On January 1, 1991, my husband Ted (Dr. Veggie) and I became 100% plant-based. Actually it’s a little more complicated than that. We had been eating that way for a while but didn’t have a clear line of demarcation, so we looked at each other and said “well, we’ve been completely vegan at least since January 1!.” Ted will tell you that he initially made the change for environmental reasons. I had always been interested in cooking and health, and around that time I was starting to be aware of animals and have some animals in my life. The fact is that, once you become vegan for any reason, you become more open to considering the other reasons, and as you learn about them you just get more and more confirmed in your motivation to be plant-based.
To be truthful, our transition was so long ago that I don’t remember much about it. I do remember a short period of time when I felt like I couldn’t get enough to eat! So I just ate more; that’s when I realized you never have to be hungry on a well-planned, healthy vegan diet.
One challenge we had was feeling a bit alone and as though we were making it up as we went along. That’s not completely fair: there were vegan heroes going back decades before we made the switch, people like Jay and Freya Dinshah, George Eisman, and Brian and Sharon Graff who formed the North American Vegetarian Society. We became vegan shortly after the Rochester Area Vegetarian Society (RAVS) was founded by Rhoda and Stan Sapon, and we benefitted from their help and RAVS’s help. We went to RAVS meetings and eventually took over the leadership in 1995. But there are so many more role models and resources now than there were 30 years ago: websites, organizations, and a positive explosion of vegan cookbooks as opposed to the one or two good ones when we started out.
Eating vegan has always tasted delicious to us since we started. I did have to make a conscious effort to choose healthy. I love pasta and for years resisted eating whole wheat pasta, because I figured I deserved to enjoy what I liked. Now we use only whole wheat or brown rice pasta and I prefer it. Everyone is on a path of improvement, even long-time vegans. I love being part of the RLMI Jumpstart check-ins, and cooking class, and potluck, because I get inspired by the choices participants make and their tips and ideas for making things delicious while staying within Jumpstart rules. Just remember, it’s supposed to be delicious!
I think I’ve impacted lots of people through both Rochester Lifestyle Medicine and the Rochester Area Vegan Society (RAVS). RAVS has about 300 members and before COVID, we had monthly meetings where up to 100 people would attend. Another favorite thing for me was staffing information tables at health fairs and other events held by colleges, companies and towns, where I interacted with literally thousands of people over the years, handing out literature and engaging in conversations.
I always tell people one of the things I love about food is that you get to make new decisions three times a day and every time you shop. If you are struggling on the plant-based path, you get a fresh start every day. That’s cause for optimism and one of many reasons to welcome the New Year!
Author’s Note: Carol and her husband, Ted, raised all three of their children on a plant-based vegan diet. As adults, their children are still plant-based and very healthy.