How I Became Vegan


WARNING: This post is about how awesome I am and how awesome the vegan lifestyle is. If this makes you sick, please get your puke bucket out. :D

What you are looking at are before and after pictures of me before and after switching to a plant-based diet. In the before picture I had just stepped out of the bathtub, that’s why I have a towel wrapped around my head. I also have my pajamas on. :D I had struggled with my weight for a few years before this picture. My weight would go down, then I’d struggle to keep it off and it would go back up.  I worked really hard and lost 20 pounds. So before this pic I was heavier. The night this picture was taken I was fed up. I had my twin brother take the pic. I told him that I wanted a before picture. That I wanted to change and that whatever I was doing wasn’t working for me anymore. If you can believe it I was exercising everyday during my before pic. I have exercised religiously since I was 19. I did it for my mental health. I actually enjoy exercise and find that it helps with the panic and anxiety that I have suffered from since I was a teenager. What got me to that point in the picture is eating a poor diet, nothing else.

In the after picture, it is the middle of 2008, a year and a half after going vegan and about 2 years after the before picture was taken. The difference is quite dramatic. I post these before and after pics reluctantly and have put it off since I started my blog. Part of the reason is I’m embarrassed about how I look in the before pic, it’s not the most flattering picture of me. But also because I’m worried that the pics could be snatched and used by unscrupulous businesses as before and after pics for their products. I’ve heard of it happening to people. Why did I decide to post them now? Is it weird that as a guy I was inspired by Lena Duhnam of HBO’s “Girls”? Let me start out by saying that in no way am I suggesting Lena Duhnam is fat. She’s normal looking. She has flaws like all of us do. She’s unashamed of her flaws and I find that incredibly inspiring. It made me realize that I was being incredibly vain and stupid by not posting my before pics. I could give a crap if someone wants to laugh at me. What I hope, is to inspire others to make changes in their diet. Not because they’ll look better but because they will be healthier.

My journey to becoming vegan started with me wanting to become a healthier person. And I didn’t start out looking to change my diet that dramatically. I wasn’t so much interested in losing weight either, although it was important to me. I had a small inkling that my diet was not the healthiest and I wanted to start eating for maximum nutrition. That was the goal when I started searching for a book that would help me achieve that.

I really mean it when I say I had an small inkling. I was so very dumb when it came to what was and wasn’t healthy. I actually believed that because there was “corn” in Doritos that it counted as a vegetable. I thought milk and cheese were good for my bones. I used margarine and olive oil liberally and didn’t even give it a second thought. My go-to meal was a greasy veggie burger on a white highly processed bun, slathered in high fructose corn syrup laden ketchup. And I falsely believed that because I didn’t eat meat (I was a vegetarian for a long time) that I was doing animals and my own health a real favor.

One of the first books I stumbled upon in my journey to get healthy, was The China Study by T. Colin Campbell. The cover and description was exactly what I was looking for and instantly appealed to my situation. The cover shouted, “The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted And the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, And Long-term Health.” I had no idea that the book was going to convince me that I should go “vegan” or to use the correct term, plant-based. I really had no expectations about what was in the book except that it was going to help me with nutrition. To say the book was eye opening is putting it mildly.

Besides changing my idea about what was and wasn’t healthy to eat, it changed my thinking about a lot of other things. In searching out more nutritional information about the vegan diet, I began stumbling upon websites about animal advocacy. This woke me up to the fact that my junk food vegetarian, egg, cheese and milk heavy diet was not only causing me great suffering but the animals too. I am embarrassed to say I never really thought about the suffering that the animals used for eggs and milk production were going through. I always thought they were frolicking freely in green pastures. I also had this untrue belief that a vegan diet was extreme, unhealthy and unrealistic. I imagined myself choking on dry salads. This book not only convinced me that the vegan diet was safe but optimal.  Reading that book was life changing for me in so many ways. By the time I finished the book I was enraged. Enraged that I had been lied to by the dairy industry. Enraged that the media had kept me in complete darkness about all of this. Enraged that I had convinced myself for so many years that my diet was healthy. Enraged that I had been so blind to the suffering of animals. It was as if my eyelids had been ripped off my face and I could no longer close my eyes to the truth. I began to ask myself, “What else have I been wrong about?” I literally began to question EVERYTHING.

