When I Decided Not To Identify As a Vegan

When I think about my four years as a vegan, on the whole, it was amazing. I met some great people, expanded my cooking abilities and tried tons of different foods I probably would not have thought of eating before.

I also felt like I was making an ethical choice that was good for the animals, the planet and my body. I still believe that is true.

Becoming a vegan oddly helped me eliminate the food rules I still had from darker times in my past. When I went vegan I decided that if it was vegan, I would eat it. It did not matter what it was, if it was vegan, it was fair game. Coming from a past where I went through a period of food extremism, this was tame. This was liberating.

Just make the ethical choice, you cannot go wrong.

But, as I’ve written about before, although this started as a choice to liberate my mind, help animals and the planet, started to actually backfire on me. Part of this was my fault, actually, all of it is if you think that the body you are given is your fault.

What I did wrong:

I did not take a B-12 supplement for the first three years as a vegan. During that time, I spent a year of it essentially eating peanut butter and banana sandwiches as I thought I didn’t have the time or the want to really to cook. Sure, I could have ordered food, but I am also frugal so I don’t do that.

Part of my history with extreme food rules, meant that I was tired of thinking about food in the nutrient sense. I say that loosely, because I am a certified holistic health coach, so I get that nutrients and food is important, but largely for myself, I don’t think about it very often. I know what is healthy, I know what tastes good, I try to eat food that is more on the tasting good side than the healthy side. I never have been a calorie counter and still never will, however if I am honest, sometimes I don’t get enough in. I try, but I don’t focus on it and not having sufficient overall calories means you probably aren’t getting all the nutrients you need.

I was intentionally blind to these things for four years.

When I started working with Inside Tracker, part of that was a big step in opening the door to look at my food specifically and making it more nutrient sound. They had options and recommendations for vegans, which I followed, got healthy, and started running well again.

Too soon, I got complacent. I started neglecting all the things my diet needed, not in a restriction sense, but in an “I don’t want to think about this and just eat whatever” again. It was fine for a while, but then the niggles, the fatigue, the digestive issues began to come up again. Time to try again, and keep on the path this time.

Green Lakes was a turning point. It wasn’t my training, it wasn’t my resolve, I simply could not walk. Now whether that was due to nutrient deficiency or the knocking I took at Escarpment, I will never know, but coming home in the car with my dad, again explaining why I don’t eat eggs to him, I had to pause.

Why don’t I eat eggs? Why am I doing this?

Part of being vegan for my was the community aspect. Four years ago I had very strained relations with my family, isolated myself from things essentially because I just didn’t trust people. Hearing the Rich Roll podcast every week gave me community. I heard his interview with Gene Bauer, researched it and transitioned to vegan. As soon as I did, I found this amazing (mostly online) community of accepting people who all aligned with my morals. Do the least harm you can, start with what you eat. Everything is ok as long as it’s vegan.

It’s very black and white thinking and it seems very safe. Oddly, I think that people, including myself, like things to be set in stone. No gray areas. Even if it’s constricting (which some people claim veganism is) it also provides a safe place, a barrier between you and those who are different. I could identify with other vegans. I finally had a community.

Of course, the environment and animal welfare is and continues to be important to me. It always will, but there is a gray area in there that I must acknowledge.

The Gray Area

My gray area started when I worked on my family relationships. I started to have a real-life community of people who love and accept me. Sure, it’s not perfect, but it’s something I am not willing to give up. They have not pressured me at all to not be vegan. They just ask questions.

I started to feel like crap, and was tired of it. I started to question the choice I made to cut out some foods that can really be beneficial to health (for some people). Eggs can be a fine food when the quality is high and you respect where they came from.

Spending more time with other people allowed for so many opportunities to connect, often over food. It was very liberating, when I made the choice to stop reading labels and allow some eggs and dairy into my diet, to just eat. My friends and family no longer have to ask if something is ok. I don’t have to ask the barista or whomever if something is vegan, which they often don’t know, and then I’m just like, “ok, coffee please.”

