Doing The Best I Can: A Glimpse Into My Dietary Past and Becoming Vegan

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Being vegan is not about being perfect

I want to tell you about how some old grocery lists I came across have shed some light onto my path to becoming vegan…

Over the past six months, I’ve dedicated many weekends to becoming a certified yoga teacher and I’ve recently started teaching some early morning classes at the yoga studio in Silverlake where I’m training. Last night, I was searching for quotes to inspire a theme for my next yoga class and I couldn’t help but wish I had a stash of my favorite quotes somewhere. If only I had possessed the foresight to write down every quote, lyric or poem that has inspired me throughout my life, I would not be finding myself resorting to googling “inspirational quotes” or “embracing change.”

I’ve always secretly envied those people who carry around a little moleskin journals to jot down thoughts, inspirations and ideas on the fly. Don’t get me wrong. Tendencies toward these sort of artistic record keeping activities have bubbled up to the surface occasionally. Each time I purchased a new journal I’d foresee my future library of insightful snippets and clippings. Wedged between the lyrics of the newest song I’ve been writing and the address to that local vegan joint a friend told me about, there might be a doodle of some kind. An elaborate array of flowery swirls or perhaps some decorative block letters reading “all you need is love.”

But rather than an organized, sequential library of beautifully recorded memories as I had once imagined, what I have all of these years later is a scattered pile of little books with hasty scribbling, each only half-full at best, having discarded it when my opinion of the cover artwork shifted.  One could argue that at least I have some records of my thoughts from all of the different phases in my life. But still, I can’t help but wonder how pitiful these little tattered journals would seem if compared to those of the artists and creative types I admire.

Once I switched over to using my iPhone for everything, its endless menu of apps only threatened to further partition my thoughts. Luckily, I took to using the basic notes app for almost everything from grocery lists to quotes I wanted to remember to bands, movies and books to check out. I say “luckily” because, as I discovered during last night’s search for inspiration, I found that this handy little app has ended up becoming a sort of time capsule, each entry dated, going back to about four years ago.

Scrolling through the notes, I saw a few which contained a lists of dinner ideas for that week and the required groceries. Yes, I guess I  have always been pretty diligent about planning meals. Out of curiosity, I opened one up to see what I was eating back in January 2012 and here’s what I found:

Turkey Burgers with green beans
Salmon Teriyaki
Veggie – Kale Squash salad, quinoa with tomatoes and avocado and curried cauliflower
Roast Chicken with salad
Pork Chops with balsamic glazed apples

Clearly, this was before I decided to go vegetarian! Looking back, I’m a little disappointed to see how meat-centric my thinking was in terms of planning out a meal. I was pleased, however, to see that I was reserving one night for a vegetarian meal, the curried cauliflower recipe inspired by my then-recent discovery of a restaurant called Lemonade.

I kept scrolling and found an entry dated August 2011 entitled “Vegan Ideas” with menu items such as hummus sandwich, grain salad, vegan soup, sprouted wrap, fruit smoothie, vegetable juices and cashew cheese. All of these of course are wonderful ideas but then I scrolled down, I saw this:

“Tip: avoid red meat and cow’s dairy. Eat fish and eggs instead.”

Wait, what? I do remember a time when I began looking into vegetarianism and learning about the health benefits of such a diet change. I must have skimmed over the facts about fish and eggs! And I certainly had not yet researched deep enough to learn about the horribly inhuman practices of the fishing and egg industries. But my point is, I am realizing that as far back as mid-2011 my mind was already opening up and the light was starting to get in. 

I scrolled a little further and found another list of dinners, dated June 2010:

Beef stroganoff
BBQ Chicken and cornbread salad
Club Wraps and salad
Grilled cheese and short rib sandwiches
Homemade pepperoni pizza

It’s not really that surprising that every single item on the menu contained animal products. My whole life, I had eaten a diet rich in meats, dairy products and eggs without having a second thought about the health, ethical or environmental repercussions. At the very least, I can say my diet has always been rich in vegetables and plant foods as well, which may be one of the reasons adopting a plant-based lifestyle has come pretty easily for me. 

Being able to browse through these old notes was not only entertaining, but also enlightening. A quick glimpse into old grocery lists has reminded me that my path to becoming vegan was a long and winding one. And now that I proudly call myself vegan, my path continues. I was never perfect before, nor am I perfect now. Life is not about being perfect. Being vegan is not about being perfect.  It’s about doing the best I can. 

It was this thought process that reminded me of a quote I read recently that has stuck with me, by Maya Angelou:

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

While I identified a lot with this quote in relation to my transition to being vegan, I feel like it applies to every aspect in life. Sometimes we need a reminder that we will never be perfect, no matter how hard we may try. And maybe, just maybe, that’s ok. Sounds like a great theme for a yoga class if you ask me!

Have any favorite inspirational quotes? Share them in the comments.

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