The other day I asked Sandy (out of the blue) how it felt to her to be vegan. When we took on the 30 day vegan challenge she was omnivore so she skipped vegetarian all together and went straight to being vegan. She has always been over achieving as long as I have known her. Well, her answer surprised me so I thought it would be fantastic to hear from her, seven months into veganism. Here is Sandy sharing her vegan truth.
Sherry and I have been following a plant-based diet without dairy products, since July 1st last year. We’re well into our 7th month leading a vegan lifestyle and something important has surfaced for me, something that I used as my “vegan-shield” for a long time, something that I have secretly wanted to deny in my heart since we started. It’s akin to my version of Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth”. This is most inconvenient for my psyche to admit that this is true: dairy is not good for my body.
I grew up in a cheese-face household. My family is from Canada and we all ate as much cheese as we could get our hands on. It’s hereditary with our clan, our Scottish, English and Irish forefathers and foremothers created some of the most delectable cheeses on the planet through my eyes. Give me a cheddar that makes my jaws tingle and you have given me manna from the heavens. The sharper, the better. When my Mom wasn’t sure how to “fix” something that didn’t seem to taste quite right, she blended it with cheese or melted cheese on top. There, done, everything was right with the world.
As an adult, I’ve carried through on this legacy in my home and converted Sherry as quickly as humanly possible to this same philosophy. We consumed dairy milk and yogurt regularly, but for me, cheese was daily. Sherry was vegetarian, thank goodness I sighed to myself, meat I can live without, but do not ask me to give up cheese. Cheese was my shield from choosing vegan. It was this answer I gave myself whenever we talked about trying vegan or why others were choosing vegan. I told myself, I can’t LIVE without cheese and I really believed it. When we decided to try vegan for 30 days, I assured myself over and over that this challenge we were doing was only for one month and I can once again come back home to my cheese.
But another day passed and then another and suddenly, it is 7 months and no cheese, no dairy, we’re still vegan. Along the way, we’ve shared several times in Exploits blog posts about the vegan cheese substitutes, about experimenting with replacement flavors like nutritional yeast and how this has helped me from feeling deprived of my old best friend. All of these items have helped to alleviate my cravings and I recommend using them to anyone else who has fears of missing cheese.
But, there is something more to share now.
My entire life, since I was 8 years old, I have struggled with upper respiratory infections and sinus/throat infections. I have had asthma, pneumonia, my statutory twice annual bronchitis, toncillitis too many times to count (the year they were removed, it was 8 times) and then strep throat took over where toncillitis left off. I’ve had allergies seasonally and awoke nearly every day during those times congested until it cleared up as the day progressed.
Something dramatic has happened during this 7 months of being vegan. Well, really, it’s more like nothing has happened and its absence is what is dramatic. I haven’t had an asthma attack, bronchitis, strep throat, sinus infection or nary an allergy ridden day since I stopped consuming dairy. Nothing has happened. I can breathe. It’s been more than half a year since I’ve purchased a single throat lozenge, cough suppressant or anthi-histamine and previously, I bought new packages every month like clockwork.
I am facing this truth with bittersweet feelings. I can’t believe it could possibly be my beloved cheese, my dairy cheese that for all these years may actually have been betraying me. But, I’m afraid there is no other explanation, it is my inconvenient truth, it’s the dairy and most pointedly for me, cheese. Now, I can breathe deeply without coughing or getting a tickle in my throat. I’m not congested in the mornings anymore and I walk right past the medicine cabinet and smile every day.
There it is, my inconvenient truth. I am healthier dairy free. I’ll miss the memory of you my old friend cheese, but I have learned that perhaps you never really were one, only an elegant flavor that masqueraded as my friend. When I think I miss you, I take a deep breath and remember how much I do not. I have to choose me and dairy free.