We’re in an age of gold-star ratings, customer reviews, and success stories – often relying on other’s experiences and opinions to determine our confidence in the unknown.
When I first became Vegan, I wanted to connect to others who had “been there, done that.” I wanted to know how Veganism had changed their lives, how they’d overcame challenges, and how we were similar in our efforts to maintain. I found peace in knowing that there were people out there willing to share and who were just like me. Today, it’s my way of reinforcing my commitment.
In addition to great plant-based recipes, from time-to-time, EatPlants4Life will be adding a new series of interview-style posts called REAL Veg Stories. It will showcase Vegans/Vegetarians who have adopted an egg/dairy-free and/or meat-free diet. EP4L’s REAL Veg Stories will answer questions about transitioning and maintaining. It will be honest, candid, satisfy the curious and skeptic, inspire plant-based newbies, and motivate everyone else in between.
Our first REAL Veg Story comes out of Kennesaw, GA.
Meet Shannon C…
I have a personal history with Shannon C. We were, at one time, neighbors who shared a common interest as first time mothers. When I met her, she was just like me – – veeeery pregnant. She was a Vegetarian and I was a meat-eater, who had dabbled in Vegetarianism in college. At that time, I was curious about taking another stab at being Vegetarian, but wanted to get all of the facts so I could stick to it this time. She was the first person to introduce me to tofu and after I decided to transition from meat-eater to Vegetarian, she was a main source for information and inspiration. And although we’re no longer pregnant or neighbors, we still hang out, our kids still see each other several times a year, and we’re what I call Veggie friends. Only this time, I became a source for her in her transition from Vegetarian to Vegan. Here’s her candid take on transitioning to Vegan…
Me: When and why did you choose to become a Vegetarian?
Shannon: I chose to be Vegetarian in the early 1990s. I gave up red meat for a few years because my coach recommended it for my tennis. I automatically lost 5 pounds, kept it off, and felt lighter on the court and better in general. Then a few years later I got food poisoning from chicken… it was so horrible, I could never eat chicken again and realized that I didn’t really need/like meat. So around 1995 I went Vegetarian.
Me: Why did you choose to go from Vegetarian to Vegan?
Shannon: Thanks to my awesome friend KIM TYSON… and a few other Vegetarian friends who recently went Vegan – I heard about the Vegan diet and was curious. Then, I realized my cholesterol was high – 196, and my bad cholesterol was VERY HIGH. So, I started cutting back on cheese for about 3 months. Then, I realized I don’t really need or miss dairy, so I tried VEGAN about 9 months ago. At first, I “cheated” a few times, but then realized I felt better. My eyes stopped getting puffy (I think I had an allergy to dairy), my dandruff got better, and I never felt like I was in a food coma…. so I enjoyed VEGANISM and stayed with it.
Me: How was the information received by family and close friends?
Shannon: My family has always thought I was crazy (as in sisters/parents) – even for being vegetarian for years. So becoming Vegan – they just don’t get it! My husband recently became Vegetarian and thinks being Vegan is great. He is a healthy eater, so it makes it easy.
Me: How does it affect your child(ren)?
Shannon: My daughters are young, and they still want to eat meat. I cook it for them, let them eat what they want (mostly organic, whole foods) but don’t freak out when we are at b-day parties, etc. I wouldn’t push it on them. But, they do seem curious and ask a lot of questions about being Vegan.
Me: What non-Vegan food do you miss?
Shannon: I honestly don’t have any cravings. My biggest weakness was cheese, but I really don’t miss it and have an easy time substituting with Vegan cheeses if I need that cheese fix.
Me: What have you discovered “new” to add to your diet that you had not tried before Veganism?
Shannon: I eat a lot of pumpkin seeds, avocado, more beans than I used to, more chia seeds, a lot more quinoa, and more potatoes.
Me: What Vegan recipe, product, and/or restaurant is your all-time fav that you can’t live without?
Shannon: EatPlants4Life is my saving grace. I also just go to the internet and look up certain things that match what I am serving. For instance, if I am serving chili at a party, I look up Vegan chili recipes for me. I love Sprouts for bulk food items, Whole Foods for date night or if I am going to someone’s house to bring Vegan items to share. Kroger has upped their game with Vegan items. Honestly, Costco is where I buy most of my Vegan items. Huge bags of flax/granola/pumpkin seeds, steel cut oats, smoothie mixes, veggies, and fruits that are organic. HERBAN FIX restaurant in Atlanta – totally VEGAN – awesome. Peace/Love/Pizza, Willy’s, and Moe’s are easy places that the whole family likes. Mellow Mushroom also has many Vegan items.
Me: Have you noticed physical, mental changes?
Shannon: I feel “lighter” when I exercise. I never get that “oh, I ate too much, I feel so tired” feeling, my complexion is better, my dandruff/itchy scalp is much less obvious, and my eyes don’t swell (I think I had an allergy to dairy). I just feel healthier overall putting whole foods/Vegan foods into my body. I don’t crave sugar and cheese.
Me: How has life changed socially?
Shannon: I’ll admit, it can be hard going to someone’s house for dinner. I always give a heads up so I am not seeming rude. I just bring enough Vegan items to share…. Also, going out to dinner can be tough because I want to suggest a restaurant that has Vegan options without seeming rude. I don’t want to be one of those people who complains or seems picky. Traveling can be tough, but I just bring a lot of Vegan snacks such as nuts, granola, bananas.
Me: What was your 1st Vegan holiday like?
Shannon: I ordered Vegan items from Whole foods – potatoes, cranberries, vegetables, etc. and brought enough to share. I had visitors and then was going to another house for dinner, so I didn’t have time to cook. Whole Foods saved the day! The Vegan stuffing was great.
Me: What did you miss having over the holiday season?
Shannon: I don’t really have cravings… so that isn’t an issue for me. As for sweets – I run to whole foods and get the Vegan cookies.
Me: What NEW food tradition will you add to your holiday table now that you are Vegan?
Shannon: I will continue to use Whole Foods as my go to…….. unless I actually have time to cook.
Me: As a busy working Mom, what advice/tip can you offer a new Vegan to help them adjust to this (sometimes time-consuming) diet.
Shannon: I bought a rice cooker and it is an absolute savior to cook a quick meal in a short time. Sprouts is an easy, quick, cheaper visit to the grocery store. I get a lot of frozen items, like Hillary’s Vegan items. Costco is a great way for a Vegan to spend money. Going out to Moe’s/Willy’s makes me and the girls happy – easy to eat Vegan. Peace/Love/Pizza has many Vegan items on the go.
Me: What advice do you give someone on the fence about going Vegan?
Shannon: DO IT, at least just try it. Watch the documentary What the Health, Forks Over Knives, and Vegucated. Or at least, go 75% Vegan and splurge on the weekends. My cholesterol went from 196 to 161 just in 7 months of going Vegan. I feel so much healthier overall and the cravings really go away, food tastes better, and unhealthy food looks disgusting to me now!