Last summer, the twins spent a month in Arkansas with family from their mother’s side and returned with tales of the very non-vegan food there. It made me so thankful for all of the vegan options I have here in Los Angeles. It definitely makes being vegan a little easier. When I got an email from Dana Vickerson, I was really intrigued to hear that she lives in Arkansas and she documents her vegan journey in a “city that thinks pork rinds are gourmet” on her blog, Vanishing Veggie. From the looks of her blog, she seems to do pretty well with finding vegan options in a town that isn’t so vegan-friendly. I found her vegan story for the “My Vegan Story” series very motivating and I’m sure there are parts of her story we all can relate to.
MY VEGAN STORY
WHAT FIRST INSPIRED YOU TO GO VEGAN?
I was one of those people that would say, “I could never give up meat.” Then, suddenly, I did. I read The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and when I realized what went into creating my food, I couldn’t look at meat the same way. At that point in my life, I was also searching for something that would put me on a path towards health.
I was always an overweight child, and in high school I developed an eating disorder that would wrap itself around me for years. I struggled with bulimia through high school and terrible eating habits through college, so when I was about to graduate architecture school, I’d had enough. I started reading about where my food came from, looking into organic and healthy foods, which brought me to Michael Pollan. Once I started reading about factory farming, I gave up meat immediately. After learning more, I transitioned to veganism after about 5 months of vegetarianism. That was 6 years ago, and I haven’t looked back.
DESCRIBE YOUR TRANSITION TO VEGANISM.
After being vegetarian for 6 months, cheese was the last thing I gave up. I remember eating it at a party and thinking, “This is also contributing to suffering.” After that, I was done with cheese too. At the time, my fiance and I were living in a college town, where healthy food was everywhere. We were still living in the south, so not a lot of people understood my veganism, but I got by through amazing local produce and really learning how to cook.
We moved to Little Rock in 2009, and I really struggled with how to maintain a healthy diet with a high stress job in a city that thinks pork rinds are gourmet. I gained weight, got depressed and stopped enjoying physical activities that I had loved in college. By 2013, I’d had enough, and I started Vanishing Veggie, my blog about my return to healthy eating and love of veganism. I had a rocky first year last year because of some health problems, but I’ve been on a positive path to better health and am gaining ground. I have really re-evaluated what it means to be a healthy vegan, and I am thriving. I think a lot of us can get into ruts, and that’s never good.
WHAT RESOURCES HELPED YOU IN YOUR TRANSITION?
When I first went vegan, I relied heavily on blogs (and still do) to give me a sense of community. No one I know if vegan, and while my family and friends are supportive, finding other people that share your passion for animals and healthy food are a must. I listened to Colleen Patrick Goudreau’s Compassionate Cook’s podcast, which helped answer tons of my initial questions. Along the years, I found my way through learning to love to cook and experimenting, and I keep a stack of Isa’s cookbooks around at all times.
One thing that really hit home for me was watching Earthlings. After that, I’m not sure how anyone can keep eating animals.
WERE YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY SUPPORTIVE OF YOUR CHOICE TO GO VEGAN?
My friends initially thought it was a phase that I would give up, but now they are really respectful of my choices. I have introduced my friends to tofu scramble, brussels sprouts, bbq tempeh, and cashew cream sauce, and when we get together I always try to cook up amazing vegan food. My family is supportive too, even though my dad likes to poke fun at me. I even have a whole series on my blog about Mama V, my amazing mother who cooks creative vegan dishes ever time I’m around her.
My biggest supporter is my partner Josh. We had been together for about 3 years when I started transitioning to veganism, and he supported me all the way. He is not vegan, but he gets to eat a lot of amazing vegan food. He always has my back and is constantly checking menus when we go out to make sure I can get a great vegan meal. We’re getting married next year (10 year anniversary!) and we’re both excited. Our caterer (Cafe 42 at the Clinton Library) cooks vegan meals for President Clinton often, so we’re sure to have some amazing vegan food.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN VEGAN NOW?
I have been vegan since September of 2008, so this will be my 6th year. I went vegetarian in the spring of 2008, and then it took me a few months to go the rest of the way to full vegan. It is so completely a part of me now that I could never look back. It has given me community and comfort, and it’s the best decision I’ve ever made.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT BEING VEGAN?
I love the doors it opened for me in so many areas of my life. It introduced me to amazing food and new skills in the kitchen. Before I went vegan, I didn’t cook at all. I was a busy architecture student that lived off coffee, and going vegan forced me to get in the kitchen and nourish myself! It has helped me keep control over my disordered eating past, and it has introduced me to so many wonderful bloggers. I also get incredible fulfillment out of writing and photographing things for Vanishing Veggie.
HOW DO YOU TRY TO MAKE THE WORLD BETTER FOR ANIMALS?
We have a companion animal, Bodhi, and she is the center of our life. Our cat means the world to us, and I try to extend that love to all animals I meet. Which means, not eating them. I do my best to spread the word about compassionate eating to anyone that will listen. As veganism grows, so lessens animal suffering. So, I try to promote a vegan lifestyle as healthy, easy, inclusive and fun.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE VEGAN RECIPE?
I have so many! I think the recipe that I started cooking the most was Vegan with a Vengeance’s Tofu Scramble.
This is a dish that my girlfriends have taken and run with, and they make it more than I do. Last year, I started making it with tempeh, and man is it delicious!
IF YOU COULD GIVE YOUR NEWLY VEGAN SELF ONE PIECE OF ADVICE, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Make time for yourself and for healthy food. I got really caught up in working life after college, and I fell into the vegan junk food rut. To be a thriving vegan, like any other diet, you have to take care of yourself. Try to get as much organic fresh fruits and veggies as possible, and don’t be too hard on yourself.
If you are interested in sharing your vegan story, please check out the “My Vegan Story” details page.