This is a guest post by Alia Tiberius. I kindly asked this vegan athlete to share her vegan experience in my humble blog. Here is what she had to say.
How I became a vegan
It wasn’t really a radical revelation that drove my transition from being born into an omnivore family to choosing to live as a vegan, it was a very gradual process.
I had a fairly normal-ish childhood, I think (I’m no child psychologist so don’t quote me on that). The thing that I remember from way back is that I always loved animals very much (what kid doesn’t?).
I don’t deny that I enjoyed eating meats, but as I grew older and realized that animals were being sacrificed for these dishes, my enjoyment of them definitely decreased. I still ate some meats, but it didn’t feel right, there was always a nagging doubt. I tried to minimize the amount of meat on my plate but it was always a bit of a battle at home. I recall getting lots of apocryphal warnings about how vegetarians would get horrible deficiencies and diseases from not eating meat. As much as I scoffed at these warnings as a rebellious teen, I have to say that they followed me a good distance from my parent’s home.
When I left my childhood home, I was a flexitarian, I would try to avoid meat, but due to poor meal planning, I’d always wind up relenting and eat meat (just in case, just to stay ‘healthy’ as I’d always been warned).. Once I left university, I really focussed on my career, working long hours and again not really taking care of my diet. I was changing jobs every 1-2 years and often relocating to each one, never really setting down any roots. I had a bit of a wakeup call as I headed towards my 30’s when my lifestyle (poor diet, little exercise) started to catch up with me and I ended up with quite unwell. I reassessed my life and started to think about work/life balance. My diet evolved to be pescatarian and the fish were really only occasional, when I was visiting or eating out.
Gradually I didn’t want to eat fish anymore either…my health was slowly improving and I decided to take much more interest in my health. I think I admired vegans but I was convinced that it took a lot of work and discipline I wasn’t sure I had in me. I resolved to finish an Olympic distance triathlon before turning 40 and trained to make this happen. I’d started to pay better attention to my diet and had seen some postings on Facebook that indicated that there was cruelty in dairy and eggs too. It kept nagging at me and I knew that I would have look into it sooner or later.
I wanted to be a better eco-citizen, I wanted to do what was right for the animals, I wanted to be healthier and I wanted to clear my conscience or at least understand exactly what I was doing (or not doing). I had spent the fall watching Georges Laraque (a big hockey player whose main role was as a fighter/enforcer in the NHL) attempting to be a figure skater. I read up about him online and found out that he was a vegan! Moreover, he went vegan overnight after watching ‘Earthlings’ and even lent his voice to the French version of the movie.
My husband and I watched the movie and I decided that it was time to go vegan (luckily my husband decided to go vegetarian at the same time). I bought a couple of great cookbooks and read all that I could about veganism. I decided to do this in stages to avoid feeling overwhelmed. I first tackled the obvious egg and milk products and let the baked goods slide for the first week. Then I focused on finding good baked goods, found out that most bagels are vegan and found bread that I liked. Then I started to root through my cosmetics and household products and started to research what was made from animals or which companies tested on animals. I found that just by focusing my energy on certain products that I was running low on, it wasn’t too overwhelming. Of course I made mistakes along the way – I was certain that Coffee Mate was vegan for the longest time and I have no idea how I misread the ingredients like that. But slowly I worked away at it and I’m happy to say that I’m about 90% vegan at this point. I know that it isn’t quite possible to be 100% vegan and there are some items I can’t afford to replace right away, but I know that when it comes time to replace them, I will be making smarter choices.
I didn’t find it hard to be vegan but I did gain a feeling of peace and I felt empowered. Yes, horrible things are happening to animals all over the world but no longer because of me! At least I could take that power back, even if I couldn’t stop all the atrocities. I also felt like I was finally living according my values; I knew that I loved animals, I understood that they feel pain and I didn’t want to inflict any pain on another being when it was totally unnecessary. You do get a lot of flak from people who just don’t get it or are somehow offended by your existence and you will be asked where you get your protein all the time. But… it’s worth it, it really is.