Patrick Ward words, code, and music

I Could Never Go Vegan

“So, I hear you’ve gone vegan!”, he says.

“Yes, I have! I love it, best thing I’ve done for myself in years.” I reply.

“Wow. You look great. You’ve lost a lot of weight, but you still look good. I thought you’d be all skin and bones on a diet like that.”

I smile. “It’s all about the right food choices. I actually lost fat and gained muscle since I went vegan. I’m twice as strong in the gym now as I was when I started.”

“That’s awesome! I could never do anything like that, though.”

I look at him somewhat quizzically before asking, “Why? If I can do it, why can’t you?”

“Nah, you’ve got to eat healthy, cook lots of different things. I wouldn’t know what to do.”

“It’s really easy. Seriously, it’s not hard at all.”

His beefy torso heaves in and out as his nose wrinkles in disgust, making him look like a bulldog in heat.

“No way,” he says, “You were a chef at one point, you know how to put flavors together, make things up. There’s no way I’d be able to figure out what to do on a vegan diet.”

“That’s bull. It’s no different than learning to cook regular food,” I say.

“Dude, there’s a lot more to it than that. Give me an example of what you eat on a typical day.”

I think for a minute, before saying, “Well, sometimes I’ll start off with some bananas, blueberries, Ezekiel cereal, and a little almond milk.”

“What’s Ezekiel?” he queries, his nose scrunching up again.

“It’s a kind of sprouted grain cereal, it’s g…”

He breaks in before I can finish: “No. Nope. See, that’s what I mean. Sprouted grains? What the fuck is that shit?”

“It’s just grains, like every other cereal. It’s just not covered in powdered sugar and stripped of all it’s nutrients.”

He’s shaking his head at this point, his cheeks turning red from all the activity. That nose of his keeps scrunching up and I start to get concerned it’s going to stay that way after awhile.

“That sounds disgusting.”

“Look,” I say, “You asked. If you don’t want to eat it, don’t. I don’t force it on anyone.”

He gives me this sort of dubious, sidelong glance and then says, “Okay. I’m game, what do you eat for dinner?”

“Well, if I’m not doing raw that week, then I might eat something like a little quinoa with some steamed veggies.”

“You see!” he cries out, “That’s what I’m talking about! What the hell is keeeennnwa? I could never figure all this out. There’s no way I could ever go vegan. I only know how to make certain foods, so I’d never be able to know what to go and buy.”

“Dude!” I say, a little exasperated, “It’s not like I knew what to do right out of the gate. I had to learn about it like everyone else. You just start figuring it out; read books and articles; see what works for you. After awhile you feel great, you find a new set of foods to eat and stick with those if you want, or you continually evolve, find new combinations that are even better.”

That damn nose starts scrunching up again and his eyes start darting up and down me. “No,” he says, “Nope. I gotta have my roast beef and mashed potatoes. I’m type O blood type and I’m told we’re supposed to be meat eaters. So, no, not for me. Good luck with that vegan thing!”

As he’s walking away, I call out to him: “Hey, by the way, I’m type O too you know! “

This whole exchange is something I’ve encountered countless times over the past 10 months as people find out I no longer eat animal products. At first they’ll usually give me a look of suspicious bewilderment before they start scoffing in derisive monologues about how I’m not going to get enough protein; or, how they can’t believe I’d sacrifice my taste buds for something as silly as that; or, how healthy is overrated anyway — “When it’s your time it’s your time! You can’t do anything about that!”; or, how I’ll have to take a B12 supplement just to survive.

I won’t bore you with my responses. They’re pretty rote. Suffice it to say, nearly every objection is a myth and they’re all easily refuted. A little knowledge and perseverance goes a long way. Since I’ve stuck with it, though, I’ve found my palate has expanded, I have greater energy, more strength, a leaner body, and a life force that grows daily. That’s not even including the greater sense of compassion and peace I feel as as result of my conscious dietary choices.

OK. That’s all the proselytizing I’ll do for tonight. The point of this post isn’t necessarily about the vegan diet. For, what I find most interesting about these conversations, is that they aren’t so much about going vegan as they are about the other person not wanting to give up their comfortable ways.

The conversations usually start off about health. They’ll ask me how I was able to change my body so drastically, how I stay so healthy, or how I can have as much energy as I do. I don’t like to be a bore, so I’ll usually just say something quick like “I work out a lot” or “I just watch what I eat.” Eventually, though, the conversations get around to details, which include changing your diet, sweating in the gym, and making commitments to yourself about what you want to accomplish.

That’s when the trouble starts. That’s also when the excuses start and the conversations end up like the one above.

The truth is, most people I know aren’t willing to give up the so-called pleasantries in their lives in order to gain a more fulfilling life. They attach themselves to what they know to be lies, desperately grasping at any excuse to turn away from the truth of their situations. These are smart people; people who are very aware of the impending dangers they face in their own unhealthy habits. For some of them, the dangers have already arrived at their doorsteps, but they can’t break away from habits that continue to harm them.

This all reminds me of an Aesop fable about two frogs.

TWO FROGS were neighbors. One inhabited a deep pond, far removed from public view; the other lived in a gully containing little water, and traversed by a country road. The Frog that lived in the pond warned his friend to change his residence and entreated him to come and live with him, saying that he would enjoy greater safety from danger and more abundant food. The other refused, saying that he felt it so very hard to leave a place to which he had become accustomed. A few days afterwards a heavy wagon passed through the gully and crushed him to death under its wheels.

A willful man will have his way to his own hurt.

It saddens me that I know so many people who would not leave their comfortable gully for fear of losing something they are accustomed too.

I feel for them; I know what they are going through. I was there not too long ago — I gave up 45 pounds, countless prescriptions, a lot of false ideas, and some perceived comforts to get to where I’m at now. But, I wouldn’t go back to that previous state of existence if you gave me the world. It isn’t worth it.

I understand those who hesitate, but I also understand there’s nothing I can say or do that will help them. They have to make these decisions themselves. The best I can be is an example. The most I can be is myself. If in some small way that inspires someone else to leave their dangerous gully, then I’ll be one of the happiest frogs in the pond.