My 7-Year Veganniversary: How I Went Vegan

by Courtney on August 8, 2012

As of this month, I’ve been vegan for 7 years. I plan to celebrate this Vegan-iversary with several blog posts, including how I went vegan, what’s kept me vegan, and other reflections and musings in my 7 years. For now, here’s Part 1!

How I Went Vegan

Me doing the breaststroke

In high school, I was the varsity captain of the swim team and water polo team. I was always looking towards medaling at state tournaments/meets, and so my training schedule was pretty intensive: 2-3.5 hours of swim practice every day, plus weight training for an hour 3x per week. In between all that training, I was busy eating s***. I ate fast food 2-4 times per week, when my team would go out together after meets and games, as was the tradition. When we weren’t celebrating after a meet with fast food, we were having team dinners where we shoveled truckloads of white pasta in our mouths, carbo-loading with enthusiasm in an attempt to make up the calories we were burning and resulting in many tomato-sauce stained clothes and the occasional unfortunate swimmer family’s carpet. I never, ever ate green vegetables and fruit was an occasion every couple weeks.

But health issues were beginning to show up. I had severe chronic fatigue, I had a nasty virus which would snatch me every couple of weeks leave me, for days on end, unable to walk or be awake for more than an hour. I was so mentally foggy I couldn’t focus on anything. I was in shape, I looked in shape, I won state medals in my sports. But my diet really couldn’t have been worse and I felt horrible. I was performing well in sports but burnt out every other minute of the day. I didn’t care about healthy eating, and for the most part I dismissed my diet because it’s what all my athlete friends ate and because I was doing so well in sports and I looked totally healthy physically. I hadn’t drawn the parallels between my developing health issues and my diet whatsoever.

Enter the glories of documentary-making. It was the fateful year the documentary “Super Size Me” came out, and someone made me watch it with them. I didn’t care to change my diet, I didn’t seek health info out… I was a great candidate for a powerful documentary. I watched it and it really did get through to me, right away. I was that person who ate fast food all the time and the documentary made me very concerned about what my health would start to look like later in my life if I kept this up. It was also the first time I realized my nutrition and the stuff I was starting to experience with my health might be linked. So I stopped eating fast food with my team. Amazingly, even just that step began to elicit my teammates calling me a health freak. JUST not eating at fast food chains!

Some seniors, I’m far left

A couple months later, another step towards my veganism occurred, and again, not really by my proactivity. A friend was reading the book “Fast Food Nation” by Eric Schlosser, which had also recently come out. He sat near me in French class and was so engrossed in it that he’d read it in the few minutes before class started and would be constantly reading  passages out to me in his enthusiasm, saying, “You have to read this!” and “This is crazy!” I thought it was interesting but really didn’t have an intention to read it — I figured I knew it all from watching Super Size Me. Later, I went to the library to find a table to do some studying. I found a vacant one and glanced over at the books that were right up against that particular table, to find that the only library copy of “Fast Food Nation” was sitting at eye level. I grabbed it out of the shelf, began to leaf through it, read some interesting things, and decided to check it out.

Fast Food Nation does indeed talk about fast food, but it really addresses all processed foods, and the health dangers of all of them. I realized that the foods I was eating at home and getting from the grocery store weren’t a whole lot better than the fast food chain “food.” I began trying to cut out junk food and tried to eat more fruit. It helped a little bit as far as my health. By this time, my turning down the fast food that was served in my school cafeteria and my declining going to fast food as part of team tradition really got people’s attention and I began to be viewed as the health food girl (which is funny to me now seeing how not really that healthy I was eating).

For my birthday, a friend of mine bought me a book she’d never read but thought looked interesting, and I’d never heard of, called “Natural Cures They Don’t Want You To Know About” by Kevin Trudeau. At that time, at that age, it worked for me. It taught me about organic foods, and about all kinds of other holistic health practices that weren’t food-related, like drinking filtered water and skin care products. I was so excited by the idea that I could feel so healthy and felt awakened by the realization that feeling exhausted every minute of the day and having tons of mental fog was not normal. I felt inspired by the possibilities of health. I started eating organic and changing my lifestyle habits, but was still eating animal products.

By this time my interest in holistic health and nutrition was really kicking off and I was feeling better physically. But there was one resource, one experience that catapulted me from organic omnivore to vegan in a month. I went to the local library, I don’t remember what for exactly, but ended up in the health section and saw the spine of the book “The Food Revolution” by John Robbins. I saw the impressive endorsements on the covers and though I anticipated it wouldn’t be much different than “Fast Food Nation”, I decided to check it out.

I couldn’t put the book down. I read it on all my breaks during my summer lifeguard job, and ended up spending most of those reading breaks with tears in my eyes. It’s about veganism, which I realized fully a couple chapters in, and reading it felt like waking up from a huge, elaborate dream that I thought was reality but it really wasn’t. John Robbins discusses veganism from a health perspective, an environmental perspective, a human rights perspective, and an animal rights perspective. Reading about how my own health could be wonderful throughout my life was inspiring, but it truly was all the other parts of the discussion that stole my heart. When I read about how animals were treated, I bawled, and learning about how we perpetuate world hunger by eating animal products, and how the environment is suffering because of it broke my heart.

