Hello, I’m Vanessa – a vegan mom, wife, and cat lady living in Westchester, NY.
GOING MEAT FREE
I ate meat until sometime in 2011. My life at the time seemed to revolve around food – going out for dinner and drinks, having friends over for a home-cooked meal, and traipsing all over Brooklyn documenting delicious eats for my food blog, Yummy Brooklyn. Unsurprisingly, this was accompanied by weight gain. It was like the NYC foodie equivalent of the freshman 15 (on top of the actual freshman 15 that I never really lost). I was having loads of fun, but I didn’t feel great.
I needed a manageable change and found it through social media when I happened upon Meatless Monday, a campaign aimed at reducing the world’s meat consumption by 15% for health and environmental reasons. Eating lighter, vegetarian fare one day out of the week seemed like an easy way to kick-start some much needed healthy habits, so my husband and I decided to participate.
Meatless Monday quickly turned into Meatless Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I didn’t miss the meat in my meals or all that was involved in cooking it. And with all of the delicious veggies and plant proteins out there to play with, I said goodbye to meat. Maybe I never liked it that much anyway (my mom might corroborate this).
Later on I was looking for a Social Media Manager job and discovered that The Monday Campaigns, the non-profit behind Meatless Monday, was hiring. Coincidence? Probably! But it also felt like it was meant to be.
I started working at TMC in March of 2012 and dove head first into the subject matter, reading books like The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Skinny Bitch, and Fast Food Nation. I watched documentaries like Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead, and Food Inc. Every day I browsed tons of mouthwatering meatless recipes and photos online, and read about new studies extolling the health and environmental benefits of meatless eating. Not only was I inspired to keep to my meat free commitment, I was excited to become an advocate of meat reduction for those not ready or willing to take the plunge themselves.
Although I initially went meat free for health and then environmental reasons, I soon realized that not eating meat made a lot of sense to the animal-lover in me and began to also embrace the ethical reasons for going vegetarian. I started keeping up with animal welfare organizations like Humane Society, COK, and yes, even PETA. One heart-wrenching video at a time my eyes were opened up to horrors that animals face in factory farms, whether or not they were being raised for meat, egg, or dairy production. Something else was starting to make even more sense to the animal-lover in me: going vegan.
I made the leap (cold Tofurky!) on January 1st of 2014, and it was actually an easy transition. I didn’t miss cheese or feel deprived. Pinterest provided endless plant-based inspiration to fuel my home-cooking, and living in NYC I had all kinds of vegan food at my fingertips. And while I didn’t have any vegan friends, I had vegetarian ones, and was quickly finding the extra support I needed in online communities. For the next 2 years, it was smooth, vegan-sailing.
Fast forward to me getting pregnant, first in the spring of 2016 and then again in the spring of 2018. Both times my husband and I were very happy, but these were also hard times for me. I had morning sickness for the first trimesters and constant headaches during the second trimesters. I didn’t have cravings, but ate a lot of carbs as breads and pastas were the easiest foods for me to stomach. I spent the first half of both pregnancies feeling pretty ill and quite frankly, not feeling like myself.
During both of these pregnancies, my diet took a bit of a detour. I ate some dairy, eggs, and fish, mostly when I felt like it made my life easier. For example, if we were out to eat somewhere where the vegan options were not substantial, I would opt for something vegetarian. Though this wasn’t without inner conflict, it felt like the right thing to do at the time.
After both of these pregnancies I eventually found my way back to myself and to eating vegan. I regretted that I had flip-flopped at all, and I felt super guilty. But what would I tell another person faced with this situation? I’d tell them to forgive themselves, to stop dwelling on the past, and use it as motivation to move forward in whatever way felt right for them. So move forward I have.
During my third (!!!) pregnancy I proudly thrived on a 100% plant-based diet and gave birth to another healthy baby boy (who happened to be the biggest baby out of all 3). While I still experienced feeling ill for many months, nourishing my body with more plant-based proteins and fruits and veggies helped keep me rooted in many ways. I felt like I was being myself, and living a life that more closely aligned with my values.
FEEDING MY FAMILY
My husband isn’t vegan, and I am not putting a label on my kids, but for the sake of explaining what they do and do not eat, our compromise is that they eat within the bounds of a pescatarian diet (land-animals is a hard-no for me, while I still make the call for them). Like their dad, they eat some eggs and fish, and minimal dairy. Like me, they eat lots of plant-based meals!
As they grow, I look forward teaching the boys more about why I have chosen veganism for myself, and why it’s a beautiful movement for our health, our planet, and the animals we share it with. One day, we’ll go to an animal sanctuary so they can meet the wonderful creatures who I truly believe are friends not food.
Who knows, maybe they’ll follow in my footsteps!
Food Future Institute Certificate
Completed September, 2022, Food Future Institute
Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate
Completed September, 2020, T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies and eCornell
Integrative Nutrition Health Coach
Certificate of Completion September, 2020, Institute for Integrative Nutrition