Being vegan, by definition, means a person who does not consume any meat products. That said, being vegan is more than solely about what foods you do or don’t consume. Veganism is a lifestyle.
When I decided to venture on my health and wellness journey, I began to pick up many vegan eating habits. However, through speaking to other vegans and going to vegan festivals, I began to realize that being vegan is about so much more than if I eat meat or not.
I began this journey because my body began to reject meat products. It was not by choice. The more time I spend adjusting to this new diet, the more I learn about its intent.
A large component of veganism is about filling your body with things that are good for it and that make you feel healthy both inside and outside. With that comes other, non-food related components.
In this post, I want to talk about the exercise component of being vegan.
In an effort to make my body feel good, inside and out, I personally need to work out. When we work out, the activity releases dopamine within our bodies and that induces happiness. This explains why my mood instantly increases after a good workout.
As someone who struggles with anxiety, I use exercise as my escape. I can eat all the healthy, fresh food in the world, but it is that combined with exercise that keeps my mind at ease. When I am doing a workout I love, I feel invincible. My phone is tucked away, and I can focus solely on myself.
This outlet used to be Cardio Barre and has since transferred to Soul Cycle. While a separate Soul Cycle review is on its way, it is imperative to write about it now as well because that is the only way that I can relay to you how much exercise (Soul Cycle in particular) has positively shaped my life.
When I lost the ability to eat many foods, I found a home in the kitchen, finding new foods to cook. This activity is fun and allows me to show a creative side of myself that usually lies tucked away. However, it is not always enough to clear my head. When I get anxious, this seemingly random burst of thoughts floods my mind. It seems as if there is nothing that can barricade them. I begin to overthink and question everything I can.
Although I have a therapist who has helped me through lots of mental blocks, I had no other outlet to release this tension within myself on my own time. That is, until I started going to SoulCycle. The whole idea behind SoulCycle is that you are empowered while you are working out. You are being positively reinforced with inspirational speeches as you are cycling. This combination of working body and soul allows me specifically to release my own tension.
I am working hard, sweating more than I probably should be. But I love it. The instructors encourage positivity and healthy living, two things that the vegan lifestyle often preaches as well.
Exercising, no matter what kind, heals the body, mind, and soul. It works out your physical body while challenging your mental state, releasing endorphins that heal the soul.
Exercise is a crucial aspect, in my opinion, to living happily. Because that’s all we want right? In this wild ride of life, we may strive for different things. But everyone wants happiness… right? Life is kind of like a cake. You need certain amounts of ingredients in order to make it just perfect. It doesn’t always come out like it does on the box, but that’s ok.
Every cake is different, just like every body. Funny how I’m using a cake metaphor when talking about healthy living…. I know for me, being meat and dairy free is one aspect of my recipe. Another is exercise. Mix those two together, and I have an extremely solid base to live my happiness.
So, you don’t have to work out in order to call yourself vegan. Working out just adds another component of that healthy lifestyle we are all working towards achieving.
Eating out as a vegan who also has tons of other non-vegan related intolerances can be hard. That said, it’s not impossible. In fact, far from it. Over the course of my four year (and counting) dairy free, gluten free, meat free, and egg free journey, I have eaten at my fair share of restaurants. In these delicious outings I believe I have come close to mastering the art of eating out with allergies. Although I briefly spoke on this in my article, “Being Vegan in a Non-Vegan World,” a recent encounter at a restaurant prompted me to believe that there is more to say on the topic.
I decided to jump on the bandwagon and try the controversial and evenly intriguing Impossible Burger. As someone who hadn’t eaten red meat since 4th grade, I was hesitant to try the vegan burger that was created to mimic, in both taste and sight, a beef patty. As I ordered the burger, I gave my usual shpiel to our waitress: “I have an allergy to gluten and dairy so can you please make sure it is in a lettuce wrap and doesn’t have any butter please?” Usually, this type of warning suffices. That said, I realize now that I have a habit of going to the same restaurants over and over again. The servers know my allergies at this point, and I don’t worry as much about specifying my allergies and making sure I know exactly what is in each meal. I trust that they will know for me.
While this works at those specific restaurants, it doesn’t anywhere else. I can’t assume it will.
Back to my story. As I was waiting for my burger, I decided to look up what the actual Impossible patty was made of. Turns out, the actual patty contains gluten. I brought it up to our waitress, telling her that I was under the impression the burger was gluten free and could not eat it once it arrived. She apologized and told me that she completely forgot that the patty contained gluten.
At first I was upset that I was not told prior that the patty was not gluten free since I said that I am allergic to gluten. But once I was able to set my emotions aside, I looked at the situation from a more logical standpoint. Had I asked if the patty was gluten free? No. I confidently ordered the burger and instead of asking if everything was gluten free, I ordered it as if I was already sure it was.
Now, yes, the blame does not solely fall onto me. The waitress did apologize because she forgot to warn me. But this potentially bad situation reminded me of an important thing to remember when eating out: unless the person taking your order has his or her own food modifications or is very sensitive to someone else's in their lives, chances are, they will not know as much about ingredients as you do. Not all waiters know what foods contain certain allergens and we can’t assume that they do.
The amount of people that think mayonnaise has dairy in it constantly amazes me. Yes, it is not vegan, but that is because of egg, not milk.
While I have had more negative eating experiences like this, I have also had amazing ones. I had the greatest experience at a restaurant called Wokcano when my waiter was vegan. I ordered a meal and asked if it could be made vegan. He responded excitedly, telling me that he was vegan and knew exactly what to write down. While this experience was extremely successful, I can’t expect all of them to be this good.
If you are worried about a certain ingredient, ask. Never be afraid to question an item or ingredient on a menu. And if you blatantly ask about a certain ingredient and get the “ok” you either need to put your trust in your waiter or not risk it at all if the reward is less than the potentially negative effects of eating the food.
And similar to this, never be afraid to say you are vegan or gluten free. It is not something to be ashamed of. If I have learned anything from being 100% dairy and gluten free, it is that the vegan and gluten free community sticks together. When my waiter told me he was vegan, I was able to trust him so much more because he understood the importance of an aspect of my lifestyle that others didn’t. He knew what ingredients I could and couldn’t eat because he could and couldn't eat them also.
So, if you need food accommodations, don’t let them stop you from eating out. Eating out can be fun. Don’t miss out on that experience. Just make sure that you cross every T and dot every I when ordering and don’t be afraid to question what you don’t know.
As long as you ask politely, you are not being a "bad guest." You are not being an inconvenience. You are living your life and want to make sure that you are eating foods that will make you feel good. Never be ashamed or apologize for that.
My name is Gabriella. Join me on my health and wellness journey as I discover foods that not only please my taste buds but my stomach as well!