Call it lazy, call it whatever you want, but the relationships I have now, and how I want to represent myself and be with people is worth some dairy in things and no label reading.

If you think that is lazy, here is another ringer: if it’s free, I’ll eat it. I hate seeing so much food waste. So even if the sandwich has meat in it, I’ll pick out the meat (usually, sometimes I don’t because that’s another gray area) and thank the universe for this gift. I’ve tried so many delicious things from my work that I would never have gotten to try if I drew the hard vegan line. I commend people who do, but part of my journey has meant I need to be more flexible.

Flexible

When I decided to not be vegan anymore, it was kind of traumatic. I felt as if I was losing my identity. These feelings signified to me that this was the right decision. I have not broken any laws (but to be honest, animal agriculture should be against the law) with the free-range eggs I’ve eaten a few times or the dairy that is in desserts that would be thrown away. I simply am being more flexible. I am living in the gray area. I did not do this because I missed cheese (still don’t really like it as much as everyone else) or meat (just no). I have made the decision to be more flexible in my life. I have decided that there is no label that can define me perfectly, because I am myself, one of a kind.

If that makes people disappointed, uncomfortable or angry, that is part of being the the gray area and being flexible. I refuse to please people while I know I am hurting myself.

I did not give up being vegan to please my family or friends, I gave it up because it was not serving me anymore.

Easy Almond Banana Bread [vegan, gluten-free]

I receive products from Barney Butter in which to make recipes and enjoy. I think you will love their products as well, so feel free to head over and check them out!

I missed having an oven at my old apartment. Sure, I learned how to make many traditionally baked items in my toaster oven and microwave, but it simply was not the same.

I remember when I visited my current apartment for the first time to discuss the leasing agreement, my [now] roommate Lesley was baking banana bread.

It smelled HEAVENLY.

She pulled out the loaves just as I was leaving to go to a bridal shower, but seeing and smelling that bread solidified what I was going to bake first thing once I moved in.

Last week, I moved into this apartment and I cannot believe it has taken me this long to bake! Actually, I sort of can because I’ve been a bit busy at my jobs, running and getting my bearings back in Ithaca [reading the Outlander book series obsessively].

It seems all I needed to do was get a little push from Lesley “Please use up all the frozen bananas in the freezer” and a bit of extra time [between book chapters] to put my apron back on.

This recipe uses bananas, almond flour and almond meal conveniently making it gluten free as well as completely vegan. There is an oil free option which I have used previously and it tastes good but well…oil is just my jam so I use it.

I used Barney Butter almond flour and almond meal for this recipe as I find the quality just enhances the taste.

Even though I work at a bread and bagel shop, there is nothing quite like banana bread for breakfast in the morning. My co-workers quite agree and you will too! Make this bread and send me a shout out on Instagram!


Easy Almond Banana Bread

From at

Prep: Cook: Yield: 8Total:

You'll Need...

  • 2 mashed ripe bananas (about 1 cup)
  • 1 T flax meal
  • 3 T water
  • 1 t almond extract
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup oil (or applesauce)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, plus more for topping
  • 1 1/2 cups almond flour
  • 3/4 cup almond meal
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 2 cups of almond slivers, divided

Directions

  1. Preheat over to 350 degrees. Grease an 8 inch load pan.
  2. Combine flax meal and water and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, combine bananas, almond and vanilla extracts, oil and sugar, stirring until evenly, but not overly mixed.
  4. Add flax meal and water mixture to the bowl and stir to combine.
  5. Add the flour, almond meal, baking powder, baking soda and salt to the same bowl.
  6. Stir so there are no flour lumps, but still lumpy.
  7. Stir in 1 1/2 cups of almond slivers.
  8. Pour into a greased 8 inch loaf pan.
  9. Top with the rest of the almond and extra brown sugar if desired.
  10. Bake for 60-65 minutes or until a knife stuck in the middle comes out clean.

How I Eat Cheap Everyday

I love food and I love to eat. 

