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Northwest VEG is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based in Portland, OR that works to educate and encourage people to make vegan choices for a healthy, sustainable, and compassionate world.

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Guilt-Free Eating

January 28, 2010

By Erin Lehn Floresca, e-Thymes Editor

I first toyed with the idea of becoming vegetarian back in the mid-nineties. But it wasn't until I was picking at my chicken sandwich at a restaurant in the Upper East Side of Manhattan back in 1996 that it finally clicked. There was no way that I could keep eating meat. It just felt wrong.

I became a vegetarian that day, and my guilty conscience breathed a sigh of relief. Soon afterwards, I began devouring any information that dealt with vegetarianism and healthy living. Two books in particular, Diet for a New America by John Robbins and Fit for Life by Harvey and Marilyn Diamond, inspired me to go one step further and become a vegan. It was a whole new adventure in dining, and I loved it. And the best part was that I felt guilt-free about my eating habits. I stayed true to my new lifestyle for almost six years. Eventually though, I began to get lazy.

One day I told myself that it would be okay to eat a cookie with whey in it. What real harm was there in that? Then I convinced myself to eat some fudge that contained milk and butter. I knew it was a slippery slope, but I just kept sliding down. And then came the day that I ate a slice of cheese pizza. That was the point of no return. At first I stuck to eating only organic dairy products, but that didn't last either. A few years later you could easily find me eating grilled cheese and omelets at "Any Truck Stop USA".

So, what happened? I lost my motivation. I stopped embracing the lifestyle. I quit reading the books, visiting the websites and watching the heart-wrenching videos that kept my resolve high. I stopped making it fun by trying out new products and experimenting with fresh recipes. I wasn't hanging out with any fellow vegheads either, so my enthusiasm waned. And when this occurred, I was again greeted by my old cohort--guilt.

It's no fun to feel guilty about what you eat. Maybe you are a meat eater who wishes you could fully transition to a vegetarian diet; or a lacto-ovo vegetarian who wants to make the leap to becoming a vegan. Or maybe you are a junk food vegan who wishes to add a few more fruits and vegetables to your diet. Whatever your aspirations are, it's easier than ever to get motivated and be on your way to guilt-free eating--especially for those of us living in Portland. We have so many great resources available to us, starting with NW VEG. Have you visited the restaurant page on the www.nwveg.org website lately? I feel like I hit the jackpot when I see all those veg and veg-friendly restaurants I could visit. The events page keeps us up to snuff on what is going on around this town.

Here are some ideas that can help inspire you to take it to the next level:

  • Try out some new vegan or vegetarian recipes. (www.vegfoodandfit.com)
  • Try out a different vegetarian restaurant. There's plenty to choose from!
  • Go to an event like a NW VEG potluck and meet like-minded people.
  • Visit a slaughterhouse. Online of course! PETA's website has enough videos to convince you not to contribute to violence against animals.
  • Take the Master Vegetarian Program. (www.nwveg.org/mvp.php)
  • Take the VEG 101 classes. (www.nwveg.org/veg101.php)
  • Read a book. Examples include: The New Ethics of Eating, Meat Market, The Food Revolution, Skinny Bitch, The China Study, Mad Cowboy
  • Volunteer for NW VEG or at a local animal sanctuary. Or, better yet, both!
  • And by all means, make it fun! Just because you're vegan, doesn't mean you have to be angry all the time. Sometimes we can just take delight in a baker's dozen of vegan Voodoo Donuts.
As I switch back into my vegan frame of mind, I am renewed in my enthusiasm. I am thrilled that I live in Portland, where practicing a vegan lifestyle is so easy. And above all, I love that the guilt is gone. Now, I can redirect all that wasted energy into something much more productive--like spreading the word about how vegetarian diets help create a more compassionate and sustainable world.

Just remember, inspiration is always around us if we keep our eyes open.

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