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My journey to veganism was primarily food based at the start. I was raised in a lacto-ovo vegetarian home, but once I went away to college I hit the hamburger stand full-force. Fifty pounds later, I scaled back to healthier standards, but remained a meat eater, primarily because I didn’t know anyone who was a vegetarian besides my parents, and they didn’t voice objection that I had left the lifestyle. That, and I was going to school in Chicago, home of deep dish pizza.

Many years later I did the best (and worst) thing possible for myself, and it changed my life. In an effort to lose weight, I went on the Atkins Diet for a year. I ate cheese and beef jerky and scrambled eggs and processed deli meat and cottage cheese and Jell-O EVERY DAY. If I had a sweet tooth I sucked Readi-Whip from a can. That was my diet 24/7. And I lost 20 pounds. I also got horrible acne, was constipated on a regular basis, felt lethargic and logy, and began having problems with my “fluid” tract. My doctor was concerned about my kidneys and used the phrase, “possible damage and eventual shut-down” if I continued to consume high fat, high sodium foods. It was permission to quit, and going off the diet was a
relief.

After the Atkins fiasco I decided to go back to my lacto-ovo vegetarian roots. I felt better almost immediately.

Then Mad Cow Disease hit in England.

A girlfriend of mine was dating a vegan at the time, and we had long discussions about why we were at a greater risk than he as far as contracting disease or being effected by contaminated food sources. I started to research veganism and animal production. Embarrassing as this is, it wasn’t until then that I put beef and dairy in the same category. I had always
separated the chicken and the egg. However, I pushed my thoughts away for several years because I witnessed how vegans were treated. “Freak,” is the term I remember most.

Then, during a stint where I became very concerned about my health, I decided to adapt a vegan diet 100 percent. I went cold turkey. And I continued to read. As a result, amazing things happened to me.

I love to cook, and learning a new method was an exciting challenge. Two years into my veganism I STILL get a tremendous charge from having someone rave about a bread or dessert that I bring to work, and watching their face change when I tell them the delightful taste is courtesy of tofu!

I’ve also lost weight and kept it off. I still hit the gym and get as much exercise in as possible, but it’s just easier, even though I’m getting older.

However, my greatest gift has been a re-connection with the animals. My sweet kitty cat, Mo, was always a friend, but now she is a true companion. I can’t imagine life without her because I see her as an equal, not just a house pet. And I revere other animals with the same respect. That attitude only surfaced after becoming vegan.

Veganism has made my life come full circle, in a sense. I am one, yet I am part of a community – a huge community of people and animals. It is humbling to be part of such a large family where every “one” is different, yet equal, unique and special. 

~Colleen in St. Paul, MN

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