06/17/2013 11:47 am ET Updated Aug 17, 2013

Why and How I Became a Vegan

A lot of people have asked me how I became a vegan. I say, as a non-doctor and a non-nutritionist, that you should be very gradual and careful with major diet changes, and definitely try to consult an actual doctor or nutritionist for guidance. Like many folks I did not instantly jump into veganism. It started many many years ago with my not eating pork. I am a Christian again now (as I was growing up) but for a period of time I was a Muslim and not eating pork is a rule of that faith. Eventually I cut out beef and ate only chicken, fish, and some turkey. Then it became just fish. Then I tried vegetarianism. And finally it became veganism because I could no longer deal with dairy (cow) products.

I've pretty much stuck to this the last few years except when I have had little to no choice but to eat fish in certain heavily fish-based cultures/communities I've visited internationally. Or to not insult the customs and traditions of people different than me when offered food by them in these foreign countries. And I likewise bend the veganism rule for specific holiday gatherings with my mother here in America because, well, she is my mother and dinner with her is sacred and important and I do not take that for granted as my mom gets older. And my mother ain't trying to understand why I do not eat meat, seriously. I do not care if other vegans say my way is not veganism. I say yes it is because anyone who knows me knows that my lifestyle has become very vegan-centered. One day I hope to even wear clothes and footwear on a daily that are vegan-based.

That is how focused I am about living a vegan life. I've gone so far as to using only body products and household cleansers that are completely natural and not tested on or derived from animals. However, veganism or vegetarism is not for everyone. For me it is definitely about health and wellness, but also the more I learned about how animals are treated, what is injected into so many of them, I got turned off from the whole concept of eating meat, of supporting the brutal exploitation of animals by far too many meat companies.

But that is my opinion and my choice, and as I have said in previous posts I do not believe in shoving the way I see things in terms of meat-eating vs. no meat-eating down people's throats. I would certainly marry a woman who eats fish or chicken. That does not bother me, although I would prefer to marry a vegan.

Finally, you ultimately must do what you feel is best for your body, your soul, your mind, your conscience. For me, veganism is an extension of my activism and life of public service helping others to be self-empowered and self-aware. It makes sense that this is where I am. For others, I only encourage everyone to read all food labels very closely, to be very mindful of everything you digest, that you become as educated as possible about the "food industry" (including Monsanto, and why people are protesting that company worldwide), and that you think long and hard about eating as many fresh fruits and vegetables as possible, and to limit or eliminate package or frozen goods if you can. As the old saying goes, we truly are what we do and do not eat, all of us.

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