2007 was an amazing and transformational year for me, both physically and mentally. When I look at the before picture now I don’t so much see a fat person. I see someone who was completely confused. I see someone who was headed towards heart disease like my Dad who died of a massive heart attack in his early 50s. My blood pressure was always around 130/80 and rising each year. I couldn’t comfortably bend over to tie my shoes without my belly crushing my lungs. I also suffered from severe depression because of my poor diet. My joints ached a lot from carrying all the extra weight. Now, I can get depressed but the episodes are much more manageable and less frequent. My blood pressure is on average 110 over 70. And yes a size 32 skinny jean fits loose on me. But most importantly I live a lifestyle now that minimizes animal suffering and my own suffering.

  • http://thatcookingchick.com Hazel

    Highfives to you!! Not only for making great changes to improve your health, but also for being brave enough to share your story and pictures. I find it very inspirational! I really love to hear more about the people whose recipes I devour on a regular basis so I appreciate this post even more. I hope you inspire others as well :)

  • http://www.practicapoetica.com Frank Z.

    A very inspiring story, and I’m glad you shared it.

    I’m in my early 50′s now, and have been vegetarian for about 30 years, and vegan for much of that time. I was born with a rather weak digestive system, but being vegetarian has helped a lot.

    I also see lots of people who start to go rapidly downhill in health and looks because of their diet, once they get into old age. I guess that’s what you were headed for!

    I’ve also seen older people who, although they had the wrinkles and white hair, still looked strong and healthy, in spite of their age. The difference was largely due to diet and lifestyle.

    I occasionally go through your site and pull some recipes to try. I find your skill and talent in this area and your intuition for flavor is top class. You have a real gift for the food arts, and I greatly appreciate that you woke up to it, and have shared it with us.

  • http://www.rockmyvegansocks.vaskor.ca kimmythevegan

    Wow, this is incredible. Thank you so much for sharing. You’ve come a long way =) I always love hearing people who started out to try and better their health (instead of some magic weight loss cure).
    So glad you started the blog and share all of your lovely recipes with us =)

  • WeeSpeck

    Josh,

    You are amazing. Your story brought tears to my eyes. At your young age, you got it all figured out. Thank you so much for your inspirational story and your amazing cookbook. I hope you enlighten many more people your age. Your ability to integrate healthy choices at such a young age opens up your world. I will love to see what you can accomplish in 5, 10, 20 years. You are a inspiration.

  • Jeanie

    I totally did the same thing… I became a vegetarian because ofmy love for animals, I was eating a LOT of dairy and carbs, until I watched forks over knives, great documentary, I highly success it to everyone, I believe i it’s the same study you mentioned above, anyhow, I decided to stop eating dairy and become mostly vegan (I still eat honey occasionally). Another documentary that really opened my eyes, which I watched half of, with my eyes closed, was Vegucated, beware if you’re sensitive like me, but a good movie to show the people who can’t wrap their heads around why you want to be a vegan.

    So anyway, congratulations, and keep up the good work! And thanks for all the awesome recipes!!

  • http://www.myvegancookbook.com/ My Vegan Cookbook

    Weekspeck, thanks for your comment. I’m not sure I’m as I’m as young as you might think. I’m well into my 30s lol. But I guess getting my diet in order in my 20s is probably young. Most people don’t do something until it’s too late.

  • http://www.myvegancookbook.com/ My Vegan Cookbook

    Jeanie, Thanks for the comment. I’m with you on watching Vegucated with my eyes partially closed. I’m very sensitive and can become severely depressed after watching things like that. I try to avoid them. I know the horror exist and I just do everything I can to stop it and do my best to not contribute to animal suffering.

  • Gail

    I really appreciate you sharing these photos. They speak volumes. You look so healthy and comfortable in your own skin! Inspirational! Thank you!

  • KD

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. I didn’t know how to do it, but you made it clear, simple, and very tasty!! Yours were my first vegan dishes/meals. In seven days insulin and all diabetes meds are gone. The health benefits to me are tremendous, not to mention the impact we can make on the environment and animal life. Seriously though, you have guided and helped me make a dramatic life style change…Thank you.