I also am on a budget and although I do get a free meal from work, I like to cook some things myself. My mother taught me how to spend frugally and get the most bang for my buck. Watching her cook for us when I was young showed me how to make delicious, simple food.

When I went vegan, I ate tons of peanut butter and jelly. I still do this, but I also know how to cook which I am proud to say I now eat more nutritiously.

At the end of the day, I eat essentially similar things and use spices or sauces to change it up. However, if I am being honest, I could eat the same thing every day.

Breakfast: grain (with milk)+peanut butter, fruit

examples of grains: oatmeal, cornflakes, mini-wheats, raisin bran, bagels, bread, WAFFLES

Lunch: Salad/Sandwich, pickle/chips


example salad: bead of spinach or lettuce, tofu or beans, sprouts, tomatoes, peas, dressing

example sandwich: ciabatta bread, seitan/hummus, lettuce, tomato, cheese/avocado, onions

Dinner: Grain+bean+sauce, steamed veggies 

example: white rice, chick peas, tahini/avocado salsa/sauce (flavored with nutritional yeast, s/p)

Snack: granola bar+peanut butter

There are a few things I do not do, which is simply because I just haven’t added them into my budget. The pros of these things aren’t there for me:

Superfoods (I use protein powder very sparingly and it was sent to me)

Organic (I think eating fresh fruits and veggies is important, if I find myself in a financially enough secure position, I will buy organic, but right now I’m not concerned)

Out of Season Produce (no.)

Zoodles (not enough calories for the amount they cost)

Gluten-free (I am not celiac, and often these products are more expensive, so I choose not to buy them)

Cauliflower rice (I prefer my white rice just fine, and again, not enough calories for me)

Now, saying that I do not buy these things regularly does not mean I will not eat them nor never buy them. I am not black and white with foods as long as they’re vegan. For example, if I go to a cafe or restaurant and they put maca powder or spirulina in my smoothie, I will gladly take it. I also am always up for trying different kinds of pasta like black bean or chickpea, but I do not buy them frequently.

I have a few resources for all those people who want to start making some of their own food, but also mind their budget:

No Meat Athlete 5 Sauce System <—I USE THIS SO MUCH!

Healthy Eating On A Budget

16 Affordable Vegan Finds at Aldis

Gorges Ithaca Half 2017

First, I must thank Ian Golden and the Red Newt Racing team for both supporting me and putting on the race. They did a great job!

Driving to this race Saturday morning, I was really excited. My dad was coming to the race.

To watch me run. To watch me in my element. For Father’s Day.

This is all I thought about before, during and after the race. The only thing I was going to do was try my best, whatever that meant. I was using this race to get a baseline for speed. I had not done specific training and that was very freeing.

Get ready for the story of pain.

The race started outside a barn across from a hayfield. It was quite picturesque and made even more so by the blow of Ian’s ram’s horn that started us off. 

Immediately I was chasing Katie O’Reagan and a few other men. Katie is a super fast elite who races often in Upstate NY. She also did CT, but the 50 mile option. Girl is badass.

My legs kind of stumbled at the start, but I eventually found my stride and started taking advantage of the slight downhill. I caught up to Katie and another guy as we started on the Black Diamond trail. I ran with the guy for the next 4 miles and get ok. I knew I was going to suffer, I just was hoping to hold on.

After mile 5, I looked at my watch for the first time and saw a sub-6 mile. For me and my lack of training at this point, I knew it was too fast and I was putting myself in a hole. I decided to consciously slow down and let the guy go.

Then, it started to get hot and we were exposed after coming off the trail and by the waterfront. I began to suffer mightily and just tried to keep going. It felt like I was slogging through 8 minute miles. I was just waiting for Katie to catch me so I wouldn’t have to worry about her catching me anymore. 

A whole other issue I had besides fitness was the heat affected my gut. I had to poop from mile 6 on. I tried as hard as I could to ignore it, but I was facing a code brown.

