I am not sure if I can 'officially' call myself vegan if I don't carry a political banner about it all, but I have basically quit eating meat, and other animal products in general including dairy and eggs for 3 months now. I have had had shrimp maybe 4 times in that 3 months, and probably the occasional muffin made with dairy products or eggs since I have not cooked everything I ate.
I have discovered Indian restaurants. I have changed my way of thinking about food.
Saturday, I made a big pot of vegan spaghetti sauce and had a group of folks over for dinner. For those that wanted, I also served some meatballs, but they didn't seem necessary to me. I am not missing meat. I also have not said to myself that I 'can't' eat meat. It isn't an absolute. I can envision myself missing crab meat, but I haven't missed it enough to buy any yet. The reason I ate shrimp was that when I was eating out, shrimp was the best choice I had at restaurants.
What started all this was having incredible stomach "issues" for over a month in November/December culminating in having an upper and lower endoscopy with numerous biopsies from various locations in my gut to figure out what was going on. I was having visions of major surgery and really bad stuff like chemotherapy and was living in quite a bit of fear about my continuing health.
I had read a book last Fall called "The China Study", which discussed the health benefits of a plant based diet. I picked it up again the beginning of January. In my mind, the idea of eating a plant based diet seemed kind of 'drastic' and foreign, but at that point the idea of chemotherapy seemed pretty drastic and foreign too. The China Study discusses the wisdom of eating a plant based diet vs. an animal based diet and discussed studies where heart disease and cancer have been reversed and eliminated by diet alone. Also, around the same time, I read a lot of stuff on-line about Dr Edelsteyn's studies- his studies showed that eliminating animal fat from the diet showed a reversal of heart disease in patients that already had been through bypass surgeries and had major heart attacks. I also did a little bit of reading about the effects of dairy products on the system in general, and how the concentrated fats in most dairy products aren't any better than the concentrated fats found in meat. (This isn't meant to be a soapbox rant, just a bit of where my thinking was at the time.)
There is a group called PCRM that offered a 21 day vegan quick start program with recipes etc. that I used for some reference, and I just plunged in. I started to feel better within 2 weeks. The biopsies all came back negative and I realized that if I continued to eat a plant based diet, I could reduce my cholesterol, reduce my triglycerides, reduce general inflammation in my body (which would improve my knee), and lose weight!
I haven't lost weight yet, but I feel 100% better. I think I haven't lost weight because some things that are 'vegan' aren't necessarily low calorie...potato chips....wine....you get the picture. So, I am still working on limiting portions while I get into the groove of the vegan eating plan. This past week-end, I read the book by Alicia Silverstone called "The Kind Diet", a very interesting book about her choice to be vegan and lots of good rationale for the choice along with some really great recipes. I am not the kind of person that spends lots of time in the kitchen. I do it infrequently but I really enjoy it when I do it! One of the things I may try is to make large portions and freeze individual servings so that I can reap the benefits of cooking for myself, both in the lowered cost and in the personal energetic sense.
We bottled our estate Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay a couple of weeks ago. The Pinot was a bit watery, we'll probably dump it, but the Chardonnay is quite lovely! I read an essay once by a winemaker who was discussing sitting in his yard and drinking wine from the vines he was looking at, and eating cheese from his goat's milk, and having a salad from greens grown in his garden. I am looking forward to planting the garden again, and knowing that my food is fresh and chemical free, grown with love by our own hands. Our winery will be the extension of that feeling- a sustainable grape crop grown with love and processed by hand.