On a positive note, the visionary picture that Mr. Robbins painted about what our individual lives and what our world can look like by having a “Food Revolution” made me feel like suddenly life made so much more sense, there was so much more meaning in my own life, and really opened a sense of love in my life that has never left. He was even able to relate veganism back to character, integrity, and a spiritual connectedness, which felt like soul nourishment at a place in my life where I felt otherwise pretty disconnected. One of my favorite quotes:

“Your life does matter. It always matters whether you reach out in friendship or lash out in anger. It always matters whether you live with compassion and awareness or whether you succumb to distractions and trivia. It always matters how you treat other people, how you treat animals, and how you treat yourself. It always matters what you do. It always matters what you say. And it always matters what you eat.” -John Robbins

There was no ambiguity, no fear, and no hesitation. I went vegan that month 7 years ago and I haven’t looked back.

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Sarah E. August 8, 2012 at 7:40 pm

I am so touched by your compassion and delighted in reading your journey to an ethical and healthful vegan lifestyle. Your humor and details make this post sparkle! I imagine that going from a diet of mainstream fast food directly to veganism would be really difficult, so it’s even more inspiring to hear that you did it “cold tofurkey”. I am so impressed by how much of your heart and mind you’ve put into your dietary choices, and because of your willingness to be open to veganism, you have in turn saved countless animals’ lives. Through your juice and plant-source nutrition coaching, you’ve helped countless people gain access to their highest health and wellness. You are a true heroine and I love you and am so grateful to celebrate this veganniversary by your side! Love and admiration.

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Courtney August 13, 2012 at 4:12 pm

Thank you so much, Sarah! I love you too! Yay for animals living!

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Caralyn @ glutenfreehappytummy August 9, 2012 at 7:32 pm

thank you for sharing your story! i look forward to your next posts in this “series!” and congrats on 7 years!

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Courtney August 13, 2012 at 4:13 pm

Thanks Caralyn! More posts on it coming soon!

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Debby Sunshine August 9, 2012 at 4:24 pm

Happy Veganniversary! John Robbins’ book “Food Revolution” was very inspiring for me too! And to think he is the Robbins of the Baskin-Robbins ice cream chain! I did it “cold tofurkey” too in 2009.

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Courtney August 13, 2012 at 4:12 pm

Thanks, Debby! Yes, he is — some crazy family, eh? Congratulations on 3 years vegan!

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Stephen Marofsky August 10, 2012 at 9:37 pm

Great article Courtney, love your integrity. I really enjoy your FB posts and am glad I came across this blog post as well!

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Courtney August 13, 2012 at 4:13 pm

Appreciate it, Stephen. So glad you’re enjoying the posts on FB and here!

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Greg Blencoe August 17, 2012 at 3:35 am

Courtney,

Congrats on your 7-Year Veganniversary! And I agree with the other people who commented, this is indeed a great post.

Over the past 2-3 years, I had thought about becoming a vegetarian from time to time. And then last week at a family reunion, an aunt and uncle that I am close with mentioned that they had become vegans. They told me they saw the DVD “Forks Over Knives” which really had a profound effect on them. I added the DVD to my Netflix queue late last week and watched it over the weekend. I thought it was really, really good.

I’m now in my 2nd day of being a vegan (I would have started late last week, but I had a gallon and a half of milk left), so I’m just starting this journey. I’m committed to doing this for a month or two, but I can already tell that this is almost certainly going to be a permanent change. I know what you mean when you discussed “waking up.” This is how the last 10 days have felt. I view the world in a different way.

I have so much to learn, but I’m really enjoying being a vegan so far. My aunt and uncle got me a copy of the book “Eat to Live” which has gotten some amazing reviews on Amazon. I just started it today. I’m sure I’ll learn a lot from it.

Thanks for sharing your story in this post.

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Courtney August 18, 2012 at 2:52 pm

Congratulations on your first few days vegan! I think you’ll quickly feel like you love it! Forkes Over Knives is wonderful. I commend you for your courage to make a change that might seem big, but is in line with your own integrity and heart. Enjoy!!

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Anna August 18, 2012 at 10:48 am

I second all of those comments – this was a really encouraging and inspiring post. I learnt about raw veganism 2 years ago, and it absolutely resonated with me as a choice of integrity. I’ve struggled to maintain it – going on and off – but I think that the John Robbins comment about how this choice is so much more than just about you is going to be the thing that helps me to become consistent. Thank you so much for sharing!

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Courtney August 18, 2012 at 2:53 pm

Thanks, Anna! So great you’ve been enjoying more raw food.

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Sarah August 19, 2012 at 3:01 am

Hi Courtney,

Your story is so inspiring, and I really want to check out that John Robbins book now! I wish I went vegan when I was so young!

Sarah

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Debby Sunshine September 3, 2012 at 9:59 pm

Excellent! Happy Anniversary!! I love John Robbins; A shining light!

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Jonathan Freeman September 4, 2012 at 7:29 pm

Hi Courtney,
Nice article on coming to veganism. I always love to have some of the back story of my favorite Internet people filled in. Vegans and vegetarians are still a small percentage of the American population. In your opinion, do you see society changing in any way major way soon? Trends indicate that may be happening. But not eating animals still makes lots of social interactions difficult.

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Courtney September 4, 2012 at 8:08 pm

Thanks, Jonathan! Great to hear from you! I do think that society is changing — meat consumption is down, vegan food is up. It’s happening, slowly but surely! I feel very optimistic.

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