Flashback to Newark Airport. January 4, 2012. Return trip from Arizona. The day before Jen and I would commit to starting the 30-day vegan challenge. As Jen, Gillian and I made our way to to food court, I distinctly remember seeing a banner advertising chicken wings. Buffalo chicken wings. The kind of wings I became famous for eating. I hold the record for eating 68 at one sitting. There was a place in Collegetown called the “Alamo” (remember it?) that offered all you can eat wings and all you can drink beer for $5.99. They have since closed and I feel I had a hand in that. A hand drenched in wing sauce and bleu cheese dressing.
As I glanced at that banner at Newark Airport, I thought to myself: ”Get Wings. It’ll be 30 days until you can eat wings again.” Little would I have known then that this 30-day challenge would continue for a full year. And, now has become a lifetime commitment to veganism (sealed even more so in our July 2012 wedding vows).
At the time, Jen wanted to try vegan since lactose didn’t agree with her. She was already vegetarian so it wasn’t much of a leap. Cutting out meat, eggs and dairy for her would be relatively simple. For a known carnivore like me, it would be a much more daunting task. But it was only 30 days so I thought it would be simple and I thought she would quit after a couple of days (knowing full well she LOVED cheese and admitted that cheese was her weakness). Within two weeks I’d be eating wings again.
It has now been a year without meat. Eggs. Dairy. Honey. None of it.
How did the 30-day vegan challenge become an entire lifestyle? Well, I wanted to make it interesting. Placed a wager that whoever broke AFTER the 30 days would have to do chores for three months. All the chores. I knew that Jen would break and eat cheese so not only was I going to win this wager and be able to eat wings again but I was going to get to watch her do chores (a favorite pastime of mine). She didn’t break. She hasn’t still. And, now there’s no chance she’s going to. The 30 days has now become 365 days. And the 365 days has now become FOREVER.
It wasn’t easy at first. It had numerous challenges, especially while traveling to the Midwest with a group of meat eaters. Or sitting down to breakfast in New York City with two guys who ordered the “Lumberjack” while I got to eat oatmeal with strawberries on it. Though, through all the challenges, I actually started feeling better. As advertised, a plant-base diet is better for you. No matter what the meat and dairy industry says, eating whole grains and plant-based foods has ALL positive effects on your health. Proven, in my case, after being vegan for six months with a physical exam that revealed my blood pressure was perfect (lowered), my pulse rate was outstanding, my cholesterol level was exactly where it should be … oh, and I’d lost 30 lbs.
Part of the transition was watching “Forks Over Knives” and “Fat Sick and Nearly Dead.” If you haven’t watched these, I highly recommend doing so. The evidence and proof given is overwhelming and the transitions that people make toward a healthy life is incredible. When you see people reversing the effects of diseases, or eliminating altogether a basket full of prescription meds, you truly begin to see that being vegan is a great way to get the second half of your life in order. Another part of the transition was a generous and supportive new group of friends (who we are lucky enough to see once a week at Macro Vegan Friday Dinner and at special events for rotating vegan potlucks). Through all my complaining and griping about being vegan, they stood beside me and helped me every step of the way.
Of course, the most support and love I get is from Jen. Who actually doesn’t miss cheese and has inspired me to start cooking new, flavorful, wonderful and tasty dishes. I am eating more (and better) than I ever have before. She is the love of my life and now that life is going to be MUCH longer.
And, now, think about this: If being vegan is this beneficial to me … imagine how beneficial it is to those 34 chickens.
My wife Jen’s interview on Compassionate Eating. Visit her friend Jessica Fox’s “Sweet Athena” blog here.