My life revolved around Tofurky. Tofurky and nutritional yeast.
After becoming vegan four-ish months ago, I totally overhauled my normal breakfast of eggs and dinners based around rotisserie chicken. Whereas I once ate a lot of luncheon meat (Costco turkey slices are very cheap) and string cheese (hey, I have kids who love cheese!), I instead chose to raid the Down to Earth fridges for anything plant-based that resembled meat. Hence I went through packages of Yves fake meats like they were going out of style and tempeh became a staple in our household. I felt somewhat guilty that I was turning to processed foods to maintain an adequate amount of protein, but I wanted this go-around, this second chance at veganism to stick. And so I wasn’t taking any chances.
Vitamins? Check. I increased the amount of BCAAs, B-6, B-12, essential fatty acids, and a whole other amount of supplements to ensure that I wasn’t deficient in anything. I made sure to eat tofu at every meal or snack on soynuts because I didn’t want to run low on protein. I added flax to boost my fiber and purchased raw spirulina chips as a natural fuel source.
And life was grand. I felt strong. I felt clean. I felt, well, pretty darn good.
But there was also this little voice running through the back of my head.
“How long can you keep this up?”
“Is this really sustainable?”
“Why are you REALLY vegan?”
That last question took me by surprise. I silenced that little voice by reiterating that I was a plant-based nosher because I wanted to be healed of ailments, that I loved animals, that I was doing the ethically and morally right action by not harming a living being.
But in truth, I was hurting a living being. Myself.
Day by day, with the more tofu, PB2, and mixed nuts I consumed, the more I realized that I was actually not healthy. I looked the picture of health, and in fact co-workers would remark on what a “good” lunch I had because I nibbled on rice cakes with peanut butter and dipped cucumbers into hummus. But in actuality, I could feel that my physical body was (sadly) once again becoming tired. Very. Tired. It didn’t help that I was also training to compete in my first weightlifting meet so my output demanded a very intense input calorically speaking, and all the nutritional yeast I sprinkled on salads and all the avocados I ate couldn’t keep up with the fact that my body wanted more.
It occured to me one day while I sat picking at a salad, staring in disgust at an IG photo of a person’s lovely chirashi bowl, a fresh array of brightly colored ahi, salmon, ikura, and uni all atop a bed of rice, that I was sick. My body was tired. My teeth wanted to sink into something of substance. But more importantly, my spirit was unwell. I was judging someone on IG, and judging him negatively, BECAUSE HE ATE FISH. FISH. There are worse crimes in the world to have committed—murder, adultery, theft—yet I was discounting an individual because he decided to buy a plate of seafood.
The gravity of this revelation astounded me. It literally made me stop shoving kale down my throat, put down my phone, and ask God, “Really, God, why am I vegan? Should I still be?” His answer was clear:
No. It’s because of your pride.
If I were really honest of myself, I wanted to be vegan to prove that I could “do it right”, that with this second chance at veganism, I could prove all the haters incorrect and show them that a plant-based diet can be successful. Don’t get me wrong—there are numerous veggie lovers out there that can thrive eating only food grown from the ground. But their motives for opting for beans and rice versus chicken and steak may be vastly different than mine.
Little by little, God was revealing to me just how prideful I really am. Whether in the classroom, with my family, or even with Him, it’s hard to admit, but I want to be right. I want to know that my opinion is correct. The realization that I can be at fault is something that is challenging to accept, but I need to know this.
I am not perfect. I cannot do everything perfectly. I should not live up to anyone else’s standards, just God’s.
So as I sat there, salad in front of me, phone in hand with the IG picture staring at me, and I told God that ok, I admit it, I cannot be vegan. To continue to buy Tofurky and Lighlife faux hot dogs was not in His plan for me. But to admit my shortcomings, to embrace that I may be physiologically different than my husband and other veggie eaters, to acknowledge that even if I munch on sashimi I am still a valuable and loved individual, those are things I can do and that He wants me to do.
Since receiving this revelation I have incorporated eggs, dairy, fish, and seafood back into my daily diet. Maybe chicken will be in the future too, but I’m not sure. All I know is that I cannot let what I eat dictate who I am because in truth, my identity lies in God and not in the food on my plate.