Living a vegan lifestyle is easy. Being a vegan in today's society is the hard part. In no way do I mean any disrespect to other minorities when I say this, but I now have a much greater understanding of the hardship that some people are going through in this world. Now a vegan is only like a thousandth of a percentage that some races or creeds of people have had to endure through the years, but that small taste that I have gotten has opened my eyes more than any speech or video on the subject of prejudice could ever do.

When I came out vegan, I was expecting many congratulatory statements from friends and relatives. "Good for you Tim" "You're the man" "Awesome". Wow was I wrong. I was immediately hit with harsh criticism and concern for my sanity. Sure I had some people say some of those good things, but for the most part I found myself having to answer insane questions and defend myself for going vegan. It was as if people wanted me to apologize for making this choice, as if it is wrong. So I answered what I could with the knowledge that I had gained by reading numerous books, articles, and studies on the health benefits, environmental impact, and deplorable treatment of animals. I had an answer for every question, but still they came at me with more questions...soon the questions started to become redundant and idiotic. I realized that some were just trying to get me to slip or say something "offensive" so they can call me out. As if I am doing this to challenge them or something.

After a while, I laid low...I made a post here and there about what I was eating or an article I found interesting, but for the most part I kept quiet. Soon, outings with friends became somewhat uncomfortable events. I had to answer many of the same questions as before, which I didn't mind, but by this time I was becoming more passionate about veganism and the movement. And once a person becomes passionate about something or someone, they want to tell the world. So I would tell everyone all about it when I was given a chance to express my beliefs. This "soapboxing" did not go over too well with many of them. I soon found myself knee deep in several drama episodes on various social outlets. It would usually begin with me making a post about something I read about, such as the treatment of dairy cows and how disgusting and unhealthy dairy is for humans. This would then turn into a long drawn out argument.. The more involved I got into the movement, the more I felt shunned. I found myself getting into arguments with my friends that I never would fight with. Rarely would others, except my girlfriend, take my side. I never once called anyone out or said that what they were eating was wrong. I simply posted articles that I found and expressed the joy I felt in eating this new way. I still feel that way too. Becoming a vegan is not something that can be thrust upon another individual. They must make that decision for themselves, however I do feel the need to speak on behalf of those that don't have voices. I will offer up the argument and showcase all the benefits of living animal free to anyone if I get the chance. On line I found more people just really wanted me to shut up about things. I guess when you show someone the truth, it can make some people feel guilty about their own choices and rather than change...they lash out and want you to apologize for making them feel that way.

The more I spoke about the subject, the more distant those around me became. Conversations became less frequent and some individuals even unfriended me online. I have since toned down my attitude around everyone, but the stigma still remains. From day one of coming out vegan, my world changed forever. I got a taste of what it feels like to be a minority and I hate that feeling. Is it enough for me to throw it all away and go back to the fold and pretend, like so many millions of others, that there is this magical place where hamburgers are made in the cleanest and most compassionate way possible? NO! My eyes have seen the truth, the horrors that man is capable of. Millions of animals die horrible, painful deaths every year so are bellies can grow a little larger. Those consuming dairy don't want to believe that they are drinking a toxic sludge full of blood, puss and an ungodly amount of chemicals and antibiotics. I have seen the truth, I am forever changed because of it. It is sad when people ignore me or unfriend me, but I'm not going to change my ways to suit anyone. If they can't understand and respect that I am simply trying to live as healthy and compassionately as possible, I really don't know where they should fit in my life at this point. Those that truly know and understand me, know that I do not have a hateful bone in my body. I treat everyone with respect and do my best to never judge people. Hence living compassionately. I think there are a lot of misguided and confused people out there, that really have no idea where their food comes from and I want to help them to understand the truth. For those that do know and don't want to be bothered or hate feeling uncomfortable/guilty, I will not apologize for my statements or your feelings. If you choose to ignore me that is your choice. If you come after me to try and get me to slip up, know that I have acquired quite a bit of knowledge on every aspect of the industry and I will answer you with the cold hard facts and truths.

Being a vegan is a complete reorder of your entire life. It was not something I just leapt into because my girlfriend wanted me to do it. This has been building for quite some time. I am enjoying all the healthy benefits of this change. I feel amazing. Mentally my mind is guilt free because I know that I am actively taking part in making the world a better place without harming other creatures. I'm loving life and living it to its fullest. Sharing in this venture with me is my girlfriend, Stephanie. We are both learning to shop, cook and live plant based. I am the more militant vegan between the two of us, but I respect her beliefs as much as she respects my own. We are happy and deeply committed to each other and to the movement. It just feels damn good and I am very proud to call myself a vegan! :-)


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Posted by Tim Cleary on Monday, February 27, 2012
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A lot of people that are new or unfamiliar to the world of being vegan often assume that all your meals must be planned in advance and/or prepared over a hot stove for hours at a time. Or that you can never hop in the car with a group of friends and just go to the first place you find. That is simply not true at all. While it is true that you must do a little leg work before you set off to a random restaurant, you would be surprised at how many places offer vegan options.

