Best of VoxPop: Reader Favorites
By Meghan Gardler
My foray into veganism started in September when I sat down to watch Oprah reruns and put off looking for a job. Alicia Silverstone was on promoting her new book about eating like a vegan called The Kind Diet, and I sat up and listened to what she had to say.
After a summer of drinking, eating mostly slices of pepperoni pizza and cheesesteaks and bar hopping down the shore, any book with the word Diet in it made me pay attention because of the 10 pounds I had gainedaround the hip and ass region.
When I thought "diet guru," the name Alicia Silverstone didn't exactly leap mind. I related her to "Whatever's" and "As-if's!", since I did grow up in the Clueless age, but through her occasional giggles I could tell she really knew what she was talking about when it came to soy, animal abuse, and tofu.
I immediately logged onto my laptop and started to do a little research about veganism and Alicia's Kind Diet. No meat, no dairy, no refined sugars, no fried foods. Just vegetables and grains for almost every meal.
Basically, don't grow up in Philly, land of Steaks wit' and Tastykakes. My flabby gut was telling me to try it, while my taste buds were telling me to forget the whole thing and get some Crab Fries from Chickie n' Petes. I looked in the mirror and ordered the book.
As soon as it came, I immediately went food shopping and stocked up on the essentials: soy milk, tofu, brown rice, green tea, miso soup, and every vegetable you could imagine (including seaweed blechh).
I was grossed out by most of the things she said in the book, such as: Did you know that cows only produce milk when they're pregnant, so factory farmers keep then continuously pregnant and take the calves away immediately from the mother? The boy calf's stay in a cage and are made into veal and the girl calves are kept to do the same thing their mothers do.
It may be feel like a horrible person. I ate my own personal record of three cheeseburgers this past Fourth of July. I have cereal and a WAWA coffee with cream and sugar every morning. I knew I needed to change, and I knew Cher from Clueless, I mean Alicia, could help me.
I did really well on this pure vegan diet and didn't eat meat or drink any milk for three weeks. My biggest problem: cheese. I love cheese. I once ate an entire wedge of parmesan cheese in one sitting. My Dad used to pack cheese sandwiches for my lunch growing up. I used to ask for extra extra Wiz on my cheesesteaks. I have an obsession about it. But, eventually, being a newly minted Vegan, I weaned myself off of it and didn't have too many slip ups.
The hardest part of this new diet was that I had insane cravings for meat that I never had before. It happened especially after I put away a couple Bud Lights). In the Kind Diet, Alicia says that this is a normal reaction. Since birth our bodies are so used to eating meat and dairy that it becomes an addiction to us. In understood the reasons for these cravings, but I also knew a relapse was coming.
It happened when my Mom took me to The Capital Grille to celebrate me getting my first job. It had bad news written all over it, because who the heck goes to a steakhouse and doesn't order a steak? I decided to just let it all go and I ordered up. French onion soup with cheesy goodness? Yep. Hand-cut French fries? Yep. Asparagus with a hollandaise sauce over it? Yep. I even asked for cheese on my salad. Last but not at all least, I ordered the most delicious filet mignon in the history of filets. We ended up having a great night, and I went to bed full and satisfied.
That night, I had a dream that we ate dinner at a hibachi grille and the chef in front of me was cooking up mini animal heads for me to eat. I ate a little giraffe, and little monkeys, and for some reason only Freud could explain, I ate little cats and dogs. I decided it was time to switch back to healthy vegan eating and stop eating all the animal heads.
The moral of my story is that everything needs to come in moderation. I went from Meatatarian to Vegan in a matter of days because I watched Oprah, and it changed my life, so thank you Oprah.
But during the process, I was obsessed, and that wasn't good. I almost made myself sick with the guilt of trying to be perfect, and honestly, I missed chicken, so I made a pact to lay off red meat for life, and so far I haven't eaten any since that dreaded night at The Capital Grille.
I'm the type of person who likes to have a word associated to me, and I finally found one that fits, which is Flexitarian. I define it as someone who eats vegetables and legumes and grains primarily but occasionally eats protein like chicken or fish when they feel like it.
In the end, I learned that doing my part to help save the planet and the animals we share it with isn't as hard as you would think in Philly.
Now if someone would just invent a Tofu Cheesesteak life would be perfect.