At the last aid station, mile 12, I actually stopped, drank Tailwind and asked to use the bathroom that I knew was in the children’s center behind them.

They said no.

So…I made my way down the road a bit, found a few bushes and…well…relieved myself. After that, I felt a bit better in the gut, but then got a cramp in my rib (yup, the bruised one) and spent the next half mile massaging it out. That last mile was rough. 

The home stretch is almost a mile where you can see there finish line, but it’s still so far away. All I thought about in that mile was how happy I was the my dad had come to see me. I was in a lot of pain, but he was at the finish line, so I knew everything would be ok.


(Photo credit: Jeff Holbrook)

I finished, he was there, it was the best!

After the race, we spent the morning getting brunch, talking and getting him fit for shoes. I cannot think of a better way to spend the day after a race.

Dad, I love you. I love how I get my quirky habits from you. Peanut butter on everything, let cereal get mushy and then add peanut butter, cooked carrots are better than raw and most meals can be improved with some sort of “crunch” topping (for him it’s cheeze-its and for me it’s corn nuts). Thank you for coming to my race. Thank you for spending the day with me. 

You are the best. I love you.

I run for Red Newt Racing, On Running, Rabbit ELITE, and Strong Hearts Vegan Power.

Oreo Almond Butter Truffles

Let’s get this out of the way, I did not use Oreo brand sandwich cookies to make these truffles. I used Wegmans Double Stuffed Os.

Ok, confession over.

Most people have their favorite cookie. I’d say that over 80% of the people I ask would describe a perfect chocolate chip cookie. Warm, dense, and I agree, that is yummy.

I myself, have always preferred the humble Oreo.

Why? Because I’m a dipper. I love to dip things in other things.

An Oreo is [soy] milk’s favorite cookie is it not? I have counted the amount of seconds it takes to get the perfect amount of soggy, but still a bit crisp, on the outside of an Oreo. It is 14.5 thank you very much.

My dad taught me a trick after he watched me lose my cookie in my milk one too many times. He taught me how to appropriately spear the Oreo cream center with a fork so I wouldn’t get my fingers messy nor lose the cookie. That was a game changer, but I’ll admit, I haven’t used that Jedi technique in a while.


Oreos were made for dipping in milk. I’m not a fan of dipping them in coffee or hot chocolate (the cookie becomes too soggy too quickly), but a bit glass of milk, that’s where it’s at!

After watching The Parent Trap (yes…with Lindsay) I began to dip my Oreos in peanut butter. Did peanut butter replace milk? Why NO! I simply dipped them in the peanut spread and then dipped them in the milk. The peanut butter actually helped to keep one side of the cookie crispier and I enjoyed that even more.

So thank you Lindsay, you wise Master Jedi.


I created these truffles with these memories in mind. I branched out from the peanut butter to almond, but essentially, this creation is a fancier version of my favorite after dinner treat. What I also enjoy about this recipe is that you can also use other flavors of Oreo and it will work well. I might even try the mint next time, why not get crazy?

TRY THIS NOW! Oreo Almond Butter Truffles with @barneybutter Bare Smooth. A childhood favorite, all grown-up! #veganrecipe Click To Tweet

The coating is simple enough to change chocolates or even put something on the outside. My chocolate had cacao nibs in it, so I felt like adding nuts on the outside was overkill.


Rules are meant to be broken my friends, so have at it.

Enjoy the recipe! It also doubles well…if you want more than 6 truffles…just saying 🙂


Oreo Almond Butter Truffles

From at

Prep: Cook: Yield: 6Total:

You'll Need...

  • 12 Oreo Sandwich Cookies
  • 3 T Barney Almond Butter
  • 1-3.5 oz dark chocolate bar

Directions

  1. In a food processor, pulse the Oreos and almond butter until a crumbly buy sticky consistency is achieved.
  2. Form into balls with your hands. Place in fridge if needed for 20 minutes to harden.
  3. Melt the chocolate bar in the microwave in 30 second intervals.
  4. Roll the balls in the melted chocolate.