PB&J, Always quick and always tasty!

Even some of the places that don't have a "vegan" menu, usually will have some items that I like to call accidentally vegan. Which are just items that are regularly offered that do not contain meat, dairy, eggs.. i.e. vegan. Peanut butter and jelly, fruit cups, potatoes, chips and salsa, salads. I could go on, but you get the point. Now sometimes you may need to check with different breads and methods of cooking, but that is a simple question to ask of your server. Most places will be happy to accommodate your special requests, as long as it's within realistic bounds. They are used to accommodating individuals with various allergies and will usually let you know what can and can't be done. Walking into a steak house and demanding that your veggie side plate is steamed and segregated from all non-vegan contaminates is unrealistic and disrespectful of the establishment. Show the restaurant and its employees some respect and they will do the same.

A nice tip would be to research most of your local restaurants online in your free time. If their menus are not clear, email or call the company and ask. I have done this with a few places in town already and have found out some "secret" or unlisted menu items I can ask for. Every place I have emailed or called has been very nice and courteous with my questions and comments. I've even started a conversation with the owner of a local burger chain, W.W. Cousins about offering some items for vegans and/or vegetarians. They are taking my requests into consideration, so I'll keep everyone apprised on that front. If you happen to stop by there, maybe make a request to have a veggie burger..even my meat eater friends could do help us out. :-)

Research throughly and frequently though. There are a few websites out there that have done a lot of the research so you don't have to. Some of them have not been updated in a while though, so make sure the info is up to date. I will link to them at the end of this blog. If you familiarize yourself with your local options, it will make life so much easier. That way if a group of coworkers or friends invite you out to lunch, you will be prepared. If they suggest a place where there simply are no options, you can politely decline or possibly suggest an alternative restaurant. Try not to be an ass about it though. If they have their heart set on a place, just meet up with them next time. Another thing you may want to try and avoid is going to the restaurant anyways and not eating. This is not good for anyone. Everyone will feel guilty and awkward because you aren't eating and you will just sit around being hungry, possibly getting upset. Another way is that you could stop in with them and socialize until they are ready to order and just excuse yourself when it's appropriate, Just be sure to let them know your plan ahead of time so as to not surprise anyone by leaving.

Qdoba Naked Veggie

Around Louisville, I have a few of my "go to" joints that I frequent while I'm on the go. Number one on this list is Taco Bell. Wha? Yep, Taco Bell is an awesome accidentally vegan fast food restaurant. Just skip the cheese, meat and sour cream and you will do fine. My usual is a bean burrito with no cheese...fresco style sometimes. I've tried it with beans and potatoes too. Other times I get a 7 minus 2 layer burrito. No cheese, sour cream. You can sub beans for meat on anything too. It's a great place to go if you are in a hurry, not to mention it's cheap! If I have a little more time, I can usually be found at Qdoba or Moe's. Both of these places have awesome choices for vegans. Another accidentally vegan location is Fazoli's. I get fettucini noodles with marinara, add broccoli and tomatoes...mushrooms on occasion. Remember to order your breadsticks "dry" though. Speaking of breadsticks, how about some Crazy Bread? Yep that is vegan too, order it without the parmesan cheese though. The garlic butter is fine, psst...they use a soy based a lot of places..totally vegan. While you're there grab a pizza. Load it with veggies and skip the cheese. There are dozens of asian places to choose, they will always have something available for you. Make sure they don't use fish sauce though, they will put that on their veggie dishes a lot. Sub shops are another option for those on the go. Load them with veggies, skip the mayo, and as with most places, check with the bread before you go to make sure no milk or eggs were used.

They should call it crack bread...I love this stuff!!

Now, these places are not the healthiest of choices, but they will do in a pinch situation. What I am showing you here is that there are plenty of options for vegans to eat on the go, cheap and with out too much difficulty. I'm into my fifth month of being a vegan and I have not run across any place I can't eat at yet. I just use the few simple tips I shared and I can leave in a moments notice if I want. Here are just a few places that you can safely eat vegan around town, these are mostly east end because that's where I live and work:
Taco Bell | Qdoba | Moe's | Subway | Lenny's Sub Shop | McAlister's | Whole Foods | Fazoli's
Little Caesars | Soupy's | Red Robin | Vietnam Kitchen | Yang Kee Noodle | Panera Bread
BD's Mongolian Grill | Firehouse Subs | BBC | Homerun Burgers

Here are a few links to help with researching where to go:

Happy and Compassionate Eating!!!

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Posted by Tim Cleary on Friday, February 3, 2012
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