I really love nothing more than a weekend afternoon when I can curl up with my laptop and read the blog archives of a newly-discovered blog. I am a woman who craves stories and good writing, and when I find a blog filled with both of those things, I can spend the day learning about another person’s life. This behavior is, of course, rather voyeuristic, but in a sense, all autobiographical literature invites voyeurs. It’s just the nature of the genre, and while I generally try not to be the creepy lady who spies on her neighbors, I cannot hide my love for a funny, well-written personal blog. And if that blogger happens to be into many of the same things as I am? Awesome.
I discovered Kate O. of Effing the Ineffable via S.’s blog Simply Bike, and it was love at first read. Kate’s blog is funny and inspiring, and though I’ve never met her in person, I think Kate herself is fantastic. She writes frequently about vegan cooking and baking, which is right up my alley, and her posts about the various races she’s run have given me chills with their eloquence. She’s devoted to a lifestyle filled with good food and good exercise, and now that I’m a regular reader of her blog, it always makes me happy when I see she’s got a new post.
I’m so excited to share with you a guest post from Kate O. about her journey to a vegan diet. And by “diet,” I really mean way of life. Kate’s perseverance, whether when completing her first marathon or figuring out how to be vegan in the deep South, is a lesson for us all. We’ve got to stick to our guns and make it work if we believe in it. And as Kate will tell us, believing is the first step toward something bigger and more powerful than what we are today.
* * *
My first job in high school was at a hamburger joint where we did all our own butchering and meat grinding. All I will say about that is this: working there, I first felt like experimenting with vegetarianism. In high school and college, I was what I called an "aesthetic vegetarian"—I avoided meat mainly because being around it so much had made it seem icky to me. I didn't have any other real motivation to eat a plant-based diet, and I was certainly not very thoughtful about what I was eating. Macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, French fries, and cheese pizza made up a pretty significant part of my food intake. I do not recommend this plan.
In later years, I started eating meat again, off and on, but I also found myself cooking a lot of vegetarian meals at home, too: experimenting with tofu, beans, or even making a quick and easy veggie burger when in need of a simple meal. By the time I decided to cut out meat again, it wouldn't be that difficult for me.
The second time around, though, I had a lot more motivation. It was 2008, I had just finished graduate school and started my new job. Everywhere I turned I was hearing about the possibility of positive change. In the midst of hearing and thinking about political change, I decided I wanted to investigate change in my own life. I wanted to do something for myself that would have a positive effect not only on me, but also on the world around me. What on earth would fit that bill?
My thoughts moved in the direction of environmental sustainability. I began looking into ways to make my life in my new town and new apartment a little greener. I wasn't satisfied with just changing my light bulbs and finding the recycling center, though. During this time, I also started looking into the way food choices can affect the environment. If you're reading this post then you probably either know about vegetarianism and the environment already and/or you are curious. In spite of my history with vegetarianism, though, I actually knew nothing about its environmental benefits. Learning about the hazardous effects of large-scale animal farming in terms of carbon use, air quality, water quality, and land use was absolutely shocking to me. SHOCKING. Animal farming was worse for the environment than all forms of transportation combined? Holy hell.
My research took me through a lot of the equally shocking facts about animal treatment, which I don't need to recap here. This was deeply moving to me as well.
I also had health on my mind. As I read about the benefits to the environment and to the animals, I also had to wonder if there would be equal effects on my own body. I was carrying around a lot of extra weight after a rough time in graduate school when I used food as an unhealthy coping mechanism. I harbored secret fantasies that cutting out animal products would help me effortlessly drop these pounds. Spoiler alert: a vegetarian or vegan diet is not a weight loss plan.
While dropping meat-eating (and then eventually eggs and dairy as well) did not instantly reverse all of the unhealthy eating I had done in the past, it did instantly make me feel a whole lot better about myself. It made me more conscious of what I was putting in my body and where it was coming from. I knew I was on my way to finding the positive change I'd been seeking. I explored local, organic produce options in my area and joined a CSA. I found restaurants in my small Alabama town that serve vegan food and began to support them. I introduced my friends to vegan cupcakes and cookies with great success.
Along the way I did wind up losing that extra graduate school weight as well, but the details of that are a story for another time. I have no doubt that a plant-based diet helped me get there, though. I was looking for change and that is exactly what I found. Opening the doors to change in just one area of my life allowed and encouraged me to do so in other areas: I began running again after a several-years-long hiatus, started commuting to work by bike, explored cooking in new ways, and on and on. Changing one thing was like a rush of fresh air that invigorated every other aspect of my life.
You can find Kate blogging regularly at Effing the Ineffable or if you’d like to see more of her lovely photography, check out her Flickr page. I regularly stalk her at both locations. (Kate, now you know the truth!) Also, I’d like one of those cupcakes up there, please.