). I expected something vegetarian on the menu, and that I would be able to simply ask to take the sour cream out, or 86 the cheese…but nope. So in my vegan virgin stupidity, I ordered the iceberg wedge salad… minus the bacon, the two different types of cheese, and some type of fish… but keep everything else. The waiter looked at me, blinked a few times, and repeated my order back. I confidently nodded, and handed my menu back to him to close the deal. The waiter walked away, my co-workers at the table teased me incessantly, and when my dish finally appeared, I realized I should have analyzed my food choices (or lack thereof) a little better… because (Nightmare # 2) essentially what sat before me was a single wedge of iceberg lettuce and peanuts. I had ordered rabbit food.
So I learned how to order (and really cook at home — I searched online recipes for everything that I liked to eat, but I just added “vegan” to my Google search..) When I went to a restaurant with clients and co-workers, I took chances and asked for pasta with veggies in the sauce (make it extra veggies while you’re at it, please). And I was surprised to learn how even at a franchise family-run restaurant, sometimes the chefs enjoy giving it a whirl and going off the menu.
But when you travel, the primary place you eat at is: the dreaded airport.
Counters and counters of highly processed and overly fat-filled food await you. How to pick what’s the best to eat? A simple secret — it’s easy to know how to pick healthy food for me as a vegan. With this definition, I have my road map on how to eat, so here’s what I eat at the airport because I learned that when I travel, I never go to the airport starving. Instead:
— I pack Lara Bars in my carryon. (SO good, particularly the Cashew Cookie bar…heaven).
— I go to the juice bar and get a banana and granola. Heck, maybe an apple, too.
— I order Starbucks coffee and ask for soy milk (some even have oatmeal available, and I order that with brown sugar — yum!)
— And oh my, strawberries in a salad are freaking awesome
— Fresher is sooo much easier!
So at the end of the day — do I like that my nutritional choices are kind to animals? Absolutely. Am I surprised that I’m doing a little bit of good as it comes to the environment? Sure. Do I feel better, breathe easier, and my skin is clearer? Oh yeah! Ultimately, I was surprised (not to mention, smugly proud) that I learned that what I truly needed was to draw the line in the sand and make a true and honest commitment — to myself. And let’s be real: Am I absolutely stoked that I lost the 30 pounds that kept me sweating to catch my next flight and my suits fit better? Daggone, absolutely, flippin’ heck yeah.

And if you’re willing to make that attempt for something new, take a look through the book “Becoming Vegan: The Complete Guide to Adopting a Healthy Plant-Based Diet,” by Brenda Davis, R.D. & Vesanto Melina, M.S., R.D.
Happy Eating! Natalie

20 Responses

  1. Lindsay @ The Ketchup Diaries said on March 25, 2010 at 8:40 am

    Natalie – Thank you for sharing your store. I don’t think I could ever go vegan, but I am inspired by people who do. I have never heard of anyone making the decision and then regretting it and I think that speaks volumes about the lifestyle. Best of luck to you!

  2. Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday said on March 25, 2010 at 8:42 am

    Thanks for sharing your story!

  3. Kelly @ Healthy Living With Kelly said on March 25, 2010 at 9:18 am

    Great post and thanks for sharing!

  4. Tracey @ I'm Not Superhuman said on March 25, 2010 at 9:19 am

    Thanks so much for sharing your story. You’re so real, which I appreciate. A lot of times vegans come off as preachy or holier-than-thou because you eat meat. But I really didn’t get that from you, and it’s interesting to learn why and how you do it!

  5. Nicole @ Geek Turned Athlete said on March 25, 2010 at 9:27 am

    What a great weight loss story. I think that non vegans should take your cue and eat more veggies!

  6. Marisa (Loser for Life) said on March 25, 2010 at 9:44 am

    That is a great story! I commend you for going vegan! I’ve been doing a vegetarian stint for Lent and it is VERY HARD! Good for you for taking a stand for your health and making changes that work for you!

  7. Merri Ann said on March 25, 2010 at 10:24 am

    I was a vegan for most of the same reasons as you … it was about being healthy. I was advised to give it up whilst dealing with all my infertility issues but now I’m ready to go back.

    I started by saying I was going to give up all meat then after a month or two decided to go vegan. After just a short time, I was convinced I’d done the right thing. The amazing way I felt was the final factor in my commitment to it over the next 10 years.

    Now that my children are here it’s time to get back to it.

    Great post …

  8. Ameena said on March 25, 2010 at 10:53 am

    Great guest post…I love your honesty and humor. I really want to be a vegan but I find it so hard to avoid things when traveling, especially eggs and fish! I love that you are a successful traveling vegan…gives me hope for myself. 🙂

  9. Heather (Heather's Dish) said on March 25, 2010 at 11:34 am

    i don’t know if i’d ever go vegan, but i totally believe that eating vegan for a large percentage of the time is great for the body and the environment. great post!

  10. Danielle (Coffee Run) said on March 25, 2010 at 11:41 am

    I loved reading this! I also pack Lara Bars wherever I go lol

  11. katie said on March 25, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    WOW what a great story!! i could never go vegan..LOVE my greek yogurt- but i have full respect for people who are!

  12. Emily (A Nutritionist Eats) said on March 25, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    Great story! I just picked up Eat, Drink & Be Vegan and while I am not a full-time vegan, I have been LOVING these recipes!

  13. Nicole, RD said on March 25, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    You are inspirational, Natalie! I can’t imagine what a challenge being a vegan traveler can be. Talk about planning ahead! I couldn’t be vegan, but I can relate to the difficulty in making healthy decisions on the run. It takes some being flexible and some serious will-power! Congrats in all of your successes, I loved reading your story!

  14. Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) said on March 25, 2010 at 7:06 pm

    I am vegan and always love hearing other people’s stories. I always say the high raw vegan life chose me, i didnt choose it. Based on multiple food intolerances. This past week I did a major (smackdown) on why we dont need dairy in our lives but ppl are always free to do what they want no judgment from me. But wanted to put it out there w/ recipe suggestions, too.
    Great post, Natalia!

    Do you have a blog? Would love to get to “know” you more 🙂

  15. Nicole @ Making Good Choices said on March 25, 2010 at 8:22 pm

    I read this earlier on my phone, but it wouldn’t let me comment. I really enjoyed reading your story. I always enjoy reading personal experiences about why people eat the way they do.

  16. Jess (Fit Chick in the City) said on March 26, 2010 at 8:51 am

    Natalie- congrats! Thank you for sharing your story.

  17. Anna@ Newlywed, Newly Veg said on March 26, 2010 at 9:20 am

    Great post!! I did a vegan challenge for a month, and actually really enjoyed it. Non-vegan foods have slipped back into my life since then, but I have tried to cut back on them!

  18. Gelareh @ Nutritious Foodie said on March 26, 2010 at 11:53 am

    Great Post!

    Thanks for sharing your story 🙂

  19. eatmovelove said on March 26, 2010 at 11:14 pm

    Great post! Yeah….rabbit food is not cool 🙂

  20. Joe @ Eden Kitchen said on March 27, 2010 at 9:32 pm

    Natalie, thanks for sharing your interesting story. Good on you for taking the plunge and going vegan. I have been vegetarian for 4 years now but haven’t yet made it to vegan.