How I Became A Vegetarian (& Then A Vegan)

When I was a little kid, I started going to a really neat summer camp in the Los Altos Hills every year for a week or two. It is called Hidden Villa, and still operates. At camp, we worked in the garden, swam, went hiking, made friends... but my favorite part of all was seeing all the different farm animals.

We had chores every day, and they included: taking care of the chickens, feeding and milking the cows, looking after the pigs, brushing and taking care of the horses, & feeding and checking on the sheep. I was a born animal-lover, and I cherished the chance to care for and be with all these special animals. The cows were definitely my favorites... such big and beautiful eyes, such warm and gentle dispositions. One year, we even got to see a baby cow who had just been born. It was amazing! He was so sweet and cute, and we got to take turns feeding him with the bottle. I remember that he was really, really strong when he was nursing. His name was Bart.

A year or two later, some older kids went out on the horses to bring the cattle back in from grazing, and found that someone had cut the fence and Bart was gone. As I recall it, the assumption was that he had been cow-napped. I had (& still have!) a wonderful aunt who was a vegetarian - so I knew that was an option. I decided right then to stop eating meat, so that I would never accidentally eat my friend Bart.

I think I still ate some meat off and on for a little while, but soon I was a happy vegetarian. I was really lucky to have a mother who was a great cook and who very willingly accomodated my new preferences. We already didn't eat loads of meat, so it was not that big of a switch. I think the rest of the family may have continued to have meat from time to time, but I always felt like I got lots of good stuff to eat!

It was many years until I met some people who were vegan and started to get curious about that level of commitment. Some of my friends at work were vegans, and they were also some of the coolest people ever! (Shout out to Jen, Bill, and Jacey... my vegan inspirations!) I didn't really know why people were vegans (& I was probably afraid to ask!), but I started to get inspired by seeing how happy and healthy and fun my vegan friends were.

Meanwhile, a typical day of eating for me included: cereal and milk, bagels and cream cheese, quesadillas... with occassional cheese pizza, cheese sandwich or ice cream. Nothing but dairy!!! I couldn't imagine the disgusting and empty lives vegans must have been living! Then, when I did my first yoga teachers' training course, it was 16 days with AMAZING vegan food prepared for us at every meal. I left that workshop feeling the healthiest and most vibrant I had ever felt! The idea of becoming a vegan who could eat great food had been planted in me.

That started off a few years of being mostly vegan, with treats and indulgences every once in a while. My vegan friends at work were really helpful during this time. Still, my main reason for trying to be vegan was the memory of how good I had felt after 2 weeks of vegan food... and somehow, my own well-being wasn't reason enough to help me stick to my guns.

Taking classes with Sharon Gannon and David Life (of Jivamukti Yoga) at the Southwest Yoga Conference, they gave everyone in the class information about becoming vegan and talked to us about the connection between non-violence and veganism. It made perfect sense to me, and I came home from the yoga conference committed to being a vegan. And that was that!

Being a vegan has been one of the most rewarding choices of my life. I really love it. I feel very good about the way I eat, and am actually much healthier as a vegan than I was as a vegetarian. I rarely have the experience of eating something and then feeling guilty or remorseful later - which helps my digestion and my peace of mind. I love knowing that I can read articles about the various harms of the meat and dairy industries and know that I am doing my part to end that suffering. I feel healthy and strong.

Most of all, it has been an amazing thing to discover the strength of my own conviction, compassion, and will power. I never would guess that I could watch a whole gathering of friends all eat ice cream on a hot day, and still not be tempted to partake - no matter how much I would like a taste! It has given me a glimpse of my own fortitude, and that has had a powerful effect on my whole life.

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Updated January 6, 2013